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When I am afraid…

When I am afraid, I will trust in You. – Psalm 56:3 (NIV)

Psalm 56_3

When I am afraid, it is easy for my soul to take the path of least resistance. There are many things that can calm my nerves. I can watch a serial or a movie, which will help me to forget my fears – for time being. If I am suffering pain, hey, there are pain killers which will alleviate the intensity of the pain. There are so many things like these. But, then the pain comes back. The hurt that is deep within is still fresh after binge watching a serial or movies. The wounds have not healed. When there is a sign of distress, I am afraid and I want to take refuge in one of the few things that will give temporary relief.

But how long can I go on like this? How long I have to live in this fear? How long am I going to allow the wounds of my past to dictate the life I am living today? How many more times I am going to let the failures of past to decide on my plans for the future? Unless the root of my fear is identified and is completely obliterated from my memory, I am going to be afraid often.

Yes, after everything else fails, I do tell this verse. Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. But by now, along with my fears, I also know that I am saying it by memory. I don’t mean it anymore. I trust in the Lord, but not when my fears take the “rational thinking” route. God is my last Refuge. Come to Him when nothing can quench your fear.

Though I give Him the last place when I am afraid, His grace is so much, that He never pushes me to the last place. My Father in Heaven knows my fears. My Saviour and His Son, Who is seated at our Father’s right hand, knows what fear is. Yes, the High Priest I have knows what agony means. Jesus Christ is there to intercede. The Spirit of God is praying for me, as I have no idea what to pray for.

Now my fear is being quelled; my heart beat is becoming normal. I still do not know the root cause of my fears, and it scares me. It scares me, because I am worried that I may, yet again, give my Father last place, when my fear comes to haunt me. I know I will, for I have done it before. As I sit there worried, the Spirit of God moves in my heart, in a mighty way.

“Don’t stop with trusting Him. Show your trust in your actions”, He keeps telling me. I tell the Spirit of God, “Yes, yes, see my actions. I am not afraid anymore.” But deep in my heart, I am still scared. I just was hoping that the Lord Who knows all things might miss my fears. But the Spirit of the Lord is gentler than I have understood. In a gentle way, He keeps reminding me that my actions must not be the actions of this world, but actions of the Word. I am confused. Very confused, till He Himself leads me to the next verse.

I trust in God. I praise His Word. – Psalm 56:4 (NIRV)

“Praise His Word. Praise His promises. Praise the Lord for all the promises He has given you. Don’t worry about the wounds. Don’t worry about the failures of the past. Don’t you worry about the fear that is sneaking around. Praise His Word. Show your trust in God by your actions. Praise Him”, commands the Holy Spirit.

Now I open my mouth. My lips are sealed together. My throat is parched. I am still scared. My words are nothing but mere mumbles. It feels like a travesty is being enacted. But the Spirit of God says, “It is okay. Your Father knows your fears. Your Brother is interceding for you. They know what is in your heart. Just keep going.”

As I try further and further to praise His Word, suddenly Life enters my soul. My voice is back. Tears flow for no reason at all. As I praise more of His Word, I don’t know what the wounds are, but I can feel them being healed. As I praise the Lord for His promises, the fear of past failures repeating again in my life, they vanish in thin air. Even now, I know the fear is lurking somewhere, waiting for a chance to show its ugly head. But all that fear is gone, when I hear the heavenly hosts join along with me in praising His Word. And suddenly I realize that His Word is Jesus Christ Himself. And all the promises are “yes” and “amen” in Him. Yes, I will praise Him more and more. I will praise the Lord our Father, for providing me His Son. And all my fears are conquered. I will trust in You, Lord and I will praise Your Word all the time. 

Psalm 56_4

Lessons from ICU. 22. Reading your Bible

After I was told not to use my iPod during my stay at ICU, I was sort of worried about spending my time, which I had plenty. So, I asked for my Bible, my journal and a pen. The church believers promptly brought them to me, on the very next day, which was July 10th 2016, a Sunday. Whenever I was awake, I would read my Bible, jot down notes and prayers in my journal.

On July 11th, I realized that the nurses were treating with more respect than usual. Even nurses from other religions were treating me with deference. Initially I thought I was just imagining things, but some of them who were rude before, suddenly had become quite polite towards me. It took one more day for me to find out the reason.

The next morning, one of the Christian nurses came to me and asked me: “Why you did not tell us that you are a pastor?”

I was confused and asked her, “But I am not. Who told you that I am a pastor?”

“Oh, we already knew that you are a pastor. Then we asked your attender about you. He told us that you lead worship in your church; you are also in-charge of prayer meetings and at times, you even give sermons. So, he just confirmed what we already knew… that you are a pastor.”

I smiled at her and pointed out that leading a worship, conducting prayer meetings and even giving sermons when the pastor is indisposed does not make me a pastor. I am just an ordinary believer, who by the grace of our God, does these things when God allows me.

But she would not accept it, because all the Christian nurses working at the ICU were convinced that I am a pastor. By that point, I was exasperated and asked her finally how they all were sure that I have to be a pastor. Her answer made me actually laugh. Because her answer was: “Because you keep reading your Bible. So, you are a pastor.”

These nurses are good Christians. Every day they pray for the patients who are under their care. When they come across patients who have lost their hopes, they pray for them and counsel their families. They have brought comfort to many families in that hospital and they have led so many souls to God. Still, they are under the impression that if one reads the Bible a lot, then that person has to be a pastor.

I have seen few pastors actually discouraging their believers from reading the Bible. Once, a pastor even told me not to read the Bible so much, because the Bible itself warns against reading it. I did not even understand what he said first. I had to ask him twice to get it correct – that he believes the Bible warns the lay people not to read too much Bible. In his support, he showed me this verse.

Have you found honey? Eat only as much as you need, lest you be filled with it and vomit.
– Proverbs 25:16 (NKJV)

I later found out that many other believers were discouraged from reading and meditating on the Bible based on this verse. I understand why the pastors discourage meditating on the Bible. There are some who read the Bible so much, they became too proud to listen to their preachers, left and formed their own churches, where it is always about how good they are. Now, that is something the Bible does tell about honey.

It is not good to eat much honey. So to seek one’s own glory is not glory.
– Proverbs 25:27 (NKJV)

On the other hand, most pastors discourage their believers from reading the Bible, because when they read the Bible and meditate on the Word of God, their eyes are opened. They ask various questions to the preachers and the preachers of the Word of God discourage them from reading their Bible. “Just read some verses everyday. Don’t read too much, for you will end up vomiting what you read. We are there. Listen to what we preach. That is more than enough.” This is what they say.

Isn’t it sad that the mainstream Christianity is going back to those days of dark ages, where the Roman Catholic church forbade their followers from reading the Word of God, but to listen to what the priests have to preach.

I told the nurse that reading the Bible and meditating on the Word of God is not restricted to the ministers of God; that a perfunctory reading of the Scriptures may be enough for a “baby” Christian, but as we grow in the Lord, we must read more and meditate a lot on the Word of God. I don’t know if I have managed to convince her.

Reading your Bible is like spending time with your Beloved, Jesus Christ. Meditating on His Word makes your heart glad and you are filled with inexpressible joy. As I read somewhere, the Bible is the only Book in the entire world, where the Author of the Book is always present when you read it. Yes, the Spirit of God will be with you and help you grow in the Lord. Let us not delegate reading the love-filled Epistles that the Lord wrote for us to our pastors. Let us grow personally in the knowledge of our Saviour and in His love. Please read your Bible.

Read your Bible

The School of Suffering

To have a sympathizing God we must have a suffering Saviour, and there is no true fellow-feeling with another save in the heart of him who has been afflicted like him.

We cannot do good to others save at a cost to ourselves, and our afflictions are the price we pay for our ability to sympathize. He who would be a helper, must first be a sufferer. He who would be a saviour must somewhere and somehow have been upon a cross; and we cannot have the highest happiness of life in succouring others without tasting the cup which Jesus drank, and submitting to the baptism wherewith He was baptized.

The most comforting of David’s psalms were pressed out by suffering; and if Paul had not had his thorn in the flesh we had missed much of that tenderness which quivers in so many of his letters.

The present circumstance, which presses so hard against you (if surrendered to Christ), is the best shaped tool in the Father’s hand to chisel you for eternity. Trust Him, then. Do not push away the instrument lest you lose its work.

“Strange and difficult indeed
We may find it,
But the blessing that we need
Is behind it.”

The school of suffering graduates rare scholars.

The Highest Form of Faith

“Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?” (John 18:11).

This was a greater thing to say and do than to calm the seas or raise the dead. Prophets and apostles could work wondrous miracles, but they could not always do and suffer the will of God. To do and suffer God’s will is still the highest form of faith, the most sublime Christian achievement.
To have the bright aspirations of a young life forever blasted; to bear a daily burden never congenial and to see no relief; to be pinched by poverty when you only desire a competency for the good and comfort of loved ones; to be fettered by some incurable physical disability; to be stripped bare of loved ones until you stand alone to meet the shocks of life– to be able to say in such a school of discipline, “The cup which my Father has given me, shall I not drink it?”- this is faith at its highest and spiritual success at the crowning point.
Great faith is exhibited not so much in ability to do as to suffer.
— Dr. Charles Parkhurst

John 18_11

Is God still to thee?

“I will be still, and I will behold in My dwelling place” (Isaiah 18:4, RV).

Assyria was marching against Ethiopia, the people of which are described as tall and smooth. And as the armies advance, God makes no effort to arrest them; it seems as though they will be allowed to work their will. He is still watching them from His dwelling place, the sun still shines on them; but before the harvest, the whole of the proud army of Assyria is smitten as easily as when sprigs are cut off by the pruning hook of the husbandman.

Is not this a marvellous conception of God– being still and watching? His stillness is not acquiescence. His silence is not consent. He is only biding His time, and will arise, in the most opportune moment, and when the designs of the wicked seem on the point of success, to overwhelm them with disaster. As we look out on the evil of the world; as we think of the apparent success of wrong-doing; as we wince beneath the oppression of those that hate us, let us remember these marvellous words about God being still and beholding.

There is another side to this. Jesus beheld His disciples toiling at the oars through the stormy night; and watched though unseen, the successive steps of the anguish of Bethany, when Lazarus slowly passed through the stages of mortal sickness, until he succumbed and was borne to the rocky tomb. But He was only waiting the moment when He could interpose most effectually. Is He still to thee? He is not unobservant; He is beholding all things; He has His finger on thy pulse, keenly sensitive to all its fluctuations. He will come to save thee when the precise moment has arrived. — Daily Devotional Commentary

A mango tree

In our backyard a mango tree has been growing for a while. It covers almost half of our backyard. This summer, it was brutally hot. I mean, even if you are inside the house, closed all the windows and doors, and turned on all the fans, still you could feel the heat and you would be drenched in sweat. Especially, sleeping in the afternoons actually became dangerous, because when we woke up, our lips and throats would parched and we would have severe pain in our limbs. It was really a horrible summer, and I still can’t believe I survived it.

During this dreadful summer, I saw something. The landscape around our home was parched. There was no greenery at all in sight. All the grass have withered and all the leaves had fallen from the trees and it was a very disheartening sight. Except our backyard. The mango tree stood right there, amid all the parched land, and it was so green. Because its root go deep, it was drawing water from a live stream nearby and just looking at it would make our eyes feel better. But there was something else.

In the mornings, I would and I still wake up on hearing the morning calls of various birds, which have taken the mango tree as their homes. In this year alone, though I am not an ornithologist, I found five new types of sparrows in our backyard. And there are many birds which I have no idea, would visit once in a while. It would be so beautiful, hearing all of them singing the praises of our Lord in the morning. And in the evening, the shadow of the mango tree saved us from the burning sun. And, how can I forget the cool breeze that would pass through the mango tree.

It is such a great blessing to us and many types of birds. But, did the mango tree grow so that it could be a blessing to us? Did its root search for water deep in the ground, so that it could give us shadow during the summer? No. It grew because it is its nature. It searched for water, because it is its nature. It is evergreen throughout the year, because it is its nature. But its very nature has become a blessing to so many living beings.

Yes, dear friend, when the Lord says that you shall be a blessing (Genesis 12:2), He wants to change the very nature of yourself. We shall grow in the Lord. We will search for the Living Water of Jesus Christ, because it will become our nature to do so. As we do, we will be greener by the day, and we shall become a blessing unto thousands, without even realizing. Let us grow in our Lord and may all of us be a blessing. Amen.

Genesis 12_2 a blessing

Be still, oh my soul

“O troubled soul, beneath the rod,
Thy Father speaks, be still, be still;
Learn to be silent unto God,
And let Him mould thee to His will.

“O praying soul, be still, be still,
He cannot break His plighted Word;
Sink down into His blessed will,
And wait in patience on the Lord.

“O waiting soul, be still, be strong,
And though He tarry, trust and wait;
Doubt not, He will not wait too long,
Fear not, He will not come too late.”

Be still

Utterance of him…

As I write this blog, I still remember those days when I was bound by sin few years back. I wish I could tell that those were the days of innocence, when I did not know what was right and wrong. But, I am still today ashamed to think of those days, because I knew what I was doing. But even those days, when I was feeling disgusted at myself, there were times when I realized that the LORD still loved me. But instead of running into His wide-opened arms, I shrunk back.

But one July 17th morning, as I was singing my morning devotional song, the Spirit of the Lord moved me to sing a Tamil Christian song in which one of the line is from Psalm 16:10.

For You will not abandon me to Sheol. – Psalm 16:10 (HCSB)

Psalm 16_10

As I started to sing the song, I got stuck at that particular line. I was singing just that one line for nearly five minutes, I was unable to move to the next song or even next line. Suddenly the Lord opened my eyes and made me see myself in the Light of His Word. If I was disgusted with myself before, now I abhorred myself completely. And the Lord broke my heart and with tears in my eyes, that morning, I pleaded only one thing from our LORD: please do not abandon me to Sheol, O Lord. I kept singing that song. By that evening, the Lord broke the bondage of that particular sin in my life and delivered me from going to the pit.

And I remember that very night, when I sat there to pray, I was too stunned about my utter stupidity. It took few days for me to realize in what precarious position my soul was in. It took me more than few weeks to realize what great mercies and grace that the Lord had showered on me on that day.

On that night, on July 17th, I started to write in my diary about what I had done and how the Lord saved me in His grace and all I could utter where the words of Balaam.

The utterance of him
who hears the words of God,
who sees the vision of the Almighty,
who falls down, with eyes wide open…
– Numbers 24:4 (NKJV)

Numbers 24_4

It was during that time the LORD made me realize that I needed more spiritual support to proceed further and it was then I thought of writing a blog. For whenever I start writing a blog, I remember that these are utterances of him, who fell down with eyes wide open… though he was hearing the words of God, and was seeing the vision of the Almighty. It makes me realize every time I blog, that I am standing only because of the grace of the Lord. If not for His grace, I would be falling down, with my eyes wide open.

O my Father in heaven, thank You for Your grace. Thank You for providing Your Spirit, Who convicted me of my sin, Who broke my stubborn heart. I thank You, especially for the gift of Your Son Jesus Christ. It is His blood that cleansed me of my sins. It is His blood that gives me the strength to face my accuser. It is the faith of Your Son which is the Shield by which I am extinguishing the burning arrows of the evil one. Thank You, Father. Help me to grow more in Your grace. Through Your Son and my Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.

Lessons from ICU. 19. The Haman spirit

As I was in the ICU, many believers from our church started visiting me. To be truthful before God, I have to admit that I was surprised by how much love they have for me. For one, I don’t chit chat a lot and hence, with many, I have not spoken in a casual manner. Second, there were times when I have pointed out their mistakes and hence, I was under the impression that most of the believers actually don’t like me. So imagine my surprise when most of the church members visited me at the ICU. Especially it is very difficult for our church members, because most of them are from very impoverished backgrounds. For some, even coming to the church on Sunday is difficult as they may not have money for the bus. Most of them also work everyday, except Sunday and hence taking a break to travel 3 hours to come to the hospital, and then 3 hours back, only just to see me for a mere 5 minutes is a huge sacrifice they made and I was very moved by their love.

But once all the dust settled, once I was moved out of ICU to Special Ward, some who visited pointed out that one believer, who is supposed to be very close to my family, never bothered to visit, and did not even bother to enquire about my health at all. It was a sore point for almost everyone who visited me, because when they went back and informed that believer that they were just back from visiting me, they excepted that the believer would ask how I was doing. But nothing like that happened. Even today, one year after it happened, some are still upset about that. So when they asked me why I am not hurt by that, I laughed out loud and told them that I am still reeling from the shock that the entire church loves me, and I have not been able to process that still today.

But when some of the believers who I care about deeply, kept harping on this one point again and again, I simply pointed out that this character is not Christian at all. It is, indeed, the character of one of the vilest enemies the Jews had to face in their history – Haman.

In the 5th chapter of the Book of Esther, we see Haman describing all the great things that were happening to him. He talked about how he had found favour in the eyes of his king and also queen Esther (Esther 5:11-12). Yet he says something striking in the next verse.

Yet all this avails me nothing, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate. (Esther 5:13)

As a result, he prepared a gallows to hand Mordecai, but in 24 hours, things changed and it was Haman who was hanging from the same gallows. All because one man chose to ignore him.

Let us not yield even an inch of our hearts to this evil spirit of Haman. Look around this beautiful world that the Lord has made us because He loves us. Look at all those loved ones He has given us in our life. Look at the innocent smile of our children or grandchildren, when they hold our finger in their baby hands. Above all, look at the Cross. Even if you are surrounded by people who hate you, even if the entire world is against you, their hatred would never be equal to one drop of the blood that our Saviour shed on the Calvary for us. The love of Jesus alone is enough for us to survive any hatred or rejection. Look at the Cross. Look at your Crucified Saviour. Look at the Lamb of the God. Look at Jesus Christ and be filled with His diving love. Amen.

love-upside-down

Still there is so much to learn…

Last year, on this day, I was suffering from severe breathing troubles and it had been 7 days since I had lied down to sleep. My backbone was in severe pain and finally, I slept, slightly reclining on a couch. As I woke up, I head a small voice telling me, “Your days are numbered and you will be dead soon.” At that moment, it felt like all my last sliver of hope was snuffed out of my soul. The next morning, I was taken to the emergency ward in a near-fatal condition, and by the grace of our Lord and the prayers of the believers of our church, I have survived to this day.

For the good part of the month of June, I was getting ready for this week – to give thanks to God in a heartfelt manner. While I have been doing that in my prayers, something else came in without any notice – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

I have heard about people suffering from PTSD and that it was equally excruciating. I have seen people behaving in an irrational manner or be filled with fear for no reason at all, but to be honest, I was never able to understand why they behave in the manner they do. Especially from where I hail, PTSD is not something people even talk about. Even when some people told me that they behaved in such a manner, because of what happened in the past, I would tell them – without any understanding of what they had undergone, I must add, – that it was all in their minds and that they were just imagining things. Till it happened to me. In my mother language, Tamil, there is a saying that goes like this: “You can understand the severity of a headache and toothache only when it comes to you.” How true are these words.

Starting from July 1st, I started suffering from erratic breathing, like I was having last year. Initially I thought it was because I had no or little exercise over the year that I am having trouble breathing. Then I realized that even when I am just sitting, I was having trouble sleeping. But the moment I start singing a song, there is no trouble with my breathing at all. Similarly I was feeling as if I had swollen and become overweight again and was refusing to get out of my bed. Last year being swollen, in the first week of July, when I tried to get out of the bed of my own, I fell down twice, losing my balance and it was so difficult to lift me up again. The list goes on, but physically I look just the same I was 10 days ago. And whenever I pray or sing, or read the Bible, I noticed that I do it as normal as I am. But, when it comes down to walking or eating or, most importantly, sleeping, I am terrified. For last few days, I would get up in the wee hours of the morning and would get a chair and would sit on it and sleep; because that is what I was doing last year – I was sleeping in a sitting position. Now, though I have no problem, when I wake up, I become scared to go back to sleep and doing this, leaving my wife utterly confused in the morning.

As I prayed, I understood that the Lord is teaching me more about being compassionate. Teaching me that everyone takes their own time to heal; that some wounds are so deep, it would so much care for the wound to disappear. I am not saying that I understand PTSD completely, but I understand there is an emotional trauma associated with the physical trauma, and it is equally traumatic to that person who is suffering.

As the lessons are continuing, I felt sad for my wife, for she is back to sleeping at odd hours and taking care of me, like she was doing last year. Though she understands that the trauma I am suffering now is emotional, the care she showers on me is the same as it was last year, when I had to be treated like an infant. And, as I wondering what I could tell her during these days, I saw this quote and thought that this is all I could tell her at this moment:

Please