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Advent

In the Christian calendar, the new year starts on the fourth Sunday before Christmas day (December 25). It is called the advent Sunday and the season of advent is for four weeks that ends on Christmas eve. It is a season observed as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus. The term is an English version of the Latin word adventus, meaning 'coming'. The season of advent anticipates the coming of Christ from three different perspectives. It offers an opportunity to share in the ancient longing for the coming of the Messiah into history. It also signifies the longing for the coming of the Messiah into our hearts and lives; and it alerts for His second coming as the King. Advent has past, present and future in itself.

The Bible tells us that God sent a man named John to prepare the way for the coming of Jesus. John told the people to make a highway in the desert for their God, make the crooked ways straight and to make the rou…
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Be Thankful

A group of elementary school students were asked to write down the seven wonders of the world. They took blank pieces of paper and started writing. The answers listed the pyramids, the Taj Mahal and other wonders. One little girl was not finished after everyone else did and continued writing. She said, "teacher, I don't know where to stop and if these are the right answers, but I have a lot more than seven." The teacher looked at her paper and started reading her list, "to be able to see, hear, think , breathe, touch, walk, run, love, laugh..and the list went on. We take many vital things for granted.

Only one of the ten lepers healed by Jesus came back to thank Him (Luke 17). The others probably got excited and ran back to their families they had been missing for a long time since lepers were isolated from the community. When the receiver overlooks the giver and gets preoccupied with the gift, thanksgiving is often forgotten. On Christmas morning, many child…

What shall I do?

In the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) a lawyer asked Jesus a question to test him. "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" The question was presumptive in that he believed that by doing certain things, he can inherit eternal life. Jesus answers this question with a question. "What is written in the law and how do you read it?" He answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." Jesus advised him to just follow that. But the lawyer made the classic mistake of asking a follow up question, "who is my neighbor?". Then he got an answer he hadn’t bargained for, in the form of a story that would become the hallmark of the gospel through the centuries.

A poor traveller, probably a Jew had been robbed, beaten and left for dead on the street. A priest and a Levite saw him and passed by on the other side.…

Pray without shame

In the middle of a church service, one child was becoming noisy and distracting. As the parents were losing the battle to manage the situation, the father picked him up walked down the aisle really fast on his way out. Just before reaching the door, the little one called loudly to the congregation, "pray for me, pray for me!." In Luke Chapter 18, Jesus taught through the parable of a widow that a believer should pray with shameless persistence. A poor, powerless person (the widow) persists in nagging a corrupt, powerful person (the judge) to do justice for her. The purpose of the parable is to encourage Christians to persevere in their faith against all odds.

There are three main characters in this story - the poor widow, an adversary who had done injustice to the widow and a corrupt judge. All odds are here against the poor widow, who does not have a voice. Well, not so. There is a fourth character, God, the just and merciful judge, who can and will bring about justic…

The Star Promise

Genesis 15 is one of the most important chapters in the Bible because we read that God made a promise with one man Abram to make him the father of a chosen group people for God. But he remained childless for a long time after the promise. Abram said, “I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus, the servant” . God took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars and see if you can count them. So shall your descendants be.” Abram believed the Lord and it was counted to him as righteousness. The stars are reminders of a faithful God who fulfills His promise. When we are frustrated, disappointed or depressed, and have more questions than answers, it is human to question God and faith. But there is hope because God works behind the scenes to turn them into blessings. When we see terrorisms, war and mass killings of innocent people are increasing, we can look at the stars in the sky and believe in the 'star promise'.

In …

Armor of light

During the Advent season, we look forward to the light that brings hope that brightens the lives of people who are in darkness. "The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death [ land of darkness ] a light has dawned." (Matthew 4:16, Isaiah 9:2). The season of advent starts four Sundays before Christmas day and ends with the celebration of the birth of Jesus on Christmas day. This also marks the beginning of the Christian year. The word Advent originated from Latin and means, “coming” or “arrival.” It is a countdown with anticipation to the coming of the savior. Jesus was born into this world as a small child in a manger as the savior. We are also in a countdown to His second coming as the King who will establish God’s kingdom in this world.

Jesus said, “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” (John 12:46). Jesus came to this world "to open eyes that a…

A man stuck in a plan

In the gospel according to John Chapter 5, Jesus heals a man who had been lying at a pool side for thirty eight years waiting for healing. That is a long time to be doing anything, let alone lying at a pool side waiting for someone's help. This man took this place along with many others who shared a similar plight near the pool called Bethesda (which means house of mercy). After all, misery loves company. They gathered at the pool where it is said that at certain times an angel would disturb the waters, and the first one to get in would be healed. Jesus comes into the picture and learns that this man had been there for a long time. Jesus asks him a question, ”Do you want to get well?” Jesus may sound 'politically incorrect' to some people in asking such a question to a man that was waiting at a place that was supposed to heal people.

The question was not only about healing, but more about his life: “What do you want to do with your life? Are you afraid of getting well…

A United Methodist Church Service with Holy communion

A typical worship service at a United Methodist church may include a greeting and opening hymn and prayer, time for people to greet each other, scripture readings, silent prayer and meditation, an offering time for voluntary giving, the Lord's Prayer, a children's message, the sermon, special music and hymns, and a closing prayer. Though it is not required to light candles, many churches do. Lighted candles remind us that Jesus Christ is the Light of the world. "Jesus said: "I am the light of the world" (John 8:12). The presence of the light reminds us of Jesus' coming into our world and into our lives. The light is carried into the worship service as a symbol of Jesus' coming into the presence of the worshiping community.

Communion may also be served. All are invited to celebrate communion, but you can choose whether or not you wish to participate. Often churches will print words and responses in the bulletins to help those who are unfamiliar with Un…

Ready for Jesus in Eight Minutes

Imagine if Jesus called you and said that He wants to visit your house in eight minutes, what would be your response? A person wrote a blog: "One day Jesus called me and said he is visiting our house in eight minutes. I said, "what? now? come on Lord, give me some more time." He said He is at the next house and would be glad to visit us if we are ok to welcome Him. I called out to my wife in the other room and she said, "Who? Jesus? is it real?" I said, "yes." She ran out of the room and started giving instructions to the kids. My mind was racing with what needed to be done in the next eight—no only seven—minutes. I turned off the reality show on TV, and the movie playing on my IPad. I turned off the kids’ TV that was playing cartoons. My wife had already taken out the magazines on the coffee table and put 'Christianity Today' on top. I looked for the Bible, but could not find it. We had five minutes to go. I noticed a lot of junk mail p…

Baptism

Mile markers are stones buried on the sides of highways that help us to determine direction and distance when we travel. In the USA, they generally increase from the South to the North,and from the West towards East. The exit numbers are generally lined up with mile markers so that you can calculate how long you have travelled and how much distance is left to the destination. Without them, we become lost and vulnerable. If you call for emergency help, they will ask your location about your mile marker or exit number to get to you quickly. These exit numbers give us a sense of comfort and peace in knowing where we are and what direction we are heading.

The prophet Samuel set up a stone to commemorate the victory over the Philistines at Mizpah (1 Samuel 7:12). He called it Ebenezer which means 'thus far the Lord has helped us.' It is a mile marker in his life and the peoples' lives. We all have mile markers like birthday, firstday of school, sweet 16, graduation, marria…

Reception at home

Jesus explained many spiritual truths by using ordinary life stories called the 'parables'. These are simple stories in life that reveal just enough truth to raise intense curiosity, promising more for interested listeners. These are to be studied in context of the life of Jesus. The parable of the 'prodigal son' is one of the most well known among them (Luke 15). It is about a sweet home where a kind and wealthy father lived with his two sons. The younger son claimed his inheritance and ran off to a far away place. He eventually returned after squandering his money and life. His father received him back as a son restoring his full inheritance.

The son's rejection of the home led to destruction and despair in his life. His remembrance of the home led to his repentance and return. The father rejoices at the return of his son. Having another son at home does not fill the void. Heaven is incomplete with one soul missing. It is like one key missing on a piano. Each o…

Return to home

Jesus explained many spiritual truths by using ordinary life stories called the 'parables'. These are simple stories in life that reveal just enough truth to raise intense curiosity, promising more for interested listeners. These are to be studied in context of the life of Jesus. The parable of the 'prodigal son' is one of the most well known among them (Luke 15). It is about a sweet home where a kind and wealthy father lived with his two sons. The younger son claimed his inheritance and ran off to a far away place. He eventually returned after squandering his money and life. His father received him back as a son with full inheritance restored.

Rejection of the home led to a wasted life time. Remembrance of the home led to repentance and return. Repentance is not just admitting guilt nor it is being regretful when get caught. It is an action that makes a change with a determination to turn around and return. It is asking for forgiveness to God and to the victims th…

Remembrance of a home

Jesus explained many spiritual truths by using ordinary life stories called the 'parables', a word that is derived from the Greek word 'parabole' that means ‘viewing things side by side’. There are thirtyone unique parables, found in the first three gospels (the synoptic gospels). They reveal just enough truth to raise intense curiosity, promising more for interested listeners. They are not to be taken as doctrines or prophecies, rather must be studied in context. The parable of the 'prodigal son' is one of the most well known among them. It is about a sweet home where a kind and wealthy father lives with his two sons. The younger son claimed his inheritance from his father and ran off to a far away place. He eventually returned after squandering his inheritance and was received by his father with full restoration as a son.

The younger son remembered about his home while he was living far away. "When he came to his senses, he remembered ‘How many of my…

Rejection of a home

Jesus explained spiritual truths by using ordinary life stories called parables. “All these things Jesus spoke to the multitude in parables.” (Matthew 13:34). The word “parable” “is ultimately derived from the Greek word parabole that means ‘putting things side by side’. There are thirtyone unique parables, only found in the first three gospels (the synoptic gospels). They reveal just enough truth to raise intense curiosity, promising more for interested listners and seekers. They are not to be taken as doctrines or prophecies, rather must be studied in context.

The parble of the 'prodigal son' is one of the most well known among them. It is about a sweet home where a kind and wealthy father lives with his two sons. The younger son claimed his inheritance from his father and ran off to a far away place. The older one lived with his father dissaisfied and dissilusioned. One was lost away from home while the other was lost in the home. The younger son returned after squan…

Lion's den or Daniel's?

After the time of King Nebuchadnezer and Belthshassar, the Persian King Darius invaded and took over Babylon. As a historian puts it, “The sunset of Babylon’s kingdom has now become the dawning of the Medo-Persian empire.” According to scholars, the “Darius” in the 6th chapter of Daniel is Cyrus the Great, the Persian ruler who eventually allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem after about 70 years of captivity. Daniel was probably about 85 years old at this time. He had served three kings, Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar and Darius.

King Darius was so pleased that he made Daniel the chief of the governors. Everything was going well for Daniel. Then came the judgment, a plot deviced by jealous colleagues to trap Daniel. They asked the king to make a rule that nobody could worship anyone else besides the king for thirty days. Anyone found disobeying the order would be thrown into a den of lions. After hearing the judgment, Daniel went up to the upper room and prayed three times as he us…

A Friend in the Furnace

Daniel chapter 3 is called the Fire Alarm chapter by a writer. What are you supposed to do when the fire alarm goes off? We are aksed to run to the exit and get out as soon as you can. As we hear in the air plane announcements, in case of a low pressure, the oxygen masks will drop and make sure you wear yours first before you help your child or someone else. In a fire, we are told to take our safety and run to the exit. Do anything possible to get out. But the three Hebrew boys, Shadrak, Meshak and Abednego, instead of running for the exit, they decided to go to the fire.

In 605 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, conquered the Southern Kingdom of Judah and took into captivity a group of bright young men to train them with skills in administration and leadership. The King ordered to change their names from their Hebrew names to those that reflected Babylonian gods. Hannaniah (The Lord is gracious) became Shadrach honoring the sun god, Mishael (God like) was named Meshak to …