12“Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” 13 Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. (Joel :2:12-13).

Interestingly, this year, Ash Wednesday falls on Valentine’s Day, which is on February 14, 2024. As
one devotional points out that both, Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day have a lot to do with hearts. On Ash Wednesday, the prophet Joel from our Old Testament reading will ask us to rend our hearts and not our garments. It was common practice in the ancient world to tear their garments and sit on ashes as a way of repenting for the things knowingly or unknowingly committed. The prophet reminds us that it is not the garments that need tearing but hearts – how telling as we begin this season. On that same day, the Psalter will point us to Psalm 51, where King David pointedly tells us that God does not reject a “broken and a contrite heart.”

Again, on Ash Wednesday, Jesus’s teaching from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6 will point us to prayer, fasting and alms giving. Jesus will ask us to guard our hearts against the desires to accumulate and acquire more. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” (Matthew 6:21). So central to Ash Wednesday is the activity of the heart.

On Valentine’s Day, the emphasis will still be on the heart. This is about the heart that madly falls in love with the person of their liking. I think on Ash Wednesday this heart needs to be reoriented and counter cultural to the one that the world suggests if we want to be a true disciple of Christ. Jesus will ask us to love people not only whom we like but even the unlovable. Just a thought!

Our understanding (the modern human) of heart is more to do with the physical.Human life is centered in the heart and so if the heart stops beating, the person ceases to live. Heart, in the Bible, goes a little further than the physical. In the Hebrew thought, the heart has to do with the physical, intellectual, and emotional.

As one blogger writes, ancient Israel “[They] imagined that all of a human’s intellectual activity takes place in the heart. For example, you know with your heart.”They desired with their hearts and that’s the reason the Psalmist says that if we delight in Him, He will “the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4). So, heart for them “is the center of all parts of human existence. As in the well-known Proverb, “guard your heart because from it flows your whole life.” (Proverbs 4:23).”

No wonder the people of Israel and later, Jesus emphasized the importance of the heart in all human activity. The Shema called for the Israelites to love God “with all our heart, soul, and strength.” This is about loving God with the totality of our being. Will this also mean that we are called to love God even when things don’t happen our way? At times when God seems silent to our pleas, we are called to love and obey Him with all our being. May be that is the call as we enter this season of Lent.

I think it is a great start to think about hearts as we begin and journey through the season of Lent. On Ash
Wednesday, we are called to examine our hearts and to see if we are right with God and humbly seek His forgiveness. During this season, we will be asked to guard our hearts from all the practices that take us away from the things of God. And if have done this examining and guarding well during this season we can come to Good Friday and Easter Sunday, with grateful and joyful heart for the salvation of our souls thru the sinless death of a Savior. In the end, we can journey thru the season beyond Easter with confident hearts knowing of the promised presence of the Risen Savior among us.

Rev. Kamalesh Stephen


The Trinity simply stated is about the three persons of the God head – the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. God is seen as the creator, the Son, the redeemer, and the Holy Spirit, as the sustainer. When one reads the birth narratives in both Matthew and Luke, we only seem to focus on the second person of the God head, which is God the Son. Matthew tells the birth story thru the eyes of Joseph and Luke thru the eyes of Mary. Both the gospels mention the birth of the Son with a slight difference.But John does something interesting in that he mentions the Father as the source of everything. This is what he says: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. (John 1:1-3) This is it! Jesus is the embodiment of the Father. Jesus is God incarnate. In this reference by John the role of the first person of Trinity comes to the fore. 

What came as a surprise to me (maybe not for you) is the role of the Holy Spirit. We often associate the work of the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts when God pours God’s spirit on the Day of Pentecost on all who were gathered in the Upper Room. But this is not the case.

I found the work of the Spirit to be so central to the birth stories especially in the gospel of Luke. In chapter one this is what Luke says about the child to be born to Elizabeth. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. (Luke 1: 14-15) John the Baptist will be filled with the Holy Spirit prior to his birth. God giving the Holy Spirit to John is not an afterthought. The Spirit is present in John as he grows and ministers.

Hear what the angel says to Joseph in the gospel of Matthew: “Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to divorce her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.

This is what the angel had to say to Mary in Luke’s gospel: The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born[d] will be holy; he will be called Son of God. The Holy Spirit is the prime mover in the conception of Jesus. 

Apart from all these references to the work of the Holy Spirit in the birth of Jesus, this is the one that really took me by surprise. It is the time when Jesus is brought to the Temple after he is born, probably on the 8th day for circumcision. Here, Jesus is being brought into the Temple and Simeon bursts into praise on seeing the Messiah. But see what Luke says, Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.[f] 27 Guided by the Spirit, Simeon[g] came into the temple, (Luke 2:25-27). In a matter of 2 verses, the role of the Holy Spirit is mentioned three times. Holy Spirit rests, reveals and guides God’s people to do the extraordinary.

What I liked in this and the one that is relevant as we start the new year is the reference to Simeon being guided by the Spirit. This guiding is also known as the nudging of the Spirit. The time when you are prompted to go and visit someone or to pray for someone or to walk alongside someone is the work and nudging of the Holy Spirit. We cannot do this on our own by we are enabled to do this because of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. So the next time when you are nudged to do something caring for someone don’t resist the work of the Spirit, just allow Him.

It is my prayer that we will be guided by the Holy Spirit as we enter the New Year. May the Third Person of the Trinity richly abide with you and your family as you journey through 2024.

Pastor Kamalesh

Hearing to obey

As I was thinking about writing this blog article, was racking my brain on what would be a good series that will be informative, interesting and keep a momentum going for the rest of the year! Let’s start with a great hero Abraham, the father of faith and the father of nations. Chapter 12 begins by saying how the Lord tells Abram to get out of his country, his kindred and his father’s house to a land that will be shown to him. There were some blessings to follow – Lord will make of him a great nation, make his name great and he will be a blessing. The command was straightforward though not easy! Imagine Abraham packing up his belongings and having to tell his family that he is leaving but doesn’t know where he is headed! Most times in the past when I read this portion I always focused on Abrahams’s obedience, since the very next verse 4 says “So Abram departed, as the Lord had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him:

Read that verse again and like me maybe you are wondering why is Lot going with him? Wasn’t Abram supposed to leave his kindred behind? The bible doesn’t state what exactly happened – if it was Abram who asked Lot his nephew to tag along since he didn’t have a father and probably Abram and Sarai doted on him as their own child or if Lot convinced them to let him join along on their journey. Either way this opened up this scripture in a whole new light of “partial obedience” Yes, he left his country, his father’s house but did not leave his kindred behind! God was gracious and appeared to him and promised while he was in the plain of Moreh that He will give that land to Abrams’s seed. He was being blessed with cattle, silver and gold. But there arose a situation due to which Abram asked Lot to go his separate way. Chapter 13:14 states that the Lord spoke to Abram right after Lot separated from him “Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward:

15 For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed forever. 16 And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered. 17 Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee.

God was able to fulfill the promise of showing him the land promised to him and the blessing of a seed thereafter in Chapter 15 only after Abram obeyed completely!

Selina Moses

Opening Doors

The act of opening doors is a gesture of goodwill, friendship, and kinship. It is also a greeting and an invitation – welcoming a visitor, a guest or kinsman. It is a willing gesture of sharing and fellowship. It is an act of letting the sun in and letting darkness out. When darkness engulfs us, we respond by opening the door to the Son of God. Some have heard the knock on their door, on a night of thick darkness and opened the door – only to hear the caller say – “tend to my sheep.” A bright lamp is in His hand, to light up their path. He keeps His head covered so that the vision of the Creator, may not blind the kind dweller. 

The “sheep,” are our persecuted brethren, living in daily terror, in certain areas of India. Do we hear the knock on our doors? If we do, we may want to try relevant sites: If the site content causes pessimism, try to verify, and validate. But is all that information without basis? Because timing is a great servant but not a kind master, let us try and answer the call. A problem left untended, can become a chronic reality. Our worst antagonists are the ones who claim that they are born great. We cannot expect them to know the facts of history. Even if they do, they can bend facts to serve their needs. Any kind of procrastination is as productive as barren land. Nothing grows on it. In vain do we carry water to irrigate it – for its final destiny is a wasteful marsh. 

The late Mr. Jeyaraj Thomas, a faithful servant of the Lord, worked hard to serve Him. He even tried to bring together three Asian Indian Christian fellowships, for a united worship service – once or twice a year. He had great support from the senior AICC pastors. We spent many long hours on the phone, trying to make this symbolic event happen. The ‘hidden’ goal was to mentor a team of Elders and Youth leaders, to stand up to India’s political powers, to demand that India’s Christian population (particularly recent converts) have full rights to worship their God and Savior. There are many peaceful ways to negotiate with cruel and ill-informed regimes. But before we ask that doors should open; we must project unity and build structure. The late Mr. Jeyaraj Thomas was way ahead of his times. Should we not follow his example – given the gravity of the situation? 

The old year has thankfully faded and moved into virtual archives. And now, the gift of a New Year has been ushered in. Did the silent Usher wear a sober black suit and pure white gloves? So, should we then, mute our breath and blink back our tears of joy or just wipe away tears of trepidation? We may instead, want to turn to the Biblical Help menu. Let us scroll down to the books dictated by prophets like Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel – as they had been dictated to them by the only living Divine Poet, Jehovah God, our Father in Heaven. Then, remember to slide home to the first and second Kings. 

With the armor plate of the Word, and knees that will bend to no Man, except to the Lamb of God, who now transformed is a ferocious Lion of Judah; His eyes burning like fire. Let each young parent, choose which child of theirs, will carry the Lord’s words of fire to the hard-hearted Pharaoh, in each land of persecution. The Lord will pour steel into our knees, to stiffen them. Like Daniel, we will not bend our knees to any worshipper of lifeless ‘Gods’. Remember we share the promise made to Abraham, by the sacrifice, death, and resurrection of the One who chose us, the former Gentiles. Remember therefore, the plight of ‘Gentiles’ living in lands of persecution. If we open doors, many more will open in return.