Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Message



Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.” Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me?
John 13:36-38

The propelling force behind Peter’s denial wasn’t his lack of faith. Otherwise he wouldn’t have made the claims he did. It was his overestimation of his faith. He believed he was ready to die for Jesus. But he wasn’t, and Jesus knew it.

So Jesus said the unthinkable: you can’t follow me.

But it wasn’t. Jesus knew exactly what He was doing because He knew the exact measure of Peter’s faith.

Peter had initially followed Jesus.
Peter had followed Him on the water.
But he wasn’t ready to follow Jesus to the cross.
Peter wasn’t ready to follow Jesus everywhere. Not at that moment.
You’re not ready to follow Jesus everywhere either. Not at this moment.

Peter walked back to the house, confused. He felt so ashamed. His face burned as he thought back to his denial. His hot words were spoken without proper thought. That is the trouble with words, they are so easy to say and so difficult to unsay. Tears ran down his face. He remembered his boastful comment, "Though others forsake you, I will never forsake you." The strident crow of the rooster echoed and re-echoed in his troubled brain. Satan, the accuser sneered. "Disciple? Disgrace more likely. You are useless. Worthless! Hopeless! Forget it. No one will trust you again. Jesus will never look at you again. You have failed big time and it's all over."

Suddenly he met Jesus. Face to face. Not a ghost. Not an apparition.

Jesus said, "Peace! It's me. Don't be afraid." Peter could hardly believe his eyes. Jesus was alive with a real physical body. Not a different body but the body that had died was now alive again. The original body complete with visible wounds in his hands, his feet and his side was truly alive and walking talking and eating again.

The King was no longer dead. The King had fought his biggest battle and won. What looked like a triumph of hatred and evil and the defeat of godliness and righteousness was instead the defeat of sin and death. Obedience defeated rebellion, self-sacrifice defeated greed and selfishness, love defeated hatred, humility defeated pride, meekness defeated arrogance, and truth defeated lies.

On Good Friday Jesus made the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world. He paid the price, for Peter's forgiveness and my forgiveness. He offers new life and eternal life to all who will put their trust in him.

Because of Easter, Christians have this audacious hope that eternal life is God's great gift to all who will believe in Jesus. We believe that death is not the end of the story. We believe that diabetes, heart disease or cancer is not the final word. We believe that just as Jesus was raised from the dead so he will also raise from the dead everyone who believes in him. Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die."

The resurrection is not just a Bible story from long ago. Jesus is alive and he answers prayer. Where we came from - and the problems, mistakes and failures of our past - are not as important as where we are headed and who we are walking with. Jesus changes lives and brings healing and new life to those who will ask him.

The message we proclaim—the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God’s Son sent to rescue us from our sin—is the same message that Peter preached when he stood in the midst of Jerusalem 2,000 years ago: “This Jesus … you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it” (Acts 2:23–24, ESV).

The same Spirit that filled the Apostle Peter and turned the world upside down is with us and at work today. It’s the Spirit that our nation so desperately needs to turn from our sinful ways and receive the gift of everlasting life.

Blessings,

Raj Kosaraju

I will always support Kashmiri Pandits~ The Forgotten People



Hindsight is always 20/20. Yet while we are in a particular situation, we tend to make things out to be what they aren’t and infer wrong meanings. We kick ourselves, thinking, If only I had known then what I know now. Like the word "fatigue" frequently shows up in the headlines, preceded by a host of adjectives.

Congress suffers budget fatigue. Sports teams lose because of travel fatigue. Trains derail because of driver fatigue. Soldiers face battle fatigue. Trusts and Non-Charitables go unfunded because of donor fatigue. There was even a report recently about young people suffering Facebook fatigue. All these reports -- and more -- are accurate. We are a society of tired people in a tired world. What's more, simply by believing what we had seen, no matter our background, history, race, or education, we could restore our long-lost connection with the Kashmiri Pandits.

I am all the more curious to know about the strong linkages that exist between Saraswat Brahmins and Kashmiri Pandits. It is indeed a pleasant coincidence when I discovered it recently, and am very happy to know about it. I had several wonderful friends who were  Kashmiri Pandits and also had many great college mates who were from the Saraswat Brahmin communities hailing from Pune, Konkan region and Mumbai. When I talk to my KP [Kashmiri Pandit] friends about reconciliation and hope in Kashmir, I am mostly shaken by the response. After so many years their anger and bitterness and hatred towards Muslims remains:

Kashmiri Pandits, the peaceful followers of non-violence are victims twice over. First, they lost out to religious zealots and terrorists who forced them to flee in fear from their homes and, second, they have lost out by languishing in poorly run refugee camps that have deprived them of their remaining dignity.

The Pandits have been waiting for 24 years hoping that the day of their return with honour and security to their homeland would come. It has not so far despite the considerable improvement in the ground situation. In the meanwhile, the plight of the Pandits has been slowly forgotten. Everybody sheds crocodile tears over their sufferings, but there is nothing more by way of action. The future of the Kashmiri Pandits as an important dimension of the Kashmir problem is less and less talked about.


Pandit properties were either destroyed or taken over by terrorists or by local Muslims, and there was a continuous succession of brutal killings, a trend that continues even today. Ethnic cleansing was evidently a systematic component of the terrorists' strategic agenda in J&K, and estimates suggest that, just between February and March 1990, 140,000 to 160,000 Pandits had fled the Valley to Jammu, Delhi, or other parts of the country.

Simultaneously, there were a number of high-profile killings of senior Hindu officials, intellectuals and prominent personalities. Eventually, an estimated 400,000 Pandits - some 95 per cent of their original population in the Valley - became part of the neglected statistic of 'internal refugees' who were pushed out of their homes as a result of this campaign of terror.
        
Not only did the Indian state fail to protect them in their homes, successive governments have provided little more than minimal humanitarian relief, and this exiled community seldom figures in the discourse on the 'Kashmir issue' and its resolution.

As Vir Sanghvi the Editor of the Hindustan Times very rightly says :There are few days sadder than the anniversaries of the exile of the Kashmiri Pandits. Over the last few days, there have been postings on the internet and some impassioned tweets but we all know – with an air of tragic inevitability – that when this anniversary passes, when bloggers have moved on to other subjects and something else is trending on twitter, that the Kashmiri Pandits will be exactly where they have been for the last two decades: nowhere people with no homeland to call their own.

I’ve been reading about the plight of the Pandits for quite sometime now. But, try as I might, I cannot understand the attitude of general indifference which greets their situation. Put brutally, the truth is that hardly anybody seems to care.

Kashmiri Pandits are decent, educated people who have always eschewed violence and who, in the face of grave provocation, have never resorted to attention-seeking terrorism. Instead, they have put their faith in Indian democracy, hoping that politicians will recognize that injustice has been done to them and offer some recompense.

Sadly, both India and democracy itself have failed them. Nobody pays any attention to their cause. And politicians do not regard them as electorally significant enough to merit any concern.


And yet, it is hard to see why this should be so. The fate of the Pandits is an international scandal by any standards. Between 1989 and 1992, the majority of Kashmiri Pandits were forced out of their homes by militants. Men were murdered, women were raped, property was destroyed and threats were issued. It was made clear to the Pandits that they were no longer welcome in Kashmir – a state that constituted the only home they knew – because they were Hindus.

Hundreds of thousands of Pandits fled because they feared for their lives in an exodus that was a microcosm of the Partition’s flood of refugees. Some believed that this was a temporary phase – exactly as many refugees had believed during Partition – and that when the violence was over, they could return to their homes and resume their lives.

This was to prove a doomed hope. The ones who did dare to go back faced more violence and intimidation. And as for the others, there was less and less to go back to. Their homes were forcibly occupied and taken over by strangers. Their shops were looted. Their businesses were closed down. And in many cases – in what must count as the greatest tragedy – the Pandits found that their neighbours had profited from their absence and actively opposed their return.

There is a term for this sort of thing even though we, in India, are reluctant to use it: ethnic cleansing.

Whenever ethnic cleansing has occurred over the last few decades – in Eastern Europe for instance – the world has sat up and taken notice. The United Nations has got involved. The world press has treated it as a global story. And Western governments have tried to find solutions.

Except that in the case of the Pandits, nothing has happened. Nobody seems to care.

Forget about the international community, even our own government has remained curiously indifferent to the Pandits.

There has been no serious attempt to resettle them. Thousands of people have lost everything and have been reduced to poverty, swallowing their pride and living on hand-outs in refugee camps. But few politicians – across parties – seem to feel that this is a national shame and that India owes it to the Pandits to give them their pride back.


As for returning to Kashmir: forget it. It is not that all Kashmiri politicians are hostile to the Pandits. This Thursday, chief minister Omar Abdullah tweeted that Kashmir would remain incomplete until the Pandits came back. But the truth is that neither Omar nor any other Kashmiri politician can guarantee the safety of the Pandits or offer them any cast-iron assurances that they can resume their lives. And with each passing year, Kashmiri Muslims get more and more used to the idea of a Valley without Hindus. An entire generation has grown up in an Islamicised environment without Hindu colleagues or Hindu schoolfriends. Many young Kashmiris simply do not remember an era where Kashmiriyat – the idea that all communities could live together in peace in Kashmir – was the prevailing ideology.

As for the rest of the world, when global conferences are held on tension in south Asia and on finding solutions to the Kashmir problem, the Pandits don’t even get a mention. They are the invisible people, too uncomplaining to matter and too decent to count for anything.

It is to the credit of the Kashmiri Pandits that they have not turned their cause into a Hindu-Muslim conflict. They recognize that Kashmiri militants are not representative of Indian Muslims and frame their case in terms of justice rather than communal feeling.

I wish that we could say that the future held out some hope for people who have done everything liberals advocate – followed a non-violent, secular approach – but I fear that the truth is that the world only cares for those who have a global lobby behind them or a few ounces of RDX in their pocket.(1)

A clinical look at the sequence of rioting in Kishtwar since the targeted violence against the miniscule Pandit community and its forced exodus from the Kashmir valley in 1990 reveals a five-year cycle of aggression, viz, 1993, 1998, 2003, 2008, and now 2013, which can hardly be coincidental. The implication is grim: Long term plans, most likely in concert with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, have been made for the ethnic cleansing of Kishtwar’s Hindu community, as a prelude to achieving a festering dream (read sore) called Greater Kashmir.

The scheduled exit of US troops from Afghanistan in 2014 has made the region extremely volatile, with Pakistan determined to extend its influence on both frontiers pushing jihadis across the Indian side of the Line of Control to provide relief to the departing Americans. At the same time, the jihadi forces and their collaborators are exerting pressure on the Jammu & Kashmir Government to disarm and disband the Village Defence Committees that have served as the vanguard of the defence of Jammu region since 1995 and provided a sense of security to the beleaguered Hindu community.

Indian-administered portion of Kashmir is suffering with every moment death of human rights. Mass killings, forced disappearances, torture, rape & sexual abuse to political repression & suppression of freedom of speech have become an integral part of their day to day life. The Indian central reserve police force, border security personnel and various militant groups have been accused & held accountable for committing severe human rights abuses against Kashmiri civilians. The Kashmiri insurgents are of the view that Indian-administered portion of Kashmir is a part of Pakistan. Hence only the Pakistanis have the right to live on that land. But the question arises how far it is appropriate to create one’s existence at the cost of crushing the existence of those who are quite innocent & have no fault of their own, except that they were given birth on that land. This chaos has put innumerable questions before us demanding serious attention & immediate solution.

In a world where technology has taken hold of our lives at every level, we can communicate at high-speed, we can access information on just about any subject at the touch of a finger. We are the “I want it now generation”. So let us not allow one more year pass by without taking firm steps with the New Government both at the Centre and the State. We are already on the threshold. Let it not become bygones be bygones.  Almost 25 years gone by and still without a solution.

 Reference:

  (1) Vir Sanghvi,  Kashmiri Pandits, "the nowhere people" medium term 
http://blogs.hindustantimes.com/medium-term/?p=431

Best Regards,

Raj Kosaraju





Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Suffering is part of our lot in a fallen world


God never promised that we would be exempt from affliction; rather, suffering is part of our lot in a fallen world.

However, there is hope because, though He does not always deliver us from suffering, He promises to deliver and transform us through it if we rely on His resources instead of our own. In such times of suffering, we can know for sure that we are not alone.

In the midst of our pain, God promises to never leave us or abandon us.

Therefore, when we grieve, we do not grieve like the world does; we grieve with hope, knowing that God is often revealed most clearly in the midst of our trials. God will never despise us or hide his face from us. When we cry for help, He will hear and will enable us to endure. The certainty of His companionship in the midst of our afflictions allows us to view them as a means to a greater end. Our suffering is accomplishing something in us, forging within us the character of the One in whose image we are made. Because of Christ, even our catastrophes have purpose. God is preparing our character for the time when we will see Him face to face.

When we draw closer to God, we can end up suffering on many levels–physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually–but suffering in the name of Jesus is a high compliment! In fact, Scripture says, “If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” (1Peter 4:14).

So how does fear of God, who is perfect love, take away fear? William D. Eisenhower puts it this way in his article 'Fearing God" in Christianity Today:

Unfortunately, many of us presume that the world is the ultimate threat and that God's function is to offset it. How different this is from the biblical position that God is far scarier than the world …. When we assume that the world is the ultimate threat, we give it unwarranted power, for in truth, the world's threats are temporary. When we expect God to balance the stress of the world, we reduce him to the world's equal …. As I walk with the Lord, I discover that God poses an ominous threat to my ego, but not to me. He rescues me from my delusions, so he may reveal the truth that sets me free. He casts me down, only to lift me up again. He sits in judgment of my sin, but forgives me nevertheless. Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, but love from the Lord is its completion.

And, of course, the ultimate example of fear and perfect love working together is Jesus Christ. He warned us at every turn to fear God, not men—and he confirmed that in everything about his life and death. He spoke lovingly but frankly to all and didn't mince words when people needed to face their sin and repent. But he also demonstrated love beyond human understanding when he lived out his words, "There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends (John 15:13)." With love like that, what is left to fear but God?

Shohoiya Yokowai spent 28 years of his life in prison. It was not a prison of bars & locks & wardens, but a self-imposed prison of fear.

He was a Japanese soldier on the island of Guam during WW2.

And when the American forces landed, he fled into the jungle & found a cave in which he hid for 28 years because he was afraid of being captured by the Americans.

He learned that the war was over by reading one of the thousands of pamphlets dropped into the jungle. But he was afraid.

So for 28 years he lived in the cave, coming out only at night to look for roaches & rats & frogs & mangoes on which he survived.

Finally some natives found him & convinced him that it would be all right for him to come out of his jungle prison.

We think, "What a waste! Imagine, spending 28 years living as a prisoner of fear."

Yet, there are a lot of people who are prisoners of fear.

Fears like...

fear of failing
fear of succeeding
fear of disappointing people
fear of losing our child
fear of the unknown
fear of dying

Frankly, I can have a long list of different fears that people have.

They're not aware of it simply because they call "fear" with a different name.

How about you?

Do you have fear that's preventing God to fully bless your life?

Are you trying to control your life instead of letting God have His way?

Blessings,

Raj Kosaraju

Monday, April 14, 2014

Geoffrey Taylor Bull - The dauntless story of the British Missionary in Tibet

                                             (Pic:telegraph.co.uk)

Geoffrey Taylor Bull (1921–1999) was a Scottish Christian missionary.

Bull was born into a family with conservative evangelical beliefs. At 15 years old, he was baptised and received into the fellowship of a group of Christians meeting in "New Testament simplicity".This group was of the Plymouth Brethren persuasion. His original ambition for a career was to enter banking, but by 1941 he became absorbed with missionary work in Central Asia.

It may be that Bull was inspired by the ministry of George W. Hunter, who died in 1946 after long years of isolated missionary labours in China.

After World War II, the elders in his Brethren assembly agreed to commend him to work full-time in Central Asia. In March 1947, Bull and George N. Patterson (1920-2012) went to China, travelling deep into the interior up to the border area shared with Tibet. Here, for three years, they studied Mandarin and Tibetan. Bull witnessed the last days of Tibetan independence and was imprisoned on the pretext of being a spy. At first, he was kept in solitary confinement, but later underwent a re-education and thought reform programme—his captors tried brain-washing, but he claimed that his "faith in Christ kept him from mental breakdown".This captivity lasted for three years and two months before he was released to the British authorities in Hong Kong.

On his return, he married, and subsequently served in Borneo in the late 1950s to early 1960s. Bull also had a worldwide Bible teaching ministry in Brethren assemblies and beyond. He died following the Breaking of Bread service in his local Brethren assembly in Brisbane Hall, Largs, and was buried in Scotland. He was survived by his widow, Nan, who died in May 2009. 

The Book that missionaries proclaim is the Book that sustains them in the work of proclamation. Geoffrey Bull, a British missionary to Tibet, was imprisoned by Chinese Communists who seized his Bible and made him suffer terribly at their hands for three years. Bull was subjected to such mental and psychological torture that he feared he would go insane.

But the missionary began to systematically go over the Scriptures in his mind. It took about six months to go all the way through the Bible mentally. He started at Genesis and recalled each Bible story as best he could, first concentrating on the content and then musing on certain points, seeking light in prayer. He reconstructed the books and chapters as best he could until he came to Revelation. Then he started over again. He later wrote, "The strength received through this meditation was, I believe, a vital factor in bringing me through, kept by the faith to the very end."

In all our labors and trials, the Book we proclaim is also the Book that restores our souls. It should be both our diet and our decree. (1)

In his interview with Christianity Today, the Dalai Lama said he deeply appreciates the help of Christians in addressing the Communist oppression of Tibet. "I urge Christian brothers and sisters as spiritual brothers and sisters to study more about the situation in Tibet, especially in regard to religious freedom." He also said it would help if Christians wrote the United States government on Tibetan matters. When asked about donations of money, he mentioned that many Christians have provided immense help to the Tibetan people. "We will always be grateful," he said.

Empathy for the Dalai Lama's role in leading the Tibetan Government in Exile does not demand an uncritical endorsement of his every political move, past or present. Melvyn Goldstein, one of the leading scholars of Sino-Tibetan relations, makes this point in The Snow Lion and the Dragon. Goldstein writes, "The Dalai Lama knows intellectually that he needs more friends and supporters in Beijing, not Washington or New York City, but he finds it emotionally difficult to take appropriate actions to achieve that end."

Given the brutalization of Tibet since the Communist invasion in 1950, both Christian and Buddhist belief systems are now under threat. Christian presence in Tibet has been minimal through the centuries. This was due largely to Tibet's geographical isolation but also to hostility to a missionary presence, especially when Tibetans became followers of Christ. There have been occasional acts of violence against the small Christian communities.

Of all the Buddhist traditions (and there are many), it is the Tibetans who have most actively reached out to Christians. The Dalai Lama told us that while he is in dialogue with all the great world religions, he cherishes a special relationship with Christians. In some important spiritual dimensions, we Christians have more in common with the Tibetans than with Zen or Vipasyana practitioners. Though Tibetan Buddhists do not believe in our God, they seem more friendly to the devotional sensibility of Christians, and in their Tibetan tantric practices more inclined to see the fundamental importance of the I-Thou encounter. Like us Christians, the Tibetans sense a deep relationality in their “emptiness”.

The message of Christianity isn't one of God wanting to better this life for humanity. It is one of warning of a terrible fate in store for those who continue on the road of sin. We are told by God's Word that there are two deaths on the highway to Hell. The first death is when we leave the storms of this life and pass into timeless eternity. The second death is the chasm of eternal damnation. It is the terrifying justice of a holy God.

God’s command is still relevant for us today. He has given us the work of telling all nations about redemption through Christ’s blood and resurrection. Compared to Paul, we have an abundance of communication capabilities—including radio, television, Internet, and cell phones—which provide easy access into countries all over the world. We could make more disciples by better utilizing these technologies. But how tragic if we get busy and fail to obey God’s command.

We stand at a critical moment in history for the church. The door of opportunity is wide open for us to share the gospel through a variety of methods. As believers, we are obligated to carry out Christ’s Great Commission. Be careful that neither busyness nor apathy keeps you from obedience.

Love of one's neighbour, kindness, and compassion--these are, I believe, the essential and universal elements preached by all religions. In spite of divergent philosophical views, we can establish harmony among all spiritual traditions on the basis of these common traits of love, kindness, and forgiveness. I always insist on this point and devote a great deal of energy to it. Most difficulties between religions come about because of people who, having failed to transform and bring peace to their own minds, not only apply their own beliefs yet are all while to impose them on others. This unfortunate behaviour can provoke serious conflicts, although I have noticed a considerable re-conciliation between the different religions, more particularly between Tibetan Buddhism and Christianity. We have actually set up a very constructive programme of exchanges between monks and believers of our two traditions.

Reference: 

(1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geoffrey_Bull

Blessings,

Raj Kosaraju


Friday, April 11, 2014

I remember my decision to follow Him



I remember the day I gave my life to Jesus. It was in the early nineties. It’s a while ago now.

It wasn’t a wishy-washy thing for me. It wasn’t a case of – Oh yeah, I guess I believe. I deliberately – by God’s grace – gave my life to Jesus.

But … for the first year or so, even after that, I was kind of shy about what I’d done. I didn’t really want to tell a whole bunch of people about it. To be honest, I was afraid I’d look like a bit of an idiot.

However it all changed when I started reading the Word a lot. The word started speaking to me. And, as God became more real to me and I began to follow Him more closely, He changed my life and my outlook, and my priorities began to change. 

Christ met all our needs on the cross. By making us a part of His family, He gave us a sense of belonging. When He died in our place, He affirmed our value. And by coming to live His life through each believer, He gives us the ability to live a victorious, obedient life.

I could just hear what people would say – Hey have you heard? He has got religion?
Well, actually – there are plenty of people who believe in Jesus, who even love Jesus, who still, today, are ashamed of Him.

He utterly transforms our lives – and we’re ashamed? What’s that about?

Maybe you’ve fought cancer, or you’ve been in multiple unhealthy relationships, or suffered from addiction, depression, a learning disability, anxiety. Even those battles have a way of becoming routine—don’t they?

There is nothing God doesn't know about your life. You may know the past and present, but God also knows the future. Choose today to walk securely -- not in what you know, but in what you believe.

Compared to having a total personal commitment of love for God, everything else is insignificant! How much people like you, how wealthy you are, what car you will drive, how big your TV is — all those things matter zero compared to loving God.

Remember as Christians, we have to constantly face temptations and the attacks of the world around us. Everything we see, read, do, hear, put in our bodies, etc., affects us somehow. That's why, to maintain a close relationship with God, we have to put aside our old ways of doing things—the things we watch on TV, old bad habits ( drinking, smoking, etc.), the activities we participate in, and the people we spend our time with. People are divided into only two categories, those who belong to the world and its ruler, Satan, and those who belong to God (Acts 26:18). These two groups of people are described in terms of opposites all through the Bible; e.g., those in darkness/those in the light; those with eternal life/those with eternal death; those who have peace with God/those who are at war with Him; those who believe the truth/those who believe the lies; those on the narrow path to salvation/those on the broad road to destruction, and many more. Clearly, the message of Scripture is that believers are completely different from nonbelievers, and it is from this perspective that we must discern what kind of friendships we can really have with unbelievers.

Also, evil will do all it can to work through situations and people to cause us to doubt or even abandon our paths. By understanding that we have to lose our life to gain it (even if that means a certain type of social life or “worldly” standard of living), we embrace the totality of the life God gave us to live, the one with doors waiting to open and miracles waiting to happen.
And losing friends doesn’t mean forever. Differences challenge us, but the challenge is a good one. It’s during the tough times that we discover what we’re made of, especially when we endure them while remaining respectful and kind to others. (A sign of spiritual maturity!)

I always remember what Apostle Paul said:


 “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”  Romans 8:18

No suffering lasts forever.  Weeping endures for a night, but joy comes in the morning.  One day our Lord Jesus Christ will reveal the glory of the resurrection body, the new creation—no more sin, no more pain, no more tears and no more death.  All this is yours when Christ is yours.  Christ finished.  You haven’t.  But with Him you will! 




Blessings,

Raj Kosaraju 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Don’t expect to lose



Let’s not try to outsmart God. It is the message of the Cross that saves and God’s chief means of glorifying Himself is through simple, common believers who have been graciously redeemed by Him.

We need to hear and heed the words of Paul:

“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’” (1 Cor 1:26-31)

The Lord wants our minds to be pure and useful for the tasks he has planned for us. It is difficult to serve effectively when a person is considering thoughts of revenge, envy, or other wickedness. Paul understood this and challenged the Philippian church to think about things that were honorable, true, lovely, admirable, and worthy of praise. This way, their actions would match their thoughts.

Dr Jack Graham,  once heard a story about a missionary who left Liverpool, England to go to Africa. When he arrived, there was an outbreak of disease in the area where he was supposed to go. Thousands had died, and he devoted his time to helping the sick and sharing Christ with those on their deathbeds.

One day, a slave trader came up to him and said, “Sir, if you stay here, you’ll die.” So that missionary nodded his head and said, “Friend, I died before I left Liverpool. That’s why I’m here.”

In Christ, we are dead to sin and alive to God. The moment we trust in Him, our old self dies and we begin to experience new life. It’s an amazing exchange. Yet many Christians still live as if their old self never died. How tragic!

Instead of living in light of sin and shame, remember the freedom and forgiveness that was given to you the moment you believed in Christ. Stop looking back and recognize the blessing of new life you have today. Don’t expect to lose. Expect to live victoriously in Christ!

Our natural instinct is to be afraid of challenging the status quo. We might be laughed at or in some places even killed for different beliefs. But God is telling us, if we want to live, we have to stand up for what is right. God is the source of our protection and blessings. When we fear only Him, we will live and prosper. It’s when we stray that we should be truly afraid.

In what areas of your life is God calling you to stand out from the crowd? Where is it that you need to swim against the stream? Don’t be afraid to do things differently. Stand up for God and He will stand for you.

A society characterized by savage violence and the darkness of depravity and deception will, without a preservative, deteriorate . . . and, ultimately, self-destruct. Because servants of Christ are like salt on society, our influence is essential for society's survival.

Blessings,

Raj Kosaraju


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Two simple options when afflictions strike



Is fear causing you to hide from somebody today? Your boss? Your husband or wife? Your strong-willed child? Your grouchy co-worker? When God asked Adam, '..."Where are you?", he replied, "I hid...I was afraid"...' (Genesis 3:9-10 NLT). And we've all been hiding from things ever since. We hide behind forced smiles, agreeable words we don't mean, and social rituals we detest. Or worse, we hide behind things we do believe but don't express because we are afraid of what people might think or say. We try to avoid the pain of confronting someone, and the emotional energy we're afraid we'll have to invest in cleaning up afterwards.

We have two simple options when afflictions strike. We can moan about our fate and give up, or we can face it boldly and make the best of it. God grants us the power to become more than conquerors, if we will only choose to use it.

Unbelief is the root of our struggles and so our fight is a fight to take His Word, trust His Word, and believe His Word.  The fight of our faith is in the renewal of our minds to see our Savior as the treasure hidden in a field, infinitely valuable above anything and everything else.  It’s a fight because we are so easily duped by the fleeting pleasures of this world.

The Word tells us clearly how we are to deal with these battles. Our focus cannot be on our failures, our mistakes, our sins, nor can it be on our desires to sin.  His Word is our weapon, and we are to combat the lies of the enemy with the truth of the Word of God, for it is the truth that sets us free (John 8:32).  We have to prepare our minds for action (1 Peter 1:13).  We are to take every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). If we take our struggles to our Father, His peace will flood our minds (Philippians 4:5-7).

But, as Christians, we aren’t supposed to follow the wisdom of the world. Jesus says that not only is it okay to be weak, it’s preferable because, in our human weaknesses, HE is shown and proven to be strong enough to meet us in our weakest state. It takes the pressure off of us to be strong enough or good enough or smart enough. 

So instead of just being reactive in your response to sin, be proactive. Remember the amazing truth that God’s grace is strong enough to cut sin at its root so you can live free from guilt and shame!

Remember several glimmers of hope: Even when everyone else forgets, God doesn't; when no one seems to notice, God does; when no one seems to care, God does; when you feel all alone, you aren't. And one of the first lessons God will teach you as you depend on him is that there are others who also care and are willing to help.

Often people avoid God because they see evildoers in the world and hypocrites in the church. They don't realize that because God is slow to anger, he gives his true followers time to share his love and truth with evildoers. But judgment will come; God will not allow sin to go unchecked forever. When people wonder why God doesn't punish evil immediately, help them remember that if he did, none of us would be here. We can all be thankful that God gives people time to turn to him.

We are to fight.  Psalm 119:11 says that if we have His word stored in our hearts, we will not sin against Him. We are to take care of the things we fill our minds with.  Colossians 3:2 tells us that we are to set our minds on the things above.

Everyone is due for disappointments in his or her life.

You may be suffering a heartbreak, or you've given up a perfect business venture or otherwise, you've invested a lot in a seemingly perfect business opportunity and everything blew up faster than you could bat an eye, or you've lost a good childhood friend.

It's easy to say that during these times God is not at your side.

He is too busy attending to someone else's problems, or else not paying any attention to you at all. But any believer will tell you that is wrong.

God never ends on a negative note.

He is always creating something that is good for us. It might not be today, it might not happen tomorrow, but it will happen eventually, because He has promised our victory and redemption in the Holy Bible itself.

All God asks of us is to maintain our faith and our beliefs until that time is ready, when Jesus Christ makes his return to lead us to God's heavenly kingdom.

Until then, be confident in your faith to God.

Blessings,

Raj Kosaraju


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Bring forth His fruit in this world



When we do not bring forth His fruit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (per Galatians 5:19)—but bring forth immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these (Galatians 5:19), it is because we have broken faith with Him and are in the state of infidelity of the highest order.

What generally causes us to distrust Christ and leads us to break faith with Him and run to the arms of another is the fact that we often think that we have a better way. We think that, somehow, God really doesn't have our best interests at heart. 

It did not good to sit idly by while others made all the decisions. Peace and safety were worth speaking out for. What is worth defending, if not peace? We live in a world of war and fighting. Battlegrounds pop up in every nation of the world. Rip-off experts flood every profession. Religious charlatans are here as well. Many politicians speak smoothly from both sides of their mouths. No one can deny the phony-baloney facade of ads and fads. And Scripture is right; society proceeds "from bad to worse." 

What happens when unprepared Christians are plunged into darkness by the trials of life? They begin to question what's happening. Everything was going well; all they could see ahead was fair weather. But now they've lost their sense of direction because they have not spent time in God's Word. They have not been taught to trust God regardless of what they see or feel, so they get discouraged, sometimes backslide, and sometimes even blame God and get swallowed up in bitterness.

If we belong to Christ, we are united to Him and no longer slaves to sin (Romans 6:5-6); we are made alive with Him (Ephesians 2:5); we are conformed to His image (Romans 8:29); we are free from condemnation and walking not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit (Romans 8:1); and we are part of the body of Christ with other believers (Romans 12:5). The believer now possesses a new heart (Ezekiel 11:19) and has been blessed “with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 1:3).

We might wonder why we so often do not live in the manner described, even though we have given our lives to Christ and are sure of our salvation. This is because our new natures are residing in our old fleshly bodies, and these two are at war with one another. The old nature is dead, but the new nature still has to battle the old “tent” in which it dwells. Evil and sin are still present, but the believer now sees them in a new perspective and they no longer control him as they once did. In Christ, we can now choose to resist sin, whereas the old nature could not. Now we have the choice to either feed the new nature through the Word, prayer, and obedience, or to feed the flesh by neglecting those things.


Blessings,

Raj Kosaraju

Monday, April 7, 2014

Take on an entirely new way of life


One of the great tragedies of the Christian life is that if we fail to enter into a relationship with God that is born of the Holy Spirit, we are left with a religion, not a relationship. Many a person today lives with an intellectual belief in God, but without a relationship that is based on two-way communication. This is the greatest tragedy of all. It's like having a brand-new car but never having the gas to run it. It can't move you anywhere. It only looks pretty, but one cannot enjoy the ride or smell the newness inside.

Since the fall, we have all imitated our first parents. We have tried to usurp God's right to control His creation. We have demanded the right to control our own destinies, our own moral judgments, our own decisions. People often use the phrase “like father, like son” to refer to family resemblance. When people see my likeness in my kids, it pleases me.

God wants His children to bear His image and likeness, too. The Bible says, “You were... created to be like God, truly righteous and holy” (Ephesians 4:24).
Let me be absolutely clear: You will never become God, or even a god. That prideful lie is Satan’s oldest temptation. Satan promised Adam and Eve that if they followed his advice, “ye shall be as gods” (Genesis 3:5).

Many religions and New Age philosophies still promote this old lie that we are divine or can become gods. This desire to be a god shows up every time we try to control our circumstances, our future, and people around us. But as creatures, we will never be the Creator.

God doesn’t want you to become a god; He wants you to become godly - taking on His values, attitudes, and character. The Bible says,
Take on an entirely new way of life - a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces His character in you. - Ephesians 4:22-24

God has such unconditional love for us that it is truly beyond our human comprehension. Do I now feel like I should have reached out to God when I was struggling? Yes. And for awhile, was I angry at myself for not seeing that God was right there with me the whole time? Definitely.
The Lord is constantly with you, guarding and guiding your way. He wants you to see Him in everything and understand life from His perspective as you rely on His wisdom and power to face any challenge.

The bottom-line is : We may find sin in our lives and take action to change our habits, but sometimes repentance may mean destroying the objects that encourage our sin or avoiding the places where our sins can thrive. It's easy to think that we're strong enough to resist, but that pride is all the foothold the devil needs. Defeating sin requires drastic measures—like nails and a cross—like a tomb and a resurrection.

Jesus was forsaken so that we might be forgiven. Jesus entered the darkness so that we might walk in the light. That was the mission of His life. And on the cross, He bore our sin. The cross stands as a reminder that a hellish existence is not the only option for people. It doesn’t have to be this way. We can turn around. We can change our eternal address. The gospel is a universal declaration that hell is not God’s desire for anyone. Jesus did not say that hell was prepared for people; He said that it was prepared for the devil and his demons (see Matthew 25:41).

If you want to reject the offer of God, if you want to live in your sin and end up in hell in that final day, then you will have no one to blame but yourself. God doesn’t want you to go there. But you have a free will. And to get to hell, you will have to effectively step over Jesus because He is blocking the way.

When it comes to our past, God knows everything. God wants to bring us to the place where we can be ourselves. We do not have to pretend, because God knows us. We also know that He has forgiven us. What is certain is that we must not let past failure or our lack of spiritual progress immobilize us.

God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things. Many times when we're looking for some great superstar to come on the scene, God is developing someone in obscurity whom we haven't ever heard of. We will say, "What if so-and-so became a Christian? Wouldn't that be wonderful?" And while we're wondering if so-and-so ever will come around, God is grooming someone unknown to us.

Blessings,

Raj Kosaraju