Following Jesus can be countercultural. Yet we have to remember that being God’s children and citizens of Heaven, this world’s culture and practices pale in comparison to the values of our heavenly kingdom
Is there something in your life or something you see around you that you wish weren’t happening? Are you tired of waiting for a long time for something good to happen? It could be some form of social injustice, an unfair practice, people not being treated well, an employee being robbed of his privileges, corrupt governance that abuses and oppresses the poor and weak, the list can go on.
The Jewish people felt the same way 2000 years ago. They lived in an oppressive society and were taxed exorbitantly by Herod, the Roman ruler. They were waiting expectantly for the arrival of the promised Messiah who, they believed, would free them from this Roman oppression. They were aware of a prophecy that a virgin would give birth to that Messiah. I imagine that the young women of that time may have desired to be the virgin who brought forth the Saviour. Mary may have been one such virgin.
And so it was. The events unfolded with an Angel appearing before Mary, telling her that she was highly favoured. She had been chosen by God to give birth to the Messiah. I suppose that would have been joyous news for Mary!
God’s call for Mary was so amazing yet so controversial. I would like to invite you to imagine how the situation would have been for Mary. There is a high probability that in a very conservative culture like the Jewish culture; people would have looked down upon her. Her narration of the angel’s visitation would have been received with deep skepticism. She probably would have been accused of being with child out of wedlock. Her own family may have found it difficult to wrap their mind around this fact. Though everyone knew that the Messiah would be born through a virgin, a lowly peasant girl like Mary may not have fit their bill.
However, none of that stopped Mary. Along with Joseph, her response to God’s call was implicit obedience. Saying yes to what God had called them to was not easy. But they stood firm. They put their faith into action by taking the next right step. And then the next right step. And the next right step; as directed by God.
Is God calling you to do something that is unconventional or even absurd according to the world? It could be, for instance, standing up against a tradition or an ideology that is not pleasing to God. Or, choosing to walk in a way that honours God as opposed to pleasing people. The whole world, including your family, may ridicule you. Even worse, they may hate you because of the stand you have taken to be faithful to God and to carry out His will (Matt 10:22, John 15: 18 – 25). How do you respond to this? Are you willing to go through it for the sake of Christ?
Following Jesus can be countercultural. Yet we have to remember that being God’s children and citizens of Heaven, this world’s culture and practices pale in comparison to the values of our heavenly kingdom. This world’s bonds, including our familial bonds, are influenced and corrupted by the ways of this world. Whereas, our heavenly bond is unblemished and leads to eternal life. Which one is your choice?
Mary chose to give birth to the Messiah, despite the risk of having the world against her. She had the privilege to be a part of God’s grand redemption plan. What is God calling you to be a part of?
This Christmas season let us commit ourselves to God once again and choose to obey Him no matter what.
A creative take on the events surrounding the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ
My name is Malchus.
I was a servant of Caiaphas, the High priest.
Over the years due to my faithful service, I had gained the trust of my master to the extent that I served as an “ear” for him. I was entrusted with the job of reporting to him about any disturbing developments in the city.
The last few months were not particularly peaceful at the palace of the High priest. Almost every day the chief priests would meet with my master and complain about this man called Jesus. My master initially turned them down and asked them to take care of the issue themselves but they demanded his involvement owing to the huge popularity this Jesus was gaining. They finally succeeded when they mentioned that He calls Himself the Christ, the Son of God!
Caiaphas assigned the task to me to get intel about Jesus and His so called disciples. I began to stake them out day in and day out. I was amazed at the man to be honest. All that He preached and showed was love. The blind received their sight, the lame walked, lepers were cleansed, the deaf got back their hearing, dead were raised up and the poor received hope! All these signs seemed to indicate that Jesus may in fact be the Son of God. However my allegiance to the High priest stopped me from exploring these sign further. I didn’t want to know if the signs proved right at the cost of my loyalty to Caiaphas. So I reported things as I saw.
The Council was gathered at the palace of the High priest and I was asked to present my report. It deeply disturbed everyone, especially the chief priests. They were afraid that if they let people believe in Jesus, it could cause an uprising and the Romans would come and remove what little power and privilege they still had. But Caiaphas stepped in and calmed them saying the whole nation needn’t perish for the action of one man but instead if they put their heads together, they could get him to take the fall. So it was decided that Jesus would be put to death!
Many plots were made to arrest Jesus and to kill Him. But it could not be executed because people were around Him all the time and arresting Him would only result in an uproar. So the chief priests decided to wait for the opportune moment. They asked me to keep an ear out to find if any one would give up Jesus. That’s when I noticed Judas Iscariot, one of Jesus’ 12 disciples. Lately he appeared disappointed. Something was keeping him preoccupied. So one day, when I spotted him alone, I approached him and decided to play it by ear. On hearing him out, I got to know that he was upset because a woman had broken an expensive jar of perfume to anoint Jesus. Judas felt that was a lot of money to waste. This was the kind of lead we awaited. I realised I caught this guy in his moment of weakness. If I played my cards right, I was sure I could get him to rat out Jesus.
I told Judas of the chief priest’s intentions and that he would be rewarded aptly if he agrees to give up Jesus. He just gave me a stare and walked away. However we knew it was just going to be a matter of time before he accepted the deal. So we continued waiting.
And he did turn up! Few days before the Feast of the Passover, he came to Caiaphas’ palace looking for the chief priests. A deal was made. A plot was hatched. Something that would work perfectly. Judas would inform us when and where Jesus would be alone. We’d arrest Him. All for 30 pieces of silver.
After Jesus and His disciples had had their Passover meal, Judas came to us. He led us to Gethsemane garden at the Mount of Olives. In the early hours of each day, this was where Jesus went to pray along with His disciples. I guess Judas felt it was the perfect time and place to arrest Jesus. The chief priests assigned some armed men, my cousin and me to make the arrest.
As we entered the garden, Jesus and His disciples were on their way out. Judas reached out to Jesus and kissed Him. That was our cue. A commotion broke out as I was about to make the arrest. And suddenly something unexpected happened! One of Jesus’ disciples, Peter, drew a sword and swung it at me.
Before I knew it, my right ear was on the ground and I was bleeding. I froze in shock. I didn’t know what to do. Everything suddenly seemed like a blur. One minute Jesus was rebuking Peter and in the next He touched me and healed me! I had my ear back! Who would have expected a miracle at that hour and that too for someone who was there to arrest Him!
I just sat there in unbelief as they took Jesus away. His touch did something more to me than just the healing of my ear. Something changed on the inside. My heart was filled with this unexplainable peace. I had never felt so light before. It was definitely a new me! As I wondered how all of this could happen in just one touch I was convinced that He must be the Son of God as He had claimed to be!
My life was never the same after that night. Although I had listened to Jesus and seen Him do many wonders and miracles, I needed His touch that night to get through to me. I felt terrible and ashamed for the part I had played in His arrest. Yet somehow I was also convinced that when He touched and healed me He had forgiven me as well.
The events that followed that day were hard to comprehend. Jesus was taken to the Council where he was questioned, mocked, beaten, spat on, sentenced to death and handed over to the Roman governor, Pilate. Though Pilate couldn’t find any fault with Jesus, he wanted to please the crowd. So he agreed to the death sentence and handed over Jesus to be crucified! Till the last minute I tried persuading my master, Caiaphas and the chief priests that they were making a huge mistake but no one was ready to listen to me. There was nothing I could do but watch the events that unfolded with a heavy heart.
The Romans promptly executed the death sentence. Jesus was crucified along with two other thieves. Through all that happened, I never saw Jesus retaliate or curse the men who hurt him. Being the Son of God, it would have been simple for Him to call down a host of angels to rescue him. But it looked like He willingly let Himself go through all that pain and humiliation. He appeared in control of the situation though it looked bleak. Why was He willing to endure all that agony? I wish I understood what was happening. But all I could do was wait. And I waited.
It was the third day after Jesus’ crucifixion – the day after the Passover festival. Early in the morning there was unrest in the city. People were standing in groups and talking in hushed voices. On further enquiry, I came to know that the tomb where they had laid Jesus was found empty that morning!
It was the hot topic of discussion in the city. I overheard some mention that Jesus rose from the dead and showed Himself to certain women who had gone to visit the tomb. I rushed to the Palace of the High Priest to find out if they had any role to play in this.
As I got there the two guards who were assigned to guarding the tomb of Jesus were brought before the chief priests. They were trembling with fear. The chief priests tried to calm them down and ask them what happened. They recounted how an angel had appeared early in the morning, rolled the stone of the tomb and how Jesus came out of the tomb. Jesus had in fact risen from the dead! Oh, how excited I was to hear that news. I was soooo glad Jesus had beaten death. I wondered if I could meet Him ever again.
That evening, I was having my supper at an inn. Three men came in to stay and they joined my table. I recognised two of them as followers of Jesus but I couldn’t identify the third person. I wanted to ask the followers about the resurrection of Jesus but the three of them were seriously discussing something. So I just silently watched them. When food was served, the third person took bread, blessed, broke it and gave it to the other two. At that very instance, He disappeared. He literally vanished into thin air! As I sat there trying to process what I had just witnessed, the two followers had an epiphany. They cried out in recognition that it was Jesus who had accompanied them all that while. They explained how Jesus had walked with them on the way to the inn, how He explained what the prophets had spoken about Himself in the Scriptures and about the need for the suffering of Christ to redeem mankind! At that moment all the questions I had about the suffering Jesus took upon Himself before His crucifixion were answered.
Indeed Jesus rose from the dead and I had seen Him with my own eyes. My wish had come true! I couldn’t contain the joy that was welling within me. Instantly I knew I wanted to tell the whole world that Jesus is the true Son of God and there is transformation that He alone can bring about in the lives of people. That day, I quit my job with the High Priest and dedicated my life to spreading this good news.
My name is Malchus.
And this is my story of how I became a servant of Christ Jesus, the Son of God.
Something which I least expected to bother me is now troubling me like anything. Ah! How I wish I could make time freeze. How I wish I could make the Sun and the Moon stand still like how Joshua did. But I can’t. I can’t escape this day. I can’t escape turning 30!
There is an episode from the popular sitcom FRIENDS in which they show how the lead casts dread turning 30. When I watched it years ago I was like, “Huh, what’s the big deal about turning 30”. But now, with just hours left for me to turn 30, I began to freak out too!
I paused for a moment to make sense of why I feared facing 30. All my shortcomings, my inabilities, my past mistakes started to surface and it felt as if they were jeering at me. Those voices inside my head were so loud, powerful and intimidating!
Trying to put all those voices away, I sat down to have my quiet time. The Bible passage for the day was from Ephesians 1: 3 -6 with emphasis on the 4th verse, “Even before He made us, God loved us and chose us“. In the devotion that followed by Winn Collier, he wrote, “There’s never been a moment of your life where you haven’t been the object of God’s love!”
That really got me thinking. So what if I haven’t really achieved anything? What if I have messed up the years that have gone by? What if I don’t have what a 30-year-old is supposed to have? God has always loved me and will continue to love me. He has been so faithful in my life till now. He has been my Provider and my Protector. He has never left my side even for a moment! The Bible says in Hebrews 13:8 that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. This is a good enough reason for me to boldly step into this new year. Because He lives, I can face tomorrow!
Yes, those voices may come back to torment me again. But instead I choose to listen to my Heavenly Father’s voice which says, ‘He loves me with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3)’ and that ‘He has engraved me in the palm of His hands (Isaiah 49:16)’!
An account of two important events of the Bible as seen from two donkeys’ perspective.
“Uncle Hamor!” exclaimed Dan, the young donkey (yes, donkeys do speak!). “Please tell me that story of yours”. “But kid, I have told you that story a million times already”, sighed uncle Hamor. “Please, pretty please? I love that story!” pleaded little Dan. “Okay kid, I will tell you” assured Hamor. Little Dan leapt with joy, his eyes full of excitement, sat down to listen to the story once again.
Hamor began, “It seemed to be just another day in Galilee. I was tied at my usual spot, under the usual tree, feeding on the usual hay. Until my master, Joseph, came. He was packed as if he was going on a long journey. I knew my rest had come to an end. He untied me, loaded all the goods on my back and took me down the street. We stopped in front of a house. Joseph tied me to a post and went in. A few minutes later he came out, accompanied by a woman who was expecting a child. He made her gently sit over me and we started our journey.
From the moment I started carrying her, I knew she was someone special. The burden was heavy but strangely my heart felt light. Something I had not experienced before in my life. The journey was rough. All along the journey, they were excitedly talking about the Child she was carrying. I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard that the Child she was carrying was God Himself! My joy knew no bounds! I was so thrilled that I was carrying the woman who had the Lord in her womb!
The long journey was a mixture of emotions. Laughter, fun, cries of pain, words of comfort, songs of worship and thanksgiving, and love. Occasionally we would halt for a rest and they would feed me and pat me affectionately. I tried to tell them it was my pleasure but I don’t think they understood me. Humans can’t understand braying, right?
We drew closer to Bethlehem. Mary, the woman, started to cry in pain frequently. Her time was closing in. I realized she was going to give birth to the Lord anytime soon and I dearly wished I would be there to witness that. But how could I? I would be tied at a manger and they would get a room for themselves in the inn. I was thinking to myself how silly I was to have such a desire. We went from one inn to another. But there was no room available. No room for the Lord to come to this world! How could that happen? I wondered. I shouted at the innkeepers to tell them that this woman is about to give birth to God Himself. But again, in vain. Humans can’t understand braying, right?
Then, the most unexpected thing happened. There was not a single room available for them and they finally decided to stay at the manger! Joseph hurriedly made a small cradle with a trough and some hay. Mary was crying aloud in pain. That was it! That was the moment I dreamt of witnessing! As Mary was lying there, I could see Joseph’s trembling hands assisting the baby to come out! The whole incident was so surreal! The King of Kings and the Lord of Lords came into this world as a crying baby right before my eyes. What a blessing it was! Just as we were relishing those moments, some shepherds came there. They narrated how they were told by a host of angels that the King would be born in a manger and they worshipped baby Jesus. What a night it was!” Hamor finished the story. “Wow uncle Hamor, that was incredible! I also would want to carry the Lord on my back someday!” chirped the colt. “Sure you will kid. If it is God’s will, it will happen” assured Hamor.
Days went by. It was time for Dan to get trained so that he could be used for riding. He was tied in front of the house of the trainer. While he was waiting, two men came and began to untie him. The trainer asked those men what they were doing. They simply replied that the master needed it to ride. Without saying a word, the trainer let them take Dan with them. Dan was bewildered. He started shouting that he was not ready yet. But those men didn’t get what he was saying. After all, humans can’t understand braying, right?
Dan anxiously followed those men. He couldn’t believe who was waiting for him. It was Jesus! Those men put their clothes on Dan’s back and Jesus sat on him. It was little Dan’s dream come true! He was super excited and scared at the same time for he had not taken anyone on his back before. He told himself that he would be as best as he could. As soon as he started walking, something amazing happened. His fear went away. The presence of Jesus gave him the confidence and he began to walk like an expert! People gathered on both sides of the street, shouted ‘Hosanna!’ and spread their clothes and branches along the way. The entire stretch till Bethany was magical for Dan. He remembered what he had told his uncle Homar and he thanked God for making his wish come true.
Jesus reached his destination and got off Dan. While Jesus began to walk away, Dan shouted to thank Jesus for choosing him. And then he realized that humans can’t understand braying and felt disappointed. However, Jesus stopped, turned back and acknowledged Dan with a smile! For Jesus is not any human but God Himself! Dan was the happiest donkey in the whole world. For though he wasn’t prepared, God fulfilled his desire and used him for His glory.
God doesn’t call the qualified. He qualifies the called.
27But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, 29 that no flesh should glory in His presence. (I Corinthians 1:27–29)
Recently I watched the movie, ‘Wonder Woman’. Interestingly, I could compare some of the characteristics of Wonder Woman with that of the characteristics of a Praying Woman! Here are some of them:
Movie Scene :
Princess Diana from the beginning insists that Ares, the god of war, is responsible for the ongoing war and the people involved in the war are under the influence of Ares. She says that the only way to end the war is to kill Ares and she insists the captain take her to the war front to fight and defeat Ares, thereby bringing the war to an end.
My take away:
Everyone is fighting a battle but not everyone fights it the right way or the right enemy. A praying woman discerns what she is fighting and who she is really fighting against (EPH 6:10 – 18)and she fights her battle right from the battle front!
There is a scene in which the Germans capture a British territory enslaving those left under their siege. The British forces were unable to attempt a rescue mission since the Germans were heavily armed. When all the men were scared to venture the mission, Wonder Woman stepped in. Facing the bullets of the enemies, she deflects them with her gauntlets and shield, making way for the men to destroy the German bunkers and eventually rescue those people under siege.
My take away:
A praying woman is not daunted by the challenges posed by the enemy. She, with the strength God has given her, steps into the battle field clothed in the armour of God. She most importantly defends herself with the shield of Faith, attacks the enemies with the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God making the path easier for others in conquest!
In a scene that follows after they set the captives free, the captain applauds Wonder Woman for what she did, to which she responds, “No, we did this”.
My take away:
A praying woman is always humble and graciously shares the honor with fellow believers.
It all started 2000 years ago. A time when the Jews were under the rule of the mighty Romans. They were expecting a Savior, a Messiah, who would deliver them as their prophets had foretold long ago. God did answer their prayers! He sent His own Son, Jesus, to be born in this world! He was born not in a majestic palace like a Prince, but as a helpless babe in a manger.. He came to the earth not to free the Jews from the Romans but with a greater agenda: To deliver humanity from the clutches of sin.. He came as a light to the world which was stumbling in darkness.. As a ray of hope to this desperate world. We call that day Christmas!
Christmas is not just about gifts, cakes, music, decorations, Santa as portrayed nowadays, but it is about remembering the ultimate sacrifice that God made for His people so that we could have an eternal life. Christmas is not just a festivity, but realizing our identity that God gave us with the birth of the Christ Child this day. Christmas is not just about exchange of gifts, but pondering over our response to the Greatest Gift that God has bestowed on us this day. Its not just a season to be jolly, but remembering the reason for the season!
This Christmas season let us focus on celebrating the birth of Christ in our hearts and our homes. A Very Merry Christmas!
It is just a parallel thought I have connecting what we see around us in Chennai over the last few days and what we are learning in the Book of Revelation in BSF (Bible Study Fellowship). Starting from chapter 6, we see the enormous amount of destruction that the various angels bring about on the Earth. Wars, unrest, famines, plagues, death and a host of natural and supernatural disasters! (One interesting factor I noticed: there is no mention of destruction through rain or water. God remembers the covenant that He made with Noah, that He isn’t going to destroy the Earth with floods again! What a faithful God He is!) The amount of damage portrayed in these passages didn’t come to life to me before I realised what havoc these rains and floods have brought to Chennai.. Yet, what we see around us is nothing close to what is going to come on That Day! How scary!
Amidst such turmoil, we do hear news about people who are safe and secure, and the extra mile they go to help others in need. The world looks up to them as Guardians of Humanity. We also read in Revelation that those who are sealed by God are spared from all these destructions. Having this in mind, what is our part going to be in Guarding the Humanity? We should pray and get involved in bringing more people into the count of the “Sealed”. That would be the greatest help that we could offer to the people around us. After all, saving a soul is much nobler than saving lives.
Having said that, we don’t have much time to be still stuck in our comfort zone, judging others, fighting with our day to day sins. For we are called for a greater mission (Matthew 28:19, 20)! Let us earnestly seek God’s grace, wisdom and strength to stand up and win people for His name…
This is something that I thought of writing for my friends who are married. I know I am not there yet, but then this wedding I attended recently inspired me to do so. Hope you guys will be able to get something out of it.
The wedding was very meticulously planned. Everything was in its place, church and the reception hall beautifully decorated, the special choir and the instrumentalists got ready to mesmerize the couple and the congregation with their magical singing. And just when the wedding started, it also started to rain heavily! The whole place became messy. It was sloppy and slippery everywhere.
The wedding got over and the reception started. The couple and the family were little worried about the rain. The person who introduced the bride’s family spoke very well and it made a lot of sense. He narrated the following story:
“It was just after India got its Independence. The then President of India Mr. Radhakrishnan visited the U.S.A for the first time. It was a historical event as that was the first time an Indian President was visiting the U.S. Meticulous arrangements were made. Red carpets were laid on the lawn where the President’s helicopter would land. eagerly expecting the arrival of the Indian President.
Just when the helicopter landed, it started to pour with rain. The U.S President became perplexed. He kept apologizing to his Indian counterpart. President Radhakrishnan calmly said, “Mr. President, we cannot control the weather but we can control how we react to it””.
Just like this, in our lives we may carefully plan for many things. But not everything goes as per our plan. How do we respond at those times? Do we sit and worry about it? Complain and grumble? Instead, we could give those situations to God’s hands. When we believe that God is in control of each and every incident that is happening in our lives and that He never makes a mistake, we can rest peacefully with the assurance that whatever happens, it is for our good. Whenever both of you plan anything for your life, don’t forget to add God in it. For He has plans for your life already. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Make sure your plans fall in line with His. When that happens, no matter how bad things turn out to be, you can be assured that God will lead you through.
May your life be an example to a world that is slowly but steadily losing its value for marital relationships. For you are called to be the Salt and the Light in this world. God bless you.
At BSF (Bible Study Fellowship), we are now studying the book of Revelation. And when I read of how John was close to Jesus, I was reminded of my friend who passed away last year, Alan! Reminded of how we used to share things with each other; – the kind of stuff we couldn’t tell anyone else. Those memories still linger fresh in my mind.
These thoughts made me realize, that there is no wonder in why Jesus chose to reveal Himself through John, His best friend! John was with Jesus till the cross, he took the responsibility of Jesus’ earthly family and he had such a close bond with Jesus for which he was rightly rewarded too!
It amazes me to think of the fact that Jesus valued the friendship He shared with John. Even after His ascension, He still loved John. For John was the only disciple who went through severe persecution but yet died a natural death. He was even sparred from the boiling oil before being exiled to the island of Patmos!
Being the closest friend of Jesus didn’t spare John from the persecutions he had to face, but it did help him carry through with perseverance. And Jesus revealed Himself to John – revealed Himself in all His glory and majesty! What a sight it would have been for John to see His friend Jesus, in such a glory!
Jesus says in John 15:14,15 that we are no longer His servants, but His friends! It is interesting to note how only John has written of this talk of Jesus with His disciples, for us. John understood and relished the depth of being a friend of God, through thick and thin. ‘We are no longer His servants, but His friends’ – Yes! But we need to remember, that this does not mean that we can expect a life without any trouble and persecution. But we can rest assured that through all those trials, Jesus will be beside us, and He will reveal Himself in all splendour and glory when we faithfully stand for Him.
May this thought encourage us through trials and tribulations and push us to live for His glory.. Amen!