Saturday, August 31, 2013

Feeling the weight of...something



There are certain things God is not going to reveal. And that is good news. Who wants to believe in a God that they can put in a box and completely understand? Not me.

You can take a bucket down to the ocean and dip out a bucket full of water. Everything in that bucket is ocean, but not all the ocean is in the bucket. Amen? And with our bucket-size minds, we are never going to know all there is about God. I’m not. You’re not. Nobody is.

Deuteronomy 29:29 says, “The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.”

So I got to thinking...individuals feel the weight of guilt, and nations feel the weight of guilt, the world feels the weight of guilt....and the world will stagger under the weight of the guilt at the end of the last days... is THAT the feeling I've been feeling lately?
                                           
I am serious. Recently I've been feeling the weight of...something. I always feel the weight of my own guilt, and that weight gets heavier the more I am grown by the Spirit in Christ-likeness. As my sanctification increases, so does a super-sensitivity to my own sin.

But it's more than that. It feels lately as if the very air has grown thicker. As if the very world has grown heavier. It feels like I'm in an antique diving suit, trying to walk through mud and molasses.

I got to thinking about the weight of sin, and David's anguish over his guilt. None of us are immune from making poor choices in our lives. David made a number of seemingly minor choices that snowballed into an avalanche of suffering, shame and tragedy. It started when he chose to stay at home in Jerusalem instead of going out to lead his troops into battle, as was his duty. David had too much time on his hands, which ultimately led to him committing adultery with Bathsheba and trying to cover up that sin with murder . I also thought about the women loaded down with sins...and Ezra's burden of the nation's sin... and Isaiah's expression of the world tottering under the transgressions that have piled up. Some days it seems like a lead blanket has been shaken out and is settling slowly on the world, weighing down all peoples. Like Ezra, who understood that the sins of the few contaminate the many, we also feel the weight of the world's guilt and are contaminated by it. God's forgiveness restores the broken relationship between Himself and sinner, but forgiveness can't make everything exactly as it was. Sin has consequences that forgiveness cannot change. David had consequences he had to live with for the rest of his life.

As Christians seeking to share our faith in Jesus, it often feels fruitless. Sometimes we may have the joy of seeing someone respond warmly and positively. We might even be the person that God uses to bring them to faith. But when that happens, you’re probably standing on the shoulders of the Johns of the world. You’re probably the final link in the chain of people that God has used.
                                             
When evangelism seems pointless, when it seems like you’ve failed and been rejected—don’t give up!

Remember the big picture. Remember that God is sovereign, and you’re not the only Christian out there. If you’ve faithfully shared the gospel, and shown a genuine care for the person you’re evangelizing, you’ve succeeded. And who knows—maybe you’ll be that person’s John.

This side of eternity, we might never know the ultimate outcome of our simple, faithful evangelistic endeavours. But God might just use you to awaken someone’s conscience, to plant a splinter in their mind, to lay the foundation for a future response to the gospel. Do your part; entrust the rest to God.

Let me ask you this: How valuable is salt?

40 million tons are required each year to fill our needs. Homer called it divine. Plato called it a "substance dear to the gods."

Shakespeare mentioned salt 17 times in his plays.

Perhaps Leonard da Vinci wanted to send a subtle message about purity lost when he painted "The Last Supper."

In that painting an overturned salt cellar is conspicuously placed before Judas.

In ancient Greece a far-flung trade involving the exchange of salt for slaves gave rise to the expression, "...not worth his salt."

Special salt rations were given to Roman soldiers and known as "Solarium Argentums" the forerunner of the English word "salary."

Thousands of Napoleon's troops died during his retreat from Moscow because their wounds would not heal--their bodies lacked salt.

The human body contains about 4oz. of salt. Without enough of it, muscles won't contract, blood won't circulate, food won't digest and the heart won't beat a beat.

Without a doubt, salt is the essence of life. And Jesus said, "Ye are the salt of the earth."

Simply stated, you are here on earth for a reason. And one of your missions is to share Christ to people.


Blessings,

Raj Kosaraju


Friday, August 30, 2013

Children First




The giants in our lives usually start out small too. Often they begin with an attitude that says, I can handle this. It is just a drink here and there. It is just having one with the guys after work. It is just a glass of wine with Italian food. Then, after a while, it is a drink to unwind at the end of a long day. Then it is having a drink in the morning. Pretty soon, it is not being able to get through the day without a drink. People who don't plan on ending up this way end up this way.

Like Goliath, our giants start small, and they get big. That little area we thought we had control of now has control of us. That little thing that once was a pest has now become a relentless giant, and we don't know how to defeat it. We don't know how to bring it down.

He has determined our times and dwelling places. Unlike an author or painter who steps back from their created work once it is finished, God desires a daily relationship with us. We have a choice. We can rely on our own instincts and wisdom or we can rely on God for direction. When we rely on our own point of view, we are certain to take wrong turns. When we rely on God, our footsteps are sure. Who will you trust today?

The truthfulness of our words can often seem like a little thing to us, but it matters greatly to God! Notice that two of the seven things He hates in this passage have to do with lying.

Sometimes when we tell a “white lie”, when we just shade the truth a little to deceive, we think it doesn’t matter very much. But listen to this warning from Charles Spurgeon:

“Just get one small error into your minds, get one small evil into your thoughts, commit one small act of sin in your life—permit these things to be handled, and fondled, favoured, petted, and treated with respect, and you cannot tell whereunto they may grow.

“They are small in their infancy; they will be giants when they come to their full growth. You little know how near your soul may be to destruction when you wantonly indulge in the smallest act of sin! Dread sin; though it be ever so small, dread it.”

We see God. We read about His mighty works and power throughout Scripture. We see His hand in the beauty and breadth of creation. And then we look in the mirror. We see a mess. We see mistakes, disappointments, and missed opportunities. How could God ever use us? How could He ever find a purpose for us in His story? But in spite of how we see ourselves, can you bring even your words to God today and give them to Him? Trust Him to help you always be truthful.

But today, the call of God to the church is to dismiss ourselves from chasing hither and thither and to cultivate a heart of unwavering devotion. He wants us to love Him, first and foremost, with all of our hearts. When your heart is conquered by the One who is fascinating, then no other captivation will satisfy. You will refuse to dwell anywhere but in this position of waiting on Him. You will pursue Him alone, not allowing yourself to be distracted by anything less. Your hunger will be fixed on a single source. There will be no going back to what used to bring satisfaction. Secondary pleasures will fade away.

I know that God has enemies. His enemy is the devil; the enemy of Jesus Christ is Satan. The enemy of the Holy Spirit is the devil, the enemy of the truth is the devil, the enemy of the church is the devil, and God's enemies are those who are against the truth.

God may choose to get our attention and increase our anointing by the rival spirit of an enemy. Now a rivalry can be a friendly rivalry, but sometimes it can lead to hostility. A rival is a person who competes with you. And yet a friendly rivalry can be healthy: "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another" (Prov. 27:17). Every rival in our lives may be seen as a thorn in the flesh to get us to pray harder.

There can be a strategic rivalry. Saul became jealous of David, and David became the enemy of Saul for the rest of his life. David's hero became his enemy, but it was God's way of refining David's anointing—the best thing that could have happened to him. God uses an enemy to refine us. That is why it is strategic.

Be sure that you are in Christ. Be sure that you are covered by the blood of Jesus. Be sure that all your sins are under His blood, because you surely don't want God as an enemy. Be sure then, that you know that your sins are forgiven and that you are walking in the light (1 John 1:7).

For most of us, life presents dozens of options for career, lifestyle, passions, and hobbies. In our pursuit of pleasure and meaning we run here and there, trying one job or recreational activity after another, collecting experiences but never devoting ourselves to one direction. 

Multi-site church strategies starring the guy on the screen are simply another variant of televangelism. With all of the attached unsustainable encumberances. What happens when the guy dies? Or decides to move away? Or changes careers? Or relinquishes his faith? He-and thus his personality-driven network of multi-sites-is not sustainable.

And the multi-site pastor shares another, more unseemly, danger with the old televangelists-pride. As adoring flocks grow, those in the spotlight often become more removed, isolated, protected, unaccountable, and susceptible to temptation. The multi-site guy may become convinced that the most compelling factor that has attracted the crowds across the locations is the face of the franchise-his. Pride and fame do not mix well with sustainable ministry.

Preacher fame and ubiquity can also be toxic to those who view the guy on the big screen. They can become star-struck and attach more adulation to the guy on the screen than the Guy in the Book.

Fame corrodes even the most well-intentioned. Some have said, "Well, that's not going to happen to me. I know how to keep myself in check." But even that statement is evidence of a certain hubris.

The dangers of ministerial pride are not new. The disciples argued about who was the greatest among them. Jesus cautioned them about their pride: "Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all." That doesn't sound much like aspiring to be the screen star of a chain of churches

As adoring flocks grow, those in the spotlight often become more removed, isolated, protected, unaccountable, and susceptible to temptation. The multi-site guy may become convinced that the most compelling factor that has attracted the crowds across the locations is the face of the franchise-his. Pride and fame do not mix well with sustainable ministry.

What’s the answer to these problems? It’s more than simply dragging your child by the ear to church until they’re old enough to run the other way. It begins first with living the life you want your child to live. It does no good for you to spout Christian sayings while sporting a “do as I say, not as I do” lifestyle. If your walk is authentic and directs your path, your child will see that and may be more inclined to follow in your faith.

It is our obligation as parents to guide our children in ways that are right, true, noble and good.  We are at the same time to keep our children from ways that are destructive, harmful, false and evil.  We cannot delegate this responsibility to the Sunday school teacher, church or any other institution.  God calls us as parents to perform this function.  We also cannot expect our children to know the way to go or figure it out on their own.  Children must be taught and even trained to live a godly lifestyle.

Proverbs 22:6 says, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it” (NIV). Parents, I would encourage you to take this to heart and invite Jesus into your life and home. Make sure your faith in Him is more than lip service; allow Him to direct what you see, hear, discuss, and pray as you go through your day. Love your child with the grace-filled love of Christ.

Blessings,

Raj Kosaraju


Thursday, August 29, 2013

You’ll experience His “true riches.”



In the heat of emotion or personal turmoil it is easy to make foolish promises to God. What seems to us a very spiritual act of devotion turns out to be a faithless attempt to exploit God's favor and power. Instead, we should rest in the certainty that God loves his people (Zechariah 8:2). It's written all over Scripture, and especially in Jesus' life and death. We can depend on God's love alone. We do not need to manipulate him to show us love and kindness. Is there a desire in your heart that seems overwhelming? Do you want something so bad you'd give up almost anything for it? Are you trying to make a deal with God, "If you just give me this one thing, then I will . . ."? Let Jephthah's experience be a warning to you. Making a deal with God isn't what God wants for you. Ask God to give you open hands and a patient heart. Give to him the desires you have, and trust him to respond with what's best for you.

The Bible promises that God’s plan is the best plan; the one for which we were created. Psalm 32:8 “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.” God agrees to not only show us the plan, but He also promises to provide all of the strength and resources needed to carry out that plan. His sufficient and constant power is unleashed by our choice to accept and follow Him.

We were created by the One who knows us best and loves us most. There are no accidents with God. He never has to say, “Oops!” Before we were ever conceived in the heart and mind of man we were conceived in the heart and mind of God. Wanted, loved and planned since before the world began. He had a plan in mind and lovingly, purposefully created us in response to that plan.

I know that there are days when the will of God seems completely wrong and we simply do not understand. Every moment is pregnant with darkness and our hearts are numb, paralyzed by fear and doubt. We are treading water in the storm tossed sea of life, desperately longing to see Him walking on the treacherous waves toward us, rescue in His hand.

It is in those shadowed moments that we must choose to trust the Plan Maker even though our faith is small, and we cannot understand the plan. His ways are higher than our ways. His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. And one day, every one of our question marks will be yanked into exclamation points as we see that high plan as He sees it – perfect.

How God Views the Self-Directed Man

Luke describes a wealthy person who makes a lot of plans based only on his own thoughts, desires, and experience. Take the time to look at the passage again, and notice how many times he used the words "I" and "my." What you'll see is that his focus was squarely on himself. This parable is a sad picture of the self-directed man trying to make his own way and secure his own future with no help from anyone--including God.

The Lord didn't mince words: He called the man "fool" (v. 20). Worldly wisdom amounts to nothing in the eyes of our omniscient, all-wise Father (1 Cor. 1:20), and He expects His children to request and follow His guidance.

The message for us today is clear: When we figure out our own plans and take action with no thought about what God would advise, we are behaving like fools. The Lord has a plan for your life. He knows where you'll succeed and where you'll fail. Be wise and ask Him for directions. Luke 12:16-21 (NIV)

Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. 15 Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; 16 for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need. 17 Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account. 18 I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. 19 And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:14-19)

In God’s eyes, the way you spend your money is a “little thing” that reveals very important things about your spiritual life!

Paul had a confidence that God would always provide what he needed. Sometimes it came from his business. Sometimes it came through others. He was not overly concerned with where his provision would come from. His confidence was in God, his provider. So, his attitude was in affirming the benefit that came to the giver from a Kingdom perspective.
Paul learned that it wasn't a church or a business that was his provider. It was God. These were merely tools God used to support him.

He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true [spiritual] riches to you?

The reality is that everything we have is God’s, and that includes all of our money. God, living in us, wants to spend His money, which He has entrusted to us, in His way, for His purposes. When we move with Him, using His money for His purposes, then God knows that He can trust us with bigger things.

Have you been holding back from giving generously to the work of God in this world, waiting for your business to get bigger and more successful so that you can give more later? In truth, if you do not give generously when your business is small, neither will you when your business is bigger.

How you use the Lord’s money has a huge impact on your spiritual life. Jesus is inviting you to make Him the leader of your whole life, even your finances. If you do, you will find that God’s blessings in your life far outweigh your giving.

You’ll experience His “true riches.”

Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we're in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed--that exhilarating finish in and with God--he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. And now he's there, in the place of honor, right alongside God.

For 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 (Jeremiah 29:11, NLT).



Blessings,

Raj Kosaraju






Wednesday, August 28, 2013

We all face giants



What idle moments are there in your life? Those are the times that often lead to real spiritual struggles. Idle moments are when anxiety can fill our minds, when lustful thoughts can invade, when bitterness and anger can rise to the surface, when fear can paralyse us.

Those very moments that lead to the greatest struggles in our spiritual lives can be turned into one of the greatest sources of spiritual growth as we begin to give those idle moments to God.

The time in the car, or lying awake in bed, or in between classes, or waiting in the doctor’s office, or watching TV. In a sense, we all have giants that we encounter in life. By giants I mean those seemingly insurmountable problems and issues that we have tried to bring down but have only grown stronger with the passing of time. For some people, it may be the giant of fear. For others, it might be the giant of a personal sin. For still others, it might be the giant of addiction.

Our lives are like tempest-tossed boat rides sometimes. We climb to breathtaking heights and fall to desperate lows, and there are times when we feel as though we just can't go on. The Lord understands these feelings. He was exalted on Sunday and nailed to a cross just five days later. He has experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, and He, too, felt Himself melt in the face of distress. It is well to remember that the Lord is with us, and He can truly be of help to us because He has walked our path before us. When the storms of life toss us the hardest, that is when we can count on the Lord to be closest.

But no matter who we are, we all face giants: hardships, temptations, obstacles, and challenges. Yet 1 Corinthians 10:13 assures us, "The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you can endure."

Know this: every giant can be defeated. There is no power you need to be under . . . no addiction that needs to control your life . . . no lifestyle you cannot break free from . . . no giant that should be overpowering you. You have everything you need in your relationship with Christ.

However....

Growth and change, are not easy. This is what so many people resist. This is what so many of us fail to choose every minute of every day. We have a choice to make – we can work on ourselves, correct our faults, improve our virtues, adapt, change, develop, and grow. That is choosing life. Or we can choose the easier mode of stagnation, the comfort of staying inside our comfort zone, or not doing the hard work to make our dreams a reality. This is what we call death. No movement, no growth, and no change.

Sadly, so many people get to the end of their lives and realize that they never really lived. They never took any risks or rocked the boat too much. They never followed their dreams or spent enough time with their loved ones. This is why Scripture needs to come along and encourage us to choose life. It’s so much easier to pass up that choice and to simply maintain the status quo. However, easier is not better. The only life worth living is the one that is truly lived.

Life is not a race we are going to win. At some point, whether because of this fallen world or our own sin nature, all of us will stumble and fall. Many people believe that these times of tragedy prove God either does not exist, or simply does not care what happens to us, but they are wrong.    

True Christian grace is that in those moments of pain and defeat, God takes us by the hand, holds us up, and says, “Let’s finish together.”


Blessings,

Raj Kosaraju


Sunday, August 4, 2013

Freedomborn....set free





There is a story about a wealthy man and his only son who travelled the world together collecting priceless paintings by Van Gogh, Monet and many other masters. Tragically, the son died at war while rescuing others. Distraught and lonely, the old man dreaded the upcoming Christmas day. 

Christmas morning, a young soldier knocked on his door and said, “I’m a friend of your son. I’m one of the ones he rescued.”  Then the soldier presented a picture he had painted of the son. Though the picture lacked genius, the brokenhearted father saw the features of his precious son and immediately valued this painting above all the masterpieces in his home. Every day, the father gazed at the portrait and told his housekeeper of his great love for it.

When the father died, the art world buzzed with excitement over the sale of his extraordinary art collection on Christmas day. 

The first item offered was the painting of the son, but no one in the self-important crowd would bid on the amateurish portrait. The auctioneer insisted that the terms of the will required the portrait must be sold before any other paintings could be offered.  Finally, the housekeeper, tears streaming down her cheeks, said to the auctioneer, “May I pay ten dollars for it? That is all the money I have. I knew the son, and I know how much the father treasured that portrait.” The auctioneer said, “The bid is ten dollars. Going once, going twice, gone,” and the gavel fell.
The auctioneer then announced that the auction was over.  “What do you mean?” said the stunned audience. “There must be hundreds of millions of dollars of art here.” The auctioneer replied, “It is very simple. According to the will of the father, whoever takes the son gets it all.”
Like the art collectors, not everyone can see the real value of a relationship with Jesus.  John 1:11 tells us that Jesus came to His own but His own received Him not. They did not accept the precious gift of God’s Son, a gift that brings with it all the blessings and love of God. 


Hold your thoughts. Think for a moment. Don’t you hate the feeling that you have just wasted all sorts of time and energy on something? Many of the things we focus on in life, things the world pursues with great energy and urgency, really won’t matter very much in the end. When you lie on your death bed, you won’t wish you had worked more, or made more money, or achieved a higher position. But you will wish that you had loved God more, focused on people more, spent more time with your family, shared your faith more, prayed more, and pursued God’s purpose for your life. 

If wealth, power, and status mean nothing to God, why do we attribute so much importance to them and so much honor to those who possess them? Do your material possessions give you goals and your only reason for living? If they were gone, what would be left? Who knows you better than the One who created you? Who cares more for you than the One Who died for you? Who leads you more carefully than the One Who knows the end from the beginning? There is no greater picture of courage than the picture of Jesus Christ—the Savior Who lays down His life. You can know security because the One Who loves you is compassionate, caring, and courageous. Jesus knows you. He cares for you. He wants to lead you into the abundant life.

Have you fussed and fumed through life’s challenges, wondering if the Sovereign Creator of the Universe was on vacation? I have a message for you: The God who hung the stars, the God who poured the oceans, the God who raised the mountains, the God who knew you before you were knit together in your mother’s womb, this sovereign God is your Savior. He is your King, and He is in control.

When you are plucked from the depths of sin, you are placed in the very hand of God! You can’t climb up into the hand of God; you are placed into the hand of God. Hallelujah! Our efforts didn’t get us there. His grace placed us there. And His love will keep us there forever.


If you are not intentional about recognizing and receiving Jesus Christ, you will have nothing in the end, and there will be no negotiation of God’s terms. God’s Son may have been born in the most humble of circumstances in a manger in Bethlehem, but He is coming back in power and glory. The next time we see Jesus, things will be very different from His first coming. Not only will He be the King of kings but He will be a judge and we will be held accountable for our lives.


Blessings,


Raj Kosaraju