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KINGDOM OR EMPIRE? P62 Jesus Under Scrutiny So are We P20


L e f t B e h i n d P 1 2 | | T h e Tr u t h B e h i n d Y o u r E y e s P 5 4 Truth or Wild Imagination? P38 || Two Kinds of Pluralism P50

Against God P34


|| 7 Global Scourges P30 ||

Are Spiritual Gifts for Today? P24




Making Sense of Pain


We are not renOvated but regenerated

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From the Editor


Globe Crossing


Free at Last


Left Behind


Light in the Darkness


Jesus Under Scrutiny So are We


Are Spiritual Gifts for Today?


7 Global Scourges


Truth or Wild Imagination?


The Power of Praying for Your Children


Two Kinds of Pluralism


Saint Francis Xavier Apostle to the Far East


The Truth Behind Your Eyes

57 Books





Against God The war against God is old and intense. Take heart, for we are on the Victor’s side.

Is God the Author of Sin? Who created evil? If God is the creator of everything, He must have created evil too.

Kingdom or Empire? There are those who build kingdom and then there are those who build their empire.

© Copyright Christian Trends 2015. All rights reserved. Reproduction in any manner is prohibited without the prior permission of the Publisher. The writer of each article is responsible for the point of view expressed. Only the writings of the Editors represent Christian Trends’ view point. Printed, published and owned, by Finny Philip and Printed at S.T. Reddiar & Sons, Veekshanam Road, Cochin 682035, Kerala. and Published at Filadelfia, Sanjay Park, Rani Road, Udaipur 313001 Rajasthan. Editor: Finny Philip

Volume 04 Issue 06

58 A Strong Feeling of Distaste Pain seems like one sour note in the otherwise harmonious plan of God. What did God do about it?




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B E G I N N I N G A N E W P32 I am Dreaming of an Indian Christmas P18




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A M a g i c a l To u c h P 1 4 | | W h o R e a l l y S p e a k s f o r G o d ? P 2 4 The India of Our Dreams P44 || And the Soul Felt Its Worth P52

|| A Freeing Choice P38 || Freshness Through Thirsting P62 || Seven Global Scourges P28




Celebrate the Season

--------------------------------------- importantly, he highlighted the issues Christians face,

Words of the Wise

It was refreshing to read George Verwer (7 Global Scourges). He has his own weight among Christian leadership. A well-respected leader in Christian circles, George’s passion for the mission even at this age is commendable. His article on the global concerns reflected his heart for God’s world and his in-depth knowledge gained through years of experience. Thanks to Christian Trends for making his insights available to the Church in India. Indian Church will certainly do good to listen to this wise man. David Chacko, Trivandrum

Question of Celebration

Domenic’s take on the date of Christmas was insightful (Should Christians Celebrate Christmas on December 25?). Domenic Marbaniang’s response to the mighty question did not beat around the bush, but was in-depth and crisp. Though lengthy, the article was on the spot, as it covered all major arguments. Looking forward to read more such articles in Christian Trends! Manoha Joseph, United Arab Emirates

God’s Mouthpiece

I find Craig Keener’s articles always stimulating, rich and relevant (Who Really Speaks for God?). Craig’s pieces are well grounded in the Word. He does justice to the scripture portions that he uses without diluting the meaning and its relevancy. His exhortation on discerning prophecies is timely. Much confusion prevails today in regard to the use of spiritual gifts, as many a men of God paddle the spiritual gifts for their personal benefits. Denying spiritual gifts will do greater harm. The third way lies between two biblical commands: “Do not despise prophecies” and “test all things”. Sangeetha, Indore

The PK Effect Though the December-January issue arrived a little late, it had not lost its charm. Akshay Rajkumar’s movie review was the article I liked most (The Not-so-Unusual Critic). I had just seen PK and had felt the urgent need that Christians respond to it. In fact, I had felt that PK had more valid points against religion and Christianity than the current Hindutva brigade, and the Church more intentionally respond to its critique. So when I saw Akshay’s article, I let out a spiritual ‘hurray’! It was an astute and fair movie review. But more


February -March 2015

namely, false religiosity, justice and the search for God. May Akshay’s tribe increase! This was certainly one of the better issues from Christian Trends stable. Nigel Ajay Kumar, Bangalore

Keeping Fresh Last issue of Christian Trends was rich with diverse themes. I personally liked Ajith Fernando’s article – Freshness Through Thirsting. Christian Trends discussed quite a few topics in its latest issues, many of which were surprisingly politics-related. I felt Ajith’s article come as a restoration to the balance, that I found Christian Trends was losing fast. With informative and inspiring writers like Ajith and George Verwer in its arsenal, Christian Trends holds enormous potential to bless the church in India. Kanaka Raj, Tamil Nadu

Worth of an Individual Ashish Alexander in his article And the Soul Felt Its Worth lucidly pointed out where the fault lines in the contemporary debates around suicide and the reconversion actually lie. His analysis of setting the two most urgent issues in the backdrop of colonialpostcolonial debate was informative. Our world, at present, more divided on such lines, needs a message of reconciliation in Jesus Christ. Just because something comes from outside does not make it wrong, as much as something that comes from within does not make it right. The gospel of Jesus Christ affirms that no culture is immune from corruption. The humanity of an individual should be accepted, even when it hurts our deep-seated assumptions. Mercy Roy, Bangalore

Editor Finny Philip



Associate Editor Charles Christian Design jOshy john Advertising & Marketing Ashley John Subscriptions Contributing Writers Akshay Rajkumar Charles Christian Craig Keener Dennis and Barbara Rainey Domenic Marbaniang Finny Philip George Verwer Joseph Mattera Kuruvilla Chandy Mark Knooz Ravi Zecharias Suantak George Timothy C.Tennent Vijayesh Lal Editorial Board Ajith Fernando Atul Aghamkar Havilah Dharamraj Jacob Cherian Ivan Satyavrata Paul Swarup Advisory Board Chris Wright Godfrey Yogaraja Pieter Kwant Richard Howell Santosh Shetty Tim Stafford Board of Directors Ashley John Finny Philip Joshy John

Hope Springs Eternal


efore the first Easter, the disciples were like a group of broken people, whose little world had ended with the death of their Master. Their dreams had been shattered and their life had come to an end behind the locked doors. They had their hopes pinned on to Jesus. Their morale was at its lowest ebb. Their colleague, Judas had committed suicide and now they were down to eleven. This was enough to break the heart of any person. We are living at a time when incidents that surround us shatter our hope. One feels the same after watching BBC’s documentary India’s Daughter (a documentary on Nirbhaya, a rape victim), shocked and bewildered at the mindset and attitude within our cultur e toward women. The government was quick to ban the documentary as if that was going to help. One feels helpless as many still continue to carry the sentiments of the misogynist rapists and their lawyers. Can things get worse than this? But Easter brings hope. The hope is “resurrection” (anastasis), which literally means “to cause to stand up on one’s feet again.” It can mean a resurrection from physical death, or a recovery of spiritual truth. It is important for us to preach not only that

Jesus was resurrected—victorious over death and powers of darkness— but also that eventually he will return to earth. Resurrection refers not just to rising, to rousing from sleep, it also points to that which leads fall. Simeon, the old priest, uses this word to refer to the role of Jesus when he says, “this child is destined to cause the falling and rising (anastasis) of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against” (Luke 2:34). When Jesus returns as a Judge, all who have died will rise again, some to hope, others to judgment. As you read through this issue on pain, may God rekindle a ray of hope in you! Happy Easter.

Finny Philip

February -March 2015


Globe Crossing

The Drop Box Creates History

The Drop Box is the name of the latest Christian RLD W OW S NE Meriam Ibrahim to be honoured


Monks Preserve History Priests in the city of Erbil, Iraq are striving to preserve ancient manuscripts and books smuggled out of Mosul to keep them out of the reach of ISIS militants and to preserve the history of Christians in Iraq. Monks began to move important books and manuscripts outside Mosul in 2008, when the Islamic extremists began to threaten the city. Most of the books and manuscripts were moved out of Mosul by the time ISIS had captured Mosul. The monks are now working on digitising the books and manuscripts by photographing them so that the history of Christians in Iraq is preserved.


February -March 2015

ational Religious Broadcasters (NRB), an international association of Christian communicators, will honour Meriam Ibrahim, a Sudanese Christian woman who refused to deny her faith while in prison last year. Ibrahim was jailed for claiming to be Christian. According to Sudanese law, she was Muslim by blood, because her father was a Muslim, though he had left her when Meriam was still young. She was brought up in her mother’s Christian faith, and also married a Christian. Ibrahim was later charged with apostasy, imprisoned and sentenced to death, though pregnant at the time. Despite the hardships, Ibrahim remained determined. She was later released and granted asylum in the United States. NRB has announced Ibrahim as the recipient of the 2014 President’s Aware for her refusal to renouncer her faith.

movie that retells the story of South Korean pastor Lee Jong-rak and his tireless efforts to protect hundred of infants abandoned on the streets of Seoul, South Korea. Pastor Lee was so stirred by the scenes of abandoned babies that he decided to install what he called “Drop Box” outside his home. Mothers, instead of aborting or abandoning their babies, bring them to the drop box, which is equipped with light and heat needed for babies’ survival. Since its instalment in 2009, the box has received as many as 18 babies a month. Pastor and his wife have already adopted ten babies as their own, as that’s the maximum number local authorities allow. Brian Ivie’s The Drop Box has already won several awards at independent Christian festivals.

India Tops Social Religious Hostilities

According to a new study by Pew Research, India

had the highest level of social hostilities involving religion in 2013. China, on the other hand, had the highest level of government restrictions on religious beliefs and practices. The study clarifies that since about 77% of the world’s population lives in countries like India and China, they also make “countries with a high or very high overall level of restrictions on religion.” The Pew Research Centre’s latest annual study on global restrictions on religion reveal that the number of countries and territories with a “very high” level of social hostilities involving religion fell from 20 in 2012 to 17 in 2013. The study indicates, “Among the world’s 25 most populous countries, the highest overall levels of restrictions were found in Burma (Myanmar), Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan and Russia, where both the government and society at large impose numerous limits on religious beliefs and practices.” Christians continue to remain the most harassed group – either by government or social groups, in 102 of the 198 countries included in the study (52%), whereas harassment of Jews worldwide reached a seven-year high.

Bible Society of Egypt Witnesses Amidst Persecution


hile Christians had yet to overcome the shock of the brutal slaughter of 21 Christians in Lybia, Bible Society of Egypt carried out its largest tract distribution campaign ever. Less than 36 hours after the Christians were beheaded, Bible Society of Egypt printed Two Rows by the Sea, and distributed 1.65 million copies of the tract. The tract contains biblical quotations, promise of blessings amid sufferings and a poem in Arabic. The Bible Society distributed the tract through the churches in Egypt. Isaaf Evangelical Church in Cairo went a step further and hung a poster on its wall that read, “We learn from what the Messiah has said, ‘Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you….’” Beheadings of Christians in Libya have resulted in sympathy for Egyptian Christians and allowed them a platform to witness their faith.

James Foley’s Mother Forgives Jihadi John

A Group of Minorities Hits Out at Bhagwat

A forum of minorities’ organisations in West Bengal condemned RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s allegations against Nobel laureate Mother Teresa as “malicious”. The State Forum of Minorities Organisations suggested that Bhagwat’s remarks were “either the result of his gross ignorance or a well-calculated sinister agenda to come under international limelight”. The forum also accused RSS chief of justifying “universally condemned programmes of reconversion by allure or force,” and “make false propaganda and create confusion at the cost of communal harmony and human relations.” The Missionaries of Charity described Bhagwat as “uninformed.” Bhagwat, at a function in Bharatpur, Rajasthan, had said that Mother Teresa’s service to the poor was aimed at converting them to Christianity.

Diane Foley, mother of American Journalist James Foley said that she had forgiven her son’s killer, after “Jihadi John” now Mohammed Emwazi was captured. “As a mum, I forgive him. You know, the whole thing is tragic,” said the bereaved mother. John Foley, James’ father had previously said that he knew his son was in heaven. James Foley was abducted on 22 November 2012 and was decapitated in August 2014.

Boko Haram Kills More People


n yet another offensive, Boko Haram, an Islamic militant outfit, gunned down and killed as many as 68 people, including children, in Nigeria’s Borno state on Tuesday, March 3. The raid on Njaba took place during the early hours on March 3, but was not immediately reported because Boko Haram had already disabled the cellphone towers in this remote area of north-east Nigeria. Most of the survivors have fled to the nearby town of Damboa, leaving the town full of dead bodies. Boko Haram controls large parts of Borno state, Nigeria but it has also carried out offensive attacks in the neighbouring countries of Chad, Cameroon and Niger. The militant group has killed thousands of people so far in its ambition to establish Islamic state in the area. February -March 2015


Spot Light


February - March 2015


Rev. Vijayesh Lal is the Executive Director (Designate) of the Evangelical Fellowship of India.

REV. VIJAYESH LAL Executive Director, EFI


r. Alexis Prem Kumar has shaved off his beard that he had grown in captivity. He has also lost apparently close to 20 kilograms of his weight. That is the visible difference between the man who was taken to captivity eight months ago, released this week and brought back home to India. He spent three years doing hard work in the hinterland of Afghanistan, giving education to the children and particularly to the girls of the tribes of Tajiks, Uzbeks, Pashtuns etc., in cities as diverse as Herat, Peshawar and Kabul. Fr. Prem, 47, a Jesuit from Tamil Nadu, from the Madras province, was working with the Jesuit Refugee Service, a pioneering global endeavour, of the redoubtable Society of Jesus, which works with refugees on the borders of India as in the borders of most conflict areas in the world. A very large number of the personnel of this group are from India working not just in Afghanistan but also on the borders of Bhutan, Africa and Latin America.

February - March 2015


Spot Light In Afghanistan, Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) works mainly in the area of education for the war-affected youth, especially those returning after seeking refuge in Iran or Pakistan. They provide teachers for the English Access Program, teaching young people English in Herat and Kabul, opening for them an opportunity for higher education abroad. The JRS provides teacher trainings, university faculty, and informal education in cities and rural villages, filling education gaps that other NGOs and government agencies do not. Before moving to Afghanistan five years ago, Fr. Prem was working for the Jesuit Refugee Service in Tamil Nadu ministering to the Sri Lankan refugees living in the state. At the time of his kidnapping, he was serving as the Afghanistan Director for JRS. Speaking to media, Fr. Prem recounted the fateful day i.e. June 2, 2014, when he was kidnapped from Sohadat village, 25 kilometres from Herat city. He had gone to the village to check on a school that was being run with the support of the JRS. “I had received warnings from the Indian Consulate in Herat which had already been attacked [on May 23]. Even the locals in Sohadat village, had sensed that the Taliban might target Indians.” “Around half past noon, when the children had left and the staff was about to, I saw a vehicle with four armed men approaching. I just knew they would either kidnap [me] or attack. We ran in all directions to escape, but they opened fire. I soon realised their target was very clear as I heard them ask the locals where the foreigner was,” he told the media.


February - March 2015

He was put in a vehicle and was told not to look up as they travelled. He recalls his kidnappers being firm but friendly and extremely generous with food. He could not understand them, he said, as they were speaking in Pashto. He recalled the way he was kept blindfolded and shifted from place to place. “It was painful ... they kept shifting me from one place to another, some without a roof ...

Before moving to Afghanistan five years ago, Fr. Prem was working for the Jesuit Refugee Service in Tamil Nadu ministsering to the Sri Lankan refugees living in the state” others were ordinary houses. I stayed at one place from eight days to even 81 days at a stretch.” As soon as he was taken captive, efforts for his release had started. His family had come to Delhi and had met Mrs. Sushma Swaraj, Minister of External Affairs of India, who had assured them of the help of the government. Many other people were at work for the same cause. Human rights activists, global human rights defenders, behind the scene diplomatic activity by the Government of India and the Vatican itself made efforts to secure the release of Fr. Prem. It was a happy moment when the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi tweeted on February 22, 2015, “Have spoken to Fr. Alexis Prem

Kumar. Informed happy family of Father Alexis Prem Kumar of his safe return after 8 months in captivity.” Fr. Prem’s family members including his father ASM Antony rushed to Delhi to welcome him home. His father expressed his thankfulness to the Prime Minister for “his personal efforts”. Speaking to media Fr. Prem recalled that barely 10 days into his captivity, his captors gave him hope that his release may be secured soon as negotiations had begun concerning him. However, days turned into months, as he waited for good news. It was on January 15, 2015 that he was told again of his probable release. However it took nearly a month before this became close to becoming a reality. “One day they told me that the JRS South Asia regional director had met Taliban representatives in Qatar and I would be freed. The next day, we embarked on a two-day drive, changing vehicles and people on the way,” Fr. Prem told the media. He was dropped at a place, amid heavy cross firing and was instructed to run. He said, “They gave me a cell phone which I used to communicate with the Indian Embassy officials who finally rescued me.” The full story of his captivity and release will only come up after some months once Fr. Prem has recovered and can think back and put micro details in the complex web that is Afghanistan. At the moment he is still to be fully debriefed by the various agencies working for the Government of India. His release is good news for the family and the Christian community in India. Dr. John Dayal, the

spokesperson for the United Christian Forum said, “It is wonderful that Fr. Alexis Prem Kumar is back with us. His work in Afghanistan is a tribute to the commitment not just of the Jesuits, but of followers of Jesus’ work for the empowerment of the poor irrespective of the threats they face on their own lives.” However the release of Fr. Prem is possibly a bigger good news for the Government of India and in particular to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi as it adds to his secular image, coming as it does in the wake of the assurances given by him as part of his speech at the Church function in Delhi, some days ago, about freedom of faith guarantees under his government in India. That assertion from Mr. Modi itself came in the context of almost eight months of a vicious campaign by the Hindutva Parivar which was challenged and condemned not just by minorities but also

by Human Rights movements and which found its culmination in speeches made by Mr. Barack Obama and by the President and Vice President of India. Fr. Prem remains hesitant to speak in detail but one thing he does emphasise about his experience in Afghanistan: “I spent three years doing hard work and close to one year in reflection. I am grateful to God and to all who prayed for me. I literally felt those prayers. I am thankful.”

“That assertion from Mr. Modi itself came in the context of almost eight months of a vicious campaign by the Hindutva Parivar which was challenged and condemned not just by minorities but also by Human Rights movements”

STATEMENT ABOUT OWNERSHIP AND OTHER PARTICULARS ABOUT THE MAGAZINE “CHRISTIAN TRENDS” BI-MONTHLY FORM –IV Place of Publication : Udaipur; Periodicity of Publication : Bi-monthly; Printer’s Name : Finny Philip; Nationality : Indian; Address :Filadelfia, Sanjay Park, Rani Road, Udaipur, Rajasthan 313001; Publisher’s Name : Finny Philip; Nationality : Indian; Address : Filadelfia, Sanjay Park, Rani Road, Udaipur, Rajasthan 313001; Editor’s Name: Finny Philip; Nationality : Indian; Address : Filadelfia, Sanjay Park, Rani Road, Udaipur, Rajasthan 313001; Name & Address of the Owner : Finny Philip; Nationality: Indian; Address : Filadelfia, Sanjay Park, Rani Road, Udaipur, Rajasthan 313001. I, Finny Philip, hereby declare that the particulars given above are true to the best of my knowledge and belief. Place: Udaipur Sd/Date: 01-03-2015 Finny Philip Signature of the Publisher

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Church in Action



February -March 2015


behind Having received his theological education at SAIACS, Charles Christian was involved in serving the persecuted churches. He now works with Christian Trends.



ebruary 18, 2007. A two-and-a-half month old boy was found in a compartment of Indore-Hingoli express. Not able to trace his parents around, the railway police handed him over to Khandwa district hospital, Madhya Pradesh. A nurse in the hospital named him Shiv. Shiv was later adopted by Bhagwandas and Anjana Ahuja. The Ahujas had a fortune to their name, but no heir. Shiv ’s story featured in many newspapers across the nation. Many saw Shiv’s life as an ideal story of one’s fate, perhaps a result of good karma in the past life. Shiv was destiny’s child. The story, however, also sheds light on the darker shades of the picture, an acute problem that ails our world today – child abandonment. Abandoned Children’s Fund, an organisation that works among abandoned children, claims that there are over 20 million homeless or abandoned children in the world today. India is one of the Asian countries leading the trend. According to Justice Verma committee, 60,000 children are abandoned every year. Topping the chart is Maharashtra, followed by Rajasthan, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. Some like Shiv find home, but most do not. Out of all the abandoned children in 2010, only 2,518 were adopted. Where did the rest of them vanish? Some had found new families in foster care homes and orphanages, but most of them had ended up in human trafficking rackets. The trafficked children are then used for prostitution, forced marriage, illegal adoption, cheap labour and even for organ harvesting. The story of Pastor Lee Jong-rak is a gush of fresh wind in this perilous situation. Pastor Lee noticed a grave problem plaguing South Korea – hundreds of unwanted babies abandoned on the side

February -March 2015


Church in Action of the streets in Seoul. He knew he needed to do something. He built a “drop box” and placed it in front of his house. A sign on the box read: “Place to leave babies.” The box is made cosy with thick towel at the bottom, and sufficient lights and heat to keep the baby safe. As soon as someone places the baby in the box, the bell attached to the box rings, and Pastor Lee and his wife Chunja, immediately collect the baby. Till date the family has collected more than 600 babies. Lee’s concern is born out of his experience. Lee’s own child, named Eun-man (meaning full of God’s grace) was born with cerebral palsy, leading Lee to question God’s goodness. But it was in this child that he came to recognise the preciousness of life. Lee, not only came close to God, he even studied theology to become a Christian minister. The story of Pastor Lee and his drop box has reached and touched many hearts through a 72-minute long documentary called “The Drop Box” made by Brian Ivie, a student at the University of California. Several state governments and individuals in India too have plunged into similar action, having seen the dire situation of abandoned children, especially girls. Devendra Agarwal from Udaipur began an organisation and placed two cradles, one at his ashram and another outside a local hospital, after he noticed a moving scene of two foetuses dumped into a lake. Agarwal, however, acknowledged that ensuring stable life for girls was a struggle, as most of the adopting individuals had preference for boys. “Cradle babies” is a project started


February -March 2015

by the government of Tamil Nadu in 1992 to save baby girls. It allows people to give “unwanted” baby girls to the state, rather than killing them. The children received are later sent to registered orphanages and put up for adoption. Similar scheme, known as Vuyyala (meaning cradle in Telugu) was started by the government of Andhra Pradesh in 2007. The project received at least 70 babies in its first year, out of which 90% were girls. Christian children homes,

Several NGOs and human rights organisations feel that such attempts, in fact, encourage abandonment of girls and thereby promote the low status of girls” especially Missionaries of Charity, established by Nobel laureate Mother Teresa, have always proved to be safe haven for abandoned babies. Babies with deformed limbs, HIV and girls left behind, all have found shelter in numerous infant homes and hospitals run by Christian community for decades, well before projects like Cradle babies saw light of the day. Take an example of Shishu Bhavan, run by Missionaries of Charity, in Bangalore. Many of the children they receive from Child Welfare Care (CWC) are HIV infected. Shishu Bhavan provides them shelter, food, education and also tries to help them overcome the disease. “Most of the children get healed of HIV and are given back to CWC, who then arrange for their

adoption,” says a sister at Shishu Bhavan. With growing number of fake NGOs, ugly nexus between prostitution racketeers and several children homes, and growing scrutiny by the government, such philanthropy is, however, becoming costly and complicated. Also, however praiseworthy, these efforts have not gone without criticism too. Several NGOs and human rights organisations feel that such attempts, in fact, encourage abandonment of girls and thereby promote the low status of girls. In a country where women are considered second-class citizens, will not such schemes offer people an easy way out to get rid of their girls? The church grapples with myriad of difficult issues today, both globally and locally. While it has often boldly spoken against abortion, individual Christians like Pastor Lee call us to walk an extra mile in caring for the “unwanted”. Of the many challenges the church in India is facing, one is to address the worldview that considers a particular gender a source of shame and a result of curse. When every attempt of the Church is viewed with suspicion today, will the Church be able to remain true to its commitment to human life in its weakest form – abandoned and uncared for? If the church is to speak for poor and weak, unwanted babies cannot be outside its radar.


CA Benjamin like never before!

Generosity is in! We see it on TEDx. Global conferences are being held for it. The Church is certainly warming up to it. And now, to champion this rewarding way of life, Flatfish is happy to host an event whose time has come - The Generosity Summit. Positioned as the flagship event for the voice of generosity, this national-level come-together is going to be a challenging time of questions, conversations, and solutions! Which is why we’re inviting the biggest hearts and the brightest minds. So join us, as Believers in Business, Corporates, Professions, and Church Leadership come together to ask ourselves: what if we were as generous as the Gospel? To block your seat please call +91 76809 63666. Or write in to

Cover Story



February -March 2015

Light in the

darkness Ravi Zecharias is a renowned Christian apologist and founder and President of Ravi Zecharias International Ministries. He has authored several books. He has spoken all over the world in universities, parliaments and cabinets across the world.

RAVI ZECHARIAS Christian Apologist


he story is told of a cynic sitting under a nut tree, carrying on a jesting monologue with God. His grounds for complaint lay in what he considered to be an obvious failure on the part of God to go by the book on structural design. “Lord,” he said, “How is it that you made such a large and sturdy tree to hold such tiny, almost weightless nuts? And yet, you made small, tender plants to hold such large and weighty watermelons!” As he chuckled at the folly of such disproportion in God’s mindless universe, a nut suddenly fell on his head. After a stunned pause, he muttered, “Thank God that wasn’t a watermelon!” Even atheist Aldous Huxley acknowledged years ago, “Science has ‘explained’ nothing; the more we know, the more fantastic the world becomes, and the profounder the surrounding darkness.” Justifiable worldviews must have explanatory power of the undeniable realities of life. As Christians who affirm the existence of a loving and all wise God, we long to push back the darkness in our world and to see the light of God’s Word soften the cynic and atheist alike. Yet if we are honest, sometimes we, too, struggle to come to terms with God’s world and his sovereign design; this is especially true in seasons of suffering and confusion. Remember Job? He had become weary of his pain and sought a just answer for it. He built his argument to God on the fact that he needed to know what was going on, because only on the basis of that knowledge could his confusion and suffering be dissipated. But God then broke his silence, challenging Job’s very assumptions and

February - March 2015


Cover Story reminding him that there was an awful lot he did not know but had just accepted and believed by inference. Notwithstanding the proverbial cynic under a nut tree, the argument from design is the very approach God used with Job. He reminded Job as a first step, and only that, that there were a thousand and one things he did not fully understand but had just taken for granted. In the light of God’s presence, Job was dumbfounded and confessed, “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? … Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know” (Job 40:4; 42:3). Gaining a small glimpse of the majesty and holiness of God is light in a dark world. The prophet Isaiah described his awe-stricken state when God revealed Himself to him. Isaiah, a morally good man, nevertheless fell on his face and immediately sensed that he was unfit to be in God’s presence. He was not just in the presence of someone better than he was. He was in the presence of the One by whom and because of whom all purity finds its point of reference. That is why he was speechless. God is not merely good. God is holy. He is the transcendent source of goodness: not merely “better” in a hierarchy of choices but rather the very basis from which all differences are made. He dwells in ineffable light. Moral categories, for us, often move in comparisons and hierarchies. We talk in terms of judging or feeling that one thing is better than another. Our culture is more advanced morally than someone else’s culture, at least so we may think. However, God’s existence changes those


February -March 2015

“As human beings we love the concept of holiness when we are in the right, but we are often reticent to apply it when we are wrong and brought under the stark scrutiny of its light” categories and moves us to recognise the very essence of what the word “goodness” is based upon. This difference is what makes the argument almost impossible for a skeptic to grasp. Holiness is not merely goodness. “Why did God not create us to choose only good?” “Why do bad things happen to good people?” The reality is that the opposite of evil, in degree, may be goodness. But the opposite of absolute evil, in kind, is absolute holiness. In the biblical context, the idea of holiness is the tremendous “otherness” of God Himself. God does not just reveal Himself as good; He reveals Himself as holy. There is no contradiction in Him. He can never self-destruct. He can never “not be.” He exists eternally and in a sublime purity that transcends a hierarchy of categories. As human beings we love the concept of holiness when we are in the right, but we are often reticent to apply it when we are wrong and brought under the stark scrutiny of its light. I recall talking to a very successful businessman who throughout our conversation repeatedly asked, “But what about all the evil in this world?” Finally, a friend sitting next to me said to him, “I hear you constantly expressing a desire to see a solution to the problem of evil around you. Are you as troubled by the problem of evil within you?” In the pin-drop silence that followed, the man’s face showed his duplicity. The longer I have encountered

this question about evil, the more convinced I am of the disingenuousness of many a questioner. The darkness of evil is more than an exterior reality that engenders suffering in our world; it is, at its core, an internal reality that systemically builds us for autonomy and destruction, blinds us, and from which only God is big enough to rescue us. You see, the problem of evil begins with me. The darkness is within. Yet Jesus’ answer to the question of the blind man in John 9 brings us extraordinary power and hope. There is an illustration and explanation for us in his story. Here was a man living in physical darkness. There was no light that he could see. People wanted to know, why was he born this way? They were the ones who could see, so they asked about the one who could not. Jesus responded that the man’s blindness was due neither to the sin of the man nor of his parents, but so that the glory of God might be displayed. The lesson is drastic; the message profound. Physical darkness has physical consequences and leaves a person bereft of seeing physical reality. It is a tragedy—but nowhere near the tragic devastation of spiritual blindness. The healing of that man’s blindness by Jesus was intended to draw those spiritually blind to seek his healing of their souls. When Beethoven, though deaf, could see the exhilarating response of the people to his composition, he outwardly resonated with what his

inner being prompted. He could not hear his music but he sensed the harmony for which he longed in expression. So it is with us. We know on the inside how impoverished we are and for what we long. That ought to prompt us to the riches that only God in Christ is able to give to us. Only when we surrender to the light of God’s truth in our own lives are we enabled to truly see and then be a beacon of hope and healing in our dark world. Truthfulness in the heart, said Jesus, precedes truth in the objective realm. The problem of evil has ultimately one source: it is the resistance to God’s holiness that enshrouds all of creation. And there is ultimately only one hope for life: that is through the glorious display of God at work within a human soul, bringing about his work of pushing away the darkness. That transformation tenderises the heart to become part of the solution and not part of the problem. Such a transformation begins at the Cross. The day when Christ was crucified and darkness engulfed the scene was symbolic of the soul in rebellion. Then came the possibility of hope when the Son rose, with life made possible for all of us. The simple verse, John 3:16, says it all: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” “For God”: the starting point is filial.

The darkness of evil is more than an exterior reality that engenders suffering in our world; it is, at its core, an internal reality that systemically builds us for autonomy and destruction, blinds us, and from which only God is big enough to rescue us”

“So loved”: his reach is relational. “That he gave his only begotten Son”: sacrificial. “That whosoever believes in Him”: confessional. “Should not perish”: judicial. “But have everlasting life”: eternal. There is a law unto death. The violation of law brings that within us. Our holy God deals with evil in us to transform us and draw us into his life and embrace. What a glorious gospel this is. The songwriter Tim Hughes says it beautifully: Light of the world, You stepped down into darkness opened my eyes, let me see. Beauty that made this heart adore you hope of a life spent with you. Here I am to worship, here I am to bow down, here I am to say that you’re my God. You’re altogether lovely, altogether worthy, altogether wonderful to me. In a unique way, seeing is believing. Believing in God is surrendering. Surrendering to God is worshiping. To worship opens up vistas to see even more. Darkness is then vanquished. In a dark world, we have the offer of Light through Jesus Christ. This article is reprinted with permission from

Courses Offered Diploma in Theology (Dip. Th) Bachelor of Theology (B.Th) Master of Divinity (M.Div) All programmes are accredited by ATA M.A. in International Development Studies In partnership with William Carey International University, Pasadena For more information The Director of Admissions, Filadelfia, Sanjay Park, Rani Road, Udaipur 313 001, Rajasthan. Phone: +91-294-2430362, Fax. +91-294-2430346 Email:

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February - March 2015

The Sanhedrin, the highest Jewish council, was given complete freedom by the Roman government over religious matters. But it had only little freedom in political affairs”

Dr. Finny Philip is the Principal of Filadelfia Bible College, Udaipur. He also serves as the IDD for Lausanne Movement in South Asia.



he church today is under the scrutiny of the political leaders. Jesus too underwent two trials following his arrest: one before the Sanhedrin on Thursday night, and second before the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate on Friday morning. The Cronyism and Justice The Sanhedrin, the highest Jewish council, was given complete freedom by the Roman government over religious matters. But it had only little freedom in political affairs. The Sanhedrin consisted of seventy elders and teachers of the law (Sadducees and Pharisees) and was normally presided by the high priest. Caiaphas was the Jewish high priest at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion, exercising an active role in Jesus’ trial (Matt. 26:3, 57, 62). Interestingly, another high priest, Annas, seems to have been February - March 2015


Inspiration influential at the same time as Caiaphas (Luke 3:2). You may wonder why Caiaphas and Annas were active in the trial of Jesus since we know that the office of the high priest was usually occupied by only one person. From history we know that, Annas was appointed high priest by the Romans in AD 6 and deposed in AD 15. Caiaphas was high priest at a later time, being appointed in AD 18 until AD 36. Josephus, the historian tells us that Annas had five sons, who were also appointed as high priests at various times. John’s Gospel informs us that Annas was a relative (father-in-law) of Caiaphas (John 18:13). It is possible that Annas held a position of leadership within the high priestly family, whereas his son-in-law, Caiaphas served as the appointed high priest. Jesus was brought before the Sanhedrin on false charges of plotting to overthrow the Temple (Matt. 26:61; Mark 14:58). Jesus remained silent until pressed by the high priest to answer whether he was the Son of God or not. Jesus affirmed the question (Mark 14:62, while in Matthew 26:64 and Luke 22:70 Jesus’ response sounds ambiguous but is not a denial of the question), and that is understood as blasphemy deserving death. Crony culture within the religious order did not give its ears to the faithful confession of Jesus. Politics and the Maneuvering of Justice On the morning of the next day, Friday, Jesus faced the second of two trials. This hearing was before Pontius Pilate who was the governor of Judea from AD 26 to 36. Interestingly, the charges before Pilate changed from Jewish legal allegations to political allegations, especially that Jesus claimed to be “king of Jews” (Mark 15:2). Jesus remained silent during the interrogation, responding only briefly and vaguely to Pilate’s questions (Matt. 27:14). Pilate deserves no sympathy for


February - March 2015

“Pilate deserves no sympathy for his dilemma in sentencing Jesus. As a governor, he was authorised with unlimited power by Rome, so his weakness and indecisiveness should not be mistaken for virtue”

his dilemma in sentencing Jesus. As a governor, he was authorised with unlimited power by Rome. But his weakness and indecisiveness should not be mistaken for virtue. As a governor, Pilate was responsible for the administration of the province of Judea, including judicial matters. Pilate had the power to “execute”. He was also responsible for collecting taxes and tribute, disbursing funds to the provinces, and sending revenues to Rome. Josephus recounts Pilate’s effective and ruthless use of that power on a number of occasions, like erecting the images in honour of the reigning emperor, Tiberius in Jerusalem and using Temple funds to construct an aqueduct. By choosing the path of least resistance in Jesus’ case, Pilate was responsible for the evil he did, by releasing a convicted murderer and the condemning of the righteous Son of God to death. Nepotism, cronyism, maneuvering, perversion of justice, sycophancy were all parts of political systems then, as much as they are now. Truth is often made to stand in witness box against the manipulation of such forces by those that seem powerful. The Church in India today stands where her Lord did centuries back – forced to prove her innocence, patriotism and purity of motives. The temptation is to immediately retort. And yet, sometimes, one wonders if any number of evidences will ever be sufficient enough to meet this requirement. Thankfully, the God we serve not only identifies with us in our sufferings, but also in our experiences of being falsely accused. He remained without guilt even in the eyes of those who were given temporary authority to judge Him (John 18:38). May the Church be the same!


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Those who object to gifts such as prophecy continuing today often argue that allowing for contemporary prophecy would diminish the unique authority of Scripture”


February -March 2015

Craig Keener is professor of New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary and author of The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (revised edition, InterVarsity, 2014).



aul declares that we are the body of Christ with many members (Rom. 12:4-5; 1 Cor. 12:12, 20). He then elaborates on some of the varied gifts God has graciously given us to serve the rest of Christ’s body. Because Paul is simply offering samples, he provides several different lists that include a variety of ministries. These gifts for helping the other members in Christ’s body include such diverse ministries as giving, teaching, prophesying, speaking wisely, healings, worship leading, and evangelism (Rom. 12:6-8; 1 Cor. 12:8-10, 28-30; 14:26; Eph. 4:11). Paul nowhere distinguishes between what we might call supernatural and potentially natural gifts. That is, we need God’s grace to teach God’s word just as we need God’s grace to prophesy it. Like the churches that Paul first addressed, we remain the body of Christ in need of all our members and all our gifts; otherwise we will be like a body with important parts (such as hands or eyes) missing (1 Cor. 12:14-30). Nevertheless, some modern Western interpreters have traditionally affirmed so-called natural gifts while denying that supernatural gifts such as prophecy remain. (Some of these Western interpreters have promoted their views elsewhere in the world, but happily most Christians elsewhere read the Bible for themselves and recognise that the Bible does not make such a distinction.) Not only is there no support for this distinction in the biblical text, but also Paul’s lists and teaching about gifts undercut it. Indeed, Paul emphasises the need for various gifts, including prophecy, to bring Christ’s body to maturity and unity in trusting and knowing Christ (Eph. 4:11-13) – a need that Christ’s body still has today. (I must pause to note here that Paul presumably uses the term “apostles” here, as he normally does elsewhere, to refer to a group of ministers larger than the Twelve original witnesses for Jesus. Virtually

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Roots no one suggests that we still have original witnesses of Jesus among us; cf. Rom. 16:7; 1 Cor. 15:5-7; Gal. 1:19; 1 Thess. 2:6.) One gift in nearly all of Paul’s lists, which Paul often ranks toward the top, is the gift of prophecy (Rom. 12:6; 1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11). In the Old Testament, it was the most commonly mentioned ministry for communicating God’s message; it remains prominent in the New Testament as well. Paul not only emphasises that this gift is particularly valuable for building up Christ’s body (1 Cor. 14:3-4), he even urges believers to seek it (14:1, 39; cf. 12:31). Thus, even if we did not know of true prophecies today, obeying biblical teaching would lead us to pray for God to give this gift to the body of Christ. Prophesying sometimes includes exposing the secrets of unbelievers’ hearts by God’s Spirit (14:24-25); at least in principle, the gift is widely available (14:5, 24, 31), though not all have it (12:29) and not all have it in the same degree (Rom. 12:6). Those who object to gifts such as prophecy continuing today often argue that allowing for contemporary prophecy would diminish the unique authority of Scripture. But this argument itself is an extra-biblical approach that differs from what we find in Scripture. Both in the Old and New Testaments, we read of many prophets whose prophecies were not recorded in Scripture (e.g., 1 Kings 18:13; 1 Cor. 14:29, 31). Scripture does not include all true prophecies; Scripture moreover includes history and other genres that are not prophecies. I am not suggesting that God is revealing new doctrines—new


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doctrine is quite different from saying that God speaks to us at times to guide and nurture us. We already have in Christ’s first coming the fullest revelation of God that we will receive until his return (Heb. 1:1-2), although the Spirit continues to teach us (John 14:26; 16:12-14; 1 John 2:27). One reason people object to gifts like prophecy continuing is that they fear that this opens the door for unbiblical doctrines. True prophecy need not do this. Yet the doctrine that the gifts have ceased is itself a postbiblical doctrine, without genuine biblical support.

One reason people object to gifts like prophecy continuing is that they fear that this opens the door for unbiblical doctrines. True prophecy need not do this” Gifts like prophecy are pervasive in Scripture, and nowhere does Scripture suggest that they will become obsolete before the Lord’s return. Some cite 1 Cor. 13:8-10 against continuing gifts, but the text in fact teaches the opposite. Paul provides three examples of gifts: prophecy, tongues, and knowledge. Given how “knowledge” is used elsewhere in 1 Corinthians (versus some modern ideas about what it means; cf. 1:5; 8:1; 14:6), “knowledge” here probably means knowledge about God of the limited sort presently available, often through teaching. Both this sort of knowledge and prophetic messages

are limited, as opposed to the full knowledge we will have when we see the Lord face to face (13:11). This expression cannot simply refer to the close of the canon at the end of the first century. Knowledge has not passed away, nor have we yet seen Jesus face to face, without limitation. Nor is Paul alone in expecting continuing gifts. When Jesus poured out his Spirit at Pentecost, Peter explained that this fulfilled Joel’s prophecy: God would pour out his Spirit in the last days, and this outpouring would be characterised by visions, dreams, and prophecy (Acts 2:17-18). God did not pour out his Spirit then pour his Spirit back. Moreover, if it was “the last days” when Peter spoke, it surely remains the last days. Not every individual in Acts exhibited the same gifts or ministries, but Acts does teach us about God’s work in the era between Jesus’ first and second comings. Educated leaders such as Stephen, Paul and Apollos spread Jesus’ message by debating in public intellectual forums such as synagogues and courts. The most common means of drawing attention for the gospel in Acts, however, is signs, which God performed through both some of the educated and some who were not (e.g., Acts 2:43; 5:12; 6:8; 8:6; 19:11-12). After a dramatic healing in the temple, Jerusalem’s authorities tried to intimidate Peter and John against speaking in Jesus’ name. Instead, believers prayed that the Lord would continue to embolden them, granting further signs and wonders (4:29-30). God gave signs to attest the message about his grace (14:3), which we still preach. When preaching about God’s reign

(his “kingdom”), Jesus also demonstrated God’s reign by authoritatively healing the sick and delivering those oppressed by spirits (e.g., Matt. 4:23-24; 9:35; 12:28; Luke 9:11; 11:20). Jesus commissioned disciples to do the same (Matt. 10:7-8; Luke 9:2; 10:9); the principles of this mission continue until the end (Matt. 10:23). God used dramatic signs especially to draw outsiders’ attention to the gospel (cf. Rom. 15:19), but gifts of healings are also provided to help believers (1 Cor. 12:9; James 5:14-16). Such healings need not be dramatic to fulfil their purpose; healing through medical means, for example, is no less an answer to prayer. But again there is no indication that healings would stop; they continue, including as a witness to outsiders, as late as the end of Acts (Acts 28:8-9) and other signs appear in Revelation (Rev. 11:5-6, interpreted in various ways but rarely applied exclusively to the past). Why would God work one way throughout Scripture in various times and places and then suddenly stop, without prior warning, at the end of the first century? Is it not more biblical to expect that God continues to work as he did in the Bible, in various times and places as he deems best and his people welcome his work? In fact, God has continued to work with miracles, prophecies, tongues and other gifts throughout history. (Even most Christians who deny that the gifts are for today do affirm that miracles continue at least sometimes. God is sovereign and certainly able to perform miracles and answer prayers.) Irenaeus in the second century testified to virtually the same range of miracles we read in Acts. Historians have documented that the leading causes of conversion to Christianity in the 300s were healings and exorcisms. Augustine originally believed that miracles had largely died out by his day but ultimately

Why would God work one way throughout Scripture in various times and places and then suddenly stop, without prior warning, at the end of the first century?”

confirmed that many were occurring even in his own circle of churches and among friends. Miracles accompanied many new mission fields (including in early Europe) as well as some revivals. Wesley and early Methodists reported some. Nineteenthcentury Lutheran pastor Johann Christoph Blumhardt reported many. Midnineteenth-century India also experienced spiritual gifts during periods of revival, as did Indonesia. Today some suggest that up to 80 per cent of the church’s global growth is connected with signs and wonders. Of course, discernment is crucial, because not every claimed prophecy or miracle is genuinely from God’s Spirit (cf. 1 John 4:1-6). Even though some are too critical, they rightly remind us that we must not only welcome but also evaluate what claims to be the work of the Spirit (1 Cor. 14:29). We should not despise prophecies but we should evaluate them and embrace only what is true (1 Thess. 5:19-22). (I pause to mention here that two or three Christian Union staff prophesied to me and they were accurate.) Unfortunately, some who affirm gifts denigrate the intellect; some circulate unsound teachings such as selfcentred prosperity; and so on. Then again, unsound teachings also circulate in circles that deny the gifts. We should neither throw the baby out with the bath water nor let it drown there. Paul urges us to seek spiritual gifts, especially those that serve the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:31; 14:1, 12, 26, 39).

February - March 2015




3 Miracle Healing Rallies per week in Dubai 18 services per week in Dubai Rev. Dr. V. Dilkumar

“The door is open – the stone is rolled away – “Rise Up and Walk”. “Forgetting those things which are behind, press forward and toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus”. (Revelation 3:8 / Mark 16:4 / John 10:9 / Philippians 3:13-14) 2015 Year of the “House of God” God will build His church, through “True Fathers” and not mere leaders. 2015 Year of “Great Faith” and “continual Praises” God’s own “inherent Faith” will fill us and continued Praises" will be evident in our life forever. (Mark 9:23 / Hebrews 13:15 / Luke 7:9 / 1st Cor. 12:9) 2015 Year of “Godly increase” and “favour” with people. (Acts 2:47 / Luke 1:30) 2015 Year of “Rise up & Walk”, the door is open (Not depending on self, not depending on money, not depending on man, not depending on medicine). Acts 3:6-7, 18 / Acts 14:10 But depending only and fully on God - our Father, on God - our Saviour Jesus Christ, on God - our Comforter The Holy Spirit. 2015 Year of “Victory over self” i.e. our own body, our own mind, our own self As we win over our flesh we shall be fully triumphant & victorious in life on this earth until “Rapture” - (partaking in the victory that Jesus won on our behalf). 1st Cor. 9:27 / 2nd Cor. 2:14 2015 Year of “Great interest” - great hunger, innermost thirst, longing desire for the power of God and His Gospel (Psalm 42:1-2). 2015 Year of “Holy Spirit”, His Gifts, Signs, Wonders, Miracles, Healings, and “Greater Works” than these until "Rapture" in mid-air. (John 14:12 / John 5:19-20)

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Her mom got sick with complications and was declared had few days to live. Before going home to see her mom in India, she left a message to Pastor Dill for prayer. The next day Pastor called and instructed her to lay hands on her mom as she is already healed. Praises! to the name of Jesus; the doctor was surprised, her mom instantly became normal so they were advised to take her home. Glory to Jesus.

“Jesus healed me right away - from long years of blood disease”

Hana Atieno Olango I was diagnosed with scar in my lungs, that hindered the processing of my visa to work in the UAE. The test was repeated five times and concluded that I have to go back home. Pastor Dill prayed for me in Jesus Name and believing I was healed. When I went for another test the result came out to be clear, as they could not find any more scar in my lungs. I was declared “fit to work”. Praise the Lord. I was amazed by the power of the Name of Jesus.

Had suffered blood irregularities for seven years and due to it her ovaries was filled of multiple cysts from 2008 until March 2014. She had gone through various treatments and followed diets which only brought various side effects such as pigmentation, hair loss and many others. Her family even consulted different religious advisors believing her disease was a curse for her future. April 2014 she landed in Dubai and attended Kings Revival Church where she received a “Word of knowledge” through Pastor Dill that all cyst in the ovaries will vanish. She stood believing on God’s promises and stopped all medicines she was taking and began thanking and praising Jesus for her healing. Exactly on the same month she received her needed miracle. Her blood irregularities, cysts and pigmentations had all vanished completely. To Jesus Christ, the Son of God who came in flesh belongs all the glory, honor, praises and adoration.

Chamila, Uvi & Umesh Priskila Jeevani Dharmaraj I am married and didn’t conceive for some years. My life at home was miserable full of sorrows. I even planned to end my life Pastor Dill prayed and taught me a very simple prayer to “Thank God the Father for Jesus, thank Jesus for His Blood and the Holy Spirit for His power.” The great Almighty God heard my simple prayer and shortly after, I got pregnant. My married life is restored and changed the situation completely. I praise the Lord Jesus for my miracle baby.

“Doctors gave up on me – but my God, Jesus healed me; and I now live perfectly.” Had a blood issue for four years which the doctors couldn’t figure out until 2007 when one doctor diagnosed her having a cancer on its fourth stage. Her condition was already given up by the best specialists in Sri Lanka; and due to such hopeless situation, the husband of her sister took her to Dubai for a visit to receive a touch from God through Pastor Dill. They came on a Thursday and the next day she attended the church and was brought to Pastor Dill’s office right after the service. Pastor Dill spoke life to her and she received great faith. The next day her blood issue had stopped completely and so after a month she visited a doctor and by that time she was declared, “no trace of cancer”. She is healed completely and after two years she got married and as a couple they are blessed with a daughter who is now two years and a half. To God be all the glory.

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If you do not want to read things that are unpleasant, then whatever you do, don’t read the Bible�


February - March 2015


global scourges


George Verwer is the Founder and former International Director of Operation Mobilisation. George led Operation Mobilisation for over 40 years before stepping down in August 2003. He travels around the world and speaks in over 350 meetings each year, mobilising the global church into missions.


he need to be a Good Samaritan is as urgent today as it was during Jesus’ time. The world is facing innumerable scourges. We dealt with just one, namely Children at Risk, in my previous article. Let us look at the rest now. 2. Abused Women The second person lying by the side of the road is the woman, an abused woman, a woman at risk. True Grit by Debbie Meroff, I believe, is probably the most significant book ever published by OM Books. This is a book about women and what they suffer. We have reprinted this book many times over by now. It is unbelievable to know what is going on in Europe, Latin America and India in the area of sex trafficking. Many presidents, prime ministers and other global leaders have spoken out about this with great concern. We need to have a more biblical, revolutionary view of women and their suffering. The abuse of women under certain religious systems is unbelievable. What went on in Afghanistan during the Taliban rule? Very few Christians spoke out about it. The Feminist Movement, though having many positive and negative points, were the first to speak out on the suffering of women in Afghanistan. In God’s mercy the Taliban

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Direction was removed. What about female circumcision? Have you ever read/ heard anything about that or do you prefer not to read things that are unpleasant? Let me say something here. If you do not want to read things that are unpleasant, then whatever you do, don’t read the Bible. Some of the most unpleasant stories I have ever read, including rape, are written in the Bible. I believe one of the marks of authenticity of the Word of God is that it does not gloss over sin even when it is committed by a great leader like David, a man after God’s own heart, who was guilty of murder and adultery. I can read pretty heavy stuff without getting ill, but I have never been able to finish what I have attempted to read about female circumcision. It is so sickening. It is so disturbing that women could be so abused and mutilated, and it is growing and still going on in many parts of the world. Hundreds of thousands of women are going through this unbelievable ordeal. I think the Danish Government was the first to want to get a law against this. You and I need to speak out also about things like domestic violence (including in Christian homes), women and girls trafficking, forced prostitution and the likes. Domestic atrocities, particularly against women today can never be justified by any standard in a modern society like ours. We can’t just walk away from this. 3. The Extreme Poor The third person lying wounded by the side of the road is, what we call, the extreme poor. There are many


February - March 2015

“If we study the Bible and listen to men and women of God down through the years going right back to William Booth, we know that God has a bias towards the poor”

poor people, and it is sad that many Christians with just one cliché write the whole thing off, even misquoting from the New Testament. If we study the Bible and listen to men and women of God down through the years going right back to William Booth, we know that God has a bias towards the poor. Some of you come from a poor background, and you should never ever be ashamed of that. You should never feel inferior in this society that it is still a classbased and racist and “casteist” society even though we do not like to admit it. Some of the greatest people in the world came from the poorest background and some are still poor. What about the Dalits of India known also as the untouchables? There are over 250 million of them, which is more than three times the population of the British Isles. In the past few years the Dalits have started to move, they are leaving the oppressive religious systems by the thousands. Many have become Buddhists while others are knocking at the door of the church. There are thousands of churches planted in the last couple of decades mainly for Dalits and many are experiencing the reality of the Holy Spirit. Some of my friends in India have decided to be involved with the extreme disenfranchised and poor under good leadership. They decided to involve in human rights, not in every aspect because it is such a huge area and one can easily get beyond their

boundaries. For example, All India Christian Council, a new movement was born to speak out particularly in connection with the persecution of Christians in India, and the general cause of the Dalits. Concern for human rights and defence of human rights are a part of God’s kingdom. Guess what? Most Christians who are not involved with human rights still believe in it, because they get really upset when one of their neighbours does something that is in breach of their human rights. I am amazed at what upsets the average person. It is usually trivial, but often is connected with human rights without us realising it. We all believe in justice and human rights. It took me years to grasp this, but we are not just called to “evangelise” the world; we are also called to build the kingdom everywhere. That is overwhelming and you have to find your place (role) and get guidance. If you can capture the whole vision in your heart, that will enable you to respond better to your particular part of the vision, no matter how small that may be. The global poor should be a priority and there is much that we can do. The church, more actively than ever before in history, is responding to this challenge. The story of Tear Fund is one of the greatest Christian stories in the British Isles as is the story of Bob Pearce founding World Vision and then Samaritan’s Purse and hundreds

of other less known agencies around the globe. 4. People with HIV/AIDS The fourth person lying wounded by the side of the road is the person with HIV/AIDS. Forty million have been infected and 20 million have died. Millions of children have been orphaned and whole societies are burgeoning under the weight of so many dying so young. Rather than standing by and judging, let us respond in love and action. (Many have HIV and they don’t even know it.) Let us also take advantage of this opportunity to share the gospel. We have found that, because death is so imminent, AIDS patients are very open to the gospel. I would urge you to read AIDS Action by Patrick Dixon. It is being supplied for free around the globe. I took Patrick to meet with 50 Africans and others in Uganda who were concerned about this huge pandemic and it is overwhelming when we think of the task. The church is on the move but there is a lack of finance in this battle. In the western world you can get expensive medical cocktails, so people can live another five or ten years, but so many in India and Africa do not have access to these medications and medicines. We know of a few cases where God has intervened and healed people. I don’t believe that we should limit our response to that huge problem only through prayer, though prayer has got to be a part of it. God sometimes does unusual things. We must mobilise the entire church for prevention. In Africa almost every church has people with HIV/AIDS in their congregation. Affected people don’t die of AIDS, AIDS runs

their body down so that any one of 50 different illnesses takes them in the end—many die very young. Let’s get involved even in distribution of this book that’s available in several languages. 5. People without Clean Water The fifth person lying wounded by the side of the road is the thirsty person. Drinking water is becoming increasingly scarce. Thirty per cent of the world has no access to clean water. Many have to walk miles to get some sort of clean water, and so often the ones who walk the distance are children whose bodies are not designed for such backbreaking work. Big cities are running out of water and are shipping it in at great cost, while in other parts of the world the dysfunctional water systems are breeding grounds for many diseases. Let each of us be a part of the effort to see more people getting clean water, as we seek to preserve the precious water at our disposal. My concern is for the people in poverty-stricken areas of the world where there is drought and other difficulties leading to no access to pure water. Many in India are socially prohibited to draw water from common/public wells due to caste-based superstition of polluting it. They drink impure water from the river and ponds, and many of them will become sick and die within the year. You and I can do something about it. Christian agencies that work to make pure water available are being raised up. Some others are doing it as well. Would you pray for these people? Would you pray for the release of money because it takes money to drill wells, and

to make water purifying machines made with very basic components? It is incredible what can be done when we exercise a little sanctified imagination. That has always been one of my prayers for God’s chosen people. If you are one of the unenthusiastic types let me tell you there is still hope for you, don’t give up. Even if you are my age (76), there is still hope that a fire would be lit in your heart. Let us serve the thirsty people, the sick people, with simple pure water. (To be continued…)

“Concern for human rights and defence of human rights are a part of God’s kingdom”

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Against God



February -March 2015

“Disasters, disease, pain and death are as much the outcome of the evil choice made at the beginning, as the injustice, exploitation, oppression, and tyranny”

“If there is a God, whence proceed so many evils? If there is no God, whence cometh any good?”

Having served as a pastor at Lalbagh Methodist Church from 1974-97, Kuruvilla Chandy at present pastors Grace Bible Church, Lucknow. He has written several books including The Joy of Fellowship (1993) on Philippians, and Why Me? (2005) on Job. He also preaches at conferences and teaches at writers’ workshops.



here’s the English saying, “God’s in his heaven; all’s right with the world”. They are actually lines from a drama in verse that Robert Browning (1812-89) wrote. The play was entitled Pippa Passes. A young girl wanders innocently through a village, attributing kindness and virtue to the people she passes. She sings as she goes, her song influencing others to do good. If God is in His heaven, why has our world gone bad? After every act of creation God looked at what He had made and expressed satisfaction that it was good (Gen. 1:4-25). How do we explain the existence of evil in the world God created good? As the Roman statesman and philosopher Boethius (AD 480-525) said,

Free to Fall The biblical answer to the question as to how evil came into God’s good world is that the Fall took place (Gen. 3:1-24). In the Fall, the one earthly creature who was to image God went against God, and opened the floodgates of all the evil that has come upon the world. In the biblical view all evil is consequential, the outcome of rejecting God’s created order. God didn’t stop the Fall from happening because it was the creature in His image and likeness who was revolting against Him. That’s why God would not prevent it. God had made humans to image Him in being able to choose for themselves. God wouldn’t take back what He had given, even though the creature was using the gift of God to revolt against God who had given the gift. And so, the Fall happened. The good that God had created was cast aside. The biblical thesis is that evil (both physical/environmental and moral) occurred as a consequence of humans breaking away from God. Disasters, disease, pain and death are as much the outcome of the evil choice made at the beginning, as the injustice, exploitation, oppression, and tyranny. Our first parents, the representative forerunners of the human race, broke covenant with God. February -March 2015


Logos It is humanity’s broken relationship with God that has caused all the evil that we see everywhere. Evil is a moral and spiritual issue. The Idolatrous Connection When the dots are all connected, the only conclusion is that evil is essentially whatever is against God. That is why so many times people are described as doing “evil in the eyes of the Lord” (Deut. 4:25; 17:2; and several passages in Judges, 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles). In all these passages the Bible is talking about as “evil in the eyes of the Lord”. Idolatry is the essence of sin. Idolaters set God aside by making their own gods. The Bible clearly teaches that idols of things that are mortal cannot represent God, who is immortal (Rom. 1:21-23). According to the Bible, all human depravity can be traced back to the fact that God let idolatry run its course. God let people have what they had chosen: Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator…God gave them over to shameful lusts…exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones… abandoned natural relations…inflamed with lust for one another…since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity… they invent ways of doing evil…they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them (Rom. 1:24-32).


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Whatever God created was good. God did not create evil. All evil came about because the first humans chose to go against God’s will and all their descendants have been following in their steps”

The Bible says idolaters worship the demons that are behind idols (1 Cor. 10:19-21). From a biblical viewpoint moral evil is the product of demonic presence and activity. Kancha Ilaiah, of the Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Hyderabad, dittoes that from another point of view. In his article “The Roots of Rape in India” (Deccan Herald, 10th May 2013), Ilaiah points out that Indian society derives its values from the mythologies of our land. He gives example after example, and remarks that some of their acts are regarded as mere pranks: “If a mythological hero is praised for his acts of killing, drinking and fornicating with multiple women…it is glorification of such behaviour…the tendency is to not question what our gods did, but simply admire such acts.” Ilaiah’s point: the reason for India becoming a place where molestation and rape has become as rampant as it is today is that our heroes (divine and cinematic and political) have all glorified such acts. David’s Sin The Bible too records stories of depraved behaviour, but to condemn it. David was king of Israel. He did what other kings did. He took another man’s wife and committed adultery. When she became pregnant, he recalled the man from duty at the warfront, so that the man would go home and sleep with his wife and would never know that the child was not his. But the man didn’t cooperate with the king’s scheme. So David sent him back to the front and commanded the general of his army that the man was to be placed where the battle was fiercest, and abandoned without any backup and support, so that he would be killed in battle. This plan worked. Then David married the widow. Just as he was congratulating himself on being so clever, God’s prophet Nathan confronted him with his sin and pronounced God’s

judgement on the king. David acknowledged his sin and was repentant. After God’s punishment fell, David penned a song of repentance, which has these lines: Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge (Psa. 51:4). If we judge David by what other kings did, he would not be deemed guilty of any misconduct. Kings believed that they had the right to take another’s property, wife and/or even another’s life. There would be no one to question a king’s conduct. But “in the eyes of the Lord” David was found guilty. Hence, David’s cry, “Against you, you only have I sinned.” Every wrong done to someone else is done against God. Ultimately, each and every sin is an act of opposition to God. Whatever God created was good. God did not create evil. All evil came about because the first humans chose to go against God’s will and all their descendants have been following in their steps. Generation after generation we have been sowing evil and reaping evil. We’re trapped in this cycle of evil. We may tweak the general health of humankind through educational and developmental programmes, but we do not have a final solution, because the “fallen-ness” doesn’t go away. It remains. Some new form of depravity will be spawned. Some new environmental problem will be generated. It goes on and on. Spiritual War As said earlier, demons are behind all the idolatry. There is a prince of demons identified as Satan

(meaning, “adversary”). Satan is a “fallen angel” who chose to revolt against God’s sovereignty (Isa. 14:13-14). There was war in heaven, but God didn’t have to fight Satan. The angelic host was enough to defeat Satan and his gang. They were thrown out of heaven (Rev. 12:7-9). Satan thought he could win the war by killing Jesus at His birth (v.5). As the adversary, Satan is against humans too, particularly those who are committed to Jesus as Lord (Rev. 12: 17). However Satan does not have any powers that are equal to God’s powers. Though superhuman (as a fallen angel), he still has only the limited powers of a creature. He is not omnipresent. He cannot be everywhere at the same time, right beside each and every person. He is not all-knowing. In all probability he doesn’t know about you and me because we’re too small to come to his notice. He knew about Job because God drew his attention to a particularly righteous man (Job chapters 1 and 2) and he picked on David (1 Chron. 21:1) because he was a man after God’s own heart (1 Sam. 13:14). And, of course, he made it his personal business to tempt Jesus (Matt. 4:1-11), imagining that he was quite the match for the Lord. But he is not powerful enough to be the personal tempter for everyone on earth. It is true that the Devil walks about like a lion looking for prey (1 Pet. 5:8), but he is dependent on his fellow demons to carry out his attacks on people and to tempt them away from God. Not only is Satan not all-powerful and all-knowing, but the Bible says that Jesus came to destroy the Devil

and his works (1 John 3:8). Jesus saw Satan falling from heaven (Luke 10:18) and saw him driven out (John 12:31). By His death Jesus destroyed Satan and his power: God stripped the spiritual rulers and powers of their authority. With the cross, he won the victory and showed the world that they were powerless (Col. 2:15, NCV) Evil invaded humanity and still has a grip on humans. But God mounted a rescue operation. He gave humans choice and our first parents’ choice messed up things for us who followed. In Jesus, we are given choice again, to choose God and salvation. Jesus came to seek and save those who are lost (Luke 19:10). He is the way, the truth and the life that will get us back to God (John14:6). When we have Jesus’ Spirit we experience power that is greater than that of the Devil roaming the world (1 John 4:4). The death of Jesus has armed us against the Devil (Heb. 2:14-15). We do have a fight on our hands. As Jesus fought and disarmed spiritual powers (Col. 2:15), so we too have to fight the powers (Eph. 6:12). We have been provided armour for this fight against our enemies who are otherwise more powerful than us (vv. 11-18). We stand empowered for our fight. Through Christ Jesus we can be more than conquerors (Rom. 8: 37).

“Evil invaded humanity and still has a grip on humans. But God mounted a rescue operation”

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Truth or


Mark Koonz is the pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran Church, Walla Walla (USA). A graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary, he has written for theological journals and recently contributed to a chapter to the book The Logic of the Spirit in Human Thought and Experience.



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esus’ disciples were filled with sorrow and despair when he was killed and buried. On the third day they were surprised by joy and filled with awe, because Jesus presented himself alive to them with an immortal body. Their testimony produced our New Testament witness to the Resurrection. Today skeptics challenge the apostolic testimony. They argue the disciples were confused by their grief and deluded by hallucinations. I notice that a lot of these skeptics have little experience with grieving people. People who love deeply are often not only hurt by death but angered by it, especially if that death left a huge void in loving companionship or personal support. In their anger they

The empty tomb was a real corollary to the resurrection appearances, like twin sides of the same coin”

are not open to the nonsense that their loved one is not really gone. They are not predisposed to put hope in a hallucination. Usually if one family member is unwilling to face reality, the others shake their heads. Even if there was a disciple who had a hallucination, what are the chances that all of them would share in it? Some of the other disciples would have kindly and sadly taken the confused one to the tomb and pointed to Jesus’ body. The same option would have been available to the enemies of Jesus. As it was, they checked their

“The age group most likely to experience a sense of another presence, usually with no image or voice, but sometimes with a visual or auditory experience, are grieving older adults”

temporary encounters with Jesus against the fact that his tomb was empty. His wrapped grave clothes were like an empty cocoon. The great change at the tomb took place while it was under the guarded care of Jesus’ enemies, not his disciples, who had absolutely no incentive to remove the body. The empty tomb was a real corollary to the resurrection appearances, like twin sides of the same coin. By hallucination we mean a sensory experience where a person sees other persons or objects, hears voices or smells odors, in the absence of actual physical February - March 2015


Perspective stimuli in his or her environment. In other words, seeing someone who isn’t really there. Andre Aleman and Frank Larøi’s book, Hallucinations, reviews scholarly research on the connection between hallucinations and difficult life experiences, brain trauma, illness, grief, pharmaceutical or alcohol use, as well as mental illness. It seems around 15 percent of people may have a momentary experience, but not a lasting or repeatable one. Sometimes it is as simple as hearing a familiar voice say “Hello.” It comes and goes in a flash, perhaps a brain-triggered memory. The age group most likely to experience a sense of another presence, usually with no image or voice, but sometimes with a visual or auditory experience, are grieving older adults. However their experiences were usually at night and less common during the day. Some personalities are more prone to the experience than others. There are often connections between mental illness or alcohol addictions and hallucinations. Younger people who are not mentally ill or drug users hallucinate to a lesser degree than those who are depressed or suffering mental breakdown. Youth also do not hallucinate as much as older adults who have lost a spouse. It is safe to say the disciples were for the most part young men. They were closely watched by the enemies of Jesus (Mark 7:1-6). If any of the Twelve had a problem with mental illness or alcoholism it would have been noted and charged against Jesus, but there is not even a hint of this. Psychological researchers find some correlations between past childhood trauma and adult


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hallucinations. A study published in 2003 found that “hallucinations were significantly related to sexual abuse and childhood physical abuse and that this was particularly the case for commenting voices and command hallucinations”. Given the high moral teaching regulating family life among the Jews in the first century, which many of their Gentile neighbours observed and respected, it is doubtful that the Twelve had been molested in their childhood. The hallucination theory is full of problems. Rarely was only one person present when Jesus appeared in his post-resurrection visitations. There was a potential corrective to any one individual suffering from a hallucination. The others could say, “But we did not see or hear what you described.” What one person can see only in his or her mind, a unique mental event, cannot be shared by others. Hallucinations are like dreams. It is not likely that two people can ever share the same exact dream, though subject matter may overlap. A husband and wife may both dream they are vacationing in the Maldives, or dream about their daughter’s wedding or their son’s cricket match. But it is highly unlikely that they will have the same conversation in each dream or match all the other details in unison. There is good reason why professional clinical psychology journals cannot yet present any documented case of a group hallucination. We cannot get inside each other’s minds! It is not likely that a group of ten or more people can each have their own individual hallucination at exactly the same time, no matter how great the grief or stress felt by

all. One of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances was to a gathering of over 500 people (1 Cor. 15:6). As a thought experiment take the smaller group called the Twelve, for example. The men were of various ages. Most were probably young and unmarried; at least one of the Twelve was married, Simon Peter. There were other disciples in Jerusalem and Galilee, male and female, married and unmarried, young and old. As Michael Licona says, in his book The Resurrection of Jesus, of those who were encountered by the risen Jesus, they “almost certainly possessed different personality types.” It is incredible to think they could all have experienced a hallucination simultaneously in the same mode, with each person’s subjective experience matching the other subjective experiences of Jesus’ appearance, words, and actions. That the disciples all participated in a group hallucination is not a tenable hypothesis. It takes less faith to believe that God worked the grandest miracle and re-created Jesus’ body, making it immortal and vindicating His beloved Son.

“Hallucinations are like dreams. It is not likely that two people can ever share the same exact dream, though subject matter may overlap”

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he sobering news about raising children is that we really have no ultimate control over whether our child will choose the narrow gate that leads to life (Matt. 7:14) or the wide gate that leads to destruction. If other experiences in life have not humbled us and shown us how dependent we are on God, then parenting a preadolescent or teenager will. Understanding our desperate need to depend on God is the good news. Once we give up the naive idea that we parents can dictate the choices our children will make and the spiritual gate they will walk through—narrow or wide—then we are ready to slip on the kneepads and get serious about prayer. What have we learned about prayer for our children as they prepared for and entered adolescence? Pray regularly Bring every concern, dream, and desire about your child to God in fervent, persistent prayer. (Luke 18:1–8 contains a great parable on persistent prayer that must have been for parents of teenagers.) Two of the best times to pray with your child are on the way to school (assuming you drive him or her) and at bedtime—regardless of age.


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“On more than one occasion we sought the Lord’s help in removing a friend of questionable character from our child’s life”

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Family We lived about five miles from the school our children attended when they were growing up. Every morning we would pray about things most important to our children—tests, friends, teachers, activities. As the car topped the hill right before the school building, we always concluded with the same request: “And Lord, we ask that you would keep each of our children from harm, evil, and temptation this day, that they would experience You at work in their lives and be used by You to influence others for Your Kingdom. Amen.” Once our teenagers began to drive themselves to school, we would use breakfast for this prayer time. Bedtime prayers can be more personal for each child. Pray for her future mate, relationships, activities, challenges, temptations, and heart for God. Don’t assume that a teenager is too big for you to kneel beside his bed and stroke his face and pray.


feel that one of our teens might be deceiving us, but we could never be absolutely certain. In those situations we asked God to help us catch him if he had been doing something wrong. God seems to feel sorry for parents who pray this prayer!

Pray offensively Before your child hits adolescence, pray for his peer group—that he will have at least one strong Christian buddy for the teenage years. Ask God to protect your child daily from others who would be an evil influence. Also consider asking God to help you spot your child doing things right so that you can encourage him in making right choices.

Pray intensely One of the most misunderstood spiritual disciplines of the Christian life is prayer accompanied with fasting (the giving up of food for a prescribed period of time). Although fasting does not earn points with God, He nonetheless assumes in Scripture that we will fast and pray (see Matt. 6:16–18) and promises to reward us if we do it correctly. We know a couple who would set aside each Monday to fast, sunup until sundown, and pray for their struggling 14-year-old child. Pray when God brings your child to mind. It may be at that very moment, your child is facing a circumstance of critical importance. Some friends of ours felt a strong and sudden need one night to pray for their daughter. At the very time they slipped out of bed and to their knees, a police car was driving by their daughter’s car on a remote mountain road where she and a girlfriend had gone to look at the city lights, eat a sandwich, and talk. Unknown to them, an escaped prisoner was hiding underneath the car. The prisoner was apprehended, and the girls drove off unharmed.

Pray defensively On more than one occasion we sought the Lord’s help in removing a friend of questionable character from our child’s life. From time to time we would

Pray with your child It’s easy for prayer to become an exclusive dialogue—you and God. Why not do what one mom, Nina, did with her teenage daughter, Natalie, and become prayer partners?

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Natalie’s teenage years were filled with special moments in which she and her mom knelt together and prayed over Natalie’s struggles and challenges. Pray together as a couple For over 30 years of marriage we have ended each day in prayer together as a couple. No spiritual discipline has protected our marriage and our family more than this daily time of communion together with God. All of our six children have now made it to adulthood. Once adolescence was behind us, you might think we were tempted to coast to the finish line. Hardly! We were humbled so many times that we knew how impossible it would be for us to shape the hearts of our children on our own. We continued to pray more than ever for our children even after the turbulent adolescent years— and still do. God wants the same thing for you and your child. Talk to Him. James 5:16 tells us, “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”

One of the most misunderstood spiritual disciplines of the Christian life is prayer accompanied with fasting”

This article is adapted with permission from Parenting Today’s Adolescent: Helping Your Child Avoid the Traps of the Preteen and Teen Years.

RESERVE YOUR SPACE for the special supplement of the October-November issue of Christian Trends. The Seminary Guide 2015 will feature some of the best Bible colleges, seminaries and universities in India and abroad.


In Question

IsAuthor Godof Sin? the


February -March 2015

Domenic Marbaniang is Provost at Central India Theological Seminary, Itarsi, and Christian Minister with Central India Outreach.




he existence of evil has troubled minds and souls for ages. What to make of evil is not merely an intellectual question; it disturbs our emotions and shakes our whole being. When our soul experiences dark nights, and God seems powerful enough to deliver but unwilling, it is natural to think of God as the root of all sin. But could God be the author of sin? The answer, obviously, is “No!” God is not the author of sin. However, it is not an answer as easily agreed upon. Answering the Calvinist The extreme Calvinists that are committed to the once-savedforever-saved doctrine of eternal security, for instance, maintain that it was God Himself who ordained the sin and fall of Adam. In his The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination (1932), Loraine Boettner wrote: “Even the fall of Adam, and through him the fall of the race, was not by chance or accident, but was so ordained in the secret counsels of God.” And again, “we hold that God foreplanned and fore-saw the fall; that it in no sense came as a surprise to Him.” Likewise, Edwin H. Palmer, in his The Five Points of Calvinism, argued: “Even sin - the fall of the devil from heaven, the fall of Adam, and every evil thought, word, and deed in all of history, including the worst sin of all, Judas’ betrayal of Christ - is

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In Question

What to make of evil is not merely an intellectual question; it disturbs our emotions and shakes our whole being”

included in the eternal decree of our holy God.” This conclusion became necessary for these theologians who considered any event that violates the will of God to be a threat to the sovereignty of God. God was sovereign, so according to them, anything that happens in this world could not be against God. Also, it was insisted that if God had not ordained the fall of Adam, redemption through Christ would have not been possible. Thus, Boettner asks, “And unless the fall was in the plan of God, what becomes of our redemption through Christ? Was that only a makeshift arrangement which God resorted to in order to offset the rebellion of man?” Therefore, the reality of sin had to be explained by interpreting it as an act of God. In other words, according to Calvinism, ultimately, God is the author of sin. Of course, Boettner doesn’t think that his view of God foreordaining Adam’s fall implies that God is the author of sin. Thus, he contends: Yet God in no way compelled man to fall. He simply withheld


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that undeserved constraining grace with which Adam would infallibly not have fallen, which grace He was under no obligation to bestow. In respect to himself, Adam might have stood had he so chosen; but in respect to God it was certain that he would fall. He acted as freely as if there had been no decree, and yet as infallibly as if there had been no liberty…. God was pleased to permit our first parents to be tempted and to fall, and then to overrule their sin for His own glory. Yet this permission and overruling of sin does not make Him the author of it. But, Boettner fails to see that this necessitating of the fall and the method of withdrawing grace only directly condemns God. It is equal to the sin of David who arranged to put Uriah in an inevitably fatal position and commanded his men to withdraw in the heat of the battle, in order to let Uriah get killed. That directly incriminated David and made him guilty of murder. The Genesis 3 episode, however, doesn’t indicate in any way that God had actually withdrawn constraining grace from Adam in order to make it inevitable for him to fall into sin. God cannot be held responsible for sin in the world. He is not the author of sin. The rational man cannot accept God to be the author of sin. How could God, who is the embodiment of good, be the author of evil? Over 2,500 years ago, the Greek philosopher Plato, in his The Republic, concluded, “the good is to be attributed to God alone; of the evils the causes are to be sought elsewhere, and not in Him.” But, the Calvinist would object that to search for the cause of evils elsewhere is to

expect that there was or were forces, other than God, in control of the universe; but, this is impossible, for God is sovereign, they would say. However, the fact that God is sovereign has nothing to do with the fact that sin is possible in a system of free creatures. The sovereignty of a nation doesn’t mean that free citizens of it will not violate its laws; however, its sovereignty does give it its authority to administer justice in the system by means of reward and punishment. Similarly, God’s sovereignty doesn’t mean that free creatures have been restricted from exercising their will in opposition to the will of God. The very exercise of this free will is what creates the possibility of a moral universe. Answering the Non-theist Among philosophers, it is usually held that the idea of God’s existence as a perfect being is not compatible with the fact of sin and evil in the world. The Scottish philosopher David Hume argued that it is better to theorise that this world was created by different, finite beings (let’s say, the gods of polytheism) than to believe in an imperfect world full of sin and violence having been created by a perfect God. However, such a view doesn’t answer the question of how these finite beings came into existence; for, anything finite is limited by space and time. But, if there is an infinite being, that infinite being can only be one, not many (in the same way that if there were an infinite ocean, there couldn’t be other infinite oceans). Dualists, on the other hand, think that evil is as essential to the world as is good; the world is composed of

two eternally opposite forces. But, again, two eternally opposite forces that are infinite in themselves would not complement but cancel each other. For instance, infinite light, materially speaking, leaves no room for darkness. But, then, one would ask, “If God is good, how come there is evil?” The answer is because God is not the universe (as in pantheism), but the Creator of it. If God were the universe, then the universe would be perfectly good and there wouldn’t be any room for evil, for there wouldn’t be “wills” of other beings involved. However, that is not the case. But, at the same time, it is important to state that the finitude of the universe is not what necessitates evil; for, if that was the case then God who created the finite world would also be the creator of evil, which is not so. However, the very idea of contingency (that the finite world is dependent upon the infinite God) implies that a creation that is cut off from the Creator has lost its wholeness (well-being). Therefore, a sin-stricken and evil-stricken world only indicates a God-separated world that has gone chaotic and wild without its Driver; in which every part of the mechanism has become its own god and director, and the universe as a whole (especially, in relation to the moral universe) has both lost harmony and order. To state that God must not have permitted this to happen (since He is the perfect Driver) is to forget the fact that the problem of sin concerns a moral (not a mechanical) universe; as such, it would not have been consistent for God Himself to have created a moral universe and not have given freedom to its moral

entities—the freedom to choose between good and evil. It is not God who is the author of sin, but man himself to whom the world was meant to be subject (Gen. 1:28) that is responsible for the entry of sin, chaos, and disorder in the universe. The Bible tells us, “sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12). Again, it says,”the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God” (Rom. 8:20-21). In addition, one must understand evil, not as a positive reality, but as the negation and violation of truth. One only knows evil because one sees it as the defective aspect of the good; for instance, one only knows darkness because it is seen as the absence of light. Therefore, it is important to reaffirm that it is not God who created sin, but that when man violated the command of God and negated God, this act of negation constituted sin; thus, making man guilty of sin entering the world. Usually, it is misunderstandings regarding the sovereignty and the perfectness of God that raise doubts whether God is the author of sin or not. However, we have examined the main views to see if really these doubts or conclusions are true, and if their logic is valid. The sovereignty of God doesn’t imply that the universe cannot have rebellious elements; however, it does assert that these elements cannot efface the righteousness of God. Secondly,

the contingency of the created world and its givenness to humans for morally right dominion implies that the world falls with the fall of man into sin. Man is not a programmed robot (for if that was so then both sin and self-reflection, as in this essay, would have been impossible). Man is a moral creature; therefore, the primary cause of sin in this world, as also stated in Romans 5:12, is disobedient man himself.

Two eternally opposite forces that are infinite in themselves would not complement but cancel each other. For instance, infinite light, materially speaking, leaves no room for darkness”

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Take it Easy


Dr. Timothy C. Tennent is President of Asbury Theological Seminary. He teaches mission and theology in several theological institutions. He is the author of several books and is actively involved in inter-religious dialogue.



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funny thing happened on the way to the dictionary. Words which once meant one thing now denote something quite different. One example of this is the word “pluralism” as used in the phrase “religious pluralism.” I have noticed that there are two ways the word is now used and we need to be careful to distinguish which meaning

we intend. On the one hand, there are those who say, “I am a religious pluralist” and intend to communicate that they believe that all religions, when boiled down sufficiently, are, at root, the same. In this view of religious pluralism, all roads lead to God and one might just as well be a faithful Muslim as a faithful Hindu, Buddhist or Christian. Because, they say, religions are nothing more than human attempts to provide a framework for human meaning and to explain the ineffable. The other use of the phrase “religious pluralism” is the understanding that the world is filled with a wide array of religious particularity. There are definable

I have noticed that there are two ways the word is now used and we need to be careful to distinguish which meaning we intend” movements which are designated with names like Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism or Christianity. Each of these movements has their own message, their own sacred texts, their own practices and beliefs, etc. I have been deeply involved with inter-religious dialogue for almost thirty years. I have engaged in public dialogues with dozens of Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists. I have a few favorite memories. One was a dialogue in Connecticut which had been planned for over a year (including the theme) but took place just one month after the attack on the World Trade towers. The theme which brought me together with these Muslim friends was, “Is Islam a

Religion of Peace?” Needless to say, we had a packed house that night! I remember another night when I was enlisted by Gordon College (a Christian college in Massachusetts) to have an open debate with a Hare Krishna Hindu on the nature of God. I arrived and discovered (to my amazement) that the auditorium was packed to the rafters with Gordon college students. They were so many students there that they had to sit on the floor of the aisles to fit them all in. I had a fleeting moment of self-gratification that all these college students had come out to hear me debate a Hindu on the nature of God when the President of Gordon College told me that it was the end of the semester and so many students were on probation for skipping chapel that he had declared to the whole student body that if they attended this one debate it would count for an entire week of missed chapels! I have dozens and dozens of wonderful memories of interreligious dialogues all across the country. But what made them truly excellent was when the person who showed up to dialogue was an authentic representation of their respective faith. I fully expect (and so did the audience) that the Muslim who stood before the audience believed in the authority of the Qur’an, embraced and practiced the five pillars of Islam and believed with all of his heart that Muhammad was the final prophet of Allah, sent to rescue the world from unbelief and eternal judgment. Likewise, everyone there expected me to faithfully represent historic Christian claims. They assumed that I would affirm the authority of the Bible, the

central and cosmic significance of the incarnation, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ, and so forth. To me, this is the greatest expression of religious pluralism. I am free to pray for and labor for the salvation of every person on the planet. I want everyone to fall on their knees and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. I do not believe that there is salvation in Hinduism or Islam. However, I fully expect that my Muslim friend desperately wants me to come to see the beautiful revelation of the Qu’ran, and to accept the prophethood of Muhammad and the power of keeping the five pillars, etc. He believes my Bible is filled with errors. This is the kind of pluralism which faced the early church. We can make great progress in this kind of context. We are free to proclaim the gospel, even as we defend the “dignity of unbelief ” and protect with our lives the free speech of other religious groups. As Richard John Neuhaus so beautifully admonished us, “a truly pluralistic public square is far better than a naked public square.” What is heart-breaking is when I arrive at an inter-religious dialogue event and meet these full-orbed Muslims and Hindus and Buddhists all beautifully representing their faith and the millions of followers who stand in these traditions, and then the Christian stands up and blathers on endless nonsense about how we are all really the same and how all religions lead to God and we are all really saying the same thing. In my view, that is not religious pluralism. That is religious relativism. It is time that we recall the difference between the two.

February - March 2015


History Speaks

Saint Francis Xavier Apostle to the Far East


Having completed his Master of Theology from COTR, Suantak George teaches at Filadelfia Bible College



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ore than four hundred years since his death, the name of St. Francis Xavier is hardly forgotten today. Originally San Francisco de Xavier, also known as, “Apostle to India”, St. Francis was the first to introduce modern education to India. He adopted education as an important part of his ministry in India. Everywhere he went, teaching always remained integral to his mission. He developed languages and wrote doctrines in the language of the natives. A member of the Roman Catholic Church, St. Francis Xavier is today honoured by all denominations and churches throughout India, Southeast Asia and Japan. During his studies at university, St. Francis was greatly impressed by and made use of the Spiritual Exercises, a 30-day long series of meditations to help people

deepen their relationship with God and man, devised by his companion, Ignatius Loyola. This implanted in Francis Xavier the motivation that carried him for the rest of his life and prepared the way for his recurrent mystical experiences. On 15 August 1534, Francis joined Ignatius and five other companions in pronouncing vows of poverty and celibacy. Francis was retained by Ignatius at Rome until 1541 as secretary to the Jesuit. Meanwhile, John III, king of Portugal, had resolved on sending a mission to his Indian

Francis was the first to introduce modern education to India. He adopted education as an important part of his ministry in India”

“To honour his pioneering spirit in the field of education many colleges have been founded under his name, such as, St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata (1860), St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai (1914), St. Francis College for Women, Hyderabad (1959), and St. Xavier’s College, Ahmedabad (1995). Proud of its heritage, these colleges continue to exhibit the spirit of higher education in India”

dominions. With his request to the ambassador in Rome, Loyola chose a few missionaries, Francis being one of them. Paul De Camerino was another priest who had volunteered. They sailed from Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, in April 1541 and landed at Goa on the 6 May 1542. Xavier spent a great part of the voyage labouring sacrificially among the sick on the ship, not refusing even the sweeper’s work, ministering to the living and preparing the dying for death. By the time he landed at Goa, Francis was a reputed saint. In Goa, Xavier devoted himself to visiting the sick, the prisoners and gathering together the local children and others in a church building for elementary Christian teaching. He would go about the streets ringing bell and calling out, “Faithful Christians, friends of Jesus Christ, send your sons and daughters, and your slaves to the holy teaching for the love of God.” Xavier started a few schools to give education to the converts and their children. He appointed young men from among the converts themselves who were capable and intelligent as catechists

and arranged for their remuneration from the Portuguese government. Under his leadership, St. Paul College in Goa, which was founded in 1540s, came under the management of the Society of Jesus and later became a theological institution too, where youths from the Malabar Syrian Church were also trained. St. Francis Xavier, the most eminent of the early missionaries also founded St. Anne’s University at Bandra near Mumbai. To honour his pioneering spirit in the field of education many colleges have been founded under his name, such as, St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata (1860), St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai (1914), St. Francis College for Women, Hyderabad (1959), and St. Xavier’s College, Ahmedabad (1995). Proud of its heritage, these colleges continue to exhibit the spirit of higher education in India. While trying to unify the world under Christ, Xavier was discovering the depth and extent of differences. He learned that God was revealed within those differences. At first, differences were viewed as obstacles to his goal. Later, he discovered the variety and beauty of languages, faiths, cultures and living conditions. He began to feel and know God’s work. He was transformed in his understanding of “difference” and “oneness”. While his work had a profound influence on others, he came to recognise that he was equally influenced through the interactions and contacts. In Xavier’s

missionary life it is true to say that, when the heart is touched by direct contact, the mind may be challenged to change. An attitude of obedience to the authority, giving time to children and parents, building up Christian faith rather than forming new organisations and denominations were several other strengths of this famous but humble missionary. He encouraged people to be self-supported. He possessed great administrative abilities and was an able trainer. Every mission worker, and Christians in general, have a great deal to learn from St. Xavier today. One observer wrote this of St. Francis Xavier: “You would have thought that he had seen Christ with his eyes in those poor, sick persons and employed all his labour in serving Him.” Xavier’s complete dedication to the cause of Christ; the renunciation of family, ambitions and earthly comforts; and the zeal with which he pursued his heavenly calling, are all challenges to many of us today who have, and hold our families, our comforts and our possessions dearer, and yet profess to see more clearly the spiritual patterns for mission and evangelism. As we learn from these commendable qualities of St. Francis Xavier, may our faith and our service for the Church in India become more ardent and unswerving.

December -January 2015


The Truth



elevision, internet, billboards, advertisements – we are bombarded with images day in and day out, and the brain constantly conveys and interprets these images for us. The most important link between these images and their interpretation is eye. Without eyes, our brain would not be able to interpret these images for us. The brain collects the information from the eye and accordingly coordinates our reactions to things. The eye is the most important sensory organ in the body, and in terms of complexity, is only second to the brain. The function of the eye can be compared with that of a camera. Just as a photographer adjusts camera’s focus, shutter-speed and aperture to make sure that right amount of light is captured for image, the eye uses its various parts to capture accurately what you see. The cornea and lens in the eye provide the focus, while iris adjusts itself to let the ideal amount of light reach your retina. Eye is made of cornea, aqueous humour, pupil, iris, lens, vitreous humour, retina, optic nerve and several other parts. Cornea, the transparent, slightly convex outer surface at the centre of the


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The eye is the most important sensory organ in the body, and in terms of complexity, is only second to the brain�

February - March 2015


Health eye does not have any blood vessels. It takes nutrients from aqueous humour, the fluid behind it. Pupil is the opening that lets light enter the eye and reach retina. Iris, a circular muscle around the pupil, helps the eye adapt continuously to changing light conditions (Have you noticed that your pupils look bigger when the light is sparse? That’s because your iris opens wide to let more light in). Passing from pupil, the light goes through the lens. Lens is suspended between aqueous humour and vitreous humour, the fluid that fills the inside of the eye. The lens, in turn, focuses the light rays onto retina. Retina converts the image formed by the light rays into nerve impulses. The nerve impulses reach the brain through the optic nerve, which consists of over one million axons, and the brain then recognises the object. Miraculously, the whole process, from the moment light hits the retina to the earliest recognition of basic object identity, takes only about 0.15 seconds. This is not all. Every eye is a miracle in itself. Eye muscles are strongest in the body, as they work restlessly, even during the rapid eye movement (REM) stage of sleep. Though eyes are tirelessly working, the muscles of the eye do need rest. Here are some of the things you could do if your eyes feel tired and sore: • If you are using computer regularly use anti-glare screen on your monitor to reduce eyestrain. Use proper lighting by eliminating exterior light as eyestrain is often caused by excessively bright light from outside or harsh interior lighting. Avoid and adjust your display settings for comfort.


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• Blink more often. A normal eye blinks for at least 10 times per minute. Blinking helps keep the eyes lubricated, while the eyelashes keep eyes safe from invasion of foreign particles. Blinking helps keep the eyes lubricated, while the eyelashes keep eyes safe from invasion of foreign particles. However, when a person is reading or working on computer, he/she blinks only 3-4 times a minute. This is the major reason why the eyes feel stressed and dried out. • Exercise your eyes. A good practice would be to gaze at an object at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds after every twenty minutes. Some eye doctors call it the “20-2020 rule.” • Use glasses. If reading or looking at the computer regularly causes headaches or vision problems to you, get your eyes checked, even if you are using glasses or lenses. Make sure that you are using right glasses or lenses. Bad quality lenses can damage your eyes. Use UV protected sunglasses during summer. • Eat healthy. Green leafy vegetables like spinach and collards, oily fish like salmon and tuna, eggs, nuts, beans, oranges and other citrus fruits are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids, lutein, zinc and vitamins C and E. They help ward off vision problems like cataract and macular degeneration. Eye is called window to soul. In Matthew 6:22, Jesus calls the eye “the lamp of the body.” A healthy eye is essential for both physical and spiritual reasons. Things that look “pleasing to the eye” (Gen. 3:6) may not necessarily be good for soul, rather John cautions us of “the lust of the eye” that “comes not from the

Father but from the world” (1 John 2:16). So strong are the allurements of the eyes that Jesus even cautions us to tear and throw them away if they cause us to stumble. Such a radical message flies in the face of the images of rampant sexual immorality and perversion that we are surrounded by today. Bible exhorts us to make a covenant with our eyes, as Job had done (Job 31:1), for if the eye is healthy, the whole body is healthy (Matt. 6:22). How have you taken care of your eyes today? Compiled by Christian Trends Team

“A normal eye blinks for at least 10 times per minute. Blinking helps keep the eyes lubricated, while the eyelashes keep eyes safe from invasion of foreign particles”



2014 We offer you a list of books that have offered path-breaking insights in understanding the problem of evil.

The Problem of Pain by C S Lewis C S Lewis’ classic The Problem of Pain is still one of the most renowned to deal with the problem of theodicy. Though master-apologist Lewis’ primary aim is to respond to philosophical quandary surrounding the existence of sufferings, he does not belittle the painfulness of pain. In fact, he reclaims the Christian ideal of being made perfect through sufferings as true and logical belief for today. Through addressing “Divine Omnipotence”, “Human wickedness”, “Human Pain” and “Heaven”, Lewis drives home the point that in allowing suffering, God’s ultimate purpose is to prepare His children for heaven, for a glorious future. This is one book on which many Christian philosophers and theologians have built their arguments over the period of time.

God, Freedom and Evil by Alvin Plantinga Alvin Plantinga’s God, Freedom and Evil is another classic in the field of philosophy of religion. When Plantinga, a Christian philosopher, is an accomplished philosopher, renowned for his logical skills and rigorous arguments, writes a book, one has to take it seriously! Rather than defending the biblical God, Plantinga simply shows that it is logically incompatible for God to coexist with evil. He argues that the existence of evil does not prove that God doesn’t exist; in fact, the key to understand evil lies in the doctrine of free will. In addition to his argument concerning evil, Plantinga also explains the ontological argument of God’s existence. Though the book might seem cumbersome to someone not interested in philosophy, it is a treasure.

Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts by Jerry Bridges Hard times often shove us into a place where we begin to doubt God’s grace and His concern for those sufferings. Loss of a job, deadly disease, death of a loved one – can God allow it? Jerry Bridges, a staff member of the Navigators, began to explore these questions when faced by the adversity. During his studies on the sovereignty of God, he discovered God’s heart for His children. In Trusting God, he shares those insights with his readers. Bridges encourages his readers to have faith in God by successfully showing that He is sovereign, good and in control of our lives.

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Akshay has worked as Director of Youth Ministry at Delhi Bible Fellowship and Content Writer at Having completed his theological studies at Singapore Bible College. Akshay works as Manager, Training & Documentation at BCTI and is author of The Whistler in the Wind.

AKSHAY RAJKUMAR Freelance Writer


o matter what we believe about God, it is difficult not to feel the weight of the mystery of pain and wrestle with the burden of the human condition. A YouTube excerpt—“Stephen Fry on God”—from an interview with atheist Stephen Fry recently went viral, drawing nearly 6 million views. Fry was asked about what he would say to God if he met Him at the end of his life. He responded by describing God as “capricious, meanminded and stupid” for allowing such unacceptable human suffering as bone cancer in children. His provocative answer drew diverse responses from Christians all over the world, inspiring a renewed conversation on the problem of pain.

People Feel Strongly About Pain Stephen Fry paints a bitter portrait of pain, which draws you in immediately and makes anyone who believes in God a partner in His crimes. It’s a strong emotional appeal and it’s very provocative but it’s strength is in its emotional force, more than anything else.

After hearing what he has to say, you don’t end up thinking something as much as you end up feeling something—very strongly. It’s easy to see that the problem of pain is not simply intellectual or philosophical—it’s emotional and deeply personal. It’s a problem that does not affect the mind alone and cannot be simply reasoned away. It’s why Job’s friends only made matters worse for him. They wanted to argue with him when he wanted someone to be present with him. They wanted to reason with him when he needed someone to be silent with him. Sometimes we can feel the force of pain so strongly that a good reason will never be good enough. People Feel Differently About Pain While I was drawn in by his strong feelings about God, what is deeply unsettling is that Fry seems to disregard the feelings of people who face the same questions about pain without feeling the same way about God as he does.

Sometimes we can feel the force of pain so strongly that a good reason will never be good enough”

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If faith can’t be true because of how it makes us feel, it probably can’t be false because of how it makes us feel either”

A good God in a world of pain makes a lot of people angry with God, but it gives a lot of other people a great deal of hope. For every person who doubts the goodness of God because of pain, there are others who were able to conquer their pain because of their trust in Him. That’s not to say that the emotional benefit of comfort is a good enough reason to settle the question of God. But it probably can’t be true that an emotional distaste for God is a good enough reason to settle the question either. I’m usually suspicious of anyone whose feelings are louder than their reasoning. Whatever we believe about God, if we’re going to be reasonable we probably shouldn’t build our beliefs on the strength of an emotional appeal. If faith can’t be true because of how it makes us feel, it probably can’t be false because of how it makes us feel either. People Respond Differently to Pain I felt disappointed with Fry’s anger because it suggests that people who trust in God do not wrestle with the weight of cosmic questions or the anguish of personal pain— that we somehow ignore, repress or undermine the importance of difficult questions, telling ourselves to be satisfied with a practised sense of denial or a blind thoughtless faith. His rebuke does not do justice to the anguish of Job, the questions of Habakkuk, the lamentations of Jeremiah or the desperate cries of David. Nor does it give weight to the everyday stories of ordinary people in pain who bring their doubts to


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God instead of turning away in anger. More poignantly, it does not give due credit to people of faith who lean into the human condition to partner with God and participate in the renewal of all things—people like the Ebola Fighters who last year were named TIME Magazine’s Person of the Year. In an article in Slate Magazine, an atheist Brian Palmer explored the role of Christian missions in Africa, referring to arguments made by missionary James Levi Barton. “No one complains when the West crams its commercial values down the throats of Africans, Indians, and Chinese…We insist that these unfortunate, uncivilised people buy our wheat flour and bicycles, even though rice and rickshaws are probably just as good. How is that different from what missionaries do? They simply offer Christianity rather than consumerism. There’s one other big difference between missionaries and Western merchants: The missionaries don’t profit personally from their work. They are compensated very poorly, if at all. Many risk their lives. How many people would risk death to spread the gospel of Western consumer goods gratis?” Palmer concludes by saying, “As an atheist, I try to make choices based on evidence and reason. So until we’re finally ready to invest heavily in secular medicine for Africa, I suggest we stand aside and let God do His work.” It is difficult to think about pain without being emotional, so we cannot say that Fry is being unreasonable. But though it’s overwhelming, we shouldn’t settle

God Battles for Victory over Pain Imagine if you were at home and you heard that two men were shot in the street in broad daylight. It may leave you bewildered because such things are not expected in civil society. But if your home was in Europe during the second world war and the two men were shot by invading enemy forces, you would know the reason they were killed was because a war was going on. The New Testament views the world as a battlefield for an ongoing war between God and rebellious forces of darkness led by the adversary known as Satan. In this view, the world is not a peaceful planet. It is a world at war and human suffering is the natural outcome of this hostile environment. Disease, disaster and danger are to be expected because the devil and his forces of darkness are determined to destroy God’s good creation, not sparing the weak or the vulnerable even if they are children. God’s goodness and power is our only hope in the war. But one of the least appreciated things about God is that He cannot do all things. If that were true He could be loving and evil at the same time, making any reflection on the problem of pain utterly meaningless. As C.S. Lewis says in The Problem of Pain, “His omnipotence means power to do all that is intrinsically possible, not to do the intrinsically impossible. You may attribute miracles to Him but not nonsense.” In a strange way, human suffering reveals God’s goodness because it

shows that He made the world with integrity—giving human beings the freedom to go their own way and an angel the freedom to become an adversary. In a different way, it reveals God’s power because He has done everything within His nature to rescue us from this present world and lead us into a new one. The glory of the Gospel is that God has worked in Christ to redeem the world from the power of human wickedness and the works of the devil, to lead history into a new creation where the devil is destroyed and our wills are perfectly conformed to His—a world at peace with God, where there will no longer be any death, sorrow, crying or pain. God Enters Personally Into Pain The problem of pain is both cosmic and deeply personal. It’s why Jesus enters the conversation in a personal and provocative way—as a fellowsufferer, not a philosopher. He leans into the human condition to rescue us from it. The Gospel literally means good news. It’s a declaration of something that happened yesterday which has radically changed what is going to happen tomorrow and invites us into a partnership with God today. It’s a cosmic vision that does not pretend to neatly resolve the question of pain, but gives us a new way of seeing the world—with compassion, confidence, faith, hope and love. In the New Testament, pain is not seen as something to be explained but something to be overcome. There are good reasons to make sense of God in a hurting world, but whenever I find that reason is not good enough, I am grateful that we have good news.

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We turn ideas into wonderful things for a changing world.

Leaving Notes

Kingdom or




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internally rejoice or gloat when the body of Christ is not advanced in our region. 2. You are territorial and only work with those under your “covering” Some leaders and denominations I know will only do outreaches with churches and leaders who have a ministerial and financial allegiance with them. If we are going to reach our communities, we have to be willing to cross denominations and networks and work with the leaders who are sincerely committed to advancing the kingdom.

Joseph Mattera is overseeing bishop of Resurrection Church and Christ Covenant Coalition, in Brooklyn, New York, and author of numerous books, including Ruling in the Gates: Preparing the Church to Transform Cities.



eaders often speak about “kingdom first”. But if they exhibit the following 17 signs, then they are “empire builders” instead of “kingdom builders”. 1. You rejoice when other key leaders in your region are struggling Although all leaders with their mouth say they are sad when another church, pastor or leader in their area is struggling, I have observed that some leaders seem to privately gloat or compare themselves with other failing leaders in their area. Whether the failing church or leader is right or wrong, it never pleases God when we

3. You only support events that can give you a platform I have seen leaders actually pull out of a citywide or community event because their name was not advertised on the program or because they are rivals with a leader who is part of said program. This shows that their concern was not advancing the kingdom but on advancing their own name and empire-building goals. 4. You tend to exaggerate your own importance and influence to outsiders Empire builders treat their ministry like a sporting event—they are constantly throwing around numbers and stats and comparing their numbers to the numbers of other ministers. They say things like, “We are growing in record numbers” or “This was the most significant event in our city” or “We have the largest network in our city.” Or worse yet,

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Leaving Notes

Empire builders treat their ministry like a sporting event—they are constantly throwing around numbers and stats and comparing their numbers to the numbers of other ministers”

they claim something like “our ministry is the reason why the crime rate went down in our community or region,” and they tend to exaggerate their influence, importance and results in their region or community. Kingdom builders brag about what God is doing through His church in His city, and they also attempt to applaud the success of others whose feet they wash instead of propping themselves up for photo shoots and publicity. I have observed that several so-called revivals in our country in the past 10 years have been more or lessnothing more than a good advertising and marketing rather then a real move of God. 5. You are jealous of successful key leaders in your region I know I am with an “empire builder” when I am with a person who is always attempting to dig up dirt on other leaders, criticising key leaders in their community, or giving “faint praise” when asked about other key leaders in their region. 6. You speak about kingdom unity as a smokescreen to hide your own selfish agenda Some of the most self-centered empire builders I have known in the past 30 years have spoken the most in public about the need for unity in the body of Christ. They use this kind of talk to get “sheep pastors and ministers” to forsake their own agenda and follow them to aid them in building their empire! They know the entire lingo and have the biblical passages down, but unfortunately their actions do not correspond with their words and preaching.


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7. Your name and picture has to be highlighted in every event you participate in There are leaders I have heard speak about God raising up a movement of “nameless” and “faceless” people and yet in all their conferences, literature and advertising, their picture and name are highlighted more than anybody or anything else in the program! I even attended one conference in which there was a life-size picture of the leader in the lobby with the event and program advertised in small print under his picture! 8. You try to steal the loyalties of people connected to other ministries I have observed that one of the key signs that someone is an empire builder is when they go after key leaders in other leaders’ churches or networks. I myself have had leaders representing our Christ Covenant Coalition approached by another leader in my city, asking them to join his network as a representative, even though these leaders have been part of my leadership for over 10 years! When leaders do this, they make themselves look bad, both to the loyal leaders they approach and to the other key leaders in the city who eventually find out about the modus operandi of the said empire builder. 9. You love those who follow you and disregard all others Empire builders have an “either you are with me or against me” mentality and approach to life. Empire builders will not be

friends with a person if they are also connected to the ministry of a rival. One of my regional leaders was actually told several years ago that he was no longer welcome to preach in a particular church because he was keeping the company of certain other leaders (me). The reason for this is that since empire builders are untrustworthy and use their pseudo-friendships as a platform to perpetuate their own empire, they project that same spirit and mentality on other leaders in their region and thus they cut off people loyal to other networks and ministries because they suspect others are all untrustworthy like they themselves are! 10. You have a “top-down” leadership approach and thus struggle to attract strong, successful leaders Empire builders surround themselves which “yes men” and actually discourage strong, resourceful leaders from working or partnering with them because it does not fit their “top-down” leadership style. Unlike mature leaders who take a “bottom-up” approach—in which they try to lead through consensus with multiple participation of various levels of people taking responsibility in ministry (so that all have ownership in the process)—empire builders surround themselves with leaders of ministries they deem less significant and who want to follow their dictates without meaningful, strategic dialogue. 11. You are driven by self and not led by the Spirit Your intense need for affirmation

“Empire builders are obsessed with building bigger and better buildings, and acquiring more and more property”

because of your insecurity drives your need for success—not the glory of God and work of advancing the kingdom. Thus there is rarely inner peace or rest because you are striving—constantly trying to create a platform and expand your ministry on your own efforts instead of being led by the Lord and letting Him bring the opportunities and open doors. 12. You are an opportunist when other ministries are struggling Empire builders make believe they are concerned when other churches or ministries are struggling, but they attempt to maneuver themselves so that they can capitalise on the struggles of other ministries and seize either their property or, more likely, their choicest leaders and key people. 13. Your main goal in life is to build some kind of monument to your success Empire builders are obsessed with building bigger and better buildings, and acquiring more and more property—even if they have to go into huge debt. The lower their selfesteem, the bigger they have to build to compensate for their internal lack. Unfortunately, they are often risking the future of their ministry with all this spending and they rarely if ever think about how their successor is

going to fill all these buildings and pay off the mortgage! Remember, there is never any real success without a successor! 14. When possible, you will sabotage the influence and ministry of other leaders you deem a threat to your influence Recently I reunited with a key leader in another country after almost 12 years of disconnect. I tried numerous times to stay connected but I could never understand why there was some kind of obstruction in the relationship. After speaking for three hours it finally dawned on us that another leader who was jealous of my influence in this country sabotaged our relationship because he wanted to supplant me as the covering of this key leader. I have also witnessed firsthand when one leader will insinuate lies about another key leader behind their back to try to stop their influence from spreading to other regions. In instances like this we need to speak up and defend the honor of those not present in the room. 15. You tend to copy those you are jealous of in your region It is said that when someone copies your ideas it is the highest form of flattery. Empire builders will attempt to replicate and outdo many of the February - March 2015


Leaving Notes things other key leaders in their region are doing. They may call it something different, but in the end it is essentially the same model but with the attitude to make it bigger and better than anything else in their region. It is like Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonald’s trying to reinvent themselves to keep up with Starbucks. It is borne out of personal competition and not a pure love for Christ and His kingdom. 16. You are a narcissist in relating to your desires in life Ultimately, empire builders are lovers of themselves. Thus they will sacrifice the dreams and lives of others so their own dreams can be fulfilled. They will throw everybody and anybody under the bus to advance their goals or save their own skin! Their incredible commitment to the ministry is really only a commitment to advance their own ideals and dreams—which is narcissistic in nature, this is unlike the model of Christ who laid down His own life for the sheep. Ezekiel 34 speaks about the judgment God will bring on shepherds who use and abuse the sheep for their own pleasure. 17. You tell people that your church or network is the main key in your city for true revival and transformation When giving reports about your ministry, you exaggerate the results of your work and utilise self-serving testimonies that back up your claim for spiritual dominance in your


February -March 2015

Ultimately, empire builders are lovers of themselves. Thus they will sacrifice the dreams and lives of others so their own dreams can be fulfilled”

region. Many pastors I know have told me of prophecies that have come forth alluding to the fact that it is their church that is going to start a revival for the nation or their community—or that revival is going to start in their region and go to the world because their region is the gate to the rest of the country. I am too tired of hearing such prophecies and the so-called “words from the Lord.” Unfortunately, some prophets are motivated to give these flattering words so they can be invited back to preach because they know that most inexperienced leaders fall prey to prophetic flattery. That being said, empire builders use these words, visions and experiences to back up their claim that their particular church or ministry is “the church” in their region God is going to use so they can garner the loyalties of unsuspecting and naïve sheep and even pastors. In my experience, most churches with that attitude are judged by God and actually begin to decline until the leaders repent of pride. Although it is possible that revival can come through one church to the whole world (Azusa Street revival in 1906), it is the exception to the rule because community, city and national transformation usually take place when God visits a region or nation and multitudes of churches receive “times of refreshing” all at the same time, resulting in the formation of informal apostolic networks who partner together to continue to perpetuate the advance of the kingdom of God. Reprinted with permission from Charisma Magazine.


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