Sunday, March 29, 2015


           On March 7, 1965 on a Sunday about 600 people marched a distance of 50 miles from Selma Alabama to Montgomery Alabama demanding their voting rights. The event became the scene of “America’s Bloody Sunday” Since that time on the anniversary of that significant March thousands walk on the same path remembering, reflecting and even reenacting some of the gruesome events of that day. It was all for the sake of “freedom to vote.” On March 7, 2015 President Obama was among the thousands of Americans commemorating the 50th anniversary of the civil rights march on Selma, Alabama. This march and others like them go down the memory lane of the American public.

On this Sunday worldwide millions of Christians are remembering, reflecting and even re-enacting a different kind of March that took place around AD 33 on the road to the ancient Jerusalem. For some it was a victory march for others it was a threat. This is called “the Palm Sunday” Palm Sunday is one of the most important days in the Christian calendar after Christmas and Easter. Palm Sunday is the Sunday before Easter, and marks the beginning of Holy Week, the week of events leading up to Jesus' death. In the simplest of terms, it is an occasion for reflecting on the final week of Jesus' life. It is a time for Christians to prepare their hearts for the agony of His Passion and the joy of His Resurrection.
Let’s journey back in time and join the disciples, the Pharisees and the crowd, to understand what it was like, and what the expectations of the crowd were like. As we press in to the crowd we may get a glimpse of the chief architect of that March and its historical significance. Matthew 21:1-11

The march was so significant, it was recorded in all the four gospels. Unlike the three other Gospel writers Matthew saw something of the prophetic significance in that March. Let me unpack that day’s events. Jesus had been travelling back and forth to Jerusalem for quite some time teaching, healing and driving out evil spirits. On one of those trips to Jerusalem, he called two of his disciples and gave them instructions to bring a donkey along with its colt. Accordingly they went and brought the donkey along with its colt and spread their coats on them.  

A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Jesus started his march riding on a donkey. The crowds followed him shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is He who comes in the Name of the LORD; Hosanna in the highest.”

There are over 300 prophecies pertaining to the birth, work, death and the resurrection of Jesus in the OT and all of them have been fulfilled. One of them was found in Zechariah 9:9, “Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter 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” This was written around 500 BC. When Matthew saw all this was unfolding right in front of his eyes, he notes in Vs 4, “This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet.”

The way Zachariah predicted saying “See your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey on a colt, the foal of a donkey sounds rather odd isn’t it? Wasn’t it normal for kings of those days to ride on a horse? Then why would Zachariah say your king will ride on a donkey instead of a horse? There could be two reasons why God chose a donkey, instead of a horse for his future king to ride on. Firstly, A donkey was seen as a symbol of peace.


In the ancient Middle Eastern world kings and war lords normally rode horses when they went for war, but when they came in peace they rode donkeys. While the horse was seen as a symbol of war the donkey was seen a symbol of peace. Here are a few situations donkeys were used to negotiate and promote peace. David was running away from Saul with his men. There was a wealthy man named Nabal in that land. David sends a few of his men to Nabal with a request for food and other supplies. But Nabal acted foolishly, and sent them back empty handed.

When David heard of that humiliation he wanted to kill Nabal and all of his men.  But Nabal’s wife Abigail acted shrewdly. She took two hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five dressed sheep, …loaded them on donkeys to David and appeals mercy from David to spare her husband’s life. David said to Abigail, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, who has sent you to day to meet me.  May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands.” I Samuel 25:32.

Not only to negotiate peace but on other occasions some leaders and the judges of Israel rode on donkeys while giving a judgment or solving a problem (Judges 5:10; 10:4; 12:14). By choosing a donkey as a carrier for Jesus; God was communicating to the world that he was going to be the Prince of peace rather than a captain of an army. Zechariah goes on to say how this king will bring about peace on earth. I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the warhorses from Jerusalem, and the battle bow will be broken. He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.” Zechariah 9:10

This part of the scripture will be fulfilled when Christ returns to the earth and establishes his everlasting kingdom where there will be no wars but only peace and righteousness will reign. Coming back to our story, the crowd was over joyed hoping that finally the king has come to deliver them from the tyranny of the Roman Empire and they were soon going to enjoy freedom. Yes Jesus was going to deliver them but not the way they were expecting; He was going to set them free but not necessarily from the Romans but from another enemy who is far more sinister than the Romans and any other tyrant on the earth. This brings us to the second reason why Jesus rode on a donkey. In the ancient times donkeys were used to carry burdens.

In the ancient times, donkeys were known as the “beast of the burden.” We see them used to carry wood, grain and other household items.  Gen 22:3, “Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey.” Gen 42:26, “then they loaded their donkeys with their grain.” Sometimes donkeys were used to carry people. Exodus 4:20 “And Moses took his wife and his sons and set them on donkeys, and he returned to the land of Egypt; and Moses took the rod of God in his hand.”

Not only in ancient times even now especially in the Middle East we see donkeys used to carry heavy loads. By using a donkey as his carrier which is known as the beast of the burden Jesus was conveying to the crowds that were harassed by the oppression of the Romans and the religious leaders, from now own I am going to carry all your burdens. You cast all of them onto me because I care for you. He was communicating a message that he was a different king unlike the other kings who levied huge taxes on common people. He was going to be a different leader unlike the religious leaders who loaded people with guilt through their legalism. Above all Jesus was saying that he came to carry the heavy burden of sin. Isaiah 53:6, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

When Jesus, rode on a donkey on the ancient streets of Jerusalem many did not recognize Jesus’ true intentions and symbolism of a donkey. But those who had the eyes to see like Matthew and others rejoiced over this fulfillment of the scripture. Jesus’ ride on a donkey brought hope and comfort to the believing, but for those who were only concerned about their power and control it made them uncomfortable to such an extent they began to plot and wait for a chance to kill him. We will learn all about their plot, and how Christ was crucified, buried and resurrected in the events that will be unfolded in the Holy Week.

Palm Sunday is not all about the donkey but it is about the One who rode on a donkey.  What can we take away from this Palm Sunday?  Two things; Jesus is the prince of peace. He is the only one who can truly bring peace to the problems of this world. If you let Him he can walk right into your troubling situation, whatever it may be and bring peace. Secondly, he has come to carry the burden of the sin of the whole world. If you let him, he can lift your burden of sin too, so that you can be free to worship him and enjoy the abundance not only in this life but also in the life to come. Amen

Sunday, March 1, 2015


There is not a single day that passes by without hearing the words like, ISIS, Terrorists, Islam, and radicalized Muslims. The world at large is shocked and panicked with the recent up rise of Islamic militancy, barbarically displayed by groups like ISIS.  In a recent blog on “Militant Islam”, James Emery White starts his argument with these words, “This past week, a high-profile White House meeting with the title “Countering Violent Extremism” went out of its way to avoid labeling acts of brutal violence by Al Qaeda, ISIS (the so-called Islamic State), and their allies as “Muslim” terrorism or describing their ideology as “Islamic” or “Jihadist.”
The concern is wanting to stay away from any sense that the United States is at war with Islam itself, much less to lump the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims with vicious terrorist groups. But a growing number are saying that this is failing to look at the very real threat of militant Islam. They’re right.” It looks like the US and the rest of the western world is increasingly becoming “Islamophobic” In order to understand why that is the case, one must understand a few things about Islam itself.  Therefore I titled my message for this morning, “Understanding Islam”
A bit of background of how I became interested in reaching out to Muslims. While I was in India with YWAM we lived next to a Mosque where I used to wake up disturbed by the prayers of devoted Muslims, they sounded so sad, pathetic and as if they were crying out to God for help. I was burdened by that need. So I used to get up even before they got up and pray for them. I once even fasted 40 days during a Ramadan season and went to a Mosque and prayed for Muslims. I translated a 40 day prayer guide for Muslims into the local language to raise awareness among churches to pray for Muslims. I taught in discipleship training school in Bangladesh for Muslim believers and personally discipled several Muslim converts.
One of them is now actively reaching out to Muslims in Hyderabad India and wrote a book titled, “Muslims are dying, But the Church is drowsing” He sent me a copy to read as I began to read that book the LORD  rekindled my passion to reach out to Muslims once again. Today I will be sharing a few basics of Islam, its origin, its meaning, and beliefs hoping that your desire to understand Islam will grow so let’s get started! How it all began?

It was the time of the Patriarchs. The first Patriarch Abraham, upon receiving a call from God he sojourned in the land of Egypt. God had promised him that many nations would come out of him; his children will be like the stars in the sky and the sand on the land.  But there was one problem Abraham was 99 years old and his wife Sara was way past the child bearing stage.
The thought of not being able to bear children distressed Sarah more than anything else. In spite of God’s promise and assurance Sarah increasingly grew impatient. Sarah had an Egyptian maid named Hagar, she took her to Abram and said, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her. Abram agreed to what Sarai said” (Genesis 16:2).
According the customs of those days, Hagar became a wife to Abram. In the course of time Hagar becomes pregnant, and began to look down upon her mistress. Sarah complains to her husband and he advices her to do whatever she pleased with her slave.
Sarah began to treat Hagar harshly. So she runs away from her mistress into the wilderness there she had an encounter with an angel. “The angel of the Lord also said to her: “You are now pregnant and you will give birth to a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard of your misery. He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.” (Genesis 16: 11-13) Vs 15, “So Hagar bore Abram a son and Abram called the name of his son whom Hagar bore Ishmael.” What is the meaning of “Ishmael”?  It means, “God will hear” In the Islamic world Ishmael is recognized as the ancestor of several prominent Arab tribes and being the forefather of Muhammad.  Muslims also believe that Muhammad was the descendant of Ishmael that would establish a great nation.”  Where did they get that idea from?
As the story continued. At some point Abraham pleads with God that Ishmael will live before God, to that God answered and said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation.” Gen 17:19-20
According to the promise, Sarah gives birth to Isaac. Now Abraham had two sons the eldest was Ishmael and the youngest was Isaac. After a while, “Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, and she said to Abraham, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.” The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son. But God said to him, “Do not be so distressed about the boy and your slave woman. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. I will make the son of the slave into a nation also, because he is your offspring.”(Genesis 21: 9-13). As a good husband, Abraham sent Hagar and his son Ishmael away. As they were wandering in the wilderness; when they ran out of water the boy Ishmael began to cry and the LORD heard his cry.  
God tells Hagar, Vs 18-21 “Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.” Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink. God was with the boy as he grew up. He lived in the desert (modern day Jordan and Saudi Arabia) and became an archer... and his mother got a wife for him from Egypt.” And the rest is History!!
 It is a fascinating story of the true origin of Islam.  What can we learn from it? Firstly no single individual has created Islam but it was birthed out of Sarah’s impatience and unbelief. Secondly, Abraham was distressed with the thought of sending his eldest son away. Thirdly unlike the much talked about siblings rivalry between brothers, we see when Abraham died both Ishmael and Isaac together bury him along with his wife Sarah (Gen 25:9). Fourthly, Ishmael lived in the East away from his brothers, fathered twelve sons out of them came twelve princes. Fifthly at a very ripe age of 137 Ishmael dies and was gathered to his people. That was not the end but just the origin and the spread of the descendants of Abraham’s eldest son Ishmael.

But not until, after the death of Christ, a man named Muhammad was born in 570 A.D whom Muslims believe was the last prophet of God with the latest message for the world. Muslims believe that the prophet Muhammad received special revelation from God. These recitations were collected and codified as the Quaran. After the death of Muhammad in 632 AD, his succors popularized the teachings of Quaran, and that was the beginning of an organized religion called Islam. What are the core beliefs of Muslims? To some extent, every Muslim in the world practices what are called the five pillars of Islam.

1. The reciting of the "Shahadah," which is when you say "I bear witness that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is his prophet." 2. To offer seventeen cycles of prayer each day, usually spread out over five periods of time. 3. To fast during the daylight hours of the ninth lunar month of Ramadan. 4. To give at least 2.5% of their income in offering. 5. To make the pilgrimage, or Hajj, to Mecca.
If one strictly follows these five beliefs there is no place for violence right? But where is this violent streak we are seeing in recent times in Islam coming from? Some Muslims add a sixth practice - The Jihad. This is an idea that is often misunderstood even by Muslims. In essence, the Jihad is a personal war you wage against yourself in terms of submission. It has to do with mental or spiritual striving.
But it can also include actual war for the sake of the Islamic faith against others, either to defend or extend the interests of Islam. Then it is called Jihad of the Sword, or a holy war. It’s based on certain passages within the Quran that urge people to fight for the cause of Allah, and to kill pagans wherever they are found. For example, in the second chapter of the Quran there is a passage that teaches that “whenever believers meet unbelievers, Muslims are encouraged to smite their neck” (Quran 2:244; 47:4; 9:5; 9:29).
According to the 47th chapter of the Quran, if you die in the course of this kind of Jihad, as a martyr, you go straight to paradise (Quran 47:4-5). In fact, Muhammad is quoted as saying: “The sword is the key of heaven and hell; a drop of blood shed in the cause of Allah, a night spent in arms, is of more avail than two months of fasting or prayer.”[1]
What are they up in arms for? They are fighting for one place, Jerusalem. Why Jerusalem? It is considered as a sacred place because Muhammad selected Jerusalem as the first direction of prayer. Secondly, Muhammad is said to have ascended to heaven from the stone that is now enclosed by the Dome of the Rock on Jerusalem's Temple Mount. Thirdly The Mosque there is considered the third holiest Mosque in the Muslim world.
But is everyone involved in this fight? Not necessarily so, only a small percentage of radicalized Muslims. Many Muslims that I know are peace loving people. They want to live in peace, they educate their children, and they contribute to the welfare of the society just like the rest of us. I personally know several Muslims, who are doctors, educationalists, business people who neither support nor participate in this evil agenda of Jihad.

In closing, this is only a small attempt, and there is much more to know about Islam. I don’t know what your understanding of Islam has been.  If you are only forming your opinions by what is coming through the media then I am afraid your understanding is limited and often not accurate. But if you want to have a fuller understanding about Islam, please talk to me afterwards I have some resources.
A couple of take away points: Just like the Jews and Christians, Muslims too claim Abraham their father where does that put them in relationship with us? Brothers and sisters right? When God loves all Muslims, then are we to do any different? Let’s pray for the salvation of 1.5 billion Muslims in the world. Amen