Thursday, July 25, 2013

Old becomes New




According to the Five Books of Moses, Abraham is revered as the one who overcame the idol worship of his family and surrounding people by recognizing the Hebrew God and establishing a covenant with him and creating the foundation of what has been called by scholars "Ethical Monotheism". The first of the Ten Commandments can be interpreted to forbid the Children of Israel from worshiping any other god but the one true God who had revealed himself at Mount Sinai and given them the Torah, however it can also be read as henotheistic, since it states that they should have "no other gods before me." The commandment itself does not affirm or deny the existence of other deities per se. Nevertheless, as recorded in the Tanakh ("Old Testament" Bible), in defiance of the Torah's teachings, the patron god YHWH was frequently worshipped in conjunction with other gods such as Baal, Asherah, and El. Over time, this tribal god may have assumed all the appellations of the other gods in the eyes of the people. The destruction of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem and the exile to Babylon was considered a divine reprimand and punishment for the mistaken worship of other deities. By the end of the Babylonian captivity of Judah in the Tanakh, Judaism is strictly monotheistic.

There are nonetheless seeming elements of "polytheism" in certain biblical books, such as in Daniel's frequent use of the honorific "God of gods" and especially in the Psalms. Jewish scholars were aware of this, and expressed the opinion that although the verse can be understood wrongly, God was not afraid to write it in the Torah. However, the word God in Hebrew (Elohim) is also a plural, meaning "powerful ones" or "rulers". This is true in Hebrew as well as other related Canaanite languages. So "Elohim" could refer to any number of "rulers", such as angels, false gods (as defined by Torah), or even human holders of power including rulers or judges within Israel, as described in Exodus 21:6; 22:8, without violating the parameters of monotheism. Some scholars[who?] believe that Exodus 3:13-15 describes the moment when YHWH first tells Moses that he is the same god as El, the supreme being. This could be the recounting, in mythical form, of Israel's conversion to monotheism.

God -  The creator of the world and an all-powerful being. God calls himself the only true deity worthy of human worship. As the figurehead of Israel and the force behind every event, God acts as the unseen hero of the Old Testament. God reveals his intentions by speaking to people. Physical manifestations of God are always indirect or symbolic. God appears in many different forms, including an angel, a wrestler, a burst of fire, and a quiet whisper.

First things First.......

"When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you, be very careful not to imitate the detestable customs of the nations living there. For example, never sacrifice your son or daughter as a burnt offering. And do not let your people practice fortune-telling, or use sorcery, or interpret omens, or engage in witchcraft, or cast spells, or function as mediums or psychics, or call forth the spirits of the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD. It is because the other nations have done these detestable things that the LORD your God will drive them out ahead of you. But you must be blameless before the LORD your God. The nations you are about to displace consult sorcerers and fortune-tellers, but the LORD your God forbids you to do such things."       (Deuteronomy 18:9-14)

Child sacrifice and occult practices were strictly forbidden by God. These practices were common among pagan religions. Israel's own neighbors actually sacrificed their children to the god Molech (Leviticus 20:2-5). Other neighboring religions used supernatural means, such as contacting the spirit world, to foretell the future and gain guidance. Because of these wicked practices, God would drive out the pagan nations (Deuteronomy 18:12). The Israelites were to replace their evil practices with the worship of the one true God.

The Israelites were naturally curious about the occult practices of the Canaanite religions. But Satan is behind the occult, and God flatly forbade Israel to have anything to do with it. Today people are still fascinated by horoscopes, fortune-telling, witchcraft, and bizarre cults. Often their interest comes from a desire to know and control the future. But God tells us all we need to know about what is going to happen. With the trustworthy guidance of the Holy Spirit through the Bible and the church, we don't need to turn to occult sources for faulty information. Instead we can live by faith in God who knows the future and controls it all.

God so detested the practices of demon worship through the various idolatrous religions that He brought Israel back to Canaan to wipe out the nations there because their cup of iniquity was full.   Pathetically, the Israelites were seduced by these gods and began worshipping them, even to the point of sacrificing their children to them.  How sad that God's image and plan for His people had become so distorted.  On account of their prostitution to these foreign gods, the Lord ended up punishing the Israelites and uprooting them from the Land. In a modern parallel, as mankind continues to worship idols of various forms through channelers, astrologers and false prophets, God again will uproot and cleanse the world. For the world's cup of iniquity has just about  full.

A growing number of people are becoming engrossed in various forms of Spiritualism, and its varied forms such as magic, astrology, sorcery and astrology.   From as apparently innocent sources such as Disney studios with all its animated withcraft and scorceries, to cartoons depicting the Smurf dad being a wizard, children have been drawn into the occult at an amazing speed.  The Ouija board, a game of communication with the dark spirit realm has now outstripped Monopoly as the leading board game.  A quick glance at games in a software shop will lead to the horrifying conclusion that most games involve wizards, witches, spells, violence, killing, and the outright presence of demonic spirits and characters.

Witches, as they used to be known, have taken on the guise of New Age channelers, acting as intermediaries and mediums between the spirit realm and the tangible world.  The higher levels of most secret societies such as the Masons, Illuminati and their front organizations, actively, and perhaps ignorantly, practice forms of demonic worship, preparing the world for the coming of Lucifer as the "light bearer," Satan, the beast from the Abyss as he attempts to impersonate Jesus Christ. The New World Order falls neatly into the plans of these organizations.

Astrology is everywhere today.  Millions of people follow the teachings of various astrologers. Many will not go to work in the morning unless they have read their horoscope in the morning paper. Tabloids are full of the predictions of various psychics which have a miserable success rate in their predictions of less than 5%.  A child could do better.

Soon after the Flood, and accelerating with Nimrod's empire at Babylon, teachings of various demonic agencies began to permeate culture and religion. These Babylonian mysteries were passed down from generation to generation and have arrived in today's society as strong as ever.  

The coming of the Jewish Messiah is the focus of the Old Testament. There are over 300 separate prophecies about the "Holy One of Israel" found there. They are so specific as to predict the city of Jesus' birth (Micah 5:2), His nature (Isaiah 7:14), His works of healing and miracles (Isaiah 35:5-6), His betrayal for thirty pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12-13), His suffering (Isaiah 53), His style of execution (Psalm 22) and His resurrection (Psalm 16:10, Acts 13:35) amongst other things. These prophecies were written anywhere from 400 to 1000 years before Jesus' birth, yet they describe His life with the accuracy of an eyewitness. The odds against a living person meeting even a few of these predictions is so astronomical it is considered an impossibility.

With prophecy, God gives the faithful hope by promising better things in the future. Likewise, the wicked are warned of impending judgment if they don't change their ways.

It’s scary for us to be so open and trusting of God. It’s like letting go and trusting that someone will catch you. No wonder our default state is to have an un-circumcised heart. We think that we are safer that way, but the opposite is true. It is only when we open up to God that He can take care of us, protect us, and guide us on the proper path.


Blessings,

Raj Kosaraju


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Him and Him alone



C. S. Lewis said it well: "The Son of God became a man that men might become sons of God." God became a man so that you might become God's child. Now that is something worth celebrating


And so the Bible says, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.” What is worldliness? And why should a Christian not love this world?

Three reasons: Number one, because of the character of the world—what it is. Number two, because of the corruption of the world—what it does. Number three, because of the condemnation of the world—where it’s headed.

Anybody can have a spiritual faith in somebody or something—even in the Creator God—and still not have saving faith, the faith to which Paul refers here. Many believe in a Creator God yet do not know Him, do not understand His purpose, do not understand the extent of Satan's influence on them or the world, and do not obey God's commands. They are, in short, uncalled by the sovereign God and not as yet appointed to eternal life.

Not everything in life does the way we would like it. Sometimes we make out okay, other times things just don't seem to work out. In both cases, the Lord is with us, and He wants to help us make the best of things. God has given good things to His children, and when one thing doesn't work out, we can rest assured that something else is soon to come along. When things do work out, we need to remember to give thanks to the one who made it all possible.

Earthly perspective. Too often we live focused on our circumstances. Our minds think about what happened earlier in the week, what’s on today’s agenda, and the activities occurring next week, month, or year. No wonder enjoyment of life remains elusive. The solution is to have an eternal perspective, which acknowledges that God is in charge and our goal is to please Him.

Self-imposed pressure. We have all experienced the unavoidable burdens of schoolwork, employment, and relationships. But we bring needless pressure on ourselves when we allow unnecessary “musts” and “shoulds” to rule us. The remedy is to turn to God, acknowledge His right to order our days, and ask for His plan.

Unhealthy attitudes. Perfectionism, false guilt, and apathy all undermine our enjoyment of life.
I know so many Christians who’ve become so accustomed to living their lives in bondage to their past that they continue to live in it even after they’ve been liberated in Christ. They find comfort in the same habits and hang-ups they did before and never really try to break the cycle of pain and destruction.

But the Bible tells you and me that once we’re in Christ, we don’t have to go back to the way things were. Yes, we may still have the same sin struggles, but we no longer have to submit to them because we’ve been set free from the old way of doing things. What wonderful news!

Satisfaction is found in a life that reflects God’s priorities—and time with Him comes first. Therefore, people often base their self-concept on their accomplishments. But our relationship with Christ is far more important than our jobs, successes, wealth, or knowledge. We have been chosen by God as his very own, and we have been called to represent him to others. Remember that your value comes from being one of God's children, not from what you can achieve. You have worth because of what God does, not because of what you do.

Maybe today, you’re still under the bondage of some of the past. Maybe there’s even some behavior in your life that has a grip on you and you don’t see a way out. But there is a way. By the power of Christ, you can be set free from every sin pattern in your life. Submit to Him today and release yourself from the past. Live free.

Lift your head up; stop focusing on the stress factors in your life and get your mind on the things of God. 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!

Blessings,

Raj Kosaraju


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Unanswered Prayers



A primary reason why prayer is unanswered is sin. God cannot be mocked or deceived, and He who sits enthroned above knows us intimately, down to our every thought (Psalm 139:1-4). If we are not walking in the Way or we harbor enmity in our hearts toward our brother or we ask for things with the wrong motives (such as from selfish desires), then we can expect God not to answer our prayer because He does not hear (2 Chronicles 7:14; Deuteronomy 28:23; Psalm 66:18; James 4:3). Sin is the “stopper” to all the potential blessings that we would receive from the infinite “bottle” of God’s mercy! Indeed, there are times when our prayers are heinous in the Lord’s sight, most notably when we clearly do not belong to the Lord either because of unbelief (Proverbs 15:8) or because we are practicing hypocrisy (Mark 12:40).

Another reason why prayer seems to go unanswered is that the Lord is drawing out of our faith a deeper reliance and trust in Him, which should bring out of us a deeper sense of gratitude, love and humility. In turn, this causes us to benefit spiritually, for He gives grace to the humble (James 4:6; Proverbs 3:34). Oh, how one feels for that poor Canaanite woman, who cried out incessantly to our Lord for mercy when He was visiting the region of Tyre and Sidon (Matthew 15:21-28)! She was hardly the person a Jewish rabbi would pay attention to. She was not a Jew and she was a woman, two reasons that Jews ignored her. The Lord doesn’t seem to answer her petitions, but He knew all about her situation. He may not have answered her stated needs immediately, but still He heard and granted her request.

God may often seem silent to us, but He never sends us away empty-handed. Even if prayer has not been answered, we must rely upon God to do so in His own time. Even the exercise of prayer is a blessing to us; it is because of our faith that we are stirred to persist in prayer. It is faith that pleases God (Hebrews 11:6), and if our prayer life is wanting, does that not reflect our spiritual standing also? God hears our impoverished cries for mercy, and His silence inflames us with a sense of persistence in prayer. He loves us to reason with Him. Let us hunger for the things that are after God’s heart and let us walk in His ways and not our own. If we are faithful to pray without ceasing, then we are living in the will of God, and that can never be wrong (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18). (1)

So, if unfulfilled prayer is not the result of our failure to live for Christ or unconfessed sin in our lives or inadequate faith, then what are we to make of the fact that our prayers are sometimes unanswered? Perhaps the answer is not found in what we do wrong when we pray, but in our failure to understand what Jesus meant when He said that we could move mountains and have whatever we ask for if we pray with faith.

Live for today, and put tomorrow into God's hands. Begin to eliminate the words 'what if' from your vocabulary. God will always be one step ahead of you. 'The Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed' (Deuteronomy 31:8 NKJV). The reason God is called the 'Alpha and Omega' in Scripture is because He not only initiates the starting point of your spiritual journey, He has arranged every step of it according with His will. He says to you: 'I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope...when you pray, I will listen...I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes' (Jeremiah 29:11-14 NLT).

I was very impressed when I read a short write up by R.T. Kendall on "Thank God for Unanswered Prayer".What he says is very apt, precise and thoughtful. 

 You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives... —James 4:2-3

I have lived long enough, as far as I can tell, to thank God for every unanswered prayer. That is, prayers prayed in the distant past. To be honest, I have offered prayers more recently that have gone unanswered (so far), which makes no sense to me at all. But I predict that, in the end, I will have no complaints. God is not only sovereign, but He is also loving and gracious. No good thing does He withhold from those who sincerely try to do His will in everything (Ps. 84:11).

Unanswered prayer is still an enigma—that is, puzzling in the light of Jesus' words, "You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it" (John 14:14). God does not answer prayers that are not in His will. After all, John said, "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us" (1 John 5:14).

I can only conclude that asking in Jesus' name must in some direct sense relate to God's will. The enigma of unanswered prayer lies in the apparent incongruity between what seems good to us at the time and what God knows is good for us.

Sometimes our prayers, which seem so right, flow from a faulty theology. When we are in love with our theological assumptions—and can't imagine they could be wrong—we tend to presume God surely agrees with us! The disciples asked the resurrected Christ, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" (Acts 1:6). It had not crossed their minds that Jesus never once planned to do anything of the kind.

Although unanswered prayer is a mystery, there is also an explanation. It is only a matter of time before we will be given an explanation. But it comes down to this: God has a better idea than that which we asked for.
  
If you're fearful of the future, check with the past. 'Blessed be the Lord, who has given rest to His people...according to all that He promised. There has not failed one word of all...He promised' (1 Kings 8:56 NKJV). You will never conquer your worries entirely, for worries, just like weaknesses and character flaws, draw you closer to God and keep you dependent on Him.

For forty years in the wilderness the Israelites never missed a meal. God delivered it to the door of each of their tents daily. And He will provide for you too. As Bradford Torrey wrote: 'Not so in haste, my heart! Have faith in God, and wait; although He lingers long, He never comes too late.'

References:

(1) S. Michael Houdman, CEO, Gotquestions.org, How should a Christian respond to unanswered prayer?


Blessings,

Raj Kosaraju
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Monday, July 22, 2013

Christian life is not Easy




We must realize as Christians that God is in control of all circumstances surrounding our lives. God takes all of the events of life, the good things and the so-called bad things, and works them "together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them" (Romans 8:28).

We must also realize that God loves us and is always looking out for our eternal benefit—even if what we are presently going through is difficult. We are told in 2 Corinthians 4:17–18, "For our present troubles are small and won't last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don't look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever" (NLT).

Paul says in the New Testament that it was not until he heard the Law that he was conscious of sin. How true! It is not until you know the truth that the truth can set you free (John 8:32). The returning Jews experience this truth in a dramatic way. Upon hearing the Law, Israel repents of her sins and rededicates herself to serving the Lord. This repentance clears her conscience, results in rich worship, and makes her eligible for the blessings of the Lord. It sets her free! Repentance will do the same for you.

It takes deprivation to appreciate the significance of our blessings. That is why the Christian life is not always easy—with blessings flowing unabated. We get dull and stale to it—just as we do when we have too much food and too little exercise. We are indeed blessed to have the Word of God in such abundance. The returning Jews have never heard the Word, and they are truly thirsty. They stand — from dawn till dusk — and drink it in. To appreciate the Word in your life, imagine not having it at all.

The Old Testament often has a literal illustration of a spiritual truth that is explained in the New Testament. In Ephesians 6:11, we read that we are to “put on the whole armor of God”: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit. Once these are in place, we “resist”—“stand firm!”

Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!” He said, “Go…”

Isaiah 6:8-9

Brokenness and restoration make you usable to God!

Look at the chain of events in Isaiah 6. First, Isaiah had a devastating personal encounter with God (“I saw the Lord” – v. 1). This changed his whole view of life and of himself; he became a broken man before God (“woe is me, for I am ruined!”– v. 5). His brokenness and confession led to total forgiveness and restoration from God (“your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven”– v. 7). That new heart-condition then made him sensitive to God’s heart and God’s leading in his life (“then I heard the voice of the Lord”– v. 8).

What started the whole process that ended in such a powerful ministry, bringing great glory to God? It was Isaiah’s personal encounter with God. Don’t try to bring yourself to a place of brokenness. You can’t do it. It must begin with you truly coming to grips with who God is and encountering Him personally.

For some, this deep personal encounter with God happens at their conversion. For others, it comes later in their Christian lives. God may meet with you in this special way several times in your life. The result will always be brokenness—and a new anointing!

What happens to a person who dwells in a long-term state of want, need, constriction, frustration, and fear? To the unsaved, it causes a severely de-stabilizing effect. They want and need something but know not what it is (what they are looking for is peace with God through reconciliation with His Son). That is why they had previously sought to fill that hole where peace goes with the things of this world. When the things of this world are no longer available to them because of drought-like economic conditions, they panic because even the false, temporary pseudo-peace they gained from the things of this world are now unattainable. There are two responses to that panic: turning to God and find that peace, or turning to self and go deeper into the dark hole of unfulfillment. 

We have a champion in Jesus Christ. Held captive to sin, trapped with no way out, we could only wait to see what would happen. What happened was the saving love of Christ, which set us free from the trap, and continues to protect us every day.

Blessings

Raj Kosaraju




            

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Spiritual Drift



In his book Prayer Shield, Peter Wagner documents how Satanists gather in different parts of the United States and Canada to pray against Christian leaders. They have identified key pastors and are targeting them for failure and destruction.

Some may find this difficult to believe. A few years ago, a professor from a noted Christian university was flying from Detroit to Boston when he noticed the man beside him praying. After the man had lifted his head and opened his eyes, the Christian professor, who also had been a pastor, leaned over and asked, “Are you a Christian?”

The man seemed shocked and said, “No. I’m not a Christian. I’m a Satanist.”

The professor pushed the issue and asked the man about the nature of his prayers. The man replied, “My specific area is the pastors who live in [a certain part of the United States].” He was on his way to a convention where others like him would join together to pray against God and His people.

Satan understands hierarchy. He knows the importance of leadership. If he can entice the fall of one of God’s servants, he knows the impact will be great.

JC Ryles writes “There is a vast quantity of religion current in the world which is not true, genuine Christianity.  It passes muster; it satisfies sleepy consciences; but it is not good money.  It is not the real thing which was called Christianity eighteen hundred years ago.  There are thousands of men and women who go to churches and chapels every Sunday, and call themselves Christians.  Their names are in the baptismal register.  They are reckoned Christians while they live.  They are married with a Christian marriage-service.  They are buried as Christians when they die.  But you never see any “fight” about their religion!  Of spiritual strife, and exertion, and conflict, and self-denial, and watching, and warring they know literally nothing at all.  Such Christianity may satisfy man, and those who say anything against it may be thought very hard and uncharitable; but it certainly is not the Christianity of the Bible.  It is not the religion which the Lord Jesus founded, and His Apostles preached.  True Christianity is “a fight.”

The true Christian is called to be a soldier, and must behave as such from the day of his conversion to the day of his death, he is not meant to live a life of religious ease, indolence, and security, He must never imagine for a moment that he can sleep and dose along the way to heaven, like one travelling in an easy carriage.  If he takes his standard of Christianity from the children of this world he may be content with such notions, but he will find no countenance for them in the Word of God.  If the Bible is the rule of his faith and practice, he will find his lines laid down very plainly in this matter.  He must “fight.”

Spiritual drifting--the gradual wandering away from God and His will--takes place when a believer ceases to steer toward the Lord. Like an empty boat set loose upon the waters, he or she makes a slow and lazy glide away from good practices like disciplined obedience, regular Bible study, prayer, and assembling with fellow Christians. And there are consequences for casting yourself on uncharted and dangerous waters.

On the contrary, no person drifts to God. People drift downward, out of the will of God into sin, into world system, or into bad habit or into satanic trap. Any move towards God is a deliberate act, a concerted move and a conscious effort. At some point in our walk with God, everyone drifts from God, but most immediately make decisions that will reverse the trend. The prodigal son drifted from his natural father, perhaps out of greediness, or youthful exuberance or inordinate sense of adventure and gradually found himself at the mercy of other people in a foreign land, far way from a caring a father. Then he came to his senses and said, “I will arise and go to my father”. The only way he could return to the father was to act from his own volition. The same is true for all of us. No one can drift so far that he can not be reach by God.

A life adrift is outside of God's will and therefore in sin. The Holy Spirit pricks a believer's conscience to send a message when he is off course, but the drifter is prone to ignore such warnings. If a Christian continually excuses his wandering ways and denies sin, then his conscience gradually numbs. A person who becomes desensitized to wrongdoing has paved the way for more sinful behavior with less guilt. Can you imagine a more dangerous situation?

People drift from God in search of more--more freedom, choices, and pleasure. But since the consequences are a hard heart, a numb conscience, and dead ears, what they end up with is less. The drifting believer sacrifices the victorious life in Christ for an existence devoid of permanent satisfaction.

The principal fight of the Christian is with the world, the flesh, and the devil.  These are his never-dying foes.  These are the three chief enemies against whom he must wage war.

My question today is how are you doing in battle?  Are you in need of reinforcements?  How are you holding up against the fiery darts?

For the purpose of encouraging him to fight such a fight courageously, he calls it good; that is, successful, and therefore not to be shunned; for, if earthly soldiers do not hesitate to fight, when the result is doubtful, and when there is a risk of being killed,  how much more bravely ought we to do battle under the guidance and banner of Christ, when we are certain of victory?

How do we protect ourselves from falling away? On one level, it is God who keeps us. But, according to Hebrews 3:12-14, God uses specific means to help us hold firmly to the end. A community watch is issued to this group of believers. They’re feeling tested, faced with severe trials, set-backs and disappointments—asking: Is it worth it? Can we press on? Where is God?

What do they need? What is God’s provision to protect them from drifting? Consider the two means listed in Hebrews 3:12-13:

“See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.  We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.”

God allows circumstances to develop around your life to give your faith opportunity to be proven. It is only when we are tested in battle that we become skilled warriors. You can be confident God will allow trials to come your way through situations like an unreasonable boss, a client who refuses to pay, a false assault on your character, or a difficult relationship that requires unconditional love. These battles are sent your way to test what you know in the mind in order that they might become part of your heart.

When life gets tough we discover the mettle of our faith and the reality of God's power in our lives. It is only when we hold strong to our relationship with Christ that He in turn holds strong to us. When we come through trials and difficulties with Christ by our side we will find the spiritual strength we so desperately need.


Blessings,

Dr. Raj Kosaraju (DBS)


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Stay alert to God’s Truth



Reflecting on the history of the British Commonwealth and America in the last two hundred years, we see two nations quickly rising to prominence along with unparalleled accomplishments. The British produced a great empire far out of proportion to their population, native wealth, and abilities. Through her commercial power, the United States became the single richest nation that has ever existed. American influence has since exceeded even that of Britain, making English the universal language of business and politics.

Thousands of academic, scientific, and engineering breakthroughs and inventions have sprung from British and American individuals, discoveries which greatly affected the rest of this world. Such power and influence have made both nations feel they have an unlimited reservoir of natural ability and wealth. They even feel a kind of invincibility.

C.S. Lewis once cautioned readers about how easy it is to start using Christianity as a convenience. The center of our faith can easily slip from Jesus sacrifice to preserving marriage, social justice, tithing, or a hundred other things Satan can use to distract us from God. The truth is that everything written down in the Bible, everything we believe as Christians, can be summed up in John 14.
          
"If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him." Philip said to Him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us." Jesus said to him, "Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, 'Show us the Father '? "Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. "Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves." Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. – John 14:7-13

Jesus wasn’t just a great teacher, He wasn’t some vague Jewish mystic, He was God. Through His life and death, we are finally reconciled with our Creator. Nothing else, no politics or policy, is more important than that. As long as we remember that, we will remember Jesus.  

This way, we're ready to defend our faith and encourage others through God's Word. If we keep our part of the agreement, we will reap the benefits that flow with God keeping His. He promises good health (Exodus 15:26), prosperity (Malachi 3:8-12), children (Psalm 127:3-5), security (Psalm 46), and many other blessings besides His greatest gift, eternal life in His Kingdom (John 17:1-3; Romans 6:23)!

However, our abilities and efforts are a small part of the equation of success. The larger, more determining factor of success is the will of God.

If God wills it, an amateur can create the greatest structure, a poor person can become rich, and a person of average intelligence can come up with the next best thing. And if He doesn’t will it, even the greatest, most sophisticated minds will amount to nothing.

If you are attempting to walk with God, be advised that Satan will not abandon his quest to bring ruin to your life. If you are thinking that he is only interested in “big,” immoral sins, then you are in for a surprise. He is the author of envy, discord, doubt, confusion, and jealousy, along with every form of perversion.

Therefore, the Apostle Paul reminds us to stay alert to God’s Truth. Do not be unaware of the enemy’s schemes against you (see 2 Corinthians 2:11).

We need to be acutely aware of Who is the real Creator. While we may contribute to the world, it is ultimately God Who is responsible for every success and each failure. So, let go of working overtime – and let God take over every time!

“But that which ye have already, hold fast till I come. And he that overcometh, and keepeth My works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations. And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father.” (Revelation 2:25-27)

In these days there will be more temptation to get away from the Word of God, the blood atonement, and salvation by grace through faith. Churches will be under attack by seducing spirits and doctrines of demons. Here in Jesus’ message to Thyatira He says, “You hold fast till I come.”

Even though it seems to be tough, remember this, dear friend—the saints are going to have their day. Look in verse 26. One of these days Jesus is going to come and rule this world, and we are going to rule with Him.

That is what God is effectively saying in chapters 15 and 16 of Revelation, which describe a specific time during the last three-and-a-half years of the Tribulation period. The Antichrist will have already emerged on the scene. He will have set into place his new global economy and will have his military and his one-world religion.

By this time, people will have made the decision either to follow Jesus Christ and be sealed by the Holy Spirit or to take the mark of the beast and be eternally separated from God. Once a person has taken this mark, there is no turning back. Then God's judgment will come in full force on the Antichrist and all who have followed him. There will be nothing left to say.

If we suffer with Him, we'll also reign with Him (2 Timothy 2:12). We are even going to judge angels (1 Corinthians 6:3). It may not be long before Jesus comes and His millennial reign begins here on this earth. The Bible clearly says that it's going to be a powerful reign (v. 27).

Sadly, there are many who will pretty much die as they have lived: hardened against God. That is why this judgment will come.

Blessings,

Raj Kosaraju



Tuesday, July 16, 2013

You are a Brand



Today the world has 6.92 billion people. They all wake up and look for the sun in the sky. They also look up at super brands and aspire to belong. The future is bright for brands that evolve their buyers into passionate advocates. Loyal consumers who buy without question. These are consumers who are worth their weight in gold.

When a brand gets it right, loads of customers worldwide will be with you for life, and the business can grow kinetically.

But what, exactly, is a brand? The term is often misunderstood – confused with "logos" and "taglines." Here's how Thoma defines it: "your brand embodies the sum of all that is known, thought, said, felt, experienced and perceived about your organization, service or product."

Every person who has come into contact with your faith community or organization has had an experience that entails physical, mental and emotional components. Many factors or touch points contribute to that experience, including your members, staff, culture and services. Somewhere within these contributing factors is your brandable feature.

Getting and keeping your converts is a continuing work in effective customer service. And whether things right or wrong on the holy road to success every church has their own good book, also known as their brand strategy, to remind both yourself and your believers of your chosen path. The beautiful baptismal point is when your brand has been unconsciously deified in the minds of your target market. And if you run your crusade campaign right your community will gladly help to spread the good word.

Pepsi is the number one "brand" in some countries of the world. Companies spend millions of dollars making their brands known in business. They want you to recognize their brand. When you think of their brand they hope you will have positive thoughts in hopes it will influence your next purchasing decision.

Every individual has a personal "brand" whether you want it or not. Cultures have a brand. Ethnic groups have a brand. Your brand is defined by your conduct. If you are always late, you'll soon develop a brand or reputation for being late. Others will even show up late because they know you will be late. If you are a person who exaggerates the truth, others will soon fail to take you serious.

However, the opposite can also be true. Your brand can be incredibly positive. By being a man or woman of your word, who is consistent in dealing fairly and honestly with others, your brand becomes known as someone who is faithful in all aspects of life.

I am impressed by the write up of "Finding Fulfillment" by Charles R. Swindoll. He says the ad campaigns that come out of Madison Avenue promise much more than they can deliver. Their titillating messages fall into four categories: fortune and fame, power and pleasure.

Fortune. Fame. Power. Pleasure. The messages bombard us from every direction.

But what's missing in all this? Stop and ask yourself that question. Isn't something very significant absent here?

You bet. A vertical dimension.

There's not even a hint of God's will or what pleases Him in the hardcore pursuit of success. Note also that nothing in that horizontal list guarantees satisfaction or brings relief deep within the heart.

And in the final analysis, what most people really want in life is contentment, fulfillment, and satisfaction.

God is Faithful

For some, a life without religion is an improvement for them and those around them. Atheists and agnostics can proudly count among their ranks many thoughtful, compassionate people. But human nature being what it is, I suspect that most who drop religion simply move into the ranks of lazy ex-religious people. Sunday mornings formerly spent at church are traded for more sleep or television. The money once earmarked for church coffers now pay green fees.

One of God's most important characteristics is His faithfulness. Faithfulness means one is true to fulfilling their promises to others in the time which was committed. God is faithful to fulfill all His promises to His children.

I'm glad God doesn't forget His promises. He keeps His Word. When He makes a promise, He will deliver. Faithfulness, one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22), is a biblical word describing those who keep their promises. It does not mean "full of faith," but rather "worthy of faith." Faithfulness says, "I will keep my word. I will not fail you. I won't quit on you." Faithfulness is the glue that keeps our actions adhering to our promises.

The faithfulness of God is foundational to our faith: If we can't trust what He says in the Bible, we have no reason to believe. If He doesn't keep His Word, then our salvation is shaky and our hope is empty. But if God does fulfill His promises, then our faith is meaningful and our eternal destiny is secure.

God gives us the same freedom today, along with the same choices. We can choose to obey and follow God, living in harmony with God's commands for the way the world was meant to be. Or we can rebel against his commands and live in dissonance with God and his creation.

One of God's most important characteristics is His faithfulness. Faithfulness means one is true to fulfilling their promises to others in the time which was committed. God is faithful to fulfill all His promises to His children.

Moses was also an example of faithfulness to his call. "Moses was faithful as a servant in all God's house, testifying to what would be said in the future. But Christ is faithful as a son over God's house" (Heb 3:5-6).

Tough times and Temptations that come into your life

We all experience hard times in our lives. These struggles with sickness, danger, financial problems, grief, or depression happen to each of us at times. But these only prompt us to cling ever tighter to God—not to turn away from Him, blaming Him for causing or allowing all our troubles. He does not promise to prevent problems from coming into our lives, but He does promise to go through them with us. Suffering and death are as much a part of living as eating and breathing, and we can rely on God to use these situations to build character and faith in our lives.

“Remember that the temptations that come into your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can’t stand up against it. When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you will not give in to it.”

God’s faithfulness is a great encouragement when we face temptation. He knows exactly the limits of what we can bear. He promises that He will not allow us to get into situations where we are overpowered by temptation.

Faithfulness developed in one area of your life carries over into the others. If you want to excel in faithfulness toward God, then, start by being faithful toward your family, on your job, in your financial dealings. Don't wait for someone to trust you with something big; be faithful now with what you've been entrusted with.

Fear nothing but sin

In your relationship with God, don't be quick to say or promise things; what you tell God you will do, be sure to do (Ecclesiastes 5:1-7).


If others in past centuries—and some even today— have reddened the mouths of lions, languished in prisons, and been scorched in the flames, can we not go out today, back to the school, back to the office, and live for Jesus Christ? God help us that we shall. In this evil hour, we’ll have revival when there are men and women, Christians with burning hearts, brimming eyes, and bursting lips, who fear nothing but sin and who love nothing but Jesus Christ.

Develop a habit of obeying God promptly. Don't wait to receive revelation before doing this; start doing it now with the revelation in God's written Word that you already have. Your ready obedience will set you apart as one who God can trust to carry out His will.

Mine eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me: he that walketh in a perfect way, he shall serve me. (Psalm 101:6).

Let each of us strive with all our heart to become men and women whom God can trust to carry out what is on His heart with single-minded obedience. Let us not wait for the big challenges in life before starting to learn faithfulness; let us start learning now in the "unimportant battles" of life to be faithful to God and His Word, so that we will be ready when the "big fights" come.

And above all, let us abide in Christ, and allow his words to abide richly in us; and let us strive to please God in our words and deeds rather than our own hearts, so that we can manifest fully the fruit of the spirit, the character of God and of Christ, in our lives.

My brand is Jesus Christ.... Today, Tomorrow & Forever.

Blessings,

Raj Kosaraju

Monday, July 15, 2013

You have to set it Free



Bad news, danger, and pain all cause us to look for help. As believers, we dwell with the almighty God, who is able to aid us. At those moments when we are sideswiped by life’s circumstances, we should cry out to Him. 
         
There is a story from Spain about a father and son who had become estranged. The son ran away from home, and his father set out to find him. The father searched for months, but to no avail. As a last-ditch effort, the father took out a full-page ad in a Madrid newspaper. The ad read: “Dear Paco, meet me in front of the newspaper office at noon on Saturday. All is forgiven. I love you. Your father.” The next Saturday, 800 men named Paco showed up, all looking for love and forgiveness from their fathers!

How many people in life are walking around looking for love and forgiveness from their Father in heaven?

If you’re like the rest of us, you have probably messed up once or twice in your life. We all make mistakes! As it says in Ecclesiastes 7:20, “Not a single person on earth is always good and never sins” (NLT). However, there is also a danger in thinking that you are only a sinner. Every time we fall, there is the risk that we will be too discouraged to get back up again. The next step after sin is repentance; yet sometimes, we find it hard to move on.

I think sin works in the same fashion. Each day we are tempted, and it’s remarkably easy to find an excuse to justify our behavior. We tell ourselves it’s not that bad, that as long as we read our Bible and go to church we’ll be balancing the scales, but that’s not how it works. Sin will slowly corrode your character until one day you’ll find yourself with a serious problem. Because of the cross, we have received the grace of Jesus and are now free from sin, but the battle is not over.

Every day we will be tempted, and every day Jesus will call us to turn from sin and live a life according to his word. There cannot be any compromises with sin; it will only devour us. 

We do terrible things to some people in our society. People who suffer greatly need our compassion and love, but instead they receive our judgment and condemnation. Christ does not ask us to accept sin, or the results of sin, but He commands us to love the one who sins. One thing we may never do is cast aside another of God's children. We do not have that right. 

More often than not we think faithful Christians don't deserve to suffer, but from God's perspective, suffering is what produces faithful Christians. If we all had lives of ease without opposition, trials, or pain, we'd never really know God, because we'd never need Him. Like it or not, adversity teaches us more about the Lord than simply reading the Bible ever will.Difficulties in life can certainly leave us feeling broken and confused. Many times, disappointments come in order to teach us more about the depths of God's love. In desperation, we turn to God. This is when we discover that only His love can truly lift us up and restore our sense of hope.

I'm not saying we don't need to know Scripture; that's our foundation for faith. But if what we believe is never tested by adversity, it remains head knowledge. How will we ever know the Lord can be trusted in the midst of trouble if we've never been challenged by hardship? God gives us opportunities to apply scriptural truths to the difficulties facing us, and in the process, we find Him faithful. For example, how would Paul ever have known the strength of Christ if he had never been weakened by pain, persecution, and adversity?

For the child of God, there is victory and freedom from every form of bondage. If you are struggling with a certain sin, you can be free. When you turn to Jesus Christ and place your trust in Him, a door of hope will open before you. He will provide a way of escape!

Depending on your response, trials can be God's greatest means of building faith or an avenue to discouragement and self-pity. If you'll believe what Scripture says and apply its principles to your situation, your trust in God will grow, and your faith will be strengthened through adversity.

Whatever roads our lives take, Christ is there to provide for us. Don't allow Satan to fool you with the offer of an easy fix, don’t let fear and despair dictate your actions. God is there, and he will help you. You will be set free.

Blessings,

Raj Kosaraju