Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Love is worthless unless it acts out



Our culture is full of false interpretations of love. Day by day, true love is being buried under an avalanche of selfishness and confusion.

If we continue to steadily feed upon a diet of confusion and distortion, we will lose sight of true love completely. As we view love through the world’s lens, soon we will also begin to believe that those who really love us, including God, will do what we want them to do.

Many people view love as a warm affection or desire. There are times when love can produce warm affection and desire, but these can also be selfish feelings. When the feelings fade, those who view love this way move on to the next warm embrace. In contrast, Biblical love is selfless. True love is more about giving than receiving. True love is about sacrifice. True love casts aside pride and self-conceit.

Galatians 6 tells us, as we have opportunity, to bear the burdens of others, especially to those who are of the household of faith. We can affirm, appreciate, and approve of others by the way we treat them. We can bear their burdens. Love is worthless unless it acts out, unless it's expressed in deed and behavior.

True love is supernatural. It is impossible to fuel true, sacrificial love on our own for very long. Instead, we must allow Jesus to pour His love into our hearts to love and serve those around us.

In Psalm 139, we see that our God is omnipotent, able to create life itself: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (Psalm 139:13-14). How amazing is our God who designed everything from the tiniest cell in our bodies to the grandest star in the universe!

God loves His children enough to purify and to refine their hearts: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).

The thought that there were those who had not yet received their inheritance reminds me of the idea that God has an inheritance for many people throughout the world which they have not received because they do not realize they are heirs. This should provide us with missionary zeal. How wrong it would be if two brothers had an inheritance but only one knew about it and he did not make great efforts to find his brother and inform him of what he could receive. Let us be zealous in telling others they can be heirs of God.

Therefore, take the risks that you sense God calling you to take so your life will have the full creative impact on others that God intends it to have. Ask God to give you the courage you need to live dangerously out of your freedom in Christ, embracing the opportunities God gives you to push back against the status quo and influence people to think in fresh ways about faith. Spend some time regularly engaged with the culture in which you live so you’re well-informed about it, but also make a habit of spending time in solitude so you can best hear the Holy Spirit speaking to you about how to help shape the culture in ways that fulfill God’s purposes.

Blessings,

Raj Kosaraju

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Nothing this world offers us can do this.



The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him. – Nahum 1:7

Where do we turn in the day of trouble? That’s an important question to ask ourselves. The world gives us a lot of options doesn’t it? We have drugs and alcohol that we can turn to, but that has never done anything except create deeper issues. Sex and pornography are one of the biggest strongholds in this country, but then I’d have to ask if the guilt and shame that comes with either of those is worth the price we will pay? What about music? I love music. Sometimes the words of a particular song strike a chord with me, and I will turn to listening to that song to deepen whatever emotion I may be feeling at the time. Music is great, but after 3 or 4 minutes the song ends, and we are left with stirred emotions and nowhere else to turn, except for maybe the next song.

Movies, friends, video games, social media, there are a lot of things this world offers but none of them offer any real shelter. Perhaps the most dangerous of all of these things that the world offers us is really found in ourselves. The message is loud and clear in our culture, “Trust in yourself. Believe in yourself. You are the only one you can count on.” That’s the message our youth are growing up hearing. It’s all garbage. Self-reliance breeds pride and independence. If you are depending on yourself, where does that leave God?

If you have ever spent any time reading the Psalms you will find countless times where the Lord is referred to as our shelter and stronghold. We are constantly being redirected to the only real and true refuge – Jesus. He is with us always, never leaves us or forsakes us, He is our shelter – the one we run to, our dependence is to be on Him alone.

He knows and preserves His children.
He is a stronghold in the day of trouble.

I’ve thought a lot about ‘the day of trouble’ and I used to believe that was referring to those really hard times we go through in life. Our day of trouble is today, it is right now. We face dangers and temptations each and every single day. Do you know how many times already today that the Lord has spared your life? Scriptures has several accounts where we read it was the Lord who kept us from sinning (Genesis 20:6, Exodus 20:20, Psalm 19:13). Nothing this world offers us can do this. The older I get the more I see just how desperately dependent on Him I am to be. (1)

God is the only source of true spiritual fulfillment. Anything else is temporary and false. It is a shadow of the real spirituality of God. Shadow spirituality is any form of spirituality that does not acknowledge Jesus Christ as the only Lord of life. Shadow spirituality refuses to acknowledge the sovereign power and authority of God. Shadow spirituality dismisses the Bible as the Word of God.

Even churches are not immune from shadow spirituality. Many churches are wrongly preaching that Christ is merely one of many ways to God. They preach in direct opposition to God's Word and plan of salvation. Jesus warned, "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves" (Matthew 7:15).

People who claim they are "spiritual" define their spirituality as any dimension of the human experience that is beyond the physical -- whether it is the occult, paganism, mysticism or any human-designed religion. Their goal is for people to become enlightened and empowered. They seek a strong self-esteem and a balance of spirit, body, and mind. Unfortunately, these are elusive goals leaving their seekers spending their lives constantly searching for more.

Christianity provides something far greater than improved emotional health; it provides complete emotional transformation. Only God can heal our emotions and make us whole. We will never find wholeness unless we make Christ the center of our lives. The apostle Paul said, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20).

References:

(1) Whitt Madden, "Shelter," Treasuring Christ, April 20, 2014.

Blessings,

Raj Kosaraju

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Trust the Process



The truth is: We serve a generous God. He delights in giving us opportunities beyond our capabilities. He has promised to equip us, and remain with us through each bend in the road. Although we may not know what is around the corner, we can trust the One who called us. He is our comfort and courage, sustaining us through difficulty and rewarding us generously.

While we understand that God has sovereign control over all things, it is important to remember that God is not the source of tragedy. The vast majority of human suffering is caused by sin, all too often the sin of other people. For instance, a mass murder is the fault of the murderer disobeying the moral law of God (Exodus 20:13; Romans 1:18-21). When we look to find meaning in such an event, we have to understand why this world is the way it is. The hardship of this world was originally caused by mankind’s sin (Romans 5:12), which is always a matter of choice (1 Corinthians 10:13). While God is perfectly capable of stopping tragedies before they begin, sometimes He chooses not to. While we may not know why, we do know that He is perfect, just, and holy, and so is His will. Also, the suffering we experience in this world does three things. It leads us to seek God, it develops our spiritual strength, and it increases our desire for heaven (Romans 8:18-25; James 1:2-3; Titus 2:13; 1 Peter 1:7).

None of these people could save themselves. They were all losers like the rest of us. Sinful, broken, train wrecks whose bright spots were the rare exceptions of their lives. If you don’t see it this way, you will never get the Bible. You will always think the point is to pattern your life after other sinful people. This creates a desperate loop of existence. You will always read the potential of your own life into the story.

God chose these people not because they were special, but because they weren’t. They are just like the rest of us. Broken.

As Billy Graham says:  When you serve sin, your body is dedicated to the service of sin.  Your appetites, whetted by satan, rage throttled.  Your God given creature impulses are sacrificed to satan on the altar of lust.  A sinner, in a sense, is a dedicated person, yielded to his appetites and selfish desires.

But when Christ comes into the human heart we are to yield our bodies to Him.  Our human frame is often a rebellious and unruly servant. Only through rigid discipline and the help of the Holy Spirit are we will be able to master it into complete subjection to Christ.  We must guard against appetites that blight the conscience, wither the soul, and weaken our witness for Christ

Perhaps many things are lawful, but are they expedient? Are they a harmful example to others?

As long as we are in this world, our old nature will try to defeat us and turn us away from Christ.  But learn to recognize the warning signs, and commit your mind and body to Christ “as instruments of righteousness.” 


Blessings,

Raj Kosaraju

Monday, May 5, 2014

All have sinned


"For He knoweth our frame...." - Psalm 102:14

Billy Graham once said, it is significant that our first astronauts, while being trained for their moon flights, were required to give twenty answers to the query, “Who are you?” Take the same test yourself. When you have made your list and run out of things to add, ask yourself if you have truly answered. Do you really know who you are? Scientists agree that our desperate search leads all humans to seek heroes and to imitate others, to “paste bits and pieces of other people on ourselves.” We make love as some actor would. We play golf in the style of Jack Nicklaus. Part of this process is natural, for we learn by imitating others. The tragedy is that the person we assemble is not genuine. “Who am I?” you cry as you roam the world looking for yourself. Consider this: there are three of you. There is the person you think you are. There is the person others think you are. There is the person God knows you are and can be through Christ. 

Do you know Harry Houdini?

Harry Houdini, the famed escape artist issued a challenge wherever he went.

He could be locked in any jail cell in the country, he claimed, and set himself free quickly and easily.

Always he kept his promise, but one time something went wrong.

Houdini entered the jail in his street clothes; the heavy, metal doors clanged shut behind him.

He took from his belt a concealed piece of metal, strong and flexible.

He set to work immediately, but something seemed to be unusual about this lock.

For 30 minutes he worked and got nowhere.

An hour passed, and still he had not opened the door.

By now he was bathed in sweat and panting in exasperation, but he still could not pick the lock.

Finally, after laboring for 2 hours, Harry Houdini collapsed in frustration and failure against the door he could not unlock.

But when he fell against the door, it swung open! It had never been locked at all!

But in his mind it was locked and that was all it took to keep him from opening the door and walking out of the jail cell.

That's how powerful your God-given mind is.

Sin makes us unclean so that we cannot approach God (Isaiah 6:5; Romans 3:23) any more than a beggar in rotten rags could dine at a king's table. Our best efforts are still infected with sin. Our only hope, therefore, is faith in Jesus Christ, who can cleanse us and bring us into God's presence (read Romans 3).This passage, however, doesn't mean that God will reject us if we come to him in faith, nor that he despises our efforts to please him. However, if we come to him demanding acceptance on the basis of our "good" conduct, God will point out that our righteousness is nothing compared to his infinite righteousness. This message is primarily for the unrepentant person, not the true follower of God.

First, you, and everyone else, is made in the image of God. The image is imprinted into the soul of every man, woman, and child. This is part of the common ground upon which we all stand and should relate to one another. The wicked and the righteous, the right and the wrong, and believers and the blasphemous are all image bearers and because of this they are worthy of respect and love. God is our Creator, whether we confess this or not, and because all are his we must treat them as such. How do we treat that which belongs to God? Carefully and thoughtfully. This doesn't mean we never speak hard words, rebuke, or fight. But it requires that when we do such things we do so with care and grace.

Second, you, and everyone else, are sinful. "All have sinned" making us all lawbreakers worthy of condemnation. This too is part of the common ground upon which we all stand and should relate to one another. Both the morally upright and the morally bankrupt are sinners in need of the forgiveness of sins. This should lead us, especially the Christian, to a place of humility. We should see that, in one sense, we are no better than anyone else. We are broken, needy, and helpless and can only find hope in the offer of grace from God. This is where humility is born. Seeing ourselves rightly as sinners in need of mercy, just like everyone else. When we forget who we are by nature a mean spirit is quick to take root.

As Christians who are biblically informed, we have real and substantive answers to the questions of this life; we posses a wisdom and understanding of reality that the lost do not; we live with the hope of a better future when all things are finally and forever made new. Our engagement in the lives of our unchurched neighbors should compel them to ask why we posses this hope! It is here that we tell them about this Jesus, what he did for us, and what he desires to do for them; we tell them, "Repent and enter his loving kingdom where you will find peace and rest!"

Blessings,

Raj Kosaraju