A great feeling!
What a great feeling when we realize that Almighty God has enabled us to publish this issue of 'Suvartha' as its 20th Anniversary Issue!! Although circumstances compelled us to cut down the frequency of publication to once in two months, the magazine has been able to make its appearance uninterruptedly during the last twenty years. We have tried our utmost to encourage new writers and discover hidden talents among our children and young people. We will happily welcome more contributions in English and Malayalam from writers in the churches of IPC Maharashtra State. Let the pages of 'Suvartha' be the launching pad for your efforts to produce Christian literature!
We wish to record our sincere thanks to our Executive Board who have promised continued support for our publication efforts in future. May the good Lord richly reward them for their prayers and concern. May the name of our Lord be glorified. We are earnestly seeking to reach every family in IPC Maharashtra State through 'Suvartha'. We request your sincere co-operation in this regard.
Group photographs from local churches
We began publishing photographs of pastors and members of local churches in our magazine a few months ago. Some churches have participated and many more are yet to participate in this programme. The invitation is still open to all local churches of IPC Maharashtra State. It is a golden opportunity for the Pastor and members to come together for a group photograph and see it published on the front cover of our magazine. A short write-up on the activities of the church can also be included in the issue. We appeal to all Pastors to make use of the opportunity and submit the photographs and other materials to the Publisher of 'Suvartha'. Is anybody listening?? Thanks for your attention.
Suvartha Magazine Website
The website of the magazine (www.suvarthamagazine.org) is becoming increasingly popular day by day. The number of visitors to the site is quite appreciable. In addition to reading the material from the magazine, visitors listen to Christian songs and powerful gospel messages available on the website in audio and video. All are welcome to browse through our website and be spiritually blessed.
Rev. William Carey and Rev. John Stott
Two unforgettable names of great men who made incredibly huge contributions to Christian literature were in the news in the last few days for different reasons. Carey's 250th birth anniversary happened to be on August 17. Rev. John Stott passed away on July 27 at the age of 90. Carey, a shoe maker by profession, came to Calcutta from England as a Baptist Missionary, learned several Indian languages and dialects and translated Bible into them. He came to be known as 'Father of Modern Missions'.
Rev. John Stott made a reputation as an ardent evangelist. He authored more than 50 books and BBC described him as someone who could "explain complex theology in a way lay people could easily understand". (Brief write-ups on both these men may be seen elsewhere in this issue).
||The Power of God today
Jefreys K. Samuel
The writer affirms that God is very tactfully moving His game pieces at all times, removing His opponents at exactly the moment He pleases. God is in control and His is the victory.
The power of God is over everything at all times. It was evidenced on earth from the very beginning, but to His great glory, His power is revealed in new ways each moment, according to His perfect will, as His creation and His eternal plan continues to unfold before us exactly as He has ordained it from before time began.
God's power was first revealed in the creation, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth" (Gen. 1:1) and creation is upheld and indeed made new every moment by His powerful decree, as Paul said "In Him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28).
God's power is over the great moving of the vast reaches of the universe (Psalm 147:4, Jeremiah 31:35) and yet reaches also into the smallest inclinations of the human hearts (Proverbs 21:1, Psalm 39).
In the progression of time, God has been revealing Himself to humanity through the prophets and through the plain testimony of creation, as well as through the moving of His Holy Spirit in the hearts of men and women. We can see the different ways in which God has given special evidence of His power. His power is always seen in the plain existence of the universe itself.
One of the hallmarks of God's self-revelation in the Old Testament period was the occasional open display of miracles - the dramatic alteration of the laws of nature. So, for example, God covering the whole earth with flood waters and destroying all living creatures except those who believed Him beforehand and took refuge in the ark. He showed His power generations later by enabling Moses to work great and terrible miracles before Pharaoh and all the people of Egypt, demonstrating that the "gods" of Egypt were no gods at all, but that the one true God is both fearsome and mighty. God showed His power in a special way again by dividing the Red Sea before their very eyes so that His people could walk through its depths on dry land. He showed His power yet again by changing the bitter water at Marah into sweet water - a touching indication of both His might and His love, a message repeated in His provision for the people by giving them Manna from heaven in the desert every morning for years. God showed His power when He was bringing His people into the promised land by collapsing the strong walls of the city of Jericho before the mere sound of the shout from His people who had trusted Him and obeyed His instructions.
The examples above are only the smallest sampling of the special displays of God's power in the Old Testament, and certainly even the number of miracles recorded in the entire Bible is only a small fraction of the wonders God has shown to people throughout the history of the world.
The Old Testament acknowledges the presence of God's power largely through the vehicle of events in history including natural catastrophes, political upheavals and changes, plagues, and major wars. But when we come to the pages of the New Testament, and to the times following the ministry and resurrection of Jesus, we find that the vehicle through which God so often comes to display His power is through His work in the hearts and lives of His people who love Him and whom He has called to life in Lord Jesus Christ.
In the fullness of time Jesus Christ, the Son of God, appeared to reveal His Father to mankind. As John tells us, "The Word became flesh, and made his dwelling among us" (John 1:14). Jesus revealed God's real nature, that is love. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:16). Jesus worked many miracles that demonstrated His authority over the laws of nature and even over life and death itself, during the days when He walked among us. However, the greatest miracles He did was in the hearts of men and women. It is because of the change He worked in His disciples and others who came to believe in Him at that time and afterward even until today, that the gospel has spread to all nations. Paul recognized this working when he wrote, "You are a letter from Christ ... written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts" (2 Cor. 3:3). As believers who are led by the Holy Spirit, we are in fact God's continuing revelation to humanity.
There are many evils in this world, today as in the past. Yet even the most evil and powerful of kings, tyrants, or dictators have never been able to destroy the Church that Jesus established in the hearts of men and women. The Soviet Union, with her Communist allies, was a serious threat to the free world and carried out many atrocities. Joseph Stalin was determined to destroy Christianity by killing Christians and burning churches and Bibles. But Stalin not only failed to achieve his goal - his USSR no longer even exists, and the Berlin Wall came down. Communist China, despite all its heavyhanded attempts at suppression and terrible persecution of Christians even now, has millions of secret Christians in underground churches at this very moment. Then there was Hitler, who had determined to establish a worldwide dictatorship tried to annihilate the Jewish people from the face of the earth. God, for whatever purpose He wished, allowed this evil man to kill six million Jewish people, young and old, men, women and children - a tremendous suffering and a great tragedy for humanity. Yet Hitler was not successful in his plan in the end - he committed suicide and went to judgment before his Creator, who is still alive and in control as always.
There are many regimes and individuals in all walks of life even in positions of great power on the earth today who are set and determined to oppose God's work in the world. They think that God has no place in the events of history. Some believe that 'God is dead' and by that they mean that they believe God was always an illusion. But believing something does not make it true, and God remains in control as He always has been, no matter what they think.
World events could perhaps be compared to a chess game, in which God is the master player. The Devil, who is very real but certainly no match for Him, seeks to oppose Him. God has laid out His pieces on the board exactly where He wants them and He knows how the game will play from beginning to end, although His opponents naively think otherwise. God always moves at the right time and at the right place. The Devil moves his pieces in opposition to God's moves, knowing that he can still make a lot of trouble in the world and destroy many people, even if it is only because God has granted him permission to do so to an extent and for a time.
The Devil moved his pieces against Jesus Christ during the time He walked this earth, and when our Lord was finally hanging on the Cross covered with fatal wounds, Satan was exultant at having achieved what he had intended. His ambition had been to destroy Jesus and to establish his own kingdom on the earth. Indeed, Satan and his angels were celebrating for two days - because unlike God they were not omniscient and did not know what was waiting around the corner. On the third day, God made His move, the move He had planned from before the foundation of the world. Jesus came up from death and out from the tomb on Sunday morning, victorious as He always had been, and Satan then must have seen how greatly he had underestimated God.
So, God is very tactfully moving His game pieces at all times, removing His opponents at exactly the moment He pleases. God is in control, and His is the victory. What is your part in His great plan?
||The New Testament Church - Part I
Pastor Shibu Joseph, Mumbai
Pastor Shibu Joseph begins a study of the New Testament Church. In this Part 1 of the series, the writer discusses the different views held by theologians about the beginning of the Church.
Ever since the inception of the Church in history, various views and theories have been formulated to explain the beginning of the Church of God. Theologians of different periods made extensive efforts to show this fact. For some, church is seen not only in the New Testament (NT) era, but also from the Old Testament (OT) period. For others, the Church is entirely a new revelation of the New Testament age according to the fulfillment of the words of Jesus. These are the two basic concepts of the origin of the Christian Church.
However it is always preferable to look into God's written word rather than the views mentioned above for a fine understanding before we fall into any stream of theological assumptions. Although it is a vast exposition, we are here trying to understand the subject in an abbreviated format.
The English word 'Church' is derived from a German root "KIRCHE". Its Greek equivalent is "KURIAKON", which means 'belonging to the Lord'. It primarily signifies a place of meeting and organization of believers. The original NT word is "EKKLESIA", a composition of two Greek verbs "EK.' (out of) + KALEO (calls), means 'called out'. Therefore etymologically, 'Ekklesia' is the people who are called out.
In the Hebrew OT, ekklesia has loose connection with the word "Qahal" which means assembly, company or congregation. This word occurs 123 times in biblical Hebrew (Gen. 49:6, 1 Kings 12:3, I Chron..13:12, Lev. 4:13 etc.). This term signifies all the people of Israel.
The origin and beginning of the Church:
Much discussions have been carried out during the past centuries regarding the origin of the church. Even today several lines of thinking exist among the Christians. The question is when and where the church actually began? To answer this important question, we are to confront with various theories. For our general understanding, a few can be mentioned here.
1. It began with Adam in Gen. 3: When Adam and Eve did believe first of all in the promise of the seed of woman against serpent (3:15), the first church was constituted.
2. It began with Abraham in Gen. 12: This position belongs to the covenant theologians, who believed that Israel the descendants of Abraham functioned as God's church in OT. So the church functions as God's Israel in the NT today.
3. It began with John the Baptist in Mat. 3: When he began to announce the message of repentance and the Kingdom of God, the NT church began in history.
4. It began with Jesus: At the time of calling twelve apostles or with the confession of Peter in Mat. 16:16-18 or with the last supper in Mat. 26.
5. It began at the time of Advent of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost - Acts. 2.
These are the major views among Christians regarding the origin and the beginning of the church. The fifth view is extensively discussed and widely accepted by theological and biblical students. However we need to analyze various facts from the NT text to establish the biblical view vividly.
- To be continued
Watchful even in times of comfort
Saju John Mathew
Reading passage: Judges 7:1-8
"With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands" - Judges 7:7-8 (NIV)
When Gideon beckoned people to war, the line up was 32,000 strong! But the enemy force was so big, like locusts for multitude; and their camels were without number (Judges 7:12). Gideon thought he needed more people to fight, but God said the force with him was too big. "Let the fearful turn back and leave," announced Gideon. Twenty-two thousand left, and ten thousand remained.
The fearful have no place in God's army!
Gideon might have been somewhat annoyed to see such a retreat. What could he do with a mere ten thousand, when the enemy force is like sand on the seashore! But, God said the number is still too big. Another screening was needed. Gideon took the men down to the water, that they may drink! Three hundred men lapped the water up with their tongues like a dog. All the rest got down on their knees to drink. The LORD said to Gideon, "With the three hundred men that lapped, I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands".
Why are those who lapped up the water with their tongue competent for war and those who sat down incompetent? Watch the dog! Its eyes are opened when it drinks water (not like a cat that drinks milk). It doesn't look at the water, but at the sides. A dog is watchful even when it drinks water.
Those who lapped up the water with their tongue are watchful even in times of comfort. They have only one thing in their eyes - WAR! We are at war with our enemy, Satan. Those who sat down, water was their priority - not war.
God does not want us to forget our mission when we are comfortable. You need to drink water, but water should not drink you. Look, these 9,700 people who were rejected by the Lord were not fearful - they did not leave the army when the fearful were asked to leave. But they were not watchful. God wants us not only to be fearless, but also watchful.
Prayer: Lord, I don't want to be eaten up by my comforts. Help me to see only the furtherance of Your kingdom in my eyes, Amen.
For further reading: 1 Peter 5:6-11; 1 Corinthians 7:28-31
Are you beautiful?
Translated: Jaison Varghese
The writer stresses the fact that we the children of God should not look for the external beauty, but yearn to look beautiful from within because God weighs our heart.
Everybody in this world wants to be the most beautiful person. Beauty is something which everyone longs for. But we, the children of God, should understand what beauty exactly is in the Bible. It's true that beauty is given by God; but all through the Bible we see that God looks within us in our actions, behavior, thoughts, words and intentions. Thus beyond our external beauty we should take care of our internal beauty. We read in Pro. 11:22: Like a gold ring in a pig's snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion. The wisest man Solomon says, beauty is vain without discretion.
We describe many places, things and people as "beautiful". But this beauty lasts only for a moment. We see Jesus describes the lilies of the field as being most beautiful and that it cannot be compared to Solomon even if he was dressed up in all his splendor! But these flowers wither and are gone very soon (Mat. 5:29). Even the Malayali poet Kumaran Asan describes in his poem that flowers are more beautiful than a queen but the beauty lasts only for a moment.
In Isaiah 53:2 we read about the description of our savior: It says, "He had no beauty ---- nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. But the same Jesus is described as the fairest of ten thousands in Song of Songs.
Shunamite says in the book of Song of Songs that even though I am dark my lover loves me". Similarly God does not look at our external beauty, even if we are dark our God loves us dearly.
Looks can be deceptive. We read in the Bible about the old man Isaac mistook Jacob for Esau because he touched Jacob's outer wearing. But the voice of Jacob put Isaac in doubt. Similarly God is listening to our words and thoughts and not how we appear externally.
Even, though Saul was the tallest and most handsome man in Israel, still God rejected Saul as king when he went astray from His commands.
Before anointing David as king, God told Samuel: Do not consider appearance or his height, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).
Even Satan was 'beautiful', he was crowned and decorated with many precious stones, but his end is devastating, he is kept for the day of destruction.
We the children of God should not look for the external beauty, but yearn to look beautiful from within because God weighs our heart.
So here are few steps to look beautiful
(1) Look in the mirror daily which is the Word of God and examine yourself.
(2) Cleanse yourself with the blood of the Lamb to remove stains of sin.
(3) Put on humanity and noble character.
(4) Put prayer and thanksgiving always on your lips.
(5) Let your eyes mourn with those who mourn.
(6) Keep your ears open to God's voice.
(7) Put on "Help" in your hands and be helpful to others.
(8) Keep your feet ready for doing God's work.
Let us all be beautiful in God's sight.
||How to interpret the Bible - Part 2:
Author's intention & Intended audience
'The Luther Brothers'
The writers emphasize the principle that while interpreting the Books of the Bible, we must give special attention to understand the author's intended meaning and be aware of the intended audience that the author is addressing.
A second way in which we misinterpret Scripture is by disregarding the author's intention and overlooking the intended audience. This means that we treat the books of the Bible as though the authors were writing directly to us, living today in the 21st century. This is not how the Scriptures ought to be read and interpreted. The writers of Scripture were not thinking of us when they were writing the books of the Bible. Rather, they were thinking of very specific individuals or groups of people who lived in their time period, at least 2000 years ago.
When Moses wrote the Pentateuch, he was not thinking of us. When Paul sat in prison and wrote the epistles he was not thinking of us. And when Solomon wrote the proverbs, he certainly was not thinking of us. These authors were thinking of specific audiences in specific situations with specific problems or circumstances as they wrote Scripture. Before the Bible was God's Word to all of us living in the 21st century, it was God's word to Moses' neighbors, Paul's friends, and Solomon's children. Certainly, the Holy Spirit knew that one day, thousands of years later, we would be reading His Word; nevertheless, He chose those specific authors and audiences to record His message in a way that was first of all relevant to them.
Instead of seeking to understand the author's intentions we abruptly insert our own intentions into the text and ignore what the passage would have meant to the original audience over 2000 years ago. Then we take our newly created doctrines and apply them directly to ourselves and enforce them on others as well. Imagine if we treated other pieces of literature this way, or even if we consistently treated the Bible this way. For example, in Colossians 4:7-8 Paul says that he is sending Tychichus. It would be absurd for believers to read this today and think that Tychichus was coming to their church. No rational thinking person would expect Tychichus to show up at his or her doorstep after reading this passage. Still, for some reason, when reading other passages of Scripture, often within the same chapter, believers take instructions the author intended for the original audience and apply them directly to their own lives in a way that is of no spiritual benefit, and they often seek to enforce their code of conduct on others as well.
This certainly does not mean that 21st century believers have nothing to gain by reading the Scripture or that Scripture is not applicable to us. Rather, it is to say that when reading Scripture we must be attentive to understand the author's intended meaning and be aware of the intended audience.
The danger here is that we can easily begin to teach and follow practices that the Holy Spirit never intended for us, as 21st century believers, to follow, while completely neglecting the principle at the heart of the passage. This behavior is of no spiritual benefit, and can even be destructive to the believer and the furtherance of the Gospel.
To give an example, I remember meeting a man at a Malayalee Pentecostal church who was not born in a Christian home. He had studied under an accomplished magician and he soon became a magician himself. After this man became a believer he started to use his magic tricks to spread the Gospel. I was able to attend one of his performances and was delighted and excited to see this unique medium of spreading God's Word. It was clear to see that he was passionate about sharing the message of Jesus through the skills he had acquired. One Sunday morning during testimony time, this man stood up and began to tell the congregation that he was putting his magic tricks away as members of the church had told him it was unbiblical to do magic. He told the congregation that he did not understand this, as he was using his tricks to spread the Gospel. Still, due to the persistent confrontations by members of the church he decided to put his magic tricks away.
I sat and listened as my heart filled with sorrow, anger, and frustration. These church members had taken passages they read about magic and neglected the author's meaning and intended audience. Whenever magic is mentioned in the Scriptures it is referring to witchcraft and sorcery entailing involvement with demons. This man was not practicing witchcraft and sorcery or calling upon demonic forces; he was simply performing illusions and tricks. Would these church members say that a grandfather who hides a piece chocolate from his grandson and says, "It disappeared, it's magic" is also engaging in demonic practices? Furthermore, would demons allow themselves to be used for the furtherance of the Gospel? I am reminded of Matthew 12:24-26: "But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, "This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons." And knowing their thoughts Jesus said to them, "Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand. If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand?"
It is by the good news of the Gospel that we have been made free. What a vile act it would be to use the Law of Liberty as a tool of imprisonment. Let us earnestly pray that we would not fall into such a state.
- To be continued
|News & Views
Johnson K. Samuel
250th Birth Anniversary of William Carey
The Christian Church all over the world is celebrating the 250th Birth Anniversary of William Carey, known as the "father of modern missions". Carey was born on August 17, 1761.
India in general and the Indian Church in particular cannot forget Carey and his countless contributions to the Church and the state. Carey was instrumental in bringing in major social reforms like abolition of infanticide, sati, etc. in India. He started and developed a Botanical Garden for the first time in India and founded the Agricultural and Horticultural Society of India. He gave much emphasis in making education available to all and particularly to women.
He was gifted in learning languages. Every morning Carey began his day by reading a chapter from the Bible in each of the languages he had mastered - Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Dutch, French, as well as, English. Within a short time after his coming to India in 1793, he learned Bengali, translated the Bible into Bengali and began preaching fluently in that language. Over the next 27 years Carey translated the entire Bible into Oriya, Marathi, Hindi, Assamese, Sanskrit and several other languages, and parts of the Bible into numerous other languages and dialects. He, even, translated Ramayana and other Hindu epics from Sanskrit to other languages.He died in Serampore on June 9, 1834.
William Carey was one of God's giants in the history of evangelism! He made the world famous statement, "Expect great things from God, Attempt great things for God" as conclusion of a message that he preached on Isaiah 54:2,3, at Nottingham on May 30, 1792. He declared: "If it be the duty of all men to believe the Gospel, then it is the duty of those who are entrusted with the Gospel to endeavor to make it known among all nations". His life should inspire all to attempt great things for God!
'Rembrandt and the Face of Jesus'
An art show, entitled 'Rembrandt and the Face of Jesus' has opened in Philadelphia Museum of Art in USA. On show are a few paintings by the great, 17th century Dutch painter, Rembrandt, depicting Jesus Christ as the ideal human being, a profoundly complex and gentle man. In his early 40's, Rembrandt shifted his themes from the turbulent scenes from Gospels to a consoling Jesus, quieter, more meditative person who would listen to you, as Time Magazine describes it. It is evident from the utterly human images that he painted. He made Jesus unmistakably of this world, a young, bearded man with long, dark hair and soulful eyes.
In the painting, 'The Supper at Emmaus', Christ is softly illuminated, His eyes drifting upwards as He prepares to break the bread, while the two disciples examine Him with probing gazes.
Rembrandt's paintings of Jesus Christ portray the Son of God as we know Him from the Bible as a real friend who understands our human nature and one who speaks to the heart directly. The painter certainly understood the heart of Jesus!
Education does not breed atheism
A Baptist Press report says that atheism is not the norm for people with higher education, nor does education push people away from God. Education may make them more likely to accept a liberal attitude toward religion. A professor of sociology attributed the liberal attitude to wider friendships, since education allows students to meet a larger group of people with different religious beliefs: "People don't want to say their friends are going to hell"!
Atheism is, certainly, not created by education. Many top scientists are known to be good Christians. Bible describes an atheist as corrupt and his deeds as vile. He tries to convince himself that there is no God which acts as a licence to persist in his activities without any fear of God (Psalms 14:1).
Two Bible ministries merge!
Bible League International (BLI) and the World Bible Translation Center (WBTC) have a common mission of sharing the Word of God around the world. They have announced plans to merge, forming a vital partnership that will enhance the work of both organizations. Bible League work for Bible distribution and WBTC are engaged in Bible translation. Bible League CEO Robert T. Frank said: "One of the directions we see God moving in the 21st Century is that ministries are looking at ways to collaborate with other organizations to grow their common mission. This merger will strengthen operations for both of our ministries, increasing the tools available to reach the three global audiences we share: the poorest of the poor, the persecuted church and those walking in darkness".
Let us earnestly appreciate the efforts being taken by various ministries to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ as time is approaching fast for His second coming!
Casualty of the Gay Marriage Law in New York!
It is reported that a town clerk in New York resigned her job as she could not compromise her religious belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman. New York legalized same-sex marriage and obligates town clerks to officiate same-sex marriage. There is no protection provided in the legislation for town clerks unable to sign these marriage licenses due to personal religious convictions. Clerks who refuse service to same-sex couples can be sued. The law provides protection for religious professionals, such as pastors who refuse to officiate at such marriages.
There are people who stand for their convictions!
Just think about it!!
"Write your hurts in the sand: Carve your blessings in stone"
Two friends were walking through the desert. During some point of the journey, they had an argument; and one friend slapped the other one in the face. The one who got slapped was hurt, but without saying anything, wrote in the sand:
"Today my best friend slapped me in the face".
They kept on walking, until they found an oasis, where they decided to take a bath. The one who had been slapped got stuck in the mire and started drowning, but the friend saved him. After he recovered from the near drowning, he wrote on a stone:
"Today my best friend saved my life".
The friend who had slapped and saved his best friend asked him, "After I hurt you, you wrote in the sand and now, you write on a stone, why?"
The friend replied: "When someone hurts us we should write it down in sand where winds of forgiveness can erase it away. But, when someone does something good for us, we must engrave it in stone where no wind can ever erase it".
Learn to write your hurts in the sand and to carve your blessings in stone.
Have you heard about the 'Perfect Church Design'?
A rich member of a church went to his Pastor and said, "I want you and your wife to take a three month trip to Israel at my expense. When you come back, I'll have a new church building built for you". The Pastor accepted the offer and he and his wife went off to the Middle East.
Three months later they returned home and were met by the wealthy member, who told them while they were gone, he had built the finest building money can buy".
But there was one striking difference. There was only one pew and it was at the very back. "A church with only one pew?" asked the Pastor.
"You wait and see", the rich man said.
When the time came for the Sunday service, the early arrivals entered the church, sat down on the only pew available. When the pew was full, a switch clicked silently, a circuit closed, the gears meshed, a belt moved and, automatically, the rear pew began to move forward. When it reached the front of the church it came to a stop. At the same time, another empty pew came up from below at the back and more people sat down. And so it continued, pews filling and moving forwards until finally the church was full, from front to back.
"Wonderful!" said the Pastor, "Marvellous!"
The service began, and the Pastor started to preach his sermon. He launched into his text. When 12 o'clock came, he was still going strong with no end in sight. Suddenly a bell rang and a trap door in the floor behind the pulpit dropped open. The Pastor disappeared.
"Wonderful!" said the congregation, "Marvellous!"
Always quote the scriptures!
A lady found a burglar in her kitchen. She had no weapon and was all alone. The only thing that she could think to do was quote Scripture. So she holds up a hand and says: "ACTS 2:38!!!"
The burglar quakes in fear and then freezes at the spot! The lady gets to the phone and calls for the cops. When the cops arrive, the burglar is still frozen in place. They are very much surprised that a woman alone with no weapon could do this. One of them asked the lady: "How did you do this?"
The woman replied, "I quoted Scripture."
The cop turned to the burglar: "What was it about the scripture that had such an effect on you?"
The burglar replied: "Scripture! What scripture? I thought she said, she had an axe and two 38's"
|Personalities encountered by Jesus - 27:
"The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, "Surely this was a righteous man" (Luke 23:47)
A centurion, as the name indicates, was an officer in. the Roman army, who commanded a hundred soldiers. Scripture tells us very little of the centurion who rode at the head .of the tragic procession which escorted Jesus to Calvary to be crucified.
It is evident from the hints given us in the Biblical account that the centurion, like Pilate, had no enthusiasm for his task. From time to time, he turned around to look back at the Man of Sorrows. .
Physically depleted by the previous night of questioning and beatings, His face haggard and blotched with blood, Jesus struggled under the weight of His Cross. Then the Roman officer looked about in the crowd for someone to bear the cross. On one face, he saw pity and grief and disgust. It was the face of Simon, a man from Cyrenia. So he commanded the stranger to bear the Cross. Simon complied, and the sad procession shuffled on toward the limestone hill outside Jerusalem. Because the powdery white mound resembled a skull, it was called Golgotha.
With growing uneasiness, the centurion carried out his orders. But as the grisly business proceeded, he noted a strange oppression within himself. Or had he imagined it? Looking upon the One who hung limp upon the crude wooden cross, blood still flowing from His wounds, the centurion asked himself: Why is this man so different from others who have been crucified?
Then a strange awareness came upon him, a realization that "Certainly, this was a righteous man".
A farmer's donkey
One day a farmer's donkey fell down into a well. The animal cried piteously for hours as the farmer tried to figure out what to do. Finally, he decided the animal was old, and the well needed to be covered up anyway because it had no water; it just wasn't worth it to retrieve the donkey. He invited all his neighbours to come over and help him. They all grabbed a shovel and began to shovel dirt into the well. At first, the donkey realized what was happening and cried horribly. Then, to everyone's amazement he quietened down.
A few shovel loads later, the farmer finally looked down the well. He was astonished at what he saw so he prayed and God gave him wisdom! With each shovel of dirt that hit his back the donkey started doing something amazing. He would shake it off and take a step up.
As the farmer's neighbours continued to shovel dirt on top of the animal, he would shake it off and take a step up. Pretty soon, everyone was amazed as the donkey stepped up over the edge of the well and happily trotted off!
This story has two morals:
1. Psa. 20:6 says, God answers our prayers.
2." And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28).
Life is going to shovel dirt on you, all kinds of dirt. The trick to getting out of the well is to shake it off and take a step up. Each of our troubles is a stepping stone. We can get out of the deepest wells just by not stopping, never giving up! Shake it off and take a step up.
A happy man's shirt
Lydia Mathew, IPC Chembur
Once upon a time, there lived a king. He had all luxuries and comforts in his palace. He had a big retinue of servants to look after all his needs and to serve him day and night. In spite of all this, the king was always sorrowful and worried.
One day, the king went to meet a learned saint. He bowed to him in reverence and said, " O holy man, I have all the luxuries in my palace, yet I am unhappy and worried. Can you show me a way to be always happy and cheerful?"
The saint heard the king patiently and said, "O king, there is only one solution to your unhappiness. Only one night, you will have to wear a happy man's shirt and go to sleep". The king thought that it was very easy solution to this problem. The king called his most trusted men and asked them to travel all over the kingdom in search of happy man.
The king's men went to each and every village in the kingdom, but they did not find even a single happy man. Every man they met had some sorrow in life. Some grieved because they were poor, while others grieved because they had not achieved name and fame. Some complained that they had no children, while other regretted having bad children. Some men were unhappy because of their wives, while others were dejected because they were uneducated and ignorant. Thus, every man had some sorrow in life.
After a long tiring search, the king's men went to a beggar who was sitting by the roadside. The beggar was merrily whistling a tune. The king's men asked him, "Hey friend, are you really a happy man? Have you no sorrow in your life?"
"Friends, I have no sorrow in my life. I am very happy," replied the beggar.
The king's men looked relieved and said, "Ah we have been searching for a happy man like you. Our king needs the shirt of a happy man for a night. If you give your shirt to the king for a night he will reward you handsomely. You will not have to beg for alms for the rest of your life. So will you please give your shirt to us?
The beggar laughed and said, "Forgive me, my friends. I am sorry to say that I am not able to fulfill the king's wish because I have no shirt".
"Well in that case, how do you call yourself a happy man ? " asked the king's men with great surprise.
"Friends, I am really happy because I do not desire to earn name, fame and wealth. I lead a very simple life and I am a contented man. That is the reason why I am happy", said the beggar.
The king's men returned to the palace and told the king about what the happy beggar had said about happiness. The king now understood that when comforts and luxuries exceed the minimum needs, they lead to sorrow and miseries in life.
Moral of the Story: A Simple and contented life makes a man happy.
Reading portion: Hebrews 13:5 (the first part) - "Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have" (NIV)
|Remembering Rev. John Stott:
A Bible Scholar dedicated to global evangelism
"The evangelical world has lost one of its greatest spokesmen, and I have lost one of my close personal friends and advisors. I look forward to seeing him again when I go to Heaven" said Rev. Billy Graham about Rev. John Stott, who died peacefully in England at the age of 90 on July 27, 2011 surrounded by family and close friends as they were reading the Bible and listening to Handel's Messiah. He was an architect of 20th century evangelicalism whom BBC described as someone who could "explain complex theology in a way lay people could easily understand".
While at school in 1938, Stott heard the Rev. Eric Nash deliver a sermon entitled "What Then Shall I Do with Jesus, Who Is Called the Christ?" After this talk, Nash pointed Stott to Revelation 3:20, "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." Stott later described the impact this verse had upon him as follows: "Here, then, is the crucial question which we have been leading up to. Have we ever opened our door to Christ? Have we ever invited him in? This was exactly the question which I needed to have put to me. For, intellectually speaking, I had believed in Jesus all my life, on the other side of the door. I had regularly struggled to say my prayers through the keyhole. I went to church, read my Bible, had high ideals, and tried to be good and do good. But all the time, often without realizing it, I was holding Christ at arm's length, and keeping him outside. I knew that to open the door might have momentous consequences. I am profoundly grateful to him for enabling me to open the door. Looking back now over more than fifty years, I realize that simple step has changed the entire direction, course and quality of my life". From his conversion in 1938 to his death in 2011 at 90 years old, Stott exemplified how extraordinary plain, ordinary Christianity can be. He always turned to the Bible for understanding, and his unforgettable gift was to penetrate and explain the Scriptures.
During his first decades of ministry he made a reputation as an evangelist. As Pastor at 'All Souls Church' in London, he led many to Christ himself, while organizing and teaching the congregation how to bring their friends and neighbors into a relationship with Jesus. He firmly believed that the local church should be a focus for evangelism. One of his first books, published in 1952, was 'Parochial Evangelism by the Laity'. His two earlier publications were 'Personal Evangelism' (1949) and 'Becoming a Christian' (1950). He has written more than 50 books including 'Basic Christianity', 'The Cross of Christ', 'Evangelical Truth' and 'The Living Church: Convictions of a Lifelong Pastor'.
Stott was appointed a Chaplain to Queen Elizabeth II in 1959. He headed the drafting of the Lusanne Covenant in 1974, which led 2000 leaders from 150 nations to affirm their dedication to global evangelism, confirming his support for faith in the developing world.
As by temperament, he was an introvert, he was very happy to be in his own company. Yet he gave himself to so many people, remembering names, knowing their families, knowing their children, writing letters, praying for them. He was constantly praying for people. His prayer list was so long. Whenever he would meet them again, he would remember them because he was praying for them. Dr. Paulson Pulikkottil remembers meeting him in when he came as a speaker at the Maramon convention in 1990. After the meeting, Rev. Stott prayed first and asked Paulson to pray for God's blessings on him that he may preach a good message at the convention that night! (Can you imagine any of our own convention speakers asking an ordinary believer to pray for him before his sermon?). Rev. Stott even remembered Paulson's name when they met each other one year later in London at a conference!
Rev. Stott was named one of 100 most influential people of the world in 2005 by Time magazine. Rev. Billy Graham wrote at that time: "Despite numerous opportunities to be appointed bishop or archbishop, John Stott has held true to what he sees as a wider calling - the equipping of leaders in countries where resources and experience are limited. I can't think of anyone who has been more effective in introducing so many people to a biblical world view. He represents a touchstone of authentic biblical scholarship that, in my opinion, has scarcely been paralleled since the days of the 16th century European Reformers".
(Resources: Dr. Paulson Pulikkottil (John Stott's obituary), Wikipedia, Christianity Today, Time Magazine)
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