Friday, August 27, 2010

Ancient Rome & Today

Alfred Edersheim a Jewish convert to Christianity was a Biblical Scholar especially known for his work "The life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (1883)".  Edersheim's scholarship is little know among contemporary Christians but it towers over modern day skeptics and their idle bantering of how the existence of a true God is a fancy idea. Edersheim's scholarly works are gold mine of information on the religious and cultural conditions of Christ's ministry in the Roman times. The description of Rome given by Edersheim is not much different from today's America, here's an excerpt for you to follow about the state of Rome before its complete fall.

Religion, philosophy and society  had passed through every stage to that of despair. Without tracing the various forms of ancient thought it may be generally said that in Rome at least the issue lay between stoicism and Epicurean-ism.  The one flattered its pride and other gratified its sensuality. One was in accordance with its national character and the other with decay & corruption. Both ultimately led to atheism and despair. The one by turning all higher aspirations self-ward and the other by quenching them for satisfying  the desires of the moment. The one by extinction of all feeling and deification, the other by indulgence of every passion & the worship of matter as it ideal. It would be unsavory to describe how far the worship of indecency was practiced and carried in Rome. How public morals were corrupted by mimic representations of everything that was vile and even by the pandering of corrupt art. The impersonation of gods, oracles, divinations, dreams, astrology, all contributed to general decay. It has been rightly said, that the idea of conscience, as we understand it, was unknown to heathenism. Absolute right did not exist. Might was right. The social relations exhibited, if possible displayed even deeper corruption. The sanctity of marriage had ceased. Female dissipation and the general dissoluteness led at last to an almost entire cessation of marriage. Abortion, and the exposure of murder of newly-born children were common and tolerated; unnatural vices, which even the greatest philosophers practiced, if not advocated, attained proportions which defy description. .

Edersheim wrote this almost a hundred years ago, and unfortunately its no different from the world view that we we stand and stare into (or I should say live in). The english journalist Steve Turner wrote a satirical sarcasm in poetic form called "Creed" on today's social norms which I have taken from Ravi Zacariah's Book "Can man live without God?" a answer to which Steve Turner says "No, but we try all the time...

We believe in Marx, Freud and Darwin
We believe everything is OK
as long as you don't hurt anyone
to the best of your definition of hurt,
and to the best of your knowledge.

We believe in sex before, during, and
after marriage.
We believe in the therapy of sin.
We believe that adultery is fun.
We believe that sodomy’s OK.
We believe that taboos are taboo.

We believe that everything's getting better
despite evidence to the contrary.
The evidence must be investigated
And you can prove anything with evidence.

We believe there's something in horoscopes
UFO's and bent spoons.
Jesus was a good man just like Buddha,
Mohammed, and ourselves.
He was a good moral teacher though we think
His good morals were bad.

We believe that all religions are basically the same-
at least the one that we read was.
They all believe in love and goodness.
They only differ on matters of creation,
sin, heaven, hell, God, and salvation.

We believe that after death comes the Nothing
Because when you ask the dead what happens
they say nothing.
If death is not the end, if the dead have lied, then its
compulsory heaven for all
excepting perhaps
Hitler, Stalin, and Genghis Kahn

We believe in Masters and Johnson
What's selected is average.
What's average is normal.
What's normal is good.

We believe in total disarmament.
We believe there are direct links between warfare and
Americans should beat their guns into tractors .
And the Russians would be sure to follow.

We believe that man is essentially good.
It's only his behavior that lets him down.
This is the fault of society.
Society is the fault of conditions.
Conditions are the fault of society.

We believe that each man must find the truth that
is right for him.
Reality will adapt accordingly.
The universe will readjust.
History will alter.
We believe that there is no absolute truth
excepting the truth
that there is no absolute truth.

We believe in the rejection of creeds,
And the flowering of individual thought.

If chance be
the Father of all flesh,
disaster is his rainbow in the sky
and when you hear

State of Emergency!
Sniper Kills Ten!
Troops on Rampage!
Whites go Looting!
Bomb Blasts School!
It is but the sound of man
worshipping his maker.

Isn't that an amazing parallel to ancient Rome. We know the reasons of the decline and demise of Rome. I will quote Huxley here who said - "If we don't learn from the mistakes of the past we are bound to repeat them". We are in interesting times challenged by the clash of world views that takes place in everything you do or even just merely being a part of. But at the same the deeper truth is what we are called to reflect, which is as Christians we know we are a people redeemed, saved by grace alone, and called to look upon the face of God to surrender our hearts, so that it will go well with our souls.

Blessings & Shalom,

Sam Kurien

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

My Prayer Notes From Proverbs

I read through the book of Proverbs every month and here are some of the prayers that I have attached as notes to some of these incredible verses. I thought it was a good idea to post them here as memorial stones to bring them to remembrance from time to time.

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter to search out a matter is the glory of kings. (Proverbs 25:2)
O Lord you servant and child asks you for wisdom so that I can do all the things that you have for me. O Lord you take delight in your children searching, finding and being filled with joy. O Lord even in the mundane routines of studies, work, and other exciting adventures and purposes you may have for us you rejoice in us. Lord help us to search out matters, mysteries and above all your mind to do the things that you have for us in our generation.

Amen Amen.

A man's step are directed by the Lord. How then can anyone understand his way? (Proverbs 20:24)
O Lord God of Israel, guide my steps as you guided the steps of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Help me to set my heart to worship on these steps, help my heart to be completely devoted to you and your ways. Holy Spirit Ruach Adonai help me to walk in these steps guided by your hand of mercy. O Lord you promised - the steps of the righteous redeemed and those who look upon your face are guided by you.

love you O Lord.

A man's step are directed by the Lord. How then can anyone understand his way? (Proverbs 20:24)

O Lord God of Israel, guide my steps as you guided the steps of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Help me to set my heart to worship on these steps, help my heart to be completely devoted to you and your ways. Holy Spirit Ruach Adonai help me to walk in these steps guided by your hand of mercy. O Lord you promised - the steps of the righteous redeemed and those who look upon your face are guided by you.

love you O Lord.

A inhertiance gained quickly will not be blessed in the end. (Proverbs 20:21)

O Lord Bless the inheritance that you give me, may your blessing rest upon it till the end of my life and beyond for my children's sake, for O Lord I have dedicated my heart and deciated their hearts to you. What are we O Lord specks of dust of the earth, but redeemed by your love, brought into righteousnes and brought into worship to you. So O Lord for your name sake do this for your servant, in your chesed raise your sceptre and give the inheritance of the saints and let not me or my children squander this inheritance in pride or sin. Help us be a pleasing aroma to spread your fragrance and your light in the world.
love you O Lord.

The fear of the Lord leads to life. Then one rests, untouched by trouble. (Proverbs 20:6)

O Lord help me to fear you all the days of my life. O Lord let me children live in the sacred fear of intimacy with you.

Many are the plans in man's heart but its is the Lord's purpose that prevails. (Proverbs 19:21)
O Lord let your purpose prevail in my life. Your ways for me are good, your plans for me are to prosper me and give me life in abundance so O Lord align my purposes to yours help me make my purposes the purposes of the Lord. O Lord you promised your servant prosperity of my sould and heart and I bring to reminder your greate promises, this is where I thrive. O Lord may my heart's meditation be pleasing to you.

Monday, August 23, 2010



Well, the above word is is not 'Cheesed' or 'Cheezed' or 'Cheez It' but as my hebrew scholar friend Glen will point that the right pronunciation would be with the jaw and the tongue going in backward and pronouncing the 'Ch' with almost a slight rough growl. Anyway that is the oddness of the Hebrew language but its deep meanings make it a beautiful language for expressing the heart of God. The words have so much depth and meaning so much so a exact literal translation word-to-word into English is not possible. So an entire post on a word?- Yes, from my last  post you might remember in Jeremiah Chapter 2 God uses this word "Chesed" in addressing Israel.

Biblical scholars have often complained that the word חֶסֶד in the Hebrew Bible is difficult to translate into English, because it really has no precise equivalent in our language. English versions usually try to represent it with such words as "loving-kindness," "mercy," "steadfast love," and sometimes "loyalty," but the full meaning of the word cannot be conveyed without an explanation, such as the one given in the article below. This article, by Norman H. Snaith, is reproduced from A Theological Word Book of the Bible, edited by Alan Richardson (New York: MacMillan, 1951), pp. 136-7.

This word cannot be used unless the two parties have a very intimate relationship as was with God and Israel. It is a word that is exclusively used in the marriage-covenant relationship that God had with Israel. He uses this very romantic term of endearment several times in the scriptures. As said earlier in english the word is loosely translated as "loving-kindness"; but it is so much more,  the exact depth of meaning comes close to something like Israel is the young maiden in love with God and when God looks at this young maiden with 'chesed', she looks into His eyes and sees herself in Him. He therefore considers her as the apple of His eye and will do anything for her. Sir George Adam Smith suggested the rendering of the word to "leal-love" which combined the meanings of extreme loyalty and utmost love. In this case God's loving-kindness or 'chesed'  is something more than sure love, His faithfulness will not let Israel go in spite of her unfaithfulness. God in His 'chesed' love for Israel will not wash His hands, He is not willing to break covenant even when His bride will. The wider meaning then also encompassed covenant and mercy. We know from Israel's history how His mercy has been exemplified time and again in spite of Israel's straying away from Him. For this reason the Greek translators of the Old testament in the 3rd century B.C used the Greek word 'eleos' which meant mercy or pity as the regular rendering.

Rashi the (eleventh-century A.D) Jewish commentator said that Yahweh gave the precedence 'rule of mercy' and joined it with the 'rule of justice' which meant that because of His passion of righteousness he will not thwart justice but to estimate the depth of His love he continually shows his 'chesed' in coming after Israel. In my previous post on Hosea we saw this aspect of God of how He demonstrated this point through Hosea's life story.  One can almost also loosely relate God's heart for justice and love to the analogy of King Arthur who wanted Lancelot to come and whisk away Guinevere because Arthur as a king could not stop being just or executing the law of the land for adultery and treachery but at the same time his love for Guinevere wanted her to escape so that she could live.

So 'chesed' - Is God viewing us as the maiden He is madly in love with, we are the apple of His eye and His loving kindness, mercy, covenant relationship and faithfulness and relentless pursuit is all what is encompassed in this powerful expression.

Blessings & Shalom,

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Decline of a Nation

A few days back I heard a neat podcast from Ravi Zacharias a Christian apologist of par excellence. His source of analysis, knowledge with the ability to express deep theological concepts & ideas keeping the aroma and richness of the Gospel message intact have always left me spell bound. We are in a time when we need more  Christian leaders like Ravi who emulate from their personal life as good examples & have the ability to articulate the word of God in clear, concise and accurate ways that will pierce the hearts of people in the deep places.

The talk was about the decline of a nation and I summarize the things that I have learnt for everybody's enrichment and hoping that this helps us all in our personal journeys.  Ravi  relates the current state of affairs in America today to the day of Jeremiah when the final curtain comes down on the nation of Israel with the tender-hearted prophet lamenting on what has happened. The Assyrian army has come ravaged and razed down the city of Jerusalem. This event culminates exactly 1000 years after their Exodus from Egypt a nation that was shaped by God himself has now allowed judgment to come upon it.  In Jeremiah chapter 2 God is reminding about Israel's mistakes, I will lump some of the love verses of God's heart over Israel from this chapter:

1 The word of the LORD came to me: 2 "Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem:

       " 'I remember the devotion of your youth, 
       how as a bride you loved me 
       and followed me through the desert, 
       through a land not sown.
 3 Israel was holy to the LORD, 
       the firstfruits of his harvest; 
       all who devoured her were held guilty, 
       and disaster overtook them,' " 
       declares the LORD.
 5 This is what the LORD says: 
       "What fault did your fathers find in me, 
       that they strayed so far from me? 
       They followed worthless idols 
       and became worthless themselves.
 6 They did not ask, 'Where is the LORD, 
       who brought us up out of Egypt 
       and led us through the barren wilderness, 
       through a land of deserts and rifts, 
       a land of drought and darkness, [a] 
       a land where no one travels and no one lives?'
 8 The priests did not ask, 
       'Where is the LORD ?' 
       Those who deal with the law did not know me; 
       the leaders rebelled against me. 
       The prophets prophesied by Baal, 
       following worthless idols.
 9 "Therefore I bring charges against you again," 
       declares the LORD. 
       "And I will bring charges against your children's children.
 11 Has a nation ever changed its gods? 
       (Yet they are not gods at all.) 
       But my people have exchanged their [d] Glory 
       for worthless idols.
 15 Lions have roared; 
       they have growled at him. 
       They have laid waste his land; 
       his towns are burned and deserted.
 16 Also, the men of Memphis [e] and Tahpanhes 
       have shaved the crown of your head. [f]
 17 Have you not brought this on yourselves 
       by forsaking the LORD your God 
       when he led you in the way?

God is bringing a charge against Israel, He reminds them that He had redeemed them from Egypt, (He has redeemed us from sin), brought them out into a land of spaciousness and made them righteous and He was to be the center of their worship. Instead they had forgotten who He was, What He did for them and forsaken worship of Him. As a result the nation has collapsed,  invading kingdoms are here taking the land and its people back into slavery. Ravi points out four reasons and reminds us that it started way back in the beginning. The four chief reasons he gives for the decline of the nation are:
  1. Ancestral Disappointments
  2. Prophetic Duplicity
  3. National Desertion
  4. Personal Disavow
I add a fifth one to the list and that would be male prostitution in the land.

Let us explore them one by one and see how a nation's decline begins and the curtain of is glorious history, heritage and prosperity ends. Ancestral disappointments started in Israel's history just after three days of their miraculous journey through the parting of the seas. They complained why God had brought them out of Egypt, they showed unbelief and lack of trust in spite of the Lord's miraculous provisions. It is interesting that in Jeremiah Chapter 2 the Lord pin points not on national leaders but brings back the charge  Fathers who have betrayed, doubted and followed after worthless idols.

Secondly "prophetic duplicity" in the land meant a mixed message was coming across to people from the spiritual leadership that God need not be in the first place. The priests and the prophets were in the business of asking "What's in it for me?". Everyone struggles with this one; especially men who are wired to work and lead. I have longed told the Lord that if I were in full time ministry I wouldn't want to see how my wages or provisions came through.  Today's ministers trained out of seminaries, the first question they ask is "What will be my salary or benefits?" - Now I am not saying this is bad or judging anyone because times have changes and governance/structure and important components of ministries and every minister is due the laborers wages but it is the heart & mind attitude that counts. It is not about self-seeking, self-promoting or just wage-based support for surviving in contrast Ravi reveals about men like Henry Martin & C.T Studd.

Henry Martin left the girl he loved and travelled as a missionary to Burma, India and Iran, dragged into the desert and died a martyr's death at the young age of 31 but not before translating the Bible into Arabic, Hindustani and Persian all without a computer. C.T Studd a man who was the captain of the Cambridge cricket team left his illustrious career and wealth to be a missionary in Africa. In the 11 years that he lived apart from his wife who was raising support for him they saw each other for two weeks. Tremendous sacrifices have been made by men who gave it all and completely surrendered it for Christ. When men like this disappear a nation's collapse is assured.

Thirdly  "National Desertion"  meant the nation had given up on God completely and gone after false gods and worshipped idols . Today's leaders boldly proclaim that America is and was never a Christian nation.  It was only a 180 years ago when President Lincoln said I quote:

"We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!" -    Lincoln, Abraham

God's mercy has been great but we have quickly as a nation forgotten.We have taken the true God of heaven and earth out of America,  out of our schools systems and political arenas in the name of political correctness and fairness. In his advocacy of thankfulness to God, Lincoln left a stern warning to the people of his day and they remain relevant to our times as well. Today's leaders are ashamed to repent or pray, or take a strong stance on anything but mix their words to be fair. They set a poor precedence for the nation and the core unit of the nation "the family".

I ended the third point on family on purpose because individuals make up the family and at the individual level the last point is of  "personal disavow" with God. We tend to become complacent saying "I used to believe in Him and now I don't" and this may stem from our personal experiences, feelings and discouragements (the battle for the heart).  A couple of years ago there was a segment on 60 minutes on the "The Lost Boys of Sudan" a documentary that studied war torn abandoned children who made this trek from Sudan to Kenya. Thousands of children without food, water made and exodus through war afflicted nations and genocide survived with the hope in their eyes and faith in the living God of the Bible. The documentary then focused also on a segment of teenage children in a affluent neighborhood in Georgia where sex, booze and drugs were freely flowing. A church revival spurred them to come back to the Lord but as soon as a discouraging event or a something that a kid wished or asked of God did not happen they went back to their old ways primarily disappointed in God and a personal disavow.  You get the picture.

Finally the decline of nation gets sealed when men prostitute themselves in the land. The point here is not just physical prostitution but men who exchange their hearts to self seeking idols and lead others to that kind of harlotry and idolatry. The consequences then are severe and its a wake up call at an individual, corporate and national levels  that we see this condone & condemn it, repent, fall flat on our faces and seek the face of God. The message is grim but my hope and prayer is for men and make a stand against idolatry and harlotry both at physical and heart level. Let us guard our hearts and ask the Holy Spirit of God to bring revival in the land. Hope is beautiful when we enter into worship and surrender our strength and hearts to the one who can rescue, redeem and bring us into the relationship that we are made for.

Blessings & Shalom,

Sam Kurien

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Live Life Large

Two days back I was feeling horrible about something, that's when God intervened and said "I want you to live life large". I have been musing about it ever since, sometimes ambitions, aspirations visionary things to do great  can leave you with a sense of guilt...questioning oneself "Am I suppose to do this?" Isn't it greedy or selfish...but God has a funny way to teach you through His word, through His ecounters with you and He is good at getting His point across.

Having said that, I was listening to Bill Johnson from Bethel Church, I love what is happeining there and every time I hear news about what is happening in the super-nautual of what God is doing all over the earth I am excited of the adventorous journey I am on.

Transitioning back to the point of God asking me to "live life large" and not be guilty about it. I was reminded of a Marlboro cigarette Ad that used to run in the late 80's showing a guy in cowboy hat puffing away and the commercial ending in the chime in "live large king size",  however its not that kind of living the Father was hinting to me about. I am slowly beginning to understand deeply that living large is about constantly having the presence of the Lord, having His habitation in me, around me, with me, beside me, front of me and behind me. Oh I love it!; the dichotomy of secular and sacred no longer exists, whatever we do, we do unto the Lord, we do for the Glory and fame of our savior. And this is super natural living and the only natural way of living. We begin to view life in a different context, our problems are no longer ours, they are His. The Bible says we are now seated in heavenly realms looking down on the situations that pertain to us, our friends, neighbors, nations and the world. We are confiding in the one who is more than able, who has given us erga and dunamis power to bring order in chaos. To call out life into the lifeless, to call out light where there is darkness, to bring strongholds down and move in the power of Yeshua.

The word Bill mentioned was from Haggai Chapter 2 verse 9 which says:

"The glory of the latter house will be greater than the former house". 

When you allow God to intervene your daily life, His habitation in us & among us changes things.  And the way He does things becomes every time better. Jacob slept on holy ground where without a church building, Jacob became aware of God's presence, changed the course of His life.  We see throughout scriptures that God's glory is going to cover the face of the earth, today we are the living temples of His presence and that is the secret of living large.  Like the Psalmist rejoices for God putting him in a spacious place, He has enlarged my territory. The physical manifestations and blessings are all good but what makes it sweet and complete is we don't take our focus away from our Maker and that we never forget the longing for His habitation.

I will end with a reminder of the chorus of a song written by Lynn DeShazo that sums my desire:

"In His Presence that's where I am strong;
In your presence O Lord my God
In your presence That'w where I belong,
Seeking your face, Touching your grace,
In the cleft of the Rock
In your presence O God.  

My thoughts, Blessings & Shalom,

Sam Kurien

Sunday, August 08, 2010

A little Horseback Riding, Cowboy Hat & the Spirit of the West!

A couple of weeks back I went horse back riding with the family into the beautiful mountains of Colorado. The crisp air, afternoon sun and the long rocky range in the backdrop made this picturesque vista perfect. A little horse back riding and a cool cowboy hat can do a lot of good for the soul, if you don't believe me try it out, but do it somewhere in Colorado. Well this trek led my thoughts way back to my childhood days in India where my best friend in school Nikul would come to my place and we would take off in the back parking lots of a government office building to pretend play that we were cowboys back in the old west. Those days were filled with idyllic musings of boyhood dreams of riding away - exploring new untamed territories, scurrying off an Indian attack, rescuing the damsels in distress and following the heart of the lone ranger in adventure pursuing gold and bringing the "wanted" to justice. Most of these stories came from the wild west comics we exchanged and most of the pretend play was never even rehearsed, it just came naturally from our imagination. We led the stories to take their own twists & turns....the plot always thickened when we would jump a 100 years in the future and play American & Russian spy's in covert operations during the cold war.

Anyway those dreams had in them an innate sense of wonder and awe about the spirit of the west which has remained with me to this day. What is the spirit of the west? For each one of us it may be different but for me it is the courage of venturing out to an unknown place, it is faith in the Lord that He is able to guide your paths, it is the not only taking hold of new territory but an opportunity to do good and spread the gospel in the land. Of course, historically it has been much more and maybe even very different, for it has taken many forms and many a trials but I see these threads have weaved and formed a vital part of those adventures and stories that made the west. 

The nostalgia of finding new places, extension of the rail lines, establishing of new cities and the leading & founding of a nation that would eventually become a melting pot for all the races of the earth. I know the spirit of the West is even much more, it is also the embodied in the smaller stories of families that went out in search of new opportunities, search for gold, search for jobs, search for new life and along the way forming the myriad threads that build a young nation. 

Why am I relating this? The idea I want to express here is simple, God puts in us desires, hopes and He fills a man's heart with the ideas of going out, taking on new territories, exploring, conquering, subduing, settling and launching others into that calling of adventure; We are wired that way. The good Lord put in each one of us a desire to be much more than what we are. Our endeavor and charge is not to kill those desires and not to let them die with the arrow wounds that fly at us from the past, present or our surroundings. It is in those encounters of our heart the evil whisperer comes and fills us with resignation, wrong ideas, leaning and crippling us with sin. Sometimes we allow ourselves to play the blame game, or the self-pity game and some times we resign to do nothing, the desire dies and so does our hearts. And that is why Yeshua cautions and guards us by quoting from Proverbs 4:23:

Which  reads: “Above all else guard your heart for it is the wellspring of Life."

I like how Ellie in the animation movie 'Up' shouts out "Adventure is out there" - all you have to do is set out and that my friend is the spirit of the west. And even if you don't "Adventure's are still out there" and you still have to go out and live it. I have added one my favorite clips between Carl and Ellie from the movie for you to enjoy; the calling is clear once again "Adventure is out there!!"

Blessings & Shalom,

Sam Kurien