Tuesday, July 29, 2014

We can never truly arrive anywhere



We all have a dream. For some people it might be finding the right mate and living happily in a nice house with a white picket fence. For another person it might be achieving a certain level of success in a career and getting that corner office in a high-rise building. But, whatever your dream, all our dreams have something in common — as we achieve one dream, another appears and we are on the move once again. This is because, as the saying goes, “Life’s a journey, not a destination.” We can never truly arrive anywhere. We will be forever traveling, forever on the journey of life.

Money and prosperity not only have the ability to create conflict between family members and friends, they can also wreak havoc in the Christian community. In many ways, nothing has a greater ability to derail ministry work than a rich endowment.
Some Christian leaders may balk at this statement, but the truth is not hard to discern. Many of America's universities were founded on Christian principles and values, but have since abandoned their faith. When their endowments grew larger, their commitment and devotion to godly education grew smaller. They adjusted their ethics to reflect the views of their contributors.

Instead think of what you’re missing when you don’t put God first in your life! When you go your own way, you miss the very best part of life. In fact, walking with God is so much better than a worldly life that one day spent in fellowship with God is better than a thousand days out of fellowship with Him.

When we react to circumstances with bitterness and resentment as a result of unmet expectations, we are saying that we know better than God, and that God has made a mistake in not meeting our expectations. The process of resolving unmet expectations may require full disclosure to the individual who was the source of the unmet expectation, and of how the unmet expectation made you feel. This is not to make the person feel obligated to meet the expectation, but simply to share your feelings about it. If God was the source, then it is important to share this with the Lord. However, once we have done this we must let go of the situation and allow God to work in our hearts the grace that is needed to walk in freedom from the pain of the unmet expectation. If we do not do this, we will allow the seed of bitterness and resentment to enter in. This seed of bitterness will create leanness in our soul and eventually will spread to others.

There are many worries and fears in this life. So many things pull our focus onto the trials at hand. Some push our minds into the future, considering all the things that could go wrong. That's when we need to look back to the past, where God has shown his love and grace for us at the cross. Like the stones that Joshua laid on the other side of the river Jordan, the cross stands as a testimony for all time that God can deliver us from our greatest fear, the greatest evil, and the greatest obstacle of our life. Like Jeremiah and the Psalmist, when the cares of this life weigh us down, we need to look back and remember his grace. For it gives us confidence and assurance that he will sustain us in the present and carry us into the future.

Therefore,

"Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus"  -  Philippians 2:5

     We Christians are not to be conformed to this world in the way we think.  The world by its advertisements, its conversation, and its philosophy is engaged in a gigantic brainwashing.  Not always consciously but sometimes unconsciously, the Christian is beset by secular and worldly propaganda, calling us to live for ourselves and to put things and selfish pleasure ahead of God.

 There is no place we can go where He does not see our every move. Those people who think they have God fooled are only fooling themselves. God sees all things, He hears all things, and nothing escapes His attention. For those who live in sin, that is a very frightening thought. For those who walk in righteousness, there is no problem. Let the Lord watch. It is good to know that He is here.

Blessings,

Raj Kosaraju

Monday, July 28, 2014

No Matter How Hopeless



I see people in pain, hurting, broken, and feeling as though they are without hope.  I’ve seen all of these things within just a few minutes of scrolling through the news feed of my Facebook page posted within the past 8 hours. I see broken people who need healing and restoration who are searching for real hope.

God can heal a heart no matter how paralyzed, no matter how dead.

And when I see the hopeless, and I feel I have nothing to bring relief, Do I believe that they can find comfort and peace and maybe even purpose again? I do. Isn’t that why I believe in a Savior? It’s the sick, it’s the hopeless that need one. It’s all of humanity really.

It’s the worst thing watching someone you love in pain. But it’s this feeling that drives me to fight for their life. Because it makes me hurt a little less when I can bring a smile to their face. And I’m not the savior of the world but I can be a part in the healing process. I can be the hands and feet.

As a Christian I know the only place that they will find true, everlasting hope is in Jesus Christ.  He is our hope (1 Peter 1:3, 1 Timothy 1:1, Psalm 39:7, Titus 2:13). I believe that we are to point others to the only true and living hope and we have an opportunity to do that in a digital age that can reach more people than we could ever imagine through the use of social media.

“The joy of the Lord is your strength” – Nehemiah 8:10

     Some people have a warped idea of living the Christian life.  Seeing talented, successful Christian, they attempt to imitate them.  For them, the grass on the other side of the fence is always greener.  But when they discover that their own gifts are different or their contributions are more modest (or even invisible), they collapse in discouragement and overlook genuine opportunities that are open to them.  They have forgotten that they are here to serve Christ, not themselves.

     Be like the apostle Paul and say, “None of these things move me.”  Few men suffered as Paul did, yet he learned how to live above his circumstances—even in a prison cell.  You can do the same.  The key is to realize you are here to serve Christ, not yourself.

     God does not promise us an easy life, free of troubles, trials, difficulties, and temptations.  He never promises that life will be perfect. He does not call His children to a playground, but to a battleground.  In the midst of it all when we serve Christ, we truly discover that “joy of the Lord is (our) strength.” – Billy Graham

Blessings,

Raj Kosaraju

Friday, July 25, 2014

Change



We all have a dream. For some people it might be finding the right mate and living happily in a nice house with a white picket fence. For another person it might be achieving a certain level of success in a career and getting that corner office in a high-rise building. But, whatever your dream, all our dreams have something in common — as we achieve one dream, another appears and we are on the move once again. This is because, as the saying goes, “Life’s a journey, not a destination.” We can never truly arrive anywhere. We will be forever traveling, forever on the journey of life.

I was reading an interesting article - “Is Change Really a Problem?” By Dr.Jack Graham. He rightly says:

Not only that, but look at the number of options we have today. When I was growing up, we had two channels we could watch on television. Today, we can turn to hundreds of channels without finding a single thing worth watching!

One thing I’ve noticed over the past 40 years is just how much life is changing. Here’s what I mean: On the highway, the speed limit used to be a standard 55 miles per hour. Today, you’ll find places with limits of 80 miles per hour or more.

Our society has developed a habit of pushing the limits. Now, in some ways, that’s beneficial. But in many other ways, it’s become a detriment. It seems like every month now we hear about this or that person who pushed the envelope a little too far. Then there’s a backlash from some, and the whole incident is forgotten until someone tries to go further next time.

Change itself isn’t bad. But all change can really be placed in two categories: progress or decay. Change is either for the better or for the worse. So in our ever-changing society, strive for and support the changes that are beneficial. Make things better by being a cultural catalyst for the things of our never-changing God!

In the book Experiencing God, authors Henry Blackaby and Claude King say that one of seven important steps to experiencing God in everyday life is how God speaks to us. "God speaks by the Holy Spirit through the Bible, prayer, circumstances, and the church to reveal Himself, His purposes, and His ways." [Henry Blackaby and Claude King, Experiencing God (Nashville, Tennessee: LifeWay Press, 1990), 225]

You can examine the life of every major character in the Bible and see this principle expressed in the way God worked in each of their lives.
One of the ways God speaks is through others. God often used others to speak to individuals, especially in the Old Testament when God often spoke through the prophets. This is still one of the ways He speaks today.

You must believe what God says about you, over what everyone else says! Stop listening to those who claim you'll never amount to anything. You might've had a bad childhood, or a failed marriage or career. '...Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before [you]' (Philippians 3:13 KJV). The Bible doesn't say that we call those things which are not as though they are. Nor does it say others have the power to speak things which are not as though they are over your life. No, it is God, through His Word, Who speaks into existence His will for your life. And you should be glad about that. You wouldn't want anybody else to have power to determine your destiny.

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

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.- Billy Graham

Many times in our lives, the very things we fear are acts of God Himself. These are things that perhaps God has brought into our lives so that we can run to Him… to find our strength in Him, relish His love, and experience His awesome grace.

Blessings,

Raj Kosaraju

Life is filled with Highs and Lows



Life in general is filled with highs and lows, but it can especially be apparent for those in Christian ministry leadership positions. Just look at how many pastors, youth ministers, and worship directors eventually leave ministry. The work wears on a person. The constant complaints of doing too little of this or too much of that can drain anyone. As a leader, you are expected to be there for everyone at every moment of the day. No one is able to be there at all times. Still, guilt fills the mind and causes you to doubt your ministry and your effectiveness.

Malachi preached after Haggai, Zechariah, and Nehemiah—about 430 B.C. The Temple had been rebuilt for almost a century, and the people were losing their enthusiasm for worship. Apathy and disillusionment had set in because the exciting messianic prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Micah had not been fulfilled. Many of the sins that had brought the downfall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. were still being practiced in Judah. This complacency gradually led to blatant sin, such as marriage to those who worshiped idols. Ezra and Nehemiah also had confronted this problem years earlier (Ezra 9–10; Nehemiah 13:23-31). Divorce was common, occurring for no reason other than a desire for change. People acted as if they could do anything without being punished. And they wondered why God refused to accept their offerings and bless them (Malachi 2:13)!

God has made provision for the Christian to fulfill the requirements of the Law through the Holy Spirit’s power. “In order that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:4). What could never be accomplished in the power of the flesh—the meeting of the righteous standards of the Law—can be achieved in the power of the Spirit.

My friend in Christ, Whitt Madden, from Treasuring Christ says: Sometimes I have to break down scriptures in order to see it laid out for myself.   The law of the Spirit of Life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.  Basically God did what the law could not do, by sending Jesus to die for our sins, so that the requirement of the law might be completed in us.

This changes everything for us.

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.  For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. (Romans 8:5-6)

Let’s understand this today:

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.  (Romans 8:9-10)

The flesh cannot please God for several reasons.

(1) First of all, the flesh is hostile toward God. “Because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the Law of God, for it is not even able to do so” (Romans 8:7).

(2) The flesh is incapable of producing righteousness. That is surely the conclusion we must draw from Romans Chapter 7.

(3) The flesh can only produce death: “For the mind set on the flesh is death …” (Romans 8:6).
The Spirit is the source of liberty and of life: “However you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him” (Romans 8:9)

Paul says to the Christian,

“If you are a true Christian, then the Holy Spirit indwells you.”

The Holy Spirit that indwells us is a life-giving spirit.  Do you believe this?  He has power over death.  The same power that raised Christ from the dead lives in you, if you are saved.  This is truth. If you have the same Spirit living in you that raised Jesus Christ from the dead, don’t you agree that this Spirit should have power over sexual sin as well?

When things get tight, the problems don't seem to go away, and we struggle with guilt--the false guilt of not being able to be there for everyone--God will comfort us. He shields us even during the assaults of bitter people and harsh words. He will always lead us in a path meant to protect us and keep us strong.

When the road is dark and tough, God will guide and protect you. When you feel overwhelmed with loneliness, the Lord is close beside you. When your heart is asking hard questions and you feel beaten down, God will sustain you. We don't need to live in fear, for God is always with you. He is willing to comfort and protect you. He guides you through every mountain and valley of life. He is your true Shepherd. And the more you trust him as Lord, the more you will experience the wonder of having a Shepherd.

Blessings,

Raj Kosaraju

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Law of Karma


There is a lot of misunderstanding around this word. Karma simply means action. Every action has consequences. Conscious choice making is the most effective way of creating future consequences of karma. Karma creates the future, but it is also an echo from the past. Karma conditions our soul through memory, desire and imagination. Most people are prisoners of Karma, because it becomes a conditioned reflex and produces predictable outcomes in their lives. The goal of enlightenment is to break the in shackles of Karma.

Every person is responsible for his or her acts and thoughts, so each person's karma is entirely his or her own. Occidentals see the operation of karma as fatalistic. But that is far from true since it is in the hands of an individual to shape his own future by schooling his present.
Hindu philosophy, which believes in life after death, holds the doctrine that if the karma of an individual is good enough, the next birth will be rewarding, and if not, the person may actually devolve and degenerate into a lower life form. In order to achieve good karma it is important to live life according to dharma or what is right.

First things first,

Recently, I came across an interesting article, titled "Christianized Karma" by Katherine Britton:

“…but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you…”– 1 Peter 3:15

Christians give really good hugs during trials and tragedy. As my own family has experienced recently, the body of Christ has long arms to embrace those in need, easing the burdens of bad times. The church at work offers silent – and strong – evidence of grace when we pick each other up off the ground.

Now, imagine for a moment that your community didn’t provide any support during a trial. Imagine that instead of offering encouraging words and providing meals or other support after a tragedy, the whole community pulled away. Imagine if they acted like you were a disease they didn’t want to catch while you shouldered the burden alone. And not only that -- they believed that your problems were your own fault, pure and simple.

That’s karma at work. And it’s a lonely road.

A missionary couple recently visited our church before heading to London, where they planned settle in an immigrant community that’s mostly Hindu. The wife expressed her desire to see people set free from the bonds of karma. That caught my interest. I’d slipped into viewing karma through an Americanized lens, as a pseudo-Christian philosophy of reaping what you sow (Galatians 6:7). Faithfulness and selfishness often have their rewards in this life, after all, and good deeds are often repaid with a smile and expression of gratitude if nothing else. Karma may not be the full picture, but it seemed like an innocuous truism to me.

The missionary went on to describe the ugly side of karma, in which the community pulls away from its members who are suffering. Lose a job? It’s a karmic effect – you must have cheated your employer or at least talked badly about him. Did you – heaven forbid – lose a child? Somehow, that’s your fault too, as the universe balances out some evil you’ve done. If such horrible things are somehow your fault, it would also make sense for people to pull away. That’s the bond of karma.

Christians rely on the promise that “all things work for the good of those who love God” (Romans 8:28). We fight to believe that, while “no discipline seems pleasant at the time… later on it produces a harvest of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:11). Like Job, we may never know the reason for our earthly suffering. But we know that, because of grace, suffering is not a quid-pro-quo retaliation for our sins. Even our suffering has been redeemed by God’s grace through Christ’s supreme act of love. (1)

Senior pastor William Graham Tullian Tchividjian says, Westerners are understandably reticent to embrace the notion that the universe is paying us back for a prior life of boozing, spousal abuse, or tax evasion. We believe in the inherent goodness of human beings, after all! We prefer to keep the cycle within the confines of a single life. But the appeal of this perspective should be fairly obvious: no one gets away with anything. If someone harmed you, she will suffer. If you do good, you will have a good life. Karma puts us in control. The problem in this worldview comes, as it always does, when we flip it around. If you are suffering, you have done something to merit it. Pain is proof.

No doubt many of us would object to the accusation that we share or agree with such a mind-set. That's simplistic nonsense, we might think. No one with any education or experience would ever hold to such a juvenile relational bartering system. But hold on for a moment. Think about the last fight you had with your significant other-was there an element of deserving tucked into the conflict? "You hurt me, so now I'll hurt you"? I can't tell you how much self-abuse I've come across in my years of ministry that had some element of inward-directed retribution at its core: the teenage girl who punishes herself by cutting her arms; or men who sleep around to prove that they deserve the contempt of their wives. If we cling to quid pro quo when dealing with others and ourselves, why wouldn't we project it onto God (or the universe)? We are all helpless moralizers, especially when it comes to suffering.

On the opposite end of our natural tendency to moralize life and suffering stands the counter-intuitive affirmation of Christianity. Christianity affirms that Jesus severed the link between suffering and deserving once for all on Calvary. God put the ledgers away and settled the accounts. The good news of the gospel is NOT that good people get good stuff. It's not that life is cyclical and that "what comes around goes around." Rather, it's that the bad get the best, the worst inherit the wealth, and the slave becomes a son (Rom.5:8).

Because the truth is, that it's just misery to try to keep count of what God is no longer counting. Your entries keep disappearing. (2)


References:

 (1) Christianized Karma - Crosswalk the Devotional - April 4, 2014

 (2) You Believe in Karma, BY TULLIAN TCHIVIDJIAN, CHRISTIAN POST COLUMNIST. http://www.christianpost.com/news/you-believe-in-karma-79037/

Blessings,

Raj Kosaraju


Kingdom First



Another biography that has influenced my life is that of Hudson Taylor, the missionary to China. Taylor was on his knees before God, asking Him to provide for the work of the gospel in China. And God answered Taylor’s prayers by touching the hearts of Christians who had the wealth to give. Remarkably, God even touched George Mueller’s heart to become a prayer partner with Hudson Taylor. That’s another example of how one person’s obedience can affect many others.

The Scripture teaches that your giving has kingdom-sized implications. It affects not only you and the people around you, but the whole worldwide kingdom of God. When you see your giving from God’s perspective, what a grand vision it is! I have always believed that as long as God knows where I am, He can cause anybody in the world to know where I am. That is the only way that people I have never met could feel compelled to give to my ministry. There is a much bigger picture than we are able to see. It is not just that you give your little gift and hope God will be pleased with it. No, when you give, even if you cannot see it, you send ripples out through the whole kingdom of God. You contribute to process by which people see the faithfulness of God and come to trust in Him.

If you have great wealth, it is important that you have a deep sensitivity to God. You are a co-worker with God in a much bigger picture than you can see. Consider what would happen if you simply decided to do as you like with your money. You would be completely outside the will of God, using your wealth to work at cross purposes with His kingdom, which is a frightening prospect. Many times I hear people say, “I would really like to do this or that with my money.” And my immediate response is, “That’s all fine and good, but how does it square with what God wants to do with your money?” Ask yourself that question. How do your goals square with God’s goals? How are you responding to His leading? God has many servants who are stepping out in faith, trusting Him to provide for their needs. And the apostle Paul tells us that those people will praise God because they know that He will move the hearts of those who have the resources to give.

God says His Kingdom is like seed time and harvest. Do what the farmer does. Plant good seed (not corrupt money from illegal gain) and plant it into good soil. (ministries that are well grounded in the Word, have reasonable administration costs, are not corrupt, have abundant fruit from their charitable efforts etc.). Then the farmer waters, fertilizes and weeds his crop. (Give praise to God, pray over your seed, bless it, call it forth into a harvest, use faith i.e. call things that be not as though they were, (Romans 4:17), do not speak any kind of negatively over your seed, etc.) Finally, the farmer goes out and gets his harvest. (Be prepared to receive. Just as you would prepare for the birth of a child by getting his/her room ready, buying clothes etc., keep standing in faith and believe for your harvest. Do what you would do as if the harvest had already been received) (References: Gen. 8:22, Gal. 6:7, 2 Cor. 9:6, 2 Cor 9:10)

“Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the best part of everything your land produces.” (Proverbs 3:9 NLT) To honor God is to show our regard, esteem, value, respect, and prizing of him. When we give to the Lord, we demonstrate to him, to others, and to ourselves that he is supreme in our lives.  When we give, we attest that he is our most valued treasure. Giving shows that our hearts are set on him and not on our money or belongings. Giving honors God as supreme. Giving to him is an act of worship.

But there is both a non-giving and a giving that dishonors God. Not giving simply fails to honor God. Not giving demonstrates that our wealth and possessions and not God are truly what we treasure most. Not giving to God withholds honor from him and hoards that honor for us. By not giving, we elevate our wealth and possessions above him.  So, not giving dishonors God.

“The world is not impressed when Christians get rich and say thanks to God.  They are impressed when God is so satisfying that we give our riches away for Christ’s sake and call it gain.” – John Piper

Kingdom work is similar. Building the Kingdom requires financial investment. It requires effort, commitment, good decision making and sacrifice. One of the main differences, however, is that until Christ returns, our job as Kingdom Builders is never finished. Therefore, giving to God’s Kingdom is an ongoing effort, an ongoing commitment, and ongoing sacrifice.

How well you build the kingdom by investing your time, talent and treasure will be determined by who or what rules your heart.

“God wants your heart. He isn’t looking just for donors for His kingdom, those who stand outside the cause and dispassionately consider acts of philanthropy. He’s looking for disciples immersed in the causes they give to. He wants people so filled with a vision for eternity that they wouldn’t dream of not investing their money, time and prayers where they will matter most.” Randy Alcorn.

Blessings,

Raj Kosaraju