Tag Archives: religion

What Does Abundant Life Look Like?

In John 9, Jesus heals a beggar blind from birth, enabling him to live a full life, not just live on the edge of life. The religious leaders of the day opposed this healing for silly and irrelevant reasons. In John 10, Jesus responded to the religious leaders with the parable of the Good Shepherd (Himself), contrasting Himself with the false shepherds of that day.

Unlike the false shepherds, Jesus says, “I have come that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”

What would Jesus say about today’s prominent religious leaders and Christians? Do we live the abundant life, reflecting our Master? Truth is, to the world, the church often appears weak and irrelevant. Too many churches do not preach the Word. They dilute the gospel and its mission. Its people are rampant in unbelief. Its young people look elsewhere for answers the church does not provide.

Christian marriages fail as often or more than those in the world. Where are the signs and wonders? How many churches go for years without a single conversion or baptism?

Recently, I heard of a church that was closed down and sold to Buddhists. Weak preaching and teaching and lack of faith in God’s power gave the people no motivation to keep coming. The few who were left sold the building to the highest bidder. False shepherds.

We have more Bible reference books than ever, better-trained pastors—but more ignorance. Most people still cannot give a reason for the hope in them. They don’t know how to pray with power. Again, false shepherds.

As a church, we have allowed the world’s agenda to govern our lives and attitudes. Few Christians develop a Christian worldview, applying Bible standards to situations in the natural world. Is it any wonder the humanists and secularists have taken over? It is because of our weakness, not their strength. False shepherds, just as in Jesus’ day.

What does the abundant life look like? Think of Brother Lawrence, a lay brother in a Carmelite monastery, a man of limited schooling, born in poverty, suffering from wounds of war and imprisonment, awkward and rough in appearance. He had none of the things most of us count as needful for life. Yet he exhibited a profound wisdom found in few men. He found such joy in practicing the presence of God, he became the envy of all who met and knew him.

The collection of his letters and conversation, “The Practice of the Presence of God,” has become a classic portrait of the abundant life Jesus intended for all of us.

What does this mean for us today? To really believe and practice God’s presence means His presence will be strong in our meetings. We will no longer need gimmicks to attract people. People will hunger for God’s Word and ways. Preachers will preach with Holy Spirit anointing. The church will manifest the presence of God in signs and wonders.

Salvations will come by the millions from every class and age group. The love of God in our midst will overcome oppression, racism, immorality, hatred, anger, fear. Social transformation will take place. The gospel will burst out of the churches into the surrounding communities and into other nations of the world. Laws will change, becoming more righteous and just.

Amen! Let that day come, Lord Jesus!

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Which Camp Are You In?

The Gospel of John’s account in chapter 9 of Jesus’ healing of the blind man at the temple gate that we examined last month brings us to another side of the matter.

John shows us that the blind man’s healing did not suddenly end all his problems. When Jesus healed him, not everyone rejoiced and praised God for this good thing.

The religious Pharisees became very upset. Although the man had sat at the temple gate for years, they apparently paid no attention to him. They did not take compassion on him. They did nothing to help the man to better his condition. They just left him at the gate to beg and barely survive. They just assumed the man was a sinner who deserved his fate. Jesus’ compassionate act put them in an embarrassing position.

These religious Pharisees were those to whom others traditionally looked for religious advice and counsel. But Jesus demonstrated godly authority, power and compassion they did not possess. He demonstrated that they were really charlatans. With this healing, they must humble themselves and submit to Jesus or resort to reckless means to discredit Jesus. They unwisely chose the latter course.

Jesus’ healing violated their protocols about how and when these things should happen. Also, since they were unable to heal the blind man themselves, they feared that people would look to Jesus rather than to themselves as their authority. None of this met the man’s real needs.

They regarded themselves as a religious elite. To them, Jesus threatened the social order, namely, their own power. Behind their anger lay fear and jealousy because this man, Jesus, from a small town demonstrated God’s power and authority they lacked.

These religious phonies also reacted by attacking the healed man’s character and throwing him out of the temple as an example to others who dared to challenge them. They wanted to intimidate others who might question them. They refused to consider the possibility that Jesus’ power to heal demonstrated His authentic authority from God. Their power over the people meant more to them than a diligent search for truth.

The work of Jesus always winds up dividing people into two camps—those who accept His transforming power and those who rely only upon themselves, even when they use religious terms.

Does not this story of the blind man reflect what has happened to many of you who read this? Like the blind man, you have submitted yourselves to Him, but there are people in your lives who do not rejoice with you in your new-found freedom. They see you as a threat.

Jesus did not leave the man alone in his predicament with the religious leaders. He came to him and encouraged him. The man submitted to Jesus, and Jesus met the man’s need in the face of fierce opposition. He will do the same with each of us who puts our ultimate trust in Him.

We believers in Jesus Christ must ask ourselves: Are we more like Jesus or the Pharisees in our attitudes toward those who suffer for no fault of their own?

Let us who know the power and authority of Jesus Christ in our lives help to make His saving power manifest in all of India and throughout the world.

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Peace

Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace, came into the world to restore peace with God and peace among human beings. Throughout India and the world, billions of people search for peace. Most people look for peace in the wrong places.

Christians say the only true way to peace is through Jesus Christ. Why do they say this? Such claims to exclusivity are considered politically incorrect both in India and the western world. In India, there are many paths to salvation. Why claim Jesus Christ as the only way?

In John 5, Jesus claims to be the only way to God because God is His Father, and He works His Father’s works. His work is seen especially in bringing new life to those who are spiritually dead. This regenerate life in the average person is the biggest proof of Jesus’ uniqueness and authority over all others.

The new life of Christ is the creative work of God in a human being, making something new where there was nothing before. This is not just a theological idea but living reality. What does this “new life” mean?

I think of a man in my past, known to us in India as Pastor Yesudas. He began life as a poor, sickly, almost-illiterate Dalit, an insecure child with a serious stuttering problem. He lay at death’s door with tuberculosis and other ailments. Then he heard the gospel. He committed his life to Jesus Christ and received prayer for healing.

Immediately, he was healed. He hungered for more of the life of Christ. He thirsted for the Word of God. Because of near-illiteracy, he lacked the educational requirements to enter the Bible school. He was allowed to sit in class, but because of educational deficiencies, he could not understand.

After much prayer and fasting over this obstacle, the Lord gave him a photographic mind to receive the scriptures read to him. Now, he not only understood what instructors told him, but he could also give Bible insights of great wisdom that astounded even people with advanced degrees. God took away his stuttering problem, giving him dynamic gifts of preaching, healing and a prophetic ministry like few others.

Many people followed Christ because Pastor Yesudas exhibited the life of Christ. He pioneered a number of churches in new and unreached places. In all his fruitful ministry, he remained a near-illiterate man.

When I was an infant, Pastor Yesudas already sensed God was calling me for ministry. Before I can remember, he prayed daily prayers over me, preparing me for the ministry I have today. I owe my calling and ministry to the prayers of this man with the new life of God.

The life of God is more than religion or morality. It is the power and peace of God. We cannot force it or fake it. It is the final proof of our faith. It is the reason we say Jesus Christ is the only Way. Who else can duplicate these things?

The new life of Christ has been replicated in men, women and children of every background for two thousand years. One day, this Good News will reach all peoples everywhere.

Let us make sure that we do our part in making sure all have heard of this Prince of Peace who comes with new life. This is the real meaning of Christmas.

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Made for More

silhouette-of-person-walking-1046896God made us for more than we imagine!

We glimpse this in Psalm 8 where David writes, “…you [God] crown him with glory and majesty! You make him to rule over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet…” This repeats God’s mandate in Genesis 1.

This dominion mandate has never been fulfilled because sin and death entered into the world—death to our physical bodies and also death to our spirits. Our spirits are the part of us designed for fellowship with God and to fulfill His grand design.

Sin destroyed our ability to fellowship with God. We became indifferent to God. We became hostile to God. We underestimated God. We ignored and disbelieved God. We suppressed the truth about God. We did not take God into account. We did not fulfill our mandate, and the whole universe has suffered. We are no longer in harmony with God, our purpose for being, the world around us, our own bodies, or other people.

Sin has taken a terrible toll on our minds. No longer in tune with God and our purpose for being, we are limited only to those things we perceive with our five senses, to our own limited reasoning capacities. A thing may seem right to us, but it leads to death. We may have high ideals and moral standards, and enjoy the arts, but we still fall pitifully short because we no longer have God’s perspective or power.

The Good News is that God has never revoked His dominion mandate. Through Jesus Christ, He entered the world in Bethlehem to set things right through His life, death and resurrection. Through Christ, He regenerates our dead spirits and sends His Holy Spirit. We become part of His heavenly family, for we are told He is not ashamed to call us His brothers and sisters. One day, His dominion mandate will be 100% fulfilled through us who trust Him.

In the meantime, we must renew our minds with these things. Once crippled by the limitations of sin, our minds, through the Holy Spirit, are now capable of perceiving something of what God has designed for us.

George Muller, the great man of prayer and faith, wrote in his autobiography, “I saw more clearly than ever that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was to have my soul happy in the Lord. The first thing to be concerned about was not how much I might serve the Lord, or how I might glorify the Lord; but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man might be nourished… Now what is the food for the inner man…but the Word of God.”

The Word of God leads us to the promises of God. As we regularly partake of His promises in trust, our minds are renewed. To the regenerate person, renewed by the Holy Spirit, the promises of God provide the impetus to pray more effectively and glorify Him. We begin to walk in the Spirit, live in power and bear fruit.

Every day, more of India’s unreached peoples are learning these vital truths. Let us join together to insure all of India hears this great news!

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Baptism

Baptism-2019Praise God for His wondrous grace by which He provides everything we need for our salvation. Salvation comes to us by grace through faith alone which is His gift (Romans 4, Ephesians 2).

In spite of these specific declarations of God’s salvation through grace alone, numerous people, both Catholic and Protestant, still believe that we need water baptism for salvation. They insist on this though nowhere in scripture do we find Jesus, Paul or anyone else making such a specific declaration. If baptism were absolutely essential for salvation, why wouldn’t Paul say it outright, leaving no guesswork or need for debate? Since he doesn’t, that should settle the matter.

Think of those saved in the Bible who did not receive baptism—the paralytic man in Matthew 9, the penitent woman in Luke 7, the publican in Luke 18 and the thief on the cross in Luke 23. Nowhere does the Bible mention anything about infant baptism. Biblically recorded water baptism takes place only among people who first choose faith for themselves, and always by immersion.

If baptism does not bring us salvation, why does Jesus command His disciples to baptize at the same time He commands His disciples to preach the gospel to all peoples (Matthew 28:19-20)?

To follow Christ means to change our identity. Baptism publicly declares our identity is now with God’s people and what He did through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Baptism publicly declares we have died to our old life, and we are raised to new life in Christ. We are united with Him.

When Jesus first saves us, He saves us in spirit and soul. But we also consist of a body, and our bodies must work in harmony with our spirits and souls. A visible sign, an action of our bodies, confirms outwardly what we have already done inwardly.

A wedding ring does not in itself bring a man and woman into relationship with one another. Neither does baptism bring a person into relationship with Jesus Christ.

But a wedding ring does signify that a dramatic change has come about in that relationship. A covenant has been made and vows taken between two people that mean new commitments and responsibilities to one another, to future generations.

Baptism should signify a dramatic change in one’s relationship with Christ not just serve as a rite of passage. No longer are we content with passive church attendance, but we publicly identify with the finished work of Christ on our behalf.

With Christ’s finished work as our life foundation, we publicly declare our readiness to bear new responsibilities for Christ. We are ready to take an active concern for those things that move the heart of God. Just as the wedding vows mean new responsibilities, so baptism should become the beginning of new commitment and responsibility for God’s kingdom.

Baptism should signify to the rest of the world not only that we are members of God’s family but that we identify with those eternal things that move the heart of God
our Father.

One of those things that moves the heart of God is fulfillment of the Great Commission that will lead to fulfillment of His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. As true children of God, we will take outward action to fulfill the Great Commission through our prayers, gifts and time.

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Set Back

adventure-ancient-antique-697662Years ago, the late Billy Graham, held one of his large evangelistic crusades in a certain city. A prominent minister of that city was approached by a reporter who asked him how he thought the crusade was going.

The minister grumbled, “Billy Graham has set back the churches of this city fifty years!

Later, the reporter told Billy Graham what that minister said. Billy Graham replied with a smile, “I pray I will set back the churches of this city two thousand years!

Billy Graham was referring to those days immediately after the Day of Pentecost. On that day, the Holy Spirit descended upon a group of 120 men and women in an upper room, and their lives (and ours) were changed forever. That day, the church was born.

On that day, Peter, the arrogant and cowardly fisherman from Galilee, found within himself a newfound ability to preach his first of many eloquent sermons before a crowd of thousands of people from all over the then-known world.

That day, the former coward, Peter, boldly preached a hard-hitting sermon, and when it was over, 3,000 people were added to the church. From that day, the gospel spread like wildfire throughout the known world, and within 30 years, the gospel had spread to Rome and even to Spain.

What were the marks of that first Spirit-filled church? Luke tells us in Acts 2:42-47 that the Jerusalem church was characterized by:

  • Teaching the Word of God
  • Worship, praise and prayer
  • Fellowship
  • Evangelism
  • Stewardship
  • Spirit-envisioned leadership
  • Care for the poor.

We are told that every day, the Lord was “adding to the church those who were being saved.”

Satan hates Spirit-filled churches. Such churches quickly fulfill the Great Commission, the one condition that must take place before Jesus comes again, sets up His kingdom and puts Satan out of business! Thus, Satan does all he can to quench the Spirit through persecution, corruption and distraction. He is a master at persuading churches to major in minors or avoid too much “fanaticism”, i.e., do nothing.

Has your church been “set back two thousand years”? Do you have a Spirit-filled church where the Lord is adding daily those who are being saved? Is your church marked by the same signs of the Jerusalem church that accomplished so much in so little time?

How many new believers (not church transfers) have been added to your church lately? Is your community transformed because of your church? What sacrifices do you and your church make to transform others by the gospel, both at home and abroad, especially where the gospel has never gone before?

In the life of every church, policy debates arise over the church’s function. Without a model other than our own feelings, the church always goes off course and fails at God’s mission for the church—to take the gospel to all peoples whom He loves and become salt and light, preparing the way for His glorious kingdom on earth.

We have a timeless biblical model in the church of Jerusalem. As we confront new challenges in the days ahead, let us keep this model before us. Any deviation from this model is less than satisfactory to God, however satisfied we may feel.

Pray that all our churches will be set back two thousand years!

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Behold

UniverseWhat is the glory of God?

The truth is, we don’t know. Sinful humans cannot look upon His glory and live. However, the Bible declares in Psalm 19, “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.”

The “heavens” are what astronomers call the “observable universe.” It refers to the “limit created by the speed of light. Any object further away than light can travel in the age of the universe (about 14 billion years) has not even reached us yet.”

This “observable universe,” we are told, is now about 46.5 billion light years in radius, or 93 billion light years in diameter. One light year, the distance light travels in a year, equals about 6 trillion miles. Early in 2017, an English team of astronomers estimated that within this observable universe are at least 2 trillion galaxies, each with billions of stars—10 times more than previously thought. The human mind cannot fathom such numbers.

All of these stars and galaxies, however incomprehensible their numbers and sizes, still represent only 4% of the total mass of the universe. The remaining 96% comprises other matter that the astronomers haven’t even been able to identify yet!

All of this represents only the “observable universe!” Most parts of the universe are simply too far away for any of us to observe with any telescope no matter how advanced because we live in a universe that is expanding faster than the speed of light.

None of us can fully comprehend the universe, but the Bible tells us that the very size and complexity of the universe declares His glory. The God who created it all holds this universe in His hands.

In His hands. Think of it—the vast universe in which we live only hints at the glory of God. In the heavens, God has left us a big hint of His glory, so obvious that none of us can miss it.

As Christians, our growing knowledge of the universe’s expanse should declare to us that God is even greater than our godly forefathers knew. His love and grace are more boundless than we thought, His incarnation more miraculous, His humbling of Himself in Jesus Christ is more stunning. His sacrifice is more sacrificial, His character more outstanding, His trustworthiness more pure, His Word holds greater value.

In your spirit, enter the Bethlehem stable with its pungent smells of hay, straw and animal dung. Listen to the bleat of sheep and goats, the lowing of cattle. Note the young woman who lovingly watches over a red-faced infant, fresh from her womb, wrapped in swaddling clothes.

Look again at the newborn baby lying in the straw. This male-child is the creator of all the stars, planets, galaxies, dark energy and expanding universe. He is the Lamb of God, soon to bear your sin and my sin, the sins of every person who ever lived or will live. He is about to enter us into a new humanity that will one day astound the angels of heaven.

Behold the love of God that will not let us go. Then fall down and worship Him.

Behold the glory of God. He is the one Person whose relations with us makes every difference. Let us make sure that others know Him.

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True or False: Teachers

Blackboard with chalkA man looks at a sore on his neck that does not heal. He worries—is it cancer? Someone tells him, “Go to a doctor you feel comfortable with.”

The man decides he most wants a doctor who will tell him what he wants to hear. The medical practitioner he contacts is a very pleasant man with an impressive looking diploma. He assures the man he does not have cancer. He covers the sore with a bandage so the man doesn’t see it, and says, “Don’t worry.” Elated, the man goes home. However…

Six months later, the man dies of an aggressive and painful cancer that spread throughout his body. The doctor who gave him the “good news” is a charlatan. If the man had gone to a real doctor, he would have heard unpleasant news. He would have faced surgery, but he would also have lived a normal and useful life.

In spiritual matters, this same kind of foolishness happens repeatedly when we seek our teachers in false messiahs who tell us only what we want to hear.

The Bible portrays Jesus as the Great Physician. He tells us uncomfortable things. We don’t like to hear we are all sinners before a holy God, on our way to hell. We don’t like to hear we have terminal cancer of the spirit and only Jesus Christ, the Great Physician, can remove it.

Like surgery, Jesus’ crucifixion for our sins seems too bloody, ugly and primitive. We know we need help, but we seek our help in people who claim to be divine, even Jesus Himself, who tell us the easy way to the good life that fits our preconceptions.

Jesus Himself warns us about the dangers of following those who promote a different gospel from the one He taught—a “gospel” that leaves out sin, the cross and repentance, judgment and hell. He warns us about people who preach God’s love but not His holiness, His forgiveness but not His hatred of sin and the penalty for sin.

Jesus warns us that some false teachers may awe us with great miracles. But if they deny the gospel of the cross, Jesus says, “Stay away from them.”

How will we know when the real Christ appears? We will know by the manner of His second appearing which He makes very clear in Matthew 24:27: “For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be.”

He will come “in the twinkling of an eye.” He will appear in glory, with myriads of glorified men, women and children from every time and place. His Second Coming will surpass all power to imagine or describe. (1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17; Revelation 1:7; 6:15-17; 19:16). No other so-called “christ” can match it.

Those who undergo the surgery of the gospel will welcome the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. It will come as a terror to those who refused His spiritual surgery. The Second Coming dwarfs all other so-called “christs” and reveals them as fakes.

How vital for us to know our Bibles, both Old Testament and New Testament, to find the true Jesus. The more we know the “real thing,” the easier for us to spot the counterfeits.

Let us tell others about Him, that they may also stand before Him in joy and gladness.

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The Relevant Testament

hebrew-text-closeup

A grave error is making its way into the church and into our culture as a whole: the belief that we don’t need the Old Testament.

Let us cast aside this relic of the past, we are told. Let us devote ourselves, instead, to preaching the gospel only. Let us follow the religion of Jesus.

Every day, our modern media reveal that in spite of superior technology, human nature has not changed in 3,000 years. We are still governed by the same passions that destroyed ancient Sodom, Ur and Babylon.

This stubborn and unchanging quality of human nature is the subject of the Old Testament. That alone makes our study of the Old Testament relevant. We must put aside our smug ways and realize that things have not changed as much as we like to think.

God is a holy God. He wants to reconcile us to Himself, to set us free through His Son, Jesus Christ. He begins to fulfill this grand purpose in the Old Testament.

The Old Testament tells us how God deals with awed human nature through the Jewish nation. It is a historical record about real people who actually lived— people whose lives and experiences can influence our own if we have eyes to see and ears to hear.

The Old Testament is a selective record of how God works through the Jews to accomplish His purposes to save men, women and children of every background for His higher purpose. The Jews are God’s chosen instrument to accomplish His salvation for all peoples (Romans 1:16). As Jesus says in John 4:22, “Salvation is from the Jews.”

We must study the Old Testament because Jesus Christ Himself insisted upon it. Jesus was born a Jew, and He studied the Jewish scriptures, that is, the Old Testament.

The New Testament portrays Jesus as God’s fulfillment of His covenant with the most prominent Jewish ruler, King David. He was speaking of the Old Testament scriptures when he said, “The scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35).

In Matthew’s gospel, the writer repeatedly refers to Old Testament prophecies to show how Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of God’s promises to the Jews.

On the road to Emmaus, Jesus went through the entire Old Testament to show His dejected followers that His death and final glory was the final plan and purpose of God.

Paul constantly refers to Old Testament scriptures. In his Book of Romans alone, he makes 100 quotations from the Old Testament coming from 16 different Old Testament books. He sees Jesus Christ as the key that opens up the door to the full meaning of Old Testament scriptures.

The writer of the Book of Hebrews speaks of Jesus Christ in relation to the fulfillment of the Old Covenant and His perfect sacrifice found in the Old Testament scriptures. The writer of Hebrews also holds up many Old Testament men and women as examples of faith that we of the New Testament covenant should emulate.

Those who reject the Old Testament for a “religion of Jesus” not only reject the Old Testament but the gospel and person of Jesus Christ proclaimed in the New Testament. Let us all resolve to become better students of the Old Testament that we may better know Jesus Christ as our Savior, Lord, Messiah and Friend.

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Slaves to Stress

IMG_3180Body, soul and spirit—we are all three, and each affects the others.

Did you know that 75-90% of doctor visits take place for stress-related ailments—headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, arthritis, depression, anxiety, upset stomach, sleeping problems? These stress-related issues chronically affect 43% of adults, costing billions of dollars a year to the workplace, causing hazards to others. The tendency is to self-medicate with alcohol, tobacco, drugs and sex.

These issues affect Christians as well as non-Christians. The real cause of stress often has spiritual roots. It may affect people who have gone to church all their lives and are busy in the Lord’s work. Why? Because they have unresolved issues they can’t resolve simply by reading a good book, going to church or Bible study, memorizing scripture, as good as these things are.

Stress often comes because we have learned lies about ourselves from life experiences and from the father of lies, to render us useless, to harm us and even kill us. Often, we have little idea how sin corrupts everything. The enemy, more clever than we, has kept us from seeing the truth.

The Bible warns us that sin has power in this world. Lies about life can destroy us. The enemy keeps these lies below our consciousness to wound and harm us for decades without our knowing the lies are there. We experience continual defeat, and defeat causes stress.

“You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free,” Jesus said. Paul also said this when he wrote, “…be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

For this, we need not just to “get information” but get the help of the Holy Spirit to discern our situation and to speak truth to us through applied scripture. When the truth of scripture shines on the lies of the enemy and of life that have governed and limited us, the enemy retreats, and we gain freedom. The source of our stress is removed, and we regain physical and emotional health as well as spiritual health.

Psychology alone, which depends upon humanistic theories, does not suffice for this spiritual work of renewal and setting free. But it can take place through the help of men and women gifted and trained in biblical counseling.

Biblical counseling is not just another form of psychology, nor is it simply limited to spiritual issues. Rather, it is a means of applying the truth of the Bible to all of life—spiritual, emotional, mental, physical. A biblical counselor enables a person to identify the source of his problem—the lie that is keeping him in bondage—and to shine the light of the Word upon it. The light of truth always dispels the works of darkness.

Biblical counseling is a new and growing avenue of grace and redemption, setting people free and renewing minds for the glory of God and the advancement of His kingdom. It is winning people to Christ and setting men, women and children free to become the people God meant them to be.

We thank God for this new avenue of grace and redemption that has become available at India Bible College & Seminary. Pray that God will call more men and women into this unique ministry, and that millions of people in India and beyond will receive its benefits.

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