Monday, November 16, 2009

For the Grace of God has appeared, Bringing Salvation to All


Fr Matthew Naicomparambil V.C


We are reading this article at a time when the grace and greatness of God are revealed to us in a special way for the salvation of all. Many lakhs of people read the Bible and receive the light and grace of the Holy Spirit, recognising and witnessing that Jesus is the Saviour and they feel happy and fulfilled at that. 
Even while listening to the Word of God, many are receiving internal peace and tranquility and cure for physical maladies. They witness miraculous happenings and obtain the love of God. These are joyful things and that is why nowadays people of all sorts, irrespective of caste, creed or religious affinities, throng to partake in the retreats and read Vachanotsavam. Each one who comes to the retreat and reads the magazine gets blessing. This phenomenon has become a way for the positive and benevolent intervention of God and a fountain spring for graces in this era. To us, who are stepping into the third millennium, this development gives great hopes. We try hard and for long and are blessed with certain achievements. We bring out various publications. At this particular juncture, God has chosen us, our publications, Vachanotsavam magazine, to spread with lightning speed the Word of God, the Good News. Let us thank God for this great mercy on us. 
Let Him shower on all of us His special, choicest blessings. Let Him instill into us spiritual gifts making us stronger in our faith so that we march forward with confidence at this time of advancement of the Word of God. Praised be the name of Jesus! Praise be to the Father. Adoration to you, O Jesus! Hallelujah!!
The greatest revelation of these times is the Holy Spirit's highlighting to us the Biblical messages indicating that God will render salvation to all and that He desires to give it to all. We read in Lk. 3:6, "And all flesh shall see the salvation of God. "That this is the will and desire of God is shown in the first letter to Timothy (2:3-4). This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." God does not want a single person to perish. "The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance" (2 Pet. 3:9). Therefore God prepares ways and avenues for repentance. These avenues are seen in the numerous retreats and conventions that are held these days and by taking part in them we receive salvation in plentiful and abundant measures. This is what God wants. Everyone should receive the saving graces of the Lord. Today there are 600 crores of people, living in 200 countries spanning the five continents of the world and God wants the Good News to be spread to all of them without exception. You may ask whether it is not possible for the Omnipotent God to do it all by Himself. Of course, He can! But He wants the Good News to spread through us, the faithful believers. So present the Jesus we know and experience to others. Also share with others the words of God that illuminated our lives. Thus, one with the other, the other with another, and so on the chain gets extended, each person becoming a link in propagating the Word of the Lord around the entire length and breadth of the Universe. Also organise some groups and spread the Biblical message. Teach the participants about the salvation Jesus offers. Inform them about the generous act of redemption, the absolution from sin that only Jesus offers. Tell them about the eternal and everlasting life He promises. What work is greater than this magnificent job of spreading the Good News? Jesus asks this stunning question: "For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?" (Matt. 16:26).
 
It is a matter of Great joy, satisfaction and encouragement that at this point in time God is revealing the message of this spiritual salvation and eternal life to the people of different walks of life and faith. Today many, not only Christians, but those baptised and not baptised belonging to other religious leanings take part in the retreats, read spiritual publications, receive the light of the Holy spirit, renew their lives and spiritually transform themselves. They become the living witnesses of Jesus. With joy and happiness and without rest, everyday they proclaim their experiences to the eager multitudes. They gladly share the teachings of Our Lord with others.
I distinctly remember an incident that took place in Potta Ashram right in the beginning when conventions celebrating the Word of God commenced there. A non-Christian came there to take part in the retreat. As he was a labourer on daily wages, he could not afford to come for the retreat everyday. But he came regularly on Sundays to take part in the retreat proceedings. After attending the services on 4 Sundays, he started hating his drinking habit. He soon got the grace to quit smoking, too. He also got relieved of his stomach ailment that was bothering him for long. His life soon transformed into one of joy and peace. Many miraculous changes took place in his life when he heard the word of the Lord. He experienced spiritual tranquility. His inner wounds were healed and he was filled with the joy and love of God. After a few weeks he started taking Vachanotsavam magazine to various households and getting new subscribers to the magazine. He did that because he was enlightened by the Holy Spirit, who gave him the necessary strength, joy and inspiration to do it. I still remember with a sense of wonder how that brother enrolled about 500 subscribers for Vachanotsavam magazine. He was not a highly educated man. He was just a labourer doing odd jobs; he was a drunkard once; he was a heavy smoker once; he had never experienced a peaceful life. But things changed. When he heard Jesus, when he listened to the witnesses proclaiming the miraculous changes brought in their lives by Jesus, when he read and understood the word of the Lord, he changed, he transformed. The Lord did wonders for him.His life was filled with the light and grace of the Holy Spirit. He was filled with burning missionary zeal.
 
Dear brethren, you may all have seen people of different faiths doing this kind of missionary work. You may even be one of them. If that be the case, let us praise the name of God, because this is a great blessing. Working for the greater glory of God, for the salvation of souls, for the repentance and change of heart of sinners, for preaching the word of God to those hitherto ignorant about it, to pray for and work earnestly in the evangelization process - all these are magnificent efforts. Once we might have lived and worked just to satisfy our stomach - our physical needs. But today things have changed for us. With God's love and care enveloping us, we have become zealous missionaries. We have become the select, holy people of God. All these changes take place through the Word, while listening to the Word. When we accepted the Word, transformations occurred in our lives, repentance came to us; we experienced the strength of renewal; we were blessed with clear aims and objectives in our lives; we received the urge to spread the Gospel messages. It is not enough that we alone receive these special gifts of God. Thousands, tens of thousands, millions too should obtain these blessings. It is reported that present day India has a population of 97.5 crores. If it is so, all these 97.5 crores should hear about Jesus, know Him, recognize Him as their Saviour and as the Saviour of the entire world. God will help them in this recognition and realization. He sends the Holy Spirit, performs miracles, shows signs of various sorts, cures physical and mental ills, gives peace in the family, settles quarrels.

Dear people, let us praise the Lord for this stage in our times, let us feel grateful to Him. God has chosen this as a very special age; and He has chosen us for a very special purpose. Listen to what He says, "You did not choose me but I chose you...the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name" (Jn.15:16). This is a mighty promise. The very fact that you are reading this issue of Vachanotsavam is a special chosen act of God. This choice is to know Him, to be filled with His infinite love, and to experience the God- head in your person. This choice is to witness Jesus and to preach the Good News to others. We can understand when we are told that Jesus chose 12 apostles. That was a very big choice. Later he chose, 72 people. From these 72, two each were sent to the towns to prepare the venues and retreat centres before Jesus and His disciples went there. And these chosen people were given powers to work miracles through the Holy Spirit. Hallelujah!!

When we read that the apostles and the saints got such a divine selecting, we can understand it. But it is a joyful experience that we have been chosen by God for this noble mission. Not only us, God is choosing thousands and millions of others for this work. Through our laborious efforts and our tolerance and sacrifices we should hope and pray for the change of heart of countless millions of sinners who still tread in darkness. That will be a commendable effort. We are at the portals of the year 2000, and God has bestowed on us some very great hopes. Our efforts never go in vain. Our prayers never go unanswered. There might be delay in getting answers to our requests, but answers will come. It is just a question of time. With this firm belief, let us pray for this century, for this millennium, in a very special way. Pray with the prompting and thoughts of the Holy Spirit. When we pray in this manner, in collaboration with the Holy Spirit and Jesus, God the Father will heed that prayer and He will shower His choicest blessings on the countless millions of the world.

In Eph 4:10-18 we read how we withstand in our spiritual battles, in the battles against Satan. We are told how to fight and what armour we should wear. Today we are in the midst of a great spiritual battle. Some political parties are terribly afraid even to hear the name of Jesus Christ. When they hear about the good News in the Bible, they pretend that they don't understand it. Some erroneous impressions have been created in their minds about conversions - that they are forced. Under the circumstances, we ourselves need some determination, some insight and some knowledge. What does God want to achieve through us? The greatest thing is that all the faithful should receive the Holy Spirit and become witnesses to Jesus Christ. It is not enough to be witnesses proclaiming the mercies of God. But we must also live exemplary lives in which we behave with love, patience, mercy, affection and respect for one another. We should win the people for the Lord through our own impeccable lives. This attitude and understanding are very essential to do the missionary work for Christ. It is imperative to have this concept to become a real witness to Jesus. When we sit at table to eat with others, we pray loudly, "Dear Lord, you gave us this food; we thank you. We also pray for those who have nothing to eat. We thank you on everybody's behalf" When we pray in this manner, we are truly witnessing and proclaiming the presence of God. We are showing our gratitude to God. At such times speak for and on behalf of Jesus and tell the people about the miracles the Lord has wrought. These miracles may be the ones we read in Vachanotsavam or some other such publications. If you think the incidents you read about are true and convincing, tell others about them. When others listen to you, their spirituality will be touched and awakened and they will be freed from debilitating bonds; they will be imbibed with peace; they will obtain the Holy spirit. This is the benefit of witnessing and living unblemished lives of real witnesses.
 




So what can we do at present, in this age?
 
We become witnesses of Jesus in our private as well as social lives. Give the pride of place to Jesus. Do all your work in proper consultation with Jesus. This is the message to be carried out by all those who believe in Him. All, whether they are employed or unemployed, elders or children, should glorify the name of Jesus. Bear witness to Him. Invite Jesus into our lives and into the midst of our society. Conduct intercessory prayers; circulate our publications and other pamphlets, become active helpers in the spreading of the Biblical message. Learn the word, accept the word and share the Word. There are so many things waiting to be fulfilled through us. God will give us the necessary strength. Each of these publications is preparing us for this noble work. God's grace has appeared for the redemption of all. Our sins are removed. We are freed from the bonds of sin. We are given a new vigour. God is giving us all these. Let us thank the Lord. Let us praise Him. Let us sing to Him hymns of gratitude. Hallelujah! Thank you, Oh Jesus! Praises be to you, Oh Jesus!!


We are now entering the new year. We are now standing at the glorious dawn of a new millennium. Each one of us must prepare a spiritual action plan, at least for this impending new year. What all things am I going to do for my Lord? What are the things for which I have to prepare definite plans? Our new year plan should, inter alia, should have the following : I will share the word of God with at least so many people; I will do my best to establish and develop prayer groups. How will I go about establishing these new groups? Have definite plans for all this. These can also be intercessory prayer groups. Through all these we experience spiritual growth and also the necessary experience to preach the Gospel of the Lord. To how many people will I preach? To how many people will I send the magazine? To how many people will I make the Holy Bible available? All these should become points to be included in our scheme. If we proceed according to the prepared schemes, we shall be able to achieve more than what we desire and hope for Jesus Christ and the Holy church and this can be seen in Eph. 3:20, "Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine" Hallelujah!

We can also visit sick people and share the Good News with them. Go to a hospital. There you will meet patients and their relatives and friends. Ask them if you can pray for God's help. In your prayers, include the ones proclaiming that Jesus is the Saviour, the one containing the message of promise of the Holy spirit, the one assuring redemption and salvation offered by Jesus. When they hear these powerful prayers, at least a few will definitely have some change of heart and faith. Some will be spiritually awakened. Hallelujah! Praises to you, Oh Lord! So prepare an action plan for the new year. Remember the plan and pray every day. Ask for the blessings of God so that our plan succeeds. Think there are hundreds around us who are unfortunate, deprived and desperate without any ray of hope, mentally retarded, and helpless. We should find joy in serving such people. God loves such charitable acts on our part. You read about it in many places in the Holy Bible. So dear readers, we pray God the Almighty to do great things for you in this New Year.

It is the Holy Spirit that gives us the grace to do good and continue doing the good work. It is the Holy Spirit that endows us with the thought to desire good and execute it to fruition. Therefore let the Holy Spirit shower on us His choicest blessings in this new Year and the New circumstances.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Why Are You Afraid?


Fr. George Panakal V.C.

When we get knowledge about Jesu,s automatically transformation takes place in us. Our words and deeds change. The more you know Jesus the more you change.
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end, and they are new every morning.” (Lam. 3:22-23)
This love makes us a new creation, strengthens us to do deeds filled with love. For where two or three are gathered in Jesus’ name, Jesus is there among them. Early believers felt the presence of God among themselves. A believer of Jesus is entirely different from others. All the religions talk about God like this: no one can see God if anyone sees God, he/she will die; this was the belief of the early Jews. People say God is this, God is that, etc. But no one ever taught about God like Jesus did. Jesus is the first person in history
that called God, “Father.” This is not merely a name but a relationship. When we look up to Jesus, we get all the answers we want about God. Jesus is the first born of all creation.
To know Jesus means to know God. “The Father and I are one.” (Jn. 10:30) When we get knowledge about Jesus, automatically transformation takes place in us. Our words and deeds change. The more you know Jesus the more you change. The more you know Jesus the more you change. In history Jesus is the God who came down as a human being. There is no doubt about that, that Jesus was a human being. Some people believe that he was a prophet. A prophet is a person who talks for God. Jesus said it himself that the prophecy was about Him. All the prophecies were fulfilled in Him. This peculiarity we find only in Jesus. Jesus said, “I am the way and truth and the life” (Jn. 14:6). “I am the resurrection and the life” (Jn.11;25). “The Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins” (Matt. 9:6). No one else said these things. Whatever Jesus said is the truth.
Jesus said he would rise from the dead. He appeared to more that five hundred brothers and sisters at one time. Whoever saw him believed in him and were witnesses for him. Isaiah spoke about why Jesus became a human being (Lk. 4:18). When Jesus went to the temple, He cast out demons, saved people from Satan and their bondages. He cured Peter’s mother in law; Peter was with Jesus so it follows that whoever is with Jesus, Jesus takes care of their family members. Jesus was available for even the leprosy patients.
Jesus waited for the Samaritan woman near the well. Now Jesus is waiting for each and every person who comes to the Divine Retreat Centers.
Whoever is in Christ Jesus now, their problems are not so big. Jesus can solve each and every problem. For that you need faith. And that is the reason why the disciples prayed “increase our faith.” Isaiah 28:16 says, “One who trusts will not panic.” If we look through the intellectual level, we cannot see any miracles. Faith is much above the intellectual level. But it is not the opposite. We see our problems on our intellectual level.
We are not looking for the One who can solve them. That is why people have fear, anxiety and worries. For a believer, rather than look at the problem, they must look to the One God who can solve them. When there was no more wine, Mother Mary went to Jesus.
One day Paul and Silas were going for prayer. But they landed in prison. They never took off their handcuffs or chains nor did the jailor. But Jesus took them off. The Jesus who said, “I am with you always to the end of the age.” The one who looks at Jesus should worship, praise and thank him, and then his problems are solved. Paul and Silas’ chains were unfastened. But they did not escape; they waited for God’s plans to be fulfilled through them. As a result the jailor and his family were saved. The believer always has his God inside his heart.
Jesus is the controller of our lives. Without Jesus our lives will not move in the right way, if Christ sets us free, then we are really free (Gal. 5:1). Jesus has the authority over Satan, disease, death and this world. If Jesus is with us then why should we fear? He will give us peace. When Jesus was resting in the boat a windstorm arose on the sea. The boat was in the middle of the sea and was being swamped by the waves. Jesus was with the disciples when asked to save them; Jesus stills the storm and rebuked the winds. Because he is the creator of all!
There are three areas in which Satan attacks us. That is: relationship, property and body. Job was attacked by Satan in all three areas. He lost his children, his property was destroyed and he got sick. God also has the authority over all these three areas. That is why Job said, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:20). We should we give God the authority over us. When Gladys Stains came to know about her husband and son, that they had been burned alive, she gave thanks to God for keeping them alive until that time. Body, property and relationship: if you surrender them to God then that becomes a sacrifice, then God will protect them.
If the Blood of the Lamb gave protection to the Israelites then God will protect us too. Jesus, the Lamb of God will give protection to our properties and we will be His. Then nobody can touch us. My life and all in my life will belong to God and this is the real spirituality. Whatever we may surrender will be sanctified by God.

Who Is the Owner?


Fr. George Panackal

“But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw God’s glory, and Jesus standing at the right-hand side of God. “Look!” he said. “I see heaven opened and the Son of Man standing at the right-hand side of God!” Then they all rushed at him at once, threw him out of the city and stoned him. ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!’ He knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, ‘Lord! Do not remember this sin against them!’ He said this and died” (Acts 7:54-60).
Stephen did not think the stones coming against him will be changed into flowers, or that those who threw the stones would be dashed to the ground. Since he was with God he did not have any such imaginations. Instead of praying for a miracle by God, he prayed, “Lord! Do not lay this sin against them!” When any word or deed is said or done against a person who is full of the Spirit, what rises from the heart of that person is, “Father! Do not hold this against them!” Stephen prayed thus for his persecutors. The Holy Spirit will teach us how to act in such circumstances. As mentioned above, if we wish the stones should be turned into flowers, we shall be greatly disappointed when it does not happen so.
Nowhere else in history do we find mention of any person praying for those who were stoning him to death? In the midst of those who stoned Stephen, there was also a man named Saul. That Saul later became Paul. Stephen’s prayer must have been the cause of his conversion. Through that prayer, Saul, from being an enemy, was converted and became a great witness of Christ Jesus, ready to die for Him. He became the greatest missionary the world has ever seen. May Stephen’s prayer do the same wonder today in the lives of those who are anxiously worrying about those who harm them, whether at home or at place of work.
Paul and Silas were arrested and their hands and feet were bound with chains. The guards stood outside. But unmindful of the jail and chains they only saw Jesus who could, if He wanted, shatter the chains and break the jail. They were convinced that He was with them even in the middle of the night. With that conviction they continued to sing and praise their Lord and Master. They surrendered all their adversities into His hands. In the end, their chains were loosened and doors of the jail were thrown open. Had we been in the place of Paul and Silas we would have questioned God, why He is not intervening in our predicament, why He is not minding us; is there no God? The person who tries to look at situations using his own intelligence and reasoning will only burden his own head with his adversities. On the other hand, one who adores and praises
God in adversity will see God in it.
God sends His Spirit whenever we are in trouble. Why? So that we may understand the truth and know God’s will. Consider the disciples of Jesus in the Upper Room. They were praying so that they might receive the Holy Spirit; they were praying only to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Not because they did not have other things in mind. Like us they too had several pressing problems in their lives. They had left their boats and nets
and followed Jesus. But with His death everything seemed to be lost. They were back to their poverty-stricken life. They began going back to the sea. In spite of all this they gathered in the Upper Room and prayed not for prosperity and wealth. Even though they shut themselves in the room for fear of the Jews, they did not think of their tormentors once they were together there. They prayed only to be filled with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God came down upon them in their moments of adversity.
When we are in adverse circumstances are we able to pray for the Holy Spirit like the disciples? If we are able to do so, the Spirit will surely come to us. The Spirit will give us the freedom to understand the truth and to adore and praise God and call Him Abba, Father. “See how much the Father has loved us! His love is so great that we are called God’s children – and so, in fact, we are. This is why the world does not know us: it has not known God.”(1Jn3:1)
Many people think that God makes us suffer and cry. In that case, He must be very small and feeble. On the contrary, in every opposing circumstance, God makes us grow in the knowledge of truth. To grow in knowledge means to grow in truth.
What is our outlook on wealth? We think that with our own effort we made all that wealth; we are its owner, its master. But is that true? The Bible tells us that the owner of wealth is God; man is only its keeper and its user. Do we realize it? If we do, we will not spend a paisa without consulting its owner. Take such a decision and our life style will completely change. Will God give us money to waste on alcohol or to spend lavishly on
unnecessary things? Only those who consider themselves as owner will feel the loss of wealth. Those who place it in God’s hands will not have such regrets. We must seek God, the owner of wealth; our aim and objective should not be the wealth alone. Ask ourselves whether we are running after riches which cannot save us, or after Jesus who alone can save us. God is the one who protects us. His promise is before us: “Look at the birds of the air! They neither sow nor reap, nor gather into barns. Yet God feeds them”(Lk.12:24). Let this conviction fill every part of our being.

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