At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion
in what was known as the Italian Regiment. He and all his family
were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and
prayed to God regularly. One day at about three in
the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who
came to him and said, “Cornelius!”- Acts 10:1-3
At a recent Christian conference, I met a missionary, who has been working with the refugees from the conflict areas of the Middle-East. He shared accounts of many refugees from other faiths, approaching him with accounts of visions and dreams of Jesus Christ and asking him to tell them more about Jesus. One day, such a young man approached him and asked about Jesus and the shaken missionary shared the Gospel with him. The next day, the young man brought 25 other young men to him and they all heard the gospel again and they asked him to pray for them. This is not an isolated incident. Hundreds are getting baptized there daily. The light of God is almost always most visible to those who are suffering in abject darkness.
Cornelius prayed. From the biblical account we
know that He and his family were devout and God fearing. Yet he hadn’t heard
about Christ. An angel visited him not to convert him but to direct him to
“The angel answered, “…Now send men to Joppa to bring
back a man named Simon who is called Peter. 6 He
is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea.”- Acts 10:6
God gave Cornelius a supernatural encounter but
gave the assignment of sharing the gospel to Apostle Peter. One man’s encounter
lead to the transformation of all Gentiles. The bible tells us that Cornelius was
expecting Peter and had called together his relatives and close friends. When Peter went inside Cornelius’s home, he found a large gathering
Not only was Cornelius a man of prayer, but his family also
sought God with him. When Cornelius received a response from God, he didn’t
hesitate. He stepped out and obeyed. Even before becoming a Christian he became
a missionary by gathering his folks at his home to hear from Apostle Peter.
For the gentiles, the receiving of the gospel began with one
man seeking and praying with his family for God. It began with one man willing
to open his heart, his family and his home to be blessed by the Gospel of
Christ and then readily share that blessing with his friends and relatives.
This very event is going on right now in the Middle East. If it can happen in a
war zone, it can happen anywhere. Even in your own city.
This blog is just a reminder to us that God hasn’t changed.
He is still reaching out to the lost sheep. He is very busy connecting sheep to
shepherds. People are searching for God amidst the shattered remains of their
abusive homes, broken economies, unravelling social morality and war torn
nations. Are the shepherds ready? Are you ready to live lives
worthy of the calling that Peter received one afternoon at the tanner’s house?
It’s not about us anymore it’s about millions of
people whose cries and petitions are before the Lord. Let us send our prayers
before God, share in His burden for the people, answer when He calls and not
allow convenience to prevent obedience.
An unnamed woman gets introduced in the gospel of Mathew 15 and again in Mark 7. St. Mathew calls her a Canaanite woman and St. Mark attributes her as a Syrophenician Greek. Jesus compares her to a dog.
“And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.”- Mathew 15:22,23
I feel almost embarrassed to see how Jesus behaves with this woman who is clearly suffering. He says He has been sent only for the lost sheep of Israel. His demeanor shows He isn’t available for or interested in helping her. His response to her request was first silence and then an excuse. Neither of which inspires confidence, much less worship.
And yet this is her response.
“Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!” –Mathew 15:25
Jesus was getting closer to his betrayal, suffering, and death on the cross. In a little while, He was about to die for this very woman and the rest of the world. His sacrifice was about to rip away the veil that separated God and man. So why did he treat her so poorly?
“It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.”
This interaction would mostly leave me with an impression of an unfair God. In her place, my response would have probably been to raise accusations against the indifferent God of the Jews.
But then she said,
“Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
I can’t tell exactly why Jesus behaved this way. But the account leaves me with a sense of marvel at the concept of faith according to Jesus as expressed here.
What was her faith? When Jesus confronted her with her inadequacy in receiving anything from Him, she did not respond with blame or disappointment with God. She did not grumble as Israel did in the wilderness. She did not walk away. She held on to one thing- the goodness of God.
Her response acknowledged that she was not worthy of help. She didn’t have the right to receive. She accepted that the salvation came for the chosen people, God’s elect, the seed of Abraham but she held on to the overflow of grace that the Jews received and she staked her claim to partake of it.
All salvation is salvation through God’s covenant with Abraham. It traces back to Genesis when God makes a covenant with Abraham saying “And in you, all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12.3)
Her argument here is simply one of humility, perseverance, and truth. Yes, I am an unworthy foreigner. But Your grace abounds toward Israel and through Your promise of salvation for them, I receive salvation by faith. She didn’t question his goodness and his grace but instead, she depended on it.
A test of faith often brings us to our knees admitting our lack of credentials but also gives us an opportunity to express our steady confidence in the promise God has extended to us. When I look at this incident, I see God working in her to establish a new shadow for all the believers that come after her. I am able to see not an unfair God but a God working to reveal His heart to us through faith and actions of people like this gentile woman, encouraging us to trust in Him, to be humble before Him and to believe in His goodness especially when our faith is tested.
I spent the past week desperately reaching out to my family and friends as the floods engulfed Kerala. I watched the news and scanned social media platforms trying to piece together the state of my people, my home. Heartbreaking videos and images of my neighborhood reached me as overnight, the waters lapped at the stairs of my home trapping my grandfather, our staff, and our neighbors. One by one, the phones died out and all networks failed until only one line remained available to me-prayer, the direct line to the presence of God.
From the end of the earth I will cry to You, When my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I – Psalm 61:2
As soon as I opened my heart to God I was immersed in His comfort and strength. When I went to Him, my heart was overwhelmed with pain as I watched my people surrounded by destruction, but as I knelt before Him, He overwhelmed me with such promises that my heart learned to trust in Him yet again. These promises of God changed my heart, changed my perspective and lifted me up from a place of despair to the place of quietness. So I will share what I received from the Lord with all who seek comfort and strength in this grim day.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you – Isaiah 43:2
Yes, we are surrounded by trouble but the God of our salvation is in our midst. Yes, we may pass through such grim realities as we sojourn in this fallen world but His will toward us is good. The Bible promises that we will face difficulties and challenges but His grace is enough.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea. Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof… God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early-Psalm 46:1-7
Contrary to what the economists and the politicos have to say about Kerala, the word of God leads me to believe that past our pain awaits a great abundance and favour of God that no man can explain or understand.
We went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance- Psalm 66:12
All these words gave me peace and understanding. But the words that filled me with the most hope is “Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth” Psalm 46:10
John 9:2 says “but this happened so that the works of God would be displayed in him”. Join me and believe that God’s work in us and through us is to make known to the world that He alone is God, that He is good and His mercy endures forever. I believe what remains of Kerala is going to be transformed by the work of God and by it the world will witness that our God keeps His promises.
Lily walked home her head hung low with sadness. The classroom bully had called her ugly yet again and all her classmates had laughed with him. Shoulders drooping, cheeks still wet with tears and her uniform askew, she carried on. She saw her father’s scooter outside the house and her mood turned anxious. Thirteen year olds have little control on how far their emotions swing from moment to moment. So much of what happened in the young one’s soul depended on her external realities. She looked up as if in prayer but it was just a habit. She hoped to sneak past her father who was in the living room, trying to avoid any unpleasantness, but no such luck. “Girl, where are you sulking off to? Look at the state of you! You are so untidy and ugly” If the taunts of her classroom bully had felt like a heavy stone in her heart, her father’s words fell like a mountain that obliterated her strength.
Parents possess the great power to mold their children’s future. As Christians, we are called to use this power according to God’s will and purpose.
What is God’s will and purpose for us as parents?
You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise (Deuteronomy 6:5,6).
When Jesus was asked which was the greatest commandment, He quoted the above verse (Mathew 22:36-40). One of the first and abiding requirements of the law and commandment of the Lord is that we love Him and that we hold His words in our heart. The next part of that commandment is to teach it to our children.
When God created Adam and Eve He blessed them to multiply. When God blessed Noah He again called them to be fruitful and multiply. The promises to Abraham meant that he would be the “Father of multitudes”. The Bible calls children a gift and reward from the Lord. Jesus emphatically declares the Kingdom belongs to them.
In the New Testament, Apostle Paul writes to a child raised according to the above verses. He says to him “From infancy, you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:15-16). This child is none other than Paul’s spiritual son Timothy, who learned the word of God from his mother and grandmother.
Parenting is without a doubt the toughest mission God puts before us. It is also the easiest mission to mess up. Like Lily’s father, Adam, Noah, Abraham and EVERY other parent down the line, each one has made parenting mistakes which echo across hundreds of generations. But you can return to God’s will and purpose starting today.
Begin by the rebuilding of the family altar where you can set your child down to tell them about your heavenly Father, to teach them to love Him and His word, to assure them of His unfailing love for them. Pray that they, in turn, honor their Father and mother in the Lord. Then hope.
3 John 4 says “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” Indeed I hope we all experience this great joy without fail. God bless you.
The sound of joyful shouting and salvation is in the tents of the righteous; The right hand of the LORD does valiantly– Psalm 118:15
On a recent trip back to the village of my childhood, my father and I were driving down familiar roads. On either side of the road stand homes that are so grand they should be called mansions. My father tells me that just five decades back, before there were roads, in place of these mansions stood tiny walled structures with temporary roofing. Many homes barely had doors and almost none had electricity. Yet in the winking light of kerosene lamps, dusk was always greeted with singing and prayers offered to the Lord most high from each of these homes. Their homes were humble and their earnings meek but their praises reached the heavens anyway.
And you shall rejoice before the LORD your God—you, your sons and daughters – Deuteronomy 12:13
Christians are meant to live lives that make other people stop in their tracks and wonder about the glorious, victorious, merciful God we serve. Our families are called to come together each day in the presence of God to declare how mightily He has led us thus far. We are asked to remember the blessings, gifts and victories He has given us and offer all our praises to Him and Him alone. Our songs, testimonies and stories always point to the God who saves us and lifts us up. These are to be shared generation after generation.
Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem! The Lord has taken away the judgments against you, he has turned away your enemies–Zephaniah 3:14-15
The greatest reason for our merriment and our gratitude is the freedom we have received in Christ. Instead of carrying the heavy yoke of sin and condemnation we have been set free to REJOICE. Our melodies and merriment come from the transformed nature of our hearts and it always points to God. Our celebrations are not merely about the new car or a successful graduation or financial outpouring, but it’s rooted in our knowledge of how God preserved us against all odds, so that our tent may be full of the sound of victory in Christ.
The king of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall fear disaster no more. The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will renew you in his love; He will exult over you with loud singing as on a day of festival- Zephaniah 3:16-20
God is part of your merriment. We do not have a faraway God. Our Father in heaven is not a distant figure. He is a father who gathers His children into His warmth and embrace and lets loose a shout of joy so pure it becomes our strength! His Joy over your salvation and reunion with Him is part of the relationship you now have with God. This exultation and celebration is reflected in the parable of the prodigal son returning and the father rejoicing over him filling the home with merriment of a father who says “My son was lost but now he has come back to me!” (Luke 15: 22-24)
So rejoice and be glad, for you are chosen for this purpose. Shout and sing and praise Him for He turned your mourning into dancing. When the world asks you about the smile you wear, the bounce in your steps and the song on your lips be sure to tell them what your God has done!