Showing posts from July, 2012

The Journey 212: Swimming for gold, running for life

Read: Mark 10:35-45 Olympics have begun and athletes are all competing to win medals and to get accolades from the world. Some wants to win as a mark of excellence while some to eclipse a previous champion. One of them most anticipated context of this Olympics took place last Saturday when two United States swimmers Ryan Lochte and Michel Phelps met face to face for swimming race in 400 meter individual medley. Lochte won the gold while Phelps had to be contented with a fourth place. Lochte announced in the media that “This is my year, I know, I feel it. Lochte became the victor while Phelps the vanquished. Here are two swimmers from the same country competing for records. But there is another athlete in the US team whose name is Lopez Lomong, who will be competing in the 5000 meter race in the athletics event. Freelance journalist Cornelia Becker Seigneur has written about him in her column. Lomong captured world attention when he was the flag bearer of the US team in the opening c

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MINISTRY OF WITNESSING Acts 8:26-35 What is the imperative of witnessing? Definitely, it is the question of somebody around us, (most often which is unheard) ‘how can I,unless someone guides me?’ Really, there are many people in the need of some guidelines, encouragement, enrichment and orientation in their life. Through the ministry of witnessing we are taking the responsibility of orienting and inviting others to Christ and Christian fellowship. We see that, after the martyrdom of Stephen the disciples were scattered and went from place to place but they witnessed Christ there (v.8:4).The disciples were in a journey of witnessing Christ, tirelessly. They were engaging in the ministry of witnessing at every moment through every act in their life. The text of today challenges us to do meaningful witness in a multicultural situation. Co-journeying with the other: Witnessing is, fundamentally a question of relationship with the other. Here we see that Philip is being driven by the

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WITNESSING THROUGH HEALING Luke 8:26-39 In the Scriptures, physical and spiritual healing given by Jesus was a means of proclaiming His divine authority over the powers of darkness and purpose of God to deliver all from the bondage of those powers. These healings were transformational experiences from the dominion of death to abundance of life. In this text we see the restoration of a demon processed man from his hopeless situation and his transformation to a powerful witness, declaring the great things God has done. From Death to Life: The miserable life of this demon-processed man was associated with death and its dominion over him. His dwelling in the tombs and his self-tormenting and uncontrollable nature, all showed that it was not life, but death that reigned in him by the legion of demons that controlled him. The encounter of Jesus with this man set him free. The powers of darkness confessed their defeat at the word of Jesus, the light of the world. Transformation: We

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WITNESSING IN NEW LAND Deuteronomy 6: 4-12 The greatest gift that God has bestowed on humans is the ability to reflect on past events and analyze the same in the light of current possibilities and future opportunities. To the writer of Deuteronomy, this skill to recollect the past, especially in connection to remembering and recalling the ways of the Lord, contains the potential to steer life through the clouds of abundance and the waves of material prosperity without getting discolored or disfigured by the tempting wonders of cultural variations. To the writer who has tasted and seen the goodness of the Lord in the midst of challenging situations, ‘forgetfulness’ is the biggest threat to carrying out the lord’s commission-to be his witnesses in all circumstances. Here arises the question: “How do we persevere in our mission to bear witness in a new and rich land and help the growing generation to remember God?” • Through concrete visual images: In order to assist people in seei

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GOD’S CALL AND HUMAN RESPONSE 1 Samuel 3:1-10 The call of Samuel is one of the dramatic incidents in the Bible. Samuel was an apprentice under the veteran priest, Eli to become a servant ofthe Lord who heard the cry of his mother. Samuel probably is in his late childhood stage and is very enthusiastic in learning and faithful in discharging his duties. It is also probable that Samuel succeeded in winning the love and affection of the elderly priest who was disheartened because of the wayward life of his own sons. God’s message to a Boy...? In the adult world a boy is not considered capable of understanding serious matters having social, political and spiritual implications. In the categorization of religion, some people like women, children, certain race or caste are not entitled to communicate with God. God here demolishes the structure of traditional religion and communicates with a boy. In the gospels we read a number of incidents where Jesus communicates with people who we

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FAITH OF THE OTHER IN BAPTISM Luke 5: 17-20 A faith that brings healing The healing of the paralytic is a well known story in the gospels, which shows the power and authority of Jesus to heal and to forgive. In this incident, the sick man owes a lot to the four friends for his healing, because they brought him to Jesus. The faith of the four friends was admirable. They firmly believed that Jesus came to free us from all that cripples, bonds and enslaves. They also believed that - if only could they carry this paralytic into the presence of Christ, he would be healed. The faith is found not in the assembly of scribes and Pharisees from all the surrounding villages, but in four unnamed neighbors. The confidence and determination of four friends resulted in the miraculous healing of the crippled man. The Bible says, 'When Jesus saw their faith - a faith that was not deterred by any difficulty- he healed him'. The concern for meeting human needs helped them to overcome all ma

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WITNESSING: DIOSPORA COMMUNITY John 12: 20 - 22 Israelites living in ancient Israel and Judea gather at Jerusalem for three major Jewish festivals as commanded by Yahweh through Moses ( Deuteronomy 16:16). These three Pilgrimage Festivals are Pesach (Passover), Shavuot (Weeks), and Sukkot (Tents, Booths or Tabernacle). Along with these Jews, a lot of Gentiles also arrived at Jerusalem during these festivals. Greeks approaching Philip: In the passage we see that some such Greeks approached Philip (Greek Philipos), probably because he was the only apostle with a Greek name, with a request to see Jesus. If a Malayalee or for that matter an Indian is working in any government office and we need any help from that office, we first try to approach that Malayalee. In the same way, the Greeks approached Philip as they might have identified him as one amongst them. However, Philip was not able to make a decision by himself. So he took them to Andrew. Both of them together took these

The Journey 206: If You Don't Believe In Miracles....

Read: Psalms 139 The nations mourns and grieves over people who were killed at Colorado. But behind the news of death and tragedy comes a news of grace and hope. This is the story of Petra Anderson, a gifted musician and a member of the Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church, Englewood, Colorado, who is now living to tell a miraculous story of survival. It is believed that according to doctors who treated her, a birth defect saved Petra’s life. How did this happen?. Petra Anderson, was shot in the head four times with shotgun pellets, during The Dark Knight massacre last week. One of the pellets went through her nose and was lodged near the back of her skull, when suspected gunman James Holmes opened fire on a crowd of moviegoers. According to the New York Daily News, as the surgery was performed to save Petra by removing the pellet, doctors found what they term as a “miracle.” According to the medical bulletin the pellet reportedly entered her brain at the exact point of a barely-detectab

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BAPTISM ON THE CROSS Mark 10:35-39 This passage describes the request of James and John, which is related to power. Jesus gives a new interpretation to power and discipleship. It happens before Jesus’ triumphant entry in to Jerusalem and the subsequent trial, tribulation and death. James and John demand for them the most important place in His glory (vs. 37). It means they need a place above the other ten disciples and all the other human beings. Hearing this, the other ten disciples began to feel indignant with James and John. So the mentality of James, John and the other ten are more or less the same. They all need power and positions. But the attitude of Jesus is just the opposite of this. Three years back both of them left their dear ones and all their possessions and followed Jesus without any demand. But now they are demanding power and position. The unconditional self-giving and commitment has now turned to conditional discipleship. They wish something in return. It’s

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PUT OFF THE OLD SELF Colossians 3:1-11 The letter of Colossians especially this chapter invites us to explore the possibility of how to lead a meaningful Christian life individually and corporately.  Here Paul states two realities: 1. Christ has risen and is seated at the right hand of God. 2. You also have resurrected with Christ. So you cannot lead a life as if Christ is absent. Not otherworldly but upwardly Leading a Christ like life is mandatory to every Christians. So then, here Paul is giving an instruction to set our mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. What does it mean? Does it mean to disregard what is happening on earth? Not at all. What Paul intends is that in Christ a new order has been inaugurated on the earth in which believers have become participants. Christ took his earthly life seriously and lived it out meaningfully. He had challenged and fought against all the evil powers and deadly forces and expressed his compassion and solidar

The Journey 24: Atheism and Church Hopping (Rev. Dr. Joe Joseph Kuruvilla)

Read: 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 Atheist Faith: Does Atheist have a belief system?. Two atheist are in the news. One of them is from Utah who has filed a lawsuit against Utah city council for allowing Christian music star Michel W Smith to hold a concert tomorrow at the Draper Amphitheater in Utah, citing church-state separation laws. Smith is scheduled to have a concert tomorrow titled “Wonder, Worship and Glory”. He has denounced the lawsuit stating that he is not going to cancel his praise and worship music concert as he feels the allegations that are leveled are absurd. Look at the other incident that has caught the headlines. A small restaurant in Columbia, Pennsylvania, “Lost Cajun” gave an advertisement in the paper that all those people who come to their restaurant will get a 10% discount if they present a church bulletin. This was offensive to another atheist, who has filed a complaint to the Pennsylvania Human relations Commission against the restaurant over what he considered t

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Oneness: Gift and Goal Ephesians 4:1-6 “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Verses 4-6) Ephesians presumes that conversion leads to moral renewal. The exhortation to lead a life worthy of your calling echoes Jewish understanding of divine election. Some interpreters treat vv. 4-6 as an independent liturgical fragment. The passage introduces a list of “one” expressions, which ends with the one God who governs and fills the entire cosmos. God in Christ – the foundation of unity: The verse six has to be read to begin with. Oneness according to the Bible is not homogeneity, rather it fraternity in God. God is the source, sustainer and sanctifier of the unity. The passage has to be read in the continuity with the previous one. Here the oneness is the oneness within the body of Christ. It is the collegiality in Christ. Th

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THE BAPTISM OF JESUS: SINLESS AMONG SINNERS Matthew 3:8-12 This chapter elucidates the ministry of John the Baptist, in the Province of Galilee, where the ruler was Herod. John the Baptist preached repentance and summoned people for confession of their sins and forgiveness from God through baptism. He also emphasized the moral and ethical life of the people. He was preparing the people to walk in the way of the Lord and he raised hope and expectation to the desperate and despised people and thus leading the people towards the Kingdom of God, which is going to be initiated by his follower Jesus Christ. He also reminded the impending doom to those who deny his message. While hearing the ministry of John, Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John, though he was a sinless one. Why did the sinless Jesus take baptism from John as the sinful people received? Three things can be derived: 1. He identified himself with the Godward movement of the people: He ackno

The Journey 202: The Dark Night (Rev.Dr. Joe Joseph Kuruvilla)

Read; Romans 7:14-25 The release of the Batman Movie “ The Dark Knight” was eagerly awaited by both batman lovers and movie buffs. Everybody was excited as this seemed to be the last of the Batman trilogy. But today America is mourning. Mourning; because innocent movie goers at late night movie show at Colorado has gone through one of the most traumatic and nightmare experience. Thus the excitement to watch the latest Batman movie has turned into a disaster, not only for the movie goers in Colorado, but the whole nation. The reason for this nightmarish experience was because a lone gunman James Holmes, who came to watch the movie, left after a brief period, and then came back into the theatre wearing hoods and mask and started firing indiscriminately at the innocent people, who were glued to the big screen watching the Dark Knight. This indiscrimate shooting has already left 12 dead and more than 38 injured according to the news reports. People are shocked because this is the worst e

The Journey 201: One While Eating, Separate While Meeting (Rev. Dr. Joe Joseph Kuruvilla)

Read: Acts 17:16-34 This is the time of the summer camps. Even as I write this devotion, I am with the youths of the New Jersey Marthoma Church for their annual youth retreat at the Refreshing Mountain Camp in Pennsylvania. Refreshing Mountain Camp is one of the most beautiful camp sites that I have ever visited. We just had another youth retreat camp organized by the Philadelphia Marthoma Youth Fellowship also at the picturesque Poconos Mountain. These retreats are wonderful because it is a good getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city life, consciously taking time to spend time with the youths, both in building up of relationship and fellowship among the youths and also in the fellowship and building up of the relationship with the Lord. One of the most unique things while attending these retreats is the sight of the number of church’s that come together to use the facilities of the camp centre at the same time. At one particular time you can sometimes find groups from five t

The Journey 200: To Be A Christian (Rev. Dr. Joe Joseph Kuruvilla)

Read: Acts 23, 26 The African country of Nigeria has been in the headlines for quite some now. The reason- Persecution of Christians. Though there were reports every month of bombing the church or repeatedly killing Christians, the past week has been horrific. New agencies report that in the past week more than 100 people were killed by an extremist group Boko Haram, who have always taken responsibility of the massacre of Christians. These persecution is considered as part of the plan to make Nigeria come under the Shariah Law. What is more tragic of the recent massacre was that most of the people fearing persecution, had fled their homes and took refuge in the house of a pastor. But the whole house and its compound was burned down along with the believers, their families and children thus killing all of them. The dead included the pastor, his wife and also his children. What is happening in Nigeria is a systematic elimination of Christians, thus giving the country of Nigeria the nic

The Journey 199: Transformation in my church (Rev. Dr. Joe Joseph Kuruvilla)

Read: Acts 26 Late Monday, the world heard the news that the well known author, writer and motivational speaker, Stephen Covey is no more. He died at a hospital in Idaho Falls, after injuring himself in a bicycle accident late April. Stephen Covey, 79, is well known for his world famous book "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" which sold more than 20 million copies in more than 38 languages. What was unique about the book was the systemic understanding that he brought to the concept of productivity both in professional and personal life. From Seven Habits, Covey moved to writing " The Eighth Habit", which was moving from effectiveness to greatness. He also authored some other best sellers, like "First Things First," ''Principle-Centered Leadership," and ''The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families. I have read all his books and have personally been benefitted by the books that he wrote. What attracted me to Covey and his writing

The Journey 198: Church is not an event (Rev. Dr. Joe Joseph Kuruvilla)

Read: Acts 8: 26-40 Two interesting news items caught my attention. Both were related to tow different church's and both the news were in contrast. The first news was written by Jay Akasie in the Wall Street Journal titled " What ails the Episcopalians". It was very interesting article in the light of the last week, 77th triennial General Convention of the Episcopal Church. Episcopal church has one of the largest legislative entities, with more than 1,000 members, just like the Sabha Prathinidhi Mandalam of the Marthoma Church which also has more than 1000 members. What has come for stringent criticism is not only about the money spent in hosting the convention like cocktail parties and steakhouses, but more stringent criticism has come for its faith issues and also dismantling many of the democratic process in the church. This is at a time when the church has announced that is having huge financial crisis and the Church headquarters at Manhattan which includes a pentho

The Journey 196 (Rev. Dr. Joe Joseph Kuruvilla)

Read: Mathew 25: 31-46 The Church and Tax Exemption Status. How does church qualify itself to a status of tax exemption. This is the issue that is now debated in different circles after a news items in Washington Post, where the renowned atheist Richard Dawkins had called the tax exemption status given to church as a disgrace. According to Dawkins, even the non religious and the atheist people are also generous just like the religious ones. Dawkins point of argument is that, just because an organization calls itself a church, they should not be entitled to or freely qualify to get tax exemption status. Each church should separately make a profile or a case on the way they do community work or charitable work and it should be only on the basis of that, should the tax exemption be given. If this is the criteria for tax exemption then the same yardstick has to be followed for any other organization even if it is not the church. Dawkins is critical of the generosity of the religious peop

The Journey 195: The Generosity Factor (Rev. Dr. Joe Joseph Kuruvilla)

Read: Genesis 22 A Church that gives all its income to the Community?: Unbelievable. This is what I felt when I first read this news item. It sounded incredible too. Alex Murashko reports in the Christian Post about a church in Clinton, Mississippi who decided to give all their tithes and offerings to the community for an entire year. How did this happen. This was the vision of the pastor and leaders of Traceway Baptist Church in Clinton . They began to pray to discern God’s eill on how to serve the community. After two months of praying and fasting, they felt that God was asking them to give generously to the people who were suffering in the community. Hence they decided to give all the tithes and offerings to those in need and that too for an entire year. According to Pastor John Richardson, what he wanted was that others could see and experience the love of the Lord and in the process church becoming a witness to Jesus Christ in the community. The size of the church may surprise y

The Journey 194: Coffee and Hope (Rev. Dr. Joe Joseph Kuruvilla)

Read: Luke 7:11-17 In Pain and in Despair- Have a Starbucks Coffee. Sounds Strange: But this may be a future and a familiar dictum in some of the funeral homes. News agencies like USA today and Fox news have reported that a funeral home in northwestern South Carolina will be offering what it calls the Starbucks experience to those needing comfort, or just a cup of coffee, to the people who come there to bid farewell to their loved ones. It is the Robinson Funeral Home, in south Carolina who is trying this novel idea by attaching coffee shop to the funeral home. According to the owner of the funeral home, Chris Robinson, who states that the Starbucks will reside in an area of the Funeral Home which has been aptly named the "Coffee Corner," and would be a part of an expansion that will also include business offices and a chapel in the funeral home. This coffee corner will also have a fire place and Wi Fi. To make the coffee corner relevant to the context and occasion of mourni

The Journey 193: Religious Rights (Rev. Dr. Joe Joseph Kuruvilla)

Read: Mathew 23 Phoenix Pastor Jailed for holding bible study in home: This was the news item that was carried by the Fox News yesterday, The news items has brought mixed reaction from people all over. Some supporting the pastor while some supporting the Phoenix city council. The pastor in the centre of this storm is Michael Salman, whose home was raided by more than dozen Phoenix police officers and city officials for holding a private bible study. He has now been sentenced to 60 days in jail and a fine of $12, 180. According to the city officials they say that people aren’t allowed to hold private Bible studies on their own property. The moment one hears the news the immediate reaction from everyone is that of shock and disbelief. According to Salman’s wife Suzanne, the city has told her that her husband was essentially arrested because the Bible study was at a private house .. and that essentially, it’s a church. Since they weren’t zoned for church, they were told they were breakin

The Journey 192: Winning is all about attachments (Rev. Dr. Joe Joseph Kuruvilla)

Read: Mathew 15:21-28 William Sisters have done it again. On July 7th, 2012, both the William sisters; Serena and Venus won the Wimbledon titles. Serena had the unique honour of winning two Wimbledon titles on the same day. Serena had won the singles title in the earlier part of the day, while later both Serena and Venus teamed up to win the doubles title too. Here are two sisters whose life story is that of winning through commitment and also through the strong bond that they share with each other and with the family. In fact one of the hallmarks of their life is the way they have moulded their life, away from the pulls and pressures of this world. The homeschooling community always highlights their achievements since both Serena and Venus chose to do the alternative form of education in their life. But it is the role of the parents Richard Williams and Oracene Prince who are credited for the achievements of the William sisters. Both the parents wanted their daughters to focus on t

The Journey 191 by Rev. Dr. Joe Joseph Kuruvilla

Read: Psalms 30                     Shout to the Lord: Who does not know this famous and wonderful song. I first heard this song when I was a part of the Kuwait Marthoma Church Praise and Worship Team, who taught this song for their VBS in the year 2000, and from then on this song was one of my favourites. It is estimated that this song is sung by around 25 to 30 million church goers every week through out the world.  The writer of this song is an Australian, named Darlene Zschech. She is  is acclaimed all over the world as a singer, songwriter, worship leader and speaker, but her most famous role is that of  spearheading the music that comes from Hillsong Church. But how did this wonderful song come about? According to  Darlene Zschech,  she was going through some of the dark days of her life. It seemed to her that everything was on the top of her, and she could not carry the weight of the burden any longer and that is when she felt she had to turn to the Lord.  Desperate for His peac

The Journey 187

Read: Acts: 10: 24-38 “Conference for  White Christians”. Ever heard a a group of Christians like that?.  If not……please read forward. According to Katherine Weber of Christian Post, a conference was organized last week at Guin, Alabama,  by the Christian Identity Ministries [ CIM]. They are  now in the center of a storm for organizing “ The Annual Pastors Conference for All White Christians”. Bu the participants are shrugging off all  criticism by arguing that they have a right to practice their religious freedom. But the local church’s and the community are reiterating that the conference is  contradicting the truths in the Word of God and is also spreading racism. According to the founder of the Christian Identity Ministries, Rev. Mel Lewis, who spoke to the local press and the radio station, stated boldly but rashly that the conference is in the fourth year and he says that the conference is meant for the white Christians whom he claims as the “Chosen  Race”. The l

The Journey 186

Read: Acts 9: 9-19 A unique and an interesting comment was made by a person belonging to a Hindu Faith Tradition to his Christian friend.  He told  his Christian friend “You always say that we worship a number of different gods which may run into a few thousands, but then we have only one place of worship: the temple, where every person belonging to a Hindu  faith are allowed to enter, and no one is barred from entering into any temple. And then pointing to his Christian friend he said, you state that your belief is  only  in One Almighty God, but you have thousands of denominations and church’s. What is more strange that a person belonging to one denomination will not go to the church of another denomination, nor is he accepted by the members of that denomination. What is more saddening is that believers of each denomination look down upon the believers of other denominations too”,  Strange Isn’t it?. What is being pointed out is the paradox in the life of  the churc

The Journey 183

Read: Mathew 23 "Don't Limit the Ministry of Jesus Christ to the four walls of the Church"  This was the main focus of the sermon delivered  by First lady of the United States, Michelle Obama,  as she addressed the delegates gathered at the National Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Nashville, Tennessee   last week.   According to the first lady, what is important as  Christians is what do they do in the quieter moments of their lives and which is more important  than just showing up and attending a Sunday services once a week.  She continued by saying that the faith journey is all about what the Christians do from Monday to Saturday as well, especially in quieter moments of life, when the focus and spotlight is not on us and when we have to make choices in our daily lives as to how to live as Christians. According to the First Lady, Jesus  Christ did not limit his ministry to the four walls of the church, on the contrary He was out there in the soci