Saturday, September 04, 2010

O Captain! My Captain!

American poet Walt Whitman wrote O Captain! My Captain! in 1865 a tribute he paid to Abraham Lincoln. Here is a video narration of the same for you to enjoy.

O Captain!_My Captain by Walt Whitman from Sam on Vimeo.

Amazingly the words so apply to our savior the only difference being Yeshua's victory didn't stop at His death but was complete in His resurrection and ascension. Every great leader pays the ultimate price by the sacrifice of his life. They go through great perils and guide a nation or a group of people through amazing long arduous journey's, some even don't see victory but live a life that over arches their own personal purposes. This poem though about Lincoln does not fail to remind me that Yeshua came into the world in disguise, for a daring rescue and restoration. C.S. Lewis puts it appropriately in Mere Christianity in his argument of God becoming man for us:

"But supposing God became a man - suppose our human nature which can suffer and die was amalgamated with God's nature in one person - then that person could help us. He could surrender His will, and suffer and die, because He was man; and He could do it perfectly because He was God. You and I can go through this process only if God does it in us; but God can do it only if He becomes man. Our attempts at this dying will succeed only if we men share in God's dying, just as our thinking can succeed only because it is a drop out of the ocean of His intelligence: but we cannot share God's dying unless God dies; and He cannot die except by being a man. That is the sense in which He pays our debt, and suffers for us what He Himself need not suffer at all. 

Isn't that amazing? I have purposefully related the poem to Lewis's argument not only to point out there was no way to save us and pay for our debt, redemption and restoration but for Yeshua to become man. And it was the only way we now can relate in our journey of dying to ourselves for living in Him.

Yeshua says:

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

Denying here is daily dying, a resolute commitment to live in Him and that is the only way His life of abundance can flow in us. I am reminded of the scene in LOTR movie when Boromir is fighting the Orcs to save the hobbits, he lays down his life fighting. When Arragon finally comes to his aid, its too late but he is able to encourage Boromir that he fought bravely like a true son of Gondor at this Boromir replies, "I would have followed you till the end, My Brother, My Captain, My King".

In closing then let us resolve & renew our minds to transform our hearts on this journey calling our Lord "O Captain! My Captain! & My King!, I will follow you to the end in battles, wars and in the mundane's of life.

Shalom & Blessings,

Sam Kurien

'If'- Narration by Roger Federer & Raphael Nadal

I have decided to include my favorite poems from time to time that have shaped my thinking and faith. I was surprised to learn that last year's theme at Wimbeldon was Kiplings's poem - 'IF' and why not... how appropriate!.  Kipling was the winner of the 1907 Noble Prize in Literature and etched at the entrance of at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbeldon in his memory stand the words taken from his famous poem:

"If you can meet with triumph and disaster And treat those two imposters just the same;"
So last year the poem was read by two of my favorite players Federer & Nadal, here's the video of the narration:

If_Read By Roger Federer_and_Nadal from Sam on Vimeo.

Blessings & Shalom,

Sam Kurien

Friday, September 03, 2010

Understanding The Religious Spirit through 'Chocolat'

During summer many a friday nights my family gets to see a brilliant display of fireworks right from our house, shooting up and glittering the skies up, a result of the local baseball team winning on their home turf. The spectacle is beautiful and it usually ends in this grand finale of  phat pat phat phat phat pat boom, badoom, phoosh ending with a thunderous applause rising to the sky. Last night was the same, though I missed the finale the sounds were a  refreshing reminder of the joy in the Father's heart when a sinner repents, or when life happens, shalom reigns and His life is infused in something that was dead and wretched.

Talking about dead and wretched - a religious spirit is just that. It inbreeds within us; inculcating and feeding pride, hypocrisy, cover up, and adorning itself in self righteousness.  Its squeaky clean outside but very hollow inside. To illustrate the point I want to talk about a movie "Chocolat" adapted on the book written by Joanne Harris. The movie and book are brilliant in portraying what the false religious spirit is all about. The story takes place in 1959 French countryside a small village surrounded by its age old tradition of religion and rules...tranquility or tranquillité reigns supreme. Worship, orthodoxy and even the sermons written by the church priest was tightly controlled by its mayor Comte de Reynaud. Renaud who made sure that none of these age old ways and traditions of the fathers were disturbed. Nothing out of the norm was to be even thought of. The monotony of the village life crushed life and spirit itself from within. The people of the town became slaves of their own traditions and kept it up for external appearances.

It is the season of lent and as the north wind blows in, a single mother and her pre-teen daughter move into this small town. Its as if God has send a woman to purposefully disturb the tranquility, shake up life and blow holes in the false outward religiosity of the simple folk of the town. The woman Vianne Rocher and her young daughter are drifters and are met with skepticism and resistance as they set up a chocolateier in a rented house that stood before the town church. Vianne’s chocolate creates quite the stir, improving one couple’s love life, inspiring a wife (Lena Olin) to leave her abusive husband and reuniting a old woman (Judi Dench) with her grandson. In a more serious film, this would all seem quite convenient and unlikely, but few viewers will fail to notice that chocolate is a metaphor here for something bigger. It embodies that blurred line between what is temptation and what is a healthy possibility. As Vianne begins to work her magic with delicious chocolates and helping people who don't neatly fit in. Renaud the town mayor has silently launched a tirade of gossip campaign against her morality of starting up a chocolate shop during the season of lent. Vianne's warm friendly personality and incredible chocolates manage to win many townsfolk except for the mayor and few men who hold up the resistance. Things get shaken up even more when a group of gypsies led by Roux stop into town (to the even greater distress of the mayor) and Vianne takes up with him.

Chocolat - Vianne Sets Up Shop from Sam on Vimeo.

The movie takes on its brilliant course when Vianne finally gives up and is ready to move out of the town after a fire incident and constant threats from the town's leadership against her presence and the existence of her business. However Josephine rallies with the help of the friends (whose lives were made different by Vianne) to keep running the shop, Vianne is persuaded to stay by the love expressed by these friends. In the meantime the mayor's false veil of religiosity breaks and he ends up in Vianne's shop devouring the chocolates that he had prevented others to buy. The mayor realizes the freedom in love and unity was much better than just keeping up a false pretentious face over things that really didn't matter. Pere Henri (Hugh O’Conor) delivers the closing words of the film at Easter Mass after appearing as a peculiar and weak character throughout, the story’s message of accepting others who are different from us, allowing life to flow in freedom of faith, trust, relationships and  love rather than religious veil of hypocrisy.

Another cool aspect of the story is Vianne's own struggle, a bondage that came down from her mother who belonged to a native american tribe that discovered 'cocoa',  with an unusual curse of her people. The curse was whenever the special north wind blew she would get up and leave the place with her daughter, leaving her home, husband and the roots that she had set up. Vianne's daughter Anook hates moving and has not found a place to call home because of this bondage. The north wind has blown again and Vianne struggles once more 'to pick up & leave everything she has come to love', but this time she overcomes this bondage from her mysterious past and has decided to put down her roots. A woman is created by her maker to put down roots, bring stability, give life and make things grow. She leaves the curse behind, leaves it for someone else to go to new places, find new friends and change lives.

“Chocolat” could easily be construed as critical of organized religion, Catholicism in particular, but Pere Henri’s speech beautifully connects the film’s call for embracing life with Christian philosophy. It’s a timeless message with timeless components, but the unique premise and setting make “Chcolat” a fresh tale of great wisdom.

Yeshua came to give life and not just life but life in abundance. 

Blessings & Shalom,

Sam Kurien

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

The Blessed Life

Last weekend finished reading "The Blessed Life" By Pastor Robert Morris. I was blown away by the challenges the book addresses to us about living a life of giving. This is the first book that I have been satisfied in terms of understanding the principles of tithing at a deeper level how it is a form of worship that is sacred to the Lord. Though I took a lot away from the book and referenced it deeply from the word of God, this post however will not delve into all the details but some important points that I want to record  for my own personal memoir.

God always takes the first place. You cannot give Him a second place in any realm of your life. Believers in Yeshua are called to lay down their lives and deny themselves. It is like the inner man dies and the new man now lives as exhorted in the gospels and Pauline letters when you are in Yeshua.

Some important points I go away blessed with in the area of giving: are:

The Lord tests us in three areas:

1) Test of Need: This is where the principle of the first fruits apply. In whatever you make and do the first portion is always the Lord's. This is the only area the Lord allows a believer to test Him back. He promises:

8 "Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me.
"But you ask, 'How do we rob you?'
"In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit," says the LORD Almighty. 12 "Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land," says the LORD Almighty. (Malachi 3:8-12)

2) Test of Greed: When the Lord blesses you with abundance, the question that comes to your heart is will you hold back your generosity?. The principle here is we give because God is a generous giver and He tests us to see if we will hold back in greed, and begin trusting in our resources or something that replaces Him. Our abundance and wealth are to be held loosely and we give not to get, but we give so that we are instruments of His blessings, we becomes vessels that pour out generously to meet a need that the Holy Spirit prompts us to. Sometimes abundance can also put us in a state of fear, when we begin to depend on it as the source of our resources rather than Him being the source of all our life and all our needs.

3) Finally the Test of the Seed: Morris talks about three types of givers, tithers, generous givers and the extravagant givers. The final test is in the test of the seed once you grow and are fully sold out to God and are living in the leading of His Holy Spirit we go past the state of abundance and are in the unique position of being extravagant givers. Because God is an extravagant giver, He teaches us this test has three underlying principles, they are:

a) You get what you sow: If you sow bountifully, you will reap bountifully, if you sow corn you will get corn, if you sow wheat, you will get wheat.

b) You reap after you sow: The harvest comes after you have sown. A farmer cannot say I will reap in so and so month this much without actually sowing something.

c) You will reap more than what you sow: The harvest that comes back is always much more than what you sow. A apple seed when it becomes a apple tree brings forth much more apples.

Now these principles are important to understand in understanding the test of the seed. God will give extravagant givers seed. They will be instrumental in building the kingdom of God, though God is the provider of the seed and He is the one who gives growth to that seed and He is also the one who brings fruit, our test lies in what we are going to do with that seed. When King David saw that he was not the one supposed to build the temple, he purposefully set out to lay out all the provisions necessary (for his son Solomon), wood, workers, silver, gold, supplies, and monies.If you take that in today's value perspective it would be roughly about 21 billion dollars. You will ask just to build a temple for the Lord. The natural logical mind would say "should we waste that much on a building instead of  helping the poor?" I know a selfish mind would also say that...It all boils down to your heart's condition and hearts attitude in extravagant giving. Yeshua talks about an equally extravagant gift in His eyes when he points his disciples to the poor woman's mite who gave it all into the house of God. One may also draw attention to the form of worship that Mary showed by pouring out precious spikenard on Jesus's feet that was worth a year's wages in Israel.

3Then Mary took about a pint[a] of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus' feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.. (John 12:3)

It was indeed an extravagant giving and  an extravagant act of worship that came from a heart in a good place.  Its not the value associated with the giving or the seed but it is the action and attitude of the heart that counted towards the Lord and His Kingdom. And in closing, the Lord God of Israel will never be out given. He promises and guarantees His children a return much more in the natural and the super-natural realms. Again its not in what we get but in what we give the joy of the Lord & His kingdom expands and overflows in our hearts.

Blessings & Shalom,

Sam Kurien