Tag Archives: theology

They Never Really Knew Him

Selfish and materialistic, that’s what they were.

Jesus fed a crowd of 5,000 men, plus women and children, with five loaves and two fishes. After this miracle, they wanted to seize Him by force and make Him king. They said, “This is the Prophet who is to come into the world!”

Jesus came to another conclusion: “Truly, truly I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” In other words, they viewed Jesus as a fellow with magical powers who would fulfill their material needs and desires, someone like Aladdin.

They based Jesus’ value to them on what they could get out of Him. They had no idea of who He really was. What they expected from Him was wrong.

Are we any different? Do we value Jesus for who He is, or for how He meets our expectations? Do we interest ourselves in His view of things or do we want Him to fulfill our agendas? We should not answer this question too quickly.

At this writing, the US presidential election is not yet settled. Christians seem as divided over this matter as they were over slavery during the Civil War. A lot of hateful words and accusations go forth from Christians on both sides as they did long ago.

During that traumatic time, Abraham Lincoln said, “Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; each invokes His aid against the other…the prayers of both could not be answered; that of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes.”

Whoever wins in the end, whoever loses, lies in God’s will, and may take place for reasons that have nothing to do with why we voted as we did. We may believe we know God’s will in these things but may discover in eternity we knew nothing of what was going on. Jesus’ twelve disciples walked with Him for three years. They thought they knew Him, but in the end, after Jesus died and He did not meet their expectations, they discovered they never really knew Him.

All their expectations had to die. During that agonizing time, they hid out in the room where they ate their last meal together before the Jewish religious establishment seized Him and the Romans crucified Him.

Only after His resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit did it finally make sense to them. Only then did they truly come to know Him. First, they had to admit they were wrong. Only then could they emerge from behind locked doors and take their message to the world.

I am always amazed that a great evangelist like Billy Graham felt the need to confess his sins daily before the Lord. He credits his remarkable team for many times saving him from himself. If that was true about a great man like Billy Graham, what does that say about the rest of us?

These humbling experiences helped to make Billy Graham the outstanding evangelist he became.

Let us take these uncertain times to come to know Him more truly than we ever knew Him before. Let us humble ourselves and set aside all unworthy expectations. The more we know Him, the more clearly we will proclaim His Good News, not just our limited version of it.

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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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Humbled by Grace

One day, we will stand before God to account for our lives. On that day, we will see Him in all His glory, majesty, holiness, power, righteousness, and truth. On that day, we will see with our own eyes why He is King of kings and Lord of lords. On that day, we will worship Him.

How we worship Him now should really become a warm-up for that day. Worship is learning to know God for Who He is and knowing ourselves for who we are. One good thing to keep in mind: He doesn’t need our worship, but we need to worship Him because our very humanity depends upon Him alone.

What does this mean in real life? John 4 gives us a good model of true worship…

A Samaritan woman approaches a well alone, to collect water. A woman of low repute from a despised minority, she comes in the heat of the day to avoid the stares and whispers of those who look down on her. She is a woman who thinks little of herself.

She meets Jesus at the well. Because of who He is, we can be sure He was waiting for her.

John records the conversation. Jesus’ insightful line of questions and comments reveals the woman as one who prioritizes material things over spiritual, and who at best probably follows only perfunctory religious practices.

By the conclusion of the conversation, the woman has become a new person. She discovers that in Jesus, she was talking to God. She discovers that God delighted in her. In spite of her disgraceful failures in life, He saw something in her worth redeeming, something precious nobody else saw, including herself. All at once, she has new hope, new joy, a new future she never thought possible.

That day, the Samaritan woman saw God as she never saw Him before. That truth about Him touched her spirit in deep, personal ways and transformed her life. She responded by telling everyone she met what happened. She wanted everyone to meet this One who was like no other.

That day, the Samaritan woman experienced what Jesus meant when He told her, “He who worships the Father must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” She learned that worship means meeting God, bowing in submission to Him, delighting in Him, loving Him and enjoying Him because it became obvious He delighted in her.

Jesus was not put off by the things that caused others to shun her because He knew what He could do in her life. Change came, not through religious practice and habit but in relationship. That message to the Samaritan woman is just as true for you and me as it was for her two thousand years ago.

Like that woman, each of us has things in our lives of which we are ashamed. We fear judgment by others. Do we experience the King of kings like the Samaritan woman did, in His kindness, love, wisdom, patience, joy, strength, tenderness, peace, humility and generosity? Such a relationship evokes the true worship of humble repentance that brings transformation and joy.

Let us truly and humbly bow our hearts before Him. Then we, too, will worship Him in spirit and in truth. Like the Samaritan woman, we will want others to meet and worship Him who is like no other.

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Subject to Many Trials

How are we as Christians to regard such a time as this?

Some of you may have the virus. Others of you have friends or loved ones who have suffered or even died from it. Others of you have lost or are about to lose your livelihoods. In some way, all of us have experienced inconveniences and discouragement we have never known before. None of us knows what the future holds.

Jesus warned His disciples that in this life we will have tribulations or trials (John 16:33). What was He talking about?

Most times, these are things we don’t like to think about. We have been conditioned to think that when we accept Jesus as our Savior, life will be rosy and sweet. What happens when life is not sweet?

Even the best of us experience trials. Jesus Himself was a “man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” John the Baptist was imprisoned and beheaded. Paul the apostle experienced many tribulations (2 Cor. 11:16-33).

In his first letter, Peter portrays the ideal Christian as both a person of great joy and much sorrow and grief, subject to many trials in life. These are not just chance events, but things that are allowed, and even sent, “if necessary,” by God Himself. Why does God find it necessary?

First and foremost, God wants to build His church whose foundation is Jesus Christ. He saves us when we are still sinners. We enter the kingdom in an imperfect state. God allows trials for at least three different reasons:

  1. Sometimes He chastises us for our failures. “Whom the Lord loves, He chastens,” we are told in Hebrews 12:6. If we do not know the chastening of the Lord, if all is sweetness and light in our lives, we are not Christians, it is as simple as that.
  2. Sometimes God allows trials in life to prepare us for a higher task, to make us more dependent upon Him. Think of Joseph and David who knew grievous trials of faith. God chose them for greater things, and they needed greater maturity to bear greater responsibilities.
  3. Even when we have not fallen into gross sin, we are still imperfect in our faith. We all have many areas of the flesh in our thinking and doing, however unconscious they may be, that interfere with our effective walk with Christ. Often, God sends trials our way to make us aware of these things and to bring out a greater faith.

When we bear these trials and learn from them to develop greater fellowship with our Heavenly Father, we certify that we are indeed His children. We learn to rejoice in our salvation (1 Peter 1:3-5) in ways we have never rejoiced before. As believers who rejoice in the midst of tribulation, we become testimonies to a watching world of a great and loving God.

Which of these kinds of trials have you experienced? When we learn from them, they last only for a season. The fruit we bear in our lives at such times glorifies our Lord Jesus. Such fruit lasts for eternity and affects not only us but the world around us.

During this time of trial and crisis, how ready are we to submit to God’s will and allow Him to work through our present troubles to bring about revival, healing and spiritual awakening?

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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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Generational Curses

adult-bride-child-1250452Generational curses are common in India. There is increasing talk about them in western countries and among Christians.

Someone has defined a generational curse as “the cumulative effect on a person of things that their ancestors did, believed or practiced in the past, and a consequence of an ancestor’s actions, beliefs and sins being passed down.” What does the Bible tell us about generational curses?

A verse often cited is Exodus 20:5 which tells us that God’s wrath is visited to the third and fourth generation of those who hate God.

Too often, however, this passage is isolated from its full context. The passage also tells us that God’s mercy is visited upon thousands of generations of those who love God. Note the contrast—three or four generations of wrath, but thousands of generations of mercy. The purpose of this passage is not to communicate a specific number of generations He will bless and curse but to contrast God’s greater mercy with His wrath.

We should note that the term “generational curse” appears nowhere in the Bible.

Generational curses do not come from God, but from sinful human nature. Sin results from our distrust of God, our alienation from God. We shut out God’s light, and spirits of darkness take over, replacing God’s truth with lies. We wander into traps of our own making, leading to all kinds of slavery.

Sinful lifestyles are learned by example by one generation after another. For example, when a parent adopts a dark view of life, it can result in lifestyles of alcohol or drug addiction, abuse, divorce, gambling, incest or sexual promiscuity. It is likely the children will pick them up.

Our first ancestor, Adam, alienated himself from God, and through him, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Through our first ancestor, we all face the prospect of a generational curse.

Generational curses are a human-made form of captivity, blindness and oppression in which many generations may suffer.

Jesus Christ tells us that “He [God] has sent me to preach the gospel to the poor, He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed” (Luke 4:18).

Paul the apostle writes, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13). He became the curse through His death on the cross. He broke the curse when He rose from the grave.

Paul also tells us that Jesus Christ is the Second Adam who frees us from the curse. “Just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so the result of the one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men” (Romans 5:18).

Through His cross and resurrection, Jesus Christ has broken the power of every curse including the generational curse.

In Christ, we no longer must live as victims of the past. Let us put these things behind us and enter the new way of life Jesus Christ has already provided through the cross. Let us renew our minds daily with this truth (Romans 12:2).

The best news is that this is a free gift paid by God through Christ. Let us live in His grace and experience His freedom. Let us also proclaim it to all of India and beyond.

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Ants in His Garden

Colorful-garden-flowers-hd-wallpaperAnts are highly organized, hard-working creatures who know nothing about the larger world around them. They work oblivious to planes, barking dogs, passing people. They care only about their little world. But that world can change in a second with the introduction of earth-moving equipment, or gardeners or builders. What means nothing to their world can change their world forever.

Many times, we humans think like ants. For the most part, we humans pay no attention to God. Yet God’s larger world can overrule our lives in a second, causing great terror for those who never think of Him.

Most of us never see God, but some people get glimpses of Him. Moses saw His back parts. Isaiah saw God’s holiness and said “Woe is me!” John saw Jesus’ divine nature, and he fell down as a dead man. Three disciples glimpsed Jesus divinity on a mountain, and the sight overwhelmed them.

Every person who glimpses God’s holiness is overcome by a sense of sin and shame. Even the smallest sin becomes a mountain next to God’s holiness. When God intervenes, nothing remains the same.

What is the holiness of God? Someone has described holiness as a distinct class by itself with no rivals or competition. It means to possess transcendent purity, surpassing all others. God’s holiness relates to every other part of His character and nature.

Dr. R.C. Sproul says, “The Bible says that God is holy, holy, holy. Not that he is merely holy or even holy, holy. The Bible never says that God is love, love, love, or mercy, mercy, mercy, or wrath, wrath, wrath, or justice, justice, justice. It does say that He is holy, holy, holy, the whole earth is full of His glory.”

Too easily, we say that “God accepts us as we are.” His holiness should make us re-think that casual idea. God never compromises His holiness. When Moses disobeyed God before the people of Israel (Numbers 20), he was not allowed to enter the Promised Land because He insulted God’s holiness. Irreverence toward God’s holiness can exact a heavy price upon those who take it lightly. God’s holiness is why we are told to fear Him.

None of us measures up to God’s holiness. Yet in His holiness, God in Christ has reconciled us to Himself and clothed us with His righteousness. In Christ, we have no need to stand in terror before a holy God, apart from stubborn irreverence.

The holiness of God transforms even people like Karla Faye Tucker, a hatchet murderess, who heard the gospel and repented before a holy God. Her life changed so radically, she led many of her fellow prisoners to Christ, and a Christian man became so impressed by her Christ-like character, he married her. She paid an earthly price of execution for her crime, but she died praising the Lord for His holy and eternal deliverance.

A holy God has made a way for all who would take it. There are still many people oblivious to His great salvation, like ants in our gardens. Let us pray that the Spirit of God will awaken them to hear the Good News of what He has already done for them in Jesus Christ.

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The Lord’s Prayer

As we pray for India, we can find no better prayer model than the prayer Jesus taught His disciples, popularly known as “the Lord’s Prayer,” in Matthew 6. I say it is a model for prayer because it suggests larger, more detailed and specific prayers inspired by the Holy Spirit. The Lord’s Prayer enables us to discern if we are praying in the spirit of Christ or only in human power.

Charles Spurgeon, the great English preacher, reminds us that the Lord’s Prayer is not for everyone. It is reserved only for those who recognize the sovereignty of the One who first revealed it to His disciples. It is reserved for those who are “possessors of grace and are truly converted.” A heart of trust in Christ reveals the power of the Lord’s Prayer to those who seek to pray effective and powerful prayers.

The Lord’s Prayer is a very organic prayer in which every part works together in perfect harmony.

“Our Father” sets the tone for the rest of the prayer, reminding us that prayer is not just reserved as a personal exercise but a corporate relationship with the One who possesses authority, love, responsibility, wisdom and goodness.

As His children, we depend upon Him and submit ourselves to Him. God may or may not grant our request, but He always does well and wisely as a loving Father.

“Who art in Heaven” reminds us that all our earthly needs and desires are best met, not with earthly wisdom, but in Heaven. Why is this? Because the name and reputation of the Father is “hallowed.” God’s reputation and character far exceeds that of the greatest mortal man. His eternal and triune Personhood surpasses that of any created earthly person who soon passes away.

At the same time, when we remember that this holy God is “our Father,” we know that God is approachable, that He is as humble as He is holy.

A hallowed Father excludes no one who approaches Him in deep trust with heartfelt needs. A hallowed Father rightly requires obedience to Him, not from fear but in a loving response to His love. A hallowed Father gives us peace, for nothing can shake our relationship with Him. A hallowed Father is committed to His children and gives them privileges that no earthly father possesses.

This hallowed Father possesses a Kingdom that reflects His ways, His character, His will, His plan, His presence, His authority. It is a Kingdom of Heaven.

We can realize this Heavenly Kingdom on earth, not only in some future time when Christ returns, but now. We experience the Kingdom of God on earth as we see Him meet daily needs, bring two people together in marriage, enable us with wisdom and power to conduct our businesses, study for school and engage in creative endeavors that glorify God and bless others as well as ourselves.

“Our Father” reminds us that we have many brothers and sisters who do not yet know their Heavenly Father and feel orphaned from Him. “Our Father” reminds us of the multitudes who feel abandoned by God because of circumstances beyond their control, who are ignorant of Him who has loved them for all eternity.

May His Kingdom come on earth to all of these who have not yet heard!

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