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Through the roof

All synoptic gospels tell the story of Jesus healing a paralyzed man who made his way through the roof to get to Jesus (Matthew 9, Mark 2, Luke 5). Four unnamed friends convinced the paralytic man that they were determined to take him to Jesus. Imagine how their hearts must have sunk when they saw that the house Jesus stayed was packed with people. Lots of people in town had come there with their sick people and there is no way to get into house, not to mention a man on a stretcher. The men decided to climb up on the roof, break it open, and lower the paralytic down. You can only imagine the reaction of the people in the room below when the pieces and debris started falling on them.

Many Christians are oblivious to the damage they cause and the barriers they build. They refuse to think or admit the traffic jam they cause at the doorway blocking others to come to church. Many churches are very supportive to each other and work together shoulder to shoulder and interlocked so tig…
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Speak to the mountains

Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘"Be moved into the sea, and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says, it will be done for him." (Mark 11:22). Jesus talked to inanimate things like a fig tree, water, waves and wind and they all responded. He wants us to speak to the mountains that may come across in our journey of life. It is not speaking about your mountain, but it is about speaking to your mountain. Speaking about your mountain will magnify the problem in your thoughts and minds. The problem will begin to look bigger and bigger in your sight as you continue to dwell on it. But speaking to your mountain keeps things in proper perspective. Sir Edmund Hilary who was the first man to climb the Mount Everest said, “It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” The statement is a game changer when we approach mountains.

Mountains are real and there is no way to hide them or hide from them. Running away from a prob…

Trust God when troubled

"Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. " (John 14:10). Martin Luther called this passage "the best and most comforting sermon that the Lord Christ delivered on earth, a treasure and a jewel not to be purchased with the world's goods." Jesus continued, "I go to prepare a place for you.. I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also...I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me."

Picturing life as a journey is a very old concept. We move from one day to the next, one year to the next, one period of our life to another, just as on a journey one travels from place to place. We travel the journey of life that will lead to the destination. Our jouney takes us through a series of stages: baby stages, growing up, leaving home and so on until the journey in this world ends with death. A lot of us set goals at various stages and places we want to…

Keep the faith that keeps you

Google introduced 'Ngram Viewer' which is a seductively simple tool online that generates a chart tracking the popularity of a word or phrase in books and writings during a selected period in history. Ngram is a computational linguistics and probability study to look for contiguous sequence of 'n' items from a given sequence of text or speech useful to build linguistic models. It will search for a particular word like 'faith' or a phrase like 'faith in God'. A search of Ngram database shows the word 'faith' winning over 'doubt' in American English during the 1800s. But 'doubt' ran past 'faith' in the early 1900s and later the two terms tracked rather closely. During the 1980s, however, 'faith' won over 'doubt' ! But 'Faith in God' shows a poor graph in the 2000s!! There are still studies to be completed before we can know the reason for variations.

No one can live a single day without exercisi…

Job's wife

The second Sunday in May is celebrated as mother's day to honor all mothers around the world. Michelle Duggar, 43 years old is the mother of 19 children as of 2015; nine sisters and 10 brothers. There is a TV show called “19 kids and counting” based on their family . The Duggars' oldest child Josh, is 23 and the youngest Jennifer is 3 years. There are two sets of twins. The fast-growing family lives in Tontitown in northwest Arkansas. All the childrens' names start with the letter J. Mom Duggar has been been pregnant for more than 12 years of her life, and that’s with two sets of twins; otherwise it would have been close to 14 years of pregnancy.

Job’s wife spent about 15 or more of years carrying children.There are only 3 verses in reference to Job's wife; they are Job 2:9 (curse God and die), Job 19:17 (My breath is offensive to my wife} and Job 31:10 (may my wife grind another man's grain). She is not looked upon as a good person. I've heard many pre…

Not seeing yet believing

In the 1970s, a group of people in the audience in the front row of a cinema theater fled from their seats before the oncoming train on the screen. A great grandmother waved her handkerchief as the queen’s carriage passed by on the screen. There are those who refuse to believe that man landed on the moon because the pictures look like they were made in a lab with shady black and white images. We learn from experience that not all we see is real and all that glitters is not gold. Supermarket discounts appear to offer products at half-price turn out to be not real when you go there to shop. In the age of electronic mass media when video clips on social media go 'viral’, people doubt about what is real and what isn’t.

Seeing and believing may seem easy. Jesus said, "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." (John 20:29) and “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” There is a significant difference between believing without seeing and bel…

Faith like a mustard seed

"Faith is simple and religion complicates it", says an author. When Jesus taught the disciples about having faith like a mustard seed (Luke 17), he was not saying faith comes in varying quantities, as in small, medium or super-sized. This is how so many religious people have mistakenly taught and understood His words. They teach that if you have a little bit more faith, your problem would be solved, or your sickness would be healed. Jesus is actually teaching about lack of faith and not sizes of faith. To be sure, faith the size of a mustard seed is better than no faith at all.

The kind of teaching that one's size of faith was the cause of a disaster or sickness or death has turned many people against the church and God. It produces guilt and people have been hurt by such teachings. We have been raised in a culture that says bigger is better—that size is the truest measure of success. It takes a strong person to resist that trend, especially if he or she is laboring …

God of the living

A newspaper reported about a man who showed up in good health after being reported missing more than 25 years earlier. At the time of his disappearance he had been unemployed, addicted, and hopelessly behind in child support payments. So he decided to go into hiding. On his return, however, he discovered that the court records showed he was dead. When the man went to court to reverse the records, the judge rejected his request, citing the statute of limitations that says there is a three year time limit for changing a death record. He is a living man with a death record.

In the first three (synoptic) gospels we see the Sadducees who did not believe in resurrection (Matt 22, Mark 12, Luke 20) pose a question to Jesus. A widow marries seven brothers in sequence as each brother dies. They assume that if there is a resurrection, the woman would be guilty of polygamy with seven husbands in heaven. Jesus answers, “ God is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are ali…

A good man and his dreams

Dreams begin even before we are born and we continue to dream, usually between two to five times a night until we die. We forget almost all our dreams. Experiences of dreams can be fantastic, pleasant, frightening or revelatory, and reactions to them are diverse. Modern studies help elucidate some of the mechanisms of dreams and do not discount the revelatory nature of dreams (Journal of Neurology). Bible contains numerous instances where God speaks to people in dreams as revelatory messages.

The Gospel writer Matthew describes Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus having four dreams. The first dream is where an angel telling him not to be afraid of taking Mary as his wife because the son to be born is by the Holy Spirit (1:20). In the second chapter Joseph receives messages in dreams to flee to Egypt with the baby (2:13), then to return to homeland (2:19), and another dream telling him not to go to Judea and he went to Galilee(2:22). By following the dreams as visions from God he …

Baby Pictures - A Christmas Message

Some people are anxious to show the pictures of their children, grandchildren or other dear ones. They are the proud people who approach and ask you "Have I shown you the most recent pictures of my so and so?" You may want to say, “Yes, thank you, I have seen them three times already”. People have taken pictures from the beginning of history, not as photographs but as stories narrated in words. They might go around and say, "Our baby came last night, a boy, about 7 pounds, brown eyes, little bit of hair, got his father's nose or whatever". Such narratives seem to be more graphic since they leave more room for imagination.

There are some such pictures of the baby Jesus of Nazareth in the Bible. The earliest picture of Jesus is recorded by Luke when a group of shepherds went to see the baby in the manger. The shepherds took some pictures with their eyes, stored in their memory and went and proclaimed with their mouth. "When they had seen him, they spr…

Honey in the lion

Samson was from a Jewish family chosen by God, to lead Israel to fight against the Philistines. An angel of God visited his parents who did not have a child for a long time and promised that they would have a son and he would become a very strong man. He should not cut his hair forever because his hair will be the source of his strength. Samson grew up to be a man of super-human strength (Judges 13, 14). He killed a thousand Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey. At times, he was a mad man. He tied up three hundred foxes tail to tail and set them with fire torches and burned up the enemy’s wheat fields. He murdered thirty men for their clothes. Philistines were very afraid of him. But he sadly fell for a woman’s seduction for a haircut (Judges 16) and lost his superhuman strength. In spite of his weakness and madness, God chose him to fulfill His divine plans.

Samson loved riddles. A Riddle is where an uncertain and unexpected answer is key to the riddle. Choosing the appopriate…

A Wild Wonderful Woman

The Samaritan woman in John's gospel chapter 4 would be the kind of people I would like to see in my church as leaders. If you have someone like this woman, you can with the help of God, lead a powerful church. Interestingly, I don't know her name, but I know everything else about her. It is difficult to guess her age, but we can see that she has lived through a lot. I can tell you that she is a Wild and Wonderful Woman.

Jesus encountered this woman at noon time (sixth hour). In the middle east countries, It is unusual for people to walk around at noon time due to the intense heat. A writer says, “Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noonday sun.” But this woman was out there doing hard work. Women at that time used to like such gatherings in the evenings as they used this time to socialize. Maybe, this woman did not want to be with other women or may be she ran out water unexpectedly. Whatever the reason was, she was a bold woman on the move.

I want to believe t…

Signs of the time - A Lent message

A group of Christian students was asked if they feared for the danger of hell or the danger nuclear war in their lifetime. All of them answered nuclear war. I am almost certain most of you here will agree with them. Indeed, most people are more concerned with the dangers of nuclear war than the dangers of hell in their life time. The truth is that the danger of hell is far more real, far more certain, infinitely more terrible, and more imminent than the danger of nuclear war. Jesus said, “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all." (Luke 17, Matt 24).

People asked Jesus about the end of the world, when he reminded them about the days Noah and the days of the son of man. It takes wisdom to recognize the time and to respond. They got to worry about their present time more than worrying about…

Chariots of Clouds

Most people like sunny days as opposed to dark and cloudy days. There is even a class of medical classification for the negative effects of cloudy days on our mind and body. We tend to speak of the beauty of any given day in relation to how much of the sun and sky we are able to see. However, the scripture encourages us to view the clouds as a place to experience the presence of God. “God’s way is in whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of His feet." (Nahum 1:3). Even though sorrows and sufferings may bring rain drops of tears in the clouds, it is through those clouds that we can feel the presence of God. Often we get caught up in the sight of the clouds that we lose sight of who is on the chariot. "God makes the clouds His chariot" (Psalm 104:3).

Throughout the scripture, we read that God descended to the people in the clouds. In Exodus 19 we see that "a cloud covered the mount and the glory of the Lord abode on Sinai"(Exod. 24:15,16). A clou…

Remembered, Rescued, Restored

The story of David and Mephiboshet is not well known, but is a powerful story. Mephiboshet was the son of Jonathan, the grandson of King Saul. Even though Saul considered David to be an enemy and wanted to kill him, Saul’s son Jonathan was a friend of David. One time, Jonathan and David made a covenant before God that they would always love each other and be good to the family of each other for years to come (1 Samuel 20:16).

Mephibosheth was five years old at the time when both King Saul and Jonathan were killed in battle with the Philistines. The nurse took Mephiboshet and ran in panic and fell and the boy became lame in both feet. David later became king and after assuming his throne, he asked his servants to locate anyone from Jonathan's family to show kindness. They located Mephibosheth living in obscurity and in poverty in a remote and barren corner of the kingdom. When he was taken before David, Mephiboshet thought, “I’m going to be killed because of Saul.” But David …

Stones in Our Path

Around 600BC, King Nebuchadnezer of Babylon invaded Judah and people were taken as captives to Babylon. The city of Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed into a heap of stones. Around 500 BC, a leader by name Zerubbabel went to rebuild with about 50,000 Israelites but got discouraged and quit. Later, Haggai and Zechariah tried and could not finish. Around 400 BC, the Persians took over Babylon and Nehemiah was chosen as a cupbearer to the King and later a governor (Nehemiah 1:11). His life in a foreign land was going well. When he heard about the condition of Jerusalem, he sat down and wept; he fasted and prayed. Then gathered his leaders and said, "come, let us rebuild Jerusalem so that we will no longer be in disgrace".

When news of shame and disgrace come upon us, as much as we should fast and pray we must rise up and regroup. We can look at the burned stones and be 'content with the way things are' or we can decide to use the stones to build monuments of su…

A call to adventure

Jesus called four fishermen to take up an adventure for a journey that would become a story bigger than themselves. Fishermen are not highly educated or eloquent and many are probably introverts. They work hard in very difficult conditions where they have to face fierce waves and storms. They are persistent and patient, hardworking and action oriented. They never know what a new day is going to be like. They take chances everyday. They would not be detracted by a bad catch of the previous day, rather they put their hopes in the next day.

The ministry of Jesus requires opening our lives from an inward looking perspective to an outward looking vision. All of us have heard or will hear God's call to take up adventures like Abraham, Moses, David and many others. Dictionary meaning of the word adventure is 'taking up unkown risk'. It might be a chance to go somewhere, stand up for something or work in a place. In the parable of the laborers in the vinyard (Matthew 20), the …

Poor in spirit

Matthew chapter5 teaches the beatitudes, "Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of God". Being poor in spirit is not taking vows of poverty, instead it is a condition of the heart. According to Matthew Henry's Bible commentary, “the poverty of spirit is a gracious disposition of the soul, by which we are emptied of self, in order to our being filled with God”. In Luke Chapter 4, the Lord Jesus read from the Book of Isaiah (Chapter 61) while he was in the temple that gives us a deeper insight into this beatitude. "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free and proclaim the year of Jubilee (acceptable year of the Lord)”.

After Israel conquered Canaan, the land was assigned to Israel’s clans and families as described in Numbers 26 and Joshua 15-22. The land was never to be sold in…

Beatitudes and Similitudes

In the first few verses of Matthew Chapter 5 we see 'the beatitudes' that portray the character of a person. These are being poor in spirit, being meek in heart, being peace makers and so on. Jesus then teaches the hearers of beatitudes to become influencers of the world by becoming 'the salt and the light'. These are called 'simlitudes', a word that comes from the word ‘similar’. If we put beatitudes together with similitudes, we can see that 'out of our character emerges influence'. The early church was greatly shaped by the beatitudes and the similitudes. We all make influence in the world during and after our lives. We are also being influenced by the people who have lived and died before us.

Salt has some very interesting history. It was highly valued and was used as a method of trade and currency. Historians report that Ceasar's soldiers were paid salary by means of salt. The word used for that practice is called 'salarium' from w…

All Permissible things are not useful

A restaurant in Las Vegas called 'Heart Attack Grill' came on the news when a customer had a heart attack while eating in the restaurant. People weighing over 350 pounds can eat free there. The menu lists 'triple bypass' burger and 'quadruple bypass' burger with a slogan that says "taste worth dying for." After dinner, you will be taken to your car in a wheel chair by waitresses who are dressed in nurse uniforms.

We may not like to eat at the Heart Attack Grill, but we may sail too close to the wind many times. 'Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food' was a slogan used by the teachers in Corinth (1 Cor 6:13). They believed that the body is going to perish one day and so you may do anything to gratify the body. Paul is trying to direct them to a more healthy and expedient way of life by giving them a new and radically different slogan: "The body is for God and God is for the body." Though the body is perishable, God w…

A Star in the East

The Star of Bethlehem, or Christmas Star, appears only in the Gospel of Matthew (Chapter 2). We are used to hearing the stories and songs that depict a star 'westward leading still proceeding' that gives a picture of the star going from East to West as a group of men followed. A closer reading of the passage says otherwise. The Magi had already arrived at the palace in Jerusalem when Matthew starts the story. They told King Herod, “we saw his star in the east.” The Greek text here translates that into: "we saw his star rising in the East." They were astrologers who studied the plaentary movements and by some calculations connected such movements with events. These gentile people had seen an unusual new star in the sky and pursued the search for the meaning, while the religious leaders and King Herod missed the Messiah entirely!

We too may miss the message in the midst of our busy schedules. The precious may go unnoticed in the heap of the worthless. In the midst …

There is a Time and a Season

Mark Twain said, “Life would be infinitely happier if we could only be born at the age of eighty and gradually approach eighteen.” Life is full of events with a combination of contrasts.

The author of Ecclesiastes, believed to be Solomon, illustrates this truth in chapter 3 by comparing the opposites: fourteen pairs of contrasting activities as examples of how life is comprised of various seasons. A straightforward reading of the passage reveals that there are good and bad events listed. He is not justifying one over the other, rather states that God's plan for life involves a variety of experiences and activities. Weeping may be part of life, but life is not all weeping; laughter has its place. Construction is good in its time, but sometimes deconstruction is unavoidable. Wars may not be good, but become a reality at times.

Everyone goes through good times and bad times; together they make up the season of life. It's not the times of our lives that shape us, but the sea…

Love Conquers

A Ninety eight year old man testified in church that he had no enemies. Then the minister said, “What a wonderful Christian life you lead! Please tell us all how it is that you have no enemies.” He said, “Oh I had a lot, all of those fools have died!”. Sadly as we go through life for better or worse, and no matter how hard we try, we will gather up some enemies. There are people whom we’ve angered, or those who are jealous of us or those who have set themselves against us for no good reason. It’s a sad reality of human life.

Jesus said, "I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you". Jesus was not teaching them anything new. Rather, He was directly referring to the law God had given them through Moses with His signature. "You shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord." (Lev 19:18). We do not love others to go to heaven. Rather love is a reflection of Christian faith…

Home for Christmas

In the musical fantasy film 'The Wizard of Oz', a little girl by name Dorothy leaves her home in Kansas in a dream and travels to another world. In the dream land of Oz, everything appeared vibrant and interesting, fascinating and more attractive than Kansas had ever been. But the characters she met there taught her deeper and more lasting lesons than bright colors and magical experiences. Dorothy learned about faith, hope and love. She learned what it means to have a brain, to have a heart and to have courage. She also learned the truth that she could always go home by saying “There’s no place like home.”

When we strip away the traditional Christmas rituals like the TV specials, the magical lights, the gifts and the music, what remains is 'home'. It is the beating heart of the holiday that reflects our primal need to have a meaningful relationship with a setting – a place that transcends the boundary between the self and the physical world. One of the first questio…

Firm Foundation

Earthquakes are prevalent in the Pacific Rim region known as the “Ring of Fire” where ninety percent of the world’s earthquakes occur. Buildings in the city of Hong Kong have been built on granite, which could help minimize damage in the event of an earthquake. The foundation of buildings is extremely important in earthquake-prone regions of the world. A strong faith has to be built on a solid foundation that can withstand the forces of trials and tribulations of life.

Faith: The integrity of Christian faith is built on Christ as the corner stone, who was rejected by people but chosen by God. "You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 2:4).

Doctrine: The integrity of the Christian Doctrine is based on the Living Word, Christ who is the rock of salvation. When you are challenged with questions on why you believe what you believe, the word of …

A Shepherd's Story

God chose to announce the good news of Christ’s brith to a group of shepherds in the field who had no social standing and no voice in the community. It would make sense to proclaim His arrival to those who had the ability and authority to spread the news throughout the world. The mayor of Bethlehem did not get the announcement. The High Priest in Jerusalem was left out of the loop. The Caesar and the members of his Royal court were not informed. The palace didn’t hear it nor the temple was aware.

Instead of choosing the powerful and the religious, God chose the people who were doing what they did every day and every night. He chose the people who were going through the routines of life, people working hard and raising their families. He chooses the ugly and the unwanted to show the world that He is not a respecter of persons but He is a respector of souls.

Many people are still ignorant of the birth of Christ. He has not come to judge us, but to reveal the good news that each one …

The Lord is my Shepherd

Many animals and birds have some sort of an order and structure in their community. It has long been known that chimpanzees have leaders to guide in their travel, chickens have a pecking order and wolves have a structured leadership and division of labor. Lions have a patriarchal style of leadership, while elephants have strong matriarchal leaders. The ways that leaders in such groups promote those collective actions is still a mystery. Sheep on the other hand have no formal structure in their flock. They don’t know how to negotiate or navigate through their worlds. A sheet of paper blown by the wind will frighten them. A thunderstorm may throw them into a panic. They may drown without a struggle while crossing a stream. Fire in a building where sheep are kept may destroy a whole flock, because they are too frightened to flee. They need an external source of leadership to bring order and structure for their survival.

The Bible often refers to human beings as sheep (Ps. 100:3; Isa. 5…

Highway in the desert

For those of us that drive regularly, highways are places of stress due to heavy traffic, accidents, and construction. There is a highway in Jordan named The Desert Highway, a stretch of over 300 miles through the desert. You need to keep a good look out in case a donkey, a goat or a camel is wandering across that are the only friends you might see. Highway signs are no help because many of them are in Arabic only. A Highway policeman told an American tourist, "When you see signs that are both in English and Arabic, that is for you. When you see a sign in Arabic alone, you just ignore it!!"

There are times in our lives when we are left out in the desert highways of fear and anxiety. It can be the wilderness of someone who has been diagnosed with an illness or someone struck with grief by the separation of a loved one. But the good news is that in these desert places God establishes highways so that those who can’t see a way out might regain their sight of hope. Those who …