The Parable Of The Lost Coin

Scripture Passage: Luke 15: 8-10

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Jesus tells this parable when the Pharisees and the teachers of the law were muttering that Jesus welcomes and eats with sinners (Matthew 15:1-2). It is said that it was a tradition among Jewish married women to wear a necklace of 10 silver coins as a symbol of their marriage. Thus, if even one coin gets lost/ misplaced it was unbearable for them. There are two thoughts that arise from the parable:

  1. Light a lamp: Lamp is the symbol of light. In light we can see everything clearly. Even a single ray of light is enough to cut through the darkest of nights. Everyone is little nervous or scared of the dark. All evil things like darkness. We all consider darkness as the shelter of Satan. If there is light within us , we will be able to see things before us and inside clearly (John 8:12) : 12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Jesus is the light of the world. Through worshipping Him, we can fill ourselves with light. This light will help and guide us to know ourselves better.

So how attentive and devoted are you when worshipping Christ? Worship service is another way of bringing the light into your life. But we can see that not going to church is turning into a Sunday ritual and we only repeat the words through our mouths and experiencing it on our hearts. Instead our service should be like that of Zechariah, pure and heartfelt (Luke 1: 10-11). During our worship service when the priest conducts the Holy Communion, how involved are we? The priest says, ” Answer our prayer, O Lord”. And we say. “Lord have mercy on us”. Is it heartfelt or merely words? Are our prayers like sinners or like the pharisees?

Light is always moving. It is the fastest moving thing in the world. Those who walk in Jesus, walk in His light ( Matthew 5: 14-16), 14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Revelation 22: 4 says, They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. Similarly we will reflect His light when He is in us. King David too proclaims God to be the Light of his life (Psalms 27:1) , The Lord is my light and my salvation—
    whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
    of whom shall I be afraid?

Let this be the way of our lives.

2. Sweep Clean: Change your old self. In the beginning man was naked, both in mind and in body. But he was unaware of his God like state. When he ate the forbidden fruit, he fell down from his heavenly state to nakedness. He was thrust out of Eden. Can we go back to the former state in Eden?? Man did what he chose like and in that desire lost the garden of Eden and was cursed. A butterfly emerges out of a cocoon formed by a caterpillar. What a beautiful and blessed transformation!!!. If the husk of wheat/ rice remains the same as it is, will it be edible for us??? No. We have to make it eatable for us. Thus man should become aware of his condition and try to change. Love is long forgotten among men. It’s become difficult to open hearts before others. Man now walks like a ball of fire about to burst into flames. The worship man offers heavenly Father is without sweeping clean the sinful and unclean in himself, that which is useless, decayed and unwanted. When we clean a room which has been closed for several days, we first open it to let stale air out. Similarly we should open out our hearts and sweep it clean for Jesus to come and live in it. Let’s open our hearts and mind to Jesus, He is knocking at our door. (Revelation 3:20) Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

Think: are your hearts spotless?? Are you white as snow, clean to accept Jesus?? There is still time to cleanse yourself in the blood of the lamb. (Isaiah 1: 18) ,

“Come now, let us settle the matter,”
    says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
    they shall be like wool.

Wake up from your sleep

Scripture Passage: Romans 13: 11-14

11 And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. 14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.

What is sleep? The unconscious state of a human body, wherein we are unable to think or perform. After a day of hard work, sleep provides us with relief and purification/cleansing of our minds and body. Whereas there are some who pretend to be sleeping, alcohol, drugs, jealousy , unwanted thoughts, lust, and those who are slave to these only pretend to sleep. In fact they are unconscious or rather lost the power of thinking. The desire to be like God led to the first sin of mankind, anger and jealousy blinded Cain to kill his own brother Abel.

Sleep is a state where we are unable to pray.

Romans 13: 12, Man leads a decent life during the day, a life of discipline. We desire to be seen as a God fearing, decent and disciplined person by the world. Undisciplined life is like a cricket match without referee/umpire or a race without rules. But victory kisses the feet of those who are disciplined and follow the rules. Through Baptism we become members of parish and also members of the heavenly abode. We acquire this blessing at an age where we are unaware of the same. And when we become aware we should be leading a life of purity and discipline to be worthy to enter the kingdom of God. The Lord has provided us clear instructions to lead such a life through His words.

On this earth we are eager and willing to go to any extent to acquire worldly wealth which is as short lived as a soap bubble. There can be no games/ competition without rules. Undisciplined life leads to ruin. In Colossians 3: 9-10 we read

Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. It asks us to shed our old self , not to be kept safe in a locker/ pocket. Rather to burn it forever and obtain new identity in Christ. Jesus has said, ” I am the Light of the World“, then why don’t we automatically fill ourselves with this light. When we fill our souls with the light we are able to see everything clearly and in its true light. In Romans 13: 11 11 ” And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.” Salvation is near. Does it mean that the second coming is near? If so, what will happen to us this moment; Matthew 13: 41-43 reads 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. 42 They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear. So be alert and not let your soul sleep and fall prey to the Devil’s plans.

Today if we die, where do you think you will be? Heaven or Hell. Revelation 20: 12-15, we read

12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.

What will be our state when we stand with them? We read in 1 Thessalonians 5: 5-6, You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. and in Romans 13:14 , 14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh. This should be our response. The word of God talks about the same things, a life lacking in discipline and instructions will go down. So clean up your act and cleanse yourself.

Isaiah 38: 1, The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.” Today we do not have prophets to tell us the word of God or of His instructions. We can be called to join Him any moment. Children of God, our life does not end here, so wake up and get ready.

Like Jesus had said to His heavenly Father, “I am handing over my soul to you”. We should be able to do the same. People who are sleeping and those in deep sleep are unaware of the happenings around them. Those who are awake without much hard work are aware of their surroundings. So be conscious and awake in your soul. The Bible says, Ephesians 5: 14-17,

14 This is why it is said:

“Wake up, sleeper,
    rise from the dead,
    and Christ will shine on you.”

15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.

These thoughts should be in our mind constantly and should be guide for your thoughts and action. Because if we are not careful we would be walking the wrong paths. The warnings are in the Bible too: Ecclesiastes 8: 11, When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, people’s hearts are filled with schemes to do wrong.

Ecclesiastes 12: 14, For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.

Ponder.

Passover

Scripture passage: Exodus 12:27

27 then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.’” Then the people bowed down and worshiped.

The children of Israel were enslaved by the Egyptians for more than 400 years. Their tears and pain were heard by the Lord. To rescue them from the bondage He sent a man named, Moses. But Moses lacked faith and was doubtful about his own potential. So Moses said to the Lord, (Exodus 6: 30), 30 But Moses said to the Lord, “Since I speak with faltering lips, why would Pharaoh listen to me?”. He was skeptical about himself and hence lacked the trust that if God chose him, them God will provide him with required skills as well. So when God asked him to go to Egypt and ask the pharaoh to release the Israelites, Moses was apprehensive. But the Lord put all his doubts to ease, (Exodus 7:1) 7 Then the Lord said to Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron will be your prophet. The Lord is capable of strengthening anyone, we need only to trust him and lay ourselves in submission. He can work miracles through us.

Everyone in well aware of the 10 plagues mentioned in Exodus 7:14 to Exodus 12:36. At the end of the suffering of the Israelites, the night of deliverance, the first born of every Egyptian household was killed. The Lord sent His Angel of Death and asked the Israelites to sprinkle the blood of a lamb without defect on their doorpost.

(Exodus 12: 5-7) : The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the door frames of the houses where they eat the lambs. The sign of the blood protected the Israelites from the Angel of Death. After the deliverance they reached the land of Canaan, overflowing with milk and honey.

In the Old Testament, the children of God were anointed by the blood of an innocent lamb. Whereas in the New Testament, the children of God were anointed by the blood of Christ, the Messiah (John1:29) 29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!. He is eagerly waiting for us all with open arms to take us to the heavenly abode which is like Canaan, full of peace and happiness. He has provided the way to the abode through His words before He joined His Father.

(John 1:1-4, 14) 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

We celebrate the Passover Festival and Good Friday every year. Has it not turned into a mere ritual nowadays?? We have forgotten the very essence of Good Friday and the sacrifice that Jesus did for us. There are so many people who are unaware of the heavenly Canaan. Is it not our duty as Christians to tell them about the Lord and His salvation. Let me ask a simple question? How much do we fuss over ourselves to prepare to attend a wedding or a function??? Hence think how much more do we need to prepare when we move from the worldly desires to the everlasting life in heaven??? Have we thought about it??? If not, brothers and sisters this is the time. Think about it….

First Miracle by Jesus: Wedding at Cana

Scripture passage: John 2:1-11

Jesus changes water into wine

The world today is ruled and governed by the laws of nature, so believes the modern day man. Thus, it is impossible for him/her to believe in miracles anymore. Thanks to the advancement in science and technology, everything has a reason and logic attached to it.

Jesus Christ is an epic figure. There is proof and evidence about His birth and death. There is no one like Him. At the time of His death the Centurion proclaimed:

39 And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39) .

If we believe in God then we must believe in the Son of God as well. When we devote and commit ourselves and our soul to Christ we believe that miracles can happen.

There is a town near Nazareth, named Cana where the event takes place. At the wedding there;Jesus, His disciples and Mother Mary were invited. They were unaware of the presence of Son of God among them. Thus, when the household faced the difficulty(ran out of wine), they get very troubled. Having immense faith and or leading a prayerful life does not insure you from hardships. How we overcome these hardships is more important. Lord is not a magician or a sorcerer. He did not produce wine out of thin air. He was capable of doing that and is evident from all the miracles He performed. He applied a paste of mud on the blind man and asked him to wash it off. He fed more than 50,000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish. At the wedding house, He asks the servants to fill the jars up to the brim with water from the well. And the rest we all know. When the servants served the guests the water has turned to wine. None of them asked Him questions when Jesus asks them to do something. And the end result is a miracle, a miracle of faith and trust.

Our Lord desires the same from us. The presence of Jesus provided them with relief and hope. And He turned water into wine, thereby saving the family from disgrace. Do we also invite Him into our lives to share our joys and sorrows? Do we believe that the Lord has the power to change any situation for good? Are we willing to hand over our lives in to His hands?

Even if the sun rises in the sky or not, we all believe that there is a sun. We are not able to see God, so does it mean that He is not there?? The circumstances or trials or tribulations that the Lord presents before us , we should submit it before Him and make the best of it. This is what he desires of us all. He want His children to completely submit before him with faith and trust.

Let me share a story. There were four rocks on a road. One day a washerwoman passed on the road . She picked one of the rocks and used it for washing clothes. Next, a traveler passed that way. He picked up a rock and fashioned it into many useful tools. The third rock was picked up by a man who was about to build his home. He used the rock as the foundation stone of his house. The fourth rock was picked up by a sculptor, who sculpted a statue of a goddess . That statue was donated to a temple which was worshipped by several devotees.

These were four rocks of the same kind but each used for a different purpose. The Lord asked the servants to fill the jar with water. They did so without any questions. These were stones jars. The jars be stone or gold it can be turned into Lord’s blessing. The jars were not just filled but filled to the brim. A completion is seen here. The same is desired by God- complete faith in Him. We study and teach the Bible. Have we experienced complete faith and submission to Christ as real Christians?? But we can try. Can’t we??

The water that was turned into wine was distributed among guests. And the guests exclaimed it to be of the best quality. When Jesus transforms we also get transformed into a new self. When we partake in the Holy Communion we get transformed into new creations in Him.

In the present world there are so many people who are ignorant about the Lord and in great need of Him. Can we show the Saviour to them? In our lifetime if we are able to bring the Saviour in the life of even one person then we can consider our lives fruitful. The Lord will help and provide for it.That is His dream and desires from us.

Before and After Christ

Image by John Hain from Pixabay

History is divided into two time eras; namely Before Christ i.e. B.C. and After Christ i.e. A.D. Many famous personalities have been born and lived before and after Christ. Yet none of them have been used as benchmarks for setting apart time.

In Luke 2:1, we read that Caesar Augustus had ordered a census to be done of Rome. Caesar has been mentioned in the Bible not because of a glorious reign or his acts of bravery. He found mention in the Bible due to the event happening just before the birth of Christ. It is an event recorded in association with Christ.

It must be observed that just as history changes with events recorded as B.C. and A.D. (Before & After Christ). The same can also be said about the lives of people who have been touched upon by Jesus. A past life that no one wishes to remember and an after life which everyone desires to live.

Mother Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth had been barren for many years. But with the birth of John the baptist as messenger before Christ, both Zechariah and Elizabeth find mention in the Bible and are names we are all familiar with. We can read about his prophetic birth in: Isaiah 40:3/ Malachi 3:1/ Luke 3:4.

Isaiah 40:3 : A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
    the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert
    a highway for our God

Here too the reason is Christ. Both the son and parents became known names before Jesus’ birth. Mother Mary, after giving birth to the Son of God became revered and blessed. While earlier she was just an ordinary girl. Father Joseph was not the birth father of Jesus, but he did the role of a father during the growing years of Jesus beautifully. He too is remembered and known as father of Jesus by all generations.

Now let’s have a look at one of the sinners mentioned in the Bible-Zaccheus. In Luke 19: 1-10, we read he was a tax collector and his only aim was to gather wealth. He did so by unfair means. The moment his life was touched by the Saviour, he became transformed in to a new creation. He returned the money he had hoarded from the poor and also those he had cheated. He became a firm believer and follower of Christ.

Second, let’s see the life of the sinful woman we read about in John 8:1-11. She lived a life immersed in adultery, engaging in sin. Bodily desires held her captive through her beauty and body. Through this she was destroying not just her soul but also the soul of others as well. But when Jesus rescues her from being stoned and does not condemn her like others. She accepts Him as her Saviour and forgets about her body and the breaks the cage she was in. She becomes a new creation, fully transformed in Christ.

Next, let’s read about the healing at the pool of Bethesda(John 5:1-15). There was an invalid who lay besides the pool for 38 years, broken in body and in spirit. Jesus asks him to pick up his mat and walk. The invalid gets up and walks away(John 5:8). To all His children, Jesus says, Gather up whatever is pure in you, trust in Him and have faith in Him. Hold His hands and walk in His light. Blessed are those who believe in Him. Do not fall prey to temptations he warns us too in John 5:14 , “Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.”

The most well known example of transformation is that of Legion. We read about him in (Matthew 8:28-34/ Mark 5:1-20/ Luke 8:26-39). Legion was a man possessed with many demons. He was equivalent to a man dead, living in the graveyard among the dead. He used to hurt himself with stones and was often chained because he was mentally unstable. But when Jesus draws out the demons he is fully transformed and follows the words of Christ, His life changes for the better.

Another beautiful example in the Bible of transformation is that of the Samaritan woman ( John 4:4-42). The people of Samaria knew her well for having many husbands and her immoral life. The moment she met Jesus she saw a prophet in Him. When Jesus reveals Himself she accepts Him as the Messiah. She had come to draw water but after the revelation she threw the jar to the ground and ran into the city and told everyone about Jesus. She gave up her past life and became a firm believer of Christ. Many Samaritans became believers and gained salvation because of her. She too was fully transformed and with her life led others to transformation.

Now let’s see the lives of the disciples. They were mainly fisherman (Matthew 4:19/Mark 1:16-20/ Luke 5:2-11/John 1: 40-42) : ” Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” But Jesus made them fishers of men and made them names each Christian household reveres. They were ordinary men who followed Jesus, were tortured and became martyrs.

Thus we see that Jesus makes ordinary lives extraordinary. The best example of this is Saul. He went on a spree torturing Christ believers. But when Jesus touched him, he became a disciple of Christ and was renamed Paul (Acts 9: 1-19). He proclaimed he was unashamed of the Gospel (Romans 1:16-17) 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

He was a new creation. Changes do not happen just by following Christ or by working besides Christ. For e.g: Judas Iscariot, a disciple of Jesus who betrayed Him for thirty silver coins with the sign of love: a kiss. He fell into the hands of temptations even after three years of discipleship with Jesus. Hence, unless touched by the Lord from within; prayer, devotion, dedication and participation in communion are mere rituals without meaning and essence.

A stone or log of wood does not take form of a beautiful sculpture or furniture on its own. Gold cannot be used in its impure form. It needs to be heated at high temperature to become malleable, and wood or stoned unless chipped and polished by an artisan do not take the final form.

Who is the best sculptor in the world than our Lord Himself? Let us give ourselves in total submission into His hands to be fully transformed as a new creation. Let our lives take a new chapter and start anew- from old to new.

Lessons for today

Scripture Passage: Joshua 24:15, John 15:7, Mark 11:24

Joshua 24:15 says, But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

John 15:7 says, If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

Mark 11: 24 says, Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

These scripture passages tell us of 1) the importance of prayer; 2) importance and value of word of God ;3) Lessons for all generations.

In John 14: 13-14, we read,

And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. It can be seen that prayer is a powerful weapon for everyone. Each person can use this weapon as an individual, in family and in community. But in today’s technology driven world, prayer is quickly losing its value and place to gadgets. We have long forgotten the lessons taught by our Saviour. He taught us to pray and believe that it shall be done. But we are now caught in a vicious circle of desires which is never ending, and prayers have no place in the circle.

In Ezekiel 16:44 we read, “Like mother, like daughter.” The same can also be read as like father like son in a family scenario. When a child is taught to live a life of prayer and dedication since early childhood, he/she continues to do so even as adults. We as parents and elders should be their models to lead a holy life. Since children naturally look upon their parents as role models.

A child’s mind is like wet clay in the hands of a potter. Howsoever you mould he/she will take that shape. It is easy to set a delicate sapling on a straight track. But when it grows strong and you try to graft it; it will either break or will hurt you with its strength. (Proverbs 16:20 says, Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers, and blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord.) To pay attention to instructions, one must be aware of it and the same should be taught by parents to their children. Parents should raise their children in a christian way of life telling them stories from the Bible. Stories of lives dedicated to prayers(Romans 1: 12 says that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith), holy living, ones who escaped temptations and tribulations by faith in God. And about those who feel weak in the face of temptations and had to pay the price like: David, Samson, Solomon, etc.

People today have become servants to luxury. Due to insatiable hunger and greed for material goods they have lost their purity of heart and soul as well as grace of God both as a family and as an individual. They are trying to row two boats together-worldly desires and spiritual desires. But the boat which draws strength from the current of our inner desires gets carried away. Most often than not it is the boat of spiritual desires/ our soul that faces defeat before world desires/ body. This is due to a life lacking prayer and dedication and engaging in impure activities and thoughts.

Jeremiah 32: 38-39 says, 38 They will be my people, and I will be their God. 39 I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me and that all will then go well for them and for their children after them.

Jeremiah 33: 3 says, ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’

This is not a promise made by man that gets swept away with tide of time. It is the promise made by God. Whoever calls to Him in prayer with a pure heart, will have the prayers answered.

Most of us do not lack anything in terms of education, job, house,respect, position and so on. But what we do lack is time. We lack time for prayer, to go to church, to say family prayer, and the children who grow up in such homes are conditioned likewise. When the limbs of an unborn child do not develop as per the benchmarks set by medical experts, we cal that child handicapped/ disabled. But we don’t call a man handicapped when he shows no growth in spirituality. This is because we lay more emphasis on physical and mental growth rather than our soul. The result of this our children go astray fall easy prey to the traps set up by Devil and sink into temptations.

Here is a real life example. This incident was narrated to me by a priest while travelling in a train. An engineering student lived alone with his mother and younger sister, Their father died long time ago and so his mother worked in other peoples homes to fend for them. She got him admission in a good engineering college and would slave each day to pay for his fees. The boy too was good at his studies and knew the hardships faced by his mother. After the exams were over, the boy along with his friends decided to celebrate it lavishly. They got together a deadly combination of drugs, drinks and a girl. The boy had never been part of such a party before. Something held him back to engage in the group.

He had the habit of calling home each day before sleeping. That night he called home to speak to his mother. Just when the party was being organised, his mother and younger sister were knelt before the altar praying for him with tear laden eyes. When the phone rang, his sister rang to take the call. Her voice was breaking due to the tears. Hearing her voice, the boy became anxious and inquired if mother was alright. His sister put his worries to ease when she said that their mother was fine. But his heart shattered and he felt crumbled within when she told him that she was crying in prayer with their mother for him. The boy could not handle this and broke down before his friends. When his friends asked him the reason for his pain, he narrated what had happened. There was complete silence. The boys too broke and said to him that he was lucky to have such a family who pray for him. Had there been someone to pray for them also, they would not have fallen into temptations. The boys did not drink and also sent the girl back. This is the power of prayer. Do not ignore it.

Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time an elephant was roaming lazily in a jungle. He came upon a pond full of lotus flowers. The pond seemed quiet and tranquil. Smiling inwardly, the elephant jumped into pond. He forgot that lotus grows in muddy waters. He continued his frolic and went tossing the flowers. He did not see the crocodile sleeping peacefully in the murky waters. Disturbed by the sudden movement in water, the crocodile woke up. He caught hold of the elephant’s leg in anger. No matter how hard he tried, the elephant could not free himself. He realized his folly of seeing the surface only and prayed to God for help. Seeing his pitiable state God helped him rescue. From then on the elephant did not step into water in haste.

This story teaches us the following lessons-

  1. We should not have too much pride and faith in our own capabilities. Our capabilities and talents are all gifts from God.
  2. What seems calm on the surface might not be son on the inside. We should not be in haste and take caution with help from God. Eg: drugs, drinks, … if not careful it may lead to suicide.
  3. Lord never forsakes those who call out to Him in prayer.
  4. God is our last and only Hope.

Our Father in heaven values us and loves us so much that He gave His only son for our sins. Do we need more proof of the love? In Matthew 18:12-14 we read,

What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? 13 And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. 14 In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.

Similarly, in Luke 15: 8-10, he says

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Our Heavenly Father is waiting for us as the father waited for his prodigal son ( Luke 15:11-32). We need only to call unto Him in prayer and devotion. Are we teaching our children and youth these lessons to protect them from the snares of the Devil? Think.

In Paradise, Today

Scripture Passage: Matthew 23:43- ” Today, you will be with me in paradise.”

This scripture verse teaches us four things:

  1. We can repent from our ways and gain salvation any time.
  2. Our response to suffering as first thief
  3. Our response to suffering as the second thief
  4. Response to suffering like Christ

We all know that a huge crowd had gathered to witness the Crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Pharisees did not attend any such criminal proceedings. But they saw the crucifixion of Christ, because of the hatred they harbored in their hearts. Out of jealousy and enmity, the Pharisees attended the crucifixion at Calvary. Forgetting their respect and position in the society they ridiculed and mocked Jesus, insulting all humanity.

In Matthew 27:42 and Luke 23: 35, we see the soldiers insult and sneer at Jesus, and the two thieves also join them.

35 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”

But looking at the emotions and peace at Jesus’ face , the thief at the right side was speechless and numb. He reprimanded the other thief. He rebukes the other and says that we are punished for our crimes of which we are guilty, but he is innocent. The thief on the cross saw the glory of Heaven reflected in the face of Christ, and hence believed in Him.

40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

The word ” Paradise”, is a Persian word which means an enclosed garden.The Jews believe that the righteous will join Jesus and heavenly Father in the garden. It is in this sense that Christ used the word, so we believe. Today, with Christ also means Always with the Father. In Philippians 1: 23 we read Paul saying:

I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far…”

Not going by the literal meaning, it means that by the sacrifice at the cross, all believers and all those who repent can enter the gates of heaven. This is an invitation to all sinners at any hour and any time. The gates of Heaven are open to all those who believe in Christ and are ready to repent from sinful ways.

Second we need to look into ourselves and see on whose side are we on. In our moments of suffering how do we respond. Are we like the thief who insulted Jesus?Luke 23: 39

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

Even though he had committed theft and knew that he was justly punished he saw fault with Jesus. Are we like him? Do we find fault with others while ignoring our own? Do we find faults with the Lord? This world is full of people who in their self righteousness and blind ego find fault with God and have the temerity to believe that the creator is obliged to run their life smoothly without any glitches.

Or are we like the thief on the right side who made use of the opportunity before him and repented from his sins? Do we repent from our sins and become new in Him? Only a few who have been touched upon by the Holy Spirit accept their faults and sins, and accept that the Lord is not indebted to us. Rather we should be humble and accept what comes our way is due to His mercy and grace only. These people cry out for mercy and guidance in times of distress knowing and believing that their prayers would be heard.

It is to be observed here that both thieves are experiencing the pain of crucifixion with Christ. Both are guilty of crime they committed. And both of these thieves want to be saved from a cruel death. Now the things we have in common with these two thieves is that there has been, is, or will be suffering in our lives. None of us bear a character to say that we don’t deserve this. And like the thieves, all of us want to be saved from death and escape the clutches of Hell.

But in our moments of suffering or at the time of death, our response is what decides our fate. If our response is like the first thief who rebukes Jesus then our we are tied down with earthly desires and we see Jesus as only a convenience in making our lives better. Like a token machine that gives you what you desire at the press of a button.To such people right and wrong, praise and blame, good and bad mean nothing. They have their soul set on world desires and the only aim is to save their lives in the earthly skin. Like the first thief, they do believe Jesus is the Messiah. But, it’s only a matter of convenience to them to serve their own worldly purposes.

This is the way majority of us behave towards God in our suffering. This is because suffering interrupts their worldly goals and pleasures. It interrupts their desires and hunger in the world. These people display no spirit of brokenness, or guilt, or penitence, or humility. They see Jesus only as a way by to escape the cross/ suffering. Just like the thief they do not see him as a king to be followed or revered, nor repent from their ways.

The people who are like the thief on the right side have the following characteristics. First, they do not pay attention to what the people around them are saying. They do not test God listening to others. Second thing is that they fear God. The thief was fearful and hence rebuked the other thief when he challenges Jesus to rescue them. He is our creator and it is fits us to bow down before him in submission and ask His intervention in the form of His Holy Spirit to receive wisdom. God was real to him. Third, just like the penitent thief admitted his crime: “We are receiving the due reward of our deeds” (v. 41) we too should lay bare our hearts and souls and seek forgiveness. Fourth, is to accept our trespasses and suffering as deserving of our deeds. This is like a litmus test of our humility before God. Many will people confess their sin but when some trouble comes, they get angry at him. This reveals that they actually do not feel undeserving before God. Not many of us can accept our suffering as Job did. He said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked shall I return; the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” And fifth, like the penitent thief seek his saving grace with a repentant heart that is fully transformed into His new creation.

So look closely to see in whose footsteps are you following. Watch carefully because that will decides the fate of your soul. Matthew and Luke records this event for us to teach us that there is great reward for us when we respond like the penitent thief to suffering . The two thieves represent two ways of responding to suffering and relating to Christ in suffering.

There is an uneasy silence toward the thief who challenges Jesus . Not a word is recorded of Jesus to him. Maybe He threw him a final pitying glance. But no promise or hope for salvation. On the other hand to the penitent Jesus says: “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” The promise would be fulfilled without delay for us also, if only we would repent and mend our ways.

Next we see how our Saviour Jesus Christ is at the cross. Even at the time of His crucifixion, in pain and suffering , He does not curse or insult His persecutors. Neither does he curse the thief who joins in the mockery. Rather He prays for them all with compassion to His Father to forgive them for their wrongdoing. Luke 23: 34

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.

For more than 3 years Jesus lived only for others and worked for people who He knew would disown Him one day. Great is His love and patience.

Think: When someone hurts us, we keep it safe inside our hearts to remember? Like a prized possession we keep looking at it time and again. And take it out to hit the person who hurt us. But look at Jesus, at the time of His crucifixion He displayed patience, tolerance and obedience. If we are able to imbibe even a portion of such tolerance towards others, we can believe ourselves to be blessed. In order to receive the promise of Paradise from our Lord we need to check who we imbibe: the first thief who was selfish or the penitent thief. And also inculcate within ourselves the virtues that Jesus taught us on the cross.

My Jesus, Your Jesus, Our Jesus: The Compassionate Shepherd

The Shepherd
The Farmer

My fondest memories of our Lord Jesus Christ is the picture wherein Jesus is pictured as the shepherd with a lamb held close to His bosom. I can’t express my joy when I look at the picture and see myself as the lamb held close. Our shepherd has a kind and compassionate heart. This can be seen in the passage from Matthew 9: 35-38.

” 35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

This passage speaks of how Jesus sees us, His people. The verses can be divided into two parts. Verses 35-36 speaks of Jesus as the healer and a shepherd. Verses 37-38 describes how He saw the people as harvest waiting for workers.

In our modern day lives, when we see a gathering of people, we all get nervous. Out of curiosity we too join the crowd to find out whats happening. Similar was the situation when people heard about Jesus. They used to flock around Him, coming from all directions. To hear His words and to be healed by Him. For the disciples there was nothing unusual in the sight. But Jesus saw us, His people in different light. When the crowd gathered around Jesus to see Him and hear Him, He saw not just faces. Instead Jesus saw people like you and me who are ” Harassed and helpless”. Harassed here does not mean troubled by someone, but troubled by the burdens they bore upon themselves. Jesus bore the burden of the Cross for you and me. Have we ever stopped in our rush to pause and see Jesus in the face of those who are troubled??? Here Jesus is the healer of all troubles and distress. We need only to lay our burden on Him, and He will carry it for us. (Matthew 11: 28-30) “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened… my burden is light.” Second, He sees us as helpless. He sees His children lost and drowned in sin without the Savior, Lord Jesus Christ. These people may seem calm and composed and successful in material world . But Jesus sees their hearts before Him. They are unable to escape from the shackles of sin. Hence they are helpless and dispirited. To the world everything may seem normal but inside they are, as Paul puts in Ephesians 2: 12 without “hope and without God in the world.” Third, Jesus as the shepherd of lost sheep. When Jesus saw the crowd gathered around Him. His heart was filled with compassion since he saw them as sheep without a shepherd.. A shepherd looks after many sheep and protects them from all dangers, risking his life. But pause here to think, what would happen to the sheep if a wolf kills the shepherd? We too are faced with the danger when we get stuck in sin without the Savior to rescue us.

Verses 37-38 sees Jesus describing us His sheep as harvest waiting for workers which are few. Jesus here is a farmer who has a healthy crop ready for harvest, but he doesn’t have enough workers . The thing to be noticed here is that on the one hand, the Lord saves His people and gives them salvation and new life,On the other hand, He uses people whom He has saved and renewed to save His lost people. This task could easily be done by the angels and prophets , who would do a much better job than us. But He chose you and me. Yes! You heard it right. So there are many lost sheep/ plentiful harvest but dearth of workers/ shepherds to help bring them back. We should see ourselves as His workers who have tasted his salvation at the cross and hence tell others what He has done for resurrection of our souls.

He has set a clear picture of what He seeks from us. Are we ready to hear?

Before His crucifixion, Jesus has healed many people who were diseased and also raised few from the dead. Among these was His friend, Lazarus. If asked separately from the crowd, not one would have said, “Crucify Him”. Yet the same crowd went mute when Jesus was brought before Pilate to be examined for crime. None of the Gospels speak of anyone not even His own disciples of speaking for Him. Why? Was it God’s will or was it so easy for the Pharisees to manipulate the minds? Where do we stand today? With the crowd mute or like Peter deny knowing Him or like Judas we too sell Him for our greed?

Look carefully at the cross. The son who was to be seated at the right of the Father, is on the cross, bleeding and nailed. How did He reach there? Who is responsible? The answer is simple: You and me. Think about this: in 24 hours how many times do we remember Him? We treat Him like a LIC policy, to be used at times of need and trouble, and then forgotten. But this is not what He desires from us, His sheep. The Healer and Shepherd wants each one of us to find time alone from the crowd, sit and pray to the Father. (Matthew 26: 36 “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”)

Close your eyes. Which is your image of Christ? The Healer? The Shepherd? Or the Son who was crucified for our sins and is still nailed to our sins? Would you rush into the arms of the Shepherd who has compassion on his helpless and harassed sheep? He is calling each one of us by our names. Are you listening?

( Isaiah 49:15-16 )

1“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
    and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget,
    I will not forget you!
16 See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
    your walls are ever before me.