The youngest theologian I ever heard!

The youngest theologian that I ever heard!

No words of explanation are needed. Just listen to this young theologian speak her heart out and let’s ponder on what she believes and the way she articulates her faith. May God bless her abundantly. May you and I have a faith like hers. Amen.

“At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18: 1-4 NASB)

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Lenten Devotions 2015: What did Jesus finish on the cross?

2951078593_4271953429_zTraditionally, on Good Friday, the church preaches on the seven “words” of Christ from the cross. There is no way to ascertain how many times Jesus spoke and what exactly he said; however, the gospel writers bring the seven words to us, although, in no particular order. In the churches I have served, it is customary to request a few lay people to speak on these seven words for the Good Friday service. Every time I have to do this, I face a considerable challenge assigning “the words” to different people because everyone has a favorite “word” from the cross that they would like to speak on. I am sure, you, too, have a favorite “word.” Well, my favorite word out of the seven words from the cross is: “It is finished!”

“When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (John 19: 30)

This last word of Jesus Christ is found only in the gospel of John and in the original Greek the term used is “tetelestai.” The root term “teleo” means “to accomplish, finish, end, or pay”. So, “tetelestai” meant “consummation,” “completed,” or “paid in full.” This term was often used, in the New Testament period, on business documents or receipts when the payment was made in full and the deal was considered complete. For me, it is one of the most poignant and cryptic words that Jesus ever spoke. I don’t think anyone else ever spoke three words more pregnant with deeper spiritual and theological meaning and implication than “it is finished.” These three words are so deep that I could never actually fathom their full meaning because no one could ever enter Jesus’ mind to see what all he really meant by saying, “it is finished.” Nonetheless, this last word of Christ is the culmination of all efforts of mankind to find or please God as well as the zenith of God’s work for our salvation.

In this word of Christ the very intent, mind, and purposes of God for the world are actualized.

In this word of Christ all prophetic utterances of the holy men and women down through the centuries are actualized.

In this word of Christ all claims of Jesus Christ and his “I am” sayings in the gospel are actualized.

In this word of Christ all hopes and aspirations of mankind through the ages are actualized.

In this word of Christ the much longed for forgiveness of our sins is actualized.

In this word of Christ the healing of the nations is actualized.

In this word of Christ all promises of God made to humanity are actualized.

In this word of Christ your healing from all diseases (“with his strips we are healed – Isaiah 53: 5; I Peter 2: 24) is actualized.

In this word of Christ the final salvation and redemption of mankind is actualized (John 3: 16).

In this word of Christ the triumph of Jesus Christ over all his enemies is actualized…and the last enemy to be destroyed is death (I Corinthians 15: 26).

I am sure you could add a few more statements to the above list and I would encourage you to do so in the comments below. In the meantime, let us make use of these accomplishments of Christ personally in our life and also make every effort to share them with others who do not yet know about this word voiced by Christ on the cross more than 2000 years ago. Would you please do this? Amen!

Lenten Devotions 2015: The Passion of Jesus Christ

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Image courtesy: Steve Conger on flicker.com

The current week, beginning with Palm Sunday, is often called the “Passion Week” as it relates to the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ before his resurrection. The word “passion” is derived from the Greek words “pascho” and/or “pathema”, which means “to suffer” or “the capacity to feel strong emotion, like suffering.” It is the capacity and privilege of experiencing strong feeling, deep emotion, like agony, ardent desire, etc. In the New Testament, “passion” is used for Jesus’ vicarious suffering for us that he endured before his resurrection from the dead. For example, Luke writes:

“To whom also he showed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1: 3 KJV).

And the writer of the Hebrews captures the same in the word “endured”:

“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12: 2 KJV).

Jesus did not just suffer for a noble cause; rather, he was passionate about what he was doing because he knew that the ultimate result of his suffering would produce our salvation. In doing so, Jesus epitomized passion as suffering for something worthwhile. During his suffering, Jesus’ heart was on fire and yearning to accomplish what he had come to do on this Earth, that he willingly endured the cross.

It is the same today with the followers of Christ. Jesus has already declared,

 And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9: 23).

To accept Jesus’ call to follow him means that we accept God’s direction and choose to follow the path he has laid out for us. Even though this is a path of passion, but there is hope for us because of Easter. Meanwhile, only a strong desire burning within us and a heart set on fire for the Lord would help us endure the crosses we face in our walk with God. If we want to pursue our passion for the lost and are passionate in obeying Christ’s command to take the gospel to those who are far from grace, we need to understand that there will be pain, suffering, and rejection. However, Jesus has set an example for us to follow. He has also promised to be with us during our pain and suffering as he personally knows what it is like to suffer for others. Therefore, his resurrection fills us with hope that he who is alive will never leave us alone until he receives us all into his glory. So, be encouraged today if you are suffering for his sake and I know many of you are in this situation right now. May the Lord who endured the cross, for the joy set before him, fill your hearts with his peace. Amen.

Lenten Devotions 2015: When you feel abandoned…

Jesus Christ clearly warned his followers: “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16: 33). So, today, if you or someone you know is suffering to the extent of feeling abandoned, you should not be surprised at all. Instead, we need to find encouragement from Jesus Christ who himself suffered for us. That’s why he hastened to add: “But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16: 33). How is Jesus able to encourage those who are suffering today and feel dejected? Is it through some lofty ideal or philosophical thought? Is it through a best-seller, self-help book that he penned? Absolutely not. And that is the main difference between him and many gurus of this world: unlike others, Jesus personally suffered dejection. He came out victorious from his sufferings, pain, and abandonment to show us that we, too, could overcome.
Psalmist David composed this song centuries before Jesus walked on this earth:

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest…” (Psalm 22: 1-2).

We immediately recognize these words because Jesus used them as he hung on the cross of Calvary. Whatever Psalmist David was personally going through when composing it, he was also prophetically describing the coming Suffering Servant, Jesus Christ. Jesus would have read and memorized this song during his life on earth for it came so readily to his lips when he suffered on that cursed cross for you and me. When Jesus went through this rejection by his own people and was abandoned by his own disciples, it was something that he was expecting and was prepared for. However, when he realized the unbearable burden of sins laid on him at the cross, he could not take this anymore. The sins of the world brought a momentary separation between him and God the Father, which was unbearable for Jesus who had lived in a constant fellowship with God. Hence, in such an agonizing separation, Jesus cried out in a loud voice:

Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”) (Matthew 27: 46).

Nevertheless, let’s thank God that it was not Jesus’ last cry from the cross. He did not die with the feeling of abandonment on Calvary. If that was the case, you and I had no hope and no salvation. However, Jesus quickly gained back his belief that God is holy, and that holy God was his Father who would not leave him forever. That is why, the last words on Jesus’ lips were the words of love, hope and absolute confidence before he breathed his last:

“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23: 46).

He knew that the greatest pain he would face on this earth was the abandonment from his Father God, so that God could assure the world that he would never abandon his people. So, my friend, if you are in pain and feeling like King David in Psalm 22— cheer up. Even when you feel God is silent or so far away from you, you can be confident that He is with you and will never abandon you. Amen.

Lenten Devotions 2015: Why bother with a local church?

ojRQoUyMany surveys tell us that the number of people regularly attending a church is steadily declining. Not many who call themselves Christian have any active relationship with or participation in a local church. I meet such “Christians” almost every day. When asked the reason of their absence from the church, many say, “Oh the church is full of hypocrites.” And I often counter them by responding: “Hey, let that not bother you, as we always have room for one more!”

Well, jokes apart, association with a church is a serious matter. What you think of the church and what it looks like in your neighborhood does not alter the necessary place of the church in God’s economy of salvation. To God, church is the primary institution through which he is working out his plan of salvation and establishing his kingdom. It is another matter, for another day, that the almighty God cannot be confined to the church. He can and often does use people, movements, and institutions outside the church to fulfill his mission. However, his primary concern is with what the church does and does not do until the second coming of Jesus Christ. Therefore, a follower of Jesus Christ must find a local church to be in a regular fellowship with it.

We are socially inclined to seek other human beings and to live in relationships with them. We have been created this way. From the beginning, God desires for us to have companionship:

“Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner” (Genesis 2: 18 NRSV).

The author of Letter to the Hebrews, in the New Testament, instructed the followers of Christ:

“And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10: 24-25 NRSV).

One of the most interesting ironies of today is that we live in a world swamped by the impersonal social media but without enough time to have personal, one on one interactions, and fellowship with one another. A local church has provided this opportunity for social interaction, fellowship, and spiritual growth for the past 2000 years or so. The church is far from being perfect; however, it is sanctified enough to sharpen us spiritually, to hold us accountable in our relationship to God and to each other, and to encourage or spur us when we need it most. Yes, I understand, you personally know several churches and ministers, who have lost the way. They are no longer worth your time and support. However, let us not throw the baby out with the bath water by completely neglecting to have fellowship with a local church due to some wrong people. We are often committed or loyal to our gym, social club, credit cards, banks, airlines, grocery stores, medical clinic, school/university, and most often to our favorite sport teams. Are they all perfect? Is there no corruption in their daily business or leadership? No. We do not abandon our favorite team just because they have lost most games in a season. However, when it comes to a local church, we leave it and its God appointed leaders in the lurch at the drop of a hat.

If today you do not fully take part in a local church, and as you have been praying, fasting, and reading the Scriptures this Lent, may the Lord lead you to a godly local church. May you be plugged in there to be a blessing to others. However, as my seminary president used to say, if you do find a perfect church please do not join it because you would make it imperfect! 🙂

New Year, New Resolutions, and the Old You!

Even if a little late, I wish you all a very happy New Year!

I am grateful to the Lord for ushering me and you into this brand near 2015 and I wish and pray that this year turns out to be a great, joyous, and blessed year for you. Like most people, I am pretty sure you too made a few resolutions for this New Year. And, like most people, you too may fail at those resolutions in the very first month of the year. But don’t worry as you are in good company. In fact, a study in the United Kingdom reveals that only about 12% people meet their New Year goals and that means 88% people fail. Interestingly, 52% participants in a sample size of 3000 people said that they were confident of their success (http://www.quirkology.com/UK/Experiment_resolution.shtml)!

Consequently, I do not make any resolutions because, I believe, even if we are in the New Year, we are the same old you and I. We know that there is a lot of pressure on us to make New Year resolutions. The media is constantly bombarding us with the messages that challenge and motivate us to pull ourselves up by the shoulders and muster all the strengths we have to become the person that you and I are not: skinny, ever-loving, never smelly, rich, powerful, amicable, lovable, attractive, and so on and so forth. That is, everything the world wants us to become and in reality we cannot. Still, many of us jump on the bandwagon of yearly resolutions expecting this New Year to be different from the last years. However, a few weeks into the New Year and a whopping 88% people give up as they realize that they are the same old people. The years go by and we are stuck with the same old person who is getting older and older by every New Year!

Therefore, I think, instead of making resolutions, we need to work on getting a new us—a new you and a new me! This is possible only through looking within instead of eyeing only on the outside. The problem is not with the world. Rather, it lies within you and me. Unless there something changes within us, i.e., our attitude to be precise, the New Year resolutions would not help us much. Attitude is the key word that makes a huge difference in how the New Year will turn out for us. In fact, our attitude is more important than our circumstances, our successes, and our failures. It is more important than what others think of us and want us to be like or do. It is more important that what the media tells us that we should be like. We need to, then, pause and do a self-inventory of our attitude in this New Year. Attitude is how you react to your circumstances and people around you. Attitude is not revealed in how we normally live and react when everything goes the way we have planned it; rather, attitude manifests itself when we are faced with very trying circumstances and difficult people. Our response then reveals to us and to the world our true attitude. If somehow we could let the Holy Spirit to make changes within us than outside us, we may gain a better attitude and live more victoriously in the New Year. As the Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans:

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2 NASB).

I close here with a short story that I read a while ago as it beautifully illustrates what attitude is and what it can do to us and to the world around us. Thanks for reading and God bless your journey!

“Once upon a time, there was an old and very wise man. Every day he would sit outside a gas station in his rocking chair and wait to greet motorists as they passed through his small town. On one particular day, his grandson knelt down at the foot of his chair and slowly passed the time with him. As they sat and watched the people come and go, a man who surely had to be a tourist began looking around as if he were checking out the area for a place to live.The stranger walked up to the old man and asked, “So what kind of town is this that I’m in?” The man replied, “Well, what kind of town are you from?”The tourist said, “Well, in the town where I’m from everyone is very critical of each other. The neighbors all gossip about everyone, and it’s a really negative place to live. I’m sure glad to be leaving. It is not a very cheerful place.”The old man in the chair looked at the stranger and said, “You know, that’s just how this town is.”An hour or so later, a family that was also passing through stopped for gas. The mother jumped out with two small children and went into the restroom. The father also got out of the car and, he too, struck up a conversation with the old man. “So,” he asked, “Is this town a pretty good place to live?” The old man in the chair replied, “Tell me about the town you’re from. How is it?”The father looked at him and said, “Well, in the town we’re from everyone is very close and always willing to lend their neighbor a helping hand. There’s always a hello and thank you everywhere you go. I really hate to leave. It’s almost like we are leaving family.” The older man gave him a warm smile. “You know, that’s a lot like this town.” Then the family returned to the car, waved goodbye and drove away.After the car disappeared in the distance, the boy looked up at his grandfather and asked, “Grandpa, how come when the first man came into our town you told him it was a terrible place to live, but when the family came into town you told them it was a wonderful place to live?” The grandfather looked down at his grandson and said, “Because, sonny, no matter where you move, you take your attitude with you – that’s what makes it terrible or wonderful.”