Monthly Archives: January 2017
Many years ago, as I was leading the worship in our church, there is this elderly believer who would make me very angry. She would be on her knees, with her hands clasped together and head bowed down… except she would be sleeping. Even when the believers are asked to stand and praise the Lord, somehow she would manage to fall asleep standing. Never once, I had seen her lose balance and falling over. To be honest, I wish I could do that.
When I spoke about her to other believers, everyone pounced upon this chance to condemn her. Apparently, everyone knew about her sleeping problem, and for some reason, some of the believers who were sitting next to her, blamed her for all their unanswered prayers. She was even blamed for the stagnancy of church growth – how would God answer our prayers when she is sleeping through the entire service? Some even compared her to the wayside land in the Parable of the Sower. While I did not share in such sentiments, I could understand the resentment of the believers.
One Sunday, I was leading the worship and saw her asleep yet again. I was so angry, I shut my eyes and kept leading the worship, and asked the Lord about her and other believers. I was expecting a pat on my shoulders for my zeal towards the Lord. Instead, the Spirit of God moved gently in my soul and asked me to open my eyes and take a look at her and other believers. Nothing had changed. Now the Lord asked me to look at them, the way He is looking at them. And I could not understand what that meant.
Then the Lord explained me, right there during the worship: all those who were sleepy or not worshipping happily are women. Women, who work for 6 days a week. They get up at 5 am, so that they can prepare everything for their family. Then they go to work and come back. Most of the time, they eat only one meal a day. And when they come back, they cannot take rest, as they have to get the food ready for their children, wash the clothes and clean their homes. No one would do that for them. The Lord asked: Whenever Jesus saw such a crowd, He was moved with compassion. Even now, He is compassionate towards them. Are you going to be angry at them?
Now, I am not very amenable. Yet, at the moment, the Spirit of the Lord broke my resolute nature and for the first time, I had compassion towards them. Slowly things changed. Honestly I don’t remember when she stopped sleeping during the worship service, but now just looking at her face, listening eagerly to the spoken word, praising the Lord with a smile on her face… it is such a blessing. Not just for me, everyone is talking about her child-like faith and her eagerness in listening to the Word of God. Once everyone wanted to throw her out; now she is being shown as an example to every new believer. Oh, how compassionate our Lord is! Why am I talking about this elderly believer? God willing, I will write, in another blog, more about two things that the Lord had done in her life, and may His Name alone be praised. Amen.
Two years back, during worship, I was talking about Jesus is the Truth and no falsehood is found in Him. I asked our believers to take up a challenge: that for one week, they would not tell a single lie. They may choose not to speak; but whatever they speak, it has to be absolute truth. To my utter dismay, only 6 people were ready to take up the challenge. When they came the next week, only 4 of us had not told any lies at all in a week. I explained to them that devil is the father of all lies and whenever we tell a lie, we become his children (John 8:44), and hence exhorted our church believers to desist from telling lies.
Yesterday, January 15th, 2017, the worship was based on Matthew 1:21, wherein the angel says to Joseph in his dream, “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” The emphasis was on “He will save His people.” And I cross-referenced that verse to Isaiah 63:8: For He said, “Surely they are My people, children who will not deal falsely.” So He became their Saviour. When I explained that this is how the Lord sees us, as His people, children who will not deal falsely, the church was so excited; everyone were clapping their hands and shouting “Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!”
Then I told the church that one of the translations (NKJV) actually says that “children who will not lie.” So, I asked the church to raise hands if they had not told any lie since the beginning of the new year. I was expecting quite a few hands to be raised as it has been only 15 days, right? And to my utter chagrin, it was the same 6 people who raised their hands this time too.
It is really sad that Christians do not consider telling lies as a sin; it is a peccadillo at the best. Oh, God won’t punish you for small lies; He understands them. It is the big sins He is after – idolaters, sexually immoral, people who are into witchcraft – these people, yes, the Lord will deal with them severely. But, liars, you know, it is just a weakness. I heard a preacher consoling one of the believers when she was convicted in her spirit, when I spoke about lying.
Revelation 21:8 says: “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and ALL LIARS shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (NKJV, emphasis mine). Oh, may the Truth of God prevail among Christians and we truly become “children who will not lie.” Amen.
If we look at the history between the kings of Syria and Israel, we see only enmity between them. And most of the times, it was the Syrian kings who emerged victors, inflicting severe damage to the Israelite kingdom. But, because our God wanted to show that He alone is God, He gave a decisive victory to Ahab, the Israelite king, who summarily defeated Ben-Hadad, the Syrian king. Now, there was no love lost between these two kings who were sworn enemies. Yet, Ahab not only let Ben-Hadad live, he had his defeated foe share the victor’s chariot along with hum.
Ever since Adam sinned, the sinful nature of our flesh has been warring against the Spirit of God. If that is the case of someone like Apostle Paul (Romans chapter 7), then imagine how much our fleshly nature would rebel against the Sovereign Lord. Yet, our Lord not only saves us through His Son and our Brother Jesus Christ; He also makes us sit in the heavenly realms with Jesus Christ.
We should never forget that this is the grace of our Lord and it is His grace alone. There is no place for our works here. No matter how much works we do with our fallen nature, by default, it is not worthy to be placed with Jesus Christ, in the heavenly realms. It is the exceeding riches of His grace that allows us to share in the glory of His Son Jesus Christ.
(God)… raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. – Ephesians 2:6-9 (NKJV)
Yes, our Lord God is gracious. When we look into our fallen nature and how much His grace has elevated us, we will be really awestruck about how gracious He is. So, let us make sure we hold to this grace by our faith, and never boast about us. It is not about us; never about us. It is the grace of our Lord. And all the honour and glory belongs to Him. Praise be our Lord! Amen.
One of the most striking passages, IMHO, in the Bible is found in the Book of Nehemiah, chapter 8, verses 9-11. The Jewish people, on hearing the Law of the Lord, realized their sins and were crying hard. Instead of asking them to pour their hearts out and confess all their sins, Nehemiah, Ezra and the Levites told the people that they should not grieve on that day, as it is day holy to the Lord our God.
If any of them are living today and if they have said something similar to a huge gathering of people who are weeping for their sins, imagine what kind of backlash these servants of God would have received. Especially in Pentecostal circles. Crying, weeping and mourning are considered to be signs of true humility, while having the joy of the Lord is considered to be a sign of someone who does not know what a sinner he is.
A Christian must be filled with joy, because that is what salvation brings to us. If we have truly repented, our sins are forgiven. The love of God is poured into our hearts by His Spirit. Being joyful is not something to be ashamed of.
In our church we have a tradition. We welcome the New Year with a very lengthy service, worshipping the Lord, thanking Him for the good things He has done, for the chastisement He allowed in our lives and praying that the New Year is a blessed one. The actual service starts at 9 pm on December 31st, and ends around 3 am on January 1st. Then we have few cultural programmes and depending on the number of programmes, we finish everything by 4-4:30 am. On December 31st night, we also have a supper around 7 pm. So, the entire time we spend as a church is 9 hours. But most of the time is spent on praising and thanking the Lord.
This year worship was a blessed event for us all. For 2016 was hard on many of us. Many of our believers are daily labourers or those who sell vegetables and make a living. Because of the note ban in India, they are hit hard and are having trouble financially. And, quite a few of our believers were hospitalized this year. To add to that, there is a political turmoil in our state. But for most of the believers, what mattered most was that I was leading the worship – for they had seen me on the verge of death just 6 months back. So, by the grace of our Lord, when I led them in worship, they responded beautifully and the entire service, the presence of the Lord could be felt. Even in their financial straits, these believers were so happy and filled with the joy of the Lord.
Then the cultural programmes started and by the time, the last skit was to be performed, it was 4:45 am and all of us were very tired. But the young men of the church insisted on performing the last skit. And to our dismay, the skit involved showing videos of Christians being beheaded in various parts of the world and being beaten up with rods and so on. The message was: Be joyful, but feel sorrow for those suffering.
To say, the entire church was stunned. The visuals are very gory and the young kids, 2-6 year old ones, were awake and they were watching all these.
I was livid, but instead of lashing out at the young man who was in charge of the skit, I asked him to meet me after two days. It took so long for me to cool off. I called him and asked him why he would do such a skit and show such videos on the New Year morning. He was very proud of what he had done, and said, “Because Christians are not called to be joyful. We should be weeping for those who are suffering.”
Now, it looks so great in paper, but there was one small problem. Most of the funny skits were performed by him that day and it was his wife who led the dance performances. I asked him why he did those things if he was feeling this way. I pointed out that this is hypocritical. But then I asked which of the believers he wanted to feel sorrow that morning.
1. There is this believer in our church, whose daughter is demon-possessed for nearly 10 years now. As a church, we are praying for her deliverance, but in between this believer took her daughter to a psychiatrist and he gave her prescription to make her daughter sleep. Though we all have advised against giving high dosages of medication to her daughter, she keeps giving such high dosages, because she has no other way for her family suffers so much when the young girl is awake. At the age of 25, that girl is incontinent now, as her nerves have become weaker due to the prolonged usage of this drug. That family understands the situation, but they have no choice. Recently when they withheld the medication, she came with the scissors to cut her younger sister’s hair. The entire family is suffering, yet on that day, they all came together, to praise and worship the Lord, and when God spoke to them through prophecy, that they will be delivered soon, the family was filled with joy. So, I asked him, do you expect this family to be sorrow now? He said, no, they are in a severe situation.
2. There is another family. A widowed mother and her daughter. The mother has a serious heart condition, so her daughter could not leave her for long. As a result, she is unable to get a job closer to her home. Their monthly income is a meagre $20, the pension they receive from the government. That is all they have for one month. They have nothing, yet whenever there is a need in the church, they are the first ones to give. And, except in prayers, you do not see them crying. They are always happy, and filled with joy and hope that their situation will change soon. So, you expect them not to feel joy in the presence of the Lord? His answer was again, no, of course.
3. There is another believer. Her husband is a drunkard. He used to beat her up for attending the church, but then now, since his son is also a believer, he does not beat her up. But ever since, their son got married and moved out, he has started troubling her in a different manner. He hates that she reads the Bible at home. So, now what he does is whenever she comes to the church, he would urinate and defecate the entire house, so that she could not keep her Bible anywhere. This has been happening for last few months. Even in this new year, he has done it again. Once she lost her patience and shouted at him. He beat her up so badly, when she came to the church, flesh was hanging from the wounds. Now, she is filled with the joy of the Lord and you want her to be sorrow?
For everything, there is a time and a place. It is sad that Christians do not see the sufferings of their fellow believers as worthy of sympathy. It is very sad that being filled with the joy of the Lord is considered to be a bad thing.
May more and more Christians be filled with the joy of the Lord for that is our strength. May the Lord deliver us all from evil. Amen.
Enoch walked with God. – Genesis 5:24
This is an astounding statement: ‘Enoch’, a sinful man like you and me, ‘walked with God’! And ‘he had this testimony, that he pleased God’. In his daily life Enoch walked in company with the living God, living in God’s presence as his constant Friend, in whom he confided and by whom he was loved. What kind of man was Enoch? What kind of life did he live? The answer is clear: Enoch was a man of faith, and he lived a life of faith. He was not a sinless man. He did not live a higher life, a deeper life or a holier life than anyone else who lives by faith. It was not Enoch’s conduct, his personality, or his disposition that pleased God, but his faith in Christ (Hebrews 11:5-6).
There was nothing at all remarkable about the character or works of this man Enoch by nature, which caused God to look upon him with pleasure. Enoch did not win God’s favor by something he did. God was pleased with Enoch, because Enoch believed God. He believed that which God has spoken. Enoch’s faith was the same as Abel’s before him and Noah’s after him. The faith by which Enoch walked with God and pleased God was the same faith that the dying thief possessed. And it is the faith of God’s elect today.
My friend, walking with God is neither more nor less than believing God. The only way anyone can walk with God and please God is by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. No man pleases God, but his Son. No man walks with God, but his Son. And the only way any fallen child of Adam can please God and walk with God is by faith in his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Our sanctification, like our justification, is by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We grow in grace as we grow in faith. Having begun in the Spirit, we are not now made perfect by the flesh. We do not begin and go a certain distance by faith in Christ, and then finish our course by the works of the law. To walk with God is to continue as we began — by faith in Christ. ‘As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith.’
– From “Grace for Today” by Donald Fortner
2016. It was a tough year for me personally. For the entire year, I had no income at all. All my hopes of going abroad for my studies vaporized before my very eyes and to add to that, I had a near fatal experience. The sickness started sometime in April and I was still struggling with the effects and weaknesses even after 7 months. It was a debilitating year for me. In a sense, I only saw losses in 2016. Yet, there was something unsettling as I was approaching the end of the year.
Every year, I would be looking at the losses I had suffered and the things I had gained; and as the last week of the year approaches, I would be looking forward for that year to end, hoping that the dawn of new year would change everything. And in my heart, there would be always a sense of disappointment over that year. Hopes that vanished in thin air, the promises that were not fulfilled and the wasted opportunities – all these would weigh my heart. And when I lead the year-end worship service, I would be happy for two reasons – that the year is over and the coming year would be a blessing. It has been a long time since I was happy for the year that passed by.
But this year, it was very different. 2016 had to be worst year I had ever faced. In everything, I suffered loss. Yet, when I entered the last days of 2016, there was a divine serenity in my mind. And I was sad that 2016 was coming to an end. And when I led the congregation in worship on December 31st, I realized that I was very happy for the year 2016 – not that it is ending… but that I was very blessed during 2016. When I thanked the Lord with the congregation for 2016, there was a sense of gratitude that I had never felt before in life. Because, in all my losses, I have gained that one thing that mattered – being at the feet of Jesus and knowing Him.
Compared with the previous years, my Bible reading was less in 2016 as I was sick for nearly 4 months and due to an over-enthusiastic medical student, my eye sight was also affected for nearly 3 months. Yet, the Lord spoke to me through those verses I had known before; He spoke in whispers, through songs and through His prophets. In 2016, He made me realize how vile I had been; I was mortified to realize how at the very source, my heart itself was so depraved. The Lord made me realize that the grace He has showed me all these years is more amazing than I could ever fathom. Even at this very moment, if He withdraws His grace, even for a second, my heart would be in a free fall.
And, the Lord has made me realize how great He is. Though I am writing about certain things about my sickness, there is no way, yet, for me to write about my sufferings without breaking down. The suffering was so great. But in midst of all those sufferings, the comfort that the Lord provided me was also infinitely greater. And His deliverances were so simple and gentle, it felt as if I was in a dream – just like Peter felt when he walked out of the prison in Jerusalem.
Most importantly, the Lord made me realize that there is a greater purpose in life… not just for me, but for every single Christian who is saved by the sacrificial blood of the Lamb. In 2016, the Lord made me to know Christ, Him crucified in every believer.
Oh my Father in heaven, I am so grateful for the year 2016. I had lost so many things, but I am filled with joy because I gained the knowledge of Your Son and my Saviour Jesus Christ. May this 2017 bring me closer to Him, so that I know Him, and through Him, know You, my dear Father. In Christ’s name. Amen.