Friday, June 28, 2013

Being a Christian


“Your real, new self (which is Christ's and also yours, and yours just because it is His) will not come as long as you are looking for it. It will come when you are looking for Him. Does that sound strange? The same principle holds, you know, for more everyday matters. Even in social life, you will never make a good impression on other people until you stop thinking about what sort of impression you are making. Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it. The principle runs through all life from top to bottom, Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favourite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end submit with every fibre of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.” ― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

The whole system of Christianity rests upon the fact that “Christ is risen from the dead;” for, “If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain: ye are yet in your sins.” The divinity of Christ finds its surest proof in his resurrection, since he was “Declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.” It would not be unreasonable to doubt his Deity if he had not risen. Moreover, Christ's sovereignty depends upon his resurrection, “For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.”

Some people have strange ideas about what it means to live as a Christian. Some think it means you have to always be well presented, go to church twice every Sunday, not stay out past midnight, and never, never have fun.

Others think it means giving up all trace of individuality, giving all your money to the church, and living in some sort of commune.

Still others think it’s about withdrawing from the world, losing touch with reality, and only ever mixing with other Christians.

Unfortunately, some Christians also believe these myths, and give the rest of us a bad reputation.

Happily, we can tell you that none of the above is what real Christian living is about
.
Christianity is all about having a relationship with the God who created us.

So to live as a Christian, you actually have to be one. That may sound obvious, but many people try to ‘live a Christian life’ without having any understanding of what Christianity is all about.

Pastor Greg Laurie brings about a wonderful article about being a Christian. As Greg have often said, the best defense is a good offense. And instead of trying to just hold our ground as Christians, we should gain ground. We should move forward. We should tell others about Christ.

When you identify yourself as a Christian, that is a good way to make yourself accountable, even to nonbelievers. By saying in your workplace (without being obnoxious), "I am a Christian," by saying to members of your family or in your neighborhood or among your friends, "I am a follower of Jesus," you are putting that stake in the ground, and they will be watching you and evaluating you.

And frankly, they will be evaluating God, too. They are will be thinking, So that is how a Christian acts. That is how a Christian treats his wife. That is how a Christian treats her husband. I get it. That is how a Christian raises their child. That is how a Christian does thus and so. . . . They will be watching you. And nothing is worse than getting your behavior corrected by a nonbeliever, especially when they are right.

Has that ever happened to you? You did something inconsistent, and your non-Christian friend said, "I thought you were a Christian."

"Well, I am, praise God!"

"Then why did you just do that?"

Maybe you should just say it was because you sinned and then thank them for calling you on it.

When a believer is walking in fellowship with God, he or she will want to tell others about Christ.

Everyone has a testimony, which simply is their story. You don't have to go through adversity to have a testimony. What would people say about you? You have a testimony. The question is whether it is a good one or a poor one.

The gospel is that Jesus died for sinners on the cross, was buried, and rose from the dead (1 Cor. 15:1-4).  His death was a sacrifice that turns away the wrath of God (1 John 2:2).  This is the only way to be saved.

Jesus is the one who died for the sins of the world (1 John 2:2).  He is the only way to the God the Father (John 14:6).  He alone reveals God (Matt. 11:27).  He has all authority in heaven and earth (Matt. 28:18).  It is only through Him that you can be saved from God's wrath (Eph. 2:3).  He can forgive you of your sin (Luke 5:20; Matt. 9:2).  He can remove the guilt that is upon your soul.  Jesus can set you free from the bondage of sin that blinds your eyes, weakens your soul, and brings you to despair.  He can do this because He bore sin in His body on the cross (1 Peter. 2:24) that those who trust in Him would be saved.

If you are not a Christian, and want to be delivered from the righteous judgment of God upon you due to your sin against Him, then come to the One who died for the sins of the world.  Come to the One who died for sinners (Matt. 11:28).  Turn from your sins.  Believe and trust in Jesus.  Receive Jesus, who is God in flesh, who died and rose from the dead (1 Cor. 15:1-4) as your Lord and Savior.  Ask Jesus to forgive you of your sins.  Receive him (John 1:12).  Only He can wash you clean from your sins and only Jesus can deliver you from the righteous judgment of a holy and infinite God.  Pray to Jesus.  Seek Him.  Ask Him to save you.


Blessings,

Raj Kosaraju




Thursday, June 27, 2013

The World Is Not Our Home






But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God's instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.

Friends, this world is not your home, so don't make yourselves cozy in it. Don't indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they'll be won over to God's side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives. (1 Peter 2:9-12 The Message)

God has a purpose and plan for each of our lives. The greatest thing we can do is to find that purpose and live it out. We can trust his purpose in us because it is based on his wisdom and love. As long as we seek his will, we're not going to do anything that can ultimately spoil his purpose in us. Yes, we may at times stray from the perfect channel he wants us to travel, but we never get totally out of the main channel. As long he does not abandon us, (and he promised he never would forsake us he will use us) for his purposes.

When we are successful, we must acknowledge that it is only because of God’s help. We must remember to thank God and enjoy our successes humbly. On the other hand, when we fail, that is also the hand of God. We must accept our disappointments like David did – with humility, acceptance, and grace, knowing that God’s will reigns supreme and everything He does is for the very best.

Sometimes, you want two things that cannot be had simultaneously. Neither is bad, but you must choose. "I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better." Heaven holds the ultimate allure, but we want to save our loved ones. Heaven can wait. "Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you." Pray for longevity. Expect it. God will call you when He is ready. According to Jesus, the chief end of your life is to love God with all that is in you!

You may have memorised at some point that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. And this is not in conflict with Jesus’ words. But one is the result and the other is the cause. One is the root and the other is the fruit.

The root, from which all other right things in the Christian life flow, is your all-consuming love for Jesus Christ. If you get loving God right, all the other aspects of your life will become right too. If you love God you’ll obey Him and honour Him and live to please Him. If you love God you’ll love His will for you. If you love God you’ll keep trusting Him in the hard times. If you love God, He’ll fill your mind and your speech.

Though none of us is ever sure of what we will have to experience to be prepared for what God has in store for us in His Kingdom, we are sure God will be there for us in our times of trial. He will indeed, but will we be ready to face our discouragement over what we come to see in ourselves?

As we become educated in God's way, as we grow and become more discerning, sin becomes more apparent everywhere we look. The discouraging aspect is that the sin is not necessarily in others but that we see it in ourselves. We may even reach a level of outright despair because, everywhere we turn, every angle we view ourselves from, we see "little" deceits. We become aware of envy rising, jealousy, anger, and sometimes even rage and hatred. We attempt to bottle them up to keep them from breaking out.

Yet, they always seem to be just below the surface, ready to leap out in a foolish act. Sin is like a cancer, most of the time invisible but silently working to destroy us. Sin desires to return us to our former state. We may have even imagined that, when we began to grow in the grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ, life would become continually easier - we would grow in holiness, and life would become an unending pleasure. Too frequently, it seems to work in the opposite direction.

David is described as a man after God's own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). It is difficult for us to accept that statement when David is guilty of lying, adultery, murder, and other indiscretions. However, to be a man after God's own heart means that David wants the same things God wants. His noble desires and intentions are overruled several times by his passions; but when David's senses are restored and he repents of his sin, again his heart beats after God's desires. We may not be as bad as David in his bad moments, but are we as good as David in his good moments? Do our hearts beat after God?

It is difficult to remember that God's justice plays itself out in eternity, not just in our lifetime. In the end of times, righteous people will prevail, while the evildoers are left out in the cold. The Lord has little desire to reward only good people and punish those who are bad. If He did that, people would follow Him for the wrong reason. God wants His children to come to Him because they love Him, not because they think it will bring them good things.

If we would follow the Lord wholly, we must go right away into the wilderness of separation, and leave the Egypt of the carnal world behind us. We must leave its maxims, its pleasures, and its religion too, and go far away to the place where the Lord calls his sanctified ones. When the town is on fire, our house cannot be too far from the flames. When the plague is abroad, a man cannot be too far from its haunts. The further from a viper the better, and the further from worldly conformity the better. To all true believers let the trumpet-call be sounded, “Come ye out from among them, be ye separate.”


Blessings,

Raj Kosaraju



Saturday, June 22, 2013

They believe the lie



Don’t become discouraged. Despondency says things are hopeless, and life is aimless. Jesus says there is hope beyond suffering and the grave. There is a way out of all difficulties. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). He will never let you down. He will not forsake you.

No matter how many times you see the hand of God working in your life or experience His provision, it is easy to lose sight of God’s love and faithfulness. If you only focus on your current difficulty or discouragement, you may lose sight of His blessings and promises.

Many times I have found that many people will reject Christ without even knowing what He says. They will reject the Bible without reading it, even saying the Bible is full of contradictions. But when asked what so-called contradictions in the Bible they have a problem with, they can never identify them. That is because they haven't read the Bible. They refuse to believe the truth, and instead they believe the lie.

What is the lie? When it is fully realized in the Tribulation period, the lie is that the Antichrist is God, and people will buy into this. Then God will confirm their choice and "send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness" (2 Thessalonians 2:11). Those who turn from the truth of God to the Antichrist and refuse God's answer of salvation will be turned over to their own self-willed choice.

C.H. Spurgeon wrote, "If all else forsook him, Jesus was company enough. If all others despised him, the smile of Jesus was approval enough. If the good cause seemed to be in danger, in the presence of his Master, victory was sure. The Lord who had stood for him at the cross now stood for him in the prison. It was a dungeon, but the Lord was there; It was dark, but the glory of the Lord lit it up with Heaven's own splendor."

God has given us a free will. He will not force us to believe something we don't want to believe. He will come to us and seek to convince us of the truth of the Scripture. The Holy Spirit will work on our hearts. But we have the ability to resist Him.

Understand God's will:

Often times in our lives, when we can’t do what we want or get what we want, we blame our material situation. We get angry that we don’t have enough money, or frustrated that our car broke down. We blame the weather, our appearance, our house, you name it! But it’s never really the material objects that are in our way. There is something that we can’t see – an angel of some sort – blocking our way, for reasons known only to God.

The material part of our life has served us well, and we need to be extremely grateful for it all. If something is blocking us, it’s because God has decided that we shouldn’t go somewhere or do something – and it’s always for our very best. In Hebrew, the word for “angel” also means “messenger.” When the material things in our lives don’t work as we would wish, it’s because they are being blocked by an angel, a messenger from God.

For example, Pharaoh hardened his heart, even when miracle after miracle was performed by the hand of God through Moses and Aaron. But then we read, "The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh . . . " (Exodus 9:12). Isn't that a contradiction? No, it is a progression. Initially Pharaoh did harden his heart. He hardened it again and again. And then God hardened, or strengthened, it.

If you feel that the frenzy of the world is consuming you, remember that you have a Savior who loves you and who will fight for you. Don’t become worried and anxious. Jesus is near to you. He has promised never to leave you, no matter how dark life seems to be. Don’t let sorrows and suffering take joy from you. Jesus has a place for you with your name written over it. “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2).

God brings us through the wastelands of our live sin the same way. He will not allow us to be tested beyond our strength and endurance. Trust in God's mercy and love, and He will bring you through any situation.


Blessings,

Raj Kosaraju


Friday, June 21, 2013

Exposing false teachers




No one enriches hell more than false teachers. No one finds greater joy in drawing people away from truth and leading them into error. False teachers have been present in every era of human history, they have always been a plague and have always been in the business of providing counterfeit truth. While their circumstances may change, their methods remain consistent.

God has given us a free will. He will not force us to believe something we don't want to believe. He will come to us and seek to convince us of the truth of the Scripture. The Holy Spirit will work on our hearts. But we have the ability to resist Him.

If you harden your heart again and again, there will come a day when God will strengthen you in your own resolve.

Here is what the Bible says:

Exposing the False Teachers-

In his exposure of these false teachers, Paul gives us six identifying marks that can guide us to discern the presence of "wolves in sheep's clothing" in our midst today.

First, false teachers distract Christians from obeying the truth of the gospel (v. 7). Paul compliments the Galatian believers for running a good race. Running a race was one of Paul's favorite images for living the Christian life. Here this image portrays how well they were obeying the truth. The gospel set the course for their life, and they were running well in that course. The reality of their belief in the truth about Christ was demonstrated by their obedience to Christ. But then they were distracted, tripped and so hindered from running this race. Paul asks them, Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? The question is rhetorical. Paul knows the answer. But by asking the question this way he exposes the false teachers' negative effect on the life of the believers. The picture is of a runner who distracts another runner, blocks his way, cuts in on him and trips him. Everyone would have been very angry with a runner who did such a thing. He would have broken the clear rules against cutting in or tripping in the foot races of the Greek festivals. He would be immediately disqualified and excluded from the festival.

The false teachers are hindering the Christians from obeying the truth of the gospel with all their talk about joining the Jewish people and keeping the law. All those who get the church off on a tangent, away from the clear direction given by the central truth of the gospel, are like these false teachers. They should be disqualified and excluded from the churches.

Second, false teachers replace the call of God with their own deceptive persuasiveness (v. 8). That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you, Paul informs his readers. When Paul had preached the gospel, the Galatians heard the voice of God calling them through Paul (1:6). But when the false teachers teach, all that can be heard is flattery, boastfulness and empty rhetoric. They are skillful orators. No doubt they claim to be giving God's message backed by Scripture. But all one can hear through their strident voices is a harsh repetition of the demands of the law. What a contrast to "the one who called you by the grace of Christ" (1:6) and the God who "called me by his grace" (1:15). Their message is all about the works of the law, not about God's work of grace in Christ. So obviously their persuasion does not come from God, who always calls by his grace.

Third, false teachers gain control over the whole church (v. 9). Just as a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough, so the negative influence of a few false teachers has penetrated the whole church and is quickly coming to control the direction of the church. False teachers are like that; they seek to dominate every situation in the life of the church.

Fourth, false teachers cause confusion and discouragement (v. 10). When the Galatians were converted, they related to God with the joyful confidence of children, calling him "Abba, Father" through the Spirit. But their confidence in God's grace has been badly shaken by the false teachers, who threaten them with the judgment of God if they do not keep the law of God. They are confused and discouraged. So Paul reassures the Galatians of his confidence in the Lord regarding them: I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. And then he turns the tables on the false teachers by putting them under the judgment of God: The one who is throwing you into confusion will pay the penalty, whoever he may be.

Fifth, false teachers spread false reports about spiritual leaders. We may infer that verse 11 is Paul's response to a false report that had been given about him. Since the immediate context focuses on the corrupting influence of the false teachers, it seems reasonable to suppose that they claimed Paul's support for their campaign to circumcise the Gentile believers. We don't know on what basis they would have done this. Perhaps if this letter was written after Paul circumcised Timothy, as recorded in Acts 16:3, they may have appealed to that incident. Or maybe they pointed to Paul's own willingness to continue his Jewish way of life even after his conversion (see 1 Cor 9:20). Whatever their basis may have been, they gave a false report about Paul to strengthen their own position.

Paul had, of course, preached circumcision before his conversion. He had been "extremely zealous for the traditions" of Judaism (1:14). But after his conversion he preached the cross of Christ as the only way of salvation. True, he continued to support Jewish Christian adherence to the traditional Jewish way of life. But he consistently resisted anyone who tried to "force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs" (2:14). That was a key point of his autobiography (1:13--2:21). Paul proves that the report that he is still preaching circumcision is false by pointing to the fact that he is being persecuted (5:11). Both non-Christian Jews and many Christian Jews fiercely opposed him precisely because he did not require circumcision. His refusal to require circumcision clearly implied that it was not necessary to belong to the Jewish nation to belong to the covenant people of God. By denying the exclusive claim of the Jewish people to be the only true people of God, Paul seemed to deny the reason for the Jewish people's very existence. No wonder, then, that they persecuted him from one country to another. If Paul had preached circumcision, then he would not have been persecuted by the Jews. By preaching circumcision, he would have been communicating that it was necessary to belong to the Jewish nation because the salvation of God was available only to those within this nation.

Paul says in verse 11 that if he has communicated that salvation is only in the Jewish nation by preaching circumcision, the offense of the cross has been abolished. For then the message that salvation is only through the cross of Christ would have been denied. The offense of the cross is that it denies a "most favored nation" status, a "superior race" category, as the reason for God's blessing. For the blessing of God comes only through the cross, where the judgment of God upon all was removed by Christ's death (see 3:13-14). The message of Christ crucified is offensive not only to Jews but also to the pride of all who want to claim some personal merit as the basis of God's approval.

Sixth, false teachers emphasize sensational rituals. Verse 12 sounds terribly harsh and crude, but we must interpret it in its historical and cultural context. It would indeed have been a sensational ceremony if all the male members of the Galatian churches had been circumcised by the false teachers. But then, Paul says, somewhat sarcastically, if they really want to put on a sensational show, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves! He is probably referring here to a barbaric ritual that actually took place in his day in Galatian pagan temples. The priests of Cybele, the mother goddess of the earth, castrated themselves with ritual pincers and placed their testicles in a box. (Such a box is now on display in the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, England.) The false teachers were leading the Galatian Christians to think that the ritual of circumcision was a sacred act that would bring them into fellowship with God. But Paul has already said that "in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value" (v. 6). Now he puts the ritual of circumcision in the same category as the ritual castration of the Galli, the priests of the mother-goddess of the earth, Cybele; it had no more significance to the Gentile Christians than any of the other barbaric, bloody rituals practiced in the ancient world.

So Paul has totally discredited the value of circumcision and the motives of the false teachers who want to impose it upon the churches in Galatia. They only "want to make a good impression outwardly" (6:12); they want to boast in their sensational ceremony (see 6:13). Since their motive is to put on an impressive ritual show, they might as well learn a few lessons from the pagan priests, who really know how to put on a good show when it comes to using a knife on the human body!

It is never pleasant to expose the deceptive, destructive tactics of the "false brothers." But it is necessary to do so in order to protect the freedom of fellow Christians. Of course circumcision is not an issue today. But we are constantly faced with a choice between different religious options. They are not all the same; they are not all spokes on a wheel leading to the same hub. Some religious options lead to slavery and imprisonment. Only by obedience to the truth of the gospel of Christ can we protect the freedom that is ours in Christ.

False teachers make merchandise of their followers. "But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not" (2 Peter 2:1-3). They eye your goods more than your good; and mind more the serving of themselves, than the saving of your souls. So they may have your substance, they care not though Satan has your souls (Rev. 18:11-13). That they may the better pick your purse, they will hold forth such principles as are very indulgent to the flesh. False teachers are the great worshippers of the golden calf (Jer. 6:13).

Tim Challies brings interesting viewpoints about false teachers. I liked it. He identfies Satan as the one who tries to pollute your heart with gross errors that will lead you to sin or to doubt the character of God. He wants you to believe that the Bible is full of error and therefore unreliable; he wants you to believe that you do not need to avail yourself of the ordinances of the church or of the day-by-day graces of Scripture reading and prayer. He may go so far as to try to get you to deny that Jesus Christ was a real man or to believe that Christians are now entirely free from indwelling sin. He may even want to convince you that he himself does not exist.

Here are seven marks of false teachers.

False teachers are man pleasers. What they teach is meant to please the ear more than profit the heart. They tickle the ears of their followers with flattery and all the while they treat holy things with wit and carelessness rather than reverence and awe. This contrasts sharply with a true teacher of the Word who knows that he is answerable to God and who is therefore far more eager to please God than men. As Paul would say, “But just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts” (1 Thes. 2:4).

False teachers save their harshest criticism for God’s most faithful servants. False teachers criticize those who teach the truth, and save their sharpest criticism for those who hold most steadfastly to what is true. We see this in many places in the Bible, such as when Korah and his friends rose up against Moses and Aaron (Num. 16:3) and when Paul’s ministry was threatened and undermined by those critics who said that while his words were strong, he himself was weak and unimportant (2 Cor. 10:10). We see it most notably in the vicious attacks of the religious authorities against Jesus. False teachers continue to rebuke and belittle God’s faithful servants today. Yet, as Augustine declared, “He that willingly takes from my good name, unwillingly adds to my reward.”

False teachers teach their own wisdom and vision. This was certainly true in the days of Jeremiah when God would say, “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I did not send them, nor did I command them or speak to them. They are prophesying to you a lying vision, worthless divination, and the deceit of their own minds” (Jer. 14:14). And today, too, false teachers teach the foolishness of mere men instead of teaching the deeper, richer wisdom of God. Paul knew, "the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Tim. 4:3).

False teachers miss what is of central importance and focus instead on the small details. Jesus diagnosed this very tendency in the false teachers of his day, warning them, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others” (Matt. 23:23). False teachers place great emphasis on their adherence to the smaller commands even as they ignore the greater ones. Paul warned Timothy of the one who “is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain” (1 Tim. 6:4-5).

False teachers obscure their false doctrine behind eloquent speech and what appears to be impressive logic. Just as a prostitute paints and perfumes herself to appear more attractive and more alluring, the false teacher hides his blasphemies and dangerous doctrine behind powerful arguments and eloquent use of language. He offers to his listeners the spiritual equivalent of a poisonous pill coated in gold; though it may appear beautiful and valuable, it is still deadly.

False teachers are more concerned with winning others to their opinions than in helping and bettering them. This was another of Jesus’ diagnoses as he considered the religious rulers of his day. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves” (Matt 23:15). False teachers are ultimately not in the business of bettering lives and saving souls, but of convincing minds and winning followers.

~IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.

Blessings,

Raj Kosaraju



Thursday, June 20, 2013

'These were all commended for their faith




To be vulnerable enough to put your life in someone else's hands. I will not lie to you... 
sometimes it is terrifying! What if I put my entire future and the future of my family in God's hands alone and nothing happens? Well now, that is what real trust is about, isn't it? The Lord has always been there to see our struggles and to reach out with an answer. I know that if you can just throw yourself onto the rock that He will surely catch you.

There is a reason why we are called as believers to live by faith! It is truly the secret to walking in every blessing of God. Walk in faith. Allow yourself to be vulnerable enough to trust someone else more than you trust your own great abilities.

My friend Brian shared a real life story. Recently, his friend's family of six made a 1,200-mile trek to Texas and back to visit relatives there. They live in Indiana and have four children, so these trips are both exhausting and fun. But there’s also sadness in these trips, because it is the only time we get to see my mom, who at just 63 years old has advancing Alzheimer’s disease and is slowly fading away from us.

We have, of course, prayed for her healing and believe God has the power to heal if he so chooses. But God hasn’t healed her. I don’t believe that’s because of any lack of faith or prayer in those of us who love her. Nor is it because of any lack of power or goodness in God. I believe that God both loves her (and us) and has the power to heal her.

Yet, in his inscrutable wisdom, God has not healed. And this terrible disease continues to take its course with mom’s mind and body, reminding us that we live, as do all human beings, in a world still waiting for redemption.

Every person reading this has probably faced (or will face) a similar situation. Sometimes, God mercifully answers our prayers. We wait, and it’s hard. But it’s only for a season, and then the burden lifts—the answer comes, or we get the guidance we’ve asked for, or he supplies the provision we need—and we feel assured in a fresh way that God is there and that he hears and cares.

But much of our waiting is life-long. We sometimes struggle with unanswered prayers not just for months, but years. We carry burdens over decades. We endure what appears to be the unchecked and unhindered advances of sorrow, sin, and suffering in our lives, in our world.
Though we pray, the answer doesn’t come. The burden doesn’t lift. The cancer, or Alzheimer’s doesn’t go away. Sometimes we just keep on waiting, and waiting, and waiting. What then? What do we say of this?

Sometimes God keeps us from danger or difficulty, but very often His power carries us through times of difficulty. Going through the difficulty draws us closer to Him if we maintain our faith.

If you get the idea that faith in God means that He will keep you from the struggles of life, and then God allows you to go through a painful experience, you will either live in denial or your faith will crumble. But when you learn that God will allow you to experience this fallen world, but that He will walk with you and enable you to face those trials with His power, then you will be able to respond with faith in any situation. Like Peter, you’ll come through rock-solid, ready to strengthen others.

I just remembered about having read a small write up by Bob & Debby Gass:

"These were all commended for their faith...'' Hebrews 11:39 NIV

Debbie, a radiant 37-year-old who worked at The Word For You Today in Atlanta, died after battling cancer. People everywhere prayed for her healing, including the elders at Northpoint Church. Some of those who attended her funeral wondered, 'Why?' The truth is, sometimes God heals us in response to the prayer of faith (James 5:14), other times He takes us to Heaven, which Paul describes as 'far better' (Philippians 1:23).

This raises the question: 'Why are some people healed in response to prayer and others not?' The answer is: 'We don't know, and God doesn't tell us!' Paul, who wrote half the New Testament, had a ministry so miraculous that the dead were raised, yet he confessed, 'We know in part' (1 Corinthians 13:9).

Pastor James Bradley sheds light on this difficult subject. He points out that in Hebrews chapter 11, some 'escaped the edge of the sword' (Hebrews 11:34 NIV), while others 'were put to death by the sword' (Hebrews 11:37 NIV). But notice in verse 39, 'These were all commended for their faith.' Bradley writes: 'It seems clear that we can't always measure faith by results. Faith is a virtue and value on its own merit. Our faith is not based on what we get, it's based on who we trust.' Speaking of Debbie's death, he wrote: 'She did not fail her faith and her faith did not fail her. She was, and is, a wonderful example of trusting God in the most difficult of life's challenges. She's a champion of faith, and I was inspired by her unshakeable trust and love for the Lord.'

Blessings,

Raj Kosaraju



Saturday, June 15, 2013

"I See Dead People!"





 "What happens after death?"

Within the Christian faith, there is a significant amount of confusion regarding what happens after death. Some hold that after death, everyone “sleeps” until the final judgment, after which everyone will be sent to heaven or hell. Others believe that at the moment of death, people are instantly judged and sent to their eternal destinations. Still others claim that when people die, their souls/spirits are sent to a “temporary” heaven or hell, to await the final resurrection, the final judgment, and then the finality of their eternal destination. So, what exactly does the Bible say happens after death?

First, for the believer in Jesus Christ, the Bible tells us that after death believers’ souls/spirits are taken to heaven, because their sins are forgiven by having received Christ as Savior (John 3:16, 18, 36). For believers, death is to be “away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:6-8; Philippians 1:23). However, passages such as 1 Corinthians 15:50-54 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 describe believers being resurrected and given glorified bodies. If believers go to be with Christ immediately after death, what is the purpose of this resurrection? It seems that while the souls/spirits of believers go to be with Christ immediately after death, the physical body remains in the grave “sleeping.” At the resurrection of believers, the physical body is resurrected, glorified, and then reunited with the soul/spirit. This reunited and glorified body-soul-spirit will be the possession of believers for eternity in the new heavens and new earth (Revelation 21-22).

Second, for those who do not receive Jesus Christ as Savior, death means everlasting punishment. However, similar to the destiny of believers, unbelievers also seem to be sent immediately to a temporary holding place, to await their final resurrection, judgment, and eternal destiny. Luke 16:22-23 describes a rich man being tormented immediately after death. Revelation 20:11-15 describes all the unbelieving dead being resurrected, judged at the great white throne, and then being cast into the lake of fire. Unbelievers, then, are not sent to hell (the lake of fire) immediately after death, but rather are in a temporary realm of judgment and condemnation. However, even though unbelievers are not instantly sent to the lake of fire, their immediate fate after death is not a pleasant one. The rich man cried out, “I am in agony in this fire” (Luke 16:24). 

Therefore, after death, a person resides in a “temporary” heaven or hell. After this temporary realm, at the final resurrection, a person’s eternal destiny will not change. The precise “location” of that eternal destiny is what changes. Believers will ultimately be granted entrance into the new heavens and new earth (Revelation 21:1). Unbelievers will ultimately be sent to the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15). These are the final, eternal destinations of all people—based entirely on whether or not they had trusted Jesus Christ alone for salvation (Matthew 25:46; John 3:36). (1)

Greg Laurie wrote a wonderful article "I See Dead People!" It is very true. You have to be a believer in order to understand it:

Have you heard the story of the time when all the people came out of their graves and walked around town? People dressing up for Halloween? A Zombie film? No, not exactly. I am talking about a story right from the pages of Scripture.

As Jesus hung on the cross, a lot of supernatural phenomena took place, including a mighty earthquake, the sun going dark at 12:00 noon, and the curtain in the temple being ripped from top to bottom. But one of the most amazing things of all is when people came out of their graves!

It's only mentioned in one Gospel. Mathew 27:51–53 (NLT) "At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split apart, and tombs opened. The bodies of many godly men and women who had died were raised from the dead after Jesus' resurrection. They left the cemetery, went into the holy city of Jerusalem, and appeared to many people."

"They left the cemetery and appeared to many people"! Is this not an amazing passage? What is this all about? It is a preview of things to come. Sort of like when you are in the movies and you see the trailer for the newest films coming out. Fact is, most of the time, the trailers are better than the films themselves! But as amazing as this event was, the one it is pointing to will be even greater.

The Bible, speaking of this future day, says, "For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, all the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever" (1 Thessalonians 4:16–17 NLT).

One day, we will be reunited with loved ones who have gone before us to heaven. What a glorious day that will be! In that day, dead people will come alive! (2)



  1. References :   (1)  "What happens after death?"Gotquestions.org
                                   (2)   "I See Dead People", Daily Devotions, Greg Laurie




Blessings,

Raj Kosaraju




Friday, June 14, 2013

Adultery



We are facing challenges economically, morally, spiritually and politically. People, including unbelievers, are asking, "Where is God?" In times like these, it is vitally important that we are vigilant in reaching out in love with the Truth of Christ—not just here, but around the world.
We are living in an age where sin is portrayed as a mere illness of the body or mind; when sin is denied or laughed off, when sin is rationalized as merely doing one's own thing, or doing what comes naturally. But a belief in the Holy God and respect for the authority of his word demands that adultery be recognized and acknowledged for what it is . . . sin.

The seriousness of the sin of adultery can be seen in several ways. Under the law of Moses the penalty was death by stoning. (Deuteronomy 22:21 ff, John 8:4,5). Again, the only ground that God gave for divorcing one's mate was sexual immorality. He said, "Whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery. And whosoever marry her that is divorced, committeth adultery" Matthew 5:32. But the seriousness of adultery is seen most clearly in the eternal punishment of those who commit the sin. An impenitent adulterer cannot go to heaven. Ephesians 5:5 says: " "No whoremonger, no unclean person hath an inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ and of God." And in Colossians 3:6, we are told that because fornication, uncleanness, and inordinate affection, the wrath of God comes on the children of disobedience.

What is adultery? Technically there are differences in the original Biblical language as there is in the English between adultery and fornication, but as used in this brief study, adultery is illicit sexual intercourse between married or unmarried persons. God has graciously provided -for the sexual desires of men and women to be satisfied only in marriage and to engage in pre-marital, or extra-marital sex, before or outside of marriage is to sin in God's sight. It should be made clear, however, that the sin of adultery, as serious in God's sight, and as hateful as it -is to those who commit it, it is forgivable! The story of Jesus and the woman who was taken in adultery (John 8) shows that adultery may be forgiven when God's conditions of pardon are met.

 And the LORD said to Moses, "Give the following instructions to the people of Israel.

"Suppose a man's wife goes astray, and she is unfaithful to her husband and has sex with another man, but neither her husband nor anyone else knows about it. She has defiled herself, even though there was no witness and she was not caught in the act. If her husband becomes jealous and is suspicious of his wife and needs to know whether or not she has defiled herself, the husband must bring his wife to the priest. He must also bring an offering of two quarts of barley flour to be presented on her behalf. Do not mix it with olive oil or frankincense, for it is a jealousy offering—an offering to prove whether or not she is guilty"   (Numbers 5:11-15)

This test for adultery served to remove a jealous husband's suspicion. Trust between a husband and wife had to be completely eroded for a man to bring his wife to the priest for this type of test. Today priests and pastors help restore marriages by counseling couples who have lost faith in each other.

Trust is a fundamental bond in a marriage. Without it, the couple has little reason to invest themselves in it. The marriage will simply unravel. This test served to re-establish trust and prevent the marriage from breaking apart.

A thousand forces can tear at a marriage's unity. Husbands and wives should work to strengthen the bond of trust in marriage. Oftentimes, building trust is a matter of practicing trust—being vulnerable, voicing needs or fears, inviting help, listening. Sometimes these are risks. But if they feel risky, then that's evidence that there's a lack of trust. Habits of trust are practiced. Good patterns develop only by repeatedly choosing to do these hard things.

Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. ... (1 Corinthians 7:1-40)

Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. (Hebrews 13:4 ESV)

For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.( Ephesians 5:5)

For many people, even for many Christians, the grass always seems greener somewhere away from one's own spouse. The world used to take adultery seriously, but how things have changed. The tabloids and TV chat shows send the message that adultery is -- well, normal. "Everybody's doing it" becomes a moral guideline, pushing aside that rather blunt statement in the Ten Commandments:

Do not commit adultery.

Are there forces tearing your relationships? It might be a marriage or a relationship with a friend or family member. Restoring those relationships may require you to take a risk. Whether you were wronged or you are at fault, what can you do to begin the process of rebuilding that relationship?
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We are living in an age where sin is portrayed as a mere illness of the body or mind; when sin is denied or laughed off, when sin is rationalized as merely doing one's own thing, or doing what comes naturally. But a belief in the Holy God and respect for the authority of his word demands that adultery be recognized and acknowledged for what it is . . . sin.

The seriousness of the sin of adultery can be seen in several ways. Under the law of Moses the penalty was death by stoning. (Deuteronomy 22:21 ff, John 8:4,5). Again, the only ground that God gave for divorcing one's mate was sexual immorality. He said, "Whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery. And whosoever marry her that is divorced, committeth adultery" Matthew 5:32. But the seriousness of adultery is seen most clearly in the eternal punishment of those who commit the sin. An impenitent adulterer cannot go to heaven. Ephesians 5:5 says: " "No whoremonger, no unclean person hath an inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ and of God." And in Colossians 3:6, we are told that because fornication, uncleanness, and inordinate affection, the wrath of God comes on the children of disobedience.

Adultery is the complete corruption of God’s good creation of marriage. Through the sin of adultery, Satan tempts us to seek sexual fulfillment in avenues other than the one God has ordained—within the bounds of monogamous, heterosexual marriage. Adultery rips at the fabric of society because it tears apart marriages and families which are the building blocks of society. God’s law in general, and the 7th commandment in particular, is held up as the standard for Christian behavior.

This is not the time to fall into temptation, lose hope or give up. This is the time for God's people to redouble their efforts. This is the time to reach out in the name of Christ. This is the time to repent and rebuild what has been damaged by sin and neglect.


Blessings,

Raj Kosaraju



Why is idol worship such a powerful temptation?



I understand how life is getting more and more difficult for young Christians. We are demonized in the media, called “outdated” by society, and often caught in the crossfire of politics. In this environment it is so tempting to just shut our beliefs behind a door and keep it all to ourselves, but that is not what God has commanded us to do. Like it says in Luke 8, our faith was not meant to be kept secret, but to be held high proudly so that the world may see it. We have a family in Christ, one we should never deny.

"I will look favorably upon you, making you fertile and multiplying your people. And I will fulfill my covenant with you. You will have such a surplus of crops that you will need to clear out the old grain to make room for the new harvest! I will live among you, and I will not despise you. I will walk among you; I will be your God, and you will be my people. I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt so you would no longer be their slaves. I broke the yoke of slavery from your neck so you can walk with your heads held high." (Leviticus 26:1-13)

As human beings, we have a tendency to want to understand. We are created with minds, and we are taught to think, ask questions, and find answers. So letting go of our natural inclination to understand everything that God says and does, or to comprehend the meaning behind the events in our lives, is very hard to do. We want to know and understand. Understanding gives us clarity, a sense of security and control.

The people of the Old Testament were warned over and over against worshiping idols. We wonder how they could deceive themselves with these objects of wood and stone. Yet God could well give us the same warning, for we too tend to put idols above him. Idolatry is making anything more important than God, and our lives are full of that temptation. Money, appearances, success, reputation, security, and more can all become idols in our lives. As you look at these false gods that promise everything you want but nothing you need, does idolatry seem so far removed from your experience?

Not only do idols take God's place in our lives; they also enslave us. God took the children of Israel out of bitter slavery and gave them freedom and dignity. We too are set free when we accept Christ's payment that redeems us from sin's slavery. We no longer need to be bogged down in shame over our past sins or by trusting in idols; we can walk with dignity because God has forgiven us and leads us to freedom. But just as the Israelites were still in danger of returning to a slave mentality, we need to beware of the temptation to return to our former idols and sinful patterns.

It's not tricky to God, of course. "Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart." The Lord sees and the Lord knows not only what I do but why I do it. He is not the least bit confused. The proverb is true, of course, but as with all proverbs it is not universally applicable. At times the way of this man is not right in his own eyes and at times the way is opaque. There are so many times that I just don't know why I do what I do. Is it for me or is it for God? How much is for me and how much is for God?

When we hear the word “idol” we often think of statues and objects reminiscent of those worshipped by pagans in ancient cultures. However, the idols of the 21st century often bear no resemblance to the artifacts used thousands of years ago. Today, we have replaced the “golden calf” with an insatiable drive to reach the top of the corporate ladder or with a myriad of other passionate pursuits. And, sadly, those who aggressively pursue goals and dreams, altogether excluding God, are often admired for their individualism and drive. In the end, however, it doesn’t matter what empty pleasure we chase after or to what or whom we bow down, the result is the same—separation from the one true God.

There is another form of idolatry prevalent today. Its growth is fostered by cultures that continue to drift away from sound biblical teaching, just as the apostle Paul warned us, “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:3). In these pluralistic, liberal times, many cultures have, to a large degree, redefined God. We have forsaken the God revealed to us in Scripture and have recast Him to comply with our own inclinations and desires—a “kinder and gentler” god who is infinitely more tolerant than the One revealed in Scripture. One who is less demanding and less judgmental and who will tolerate many lifestyles without placing guilt on anyone’s shoulders. As this idolatry is propagated by churches around the world, many disillusioned congregants understandably believe they are worshipping the one, true God. However, these made-over gods are created by man, and to worship them is to worship idols. Worshipping a god like this, however, is particularly tempting for many whose habits and lifestyles, drives and desires are not in harmony with Scripture. 

Understanding contemporary idols can help us to understand why they prove to be such a powerful temptation. An idol can be anything we place ahead of God in our lives, anything that tugs at our heart more that God does, such as: possessions, careers, relationships, hobbies, sports, entertainment, goals, greed, addictions to alcohol/ drugs/ gambling/ pornography, etc. Many of these things we idolize can be very good, such as relationships or careers. Yet Scripture tells us that whatever we do, we are to “do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31), and that we are to serve God only (Deuteronomy 6:13). Unfortunately, God is often nowhere to be found as we zealously pursue our idols. Worse yet, the significant amount of time we often spend in these idolatrous pursuits, leaves us with little or no time to spend with the Lord. (1)

What are the idols and sins that continue to tempt you? Thank God every day that he has freed you from slavery to sin. And use your freedom to live for him.


References:

1. gotquestions.org, CEO, S. Michael Houdmann, Why is idol worship such a powerful temptation?


Blessings,

Raj Kosaraju





Gossip


Gossip is idle talk or rumor about the personal or private affairs of others. It is one of the oldest and most common means of sharing facts, views and slander. This term is used pejoratively by its reputation for the introduction of errors and variations into the information transmitted, and it also describes idle chat, a rumor of personal, or trivial nature. The term is sometimes used to specifically refer to the spreading of dirt and misinformation, as (for example) through excited discussion of scandals. Some newspapers carry "gossip columns" which detail the social and personal lives of celebrities or of élite members of certain communities.

Gossip is inherently a "false witness" of slander. Gossip and slander orbit around each other. Slander is the lie, and gossip the spreading of lies. Attractive gossip will not always be completely incorrect--it may well have some bearing on the truth. But it will always have a perverted "twist" to it that is the lure. In some situations, the gossip will be repeating some slander someone else told as a speculation that has no basis in truth. But in most cases, the appeal of the sin of gossip is that we know it is not true.

In Judaism

Main article: Lashon hara

Judaism considers gossip spoken without a constructive purpose (known in Hebrew as an evil tongue, lashon hara) as a sin. Speaking negatively about people, even if retelling true facts, counts as sinful, as it demeans the dignity of man — both the speaker and the subject of the gossip. According to Proverbs 18:8: "The words of a gossip are like choice morsels: they go down to a man's innermost parts."

In Islam

Islam considers backbiting the equivalent of eating the flesh of one's dead brother. According to Muslims, backbiting harms its victims without offering them any chance of defense, just as dead people cannot defend against their flesh being eaten. Muslims are expected to treat each other like brothers, deriving from Islam's concept of brotherhood amongst its believers.

In Christianity

The Epistle to the Romans associates gossips ("backbiters") with a list of sins including sexual immorality and with murder:
28: And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
29: Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,
30: Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
31: Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:
32: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them. (Romans 1:28-32)

Leviticus 19:16 (NIV) "Do not go about spreading slander among your people. Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor's life. I am the Lord."

Exodus 23:1 (NIV) "Do not spread false reports. Do not help a wicked man by being a malicious witness."

Proverbs 18:8 (NIV) The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man's inmost parts.

Scripture describes a gossip as one who connives and dreams up a "twist" that is compelling and winsome. There is a perverted sweetness to this deception that is the principal lure of committing this sin. "Yeah, THAT is it! So and so is doing such and such." The more divorced from the truth this is, the more outlandish the slander, the better...

Matthew 15:19 (NIV) "For out of the heart come evil thoughts... false testimony, slander. These are what make a man 'unclean'...."

Proverbs 18:8 (NAS) The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles....

Like all sin, slander and gossip can be fun in the moment. But like all sin, there is a price to be paid later. The price here is in defamation of character to the real-life people and organizations, and in self-delusion and inability to discern the truth for those who continue in it.

1 Peter 2:1 (NIV) Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.

Ephesians 4:31 (NIV) Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander...

How Can You Avoid Gossip?

Consider these simple steps to be sure you are not involved in gossip:

Do not associate yourself with one who is a known gossip
When someone starts to gossip — change the subject
If you are not part of the problem or part of the solution, stay out of it
If you have fallen into the bad habit of gossiping — ask God to change your heart

When you have been the victim of gossip — confront the parties that spread the rumor.

Blessings,

Raj Kosaraju