Saturday, June 28, 2014

I am still not all I should be



We are quick to give God praise when the blessings flow: when the checking account is full and running over; when the job is secure, and a promotion is on the horizon; when the salary is good; when our health is fine. But we have a tough time believing when those things aren't true.

I confess to you, at times I've doubted God's purpose and promise. I say that to my own embarrassment. When things hadn't worked as I thought they would, when I received a no instead of a yes or a yes instead of a no as an answer to prayer, when I couldn't unravel a situation and fit it with the character of God . . . those have been times when I've said, "I know down inside this isn't right."

I was touched by reading the devotional "Three Obstacles" by Bob & Debby Gass : They say Bible days marathons weren't run on smooth tracks, but over pathways filled with obstacles that could cause a runner to stumble and lose the race.  Here are three obstacles you need to look out for as you run your life's race: 

(1) An unforgiving attitude. '...If you do not forgive, neither will your Father in Heaven forgive your trespasses' (Mark 11:26NKJV). When the mention of someone's name triggers resentment, stop and pray, 'Father, I forgive them as You've forgiven me. Whatever I ask for myself in blessing, I ask for them in double measure.' When you retaliate, you deny God the right to show mercy and deal with the situation His way. Don't play God. You've received mercy - pass it on!

(2) An unhealthy relationship. Paul writes, '...Bad company corrupts good character' (1 Corinthians 15:33 NLT). On the journey of life, you get to choose your travelling companions. If you give your time to those who aren't worthy of it, you've no right to complain. Become more selective. Choose your friends from among those who share your values, understand your God-given purpose and strengthen you.

(3) An undecided heart. Paul writes, '...I am still not all I should be, but I am bringing all my energies to bear on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize...' (Philippians 3:13-14 TLB). A decided heart is the result of a made-up mind. It's what separates the winners from the losers. Pour your life into something more than self-interest; commit to a purpose that will outlive you!

One very practical blessing is that God strengthens us as we lean on Him during delays. Isaiah 40:31 tells us that "those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength." We are given the metaphor of an eagle with wind beneath his wings. It is interesting to note that the words "wind" and "spirit" come from the same Greek word--pneuma. The spirit of God lifts us up, and His energy and strength sustain us as we abide in Him.

When we are facing a difficult decision, the real key is learning to wait. There is no verse of Scripture that tells us to take control and fight our own battles. God is the one who fights them on our behalf (2 Chron. 20:15). We are to be patient and trust in Him.

Blessings,

Raj Kosaraju


Saturday, June 14, 2014

Success can make you lonely





Psalms 1:1

Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.

A time for starting over. A new beginning. A wonderful time to take stock of life and look for ways to improve and grow. Too often, careless resolutions are made that are never kept, and so one year blends into the next with little change. The fact is, all of us have areas in our lives that could stand some improvement. As this new year begins, let us look at our lives with honesty and candor. Let us approach change with a positive spirit, and work toward finding ways to become the people that god wants us to be. Most importantly, ask the Lord to guide and strengthen, for it is through His power that we are able to conquer our failings and turn them into strengths. God is able to see us both as we are and as we can be, and we need that sight in order to truly change. He will steer us away from the ungodly. He will liberate us from the way of sin. He will lead us from scorn to joy. The Lord will do all this and more because of His great and abiding love for His children. Rejoice in the love of God. he has given us a new year, and desires to give us a new life.

Yes, believers can experience loneliness. I believe the Holidays are the loneliest time of the year. People are told everywhere they're supposed to be happy and they realize they're not. They see everybody else acting happy, and they feel so lonely.

Death, divorce, desertion—even travel can make you lonely. Success can make you lonely. You often hear “it's lonely at the top.” Old age makes you lonely. You can be lonely in a big crowd. You can be lonely in a mall. Loneliness is one of the chief maladies of our age, but Jesus promised, "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee."

What I am saying, my dear friend, is that when I am discouraged, His presence sees me through. When I am lonely, His presence cheers me up. And when I am worried, His presence calms me down.
               
The road to success is cluttered with detours, problems and disappointments. And if you don't have the right mindset, your dreams can die there. Indeed, there are days when the needle on your passion meter will be on empty. On those days you need to remember that God gave you your dream to begin with; go back to Him and ask for the strength to keep moving toward it.

The Psalmist wrote, 'For You will light my lamp; the Lord my God will enlighten my darkness. For by You I can run against a troop, by my God I can leap over a wall' (Psalm 18:28-29 NKJV).
Who gives you the power to run and leap? God! But you can't sit back, fold your arms and think that He will do it all for you. Between your dream's inspiration and its manifestation, there's going to be a lot of perspiration. As every new parent finds out - it's much harder having and raising a baby than conceiving one. But if you have the passion for your dream, the price tag won't stop you. You'll get up every morning, draw on God's grace and take one more step in the direction of the thing you know God put you on this earth to do.

God’s blessings in your life are sometimes conditional. God withholds blessing to get your attention and bring you to repentance. But even that is an act of love. Sometimes God lets you go through difficulty when you don’t need to repent. He is giving you the opportunity to grow closer to Him, or to minister to someone.

But His love for you is unconditional and unchanging. You can always rely on that truth. Is God asking you to trust Him about something today?

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.

Blessings,

Raj Kosaraju



Friday, June 6, 2014

Need to re-identify who they are



Most people want to be well remembered when they die. We want to leave a legacy of some kind. What will our legacy be? Will it be money, or a building, or a statue? Will it be something that will last a short while, then be done? Why can't we leave something truly important?

The greatest legacy we can leave is a life well lived. As Christians, we need to be an example of how wonderful Christ can be. We can honestly usher in the Kingdom of God on earth if we will devote ourselves to leading Kingdom lives. There is profit in the blood of a Christian. Christ's own blood was shed that we might all inherit eternal life. If God was willing to shed His own blood for us, should we be willing to do any less? God's legacy to us is life eternal. What will our legacy to others be?

Most Christians need to re-identify who they are. We still see ourselves as mere human beings, children of the age with the albatross of the world hanging around our necks. That is who we once were, but are no longer. We have been adopted by God and are now His children. We are newly created in Him in holiness and righteousness. We have been given an inheritance in heaven that includes wealth and power. We have been changed; we are no longer what we were. When that truth "sinks in," we begin to act like who we really are rather than who we were.

Sometimes circumstances can be painful. But even when situations seem overwhelming, believers can trust that our sovereign Lord knows all, is in control, and lovingly works everything for His children's good. We can rest confidently knowing that the unchanging God of all creation is taking care of us.

A word of caution and clarification is due at this point because there are many people who have misconstrued and terribly misunderstood Jesus’s promise. They view Christ and His kingdom as a means to an end, a tool to get what they want in life. They have come to Jesus because they see Him as a way to become healthy, wealthy, and wise. They have believed a humanistic version of the gospel that emphasizes the last word of Matthew 6:33: “All these things shall be added unto you.” Although there are wonderful fringe benefits to serving God, if those benefits become our motivation, we have missed the point completely.

God is not looking for spiritual “gold diggers” who use Him and His kingdom to get rich, or to become popular or powerful. On the contrary, God is looking for people whose eyes are so fastened on Him and Him alone that none of the peripheral attractions are even in view. It is those with consecrated hearts to whom He says, “Don’t worry. I’ll take care of everything else you need.”

Blessings,

Raj Kosaraju


Thursday, June 5, 2014

Nick Vujicic is in the inner circle of Jesus



According to Wikipedia Nicholas James "Nick" Vujicic who was  born 4 December 1982 is an Australian Christian evangelist and motivational speaker born with tetra-amelia syndrome, a rare disorder characterised by the absence of all four limbs. As a child, he struggled mentally and emotionally as well as physically, but eventually came to terms with his disability and, at the age of seventeen, started his own non-profit organisation, Life Without Limbs. Vujicic presents motivational speeches worldwide which focus on life with a disability, hope and finding meaning in life. He also speaks about his belief that God can use any willing heart to do his work and that God is big enough to overcome any disability.

Why God, was I born this way?" That's the question Nick Vujicic wondered after being born without limbs. Nick discovered God's miraculous plan for his life as a worldwide evangelist sharing the message of redemption through Jesus Christ.

When Nick was born his father was so shocked he left the hospital room to vomit. His distraught mother couldn't bring herself to hold him until he was four months old.

His disability came without any medical explanation - a rare occurrence called Phocomelia - and Nick and his parents spent many years asking why this cruel trick would happen to them.




'My mother was a nurse and she did everything right during pregnancy but she still blamed herself,' he said.

'It was so hard for them but right from the start they did their best to make me independent.

'My dad put me in the water at 18 months and gave the courage to learn how to swim.

My experiences with bullies left me feeling intimidated, depressed, anxious and sick to my stomach. If you know my personal story, you'll remember that most grade school days ended with tears and on one occasion led me to a failed suicide attempt. I didn't tell my parents when I was picked on because I didn't want to upset them. I thought I could handle it myself, but I was wrong. I should have told them.

As I travel around the world talking to tens of thousands of young people, it is evident that no one is immune from being bullied. This epidemic is not unique to North America. Bullying is a global issue.

I felt cold and bitter. I hated God for doing this to me and was terrified of what would happen when my parents weren't there to look after me.




'I could brush my own teeth with a wall mounted brush and wash my own hair with pump action soap, but there was so much that was impossible for me.'

At age ten Nick, tried to drown himself in the bath but luckily the attempt was unsuccessful.

'I felt there was no purpose when you lack purpose and strength it is hard to hold on,' he said.

As a young boy, Vujicic was teased by other children because of his absent limbs. He recalled contemplating committing suicide at one point in his life by flipping himself off a kitchen bench and hoping to break his neck.

“I used to think that I needed my circumstance to change before I had any hope," he said. "I wanted to know that there was someone else out there in my position, to know that there is hope, that there is more than just the little box that I see in my life."

But with the help of his religion, friends and family, Nick managed to pull through to become an international symbol of triumph over adversity.

'When I was 13 I read a newspaper article about a disabled man who had managed to achieve great things and help others,' said Nick, who also plays golf with the club tucked under his chin.

'I realised why God had made us like this - to give hope to others. It was so inspirational to me that I decided to use my life to encourage other people and give them the courage that the article had given me.

'I decided to be thankful for what I do have, not get angry about what I don't.

'I looked at myself in the mirror and said: 'You know what the world is right that I have no arms or legs, but they'll never take away the beauty of my eyes.' I wanted to concentrate on something good that I had.'

In 1990 Nick won the Australian Young Citizen of the Year award for his bravery and perseverance.

'When kids run up to me and ask 'what happened?' I just lean over and whisper 'cigarettes', he laughed.

'And once I was in a car and this girl at traffic lights was giving me the eye. She could only see my head so I decided to do a 360 in the car seat to freak her out.

'Her face was like woooooooah what is going on? She sped off really quickly.'

Nick began travelling the world and in 2008 he went to Hawaii and met surfing master Bethany Hamilton, who had her arm bitten off by a shark when she was 12.

'She was amazing,  said Nick. 'She taught me how to surf and I was terrified at first, but once I got up there it felt absolutely fantastic and I caught some waves pretty well.'

Nick quickly learned how to do three 360 degree spins on his board - a feat that got him on the cover of Surfer magazine within 48 hours.

'No one has ever done that in the history of surfing,' he said.

'But I have a very low centre of gravity so I've got pretty good balance.'

He moved to Los Angeles two years ago and plans to continue to travel the world - this year he will visit South America and the Middle East.

'I tell people to keep on getting up when they fall and to always love themselves,' he said.

'If I can encourage just one person then my job in this life is done.' (1)

Through his ministry, Life Without Limbs, Vujicic travels around the world to share his inspiring personal testimony about how he found joy and hope in Jesus Christ despite his difficult and painful circumstances.

Traveling extensively to over 44 countries with millions of people attending and still counting, says Vujicic I have been extremely humbled by the continuous opportunities that the Lord has given me to share my testimony. My greatest joy in this life is to introduce Jesus to those I meet and tell them of His great desire to get to know them personally by allowing Him to become their Lord and Savior. That’s what Life Without Limbs is all about.

In Psalm 139:13-14, the Bible says, “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.”

Because of the ministry of Life Without Limbs, God has used me in countless schools, churches, prisons, orphanages, hospitals, stadiums and in face-to-face encounters with individuals, telling them how very precious they are to God. Today this dynamic young evangelist has accomplished more than most people achieve in a lifetime. He’s an author, musician, actor, and his hobbies include fishing, painting and swimming.

It is our greatest pleasure to assure people that God does have a plan for each and every life that is meaningful and purposeful, for God took my life, one that others might disregard as not having any significance and He has filled me with His purpose and showed me His plans to use me to move hearts and lives toward Him. (2)


References:

(1) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1196755/The-astonishing-story-man-born-arms-legs--world-famous-swimmer-surfer-footballer

(2) http://www.lifewithoutlimbs.org/about-life-without-limbs/

Blessings,

Raj Kosaraju

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Jeremiah 29:11



For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11, ESV)

It’s very easy when thinking about God’s plan for our lives to have the attitude: “it’s all about me.”  Yes, it’s true that God cares about every intricate detail in our lives.  In fact, Jesus said that even the hairs on our heads are numbered.  We can also mistakenly think that God’s plan is always going to be a “feel good” plan with the intent to make us happy. Jeremiah’s message in these verses is actually radically different.  He’s writing to a group of people who are being held captive, and are in exile from their homeland.  He’s writing to let them know that although they’re not where they would have expected, nor where they would have asked God to place them, God has not forgotten them and He still has a plan for their lives.  Even in the midst of a difficult situation, God wants them to know His plans.

We often read Jeremiah 29 like it is good news, plain and simple. But to the first people who heard those words, they were a tremendous disappointment. God’s people had suffered terribly. They had lost their land, their throne, their temple. Before Jerusalem fell in battle, the people had given in to cannibalism. They were then force-marched 800 miles and paraded (literally) through a pagan city in which they were now considered as the living symbols of the power of that city’s god.

It was into this kind of despair that Jeremiah offered God’s promise: “I know the plans I have for you … plans for your welfare and not for your harm, to give you a future and a hope.” They were not easy words to hear. Jeremiah promised that God had a plan that was certain and inevitable. But it would not unfold on Israel’s timetable. It would not simply undo Israel’s hardship. Yet the promise stood: God would fully restore His people and bring them out of their desperate situation, but He would not do it in the way any of them would have planned it.

Just like God spoke hope to the prophet Jeremiah thousands of years ago, His Word speaks hope to us today, and every day, reminding us of the beauty available to all in Christ. A beauty that ultimately brings Him glory.

In Christ, you are saved by grace through faith. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
In Christ, you are forgiven and made righteous. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
In Christ, you are a new creation. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
In Christ, there is no condemnation. (Romans 8:1)
In Christ, you are justified and have peace with God. (Romans 5:1)
In Christ, you are his workmanship - created to do good works. (Ephesians 2:10)
In Christ, you are chosen and made holy to proclaim his excellency. (1 Peter 2:9)
In Christ, you are a child of God. (John 1:12)
In Christ, you are a fruit bearer. (John 15:5)
In Christ, you are sealed with the Holy Spirit. (2 Corinthians 1:22)
In Christ, you are to be his witness to the world. (Acts 1:8)
In Christ, you are given a spirit of power, of love and a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)
In Christ, you are equipped to live out his Word. (James 1:22)
In Christ, you can choose peace over anxiety. (Philippians 4:6)
In Christ, you can boldly approach God in prayer knowing He hears. (1 John 5:14-15)
In Christ, you can be content in every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether in plenty or in want – and do all things. (Philippians 4:12-14)
In Christ, you are an overcomer. (1 John 4:4)

At some point someone needs to say to us, “Who ever told you life was going to be fair?” God didn’t. In James 1:2, he didn’t say, “If you have many kinds of troubles,” he said, “When you have many kinds of troubles.” Troubles are part of the package.

Jesus said, “My kingdom does not belong to this world. My kingdom is from another place (John 18:36).”


When all of earth turns against you, all of heaven turns toward you.  To keep your balance in this crooked world, think of home!

Blessings,

Raj Kosaraju