Monday, September 24, 2012

Stand on His word; it’s a rock you can trust.



 

Buddhists believe that enlightenment can be found through the eightfold path. Muslims follow the five pillars of Islam. Christians live their lives trusting that Jesus is the unique Son of God who died for their sins. We’re all convinced that what we believe is correct, and we stake our futures on it. But it’s faith just the same; none of us has absolute proof. This might surprise you, but atheists live by faith, too. They operate in the belief that there is no creator, no higher moral law, no divine judgment, and no afterlife. They can’t prove any of these things. 

In fact, most people in the world believe that denying them goes against the evidence as well as human experience, and therefore requires even higher levels of trust. So everybody lives by some kind of faith-that is, beliefs and actions that are based on something they consider trustworthy, even though they can’t fully prove it to be true-and usually their beliefs run pretty deep. Therefore, if we’re going to be effective in reaching them, we’ll need to do more than tell them what we believe or try to badger them into changing their minds. Rather, it’s important to first understand why our friends believe what they do-how they arrived at those beliefs. Then we’ll be in a better position to speak to them in ways they can understand, and to point them toward the many reasons they should consider putting their trust in Christ.



Wait a minute.....

 
What does the symbol of the Cross mean to you? To many people, the Cross is merely an archaic emblem. To others, the Cross invokes feelings of guilt or confusion. Some churches even see it as a hindrance to attracting nonbelievers.

Yet, the early believers chose the Cross as their symbol for a special reason. There were many symbols of Jesus’ earthly ministry to represent them. They could have chosen a manger to represent where baby Jesus was born. They could have chosen a boat, from which Jesus taught the crowd in Galilee. They could have chosen an apron, which Jesus wore when He washed the disciples’ feet. They could have chosen a throne or a crown, to represent His divine and sovereign rule.

But instead they chose the Cross that proclaims that the wages of sin are fully paid, and that the perfect sacrifice has been fully offered. Through the Cross we have redemption and life with Christ in heaven. Through the Cross we know that sin has been defeated. (1)

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).


Reference:

(1)  Excerpts taken from "The Symbol of the Cross", by Dr. Michael Youssef, Ph.D.


Blessings,


Raj Kosaraju 


Saturday, September 15, 2012

But what the world really needs is redemption








“. . . all things were created by Him, and for Him.” Colossians 1:16b.





Do you want to know the meaning of everything? It is Jesus only. You may think that is an overstatement. We live in a great big universe, billions of light years in expanse. And the Bible tells us that “all things were created by Him, and for Him” (Colossians 1:16).

There is nothing made that was not made by the Lord Jesus. The answer to creation is Jesus only. People say, “the world needs saving.” But what the world really needs is redemption. And where is redemption going to come from? Not from a creed, code, or cause, but Jesus only.

The entire universe, the plans of God, and the sweep of all the ages comes down to two words - Jesus only.

 Max Lucado has given an important insight into understanding this:

 
Three passengers share a row of seats in an airplane. As the plane is taxiing for takeoff, their conversation turns to the topic of the airplane pilot.

Stunningly, passenger “A” doesn’t believe one exists. “No one flies the plane. We are guided by a computer system in the terminal. This plane is an occupied drone.  Why should I believe otherwise? The cockpit door is closed. Who can know? There is no pilot.”

Passenger “B” disagrees. “Oh, there is a pilot. Someone sits at the controls of the plane. But, once we take off, he takes a nap. He gets the plane in the air and then goes to sleep.”

The third passenger is shocked by what she hears. “You don’t know what you are talking about. First, there is a pilot. Second, the pilot is alert, competent and kind. I know; he is my husband. He is seasoned and sensitive and has every intention of a successful flight. We are in good hands.”
Three passengers. Three opinions. A plane with no pilot. A plane with a disengaged pilot. A plane with a seasoned and concerned pilot. Fast forward a few minutes. Turbulence shakes the plane like popcorn in a paper bag. Will the three passengers experience the flight in the same way? Of the three travelers, which is most prone to stay calm?

 

Nothing is more important than the right view of God. Nothing. I’ve seen the wealthy and highly educated crumple like cowards at the face of death. I’ve seen the simple and humble take their final breath with a smile and a song. The difference? They knew the Pilot.

You need to know the heart of the pilot. That is why the story of Jesus is in the Bible. He is the only picture of God ever taken. To know Jesus, is to know God. To know God is to know: this flight gets bumpy, but the Pilot? He knows how to get us home. (1)

 However...........

There is a quiet battle raging throughout the world today.  No guns are being fired, nor are bombs being dropped—yet billions of lives are at stake.  It is the battle for people’s minds and hearts, and ultimately, their souls.

Enemies of Christianity are successfully misleading many.  Prominent atheists, such as Richard Dawkins (author of The God Delusion) and the late Christopher Hitchens (author of God is Not Great) churn out books, videos, lectures, and media interviews to convince people that there is no God.

Muslim propagandists teach that Jesus was just a great prophet, wasn’t really crucified, and never claimed to be God.  These groups and others flood the Internet with YouTube videos and materials promoting their misleading ideas.

It is true that children do tend to adopt the religion they learned about from their parents. In all other religions, one automatically becomes a follower by birth, by being baptized as an infant, or by observing certain religious practices. For example, a child is a Jew if born to a Jewish mother, or is considered a Mormon or Muslim if born into a Mormon or Muslim family. But one becomes a Christian only by personally repenting of his sins and placing his trust in Jesus Christ alone for his salvation. It is an individual decision, regardless of the religion practiced by the parents. Many people raised in other cultures decide to leave their religion and become Christians. God knows those whose hearts are truly seeking Him, and He ensures that they hear the gospel no matter where they are located. He can reveal Himself to people even in the midst of Hindu, Muslim, or animist cultures, so that they can put their trust in the Savior.

Also, keep in mind that believing something doesn’t necessarily make it true. Other religions are not equally true just because people were raised to believe them. Only Christianity is backed up by objective, historical, archaeological, and experiential evidence to verify that it is true.

    When God brought us into this universe, He did not make us to abandon us. When God finished His first creation, He stepped back and said, “It is good.” But then sin came into the world, and we broke fellowship with our Creator. Because of His great love and mercy toward us, God sent His only Son to bring us back to Himself. Now, when we are saved, we become a new creation, and God says, “It is good.” When sin soiled your garments, God sent the righteous robes of His Son for you to wear.

Now, you are---

    washed in His blood,

    clean in His sight,

    and forever in His heart.

A believer's relationship with the Lord is one of complete unity. Jesus is our life. His Spirit lives through us. God did not call us to make people happy; He called us to make them holy. God did not call us to be people-pleasers; He called us to exalt Him. God did not call us to follow the crowd; He called us to follow Him and to lead people to Him. God did not call us to be sponges; He called us to be rocks who stand firmly upon the Word of God. God did not call us to compromise; He called us to overcome and to lead people to the Truth. God did not call us to fear; He has called us to courage.

No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared... I Corinthians 2:9.At the end of the book, "The Last Battle" by C.S. Lewis, Lewis writes about the experiences of those that enter Aslan's land—heaven—where they go on forever and ever and each new chapter is better than the one before.

References:

(1)  Upwords, The Teaching Ministry of Max Lucado.

Blessings,

Raj Kosaraju

Gold, Silver, and Socks


Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein had shared an important article that he wrote. It touched my heart and has left some valuable insights. Here it goes:

“‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the Lord Almighty.” — Haggai 2:8.

Edward Reichman passed away in Jerusalem at the age of 80. He was a real estate tycoon who left behind billions of dollars. He also left two wills with instructions to open the first will immediately, and the second, 30 days after his death. When the Reichman family opened the first will, they found a peculiar request. Edward had asked to be buried in his favorite pair of socks.

Now, Judaism has very clear laws when it comes to death and burial. Every Jew is buried in simple burial shrouds and nothing more. Nothing else is allowed on the body or in the casket. Period. Rich and poor alike are all buried the same way.

The Reichman children didn’t know what to do. Their father was a learned and pious man, but his request seemed to contradict the law. They went to rabbi after rabbi, seeking permission to obey their father’s request. But no God-fearing rabbi could help them. Edward Reichman was buried the same way as everyone else – without his socks.

Thirty days later, Edward’s children opened his second will. This is what it said: “My dear children, by now you must have buried me without my socks. I wanted you to truly understand that a man can have all the money in the world, but in the end, he can’t even take along one pair of socks!”

In the book of Haggai, God says, “The silver is mine and the gold is mine.” No matter how much wealth a person acquires in this world, it’s never truly his. It’s just on loan from God for the years that he or she lives.

We tend to think of our money as – well – our money. But the truth is that it’s not ours at all. It belongs to God. Instead of asking, “How should I spend my money?” The question should be “How should I spend God’s money?”

That small change in words can make a huge shift in our thinking. If the money were ours, the focus would be on what gives us pleasure, but since the money belongs to God, we start to think about what kinds of things matter to the Lord.

What do you spend God’s money on? We may not be able to take gold or silver, or even a pair of socks with us when we leave this world. But we will be able to take all of the good deeds that we do with God’s money while we are still living. (1)
 
But let me say this. I am running this race of life, and the Bible tells me that one day in heaven there will be a reward waiting for me. It won't be based on how much I have done or how much recognition I have gained in the course of my life. It will be based on how faithful I was to what God called me to do. The same is true for you. Your reward will be based on how faithful you have been through the days of your life to the calling you have received from God.

The author of Hebrews wrote, "Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. "(Hebrews 12:1)

Let me also say that I am not running this race for the reward. Nor am I running it for other people or to score points. I am running this race for Jesus. He is the One we all should be running for.

The apostle Paul presents the same principle in Philippians 3:10: "That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death. . .." Paul was saying, "This is why I'm doing it. My purpose for running this race is to know Jesus Christ." That is what mattered to him. And that is what should matter to us. (2)

It is unfortunate that so many people are ignorant of the everlasting life that can follow this one. Through God's promise of glory in eternity, we no longer have anything to fear from death. Whatever befalls us in this lifetime, it is nothing in relation to the eternal home that awaits us. We need to focus on the life to come in times of trial and sorrow. In the face of death we can feel secure that everything will be just fine.

 References:

 (1) Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, is a rabbi and the founder and current President of the International Fellowship of Christian and Jews, which is headquatered in Chicago and Jerusalem. 

(2.) Excerpts taken from Pastor Greg Laurie's notes "Purple Ribbons" -- Harvest Weekend Devotion.


Blessings,

Raj Kosaraju