Sunday, April 19, 2009


From time to time I suffer with a physical malady called “gout” It comes all of a sudden, un-announced, often in the middle of the night. It affects my total being for a few days. It hurts so badly that it almost paralyzes me from doing anything useful. My mind becomes fully occupied with that hurt. I cannot concentrate on any thing else; it affects my family, my children, my relationships and my ministry. I could sit and blame and complain all that I want but that would not take away the pain, but the moment I begin to take some responsible actions and medication I know I am on the road to recovery and soon I will be healed. It may not be the case with all sicknesses but in most cases with proper responsible actions and medication we can experience relief and healing.

If that is the way we deal with physical hurt how do we deal with emotional hurt? We all have at some point experienced “Emotional Hurt” In life we are prone to get hurt again and again, sometimes by those we love the most. Is there a cure for emotional hurt? Can I be truly healed of my past hurts and experience wholeness? Where can I find healing? Many Christian counselors, psychiatrists and pastors agree that we can receive healing for our emotional hurts through forgiveness. Jesus stresses the importance of forgiveness, “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your father in heaven may forgive your sins.”(Mk 11:25). Forgiveness is for our benefit, not so much for the sake of others.

I. The consequences of Unforgiveness: Neil. T Anderson explains in his book “The Bondage Breaker,” “Most of the ground that Satan gains in the lives of Christians is due to Unforgiveness. We are warned to forgive others so that Satan cannot take advantage of us.”[1] Paul reminds the Corinthian Christians, why they should forgive those who sinned against them, “If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven- if there was anything to forgive- I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us.” 2 Corinthians 2:11 so that Satan will not outsmart us. For, we are familiar with his evil schemes.” In other words Paul is saying here that unforgiveness can give a foothold to Satan in our lives.

George O. Wood the general superintendent of the Assemblies of God suggests how unforgiveness can have an affect in our lives: The consequences for harboring grievances:
The fruit of the Spirit ebbs away (Gal 5:22)
Indifference or hatred displaces love
Bitterness or depression displaces Joy
Anxiety displaces peace
Short-temperedness displaces patience
Hard-heartedness or indifference displaces kindness
Meanness displaces goodness
Get even attitude displaces faithfulness
A demanding nature displaces gentleness
Resignation from responsibility displaces self-control

we cannot afford not to forgive, un-forgiveness results in bitterness which affects our whole personality and as it says in Hebrews 12: 15"A a bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many."
A concentration camp survivor said, “My heart is so bitter that if you were to open me and lick my heart you would die of poison.” What does your heart look like? Some one said getting even with another person for the wrong he has done is like throwing a cactus. When the cactus hit him, he will hurt; but you will hurt your own hand in the process. When someone mistreats or wrongs us we have a tendency to get even with or pay that person back right? But the Bible teaches us differently, we should leave such matters to the Lord because he says, in Romans 12:17-19 do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible as far as it depends on you live at peace with everyone do not take revenge my friends but leave room for God's wrath for it is written: It is mine to avenge I will repay says the Lord.

II. What is forgiveness?
Forgiveness is releasing the other person from the perceived debt they owed you by hurting you. In other words when you forgive you free the other person, we are saying to him or her: I am not holding anything against you anymore. You don't owe me anything. I am overlooking your offence. Forgiveness takes humility, it is realizing that apart from God's forgiveness I myself am hopelessly lost, I have no right to hold anybody hostage to my un-forgiveness.

III. How to forgive?
We have seen the devastating affects of unforgiveness. We also have seen the importance of forgiveness. How can we proceed in forgiveness? A few practical suggestions:

A. Forgiveness is a voluntary choice:

Like with everything else in life God never forces us to forgive others, but he showed us that we should forgive others by forgiving our sins. God took the first step, so we are to take the first step and forgive those who offend us. Jesus stressed in Mark 11:25 “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” In other words, if you want to be forgiven then you forgive. For Jesus forgiveness is more important than your offering, Matt5: 23-24 "So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.” What good it is to bring offerings to God when we are not in right relationship with our brothers and sisters. In both these scriptures Jesus wants us to take the first step instead of waiting for the other person to come to us and say sorry.

B. How many times should I forgive?
When it comes to forgiveness we are faced with this dilemma. What if someone hurts you and says sorry but keeps on hurting you what are you supposed to do? Should you keep on forgiving them? Is there a time where you can say it is enough I wont’ forgive any more? Not only you have this dilemma but Peter also had this so he asked Jesus, in Matt18:21 “Then Peter came to him and asked, "Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times? Matthew 18:22 “Jesus replied No, not seven times," Jesus replied, "but seventy times seven! “Jesus’ seventy times seven was his way of describing unlimited forgiveness. As Christians we might need to repeatedly forgive someone. This does not mean we become a doormat and allow someone to abuse us. Forgiveness does not grant someone permission to keep hurting us. It would be wise to maintain some distance from that person who is hurting you while keeping our hearts tender and open toward that person.”[2]

C. Forgiveness is a difficult Choice: When we are hurting it is not easy to forgive. On the other hand as long as we don’t forgive we keep hurting. There are times we may find forgiving others is easier than forgiving ourselves. In any case forgiveness is a difficult choice to make.

At times we find it impossible to forgive others, though we know that is the right thing to do. The hurt is too deep and the wound still festers and the pain is real as in the experience of holocaust survivor Corrie Ten Boom. She recalls the time she spoke at a Church in Munich after World War II. A German SS man who had guarded the shower room door in the processing center at Ravensbruck concentration camp was in the service. When Corrie Ten Boom saw him she suddenly remembered the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, and her sister Betsy's pain filled face. He came to ten Boom as the church was emptying, beaming and bowing, “Fraulien” he said, “to think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away.” He thrust out his hand to shake hers; but ten Boom, who had spoken others to forgive, kept her hand at her side, as she fought with her anger, she prayed, Lord, forgive me and help me to forgive him. She tried to smile and struggled to raise her hand, but could not. Again she prayed, Jesus I cannot forgive him, Give me your forgiveness. She writes, “As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me. And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than our goodness that the world’s healing hinges but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives along with the command, the power.[3]

Take a moment to reflect on this message. Let the Holy Spirit bring you to your mind different people perhaps you need to forgive. It may be your spouse, parents, children, siblings, close friend, pastor, church members, business partner, and employer or it may be you. With God's help we are indeed empowered to forgive others and ourselves. In releasing forgiveness we receive forgiveness and are on the way to receive God’s healing and wholeness.

[1] The Bondage Breaker, Neil T. Anderson
[2] George O Wood, Enrichment Magazine, “Steps to forgiveness”
[3] George O Wood, Enrichment Magazine, “Steps to forgiveness”

Sunday, April 12, 2009


Ahmad Deedat a Muslim scholar challenged Josh McDowell in a debate on the subject "was Christ crucified"? The debate took place in August 1981, in Durban, South Africa. Deedat posed the following challenge to McDowell “Throughout the length and breadth of the 27 books of the New Testament, there is not a single statement made by Jesus Christ saying, "I was dead, and I have come back from the dead." The Christian has been belaboring the word resurrection. Again and again, by repetition, it is conveyed that it is proving a fact. You keep on seeing the man, the man's eating food, as though He was resurrected. He appears in the upper room - He was resurrected. Jesus Christ never uttered that word that "I have come back from the dead," in the 27 books of the New Testament, not once.

McDowell replied, "I'm not sure that I heard, but did you say, "Nowhere in the 27 books of the New Testament did Jesus ever say He was 'dead and now alive'"? May I read to you from the book of Revelation, chapter 1, verse 18? He said, "I am the living one. I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore." Also, Mr. Deedat, He appeared to the Jews. The whole New Testament Church was started with Jews. He appeared to the Jewish antagonist, the apostle Paul, when he was Saul of Tarsus. Deedat: "I will conclude that here are one thousand million people being taken for a ride on a cross. In Durban, every week, we have horses taking thousands of people for a ride - every horse. But here, you are being taken for a ride on the cross." Josh: Yes, Mr. Deedat, one billion Christians are riding on the cross. We are being taken for a ride. I believe God has provided the cross as the chariot to heaven, through the shed blood of His divine Son.[1]

The Crucifixion and the Resurrection of Jesus are like two central pillars of Christianity and the only hope we have for the world. If you remove these two core beliefs there is no Christianity and we have no reason to be here in the Church. Since, that day of the Resurrection, I believe Satan had tried his best to discredit this amazing fact but he has not succeeded since, he will not succeed ever. In the midst of age-old controversies and skeptics who continuously reject the Resurrection of Jesus Christ how can we hold on to this precious truth firmly and defend our faith? It is the resurrection of Jesus that brings hope to the individual, to our nation and the nations of the world.

Many evidences in the scriptures indicate that Christ was raised from the dead. Five, scriptural evidences that explain the resurrection of Christ.
1. The Resurrection of Christ was prophesied in the Old Testament
You will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay” (Psalm 16:10)

2. Jesus himself prophesied about His resurrection
"Listen," he said, "we're going up to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man will be betrayed to the leading priests and the teachers of religious law. They will sentence him to die. Then they will hand him over to the Romans to be mocked, flogged with a whip, and crucified. But on the third day he will be raised from the dead."(Matt 20: 18-19)

3. The Pharisees and the Teachers of the Law could not contain Jesus in the grave.
The next day the chief priests and the Pharisees went up to Pilot and requested that the Tomb be secured, saying that “we remember that while he was still alive.. That deceiver said, “After three days I will rise again.” Pilate said take a guard and secure the Tomb as secure as possible.” (Matt 27: 62-65). The Greek word was Kustodia that’s where we get the word Custodian. A Kustodia was a 16-man security unit. Each man was trained to protect six square feet of ground.

The 16 men, according to Roman history, were supposed to be able to protect 6 square yards against an entire battalion and hold it. Each guard had four weapons on his body. He was a fighting machine.”[2] If the Pharisees didn’t believe that Jesus might be raised from the dead then why would they take such trouble to secure the tomb? Would it be possible for eleven fearful disciples to come secretly and steal the body of Jesus in the watch full eye of the powerful Roman Guard?

4. The Empty Tomb:
On the first day of the week very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of Jesus… two angels appeared and said to them why are you looking for the living among the dead? He is not here, He has risen. (LK 24:1-6)
Not only the women knew that the tomb was empty and the body of Jesus was not there but the guard also knew what had happened. “The guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. When the chief priests had met with elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, you are to say, “His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep. If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble. So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.”(Matt 28:11-15)

5. Jesus appeared to many people for a period of 40 days:

Jesus appeared to the women, his eleven disciples on the mountain, he walked with two of his disciples on the road to Emmaus. He appeared to his disciples while they were in a room but one disciple by name Thomas was not there. When he came back, the disciples reported to him that they had seen Jesus. “But he said to them, unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” A week later his disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked Jesus came and gave a personal appearance and dialogue with the doubting Thomas. After that encounter Thomas never doubted that Christ had indeed risen and boldly proclaimed that truth even to the point of death. (John 20:24-28). Church tradition tells us that Thomas was the first one to take the gospel to the subcontinent of India. Until today there is the thriving church of Marthoma in South-West India..

Jesus not only showed himself to Thomas, at one point he had appeared to more than 500 people at the same time.(I Cor15:6). Many of those who had seen the risen Lord were totally convinced of that fact and they were willing to give up everything including their very own lives in order to take the Good news to the four corners of the globe.

On this day we join more than one billion Christians who are celebrating the resurrection of our Lord. For some Easter means the Easter Egg hunt and the Easter bunny. Others view Easter as religious tradition not a historical fact. Some carry a 'so what' attitude. If Jesus died and rose again what does it have to do with me? As long as I have all I want, I am happy. Some are like Thomas wanting to see Jesus face to face then only they will believe.

I would like to invite you to be like the apostle Paul who said, “Whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow to attain to the resurrection from the dead. “Phil 3:7-11). Praise God Jesus Christ has indeed been raised from the dead. He is alive.


Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Life and the Ministry of Jesus (PART III)


Certain days in history go down memory lane as victory days. For example, America celebrates July 4 as Independence Day because it was on July 4, 1776, that members of the Second Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia, adopted the final draft of the Declaration of Independence. August 15th 1947 is celebrated as India's Independence Day to commemorate its independence from British rule. Though not that dramatic Bostonian Base Ball fans will fondly remember their favorite team winning the World Series in 2004 after a drought of 86 years. In the above mentioned events the situation and the context may be different but one thing they have in common that is Victory.

In Church history and the Christian tradition also certain days are remembered and celebrated. One of such days is Palm Sunday; the day Jesus entered into the city of Jerusalem on his way to defeat Satan the archenemy of mankind. Palm Sunday ushers the church into the Passion Week where we reflect on the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. Let’s look at different characters and aspects surrounding Palm Sunday.

I. Cultural and Historical Context (Mt 21:1-11, Mk 11:1-11, Lk 19:29-38, Jn 12:12-15)

In the final stages of His ministry Jesus once again made his intentions of going to Jerusalem clear to his disciples. All the four gospel writers recorded this journey with varying details. When we look into these four narratives we get the full picture. During Jesus’ time the Roman Empire was ruling the world. The Jews were subjects of the Roman Empire. They were anxiously looking for a messiah to come and over throw the Roman power and establish his kingdom. While they waited for the messiah they made frequent visits to the temple in Jerusalem especially during the appointed festivals.

This was the Passover time; Jews from all over the world came to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast. Jesus along with his disciples also went to Jerusalem. On his way, Jesus performed many miracles including the outstanding miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead. This news began to spread like wild fire throughout the region much to the annoyance of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law.

II. Cheering crowds and shouting children

Throughout his ministry wherever Jesus went even under normal circumstances crowds followed him. This time was no different. Matthew records, “A very large crowd” John notes, “A great crowd” came to Jerusalem wanting to see Jesus and also Lazarus who was raised from the dead six days prior to the Passover feast. Jesus gave specific instructions to his disciples to untie and bring a donkey along with its young colt. He said I need them.

This command must have cheered the crowds of his disciples who had been waiting for the messiah. When they saw the donkey and the colt they have erupted with ecstasy just like in Red Sox’s victory parade in 2008, when the crowd spotted the “the Duck tour buses carrying their favorite base ball players. What caused such jubilation among the crowds of disciples?
It was the fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah, “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion, shout, daughter of Jerusalem, See your king comes to you righteous and having salvation gentle and riding on a donkey on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”(Zec 9:9)

III. The donkey, clothes and palm branches

The sight of Jesus entering Jerusalem riding on a donkey was significant. Jesus had picked the right moment to make his entry. The city of Jerusalem was bustling with crowds because of the Passover feast. As Jesus entered through the gates, the crowds went out of their way, some took off their cloaks (outer garments), and some cut Palm branches from the trees and laid them on the road. The young, the old and little children began to shout joyfully, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David. Hosanna in the Highest” What does Hosanna mean? It is a Hebrew expression meaning “Help or Save” which became an exclamation of praise. The crowds were jubilant with the thought that finally the tyranny of the Roman Empire would be broken; and Jesus was going to over power the mighty Romans and establish His Kingdom on earth and they will get to have a part in it.

What could we make of Jesus’ entry on a donkey? What do the clothes and the Palm branches symbolize? Scholars have noted three significant points regarding the donkey:
A) The donkey was a traditional mount for kings, rulers and prophets in the ancient Near East; Jesus was therefore making an implicit claim to be the king of his people.
B) The act of riding into Jerusalem on a donkey near the time of the Passover celebration invoked a central image of Messianic expectation. The image of a King on a Donkey approaching Jerusalem was consistently understood to signify the arrival of the messianic King.
C) In the Old Testament horses were associated with war and human pride, the donkey may have presented an image of peaceful humility. Jesus in this interpretation, was making a statement regarding the nature of his kingship and kingdom infact he was ushering in another kind of Kingdom where Love and peace reigns.

What is the historical precedence to the act of laying down of clothes? When Jehu was anointed as King over Israel, people hurriedly took their cloaks and spread them under him on the bare steps, and then they blew the trumpet and shouted, “Jehu is King” (2 Kings 9:17). In one way when people took of their cloaks and spread them on the road without realizing they were proclaiming, “Jesus is King.” That sort of symbolic acknowledgement of the Kingship of Jesus irked the pundits.

What is the significance of the Palm Branches? The branches of the date palm appear in the symbolism of Greek, Roman and Jewish cultures[1] Palm branches were associated with the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles (Lev 23:40) Palms were a longstanding sign of victory in the Greek world. John 12:13, records the crowds waved palm branches and shouted “O Lord Save us” (Hebrew Hosanna) Palm branches vividly depicted God’s victory and the deliverance of his people.
In Revelation 7:9 we read “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hand. And they cried out in a loud voice “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb.” This is the ultimate victory for God and his people.

IV. The indignant Pharisees and the teachers of the Law

While the crowds and every one else were rejoicing with this triumphant entry of Jesus, one group of people was not very happy. They were the Pharisees, Sadducees and the teachers of the Law. What was their problem? When every one else can clearly see that Jesus was the prophesied messiah what hindered these experts from acknowledging that fact? Where did they miss the point? The gospel writers indicate a few reasons why they denied Jesus as the messiah: 1. “They feared Jesus because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching” (Mk 1:18), 2. They were indignant with the shouting of “Hosanna to the Son of David” by the children in the temple courts. (Mt 21:15). 3. They were afraid that every one will believe in Jesus and the Romans will come and take away the temple and the nation. (John 11:47). 4.Above all, they had hardened their hearts and were blind to the truth (John 12:39)

V. Jesus and Jerusalem

Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is a moment. This day together with the raising of Lazarus are signs pointing beyond themselves to the mighty deeds and events which consummate Christ's earthly ministry. The time of fulfillment was at hand. Christ's raising of Lazarus points to the destruction of death and the joy of resurrection which will be accessible to all through His own death and resurrection. His entrance into Jerusalem is a fulfillment of the messianic prophecies about the king who will enter his holy city to establish a final kingdom. That was all good but as Jesus approached Jerusalem, and when he saw the city he didn’t have the same joy like many of his disciples and the crowds instead he wept over Jerusalem. What made Jesus weep? What does that mean for us today? Let’s look at what John has to say. “If you even you had only known on this day what would bring you peace but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will…dash you to the ground…because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” (Luke 19:41)

You might be saying what does Jesus weeping over Jerusalem have to do with me? Jesus wept over a sinful city that rejected God and continued to live away from God. So how should we as God’s children feel about our city and the vast numbers of those who do not acknowledge Jesus as the Christ? Jesus was weeping about where people were. The city of Jerusalem did not recognize the time of God’s visitation, how about us? Could we fail to recognize the working of God in our life?

Palm Sunday points us towards the Servant King who said “I came to serve not to be served and offer my life as ransom for many.” Mk10: 45. It also calls us to take a deep look at where our loyalties lie. Which of the characters can you identify with? Are you like the crowd who were jubilant and n shouted Hosanna, Hosanna and a few days latter shouted Crucify, Crucify? We too can come to church shout Hosanna and Praise the Lord yet crucify the Lord again and again through our sinful lifestyle. Are you like the disgruntled and indignant Pharisees and Sadducees who had seen many miracles yet refused to believe and accept Jesus as the messiah? Are you like the city (people) of Jerusalem who outwardly welcomed Jesus but inwardly rejected him, and did not recognize the visitation of the Lord? Which one of these are you? May the Lord help us on this Palm Sunday to lay aside our pride and arrogance and excel in the service of our Servant King.

[1] Archaeological Study Bible (NIV) Page 2056