Our breath — a Gift of God

God holds your breath in His hand …. Daniel 5: 23(b).

On an average an adult man/ woman takes 20000 breaths per day. It’s an involuntary action which often goes unnoticed in our daily activities. But if for a moment, we are to hold our breath , then we know how much we struggle for air. This is because the oxygen in the air we breathe in highly essential to sustain our life. So how often does all of this in and out breathing take place? It depends upon your age and activity level. Children tend to have more rapid breathing rates. For example, newborn babies often breathe 30-60 times per minute. Toddlers might breathe 20-30 times per minute. Older children and adults, when resting, usually breathe about 12-20 times per minute. Over the course of a day, that adds up to 17,000-30,000 breaths per day — or more! . The day we take our last breath, we die. As the moment of death approaches, the person’s breathing may slow down and become irregular. It might stop and then start again or there might be long pauses or stops between breaths. This is sometimes known as Cheyne-Stokes breathing. The breath and the spirit that God gave us ( Isaiah 5:5(b)) returns to the Creator ( Ecclesiastes 12:7).


Our breaths are counted and decided by the Creator before He formed in our mother’s womb. That’s why Psalmist David says in Psalm 139 vs.13-16, ” For You formed my inner parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb…..My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skilfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet informed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me…”.
Indeed man is a wonderful creation. Starting with two individual cells from both the parents , each with 23 chromosomes fusing together to form a single cell called the zygote with 46 chromosomes. It then starts dividing and multiplying and continue the process of division and multiplication to form an embryo and then the foetus , ultimately ending into an adult human body consisting of over 30 trillion cells.
While the cells are the body’s unit blocks, it is the DNA ( Deoxyribonucleic that unlocks the mystery of who we are and why we exist. The DNA is the biological key that makes each person unique. It stores information about our physical traits like gender, hair colour, height, behaviour patterns etc.
Each and every cell in our body requires oxygen for its function.Our body needs oxygen to obtain energy to fuel all our living processes. Carbon dioxide is a waste product of that process. We get our oxygen from the air we breathe.
I happened to see a very emotional message doing the rounds in WhatsApp. It’s of an old man in Italy, who had recovered from Covid 19 and was getting discharged from the hospital, when the doctor handed him his bill for settlement. While going through the bill, the 73 year old man started crying. The doctor tried to console him and told him that if it’s regarding his inability to pay the hospital bill, he could help him by talking to the hospital management. But the old man said that he could pay the bill in full, and wasn’t crying out of his financial inability, but out of his guilt. He said to the doctor, “you have billed me 5000 Euros for a day’s usage of the ventilator through which I was able to breathe and sustain my life. But, how much do I owe God for the oxygen that I was breathing free for all these 73 years? And I have never been grateful to Him, and that guilt made me cry”.
This is exactly what Daniel told Belshazzar, the King of Babylon when he was called to interpret the Writing on the wall as it is written in the Bible in the Book of Daniel, chapter 5. In verse Daniel tells the king, ‘ you have not glorified the God who holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways’.
Friends, are we not like the old man mentioned above? We very often take our life for granted. We never take time to stop for a moment and think of the immense ways God has been taking care of us all through our life . The year 2020 will come to an end in a few days time. This year has been a terrible year for all of us all over the world with the Covid 19 pandemic taking several lives. I too lost a couple of my friends to the virus. This pandemic has changed the way we live and experts say that life will not be the same again. If we are still taking our life for granted and continue to live without being grateful to God who has breathed His breath and spirit into us, then we are the most unfortunate lot. So friends, let’s be grateful to God and sing with the Psalmist, ” Let everything that has breath praise the Lord” ( Psalm 150:6), because our breath is a Gift of God.

GOD PROVIDES FOR HIS CREATION

I happened to see a very emotional message doing the rounds in WhatsApp. It’s of an old man in Italy, who had recovered from Covid 19 and was getting discharged from the hospital, when the doctor handed him his bill for settlement. While going through the bill, the 73 year old man started crying. The doctor tried to console him and told him that if it’s regarding his inability to pay the hospital bill, he could help him. But the old man said that he could pay the bill in full, and wasn’t crying out of his financial inability, but out of his guilt. He said to the doctor, “you have billed me 5000 Euros for a day’s usage of the ventilator through which I was able to breathe and sustain my life. But, how much do I owe God for the oxygen that I was breathing free for all these 73 years? And I have never been grateful to Him, and that guilt made me cry”.

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Friends, I had in my first blog entitled  “Gift of Life” , published in WordPress way back on 26 th December, 2017, had penned the following lines which I reproduce here. I qoute –“Have we ever given a thought to the Gifts we are enjoying free of cost like the air we breathe, the life sustaining water we drink, and the warmth of sunlight or the cool breeze that comforts us on a warm day or the rain that satiates the thirst of the earth so that there could be water in our wells or bore wells…???”   If you have ever been in an hospital paying the hospital bills of a close relative or friend admitted there in the ICU and is on oxygen, then you will know the value of the Oxygen we breathe free of charge. Or if you have been to a desert where people walk miles to fetch a pitcher of water, then you will know the value of the water we waste every day. The comparison can go on… now if we were to pay for the oxygen that we breathe in day in and day out or the water we use or waste every day or the Vitamin D3 that we get free from the sunlight, how much would have been our monthly bill? Will we be able to afford it? Have you thought about it? I think we should occasionally give a serious thought to it.

So friends be Thankful to God for His innumerable and invaluable Gifts and blessings. Above all the Gift of Life. There’s nothing you can pay Him back, except having a grateful heart”. Unquote.
“BLESS THE LORD , O MY SOUL, AND FORGET NOT ALL HIS BENEFITS “.Psalm 103: 2.

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In continuation of the above thought, I wish to draw your kind attention to the provisions our Loving God is making for all His creation by quoting the book of Psalms in the Bible. King David, who has written many Psalms, which are sung as Songs of Praise, has given a detailed description of the awesome way God provides not only for man, but also for the animals and birds and the all the living creatures on land and in the sea. Before becoming the King of Israel, David had spent his childhood days as a shepherd boy and had seen nature at very close quarters, which had kindled the poet in him, and he used to sing praises to God with his harp.

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In Psalm 104 , he praises God who made the Earth, the heavens and the sea. Having set boundaries for the seas, God directs the springs into the Valleys, and they starts flowing from the hills . From these springs, the wild donkeys quench their thirst, and every beast of the field drink . There are trees by the side of the rivers, where the birds of the sky have their home; and sing among the branches .

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He waters the earth with rains, and causes the grass to grow for the cattle, and vegetation for Man that he may bring forth food from the earth. And wine to make him glad, and oil to make his hair, face and body shine, and bread to strengthen him . The fir trees are the home for the stork. The high hills are for the wild goats; and the cliffs are a refuge to the rock badgers ( Hyrax seen in South Africa).

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God has appointed the moon for seasons; and the sun knows it’s going down, and as night falls, all the beasts of the forest creep about. The young lions roar after their prey, and seek their food from God who has instituted the Food Chain. When the sun rises, these nocturnal animals gather together and lie down in their dens. It is then Man goes out for his work and to labor until the evening.

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Then, there’s the great and wide sea in which are innumerable teeming living things, both small and great. The Psalmist says that these all wait for God to give them food in due season. What God gives them they gather in; when He opens His hand they are filled with good. When He takes away their breath, they die and return to their dust. When God send forth His Spirit, new creations occur and the face of the earth is thus renewed.
After having understood the marvelous ways of God’s provision in Nature, David sings out his soulful praise saying,. “Bless the Lord, O my soul! O Lord my God, You are very great…”( Psalm 104:1)

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Friends, let us also like King David, ‘Sing to the Lord with Thanksgiving; sing praises on the harp to our God, who covers the heavens with clouds, who prepares rain for the earth, who makes grass to grow, and gives food to the beast and to the young ravens that cry (Psalm 147: 7-9).

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The Lord gives food to the hungry ( Psalm 146 Vs 7). The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works ( Psalm 145 vs.9). The eyes of all look expectantly to You, O Lord, and You give them their food in due season. You open Your hand and satisfy the need of every living thing. ( Psalm 145: 15-16).

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The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He also will hear their cry and save them. The Lord preserves all who love Him. My mouth shall speak the Praise of the Lord, and all flesh shall bless His holy name forever and ever (Psalm 145:18-21) Amen.

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“Be Still, and know that I am God”

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the Nations, I will be exalted in the earth !
The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge”. ( Psalm 46:10,11)

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It is believed that Psalm 46 was written by the sons of Korah ( the descendants of Korah found in the Book of Numbers Ch 16), when King Hezekiah won the battle over the Assyrian King Sennacherib. To understand the full meaning of this Psalm, one should read from the Bible the book of Isaiah chapter 36 and 37. Here we can see the Chief of the princes of King of Assyria coming with his great Army of men to King Hezekiah at Jerusalem, and threatening the people of Judah to face severe consequences if they do not surrender to the king of Assyria. He uses very mean language to demotivate the people of Judea in their own language( Hebrew). He challenges the God of Israel and King Hezekiah’s faith in Jehovah. We read in chapter 37 verse 14 onwards that when Hezekiah received the letter from the hands of the messengers, and read it, he went up to the house of the Lord and spread the letter before the Lord. ‘Then Hezekiah prayed to the Lord…….’. the remaining verses in the chapter outlines his prayer and God’s reply through Isaiah, the Prophet. God promised Hezekiah that, “Because you have prayed to Me ( Vs.21)………..he ( king of Assyria) shall not come into this City, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shield, nor build a seige mound against it. By the way he came, by the same shall he return, and he shall not come into this city, says the Lord. For I will defend this city, to save it for my own sake and for my servant David’s sake”(Vs.33-36). Then the angel of the Lord went out and killed in the camp of the Assyrians, one hundred and eighty five thousand, and when the people rose early in the morning there were the corpses– all dead.

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“Prayer moves the Hand that moves the World”- E.M. Bounds.

Hezekiah’s prayer was answered. In Ch.37 Vs 21 we read, ‘Thus says the Lord God of Israel, “Because you have prayed to Me….” These words are important. We have a God who is ready to answer our prayers, if we return to Him in prayers. In Isaiah ch.1 Vs.1, God says, “Keep silence before Me, O coastlands, and let the people renew their strength! Let them come near, then let them speak”.

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As the world is going through the Covid19 pandemic, it’s comforting to know that “The Lord of hosts is with us; the Lord of Jacob is our refuge”.( Psalm 46:11) It’s high time that the people of all nations know and acknowledge that the Lord God is the Master of the Universe. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last. ( Revelation 22:13). He has said that, “When I shut up heaven and there’s no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people; if My people who are called by My Name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn away from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:13-14). Please note the words “If My people who are called by My Name will humble and pray and seek My face..”. Who are the people who are called by Christ’s Name ? — CHRISTIANS !. So it’s the duty of each and every Christian to turn away from their wicked ways, and to pray to our loving God for His Mercy and Compassion on us and on the people of this world so that, He in His compassion will heal the world from the dreaded Covid19. ‘For now, the battle is not ours, but God’s’ ( 2 Chronicles 20: 15b).
‘Be STILL, and know that Jesus is God. His Name will be exalted among the nations, He will be exalted in the earth!’. Amen.

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EASTER — The Promise of Life after death.

Last year, on the 20th of April 2019, when the world was celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ on an Easter Sunday, some religious fanatic suicide bombers went to the St. Sebastian Catholic Church, St. Anthony’s Catholic Church, and the Zion Protestant Church in SriLanka and blew up themselves. This incident left more than 400 people dead and maiming many for life and leaving scars that cannot be healed in the minds of the survivors and their relatives. But the world moved on, not much concerned about what happened in Sri Lanka as it had not affected them. Leading Super Powers of the world condemned the dastardly attack. But the common man living in those developed countries were more busy with their lives and their jobs and their stocks.

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I had then, posted my thoughts in my blog on this unfortunate incident on April 23 , 2019 under the heading – Easter the hope of resurrection. Now a year later, as the first anniversary of the the Srilankan tragedy is approaching I thought of penning these thoughts on how the world has changed over the last few months, eversince the dawn of 2020. I feel the Universal Leveller is at work across the Nations, irrespective of East or West, North or South, rich or poor, Black or White, Developed or Underdeveloped, and beyond all religions – Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Sikh, or atheist. And that what brought this change is a microscopic virus named Covid-19. This virus which originated in Wuhan in China, has crossed the barriers of the Great wall of China, and has travelled across the world affecting more than a million people and killing more than a lakh of people all over the world. Countries like the USA, UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, China , Gulf Countries and many of the developed Nations who used to boast of their military power, money power,Oil power and scientific achievements are the worst hit. They stand aghast of the things happening around them and see people falling dead as the Medical Science is looking helpless. This Great Leveller has no distinction between Prince Charles or the Prime Minister of Britain, or the Prime Minister of Canada, and the common man living in the streets of Mumbai.

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We see a similar affliction affecting the people of Egypt, in the Bible in the book of Exodus ch. 12 vs 29 -30, where we see the Lord striking all the firstborn of the land of Egypt from the firstborn of Pharaoh on his throne ,to the first born of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the first born of the livestock. The Lord said that He will pass through the land of Egypt on that night and execute the judgement to deliver the people of Israel from their bondage of 430 years in Egypt and prove to Pharoah and the people of Egypt, who oppressed them that he is the Lord God ( Exo. 12 vs12). But the Lord made a separation between the people of Egypt and the people of Israel. He commanded Moses to ask all the families of Israel to kill a Passover lamb,one for each family, and to mark the two door posts and the lintel of their houses where they stayed, with the blood of the lamb. He also asked for a lockdown for the people of Israel and asked Moses to tell them that they should all remain indoors and none should go out of the door of the house until morning, for the Lord will pass through to strike the Egyptians, and when He sees blood on the door posts and on the lintel, the Lord would pass over the door and not allow the destroyer to come to the house of the people of Israel to strike them. Thus the Lord made a perfect distinction between the oppressor and the oppressed.

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PRIDE GOES BEFORE A FALL
” These six things the Lord hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him. A proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies , and one who does discord among brethren”. (Proverbs 6:16-19).
There is another instance recorded in the Bible in the book of Genesis chapter 11 vs 1 to 9, when the whole world had only one language and one speech. This enabled the people to progress at a very fast pace and they reached a point in history when they thought they could achieve anything. To prove their power of might and strength, they started building a tower to touch the heavens, and they called it the Tower of Babel. They thought that man is God and  is supreme and he could do whatever he wanted. Then again we see the Great Leveller at work. We read that the Lord confused the language of all the earth and from there the Lord scattered them over the face of all the earth and they ceased building the city.

Pride over all the scientific achievements, and in the field of Space Science made the rich countries so self centered that they almost destroyed the earth, and were planning to settle on the moon and Mars after destroying life on this earth using their nuclear bombs and hydrogen bombs. Modern man also thought he is god and was trusting only on his wealth power and the material world. He thought he is god and the supreme authority over this earth and the planets.

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Today if we look around the globe , we find the Great Leveller at work once again. He is now undoing all the the ills man had brought on this earth by his overindulgence and over-exploitation. The pollution of air, water and land were all going beyond unimaginable limits killing many innocent people of pollution related diseases and allergies. Even many of the birds of the air, fishes in the sea, and wild animals in the forests started becoming extinct because of pollution , radiation and worst of all- Man’s never ending greed . World leaders  meet year after year to find a solution to the weather changes, but they meet only to disagree and the world saw children becoming the champions of the earth with their ‘Save the Earth Campaign’. Now, after a few weeks of lockdown all over the world because of Covid-19, we see the Creator is at work, repairing his creation. After this world lockdown period ends, we can be rest assured that the world will be a cleaner, healthier place to live. Because, by then God would have created a new earth and new heavens because He is the Original Creator, and only He can repair His Masterpiece Creation. The Great Leveller is at work and this gives mankind immense hope.

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Just as we Worship Our Risen Lord, this Easter 2020 in a lockdown condition within the four walls of our homes, let us rejoice and be glad that even though there is a gloom of uncertainty on the faces of the people around the world, there is hope for those who have painted their door posts and lentils of their homes and lives with the precious blood of Christ, the Passover lamb without blemish and without spot which was shed on the Calvary’s cross  as they would be protected. Not only that, we rejoice because our Lord is a Risen Lord who has conquered death and will come again to gather his elect so that we will be with Him where our Lord is , and spend the eternity with Him ( John 14 vs 1-3).

We can confidently say with Apostle Paul -“O death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. ( 1 Corinthians 15:55-57). Amen.

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LENTEN THOUGHTS

I wanted to write this on Ash Wednesday, but due to some reasons it got delayed. Now that we’re in the Lent Season, I thought of penning few thoughts on it.
As per Protestant / Anglican Christian tradition, the Lent starts forty days prior to Easter, that is on Ash Wednesday and lasts till Holy Saturday ( Previous day of Easter). The 40 days Lent period has actually 46 days ( including Sundays ), between Ash Wednesday and Holy Saturday. But, the 6 Sundays are not counted as it’s the Lord’s Day. Some of the Eastern Syrian Orthodox Churches have 50 days Lent that starts with ‘ Pethrutha’ which is a feast on 7 Sundays before Easter. The Lent Season for these Churches begins on Clean Monday after the Sunday Service which begins with the Miracle of Wedding of Cana, followed by the 5 miracles of Jesus on the following Sundays and the 7 th Sunday is climaxed by Hosanna Sunday when Jesus entered Jerusalem. The week following this is Holy Week. So the calculation could be 40+6 Sundays+4 days starting from the Sunday before Ash Wednesday makes it a total of 50 days.
Why Forty ?

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The 40 days of Lent reminds us of Jesus’ forty days of fasting in the wilderness before His public ministry.( Mathew 4:2, Mark 1:13, Luke 4:2).
It reminds us of the 40 days Moses fasted on Mount Sinai and got the Ten Commandments from God ( Exodus 34:28).
It also reminds us of the 40 years the Israelites wandered in the desert before entering into the Promised Land.

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Ash Wednesday:
In most of the Churches, traditionally ashes are made from the burned palms of last year’s Palm Sunday. This is a sign of Repentance, Humility and Mortality, which is why when the ashes are distributed or a CROSS sign is smeared on the forehead of the believer the Minister ( Priest) says ” Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return”(Genesis 3:19) or ” Turn away from your sins and be faithful to the Gospel”. Cross sign on the forehead with the ashes is worn on Ash Wednesday not to proclaim our holiness, but to acknowledge that we are sinners who are in need of repentance and renewal of the Spirit.
Lent:
The Lenten Season is a time Christians usually set apart for Fasting, Praying, Meditation and Giving.
Fasting : We fast during Lent or give up some of our favourite foods and festivities because we choose to sacrifice what we like most depending on God, to remind ourselves of Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins . Moreover, it teaches us to live in solidarity with the less fortunate.
Praying : We pray to grow closer to God. We pray for the forgiveness of our sins and of the world at large. We also ask God to give us the strength to follow Jesus in true Spirit and Love.

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Meditation : During Lent , we set aside more time for Bible reading and meditation. We read and reflect on the Word of God which is living and powerful, and sharper than any double edged sword , capable of piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. ( Hebrews 4:12)
Giving : We must give our money, time, and talents to God and improve our spiritual well- being. We must get rid of all that is unnecessary and habit forming, and remember how God is working in our lives through fasting, praying, sacrificing and penance. Lent is the Christian season of repentance and spirit cleaning and becoming one with Jesus. It is also a time of giving and sharing with our less fortunate fellow human beings .” Because God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”(John 3:16)
The Lenten Season is a time to set right our relationship with God and the people with whom we live. There are lot of instances in the Bible , where God through His prophets gave call for fasting and prayer. One such reference apt for the season is given in Joel 2:12-13, which says,. ” Now, therefore,” says the Lord, ” Turn to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.”. So rend your heart, and not your garments, return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm.’
The Bible also says in Isaiah 1: 16-18,. ” ….. Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rebuke the oppressor, defend the fatherless, plead for the widow……. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow ; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool”.
Lent is a time of self – denial, a time to give up something. But not particularly your favourite food. Lent is a time to give up those sins in our lives. Let us give up our sins and guilty feelings at the Cross, and go home justified like the Tax- collector in the parable Jesus said in Luke chapter 18: 9-14.

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What sin are you going to give up this Lenten Season, and for the rest of your life ? Jesus is ready to forgive the sin and wash you in His blood , if only you come to the Cross and humble yourself before Him and acknowledge Jesus as your Saviour. Jesus promises to empower you to a New Life. For the Bible says,”Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a New creation, old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17).

May this Lent season be a time set apart for introspection and correction. Let us set right our relationship with God and our fellow human beings in love.

The Greatest Gift of God.

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Christmas is here, and celebrations are all around. There’s a festive mood in the air . Some wants to make the most of the holiday season by visiting places, friends and relatives, exchanging gifts. But for many , this is just a holiday if you don’t really understand the meaning of Christmas.
I would like to borrow and adapt the thoughts of Amy Boucher Pye, which I happened to read in the ‘Our Daily Bread ‘ devotional during this Christmas season. The real life incident recorded therein reads as follows.
On Christmas Eve 1944, a man known as “Old Brinker” lay dying in a prison hospital, waiting for the makeshift Christmas service led by fellow prisoners.” When does the music start? he asked William McDougall, who was imprisoned with him in Muntok Prison in Sumatra. “Soon”, replied McDougall. “Good”, replied the dying man.” Then I’ll be able to compare them with the angels.”
Brinker died peacefully after the choir of eleven emaciated prisoners sang his request, “Silent Night, holy night”. Although decades earlier Brinker had moved away from his faith in God, in his last days he confessed his sins and accepted Jesus as his personal saviour and found peace with Him. Knowing that Brinker once again followed Jesus and would be united with God in heaven, McDougall observed, “Perhaps death had been a welcome Christmas visitor to old Brinker.”
As with Brinker, the greatest Christmas gift we can receive or share is that of saving faith in Jesus. God generously gave us His greatest Gift of all: His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. ( John 3:16).
This is the real meaning and message of Christmas.

HEALING — A GIFT OF GOD.

And He said to her, ” Daughter, be of good cheer, your faith has made you well. Go in peace”.(Luke 8:24)

“You are healed and perfectly alright now. You need not come again. Good luck”, said the doctor who was treating our daughter for the last one year , after seeing her X-rays, MRI scan reports and Lab reports.

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This happened yesterday, when we had visited the hospital for our daughter’s review after a year. We could only say “Praise the Lord” when we heard the good news. It was such a reassuring declaration that we had heard from the doctor, after all the pain and physical and mental agony which our daughter and we had gone through for more than three to four years. We had been visiting many hospitals and specialist doctors, irrespective of their qualifications and Systems of Medicine all these years , until we came to this Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research in India. We still remember ( I am sure the Doctor too remembers) our daughter’s question she anxiously asked him in July 2018. With great concern she had asked him,  “Will I be able to walk normally again Dr ?”, and he had then replied providentially ,” We will try our best, and let us hope for the best “. Today, one and a half years later, as we walked out of the doctor’s room thanking him, I was reminded of the incident recorded in the Gospels of Mark chapter 5: 25-34, Mathew 9:20-22, and Luke 8: 43-48.

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In the Gospel portions mentioned above, we see a woman who was suffering from continuous bleeding for twelve years coming to Jesus hoping for a cure. She had, according to Mark’s Gospel, had spent all that she had and was no better, but rather grew worse. Our daughter’s experience was no different.
We read in the Bible that when she heard about Jesus, she came behind Him in the crowd and touched His garment. Immediately the bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was healed of the affliction. Where physicians of the world failed, Jesus Christ succeeded. What is not possible with men is possible with God. ( Luke 1:37).
Jesus knew His Power going out from Him to heal her, and that’s why He asked, “who touched me ?”. When His disciples gently reminded Jesus, “Master, the multitudes throng and press You, and You say, ‘who touched Me?'”. Jesus said, “somebody touched me, for I perceived Power going out from Me”. Perhaps her touch of the Master’s robe would not have been noticed by anyone in the crowd as men, women and children were thronging around Him and pushing Him from all sides. But, her touch of faith could not be hidden from the Master. Trembling, she came out of the crowd and falling down before Him she confessed to Him in the presence of all around. The crowd who listened to her testimony also heard the Lord’s benediction, “Daughter, be of good cheer, your faith has made you well. Go in peace.”

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Jesus’ calling her “Daughter” suggests that she was young, though wasted and feeble by her malady which took toll on her health. But, the nature of her disease and the age , sex, religion or caste of the afflicted makes no difference for our saviour in healing the sick and saving the Lost.
Eventhough we find no reference in the Bible of the name of the woman who was healed, legends say that she was Veronica, and that she walked with Jesus as He went to Calvary bearing the cross. On the way to the cross, seeing His blood and sweat,she drew out her handkerchief and wiped her Master’s brow. Later, as she reverently caressed the piece of linen, she found the image of the blood stained face of Jesus imprinted on it.
Stories and legends run deep in the minds of people generation after generation. But, the truth of the healing, which is a miracle and a Gift of God is personal and is experienced by true believers who approach Jesus Christ in true faith. We are witnesses to the miracle, and our daughter is a living witness to the Miraculous Healing Touch of our Lord, and will remain an enigma in the mind of the doctor who treated her.
A prayer of thanks. ‘Jesus, thank you for reminding us that we are never out of Your reach or without hope. You are able to do what no one else can do.’ Amen.

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BE AT PEACE WITH YOURSELF 

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give you.” (John 14:27)

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The moment we read or utter the word ‘Peace’, the immediate thought that comes to our mind is ‘not being at war’. Just like the world understands the word peace as a situation where there is no war, we can say that we are at peace with ourselves when there’s no war waging within us. Therefore, the peace I want to stress here is the “Peace within”.

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If there is to be peace in the world, it should start within us first. When we are at peace with ourselves, we will be at peace with others also.
Our mind is a battlefield where continuous battles are fought day in and day out. Battle between good and evil, right and wrong, doubts and fears, guilt and conviction, love and hatred, envy and discontent, anger and hatred. The list is endless. This leads to a lot of stress within ourselves. In such a situation, how can one be at peace with oneself? The Bible asks “can a man take fire to his bosom, and his clothes not burned? (Proverbs 6:27).
Peace or ‘Shalom’ (Hebrew word for Peace) is used as a Jewish greeting and farewell.

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Man has always been in search of peace. We learn that Gautam Buddha renounced his Kingdom and went in search of peace. Man is today running here and there for peace. Some go to the Himalayas or some other mountain caves for meditation seeking peace. Some others visit holy places, temples, and seek the guidance of yoga and spiritual gurus in search of peace. Many people, especially youngsters, try to find peace in rock music, drugs and alcohol. But the peace that this world offers is only temporary and transient.
Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid”.(John 14:27). The peace that Jesus promised us is not like the transient peace the world offers us. That’s why Jesus clearly said that He is giving us His peace, which is not like the peace the world gives.

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In order to have peace within ourselves, we have to have peace with God. Only then our hearts will be free of troubles and fright.

The following points are also helpful to have peace of mind.
1. We’ve to pray to God to help us conquer all the negative thoughts, fears and doubts that keep attacking our mind. Resist the devil (1 Peter 5:9) with God’s help.
Pour out your heart before the Lord. We read in the Bible (1 Samuel 1:15 &17) that Hannah poured out her soul before the Lord, ….and her face was no longer sad. She experienced the peace within her.
2. Shed all egos and be sincere to your conscience. Do not do anything that gives you a prick of conscience.

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3. Remember, if you are not careful you yourself can turn out to be your greatest enemy. Your worst enemy is not anyone in the outside world; but the one inside you, who keeps condemning and criticising you, and keeps undermining your self-esteem.
4. Surrender yourself to God and commit your way to the Lord. Spend Quiet time with your God in prayer and Bible study, preferably early in the morning.
5. Trust in the Lord and do good (Psalm 37:3). Whoever trusts in the Lord is happy. (Proverbs 16:20b). He has no fear and therefore is at peace with himself.
6. Help others who are in need. Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in the power of your hand to do so. (Proverbs 3:27). The Bible exhorts us to do good, be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share. (1 Timothy 6:18). For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. (1 Timothy 6:7). That is why Jesus said that it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). And you will experience peace within.
7. Pursue peace with all people (Hebrews 12:14). If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all (Romans 12:18).
8. Do not hold guilt within your heart and don’t be your own judge. Confess it to God and reconcile with him. If possible, confess and reconcile with the person whom you’ve sinned. The Bible says, “Blessed is the man whose transgression is forgiven and whose sin is forgiven” (Psalm 32:2). If we confess our sins to the Lord (Jesus), He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1John 1:9). Once God has forgiven your sins, why don’t you forgive yourself? Remember, ‘to err is human and to forgive is Divine’. Don’t live with the past guilt if you have reconciled with God.
9. Do not hold hatred and carry vengeance in your heart. It can only harm you. Repay no one evil for evil (Romans 12:17). Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21).
10. Be content in your heart. Do not crave for more. Godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Timothy 6:6). Do not envy others. It is rottenness to the bones. (Proverbs 14:30).
11. Have a thankful heart to God and to men.
12. Be pleasing. Pleasant words are like a honeycomb (Proverbs 16:24). When a man’s ways pleases the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him (Proverbs 16:7).

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Thus, when you are at peace with God, He will give you His peace and you will be at peace with yourself . In turn, you will be at peace with others and they will be at peace with you. And, the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:7,9). That’s when the real meaning of the words “Your kingdom come” in the Lord’s Prayer which Jesus taught His disciples, and His statement “For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17: 21) will come true.

May the following blessing with which the Lord blessed the children of Israel through Aaron be yours now and forever.
“The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace”. (Numbers 6:24-26). Amen.

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Easter – The hope of resurrection.

“Because I live, you will live also” ( John 14: 19)

Easter is the most important Holy day of the Christians which marks the resurrection of Jesus Christ taking victory over death. The Christian Church’s foundation of faith is the resurrection of Jesus. If Jesus had not resurrected, then there would not have been Christian faith and the Church. That is why the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 15: 14, “If Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty.”  Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live” . (John 11:25)

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When Christians world over were celebrating the resurrection of Jesus on Sunday, the 20th of April ’19, some religious fanatic suicide bombers blew up themselves, killing more than two hundred people who were praying and worshipping the Risen Lord in the St. Sebastian’s Catholic Church, St. Antony’s Catholic Church, and the Zion Protestant Church in Sri Lanka. Apart from the churches, bombs exploded even in hotels and other tourist places where tourists had gathered. Visuals of blood and body parts strewn all over the place was appalling, devastating and horrific. There were blood stains on the church walls and on the statue of Christ at the St. Sebastian’s church in Negombo.

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Sri Lankan Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardena described the bombings as a terrorist attack carried out by some religious extremists. Media reports suggest that the Sri Lankan attacks could be a handwork of IS inspired terrorists. Whoever they are, and whatever their intention, no one with a sound mind can ever comprehend these ideologies of killing people – innocent men, women and children on the basis of their religion, for the fulfilment of their religious fanatism of some.

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We can only join withPope Francis in his prayer “I entrust to the Lord all those who were tragically killed and pray for the injured”. And to all my readers and the members of the bereaved families, I can only say that there is hope in the resurrected Jesus. The Bible says “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen ( 1 Corinthians 15: 13). Jesus himself has promised that “Because I live, you will live also”. This is the greatest message Easter has for all those who believe in Jesus. St. Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4: 13-18; “But I do not want you to be ignorant brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep ( meaning dead), lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, evenso God will bring with Him those who sleep ( meaning die) in Jesus. Therefore comfort one another with these words”.

In this hour of grief, let us join the Catholic Church of Jerusalem in their words of prayer, which reads, “We pray for the souls of the victims and ask for the speedy recovery of the injured, and ask God to inspire the terrorists to repent of their killing and intimidation”.  Amen…

WATER– A GIFT OF GOD

WATER– A GIFT OF GOD
March 22nd is celebrated as UN World Water Day throughout the world. An ad on the front page of that day’s newspaper caught my attention, as it would have of anyone who has seen it. The message was quite loud and clear in the six little words which read,”Too little to let it go!”. It said that only 1 % of all the water in the world is safe for human consumption, and it’s dwindling fast.

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Well, this is a fact nobody can ignore. Even though about 71 % of the Earth ‘s surface is covered by water, and the oceans hold about 96.5% of the Earth’s water, just 1% of the water in the world is suitable for human consumption.

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When we see so much of water is available in the oceans, naturally we might ask, why not use scientific technology to convert it to potable water by removing the salt out of sea water?. Desalination technology has been around for thousands of years. Even Aristotle worked on the probability way back in the 4th century BC. But the first actual practice of desalination involved collecting fresh water steam from boiling sea water. Around 200 AD, sailors began desalinating sea water with simple boilers on their ship. The energy required for this distillation process today makes it prohibitively expensive on a large scale. A lot of the current market for so called ‘Thermal Desalination ‘ has therefore been in oil rich, water poor countries in the Middle East.

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While in school, we have studied in Chemistry classes that water is H2O. That is, when 2 atoms of Hydrogen combines with 1 atom of Oxygen, we get water (H2O).
Wow ! So simple!. If it’s so simple, then why is that the World’s Scientists aren’t manufacturing water on a large scale in the laboratories and factories and making it freely available the people, instead of the Government’s spending billions of dollars in Space Research to find out whether there’s water out there in any other planets on the outer space ?.
Well, you just can’t simply take two hydrogen atoms and stick them to an oxygen atom and make water. This formula has been known to scientists for centuries, but until now no one has made it to work. In theory, it’s extremely easy to make water from hydrogen gas and oxygen gas. But it’s simply not possible. Then, where did the water come from?. For an answer, Scientists take us back to their ‘ Big Bang Theory ‘ that happened billions of years ago. According to the scientists, the high energy that was released as a result of the Big Bang ,put into the cosmos copious hydrogen which later combined with the oxygen which the Stars spew into the space when the Stars go Supernova * with an explosion . Thus oxygen and hydrogen commingle to make water. (* Supernova is a star that suddenly increases greatly in brightness because of a catastrophic explosion that ejects most of it’s Mass).
When we study all these things, we can only stand in awe, lifting up our eyes, hands and hearts, unto heavens and praise the Awesome God for His Wonderful Gift of Water, without which life would not have been possible on this planet Earth.

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When we read the Creation Story as written in the first page of the Bible ( The Book of Genesis), we understand that God created water and that the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. ( Genesis 1: vs 1-2). He then divided the waters above from the waters below by making the heavens or the sky by the Power of His Word. Then God ordered the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place and let the dry land appear. God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering of the waters He called Seas. And God saw that it was good. ( Genesis 1:6-10)

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We also read in the Bible, God asking few hard questions to Job as to ” Who shut in the sea with doors, when it burst forth and issued from the womb. When I fixed My limit for it and set bars and doors; when I said ‘ This far you may come, but no farther; and here your proud waves must stop !’ “(Job 38:8-11).

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The Bible clearly teaches us that it was God who created the earth and the cosmos and all in it, including water, the source of life. The Bible says,” You laid the foundations of the earth so that it should not be moved for ever. He sends the Springs into the valleys; they flow among the hills. They give drink to every beast of the field; tbe wild donkeys quench their thirst. By them the birds of the heavens have their home; they sing among the branches. He waters the hills from His Upper Chambers; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of Your works”. (Psalms 104:5-13)

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The gift of water is precious. It’s the source of sustenance of all life on this earth, including plants, trees, birds, animals and man. But man , selfish as his nature is, has been exploiting and wasting this precious resource without any consideration for his fellow beings and other creations. This great Gift of God is fast depleting because of man’s abuse and cruelty to the Nature. It is said that there’s a worldwide scarcity of this precious resource and that future wars will be fought between Nations for water. It is to drive home this point that the United Nations has declared 22nd March as World Water Day.
Let’s take a Solemn Pledge that we will not waste this Precious Gift of God, and that we shall preserve it for the future generations to come. It’s only Water Conservation and better Water Management that can save this earth from a disaster. Remember, so far Man , with all his scientific knowledge , research and Space Expeditions have not been able to find another Planet like the Earth, where water is available to maintain life.

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