Friday, November 29, 2013

Balancing Giving and Receiving





Giving To GOD

“Honor the Lord with your possessions and with the first fruits of all your increase”-
Proverbs 3:9

God does not ‘need’ our money to get His work done.  He is sovereign and could do it without our help.  Yet He has arranged it so that His work often depends on our generosity.

At least two things happen when we give.  First, when we give with the right attitude, God reminds us that what we have isn't really ours. He gave us everything we have, and it actually belongs to Him.  King David prayed, “All things come from You, and of Your own we have given You” (I Chronicles 29:14).  We need to learn that truth.

Second, when we give, we help meet the needs of others whom God also loves.  By giving to others we testify to God’s love for them, and we point them to the greatest gift of all—God’s gift of His Son for our salvation.

Someone has said that our lives should resemble channels, not reservoirs.  A reservoir stores water; a channel distributes it.  God wants us to be channel of blessing to others,  Are you? –
Billy Graham

Everything we own and everything we have comes from God. So, when we give, we simply offer him a very small portion of all the abundance he has already given to us. Giving is an expression of our thankfulness and praise to God. It comes from a heart of worship that recognizes that everything we give already belongs to him.

Background

God instructed Old Testament believers to give a tithe, or a tenth, because this 10% represented the first, or most important portion of all that they had. The New Testament does not suggest a certain percentage for giving, but simply says for each to give "in keeping with his income."

Believers should give according to their income.

1 Corinthians 16:2

On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. (NIV)
Note that the offering was set aside on the first day of the week. When we are willing to offer the first portion of our wealth back to him, then God knows he has our hearts. He knows—and we also know—that we are submitted completely in trust and obedience to our Lord and Savior.

We are blessed when we give.

Acts 20:35

... remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'(NIV)

God wants us to give because he knows how blessed we will be as we give generously to him and to others. Giving is a kingdom principle—it brings more blessing to the giver than to the recipient.

When we give freely to God, we receive freely from God.

Luke 6:38

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (NIV)

Proverbs 11:24

One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. (NIV)

God promises that we will be blessed over and above what we give and also according to the measure that we use to give. But, if we hold back from giving with a stingy heart, we hinder God from blessing our lives.

If you're not currently giving to the Lord, I challenge you to start by making a commitment. Give something faithfully and regularly. I'm certain God will honor and bless your commitment. If a tenth seems too overwhelming, consider making it a goal. Giving may feel like a huge sacrifice at first, but I'm confident you'll eventually discover its rewards.

God wants believers to be free from the love of money, which the Bible says in 1 Timothy 6:10 is "a root of all kinds of evil." Giving honors the Lord and allows his work to go forward. It also helps build our faith. We may experience times of financial hardship when we can't give as much, but the Lord still wants us to trust Him in times of lack. He, not our paycheck, is our provider. He will meet our daily needs.

John Morton in his article "Balancing Giving and Receiving" sums it up. In order for us to fully understand the meaning of human existence and live in this world, we must have the ability to receive and to give whatever is available from the supply in the world. Which is more important? Which comes first -- the receiving or the giving?

Actually, they're one and the same. We can't have giving without receiving. We can't have receiving without giving. Giving and receiving coexist. They're polarities on the same continuum. One requires the other in order for either to occur.

My view is that the supply for giving and receiving comes from the same divine source. Both are essential and natural. Although giving and receiving can occur simultaneously, they tend to happen in one way and then the other way like a tide that naturally flows and out with variations for the current conditions. Often they occur in cycles. The dynamic of giving and receiving is what's important so there will be a change of flow from giving to receiving and visa versa

In the Bible it says, "He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully" (2 Corinthians 9:6). It is also written in the Bible, "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matthew 6:33). I consider these references as a promise to us all and direction on how to create and manifest into the world. I find it wise to consider that life provides infinite opportunities to better know and understand just how our infinite source has already created the blessings of all in this world. I encourage all of us to embrace each new experience and all the conditions before us as opportunities to contribute to wealth, wisdom and a better life experience for each and everyone of us. We are called upon to participate fully in creating a better world for ourself and everyone. Our infinite source of supply is also an infinite source of wisdom that can solve whatever conditions are before us so health, wealth and happiness can be increased for all.

Blessings,

Raj Kosaraju

Thursday, November 28, 2013

World Religions




                                                       commons.wikimedia.org



An Effective Witness

The vast majority of the world's people are religious, and at the very deepest level of their being, it is their religion that governs them. We can't even begin to understand them without knowing of their religions.

We Christians know that Jesus commanded us to make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:18–20). We also know that he commanded us to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:33) and to follow the Golden Rule (Matt. 7:12), treating others the way we want to be treated.

Suppose my neighbor already believes in a god of grace (as many Hindus and Buddhists do), and I assume he knows only a god of law, and our conversation reveals my lack of understanding to him. In other words, he believes his god forgives sins out of sheer love, but I assume his god will only punish sins and not forgive them. Not only will I fail to show him the courtesy of my understanding, but I will fail miserably in my role as an evangelist.
Surveys show that many people in the west these days have a belief in a God, but are not strong adherents of a particular religion. Their God has some characteristics of the Christian God (good, powerful, loving) but few of the 'tougher' characteristics (high ethical standards, interfering).

Other people may talk about the divine presence within all people.

It is hard to assess such beliefs, because they offer little beyond personal faith as a reason to believe. However they do not satisfy the criteria that God has communicated to many people, nor do their gods have much of the tough realism required by other criteria. It seems that most of these believers claim no more than subjective "truth" for their belief. 

If I study his religion, I may find that what he really wants to hear is not about grace but history – whether God ever really entered history. That will make my witness more effective.

Monotheistic gods

As we have seen, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Baha'i, Zoroastrianism and Sikhism all believe in one God. These Gods meet most of the above criteria - they are creators, have ethics, are 'personal' and reveal themselves. They have a lot in common, but they each place different requirements on those who believe. Christianity, Islam and Judaism are generally considered by historians to have promoted the rise of modern science.
However only Christianity and Islam have really become 'world' religions, believed by a significant percentage of people, so belief in the others is more problematic.

Diffuse gods

Hinduism, some other Asian religions (Jainism and perhaps Shinto), and many local or tribal religions (for example, ancient Greek, Roman or Norse, and animistic religions today), believe in many gods, or a God or spiritual force revealed through many aspects which may appear as separate gods.

These Gods don't satisfy the criteria so well - some are ethical but some are not, they are not always seen as the great creators of the universe and they appear to be less connected to the human race. Philospher Mortimor Adler and physicist-theologian John Polkinghorne both suggest that some aspects of eastern religions (and probably many polytheistic religions as well) are incompatible with the scientific method - for example, often their worlds are chaotic or even an illusion, lacking the hard reality and physical laws we are familiar with, and their logic can allow mutually exclusive things to both be true, which does not fit with modern science.
Of these religions, only Hinduism can really claim to be a "world" religion.

Less knowable gods

The Buddha did not teach much about God, the taoic religions (Confucianism, Taosim, and perhaps Shinto) also stress ethics and philosophy rather than faith in a god. Thus these, also, do not meet many of the criteria we have suggested - it is hard to see a ceator god among them, nor a god interested in people as individuals. Only Buddhism can claim to be a world religion.

These beliefs may be more attractive to those who don't believe that the evidence points to the existence of a creator God.

Roll your own gods

Surveys show that many people in the west these days have a belief in a God, but are not strong adherents of a particular religion. Their God has some characteristics of the Christian God (good, powerful, loving) but few of the 'tougher' characteristics (high ethical standards, interfering). (1)

I spotted D.A.Carson’s summary of the teaching of the Bible. I believe it comes in at around 221 words. Here it goes:

God is the sovereign, transcendent and personal God who has made the universe, including us, his image-bearers. Our misery lies in our rebellion, our alienation from God, which, despite his forbearance, attracts his implacable wrath.

But God, precisely because love is of the very essence of his character, takes the initiative and prepared for the coming of his own Son by raising up a people who, by covenantal stipulations, temple worship, systems of sacrifice and of priesthood, by kings and by prophets, are taught something of what God is planning and what he expects.

In the fullness of time his Son comes and takes on human nature. He comes not, in the first instance, to judge but to save: he dies the death of his people, rises from the grave and, in returning to his heavenly Father, bequeaths the Holy Spirit as the down payment and guarantee of the ultimate gift he has secured for them—an eternity of bliss in the presence of God himself, in a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.

The only alternative is to be shut out from the presence of this God forever, in the torments of hell. What men and women must do, before it is too late, is repent and trust Christ; the alternative is to disobey the gospel.


Notes:


1. http://www.is-there-a-god.info/belief/choosing.shtml



Blessings,

Raj Kosaraju



Wednesday, November 27, 2013

“Give thanks for your country… and the rest”




The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable” – James 3:17

Today there is more knowledge in the world than ever before.  Computers or fiber optic cables can transmit information in a millisecond to any part of the globe.  More facts have been discovered in the past century than in all of the other centuries of human history combined. Yet the same century also recorded the most devastating wars and the fiercest genocides in human history.  We have never been farther solving our basic problems.

The Bible says there are two kinds of wisdom in the world.  First, there is wisdom that is given by God, a wisdom that views life in terms of eternity.  Of this wisdom, the scripture says, “The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy” (James 3:17).

The second is the “wisdom of the world”, This wisdom excludes God and His moral standards from human decisions, and seeks to solve society’s problems apart from Him.  But where has it gotten us?  Which kind of wisdom will you choose? – Billy Graham

In an article by Grace to you  titled “The Only Source of Wisdom “ God defines wisdom this way: "Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding" (Job 28:28). That verse describes saving faith-both fearing God and departing from evil take place initially at conversion. So you begin to be wise when you fear God by trusting in Him and repenting of your sins. As long as you have only human wisdom-or to put it in James' words, that which is "earthly, natural, demonic" (3:15)-you cannot know God or true wisdom. Without that critical first step, there is no relationship to the Giver of all wisdom and understanding.

On the other hand, if you have submitted to the gospel in repentance, you know the "only wise God" (Rom. 16:27) as your Father. His book of wisdom is open to you as a Christian. The indwelling Spirit of wisdom illuminates to you the wisdom of His H Word-you truly can be wise.

Why then do we still have a sinful tendency to look first to man's wisdom and virtually ignore the sufficiency of God's wisdom found in the Bible? I think if we truly understand the stark contrast-the absolute opposition of the one to the other-we will leave behind the elementary understanding of the world to embrace the riches of divine wisdom.

Today your thinking is attacked by worldly philosophies and methodologies in an attempt to divert you from the Word of God-the only source that can satisfy the deep needs of the human heart. It's not a new attack; the Corinthian believers had the same problem. They were strongly influenced by the prevailing ideas of their day. When they became Christians and were awakened to the revelation of God, they were exposed to an obvious conflict.

Paul, describing that conflict, said, "The word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.... Has not God made foolish
the wisdom of the world?" (1 Cor. 1:18, 20). While the first-century philosophers viewed the wisdom of God as foolishness, in truth, God exposed their so-called "wisdom" as foolish. That opposition makes the wisdom of the world and the wisdom of God incompatible-they are mutually exclusive.

God has given man the ability to study, analyze, categorize, and develop the physical resources of this earth to benefit physical life. But that's where his wisdom ends. Because of sin, his mind is totally unable to discern the spiritual dimension. He has no power to change his own heart, no understanding to solve his spiritual dilemma, and no resources to satisfy his soul-he is spiritually dead.

The wisdom of men makes no contribution in the spiritual dimension, and it doesn't need to make a contribution. God's wisdom is rich and infinite-it needs no supplement.

The LORD reigns, let the earth rejoice;
            let the many coastlands be glad!
(Psalm 97:1)

Pastor Jack Graham in his article “Give thanks for your country… and the rest”, sums it up all.

Many years ago, I heard a man make the statement that Christianity would be almost nonexistent by the year 2000. And while it’s true that there has been a decline of people who call themselves believers in many areas of the world, the church is also growing rapidly in other parts.

In China, for example, it’s estimated that 20,000 people every day are trusting Jesus as Savior. In Africa, the church is growing dramatically, as it is in South America and across parts of Asia. These areas, commonly called the “Global South,” are seeing an intense and passionate response to the Gospel.

So what does that tell us? Well, I think those of us in the Western world have a duty to support and encourage the spreading of the Christian message in these parts of the world. Also, we need to open our hearts to learning from our faithful brothers and sisters around the globe and not think that we hold all the answers here.

It’s good to thank God for your country this Thanksgiving. But let’s never forget that our God is a global God. So get involved in what He’s doing around the world by praying, giving, and going to make His name known among all nations!


Blessings,

Raj Kosaraju


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Untouchables





The untouchablity feature is one of the cruelest features of the caste system. It is seen by many as one of the strongest racist phenomenon in the world.

Untouchables or Dalits may not enter the higher-caste sections of villages, may not use the same wells, wear shoes in the presence of upper castes, visit the same temples, drink from the same cups in tea stalls, or lay claim to land that is legally theirs. This therefore makes them “untouchable.”

Untouchables are seen as “pollutants” and their dwellings are distanced from the settlements of the four Indian Varna communities. The untouchables are not allowed to touch people from the four Varnas. They are not allowed to enter houses of the higher Varnas, enter the temples, drink from the same cups in tea stalls or use the same wells used by the Varnas, nor lay claim to land that is legally theirs. On public occasions, they are compelled to sit at a distance from the four Varnas. In regions where the attitude towards the untouchables is more severe, not only touching them was seen polluting, but even a contact with their shadow was seen as polluting. .

A Dalit cannot send his boy or girl to the village school where the other boys and girls of the village go. Dalit men and women or children may not walk in a street where caste people live.

In the Indian society, people who worked in ignominious, polluting and unclean occupations were seen as polluting peoples and were therefore considered as untouchables. The untouchables had almost no rights in the society. In different parts of India they are treated in different ways. In some regions the attitude towards the untouchables was harsh and strict. In other regions it was less strict.

In regions where the attitude is less strict, the untouchables are seen as pollutants and their dwellings are at a distance from the settlements of the four Varna communities. The untouchables were not allowed to touch people from the four Varnas. They were not allowed to enter houses of the higher Varnas. Centuries of oppression have been inflicted upon the Dalit people causing deep psychological wounds, trauma, and low self-esteem.

The cruelty of the caste system is that one is born into that caste — or non-caste as in the case of the Dalit and from this there is no escape, ever…no matter what one does or achieves. In the eyes of the majority of the people of India, a Dalit by the fact of birth alone is forever condemned as an agent of pollution.

The Dalit Christians are still carrying the cross of humiliation, exploitation, oppression, and subjugation. For example, the Dalit cannot go to the village pump or well to draw water as the other villagers do. A Dalit cannot send his boy or girl to the village school where the other boys and girls of the village go. The Dalit cannot set foot in the temple. Dalit men and women or children may not walk in a street where caste people live. In a village restaurant, a Dalit cannot use the same cup as the caste people. Such constant inhuman treatment has a devastating impact on the psyche. This psychic wound has been inflicted on the Dalits by others.

"You were born in the image of God." For many Christians across the globe this is a well-known and common Biblical verse from Genesis 1:27, but for Kumar Swamy and his family this would be the most radical and life-changing message they had ever heard. Though the words are simple, the power contained in them was enough to have them dedicate themselves to Jesus in an instant and compel them to spend their lives fighting for the oppressed, as well as spreading His name to everyone who would listen. Swamy and his family are Dalits.

There are over 250 million Dalit men, woman and children who are abused, neglected and exploited in what is widely considered the world's largest human rights atrocity. Currently, there is an effort to empower Dalits with education and through the grace of Jesus Christ, but the greatest challenge is a suppressive socio-religious order which has been engrained into the psyche of the Indian people.

India is home to the world's second largest population, with about 1.2 billion people, but it is also home to the largest and most historically oppressed group in history, the Dalits. Dalits comprise a societal group that has been oppressed, degraded and discriminated against for over 2,500 years. This group falls outside the predominant Indian social hierarchy, which subjects them to enumerated hardships, extreme discrimination and enslavement.

"Broken," "outcast" and "crushed" are all words that have been used to describe the Dalits. The name connotes a dehumanized state of being, allowing upper caste members to justify despicable actions which include forced prostitution, enslavement and perhaps the most harmful, indifference.

What now poses the greatest challenge, given the circumstances, is the depth in which discrimination and feelings of worthlessness have been engrained into the minds of the Dalits, and the deeply held contempt for the Dalit people by those who continue to observe the caste system.

The work is just beginning and there is still a long road difficult road to go, but  we are confident that with continued hard work, and dedication to Jesus Christ, the Dalits will eventually be able to rise up above the caste system that has oppressed them for thousands of years. (1)


Notes:

(1) The Forgotten People of India - Part 1: God Touches the 'Untouchables',  By Myles Collier, Christian Post Contributor.


Blessings,

Raj Kosaraju




Monday, November 25, 2013

Difficulties in life are unavoidable



So here was Joseph, at the bottom and in danger. Things could not be any worse! Yet, as we the readers know, Joseph was on a journey to becoming one of the most powerful and wealthiest men in the ancient world.

This was the beginning of Joseph’s journey to success. From the pit, Joseph would be sold to a band of gypsies, who, in turn, would sell him as a slave to a prestigious Egyptian master. From there, Joseph would rise in rank only to be sent to prison on false accusations from his master’s wife.

Yet, Joseph’s imprisonment would lead him to encounter one of Pharaoh’s servants who eventually would bring Joseph to Pharaoh himself in order to interpret a dream. Joseph would successfully interpret Pharaoh’s dream, which would earn him the honor of becoming second-in-command to Pharaoh, ruler of the world’s super-power.

So in hindsight, Joseph’s “rock bottom” was the springboard for his rise to the top. His journey was full of strange twists and turns, ups and downs. And yet, it was constantly moving Joseph in the right direction as he approached his own personal success. That, in turn, would allow him to be the savior and sustainer of Jacob’s children when they experienced famine in Canaan. From a beginning that appeared hopeless, Joseph ended up better off than he could have ever imagined. How mysterious and wondrous are God’s ways.

Most people these days are living in the fast lane. We speed through life, thanks to the many conveniences and miracles of modern technology. We are faster, more productive, and can do more in 24 hours than our ancestors could have done in 24 years.

Why are we moving so fast? Why are we accomplishing so much? The answer for most of us is that if we do more, we will have more. More effort equals more of whatever it is we want in life. However, the Sages caution that putting in more effort than is reasonable can actually detract from reaching our goals. When we forget that God is in control, we sometimes have to wait until we learn that lesson so we can then reach our goals.

Praise the Lord, my friends, in all things. Praise him whether you are enjoying the comforts and blessings of your life, or you are finding yourself at your own rock bottom. Praise God especially when all seems lost! It is precisely when all seems lost that we find some of the greatest treasures in life. It’s when we hit rock bottom that we find that God is truly our Rock and Redeemer.

Perhaps your childhood was less than ideal. Perhaps you had an alcoholic father, an absent father, an abusive mother, or an aloof mother. Perhaps you lived in poverty, grew up in an orphanage, a foster home, or with parents who felt you were a bother instead of a blessing. Even if you had a wonderful childhood, I bet you know someone who didn’t.

Let me assure you of this, no matter what your childhood memories hold, God can and will use every bit of it for His purposes and for His glory…if we let Him. It doesn’t matter how you started; what matters is how you finish.

Paul said, “This one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14). Paul had to put his past behind him to accomplish what God had called him to do in the present.

Likewise, when we put our painful pasts behind us and obey what God is calling us to do in the present. we will experience a fruitful, fulfilling, fascinating adulthood. He can take those miseries of the past and turn them into ministries in the present. He can take our messes in life and turn them into messages of hope. God took a frightened orphan girl and used her to accomplish a great mission. He did it for Queen Esther. He wants to do it for you.

Difficulties in life are unavoidable. So we need a daily dose of God’s grace if we are to walk through trials with confidence that there is great reward on the other side. If we rely on our own strength, however, obstacles will appear insurmountable, leaving us discouraged and ready to give up.


Blessings,

Raj Kosaraju