Author Archives: benziher

In the cross

In the cross is health, in the cross is life,
in the cross is protection from enemies,
in the cross is heavenly sweetness,
in the cross strength of mind,
in the cross joy of the Spirit,
in the cross the height of virtue,
in the cross perfection of holiness.
There is no health of the soul, no hope of eternal life, save in the cross.
– Thomas a Kempis, fifteenth century theologian

Cross

Child who stopped lying

In the last blog, I wrote about Mary, an elderly believer in our church. She is illiterate, very uneducated and there was a time, many in our church thought of her as the wayside land in the Parable of the Sower. I wrote a previous blog on that. But, she has become a paragon of Christian virtues, except she does not even know that. Oh, how mightily our Creator shapes our lives!

As I had written before, I asked our church members to stop lying at all costs. I told them how when we lie, we may have thousand excuses, but the devil being the father of all lies, those who lie become the children of devil (John 8:44). I thought those words did not have any impact on anyone and was actually discouraged. Then comes Mary, with her testimony.

As mentioned earlier, her husband is a drunkard. He works in another city and every month, he would visit her with his savings. But then he would get drunk, and beat her up and take back all the money, and would get drunk again. By the time he leaves back for his work, he would have wasted all the money he brought with him and also, whatever savings Mary had. So, like all Indian women who are married to drunkards, Mary also developed a self-defence mechanism: lying.

Most of the women in such situations, would lie about the money when their husbands are drunk. They would say how they paid all the debts and hence have no money left. At times, their drunk husbands may become furious and beat them up ever so sincerely, but at least the money would be there. Sometimes, the drunkards would get frustrated as they need money for drinking, and hence would leave their wives without beating so that they can find some other source.

Now, it is easy for me to sit at my home and tell that for a Christian woman to lie is a sin. Make no mistake, lying is a sin. But I am not the one who is going to be beaten up; I am not the one who is going to lose all my savings if I speak the truth. So for some preachers, this is a very sensitive subject. I have heard preachers encourage and even praise their women believers for acting wisely – that is, telling lies to deceive their husbands, as Jesus Himself has said that we should be wise like a serpent. So, it is okay to lie in such situations. Oh, I am not an expert, but when Jesus told us to be wise like a serpent, He probably did not ask us to become like “the serpent.”

And in my monologue about lying, I asked our believers, what would happen when we always tell the truth – will we gain or lose? Immediately everyone enthusiastically told that we would gain a lot if we tell the truth. I pointed out to them that if that is true, no one would ever tell a lie. I told them that when we tell the truth, we will suffer a lot – in every way. But then aren’t we called to suffer for the sake of Christ? Aren’t we supposed to count as loss whatever gain we had, for the sake of Christ? I told them that when we start telling the truth, we will suffer and we will have certain setbacks. But then the LORD will be pleased with us.

Mary took this monologue to her heart and she decided not to lie anymore. When her husband asked her the next time, in his drunken stupor, where she had hidden the money, she told him the truth and he took all the money and got drunk. Apparently, this had happened few times, leaving her penniless for few months. But she braved through it, rejoicing that she was suffering for the sake of Christ and she did not tell any of us about this.

But then, last year, around November, something happened. No, her husband did not stop drinking and surely, he did not become a believer. But when he came home, he brought a huge sum (nearly $2000) in savings. And when he was at home, he did not drink at all and went back to his work without wasting any money. Of course, he still drinks where he is working, but he manages to save lot more than he would, and he brings home huge amounts every month since then. In Indian rupees, we are talking about huge amounts. For the last five months, Mary has been blessed so abundantly, all because she stopped lying and chose to suffer for the sake of Christ. And our Lord does not ignore the sufferings of His children. How sweet and gracious our Lord is!

Philippians 3-7 My Gain I Count as Loss-yellow

Childlike faith

In January, I wrote about a believer in this blog, but forgot to follow up. Her name is Mary and I wanted to write something that happened in her life four years back. In 2013, her Christian daughter was engaged to get married. The wedding was to take place on the second week of February, 2014.

Weddings in India are very different from weddings in western countries. In India, the dowry plays a huge role in marriages and it is quite expensive for the bride’s side. Some 20 years back, Christians would not give or accept dowries, but nowadays, except few believers, everyone gives and accepts dowries.

In Mary’s household, her husband and her son are not saved. Her husband is a drunkard, but her son promised that he would take care of the wedding expenses of his little sister. So the wedding arrangements were being made and as the new year ushered, they received a set back. Mary’s son fell in love with a girl, eloped with her and got married. His sister, the bride-to-be got upset that he married a Hindu girl, as she was hoping her brother would be accept Jesus before she got married. So, she said few things and that upset her brother and his new wife. So, they decided not to help with the wedding expenses.

Then Mary’s husband informed her that he had saved some money for his daughter’s wedding and that weekend, he would bring that money for the wedding expenses. Except he never reached home. News reached Mary that her husband was out drunk in the road, wearing a garland made up of the most expensive liquor bottles available. All the money had gone.

By now, it was the second week of January and less than a month for the wedding day and Mary had no money to start any arrangements for the wedding. And she came for a prayer meeting in the church and I led the prayer based on Psalm 55:22: Cast your burden on the Lord and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.

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After the prayer service, all the women had gathered around her and were feeling pity for her condition. They were offering to pray for her, by binding her son, by binding the evil spirit that was working inside her daughter-in-law, by binding the drinking spirit in her husband, by releasing money for her son’s savings and all that. If you are Pentecostal, you would know what I am talking about.

As I was going upstairs, I saw all these women gathered around her and she was telling her sad story about how her son had betrayed her trust, I was moved in my spirit and told her tersely, “So, it is your son who is your trust. Jesus is not your Trust, then. If Jesus is your Trust, cast your burden on Him and He will sustain you” and I walked off. Later I found out that the women were very upset with me, for not understanding the “real” problems that people face in the “real” world and for being so insensitive to a believer’s suffering. However, Mary did not utter any word and she left.

Three days later, she came back for Friday prayer and told my mother-in-law, that when I asked her who was her trust, she felt as if some hot coals were kept deep in her heart and she could not help saying, “Jesus is my Trust. Jesus alone is my Trust.” And she told that from that day on, she is in a spiritually calm place, that Jesus would take care of all her needs. She refused to ask anyone for any money; her village people asked her to seek the help of her son, but she declined.

Then the first week of February came and all of a sudden, the flood gates were opened. Not literally. Suddenly money and help started pouring in from all directions, though she asked for none. Three days before the wedding, all the wedding expenses were paid, all the dowry was settled and every thing they wanted to buy for the wedding, they bought only the best. How it happened? She is not even able to recall.

However, she had one more prayer for the wedding day. Since her husband and her son are not Christians, she wanted the pastor, who is my father-in-law, to give the bride’s hand in wedding. Now, this is sort of a big deal in our male-dominated society. The man would do nothing for the family, but this is his chance to show the world that he is the “man” in his family. This would even cause blood baths in certain places. Since it was her simple trust in the Lord had helped her so far, we asked her to simply pray and wait for the Lord.

On the day of the wedding, we all had assembled by 5 in the evening. It was 5:30 and there was no sign of her son or her husband. So, the wedding started and, still they had not arrived. We tried calling them; but all their phones were switched off. Some of the villagers were supposed to come with them; we tried calling them, and again the phones were switched off. And the time came for the bride’s hand to be given in holy Matrimony to the groom, and since there was no “men” from the girl’s side, her pastor gave the bride away as per Mary’s wish.

After the wedding, the reception and dinner got over and by 8:30 in the night, Mary’s son entered with those villagers and his drunk father. Apparently, these villagers were very upset that a woman, who had left their religion and became a Christian, single-handedly managed to arrange a wedding. So, they went and told her son and her husband that if they did not do something about it, the women in the village may stop respecting men, after all. And they came up with a brilliant idea. The wedding was scheduled to start at 5 pm, let us go after 8:30. They had to wait for us, and by that everyone would know that we, men, wear pants in our family. But by then, the Lord changed their plan to humiliate Mary, to humiliate them instead. Those villagers who had attended the wedding started telling her son how grand the wedding was and how irresponsible he was to miss his own sister’s wedding and he left with his head down.

All these happened because of one woman and her childlike faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord. Praise be unto Him forever and ever. Amen.

Childlike faith

I am a perverse and unruly patient!

From the “Letters of John Newton”

I am bound to speak well of my Physician–He treats me with great tenderness, and bids me in due time to expect a perfect cure. I know too much of Him (though I know but little) to doubt either His skill or His promise.
It is true, I have suffered sad relapses since I have been under His care. Yet I confess that the fault has not been His–but my own! I am a perverse and unruly patient! I have too often neglected His prescriptions, and broken the regimen He appoints me to observe. This perverseness, joined to the exceeding obstinacy of my disorders, would have caused me to be turned out as an incurable long ago–had I been under any other hand but His! Indeed–there is none like Him! When I have brought myself very low–He has still helped me. Blessed be His name–I am yet kept alive only by means of His perfect care.
Though His medicines are all beneficial–they are not all pleasant. Now and then He gives me a pleasant cordial; but I have many severe disorders, in which there is a needs-be for my frequently taking His bitter and unpalatable medicines!
We sometimes see published in the newspapers, acknowledgments of cures received. Methinks, if I were to publish my own case, that it would run something like this:
“I, John Newton, have long laboured under a multitude of grievous disorders:
    a fever of ungoverned passions,
    a cancer of pride,
    a frenzy of wild imaginations,
    a severe lethargy, and
    a deadly stroke!

In this deplorable situation, I suffered many things from many physicians, spent every penny I had–yet only grew worse and worse!

In this condition, Jesus, the Physician of souls, found me when I sought Him not. He undertook my recovery freely, without money and without price–these are His terms with all His patients! My fever is now abated, my senses are restored, my faculties are enlivened! In a word, I am a new man! And from His ability, His promise, and the experience of what He has already done–I have the fullest assurance that He will infallibly and perfectly heal me–and that I shall live forever as a monument of His power and grace!”

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We all have our Ashtareth!

“This is my infirmity!” – Psalm 77:10

The best of men–are but men at best! We all have many remaining corruptions–we are all encompassed with many infirmities. And what effect should the consideration of this humiliating but undoubted truth, produce? Ought it not, among other results, to excite in us a spirit of constant watchfulness?

We are frail creatures–ever liable to fall! And being exposed, in addition, to the wiles of our spiritual adversaries–our danger is considerably greater. It is on our indwelling corruptions that Satan works–and often, alas, with sad success!

In addition to our general infirmities, it is probable that there is some one, or more besetting sins–to which we are particularly liable; in which case it befits us to be doubly on our guard!

“If you are returning to the Lord with all your hearts–then rid yourselves of the foreign gods–and the Ashtoreths; and commit yourselves to the Lord and serve Him only–and He will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” – 1 Samuel 7:3

Samuel exhorts them to rid themselves of the foreign gods–and the Ashtoreths. But was not Ashtareth simply one of the many idols–an idol like all the rest? Would not one specification, therefore, do for all? It appears not. And why? It was because Ashtareth was their favorite idol, after whom they were specially liable to go! So that while they were to put away all their foreign gods–they were to put away their Ashtoreths in particular.

And just so with us. We all have our Ashtareth, of whom, by reason of . . .
  the temper of our minds,
  or the constitution of our bodies,
  or our circumstances in life–
we are in especial danger! And while we are to be on our guard against every sin–our spiritual forces must be mustered against this besetting sin with more than ordinary energy and decision. We are to “lay aside every weight–and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us–looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.”

Compassed about, then, as we are, with infirmities–some of a more special, and others of a more general nature–we should continually be on our watch-tower! Let us never dream that we are free from danger; for when we imagine that there is the least danger–there may be the greatest!

Reader, remember therefore, and that continually, the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said, “Watch and pray–lest you enter into temptation!”

– From “Brief Thoughts for the Followers of Jesus” (1855) by John MacDuff

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Faith, flesh and the Cross

Without faith, it is impossible to please God. – Hebrews 11:6

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I was told that this is the only verse that I need to remember. No matter what my condition is, have faith. The situations may look bleak, but have faith in God. That is the only way to please God. Even if you have faltered, have faith in God – that would be pleasing to God and soon, He will deliver you from your failures. Even in sin, have faith in God. HE may hate your sin, but because you have faith in Him, He will be pleased with you and He will forgive your sins.

Initially such a preaching was very soothing for me. For, I had trouble controlling the lusts of my flesh. Whether it was pride, gluttony, lust of the flesh, arrogance,… okay, it looks like it is going to take a while to end this list, so I am just stopping here… I hope you get the picture. So, this concept of having faith in God, no matter how I live my life, was very pleasing.

Yes, I had sinned, but I have faith in God, so He is pleased with me. That was the argument. Now, looking back at this argument, it sounds so stupid that I had believed in this concept for so long. Oh, please don’t misunderstand me. I still believe that without faith, it is impossible to please God. I may lead the most upright life that a man can live, but if I lead that life without faith in the True and Living God, then I won’t be pleasing Him.

However, the Lord did not lead my life as such. There were moments, despite my faith in Him, I realized that the Lord was not pleased with me. Though my faith was very strong, instead of seeing His smiling face, I saw only the displeased frown of my Father in heaven. It made no sense to me. Yes, yes, I am that naive, trust me. Then the Spirit of the Lord moved me to read this verse.

Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. – Romans 8:8

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Oops… so, I must have faith, but that faith must manifest in the way I live my life in the flesh. Okay, somewhere I missed it in the translation. So, how did I miss this verse for so long? Two mistakes. One, when I read my Bible, I had already filled my mind that, as long as I have faith, I will be pleasing to God. So, when I read that if I am living by flesh, I cannot please God, it never occurred to me, that it is meant for me. Second, I attended a church where the pastor talked for nearly an year about living a life that is pleasing to God. But he would never mention such verses. And for that one year, he never even mentioned the word “faith” in his sermons. It has been always, “Do you honour the Day of God? Do you give your tithes and offering? Do you honour the servants of God? Unless you do these things, God will not be pleased with you.” Now, I get all those three right, so… you see.

But at the end, all these were excuses and excuses. For I was the loser in all these things. Now, I have faith that is pleasing to God, but by the same faith, I also slay the deeds of my flesh. I belong to Christ and hence by faith, I have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (Galatians 5:24). Oh, may the Spirit of God lead me in all truth. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.

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The love of God endures forever

Few days back, I had to endure some severe pain in my body. No medication, no pain killer, nothing worked. I was in tears because of the intensity of the pain. My entire family did not know how to deal with the situation. Though some suggested that I should be admitted to the hospital right away, I was in no condition to travel.

In such a severe pain, I wanted to divert my mind and opened my email, and there was this email I receive daily from gracegems.org, with the title, “HE cannot love you more – and He will not love you less.” As soon as I saw the heading, to be honest, my mind thought that it is going to be a devotional, where it says, God loves you so much and He would deliver you from this affliction… apparently, my mind has become so tuned to this century Christian teaching. But it was a devotional from Spurgeon and it was exactly opposite to what I thought… and it brought tears into my eyes… tears of joy and tears of love. And I surrendered myself, with all the pain and affliction, to the love of God and soon, the pain became tolerable. This is the devotional.

He cannot love you more–and He will not love you less! – Charles Spurgeon

“Having loved His own who were in the world–He loved them to the very end!” – John 13:1

Christian, God’s love to you is always the same. He cannot love you more–and He will not love you less!

Never, when afflictions multiply, when terrors frighten you or when your distresses abound–does God’s love falter or flag. Let the rod fall ever so heavily upon you–the hand that moves, like the heart that prompts the stroke, is full of love! Judge not the Lord by feeble sense–but trust Him for His grace. Whether He brings you down into the depths of misery, or lifts you up into the seventh Heaven of delight–His faithful love never varies or fluctuates–it is everlasting in its continuity!

“His faithful love endures forever!” – Psalm 136:1

“I have loved you, My people, with an everlasting love!” – Jeremiah 31:3

“The faithful love of the Lord never ends!” – Lamentations 3:22

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Grace versus Sin

Where sin abounded, grace abounded much more. – Romans 5:20

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Many years back, I was talking to a pastor and when we were talking about the grace of God, he looked straight at me and made a startling statement: “Patrick, I care a lot about my congregation. I don’t want them to go to eternal damnation. So, I never preach them about grace.”

Okay, “startling” is a mild word to express what I felt. Even today, when I think about it, I am not sure if I know the exact word to express how I feel about this statement. Preaching Christ without any mention of grace, at least IMHO, is an impossible task. And isn’t it by grace, we receive salvation?

Anyways, I asked him to explain and he used the above verse, Romans 5:20, to explain why Christian preachers must not speak about grace. Apparently, there are certain “Christian” preachers who say that since grace abounds much more than sin, it is okay for a Christian to continue sinning. Actually there are some preachers who encourage their church members to sin more, so that the grace of our Lord abounds much more. So, this pastor hates the concept of grace, since it leads to a sinful life, and hence does not preach about grace.

Honestly, it left me at a loss of words. Later I came to know about the false doctrine of “hyper-grace”, but that was the first time, I have ever heard that the grace of our Lord was being abused to continue in sin. It is wrong, but it is also wrong not to teach about grace. All both the preachers have to do is to read further. Because the first two verses of the 6th chapter in the Epistle to Romans clearly contradicts the “hyper-grace” doctrine.

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? – Romans 6:1-2

If a Christian received the grace of the Lord at Calvary, when he or she realized that while grace is freely given, it cost our Saviour Jesus Christ so much suffering, then they will not continue to sin. Let us go back to Calvary. Let us look at the sufferings and afflictions of our Lord and let us grow in the true grace of our Redeemer, so that we live a holy life – by His grace. Amen.

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Grace abounded…

But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more. – Romans 5:20

As I look at Calvary, as I look at the Cross on which my Saviour Jesus Christ was hanging crucified, my first reaction is to turn my face away in abhorrence. Just like how repulsive the Israelites felt when they had to look at the bronze serpent, raised on the stake.

But the more I look at the suffering Servant, the Son of Man who knew grief, I realize what caused all these. My sins. My disobedience. My rebellious nature. My lustful heart. I must be the one who was punished like that. I must be the afflicted one. Then it dawns me, yes, it is true, that I must be the one… but it serves only one purpose. It serves only the Divine Justice. For I richly deserve that punishment. It would have told the world that the Lord our God is righteous.

The more I meditate on the sufferings and death of my Redeemer, suddenly the Holy Spirit whispers in me… it is not just for the “sins” I have committed… but for the “sin” that indwells in me. Jesus Christ did not just carry my “sins”, He became “sin” for me (2 Corinthians 5:21) on the Cross. Sin abounded; the Cross became an emblem of sin – the most repugnant sight on the world.. Yet, the One Who was suffering there was not guilty. Not guilty of anything. Innocence personified. Oh, the Cross is not only about Lord our God is righteous, but it also tells me that He is gracious.

In the obedience of Jesus Christ, the grace of God abounds much more. Much more than I can comprehend. All I can do is humbly bow my head before God our Loving Father, and Jesus Christ, His Son and my Saviour for the grace that abounded. Amen.

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Father knows best! – Spurgeon

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away–may the name of the LORD be praised!” – Job 1:21

“Shall we accept good from God–and not trouble?” – Job 2:10

Let the Lord do as He wills to us! He will never be unkind to us! He has always been our friend–He will never be our foe!

He will never put us into the furnace–unless He means to purge the dross out of us. Nor will there be one degree more heat in that furnace than is absolutely necessary–there will always be mercy to balance the misery–and strength supplied to support the burden to be borne.

Oh, children of God, your Father knows best! Leave everything in His hands and be at peace–for all is well.

“I was silent; I would not open my mouth–for You are the one who has done this!” – Psalm 39:9

“He is the LORD; let him do what is good in His eyes!” – 1 Samuel 3:18

“Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty–yet I will rejoice in the LORD! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!” – Habakkuk 3:17-18

– Charles Spurgeon, from gracegems.org

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