"But our commonwealth is in heaven and from it we await a saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ" (Phil. 3:20)
There are commonwealth countries which were previously colonies of Great Britiain. When they became independant, they formed an alliance known as the Commonwealth. To commemorate their freedom from British rule, they organize various joint programmes and continue to cooperate with each other. In October this year, India is going to host the Commonwealth games in New Delhi. Sportsmen from some 54 countries will be gathering there to compete in various games. In sports, although there are serious competitions - although they fight with each other tooth and nail to win, the winners and losers leave unnerved without anger or rancour. I guess this is a good example to be emulated by us, believers. Although we may have differences of opinion we must ignore them like sportsmen and forge ahead together to attain the Kingdom which is our goal. St. Paul said: "I press on for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus". For Christ's sake, Paul suffered the loss of all things and counted them as refuse so that he may know Him and the power of His resurrection. He knew that the LAW is killing, but the power of FAITH will change his lowly body to be like the glorious body of Jesus Christ. He considered his present afflictions as momentary. So let us not look to the things that are seen but to the thiings that are unseen, for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
When we look around, we can see the signs and events which reveal that He is near, at the very door. So let us gird up our loins and await His advent earnestly.
The impact of social trends on Pentecostal churches in India
Dr. Thomson K. Mathew, Oral Roberts University, USA
Dr. Thomson K. Mathew, Oral Roberts University, says that tremendous changes are taking place in India as a result of advancing globalization. We need to discern where the wind of God is blowing and what the Sprit is saying to the churches in India based
Oral Roberts University (ORU) is hosting a Global Congress on the Holy Spirit this week. Thousands of delegates from 90 plus nations are spending three days in Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA to discuss what the Spirit is saying to the churches across the world in the new century. As dean of Theology at ORU, I have been a part of the cabinet that has been planning this conference and got to be a part of much dialogue. I listened to Pentecostal/charismatic leaders, world class scholars and new generation representatives discuss their perceptions and discernment about the move of God's Spirit today. The new generation representatives I listened to seem to express three different concerns:
1. The need for authentic Spirit-filled leaders;
2. Willingness of current leaders to offer genuine mentoring to the younger ones; and
3. The need of a new vocabulary to convey the old biblical truths.
May be I will understand these matters much better by the end of this week.
It is estimated that about 640 million people call themselves Pentecostals or Charismatics. However, the West is not where God's Spirit is most visibly active currently. He is moving mightily in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Scholars admit that the center of gravity of Christendom has moved to the southern hemisphere. Alas, with only 4% of the population attending churches in the United Kingdom, Europe is now the Dark Continent!
American churches are naturally concerned. They have done much for the Kingdom of God, but now are not seeing a dynamic move of the Spirit as in the past. There is a great hunger in the American Church for a revival. In the mean time, American church leaders are also studying societal trends that are impacting the churches and their growth negatively now.
The United States of America is going though much societal and demographic changes. Many responsible Christians are both studying these changes and tracking accompanying trends in ministry. They are also challenging churches and ministries to discover new ways of ministering to members and non-members in the new context.
Here are some of the challenges facing the American churches as discovered by Leith Anderson. He listed 10 trends that are affecting churches and ministry in the US. They are listed below:
1. The mobility of people from city to city and state to state;
2. Increasing number of people of color living in the US;
3. Aging of the US population;
4. Increasing number of working women and the loss of available volunteers;
5. The country becoming more and more pluralistic in politics and religion;
6. The segmentation of the population by certain economic or class characteristics;
7. People not being able or willing to make long term commitments to voluntary organizations;
8. The changing work ethic of Americans as people move from job to job with much less employer guarantees and employee loyalty;
9. Increasing conservatism in the land; and
10. Cocooning of people in their homes and within gated communities, connected to the world by the web and other electronic means, knowing their neighbors even less than before.
American churches are discussing how to handle these changes and minister in this society with the unchanging Gospel of Jesus Christ? They are trying to define new ways of ministering and are trying to penetrate these barriers with the Gospel. Many pastors are thinking of creative ways to share the good news.
This brought up for me the question of societal changes in India and their impact on the churches, especially the Pentecostal ones. It is obvious that tremendous changes are taking place in India as a result of advancing globalization and liberalization of economic activities. Evangelization and persecution coexist in India today. Extreme wealth and abject poverty stare at each other. Bullock carts and jumbo jets are still parked side by side. The glare of television sets is seen everywhere and the tone of Microsoft windows can be heard across the land. I hope Indian institutions of higher education, especially the seminaries, are studying these trends and their impact on evangelism, church growth, and pastoral ministry. This will be very helpful to develop practical solutions. Meanwhile, however, we need to discern where the wind of God is blowing and what the Sprit is saying to the churches in India.
Do the work of an Evangelist: Part 3 Be diligent
Pastor Mathew Philip, Philadelphia, USA
Pastor Mathew Philip, Philadelphia, USA, explains how Apostle Paul is exhorting Timothy to be diligent in his evangelistic work. The exhortation is for us too!
Apostle Paul writes to evangelist Timothy to do the work of an evangelist (2 Tim. 4:5). The first work is to be faithful to one's calling (2 Tim. 1:1 - 2:13) that we have already studied in the previous issue. Second work of an evangelist is to be diligent in your work (2 Tim. 2:14-26). How to be diligent in our evangelistic work?
1. We should not quarrel about words (v. 14, 23-26): People are very prone to quarrel about words. We are not supposed to argue or fight with others. Quarrelling is useless and very hurtful. It is very destructive to the things of God. The end result will be envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between people of corrupt mind (1 Tim. 6:4-5). It causes problems in many churches today. We must stop quarrels and be kind to one another.
2. We should do our best to present ourselves to God as one approved (v. 15a): It talks about our inner life that is approved by God. It is a life that is according to God's standards. What we need for our ministry is not man's approval, but God's approval. God approves a life that is holy, upright, and pleasing to God (Rom. 12:1). The result of God's approval is that it gives us great confidence in the ministry. Once you know that you are approved by God, you don't need to please anyone for an approval of your ministry. Your whole aim is to do the will of the One who has already approved you. We must work hard to present ourselves to God as one approved.
3. We should be workmen who do not need to be ashamed (v. 15b): We should not do anything that will bring shame to God's ministry. Often our lack of training, lack of skill, unfaithfulness, and laziness will always cause shame to the ministry. If we are serious about our Master's business and keep to our work, we can be workmen that need not be ashamed. We must make every effort to be proud of following Jesus and doing His work unashamed.
4. We should correctly handle the Word of God (vv. 15c): Paul asked Timothy to be diligent in preaching and teaching God's Word. We must develop a heart of diligence in handling God's Word. The work that is committed to our trust is to rightly divide the gospel. We must preach and teach God's Word as it is. We should never add anything to it, nor delete anything from it. As preachers and teachers, we must correctly interpret God's Word.
5. We should avoid godless chatter (vv. 16-19): To be diligent in doing the work of an evangelist, one should not listen to the false teachers and slot in their ungodly talk.
We should avoid godless chatter because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their word will eat as does the cancer or gangrene. If one person is infected with such godless chatter, it will infect many others. Those who are already corrupted will corrupt others. We must give importance to the correct teachings of God's Word to the believers in the church. A constant focus on the person and work of Christ will help us to direct people only to Christ.
6. We should be prepared to do any good work (vv. 20-21): Paul talks about articles made of gold and silver which are used for most honorable uses and articles made of wood and clay which are used for less important uses. He admonishes Timothy to work hard so that he will continue to be a vessel useful for the Lord. One must cleanse himself or herself from ignoble purposes. We must preserve ourselves from the corrupting influences of false teachers. Then we will be fitted to be a vessel of honor and useful to the Lord. Thus we will be prepared to do any good work.
7. We should flee from evil desires (vv. 22): Young evangelists must be aware of carnal pleasures which are the sins of the youth. Paul warns Timothy to flee the youthful lusts. Two things are mentioned here as the best remedy against youthful lusts. (1) We must pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace. (2) We must do it along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. It talks about the importance of associating with saints which will help you to pursue these good qualities. We must serve the Lord with a pure heart. Our work must bring glory and honor to God's name.
‘The Parable of the Good Samaritan’ unveiled: A true story of humankind
Pastor Shibu Cherian, Atlanta
Pastor Shibu Cherian, Atlanta, USA, expands one of the unique parables narrated by Lord Jesus Christ as it conveys high moral principles in the salvation that has been provided to the fallen humankind. In this Part - 1 of the article, the 'conscious and deliberate' decision of a man to travel down from Jerusalem to Jericho is described. The arrival of the good samaritan and the concluding principles can be read in Part - 2.
The Parable of the Good Samaritan is one of the unique parables narrated by the Lord Jesus Christ as it is found only in the Gospel of Luke in chapter 10:30-37, and it conveys the principle of high morality in the salvation that has been provided to the fallen humankind. The reason for Jesus to expound this parable was to answer a test question posed to him by a lawyer, which was: "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" (Luke 10:25). Jesus, knowing that this was a learned lawyer who posed this question, replies in turn with two questions for the lawyer to answer: "What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?" (Luke 10:26). The lawyer answers correctly by reciting two scripture portions in the Old Testament: 'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind' (Deut. 6:4-5) and 'your neighbor as yourself' (Lev. 19:18b). Perhaps this lawyer has heard Jesus speaking about this subject in other occasions in his public ministry, when he had answered one lawyer's question: "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law? (Matt. 22:35-40) or, another scribe's question: "Which is the first commandment of all?" (Mark 12:28-34). This lawyer may have carefully noted the statement of Jesus in Matt. 22:40 that "on these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets". Jesus commends the lawyer for his correct answer with this reply: "You have answered rightly; do this and you will live." (Luke 10:28). The lawyer, who may have been one of the self-justified Pharisees (Luke 16:14-15; 18:9-10), wanting to have the last word persists in asking Jesus a second question: "And who is my neighbor?" (Luke 10:29). In order to answer this second question, Jesus narrates this profound parable, which is commonly called as 'The Parable of the Good Samaritan'. As we study this parable in detail, we can discover precious truth concerning the universal salvation that is still relevant to us in this post-modern age.
The Parable of the Good Samaritan
As we look into this parable in verse 30, we are told of a certain man who went down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell among thieves. It is interesting to note that we do not know the name, race, tribe, color, profession, sexual orientation, family background or denominational persuasion of this individual who made this perilous journey. So, this unnamed individual can represent the entire humankind, through the first man Adam, who sinned and fell away from the 'glory of God' (Rom. 3:23). Romans 5:12 says that "therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned...". This certain man made a 'conscious and deliberate' decision one day to travel down from Jerusalem to Jericho and this relates to the 'conscious and deliberate' decision that Adam made when he took the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil from his wife Eve and ate it (Genesis 3:6b) in disobedience to the commandment of God in Gen. 2:16-17.
Jesus however was very specific in giving the names of two cities - Jerusalem and Jericho - between which this man travelled. He said that a certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. If we examine the physical location, the geographical setting as well as the spiritual aspects of these two cities, we can see that Jesus was totally accurate in his narrative that this man literally went down from Jerusalem to Jericho.
Jerusalem and Jericho
From the geographical aspect, Jerusalem is a hilly city so the altitude varies but it is approximately 750 Meters (2,500 feet) above sea level. Jericho lies 260 meters (853 feet) below sea level, making it the lowest town on earth. So, when this man was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho, he was literally going down a downward decline of 1,010 meters (3,353 feet). In a way, the man had consciously decided to go down from a blessed city (Jerusalem) to a cursed city (Jericho). When we examine the scriptures, we see that Jerusalem was originally called Salem (Gen. 14:18), a Jebusite city (Josh. 15:8; Judg. 1:8, 21) that was captured by David and made capital of Israel (2 Sam. 5:6-9). It was referred to as Zion, the city of David (2 Chr. 5:2), and used figuratively as God's Kingdom (Psa. 125:1; Heb. 12:22; Rev. 14:1). It was in this city that King Solomon built the temple of God, and this city symbolizes the dwelling of the presence of God in the Old Testament times. This was the city that Christ entered as King (Matt. 21:4-11), the place where the resurrected Christ commanded his disciples to tarry (Acts 1:4), and thus became the birth place of the Christian Church in Acts 2. Jerusalem means foundation of peace (Heb. 7:2). In the eschatological sense, this city is referred to as the Holy City, or the heavenly capital of New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:2).
On the other hand, Jericho is located 36 km east of Jerusalem, on the road to Amman and at the junction of the highway to Galilee. This city was totally burned with fire by Joshua and the Israelites (Josh. 6:24), and thereafter the curse was pronounced by Joshua in Joshua 6:26 on anyone who would dare to rebuild the city will be cursed, and this will result in the deaths of the eldest and youngest son of the builder. This curse was literally fulfilled in 1 Kings 16:34 as Joshua had prophesied. It is thus evident that this city is doomed for destruction, and is under the perpetual curse of God.
Thus, this man's decision to travel from Jerusalem to Jericho indicates a fall from the 'city of the foundation of peace' to the 'city of curse'. The parable says that during the course of the travel, this man fell among thieves (Luke 10:30). Taking the analogy further, we can relate the thieves to Satan who is described by Jesus as "the thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy" (John 10:10). Just as the thieves strip this man of his clothing, wound him and leave him on that road to Jericho half-dead, Satan has destroyed humankind through Adam stripping us of his garment of glory and honor (Psalms 8:5), and leaving him (and humankind through him) in that critical helpless condition without any help. Eph. 2:1, 5 says that humankind (through Adam) became "dead in trespasses and sins". Our own efforts to clothe ourselves became futile, as Adam and Eve tried to do in the Garden of Eden by sewing for themselves coverings of fig leaves (Gen. 2:7b). The passage in Eze. 16:3-6 also describes the condition of humankind as we were thrown in an open field as we were struggling in our own blood. This was the helpless condition of this helpless, wounded, naked man lying by the roadside half-dead. Surely, if real help does not arrive soon, this man would die due to the lack of medical attention!
A certain priest passes by
It was at this time that a certain priest passes by...going down on that same road (Luke 10:31). We cannot determine as to why this priest should leave his place of ministry in Jerusalem (Was he like Jonah (1:2, 3), the Old Testament prophet who ran away from Nineveh to Tarshish?) to walk down on this 36 km downward pathway. This priest had an opportunity to help this wounded and dying man by the road side, and thus fulfill his priestly obligation of helping the poor and needy. However, the narrative says that the priest, when he saw the wounded man, passed by on the other side. There is no compassion of the priest towards this dying man. On a spiritual analogy, the priest represents the Ecclesiastical LAW (Torah) and the commandments. These Old Testament laws and commandments failed to be an answer to the plight of the Old Testament Israel representing the fallen humankind. In Isa. 1:4, God moans about this horrific condition using the following words: "Alas, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a brood of evildoers, children who are corrupters! They have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked to anger The Holy One of Israel, they have turned away backward."
Meditation: One who turns away from evil .....
Reading passage: Job 1:1-22
"...there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?" (Job 1:8-9)
The writer introduces Job as blameless. (v.1) God testified to it (v.8). Satan accepted it (He did not deny the fact but tried to falsely accuse Job of keeping integrity for a counterfeit reason - vs. 9-11).
Four things God says about Job: He was blameless (perfect), upright, fears God and turns away from evil. What more can a man ask for during this earthly life!
The first comment speaks about perfection in every part, as in the case of a sacrificial animal (Lev. 1:3). God expects us to live in perfect holiness in the personal, family, church, professional and social aspects of our lives! In addition, it is a 24/7 business. Even the enemy should get no opportunity for slander (1 Tim. 5:14).
Secondly, Job was an upright man, a straight person- a childlike character! He was plain and simple, with nothing to hide!
Thirdly, he was God fearing. What does it mean? He knew that God was walking with him and watching everything he does. Experiencing God's presence in every moment of his life helped him to live a holy life.
Finally, he was a man who turned away from all evil. May be you are upright and God fearing, living a perfect life, you still need to stay away from sinful circumstances. There are people who live a holy life, but no one is free from temptations!
Turning away from evil is a deliberate act. It is resolving that you will not defile yourself. Job says, "I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I look upon a virgin?" Job 31:1. Job's resolution was not just that he will not commit adultery, but also that he would abstain from all lustful scenes that would lead him to fall! It is not just a covenant with our eyes... Commitment is making a covenant with all the members of your body, all the faculties that pour out thoughts in to your mind and all the enzymes that stimulate emotions in your heart!
Prayer: Lord, help me live a perfect, upright and God-fearing life. I resolve not to defile myself with evil. Help me to please you, Amen.
Youth Forum: Soldiers of Christ
Juby Susan Varghese
Juby Susan Varghese, Mumbai, reminds us that we, believers, are engaged in a spiritual warfare.
Paul advises his son Timothy in 2 Tim. 2:3: Endure hardships like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. Rev. 3:11 says, those who fight a good fight will receive the crown of righteousness which the Lord the righteous judge will give. We all are soldiers in the great army of the living God engaged in the most important warfare. The day we accept Jesus Christ as our savior till our final breath we are in a warfare against our enemy.
A Christian soldier is in an enemy country (world). For a victorious battle a good soldier must know:
1. His enemy
2. Strategies & tactics of the enemy
3. How to fight his enemy
Who is our enemy ?
We read in Eph. 6:10 that our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the spiritual forces of the evil one.
Here we see two major types of powers which work against Christian Kingdom. They are:
1. Powers of this dark world.
2. Spiritual forces of the evil one. Satan is the prince of this world. Our battle is not against flesh and blood, not against religious groups or political powers.
The enemy's schemes & strategies:
2 Cor. 2:11 says, "for we are not unaware of his schemes". Gen. 3:1 shows how winning he is. Job 1:9 depicts that devil is a slanderer. 2 Cor. 11:14 says, he masquerades as an angel of light.
How to fight the enemy?
We know our enemy is no ordinary person so we cannot fight against him with ordinary weapons. In 2 Cor. 10:3 says, the weapons we fight with are not weapons of the world; on the contrary they have divine powers to demolish strongholds. God has also given us armour to protect ourselves from the enemy's attack.
Let us put on the armour which is given in Eph. 6:13-17.
(a) Belt of truth: Lie is satan's most powerful weapon but Jesus says when the spirit of truth comes he will guide you into all truths.
(b) Breastplate of righteousness: Heart is the source of thought, feelings & desires. Breastplate will protect our heart from the influence of the enemy.
(c) Gospel of peace: God expects his soldiers to always be ready to spread the gospel whereever they go.
(d) Shield of faith: It will help us to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the enemy.
(e) Helmet of salvation: It will protect our mind from all evil.
(f) Sword of Spirit (word of God): Heb. 4:12, the word of God is sharper than any double edged sword.
(g) Prayer: Constant communication with our Lord
Looking carefully at the armour we find that there is no protection for the back which shows that a Christian soldier is not supposed to retreat back from the battle, either win the battle or die for the master.
Dear soldiers of Christ, our commander in chief, Jesus Christ goes before us in the battle. Let us fight the good fight so that we will receive the crown.
Do not deceive yourselves
Pastor Jays Abraham, New York, USA
Pastor Jays Abraham explains that God blesses not those who hear His word but those who obey. There are untold and endless blessings for obedience to the word of God
In a church service, when people listen to the preaching of the word, they are affected with their own sinfulness, miseries, and dangers and before the service is over they acknowledge the evil of sin, and their need of Christ. Some repent, rededicate their lives to the Lord and make new commitments. But when the hearing is over, all is forgotten. Their convictions are lost, and good affections vanish. Most people immediately forget what was heard.
James observed the same in 1:22: "But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he looks at himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgets what manner of man he was. But whoso looks into the perfect law of liberty, and continues therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed".
He explains that when a person listens to the preaching of the word of God but do not do what it says is like one who checks his or her face in a mirror and, after looking at oneself, goes away and immediately forgets what one looked like. But the person who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what one has heard, but doing it, that person will be blessed. James teaches us that God blesses not those who hear his word but those who obey God's word. There are untold and endless blessings for obedience to the word of God.
It is reported that a team of German scientists has recently taken on one of the most difficult sets of measurements possible in nature, namely to determine how much the sea "weighs". It is a complex exercise as a large number of factors contribute to changes in this number. The main elements that a scientist needs to know in order to calculate the mass of the ocean are the topography of its bottom, the height of the sea level, temperature and salt content of water, etc. The team claims to have reached a correct figure and has published its findings in scieentific journals.
Let us congratulate them for completing a stupendous task. We also know that the Creator of the heavens and the earth has all the measurements with Him! The Psalmist exclaims: "He gathers the waters of the sea into jars; he puts the deep into storehouses" (Psalms 33:7).
Supply of Vietnamese Bibles
The Scottish Bible Society is making efforts to remove the scarcity of modern Vietnamese Bibles. Elaine Duncan, Chief Executive of the Scottish Bible Society says: "The church (in Vietnam) is growing rapidly, yet lacks the basic tool, the Bible, in sufficient quantities to strengthen existing and new Christians in their faith". The society hopes to raise enough funds to send 115,000 New Testaments to the country to enable each Christian to own a copy of the Bible, and also give them the opportunity to reach out to others with the Word of God.
Providing a copy of the Scriptures to individual believer will go a long way in strengthening his faith.There are many such regions in the world where copies of the Bible are scarce. It is worthwhile to ponder whether we - who are blessed with plenty of Bible copies in our homes in many languages and many translations - read and meditate on the Word of God and receive instructions from it on a regualr basis!
A 'Notable Children's Recording'
The American Library Association (ALA) has selected 'The Jesus Storybook Bible' from Zondervan for the list of 'Notable Children's Recordings' for 2009. The audio version of the best-selling Jesus Storybook Bible is read by British actor David Suchet and is meant for children 14 years old or younger. The recording features 44 stories from the Bible. The success of the recording is attributed to the way Suchet has narrated the stories: "He didn't just read it. It was as if he was telling a story to a child he loved very much, he acted it, he poured his Christian faith, his heart and soul, and his incredible talent into the story".
Such audio presentation of Bible stories will be useful in capturing the interest of present day children who are usually distracted with other low quality reading material that is available in plenty.
Search for Earth's twin!
According to a report in The Times, Professor Michel Mayor of Geneva University, said that astronomers were close to finding a planet of a similar size and composition to Earth. He was addressing a Royal Society conference to mark the 50th anniversary of the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) programme. The search for twins of Earth is motivated by the ultimate prospect of finding sites with favourable conditions for the development of life. Dramatic technological progress over the past 15 years had led to the discovery of more than 400 planets orbiting stars similar to the Sun outside the solar system. However, none of them discovered so far is likely to be suitable for sustaining life. One condition for a planet to be habitable is that it orbits its star at such a distance that its water would be liquid. "If the planet is too close, it will be blazing hot and all the water will evaporate and if it is too far away, it will be ice," Professor Mayor said. Also, if the planet's size is too large, it is likely to have a highly turbulent environment. NASA's Kepler spacecraft, which is carrying a very large telescope, has been monitoring more than 100,000 stars every half-hour for the last three years. Prof. Mayor hopes that Kepler will find an "Earth twin' in 2010.
Good luck to the great astronomers! The biblical account of creation of the universe is centered around a master plan in the mind of the Creator. He created the earth with an environment suitable to sustain human life and finally formed man in His own nature with mind and spirit as the crown of His creation to inhabit the earth. Let us wait and see whether the scientists discover a similar planet!.
Personalities encountered by Jesus - 19: Caiaphas
"Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it would be good if one man died for the people" (John 18:14)
The answer, which the high priest, Caiaphas gave Nicodemus, when the latter sought to defend Jesus, was the keynote of the prosecution throughout. "Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation". The personal animosity, the greed, the hypocrisy which hid behind this noble motive is apparent only when we study the character and activities of Caiaphas.
In the first place, most of the money changers and merchants Jesus had driven out of the temple had operated their bazaars not only with the high priest's consent, but were in fact owned by the sons of Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas. Everything that Jesus said and did during His ministry was a blow at both their prestige and their business Caiaphas was of the sect of Sadducees, who denied that any moral law was of divine authority, save that which had been written. Moreover, they rejected the belief of resurrection after death, and of reward or punishment once a man had died.
When Jesus was brought before Caiaphas, the high priest judged Him according to the written law. "I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God"
And Jesus, who had remained silent up to this point, answered: "Yes, it is as you say. But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven".
Upon hearing this, Caiaphas ripped his clothes (a traditional act), saying: "He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy".
Since the ecclesiastical court had no power to pronounce a death sentence, they took Jesus before Pilate.
There was a little girl who was taken as a captive to an alien country. She was a God-fearing child. Her parents had taught her the laws and commandments of God Jehovah. She was taught that the God of Israel was the true living God. In that distant land she was a servant in the house of a commander of the army. There she was very faithful in all her duties. She always prayed to God and believed that God would take care of her needs. One day she came to know that her master was sick with the disease of leprosy. She prayed about it and told her master's wife that they should go to Israel and seek the servant of God who could help him in his problem. At her guidance her master went to Israel and was delivered from his disease. He became very happy and believed that Jehovah was a wonder working God (2 Kings 5:1-14).
God wants us to be His instruments to make Him known to others. Whereever we are, we should be able to tell others about a loving God who can save us and give us eternal life. Just as the little girl was instrumental in helping her master to be delivered from his leprosy, we should be a medium of God's love and saving grace to other people around us. Let the love and peace of God flow into other lives through us so that those who do not know Jesus would know Him and be saved. God bless you.
Reader's Forum - 2: Can you answer this? Question of the month: "What is the role of a pastor? How is it different from a believer?"
Compiled: Johnson Thomas
Read what people around the world think.
Also readers are invited to assign credit points to the views of each writer ranging from 1 to 10 points and send their evaluation by an email to email@example.com. Each point will be converted to money value and credited to Christian Youth groups in India)
Pheba & Joe Philip, India (both are Pastors' Children)
Pastor can be referred to as a spiritual care-taker. He is to be involved in local ministries, such as hospital chaplaincy, visitation, funerals, and weddings and organizing religious activities. Pastoral care, therefore, is both encouraging their local congregation, and bringing new people into the church. This is not to say that the congregation is not to be involved in the above mentioned activities, but that the pastor should be the initiator or leader. Jer. 3:15, "Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you on knowledge and understanding"
So as believers we are supposed to fulfill the duties whatever God has given to us either as Pastors or as believers.
Cecil & Soly, UAE
A Pastor in a local congregation is a minister for its practical needs by applying doctrine. He is shepherding the church - guarding, defending, warning, challenging, instructing, building walls around it for its protection, and motivating it on a long - term basis. God did not call any pastor to please a church but to seek and please Him first. The role of the pastor can be divided into five areas: feed the sheep, protect the flock, oversee the work, evangelism, and equip the believer for the work of ministry. Unfortunately, it is wrongly the view of many churches that the pastor should have no authority. Refer Paul's message in Acts 20:28-31 and I Tim. 3:1. The local church is essentially a training place to equip believers. Out of this training place, should come evangelists, pastors, and teachers for the church around the world. A pastor's personal experience and training make him a person equipped to do the work. Refer Eph. 4:12.
Dionne D'Souza, Professional, India
The word pastor means shepherd who provides spiritual direction and pursues a vision for the church. The church's vision is based on the great commission of Matt. 28:19-20: "...go and make disciples ... teach my commands...". Pastor's role is to serve the congregation to achieve its vision. A pastor should be following the example of Jesus to humble himself and become a servant to others. A pastor may take his direction and vision from God, but that does not nullify the biblical mandate for accountability with wise counsel always available from elders and church leadership.
In scripture, examples for accountability are seen on every level of leadership. Moses was held accountable; godly kings were subject to accountability; elders in the church are held accountable to the pastor and each other; pastors are accountable to the elders and even the apostles were held accountable by elders and each other. No one was exempt from accountability. The first symptom of a spiritual struggle in a leader is the desire to break off accountability. Ungodly leaders in the Old Testament rejected accountability and even godly leaders like King David rejected accountability before falling into sin.
Pastor P A George, Anand, Gujarat, Director, Gujarat Bible Training Center)
"Where no wise guidance is, the people fall" (Prov. 11:14). A local Church is a part of the universal Church. The Church belongs to God. Jesus obtained it by His own blood. It is the temple of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is here today only for the Church. In Eph. 4:10-16 we see that five fold ministries and ministers were given for the Church by our Lord. Ministers are appointed by God, by Christ and by the Holy Spirit. We must understand that the title "Pastor" is a ministry more than status. Apostle Paul called the elders of Ephesus Church and said to them that 'the holy Spirit has appointed you Bishops and guardians to shepherd the Church'. It means Elders, Pastors and Bishops are the same office and their ministries are same.
Responsibilities of a Pastor:
1. Take care: Church is a flock. In that sense Pastor is Shepherd. The chief shepherd is Christ. He is the role model. In Psalm 23, we find the qualities of this shepherd. He gives food to the flock, guards the flock, save the flock from enemies etc. In Isa. 40:11 we find, He will gather the lambs in His arms, carry them in His bosom. In Ezek.34:16 He seeks that which was lost, and brings back which has strayed, and bandage the hurt and crippled, and strengthen the weak and the sick. These are the ideals of a good shepherd.
2. Keep watch: A pastor must pray for each and every believer of his church, constantly be vigilant and cautious because the enemy roams around like a lion seeking some one to seize and devour.
3. Lead: The shepherd is walking in front and the flocks are following him. John 10:4. Leader should know the way and show the way.
4. Rule: Not in arrogant or dictatorial manner but to tend, nurture, guard and guide, warn and kindly reprove and exhort, being examples and models of Christian leaders. The ruling is a ministry. It is like the ruling in the house.
5. Admonish - Warn: The Church of God is not an organization with out any order or discipline. There should be order in the Church. The Pastor should take initiative for resolving all problems.
6. Make perfect and equip the believers: The Church must attain oneness in the faith, get the accurate knowledge of Christ, arrive at maturity - the completeness of personality which is nothing less than the standard of Christ's own perfection, build up Christ's body which is the Church.
This is the intention of God in giving ministers to the Church
Alternate theory, Johnson Thomas:
The "Job Description", if we may say so, that is perceived seems to be like that of a 'CEO' of an organization. If so, then two aspects that we need to consider are:
a) Performance - How do we know if the Pastor has succeeded in accomplishing his role?
b) Failures - How should we manage failure in any of the perceived roles?
Just for the sake of considering an alternate idea: Is there any provision in the Bible to think that the roles and purposes of a Pastor and a believer are the same?
Question for the next month:
CAN YOU ANSWER THIS?
Why does Paul admonish 'put no confidence in flesh'? Is it ever possible to 'have no confidence in flesh'?
(Ref: Phil. 3:3 - "For we are the circumcision ....... put no confidence in flesh")