Monday, December 30, 2013

God's Calling On Your Life

                                                                   Pic:Tony Evans

“Many, LORD, are asking, ‘Who will bring us prosperity?’
  Let the light of your face shine on us.
 Fill my heart with joy
  when their grain and new wine abound.”— Psalm 4:6–

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein quotes:

What’s it going to take for people to be happy?

We live in a world of smart-phones, the internet, and air-travel – things that our ancestors could not imagine. We have relative abundance and conveniences that kings of the past could only dream of. Our grocery stores are well-stocked and we have indoor plumbing, two things that much of humanity still lives without.

But, for most people, that’s not enough: “Many, LORD, are asking, ‘Who will bring us prosperity?’” People want to know, “Who will invent the next big thing? What will it be? Maybe when we have that, then we will be happy!”

I love the following quote from actor Jim Carrey. He said, “I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of … so they can see it’s not the answer.”
Most people answer the question of happiness with an item or an aspiration: “If only I had a new (fill-in-the-blank) — then I would be happy.” “If only I achieved success and recognition — then I would be happy.” This thinking governs so many of the decisions that we make and how we spend our time, day-in and day-out. But as Jim Carrey says, having experienced living with both fame and fortune, neither will make us happy. Happiness cannot be bought or given.
Happiness is a choice, and it comes from choosing God.

Dr. Charles Stanley in his devotion “Our True Identity” from Ephesians 1:3-8 very rightly says : When I hear a believer announce, “I’m just a sinner,” I feel like saying, “That’s what you used to be.” A lot of folks cling to a view of themselves as a patched-up, slightly-better-than-before version of their old self. The Bible contradicts that opinion: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away, behold, new things have come” (2 Cor. 5:17). In fact, according to Scripture, we’re dramatically different once we are complete in Christ.

The question is whether people will trust in what they feel or believe what God says about them. His Word calls us saints (Rom. 1:7), disciples (Matt. 28:19), and fellow heirs with Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:17). If your opinion is that you are “just a sinner,” then you cannot fully experience and enjoy your identity in Christ.

Believing what God says about our new self is a choice. Satan certainly conspires to convince believers that God’s Word doesn’t apply to them. He knows that people held captive by spiritual poverty back away from opportunities to share the gospel and serve the Lord’s kingdom. It’s much easier to spiritually bankrupt someone who already thinks of him- or herself as “just a sinner” than it is to conquer a disciple who knows God is his loving Father.

Our true identity is defined not by our past actions but by the Savior’s. Jesus purchased our lives with His blood and brought us into relationship with God the Father, who adopted us as beloved children. We have every reason to hold our heads high, stand firm, and courageously proclaim the gospel.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

Ephesians 2:10

God has something specific for you to do!

Do you see it in the verse? There are “good works which God prepared beforehand” so that you would walk in them. God has prepared a job just for you. But don’t let that make you nervous, because He has also prepared you just for that job!

“We are His workmanship”, it says. That word “workmanship” implies very meticulous, painstaking, highly skilled labour. God has meticulously, painstakingly designed your life-experiences with great skill in order to bring you to a place of readiness for His call on your life.

We readily accept that missionaries have a `call’ from God. And we want our pastor to feel called to his position. But sometimes when we are tradespeople or business people or university students or raising children—then we don’t see ourselves as having a calling.

But actually, every one of us has a calling from God, a specific way that He wants to use you, something He has designed you for. That is why every believer is given spiritual gifts. God may call you into a business setting with people that will never be exposed to organised church. How can you change the way you view your situation so that you are available for God’s calling on your life?*

*Jack North, Ambassadors for Christ International


Raj Kosaraju

Saturday, December 28, 2013

There are Three Kinds of People in this World

There are three kinds of people you will meet in life: (1) The critic. They're the first to point an accusing finger and the last to extend a helping hand. (2) The cautious. When you're in trouble they'll distance you lest they become tainted by your perceived liabilities. These people are not bad, they're just self-serving. Don't put your trust in them. (3) The committed. 'A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.' Recognise such people and build your life around them because they are a gift from God. Beware of those who change their mind about you when your circumstances change. Build your life on those who believe the best about you, and want to bring it out.

When we work and worship, we reflect God to our world, and reflect our work in this world back to God. And this means that everything we do matters. Everything we create, the mouths we feed, the sick for whom we care, the environments we clean up, the children we nurture, the spouse you love, the friends with whom we weep and rejoice, the hard work at our jobs, the kindness we offer strangers, the art we make—it all matters, and not just for now, because everything you do for God matters for eternity. This is what we must know: The work we do every single day matters to God.

It’s no different for us. We can live as peacemakers, fight against the injustices of poverty and hunger, work to provide clean water for all people, research to discover cures to deadly diseases and stand against violence. This is what we must know: We can show others today what the new heavens and new earth will be like tomorrow.

And there is one more thing we should know. When it comes to knowing who we are, why we are here and where we are going, it’s not something we learn overnight. Like anything important, it takes a lifetime of work. It’s learning everyday to trust more, to love more and to be more honest with God and ourselves.

The 3 Things we can give to God in 2014          

As we enter into a new year, here is something to remember: When it's all said and done, we have three things we can offer God—our treasure, our talent, and our time. Each of these is given to us by God, and each of them should be given back in generous portions.

First, there is our treasure. I urge you to commit yourself to give faithfully and generously to the Lord in this coming year. Jesus said, "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Matthew 6:21 NKJV). Whenever we put our money into something, we develop a vested interest in it. It makes sense to us that we would place our treasures where our hearts are. If we love reading books, or being entertained, or the latest technology, we spend our treasure on those things. And if our heart's desires change, that changes where we put our treasure.

But it works the other way too: Where we put our treasures, our heart will follow. Do you want your heart to be in the things of God? Then put your treasures in the things of God! Develop a vested interest in God's kingdom.

The second thing we can give to God is our talent. God has gifted each believer in different ways. Everyone has something to offer for the work of the kingdom. Romans 12 says, "Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ's body. We are all parts of his one body, and each of us different work to do" (NLT).

Finally, there is our time. Let's say that one day your phone rang and it was the president of the bank that you use. He told you that an anonymous donor who loved you very much had decided to deposit 86,400 pennies into your bank account each and every morning. At first, maybe that didn't seem like a lot. But then you figured out that it was $864 a day. At seven days a week and 52 weeks a year, those pennies add up to almost $315,000 each year! But the bank president added one thing: "The anonymous giver said you must spend all of the money on the day you receive it! No balance will be carried over to the next day. Each evening the bank must cancel whatever sum you failed to use! Remember, what you don't spend is lost."

That may sound like fantasy, but here's the reality: Every morning, Someone who loves you very much deposits into your "bank of time" 86,400 seconds, which represent 1,440 minutes, which of course equals 24 hours each and every day. God gives you that much to use each day. Nothing is ever carried over on credit to the next day. There is no such thing as a 27-hour day. It's called time, and you can't escape it. Time is ticking away right now. The Bible tells us to "redeem the time"—to make sacred and wise use of every opportunity.

Offer God your treasure, your talent, and your time. Live this next year as if it were your last, because it could be. Make those minutes count!*

* Greg Laurie,The 3 Things we can give to God in 2014


Raj Kosaraju

Friday, December 27, 2013

Change our Situations

Change is never easy. And it is rarely painless. But it is inevitable. We all go through different times and seasons that require us to change. Some changes we hope for, and other change we reluctantly go through. But often we pray that God would change our situations, rather than praying for a change within ourselves.

In May of 2008, Steven Curtis Chapman and his wife, Mary Beth lost their five-year-old daughter in an automobile accident. They were deluged by messages of kindness. One in particular gave Steven strength.  It was from a pastor friend who’d lost his son in an auto accident. “Remember, your future with your daughter will be greater than your past with her.”

Death seems to take so much. We bury the wedding that never happened, the golden years we never knew. We bury dreams. But in heaven these dreams will come true. Acts 3:21 says that God has promised a “restoration of all things.”

All things includes all relationships. Our final home will hear no good-byes. Gone forever.Let the promise change you. From sagging to seeking, from mournful to hopeful! From dwellers in the land of good-byes to a heaven of hellos!  You’ll get through this! *

We don't need to understand every detail of how God works in order to have perfect confidence in his absolute power over evil and his total goodness toward us. Yet there are times when we feel overwhelmed by the injustices we see. Doubts lead us to question God. But God isn't shocked by our doubts or anger. He waits to provide a fresh perspective.

People with a  zeal for receiving fresh perspectiveness from the Word of God are simply prepared people—biblically prepared and equipped for whatever might come along. People become wise when by God’s grace they are humble enough to accept how unprepared they actually are in themselves. Sacrificing the false god of their own independence, they run to the one place where actual certainty can be found. Then they’re able to live hopefully, productively, and courageously. Then they’re prepared for whatever comes along—not because they saw it coming, but because they’ve been students of the Word of God. They don’t know more about the future than anyone else does. But God, through the wisdom of the Bible, has made them ready for it.

"Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”

"And he said to the disciples, “The days are coming when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. "And they will say to you, ‘Look, there!’ or ‘Look, here!’ Do not go out or follow them. "For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation."
(Luke 17:20-25)

One of the sobering realities of Scripture is the prophecy of judgment on mankind at the end of time. While theologians debate timetables and exact meanings, they generally agree on one thing: Judgment is a central feature of the end times. While the depiction of judgment in Revelation is shrouded in symbolism and mystery, it is clear that it is paralyzingly unpleasant. Accounts of judgment are accompanied by warnings to men to take heed and prepare themselves to meet the Lord.

Jesus' ultimate act of service was to give His life as a ransom for many (Matt. 20:28). The word describes the price paid to set a slave free—Christ voluntarily purchased our liberation. There was only one way our holy God could remove our guilt yet remain true to His own law: Someone sinless had to pay our sin debt for us.

Jesus' sacrifice spared us the penalty we deserve. Instead, we receive the gift of grace and have been declared no longer guilty. Moreover, we are elevated from slaves to sons and daughters of the Almighty!

Jesus served the Father's purpose faithfully. He gave up His righteousness to carry the weight of all our wickedness—and endured a crushing separation from His Father. To meet our needs, the Savior held nothing of Himself back, and thereby set a powerful example of servanthood for us follow.

God gives you many little signs of His presence with you, many little messages. Instead of ignoring them, focus on them. Ask Him to open your eyes and ears to what you’re missing. Respond to the incredible God who is speaking to you. Realize that you are involved in something so much bigger than you. Get excited about it.

God wants you to know Him.

*  Mournful to Hopeful, From You’ll Get Through This, by Max Lucado


Raj Kosaraju

Thursday, December 26, 2013

“The Unpopular Truth”:

For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.
—1 Timothy 2:5

Jesus looked around at the people of Nazareth. There were people of all kinds there. He knew that He had been sent to them all, but He also knew that there were some who would reject Him. He knew there would also be those who would accept Him readily: His people. His people were the poor and oppressed. They were the slaves and the widows and the orphans. They were the outcasts: prostitutes and tax collectors and lepers. In a world where so much value was placed on beauty, His people were the dregs. But he had something to offer them that would make them beautiful. Through His grace, His people would be elevated to the level of angels, and even higher. In God's wisdom, the last-His people-would be first, and the first would be last. Jesus set out, looking to find His people.

Are we His people? Do we accept Him, and fashion our life to His will, or do we reject Him, continuing to live by our own rules? Christ will beautify the meek with salvation. It is in our meekness that we realize our need for God. Let God beautify you, and you will find His pleasure.

“…when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels…

When He shall come to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all them that believe…” 2 Thessalonians 1: 7, 10

The Jesus who came the first time is coming again, and Christmas is not complete without the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. The incarnation without the coronation would be like east without west. It would be like an engagement without a marriage. The story is not complete until Jesus comes again.

Among all of the great names in human history, we’re told that there’s no other name whereby people can be saved except that of Jesus Christ. Out of all the great names, Jesus is the only one that saves. In fact, the very meaning of ‘Jesus’ is “The Lord saves.”

There’s nothing wrong with admiring great men and women in the history of the world. But when Jesus Christ came into the world in the little town of Bethlehem, everything changed. God was moving so boldly on earth – in a way like never before – that He himself came into the world to bring salvation.

Jesus wasn’t just a savior. He was the Savior. Not one among many, but one in Himself. Don’t move away from Christmas without being changed by that amazing truth. Jesus came to save you. Trust in Him. Make Him your personal Savior.

You may have thought that this was a good Christmas for you—but, friend, I want to tell you…the best is yet to come! The Heavenly Father has so much more in store for us when Jesus comes again.

You see, we get all wrapped up in the little baby, the baby that was born, and we then go beyond the birth of the baby, saying, “Yes, He came to die for our sins” (thank God He did that), but I want to remind you that the First Coming of Jesus and the Second Coming are linked together.

The Christmas Story in Luke 1 and 2 speaks not only of the Jesus who redeemed, but the Jesus who reigned. Not only Jesus who came the first time, but Jesus who is coming the second time to sit upon the throne of His father David, to rule over the house of Jacob forever and ever.

Imagine for a moment what your life would be like without the Resurrection, the Rapture, and the Second Coming of Jesus. The most glorious fact of the past is that Jesus came the first time. The most glorious fact of the future is that this Jesus is coming again. The one sure hope of this jittery old world is the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

As Pastor Greg Laurie sums up in his wonderful article “The Unpopular Truth”:

 One of the most often-asked questions regarding the Christian faith goes something like this: "What about the person who has never heard that Jesus is the only way to God? What about the person in the middle of the jungle who has never heard the gospel?" (They are always in a jungle for some unknown reason—or in the desert.)

The teaching that Jesus Christ is the only way to God has never been popular. But maybe it has never been more controversial than it is today. If you want to get someone's blood boiling, then say that Jesus is the only way to God. The "coexist" bumper sticker on their car will catch fire.
The idea that you would have the audacity to say that Jesus is the only way is, in effect, saying that other religions are not true. That is the way it works itself out, and people don't like it. It is acceptable if you say that Jesus is a way to God. But when you dare to say that He is the only way, then you can be certain that will have some pushback.

But here is what it comes down to. We have to say what the Bible says, whether it is popular or not. It is not for me to edit the message of the Bible; it is for me, as a Christian, to simply deliver it.

It would be like a doctor's discovering a very serious problem with a patient's health, but then being unwilling to say what that problem is, because it might make that patient uncomfortable.
We have to tell people the truth about their real condition, which happens to be sinful, and then seek to save them, which is to point them to Jesus Christ as the only solution.


Raj Kosaraju

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Always Do What is Right

 We learn some interesting things about this God who created the universe. He is:

• Supernatural in nature (as He exists outside of His creation)
• Incredibly powerful (to have created all that is known)
• Eternal (self-existent, as He exists outside of time and space)
• Omnipresent (He created space and is not limited by it)
• Timeless and changeless (He created time)
• Immaterial (because He transcends space)
• Personal (the impersonal can’t create personality)
• Necessary (as everything else depends on Him)
• Infinite and singular (as you cannot have two infinites)
• Diverse yet has unity (as all multiplicity implies a prior singularity)
• Intelligent (supremely, to create everything)
• Purposeful (as He deliberately created everything)
• Moral (no moral law can exist without a lawgiver)
• Caring (or no moral laws would have been given)

Most people agree that the world cannot last forever. Eventually the hydrogen in the sun will burn out, and the sun will grow cold, destroying the earth in the process. So how will the earth end? The Bible tells us that the day will come when the heavens and the earth will be destroyed by fire. It may not happen soon, but it will happen. Since all of us must face "the end" sometime, Peter writes that as we look forward to these things, we should accept salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ.

And today Jesus still forces a reaction in the hearts of men and women! That's why some people want to take Him out of the classroom, the courtroom and government. The forces of darkness are set on a course of trying to remove His name, His influence and His authority from all public life. Why? Because when you do away with God, there's no higher power than yourself, so you get to play God! Lenin, the father of Russian Communism, is reputedly said of Christ, 'His kingdom is invisible, His rule is in the hearts of men, so He can't be tolerated.' As a result, over 20 million people died during the Russian Revolution in an attempt to build an atheistic state.

So stand up for what's right and don't fear criticism. Darkness has never been a friend of light, or wrong a companion of right. Nevertheless, walk in the light and always do what's right.

In a recent Gallup Poll, 50% of those interviewed said they believe there are 'no absolutes' when it comes to good and evil. Look around you and you'll see the results of that kind of thinking! But God doesn't share their opinion. His Word says, 'Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil' (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 NKJV). God told Israel not to remove the ancient boundary markers. God establishes boundaries for our protection, blessing and guidance (Proverbs 22:28).

So stand up for what's right and don't fear criticism. Darkness has never been a friend of light, or wrong a companion of right. Nevertheless, walk in the light and always do what's right.
Jesus is the heart of Christmas. By human standards, Jesus could and should have been born in a palace, a mansion fit for the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Jesus was born in a manger. Shepherds announced His birth - the greatest of all miracles - in the midst of total simplicity.

Even today, this extraordinary Jesus comes to us in the midst of our ordinary lives for one simple reason. Love. God loved us so much that He had to do something about it. He sent His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, to earth – for you and for me.

You really can celebrate Jesus. Do not believe the lies of the enemy when he tells you that your God has forsaken you. God is with you – Emmanuel. God understands your fear and loneliness. He endured the cross because He loves you, and because no one can take your place in the Father’s heart. No matter where this Christmas finds you – you can celebrate Jesus. Know you are loved.


Raj Kosaraju

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Tanaji Malusre....A Legend

My Brother came to see one of his friends Adhir Patil who was a Maharashtrian and was due to be operated in Hyderabad for a bye pass surgery early next week. They are Microbiologists. At age 42 he is quite young. He has a wife and son who live in Pune and travel every fortnight to see him. My Brother returned from Boston last weekend and is planning to go to his European site at Amsterdam next week. He is an extremely busy person. I hardy ever see him. So we had a small conversation about Adhir. Among the many things that he spoke about his family he feels proud to be from a Maratha clan. He is the descendant of  one of the famous Maratha warriors. They stood for a do or die philosophy of life. They remember the stories of their forefathers and are extremely proud of their achievements.

An important thing I remembered is the value that you tend to give to such important occurrences. I grew up as a South Indian Hindu and we were proud to say that our Grandfather was a freedom fighter. He was in Jail. He was arrested several times and involved in Non Cooperation and Civil Disobedience movements. Moreover he had met Mahatma Gandhi who was instrumental in leading many people for the freedom struggle.

I was in Maharashtra and Goa in 1993.We were involved in a rural marketing campaign for Kinetic Engineering Limited. While traveling to many places we visited some historical places too. One such place is Umrath which is in Polladpur. We were helped by the local people in each village we visited.There is the larger statue of Tanaji Malusrey in Umrath.He hails from here.He was a legend. A great Maratha who won many a battle for Shivaji. He was one of the loyal friends of Shivaji.I got a wonderful chance to go and visit a family who are descendants of Tanaji Malusrey.They told us some interesting stories.They brought the spear that Tanaji used to fight with, which was found in the Jungles about 300 years ago. I could not just lift it with both my hands and all my strength.I felt about the great power and prowess that Tanaji used to combat with .I was just fascinated with the story that I heard.

Tanaji is famously known for the battle of Sinhagad in 1670. At Shivaji's request, he pledged to recapture the fortress of Kondana near Pune. According to many accounts, he received the summons at his son's wedding, and immediately left the festivities. Tanaji Malusare and his troops scaled the fort with the help of monitor lizards (ghorpad in Marathi). He and his men valiantly recaptured the fort from Udaybhan Rathod, fortkeeper of Jai Singh I. A fierce combat took place between Tanaji and Udaybhan. Udaybhan managed to rid Tanaji of his shield, still Tanaji fought Udaybhan by tying a cloth over one of his hands and using it to ward off Uday Bhan's sword attacks. Tanaji managed to fight Uday Bhan for some time before he died. [1]

The death of their leader unnerved the Marathas, but had kept the battle going just long enough so that the 700 troops who had been left at the bottom of the fort when the battle began had managed to breach the defence and force entry. They were led by Suryaji, Tanaji's brother. The timely arrival of Suryaji, Tanaji’s brother, who had entered the fort, and his exhortation to the Marathas to fight till the end saved the situation. In the fierce battle that continued, the Moghul commander was slain, and the entire garrison routed. Several hundred Moghuls in order to try and save themselves ventured over the rock and were slain in the attempt. 

It was a great victory for the Marathas, but there was no elation in their camp. The news of the victory was conveyed to Shivaji, who rushed to the fort eager to congratulate Tanaji, but to his dismay he saw the brave man’s slain body. The Ballad of Sinhagad describes the grief as such:

Twelve days the king wept over him for the great love that he bore him.

The sorrow of Jijabai ,Shivaji’s Mother was also described:

The scarf removed, she saw his face, No worthier chief of the race, was thus she wailed and drew a sword, before the armies of his Lord:“Shivaji son and king today, Thy best limb has been chopped away”

Nor less the monarch to his chief, The tribute paid of royal grief.

When Shivaji learned of his friend's death, he remarked "Gad ala pan Sinha gela", meaning "We have gained the fort, but lost a lion."

An amazing real life story. I am always eager to know about history.The stories of various battles and conquests, the victory cries, the great conquests were all part of the reminiscences we had. I remember all my school friends who were mostly Marathas, Brahmins and Saraswat Brahmins and a few Bengalis and Kashmiris. They were wonderful people. Hardworking, studious, enterprising and always helpful.I studied during my early college days in Western Maharashtra. I do admire them for being passionate. Everyone has a story to tell. Years ago the Reader’s Digest published an article which said that in order for a person to be happy and have fulfillment, three things were necessary: First, they needed something to believe. Second, they needed someone to love. Third, they needed something worthwhile to do.

That’s true, not because Reader’s Digest said it, but because God’s Word affirms it. There must be more to life than your next breath or your next step. And His name is Jesus Christ. He is indeed the fulfillment of all three of those needs.

Jesus is the One to believe in, He is the Someone to love, and His cause is the something worthwhile for you to do. Do you yearn for happiness? Every need can be met in your life through Jesus Christ.

Why does our religion matter? Well, it really doesn’t. It’s not about buildings, rules, traditions or ceremonies – it’s about a true relationship with the God of the universe through His Son, Jesus Christ. There’s really no “religion” to it… Just true faith from the heart in Jesus Christ and what He did for us on the cross.

Why should God let you into heaven?

Think about it. If you died today and stood before God in heaven and He asked you, “Why should I let you into Heaven?” what would you say to Him?

Prayerfully think about it and hold the answer in your mind. If your answer was anything like “Because I am a good person” or “I’ve done more things right than wrong” or anything that is based on what you do, then you  should recommit yourself to the liberating truth of the Gospel today!

The first answer that should have come to your mind was something like “I am saved by grace” or “Because Jesus is my Lord and Savior” or something that shows you have a clear understanding of the gospel. Remember, salvation is a gift from God to us. We can never make up for our sin by self-improvement or good works. Only by trusting in Jesus Christ as God's offer of forgiveness can we be saved. Eternal life begins the moment we truly receive Jesus Christ into our life by faith.

Check out these scriptures:

"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

"Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5)




Raj Kosaraju

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Have you Lost Jesus?

"The War on Christmas Wages" by Steve Strang has brought some important viewpoints and I completely agree to what he says: For instance, you can't say "Merry Christmas" at school or the office anymore, but only "Happy Holidays"; you can't go caroling in public; if you put up a tree for decoration, it must be called a "friendship tree," not a Christmas tree. He reported that Santa Claus was banned from one school in Kansas and that in Plano, Texas, some overzealous school board officials actually told parents they couldn't use red and green to decorate!

In contrast, non-Christian holidays such as Hanukkah, Ramadan and Kwanzaa don't face persecution. Can you imagine forcing Jewish people to call the Chanukiah (a menorah-looking 9-candle symbol of the miracle commemorated in Hanukkah) a "holiday candelabra" to avoid offending non-Jews?

Through the years, Christians themselves have often downplayed Christmas. Celebrating it is certainly not a scriptural tradition. And many believers have objected to the secularism, commercialism and materialism that generally accompany the holiday.

Now the question isn't whether Christmas has become too secular or commercial but whether it's OK to mention it. To the liberal secularists, even the commercial version is objectionable because it has Christian roots. In their view, that makes it religious, and all religion should be forbidden from the public square.

In light of the current cultural climate, are we willing to take a stand?

There are many ways to do this. If Christmas is under fire in your community, speak up. And if the officials won’t back down, work to defeat them at the next election. Replace them with officials who share your values—or run for office yourself.

And why can’t churches lead the way in celebrating Christmas? Who cares if the city government won’t put a cr├Ęche on the front lawn of city hall? With so many churches around, why shouldn’t each one have a nice display about the real meaning of Christmas? That way we won’t have to add a reindeer or some other nonreligious object to a nativity scene on city property simply to make it legal.

Why couldn’t Christian businesspeople get involved? We still have freedom of speech, so why don’t we put up signs saying “Jesus Is the Reason for the Season” or “Wise Men Still Seek Him”?

Each of us can erect displays on our lawns at home too. Instead of putting up only lights or snowmen in our yards to make them festive, let’s put up displays that are a witness to our faith in Christ.

One thing is certain: With so much darkness surrounding us, even one small light can make a huge difference.

The Bible tells us to be light in a dark world (Matt. 5:16; Phil. 2:15). Ultimately, that is why Christ came to earth—and He is looking for us to follow suit.

If you were asked, "Why do you celebrate Christmas?" how would you respond? Many would say Christmas honors the birthday of Jesus. Others feel that Christmas is a good Christian family get-together. Many do it simply because they've always done it.

Christmas can appear tantalizing to the eye and ear. People appear happy, generous, full of good cheer. Twinkling lights decorate many houses. Santa Claus and his reindeer are pictured as poised to lift off from snow-covered front yards or rooftops, although in the southern hemisphere and tropics there is no December snow. The colorful, peaceful-appearing Christmas scene can be intoxicating, addicting.

Shoppers pack stores, browsing for gifts they hope to buy at bargain-basement prices. Soaring strains of "White Christmas," "Silent Night" or "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" resonate everywhere.

The December weather of the northern hemisphere might be frightful outside, but the feeling and warmth inside is delightful. Christmas trees with twinkling lights and bright, sparkling ornaments create a mystical and glowing environment. Entire families want to experience the special mystery that only comes with the Christmas season. There is no religious holiday quite like it for the millions everywhere who observe it.

That brings us to the most important topic...

Have You Lost Jesus?      

                        Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.
—James 4:8

Apparently it has become a national trend to steal baby Jesus figures from outdoor Nativity scenes. The problem has become so pervasive that churches are now placing GPS tracking devices inside their baby Jesus figures. The approach seems to be working. One church in Old Bridge, New Jersey, reported, "There's been no attempt of theft since we announced that we're tracking our Jesus."

The good news is that the real Jesus cannot be stolen. However, this is a time of year when we can lose Jesus. How ironic that it happens at the very time when we should be celebrating His birth.

We rush around like crazy people, especially during this season. You could inscribe these words on the tombstones of many Americans: hurried, worried, buried. We are the only nation on earth that actually has a national monument called Mount Rushmore. And we can be so busy that we don't have time for God. I would like go to church, but I am so busy this time of the year. . . . I would like to pray, but there's so much going on—so many responsibilities. . . . I would like to invest in the kingdom of God, but I have other financial commitments. People are so preoccupied with their lives and what they are doing that they don't have any time for God.

I think it is because people don't have time for Jesus that so many are depressed during the Christmas season. People have a romanticized idea of what Christmas ought to be, and when they look at their lives, they are not anywhere close to their ideal. They are expecting Christmas to do what only Christ can do. But if we will make time for Him, then He certainly will have time for us. (1)

(1)  Greg Laurie "Have You Lost Jesus?" -- Harvest Daily Devotion


Raj Kosaraju

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Living in an Unsettled World

Life is often very trying whether you are a Christian or not. Difficult circumstances fall on the righteous and unrighteous alike. However, the Christian life often adds to our difficulties. We may be discriminated against because of our faith, or our beliefs may eliminate the "easy" ways out of a problem. But Christ does not ask us to suffer anything for Him that He was not willing to suffer for us. Someday we will be rewarded for our diligence and faith.

Who is He to you

May I ask you a personal question? Do you believe that Jesus Christ is Lord? You do? Then may I ask you another question? Is He your Lord?

Let’s be more specific.

•    Is He Lord of your tongue?
•    Is He Lord of your time?
•    Is He Lord of your treasure?
•    Is He Lord of your talents?
•    Is He Lord of your testimony?
•    Is He Lord in deed as well as word?

Is He truly Lord? Now, don’t answer too quickly.

"LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill?" (Ps 15:1).

In February 2001 Sales and Marketing magazine did a survey and found that among those surveyed:

58% cheat on expense reports
50% work a second job on company time
36% rush closed deals through accounting before they were really closed
22% list a "strip bar" as a restaurant on an expense report
19% give a kickback to a customer*

If Psalm 15 were the core value of every business plan and purpose statement and reviewed with every employee before hiring, the workplace would be a very different place. What type of person can live in the presence of God? The psalmist tells us:

"He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman, who despises a vile man but honors those who fear the LORD, who keeps his oath even when it hurts, who lends his money without usury and does not accept a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things will never be shaken" (Ps 15:2-5).

As Christians, sometimes we are called to surrender the things we love most in order to preserve what Christ has done. It may be our hard-won careers, our deepest dreams, perhaps even the desire for a family of our own. It is a cold and bitter truth, but like many others, Christ does not leave us alone and without hope.

Have you ever thought that one way we lose Jesus is when nonessentials displace essentials. When we are busy, often our spiritual lives are the first things to go. We don't have time to read God's Word. We don't have time to pray, even for a moment. We can't afford to give anything to God because we have so many things to buy. We allow nonessentials to take the place of essentials.

Are you blameless in your approach to your work life? Are you truthful in all your dealings? Do you treat customers, vendors and fellow employees as your neighbor? Do you say what you do truthfully and do what you say? Do you follow through even if the outcome may not be positive? Will you lend money without usury to a friend and refuse a bribe? If you can say yes to these questions then you are a Psalm 15 man or woman and you can dwell on God's Holy hill.

Someone has said, “Christianity is Christ.” How true. We who believe are now in a new position; we are “in Christ.” He is to be the center of our lives. He is to be the focus of the life of the church. We must not let anything else distract us. What about you? What place does Jesus Christ have in your life?


*-- Sales & Marketing Magazine, Feb. 2001


Raj Kosaraju

Monday, December 9, 2013

He always looks upon us

"Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; His understanding is infinite" - Psalm 147:5

Some years ago a friend of mine was standing on top of a mountain in North Carolina.  The roads in those days were filled with curves, and it was difficult to see very far ahead.  This man saw two cars heading toward each other.  He realized they couldn't see each other.  A third car pulled up and began to pass one of the cars, although there wasn't enough space to see the other car approaching around the bend.  My friend shouted a warning, but the drivers couldn't hear, and there was a fatal crash.

This is how God looks upon us in His omniscience.  He sees what has happened, what is happening, and what will happen.  He also sees us when we foolishly think we can get by with breaking His moral laws, or we act out of sinful pride or lust or anger.  Like the  man on that mountain, He shouts His warnings at us---but we are too busy or too stubborn to listen.

God sees the whole picture.  He knows what is best for us, and He knows what will destroy us.  Don't think your way is better than His, but listen to His Word---and obey. - Billy Graham

God does acknowledge our humanness, and He loves us just the same. God has yet to see the perfect human being, apart from Jesus Christ, but that doesn't change His feeling for us. When we see others through the eyes of God's love, then we find that we can accept their failings and love them as they are.

A pilgrim is a wanderer. A sojourner is one who lives somewhere temporarily. Peter calls us pilgrims and sojourners in this world. We are no longer at home here; we are no longer a part of this world. Whatever we do should be evaluated in light of our true citizenship in heaven. As such, we live by the rules and values of heaven, not earth. Peter writes: "Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul"(1 Peter 2:11). When we violate the principles of heaven, it is not only God and His honor that suffer - we suffer.

We live in a world where God has been marginalized, and human wisdom has been elevated. Truth has ceased to be an absolute because every opinion is equally right. Outward appearance is more important than inward commitment. Emotions have overruled logic and intellect. Authority has lost its power. This post-modern thinking has permeated our literature, education system, courts, businesses, and even our churches.

We cannot combat the constant bombardment of this misguided philosophy without spending time in the Word of God. We cannot effectively witness to this world when we are trapped by its ways of thinking. We cannot offer the world Truth when we ourselves are inclined to see truth as a gray area. Only by immersing ourselves in the Bible can we begin to see clearly.

The Bible stands against the mentality of this world, and often that is difficult for people to accept. The Bible tells us that sin is lawlessness and an affront to a Holy, righteous God. The world says that "sins" are simply failing to live up to one's potential. The Bible tells us that immorality is a rebellion against God. The world says that individual choices are right for the individual. The Bible says that God's Word is the final authority, while people would prefer to believe they are the final arbiters.

Yet people's opinions do not change the mind or essence of God. The Bible warns against the world's distorted thinking in the book of Proverbs: "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death" (Proverbs 14:12). Human thinking leads to suffering, but God's Word points the way to everlasting life.

As Christians we must be on guard against worldly thinking. "Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever" (1 John 2:15-17).

The Word of God will strengthen us against the current culture. Only through constant prayer and Bible study can we recognize the will and mind of God: "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will" (Romans 12:2).


Raj Kosaraju

Saturday, December 7, 2013

God's Creation

The overriding theme of Genesis is God’s eternal existence and His creation of the world. There is no effort on the part of the author to defend the existence of God; he simply states that God is, always was, and always will be, almighty over all. In the same way, we have confidence in the truths of Genesis, despite the claims of those who would deny them. All people, regardless of culture, nationality or language, are accountable to the Creator. But because of sin, introduced into the world at the Fall, we are separated from Him. But through one small nation, Israel, God’s redemptive plan for mankind was revealed and made available to all. We rejoice in that plan.

God created the universe, the earth, and every living being. We can trust Him to handle the concerns in our lives. God can take a hopeless situation, e.g. Abraham and Sarah being childless, and do amazing things if we will simply trust and obey. Terrible and unjust things may happen in our lives, as with Joseph, but God will always bring about a greater good if we have faith in Him and His sovereign plan. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose”

Further, we learn some interesting things about this God who created the universe. He is:

• Supernatural in nature (as He exists outside of His creation)
• Incredibly powerful (to have created all that is known)
• Eternal (self-existent, as He exists outside of time and space)
• Omnipresent (He created space and is not limited by it)
• Timeless and changeless (He created time)
• Immaterial (because He transcends space)
• Personal (the impersonal can’t create personality)
• Necessary (as everything else depends on Him)
• Infinite and singular (as you cannot have two infinites)
• Diverse yet has unity (as all multiplicity implies a prior singularity)
• Intelligent (supremely, to create everything)
• Purposeful (as He deliberately created everything)
• Moral (no moral law can exist without a lawgiver)
• Caring (or no moral laws would have been given)

God is revealed in His creation everyday

"For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse" (Rom 1:19-20).

Have you ever had someone say, "I don't see any evidence of God. How can a person believe in someone you can't see or see any evidence even exists?"

The Bible tells us that God is revealed in His creation everyday. Look at the human body and consider the likelihood of how thousands of body parts that must work together. Someone created it to work this well. If it were a manufactured product, it would be in the repair shop all the time because of all the moving parts required to make it work.

Consider the wonderful order and balance of nature and how the seas know their boundaries, the beauty of the mountains, and the balance of rain and oxygen needed to balance the ecosystems. Consider God's signature, the rainbow.

The 12th century Scottish Christian mystic, Richard of St. Victor said, "The whole of this sensible world is like a book written by the finger of God." Look at nature and wonder at the creative design of the hundreds of thousands of species of animals like the tiger, the elephant, the great whales, and the thousands of species of birds, just to name a few.

Consider the planet we live on. "The Earth is a rough sphere about eight thousand miles in diameter, which means that it's about four thousand miles straight down to the center. We're accustomed to thinking of it as a ball of rock, but that's not so: the great majority of the Earth is liquid - molten rock called magma swirling, incredible slowly, beneath our feet. The solid part of the earth that we live on, and in whose hollows the sea sits, is called the crust, and on average it's only a few miles thick - maybe ten miles. That's like a layer a third of a millimeter thick coating a football. We live on that incredibly fragile, thin layer of plates floating on the subterranean sea of magma."*

Yes, God has revealed Himself in His creation.




Raj Kosaraju