Do not take the freedom that the Son of God gave for granted

Galatians 5:1 — Verse of the Day for 07/04/2021
https://www.verseoftheday.com/en/07042021/

Galatians 5:1, It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

How did man lose his freedom? Our Father in heaven had created man and gave him all the freedom. He had asked him only one thing. He forbid man to touch the tree of knowledge. When Eve was alone in the garden of Eden, the serpent approached her. He lured her with the goodness that the fruit of the tree of knowledge would give. The serpent only told her good things about the forbidden fruit. Eve fell for his snare and accepted his words to be of value. She ate the fruit and gave it Adam as well. In this way we lost the freedom we had with the Father in heaven.

1.Freedom: There is no one living on this earth who does not desire freedom. It is a desire that one has since birth. Our Father in heaven is so benevolent and gracious, that He could not leave us, His children in that condition of sin. There is a lot of importance to sin before the Lord. It is because of this that He gave up His only Son as the sacrificial lamb for our sins (John 3:16, 16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.)

1 John 3:1, See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

1 John 3:8, The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.

Son of God, Jesus gave up His life on the cross having suffered brutally. In this way He brought us close to the Father. It is through His death that we received the grace of God once again and were transformed again. 2 Corinthians, 3:17-19, 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

2.Stability: Psalm 51:10, Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

The Lord’s servant, David prayed to the Father in the above Psalm after having sinned. Malachi 3:6-7, “I the Lord do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty. “But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’

Isaiah 43:25, 25 “I, even I, am he who blots out
    your transgressions, for my own sake,
    and remembers your sins no more.

Those who keep sinning and fall prey to the snares of the devil, this is what the Bible teaches them: Hebrews 6:4-6, 10, It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.

10 God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. 

Those who have seen must be remembering this sight. Once you tie a cow/calf to a pole, many a time when you untie it, it does not move. This is because it does not understand its freedom having tied down for so long.

3. Do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery: After repentance do not turn back into sinning. The Lord also does not condemn the sinful woman, He rather asks her to stop sinning. John 8:11, 11 “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

If the Father in heaven is a loving father then he also has anger like a father who has been wronged. 2 Peter 3:17, 17 Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position.

2 Peter 2:20, 20 If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning.

2 Peter 2:22, 22 Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud.”

Just like the cow who is tied down, we too are in the shackles of some temptation of this world. 1 Peter 4:3, For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry.

Romans 12:2, Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

2 Corinthians 3:17, 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

2 Corinthians 5:21, 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Dear children of God, all these Bible verses teach us that through the crucifixion of the Son of God, we gained freedom. But when we sin again and again we lose this freedom through our own act of sin.

Ecclesiastes 8:11, 11 When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, people’s hearts are filled with schemes to do wrong.

But the Bible teaches us this also:

Ecclesiastes 11:9, You who are young, be happy while you are young,
    and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth.
Follow the ways of your heart
    and whatever your eyes see,
but know that for all these things
    God will bring you into judgment.

The Lord who answers prayers, and delivers us from all fears

David ran for his life fearing Saul and ran to the king of Gath better known as Achish, King Abimelech. The servants of the king immediately recognized David. To escape from there, David pretended to be insane. After escaping from the clutches of King Abimelech, David penned down Psalms 34 giving praise and expressing his gratefulness. Among the numerous Psalms, many have been composed by David. His Psalms are filled with gratitude and praise. He pleaded for protection from his enemies. He is also seen begging for forgiveness after sinning. In this way, each Psalms composed by David has a background behind it. Knowing the background to each Psalms helps in understanding the depth and meaning of the words.

In Psalms 34 we see there are two important lines.

1.Psalms 34:4, I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
    he delivered me from all my fears.

The verse says that the Lord answers all prayers. David always placed his trust in the Lord. The young boy David killed the giant Goliath not by the strength of his weapons, but his faith and trust in the Lord. We can see in the Psalms composed by David that he laid a lot of importance to prayer. Does our Lord only answer prayer of David?? Does He not answers our prayers and petitions??? The Lord keeps an eye on those who call upon Him in prayer. This can be seen in Acts 9:11-12, where Ananias receives a call by God where he is shown Saul praying, and is asked to restore his sight. 11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus  named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.” The Lord asked Ananias in Damascus to go to Saul who was in Tarsus, praying. When Ananias left Damascus, Saul receives a vision about Ananias. Today, in the midst of all luxuries we have forgotten to take time out to communicate with the Lord and sit for prayer. The number of people who misunderstand those who are immersed in heartfelt prayers is also not less. The silent prayers of Hannah were misunderstood by the priest, Eli. The Bible tells us her prayers were heard by the Lord and she was blessed with a boy whom she named, Samuel.

Many people do not shirk away from commenting or mocking those who forget themselves in prayer. The Bible teaches us through various examples that loud wailing prayer, silent prayer, prayer from the bottom of the sea, prayer from the den of lion, prayer in a desert or even a sigh with the Lord’s name does not go unheard by Him. The Bible teaches us that Lord Jesus Christ never turned away anyone who came to Him with petitions.

Psalms 34:8, Taste and see that the Lord is good;
    blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.

2. Psalms 34:7, The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him,
    and he delivers them.

David is well known to have experienced the care and refuge of the Lord. The Bile teaches us that David always praised the Lord and gave thanks to Him as he remembered his journey from a shepherd boy to a mighty king. The Lord protected him several times from the clutches of Saul who was trying to kill him. We have seen that having escaped Saul he ran to King Abimelech. After escaping from King Abimelech he composed Psalms 34. Here too we see that the Lord helped him escape by giving the brilliant idea to pretend being insane. David during his rule and even on his deathbed believed that the Lord sends His angel around those who fear Him, and protects them. When the child given birth by Bathsheba died, David was not depressed. Instead he went inside the temple and gave offering to the Lord.

In Psalms 34:18, 18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

This is the truth and hope each one of us should have in life.

Many a times each one of us have had near death experience and also faced several tribulations. It is a time to think how we have reacted then and how we react at present. David composed Psalms in times of trials and tribulations. This is not possible by ordinary men. Yet one phrase is possible by each one of us, Praise the Lord, You have protected me. The truth is in the rush of lives we often forget to do so. We most react by, My luck, I escaped. Did you ever stop and ponder to think where that luck came from???? Let us take a recap. To reach where we are today was it possible only through our efforts alone??? Haven’t we received blessings than those who have worked harder than us at times???Let us all give praise and express gratitude for all the blessings we have received like David. Let us all together praise Him, remembering that to dust we all will return.

Psalms 91:11-12, 11 For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.

May these words lead you ahead in hope and help you remember His promise always.

AMEN

Consecrate Yourself

Joshua 3:5, Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.”

The Bible lays a lot of emphasis on the purity of life. In our personal and family life, if one seeks divine intervention and miracles, there should be purity in both personal and family sphere of life.

1 Samuel 15:22, 22 But Samuel replied:

“Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
    as much as in obeying the Lord?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
    and to heed is better than the fat of rams.

Through the ultimate sacrifice of Lord Jesus Christ there came to be an end to sacrifice. His instructions will be kept till the end of time. There can be a decrease in the luxuries of life. Yet there will never be a decrease in the divine presence and grace for those who follow the Lord’s way.

After the death of Lord’s servant, Moses, Yahweh chose Joshua to lead the Israelites to the land of Canaan. In the middle of the journey they had to cross river Jordan. Joshua asks the people to consecrate themselves to witness His glory performed among them. the Israelites followed Joshua’s instructions. The Lord performed wonders that day.

Joshua 3:15-17, 15 Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, 16 the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (that is, the Dead Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho. 17 The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stopped in the middle of the Jordan and stood on dry ground, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.

Just as the Lord had instructed, Joshua asked the seven priests to march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. the army is to sound a long blast on the trumpets when they hear the priests. Then the whole army gave a loud shout; then the wall of the city of Jericho collapsed and the army took over.

The Israelites were defeated against the small city of Ai. The reason for the defeat was revealed to Joshua by the Lord. Joshua 7: 10-13

10 The Lord said to Joshua, “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? 11 Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions. 12 That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction.

13 “Go, consecrate the people. Tell them, ‘Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow; for this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: There are devoted things among you, Israel. You cannot stand against your enemies until you remove them.

The Israelites stoned to death the person and his family who had stolen the devoted things. The curse was lifted from among them.

Joshua 8:18, 18 Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Hold out toward Ai the javelin that is in your hand, for into your hand I will deliver the city.” So Joshua held out toward the city the javelin that was in his hand. Following the instructions of the Lord Joshua threw the javelin in his hand and delivered the city of Ai in to his hands. The people of Israel experienced divine grace once again.

Achan saw, coveted, stole and then hid the things that were supposedly devoted to the Lord. Joshua and the people did not know about this act. There is nothing hidden before the eyes of the Lord. Achan was deceived by the old serpent(Devil). Achan and his family did not reach the land of Canaan. There is a goal before us also, to reach the land of heavenly Canaan. Our fight is not against Jericho or Ai city. Our fight is against an invisible force which is several times powerful than the human army. So, the war will not be easy.

Ephesians 6:12, 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

In the 21st century the happenings around us, sickness, disasters, what do they indicate?? The biggest destruction known to mankind was the great flood during Noah’s time which destroyed the Earth completely. After that, the disease that we see today is one that has the whole world in its grip with no respite. the whole world is silenced. Places of worship are closed. Gathering of people to worship, adore and glorify Lord is no longer happening. Everything is taking place online. A mother today is scared to look after and nurture her own child. There is doubt and hesitation everywhere. Fear has the world in its grips. The time to reflect is long gone. Think have our acts become a curse upon the world.

Joel 1:3, Tell it to your children,
    and let your children tell it to their children,
    and their children to the next generation.

Romans 12:1-2, Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Lord Jesus too gave us forewarning in Luke 21:11, 11 There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.

Mathew 13:41, 41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.

Where is the Lord? Is He with us?

Job 23:3, If only I knew where to find him;
    if only I could go to his dwelling!

We all believe there is a Lord and we devotedly pray to Him. At some crossroads in life we happen to question ourselves, Is there a Lord? If there is, is He with us? The Lord Himself had certified about Job that he was a righteous man. Job 2:3, Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, … Job had many bitter experiences owing to his faith and devotion to the Lord. Under circumstances, his wife who should have comforted and supported him is seen as pulling him down even further into misery.

Job was very rich and wealthy. He lost all his wealth. When he lost his wealth he was hopeful that atleast his children are safe. When he lost his wealth and children he found hope that atleast his health is good. He lost his health too and he was ridden with sores and illnesses. His three friends came to meet him. The friends who should have been his pillar of strength and support insulted and humiliated him saying that his suffering is due to his sins. After being shunned by everyone, Job thought that even the Lord had shunned him from His sight. Even after losing everything Job did not give up or condemn the Lord. Job 2:10, 10 He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” In all this, Job did not sin in what he said. Job is full of faith even in his suffering and says,

Job 23:3-5, If only I knew where to find him;
    if only I could go to his dwelling!
I would state my case before him
    and fill my mouth with arguments.
I would find out what he would answer me,
    and consider what he would say to me.

He says, Job 23:8-9, “But if I go to the east, he is not there;
    if I go to the west, I do not find him.
When he is at work in the north, I do not see him;
    when he turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of him.

Can we also say like Job in Job 23:10, But he knows the way that I take;
    when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.
Are we blameless like him?

Job does not forget his good days. He says that the Lord is all powerful and there is nothing impossible with the Lord. He even prays tot the Lord for forgiveness if he has said something in his ignorance. Job says he had not seen the Lord and hence was ignorant. Now, having seen the magnificence he repents.

Job: 42:5-6, My ears had heard of you
    but now my eyes have seen you.
Therefore I despise myself
    and repent in dust and ashes.”

Even after suffering innumerable trials and sufferings, Job does not shake or waver in his faith for the Lord. In the end, we see that the Lord blessed Job multifold. Job 42: 10, 10 After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before.

Job 42:16-17, 16 After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. 17 And so Job died, an old man and full of years.

Under such circumstances, just think how would you and me react? Will our response be like Job? Will you condemn the Lord for the sufferings? Will you weaken in faith and go astray?? Think. Reflect. The Bible teaches us that the Lord saw us even when we were unformed in our mother’s womb. He knows even the last moments our lives. Is it possible for each of us to accept the good with the evil like Job??

The Lord did not send suffering into the life of righteous Job of His own will. The Lord did this due to the Devil. Job 2: 3,.. though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.” The old evil serpent of the Bible continues to follow man even today. He tests and tempts those people more who abide by the laws of the Lord and do what is right in His sight. Just like our father on earth believes in us, the Father in heaven too looks down on us with faith.

Hebrews 12:4-11, In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,

“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
    and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
    and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

In moments of doubt think, Judges, 6:12-13, 12 When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”

13 “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”

Think. Find out your own answers.

Whose way will you follow? Abraham or Jacob?

Jacob ran for his life after deceiving his father and brother. His mother was his aid in this act. She planned it all and saw it went through. Genesis 27:43-44, 43 Now then, my son, do what I say: Flee at once to my brother Laban in Harran. 44 Stay with him for a while until your brother’s fury subsides. Following the instructions of his mother, Jacob sought refuge in the house of Laban. For twenty long years, Jacob worked like a slave in his maternal uncle Laban’s house. Laban deceived Jacob ten times. Jacob married both the daughters of Laban, Rachel and Leah. Jacob understood that Laban and his sons did not think favorably of him.

Jacob was not forgotten by the Lord of his forefathers. Genesis: 31:3, Then the Lord said to Jacob, “Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.” Yahweh asked Jacob to return to his land. When Jacob had fled from his brother Esau, the Lord has promised that He will never abandon Jacob. Genesis 28:15,15 I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” When Jacob was in the house of Laban we do not read about him maintaining the relationship with the Lord. Jacob was preoccupied in gathering material wealth. Jacob had two wives, several children, servants, herds of animals, etc. But it must be noticed he was bankrupt spiritually.

Jacob was yet again in the midst of troubles. He was about to meet his brother whom he had deceived twice. Here too we see the cunning brain of Jacob come to the forefront. He tried to bribe his way by sending several gifts and presents to his own brother. He divided his wealth and belonging into two parts. He though that if he lose one part atleast he will be left with the other half. Jacob sent all his possessions across the ford and was alone himself. Genesis 32: 23-24, 23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24 So Jacob was left alone,…When Jacob was left alone he wrestled with an angel of the Lord till daybreak. Seeing that Jacob could not be overpowered the angel touched the socket of Jacob’s hip and Jacob lost. But not before he sought blessing. Genesis 32:26, 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” It was time when Jacob was left all alone. The angel blessed him and he was renamed Israel. Genesis: 32:28, 28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.” This must be noticed and given prime importance. Dear children of God, pay attention that when Jacob was lonely, Lord was the only refuge and succour. All the fears of Jacob were unnecessary as all that he feared never came to be. Esau on meeting Jacob after 20 years hugged his brother and wept. Revenge and hate all were wiped away by the tears.

Dear brothers and sister, think what did Jacob gain after deceiving his father and brother. For what did he get into squabble with Laban and his sons, and work as a slave for his own uncle?? Upon returning to his own land can you imagine the thoughts and feelings that he experienced?? Fear, uncertainty, sorrow, doubts about the future, how will he be received at his home, etc????

Genesis 12:1, The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. Here we read that our forefather Abraham was called out by the Lord to go the land He will show. Abraham left everything behind to follow the Lord. Lot too went along with Abraham. When their servants got into a fight, Abraham decided to part ways for the betterment of both the groups. Abraham gave the deciding power to Lot as to which land he will have. Lot lifted his head and seeing the beautiful land near Jordan river he decided to go to that land. Abraham got the wilderness of Canaan. The Lord blessed Abraham with abundance. The land Lot chose was full of wickedness and sin. Genesis 13:13, 13 Now the people of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord. Lord decided to destroy Sodom-Gomorrah owing to its sinful ways. When the Lord decided to destroy the city He thought of Abraham, and decided to save his brother’s son Lot and his family. Lot had to flee the city his wife and two daughters leaving all their possessions behind. They had been strictly told not to turn to look back. But Lot’s wife turned back to look and was turned into a salt pillar.

Dear children of God, there are several Jacobs and Lots among us. No matter how they see and hear, their hunger for wealth and authority does not subside. Today’s world is one which is filled with lust for earthly wealth and pleasure. the reason is simple. Today the means to satisfy this hunger and lust are innumerable. What has it lead us to??? We are incapable of loving and respecting each other in our families. Those with children in their old age are left at the mercy of the servants and helpers. The children are long gone to seek their wealth. The others are sent into old age homes, cages for old people. Today only those who are equal in wealth and status are accepted in the family. Or else own siblings are humiliated and insulted. What do we expect from the coming generation who are growing seeing and hearing this consumeristic attitude???? All the siblings in the families need to ponder and reflect here. What example are we giving to the next generation?? The way that Jacob followed must be a lesson before us. Father Abraham must be the ideal that we live our lives.

Proverbs 15:16, 16 Better a little with the fear of the Lord
    than great wealth with turmoil.

Proverbs 22:1, A good name is more desirable than great riches;
    to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.

The Perfect Stephen

Saint Stephen, the First Martyr – Feast - My Catholic Life!

The Bible tells us very little about Stephen, (Acts 6-7). He was one of those martyred for speaking about our Lord Jesus. Let us now look at some of the qualities that the Bible tells us about him.

1. Complete Faith in the Lord: Acts 6:5, This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit;

In Hebrews 11:1, Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. It tells us what is faith.

Hebrews 11:6, And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. It tells us that we cannot please God if we lack faith in Him.

Stephen pleased God through his strong faith. Due to his faith he was strengthened by the Holy Spirit. His faith was so strong that no one could argue with him. Acts 6:10, 10 But they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke. This is one of the qualities that we can see in the Apostles of Christ. The Bible teaches us that those who have faith see the magnificence and glory of God. Stephen was blessed to see this glory with his own eyes. Acts 7: 55-56,  55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

2. He was filled with grace from God: Divine grace( Kripa) means being bestowed with blessing we do not deserve. Those who receive divine grace also receive divine blessings, for eg: Mother Mary. An ordinary girl, she received divine grace and was greeted by Archangel Gabriel as ” Hail, full of grace…”. Those are blessed with divine grace experience physical and mental transformation. Acts 6:15, 15 All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.

3. He was full of wisdom: Acts 6: 10, 10 But they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke. He was full of wisdom as he was blessed by the Holy Spirit. When he was brought before the Sanhedrin on charges of blasphemy, he spoke with wisdom about our forefathers. From Abraham to Solomon he spoke to them about the glory of God. He replied in full confidence that they persecuted all those proclaimed about the coming of the Messiah( Lord Jesus). John 1:1,In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

The Bible teaches us that the Word was with God. Stephen proclaimed these words. Divine wisdom does not let us succumb to the traps of emotions and feelings, rather it helps develop wisdom and stature. These people are led by the Holy Spirit. Proverbs 18:15, The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge,
    for the ears of the wise seek it out.

4. Full of Love: Our Heavenly Father loves us so much that He gave up His only Son as sacrifice to pay for our sins. The Son prayed for forgiveness for those who crucified Him at the time of His crucifixion. The Lord taught us to pray for the enemies and to love them. Holy Stephen too followed the path of the Lord. He prayed for those who were stoning Him, Acts 7:60, 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.

1 Corinthians 13:2-7, If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

People like Stephen are lost in families, society and parishes today. Due to this people are not being used with divine grace. This is true since even after 2000 years of Christ’s crucifixion, there are millions who are still unaware of His mercy, Grace and Salvation.

Before the coming of the Messiah, John the Baptist paved way to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. He gave up his life for the truth. Stephen was also martyred for the truth. One who has dedicated himself/herself can only prepare others for the Lord. This was made possible by the strength they received from the Holy Spirit. Acts 7:55, 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.

May the Lord strengthen and bless many with the Holy Spirit before the Second Coming of the Lord. May several be prepared for the Lord.

AMEN

The Apostle in India

The Bible teaches us that the apostle Thomas was a doubting disciple.  When Jesus appeared after His resurrection before the disciples, apostle Thomas was not among them. John 20:25-27, 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” 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.”

26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

It is known that in AD 52 apostle Thomas arrived in India, Kerala. Before His ascension into heaven Jesus sent His disciples to the four corners of the world to spread his word, Mark 16:15, 15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. In this manner apostle Thomas came to India having travelled the distant seas. The difficulties that apostle Thomas faced are beyond one’s imagination. The journey that apostle Thomas undertook to India  was something he had not prepared for since he didn’t know a land named India, its language or its people. We can certainly believe that the apostle Thomas arrived in India in accordance with the Lord’s plan. Who would believe a man who arrived suddenly one day to spread the word of the Lord? The time that he had come to India it was every way possible that he would suffer major injuries and suffering  and could even die for his mission. The question arises why did he then arrive in Kerala? 

The first miracle that apostle Thomas performed was near a water tank where the Hindu brahmins of Kerala were performing ablution to the Sun god by throwing water in the air and chanting vedic mantras. Seeing this action, apostle Thomas was amused and he inquired what they were doing.  When they informed him that they were performing worship to the Sun god, the apostle Thomas challenged them that if he made water from the tank to stop in the mid air would they then believe in the Lord he came to spread the word about. They agreed. He prayed to the Lord and made the water stop in the mid air. Seeing this miracle, the brahmins present there believed in the lord and were baptized by him there itself.  Another miracle performed by the apostle Thomas in Kerala was that he took a huge amount of money from a famous king who ruled at that time saying that he would build him a huge mansion.  But apostle Thomas used the money to help the needy and the poor.On hearing what the apostle Thomas had done the king was furious and had him imprisoned. After a few days the king’s brother died and on reaching heaven he saw that a beautiful golden mansion was built in heaven for his brother owing to the good deeds done in his name by the apostle Thomas. The king’s brother came back alive and shared this with the king who then set the apostle free and became a believer. 

Apostle Thomas has established more than seven churches in Kerala. The first church was established in Palayur, Kerala. In this way the Christians in Kerala came to be known as Marthoma Christians.  The mission which began with apostle Thomas arriving in Kerala continues till date. The question which arises in the mind now is how many people continue to walk in the same path which he undertook of faith and truth? Today it is all about comfort and convenience.  Faith has taken a backseat and everyone follows the path which the apostle showed us in tandem with one’s own personal comfort and convenience. 11 disciples of Jesus became Martyrs. Apostle John was exiled to the island of Patmos which at that time was inhabited. Apostle Thomas was also martyred in Tamilnadu by the people there in Mylapore. He was stabbed from behind by a spear and died there. July 3rd is observed in India as the feast day of Saint Thomas remembering his sacrifice and his mission to spread the good news and the coming of the Lord.

Today along with me several people in India proudly say and believe that we have a living Lord. The Bible teaches us that the Heavenly Father loves the world so much that He gave his only son as sacrifice for our sins. John 3:16-18, 16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

Dear children of God, take a moment here to pause and think the Lord loved us so much that he gave His only Son for us. But how much love do we have for him? And how much do we really Express in our daily life for Him?  Dear Children of God, the blessings and salvation that we daily receive are desired by everyone. But just think how would they get what they desire if they have not heard the good news?  How will they believe without hearing? Let us all make an effort to spread the word of God and express our gratitude and adoration to apostle Thomas for having brought the good news to us all. Let us pray together that we too experience the power of the Holy Spirit, Pentecostal experience that the disciples had in the old days. May millions experience that glory and power. 

Amen

Romans 10:13-15, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”[

14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!

I remember the old times

David's Dance (2 Samuel 6:12-23) – Growing Up, God, and Being Busy

Psalm 143: 5, I remember the days of long ago;
    I meditate on all your works
    and consider what your hands have done.

1.David: After David became king, he brought the ark of the covenant to the city of David. When the ark reached the city, they offered sacrifices to the Lord to honor Him. 2 Samuel 6:14,14 Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might,15 while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets. Michal, the daughter of Saul saw all this from a window. 2 Samuel 6:16,  And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart. When David had placed the ark inside the tent pitched specially for it, David sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings before the Lord. Being a benevolent king, 2 Samuel 6:18-19, 18 After he had finished sacrificing the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord Almighty. 19 Then he gave a loaf of bread, a cake of dates and a cake of raisins to each person in the whole crowd of Israelites, both men and women. And all the people went to their homes. David returned to the palace. He wanted to bless his household. Michal on the other hand despised him and ridiculed him for dancing half naked. David remembered his old days, from the day he was a shepherd boy to his being anointed the king. Since Michal had ridiculed the Lord in ridiculing David for his adoration and love of the Lord. The Lord punished her, 2 Samuel 6:23 23 And Michal daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death.

David was the youngest son of Jesse. The eldest three were part of Saul’s army. The young boy David was a shepherd. Yet, the Lord chose young David to slay the giant Goliath. When Michal ridiculed David, he remembered his old days till the time of him being a king. 2 Samuel 6:22, I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.”

Psalms 138:3, When I called, you answered me;
    you greatly emboldened me.

2. Joseph: Joseph was hated by his elder brothers for being the beloved of their father. They threw him into a dry well and later sold him to Egyptians as a slave. In all these actions, the grace of the Lord was working in protecting him and leading him to future glory. Joseph had reached Egypt as a slave. The Lord brought him to the position of second in command after the Pharaoh. It is to be noticed that the Pharaoh got Joseph married. Genesis 41:45, 45 Pharaoh gave Joseph the name Zaphenath-Paneah and gave him Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, to be his wife. And Joseph went throughout the land of Egypt. Joseph had two sons. When we read the Bible we see how he gives glory to the Lord. Genesis 41: 51-52, Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh and said, “It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.” 52 The second son he named Ephraim and said, “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.”

David and Joseph did not forget the grace they received from the Lord. Instead it became the reason for them to be blessed with more abundance and glory.

Parents today find satisfaction in giving in all the available luxuries to their children. In the rush to give them all facilities and luxuries, parents often forget to tell their children about the hardships they faced in their lives to reach where they are, and the hand of God which always guided and protected them and blessed them. The result is that today’s generation in the journey of life are not able to face the hardships and sacrifices that life throws at them. They often fall down. They do not experience the hand of God in their lives. Isn’t this a serious matter, just think???? The people of Israel forgot what the Lord had done for them and started to crib about everything in sight. The result was that their words and actions angered the Lord and they were punished. Let us not make our children forget the several blessings and graces that we receive from the Lord daily.

Deuteronomy 11:19,19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

Psalm 138:5, May they sing of the ways of the Lord,
    for the glory of the Lord is great.

Let us all follow the steps of our forefather David and not forget the time gone by. The life of Joseph should always be before us as an example that in the midst of trials and tribulations we can trust and have faith in the Lord to draw us out of it.

Amen.

Abraham and Lot

ABRAHAM AND LOT | Abraham and lot, Bible illustrations, Bible pictures

Genesis 13:12-13,12 Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom. 13 Now the people of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord.

In today’s time one of the most common scenario in most homes is that of the young generation moving out of the safety of their homes to new unknown countries for the purpose of education or jobs. Most often we do not get a housing we desire. At times this affects our lives in unexplainable manners. If we do not have good neighbors and friends we might end up in trouble.

Let us now observe the lives of two people. Following the instructions from the Father almighty, our forefather Abram set out with whole family into an unknown land. He did not question or doubt the saying of the Lord. Abram was accompanied by Lot, his brother’s son. The Lord had blessed both of them with abundance and wealth.

Genesis 13:5-7,Now Lot, who was moving about with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents. But the land could not support them while they stayed together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to stay together. And quarreling arose between Abram’s herders and Lot’s. …. Abraham built an altar to the Lord and gave thanks and praised Him. There is no mention that Lot too thanked and praised the Lord. The two of them then travelled in opposite directions. Abraham had given him the freedom to chose whichever direction he wanted to go. Genesis 13:10-13,10 Lot looked around and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan toward Zoar was well watered, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) 11 So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east. The two men parted company: 12 Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom. 13 Now the people of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord.

In chapter 14 we read that a war happened in the land. The king of Sodom fell while fleeing for his life from the enemy kings. All that Lot and his family has accumulated was plundered. Genesis 14:14-16, 14 When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he called out the 318 trained men born in his household and went in pursuit as far as Dan. 15 During the night Abram divided his men to attack them and he routed them, pursuing them as far as Hobah, north of Damascus. 16 He recovered all the goods and brought back his relative Lot and his possessions, together with the women and the other people. It is important to observe who received Abraham when he returned from defeating the other kings.

Genesis 14, 18-20, 18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, 19 and he blessed Abram, saying,

“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
    Creator of heaven and earth.
20 And praise be to God Most High,
    who delivered your enemies into your hand.”

We need to ponder about what kind of people did Abraham live with.

Sarah had died. He went looking for an appropriate place to bury her. Genesis 23: 2-6, She died at Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham went to mourn for Sarah and to weep over her.

Then Abraham rose from beside his dead wife and spoke to the Hittites. He said, “I am a foreigner and stranger among you. Sell me some property for a burial site here so I can bury my dead.”

The Hittites replied to Abraham, “Sir, listen to us. You are a mighty prince among us. Bury your dead in the choicest of our tombs. None of us will refuse you his tomb for burying your dead.” It is noticeable and to be appreciated the way the Hittites respect and are polite towards Abraham. We should think how the people around us perceive us, God’s own children.

Lot had selected the sinful land of Sodom-Gomorrah only having seen the green land and abundance. Due to the sinful ways of the land Lord decided to destroy everything in it. Two angels of the Lord reached Sodom. Lot was standing near the gates of the city. Even though Lot was a newcomer, by this we can understand that he had made himself a man of status and position there. It is possible that the sinful ways of Sodom disturbed Lot during his initial stay. Slowly slowly he became accustomed and habitual to their ways.

Lot took the two angels who had reached Sodom to his house. Seeing the two angels, it is unthinkable what the people of Sodom wanted to do with the angels. Genesis 19:4-8,

Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house. They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.”

Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him and said, “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing. Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.”

“Get out of our way,” they replied. “This fellow came here as a foreigner, and now he wants to play the judge! We’ll treat you worse than them.” They kept bringing pressure on Lot and moved forward to break down the door.

In his search for more wealth and luxury in life, Lot had selected the evil and sinful land of Sodom. Even though Lot was a righteous man, he had to pay a heavy price for having chosen to live in Sodom. He lost all his wealth and his wife. What his daughters did to him is beyond the thinking of any of us. It was incest that they impregnated themselves through their own father, without his knowledge. Abraham was man of the Lord who always praised and glorified Him. When Lot was with Abraham it is understood that he too must have praised and glorified Lord. The time that Lot was with Abraham he was blessed both spiritually and in material terms as well.

Abraham and Lot had travelled out together. We have seen with whom and how Abraham spent his life. On the other hand, what kind of people did Lot have as neighbors??? Dear children of God, this lapse can happen even from us. In our run after the material luxuries of this life we should always remember these two people. When his teacher was being handed over to be persecuted, Peter chose to be among the enemy camp. The result, he denied Lord Jesus three times. Think, if we came to the situation these people were in which way would we take, Abraham, Lot or Peter??? Think over where we were and where we are now. Try and balance between what you have gathered here and what you have lost. Think among whom do you live??

Psalm 1:1-6,

Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers.

Not so the wicked!
    They are like chaff
    that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
    nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
    but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.

Do not become a fool when you see wealth

Summer Blockbusters: The Rich Fool - Main Street UMC

Luke 12: 13-21, The Parable of the rich fool

Is it wrong to say that man labors each day to accumulate some wealth for himself and his family??? The answer is, No. A farmer has to work really hard for his crop to reach harvest. He needs to get the soil ready for irrigation. Besides that he needs to ensure that the crop is of good quality as well the fertilizers that would help the crop grow. If there is no rain on time, he needs to find a way to water the crop. If he finds the existing barns not enough to store the surplus crops, he will break it down and build a bigger one.

The things mentioned above are really essential. One reaches desired destination or results only if practical mind and capabilities go hand in hand. Why does Lord Jesus then call the rich man in the parable a fool? Let us look upon certain things:

1.No one knows what will happen tomorrow: There is no one on earth who can predict what will happen in the next moment. The rich man does not say that with grace of God I will be able to build bigger barns. He trusted only his own capabilities and says “I will”. He forgot about the Lord who has the power to reduce or increase our life on earth. He forgot the Lord who blesses our hard work and labor. The rich man forgot himself when he saw his rich crop and the wealth it would bring. He forgot to glorify the Lord for the flourishing harvest.

2.He forgot about those who labored for him: Being a rich man he must have had acres of fields to himself. To have them cropped he must have had several laborers too who slaved day and night to get a good harvest. He forgot about their hard work and sweat. He became selfish and self centered on seeing such an abundant harvest and wanted all luxuries for himself. He forgot to share the abundance. He does not even say me and my family… He sees his workers as mere tools to get richness and wealth. It is important to look within ourselves and see if we too have this mindset. We should never forget the labor and sweat of people in the background who have helped each one of us reach where we are. Today, the times are so vile, that we often forgot about our own parents who have sacrificed so much for our success and to get us to have a status/position in society.

3.Al things belong to the Lord Almighty: If we introspect and look deep with ourselves, don’t we too have this illusion like the rich man that everything is mine. This is selfish and handicap thinking. Man is only a caretaker on this earth of all things created by the Lord. We should never forgot that we are mere visitors on this earth and do not have a permanent stay here. Each day there is a birth and a death. This is happening since the dawn of creation and will continue till the end of time. We often forgot that we brought nothing to earth when we were born, and would take back nothing when we die. It is the vicious cycle of life for everyone; no matter how much you and I have labored and worked hard, or have luxuries, we have to pass it on to someone else when we die. The Lord Almighty decides the next heir and for how long. This should be a warning for those living with the I, ME MINE concept.

4.He forgot the one who gave favorable conditions for abundance: James 5:18, 18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.

Leviticus 26:4, I will send you rain in its season, and the ground will yield its crops and the trees their fruit.

Deuteronomy 11:14, 14 then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and olive oil.

The rich man very easily forgot the Lord who provided him with favorable conditions for his crop to harvest in abundance. The Lord knows the labor each one of us puts into our work and how it can be destroyed in a blink. Yet He controls the nature and blesses man with rain and sunlight, and other conditions for advantage of man. Job 5:10,

10 He provides rain for the earth;
    he sends water on the countryside.

Like the rich man, today man has become self centered in all areas of his/her life. To accumulate wealth man is blinded in his greed and often forgets people around him, and destroys or harms nature beyond repair. We forget what we are passing on to the coming generation. Man is already paying the price for harming nature and destroying the balance.

Dear children of children, let us not become selfish like the rich man. Let us care for the people around us and also the beautiful nature gifted to us. If not, the Lord Himself gives a warning to those who run blindly after wealth.

Luke 12:20-21, 20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”