Focus on Jesus

Ministry cannot be a substitute for a misplaced relationship with God. We cannot accomplish anything that is pleasing to God without being in communion with Him through Jesus Christ our Lord.

He is the vine and we are the branches. And when the branch is wholly dependent on the vine for its very sustenance and also for the realization of its potential, then all that the vine has is freely provided to it.

The demon possessed man, in the country of the Gerasenes, was delivered by Jesus and he wanted to go along with Jesus. “He begged Him that he might be with Him” (Mark 5:18). But Jesus, “did not permit him but said to him, ‘Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how He has had mercy on you.” (Mark 5:19)

He was delivered by Jesus. And his orientation, focus, and dependence are on Jesus and Him alone. Here, though it sounds as if Jesus is sending him away – we may rather see that he was commissioned and empowered. This then is one of those disciples who are called to stand in contrast to the disciples who were called to be with Him.

When our orientation is toward Jesus and we focus on Him in total dependence, then He may call us to be with Him. And is that not the greatest privilege that we may have in this life. Or He may send us to accomplish some task that He entrusts us. Even then is that also not the greatest privilege that we may have in this life – for He is with us all the time.

The exhortation for you is that – don’t focus on what you can do for Jesus, but focus on Jesus Himself. And let Him determine what you have to do. You may be called to just be with Him or you may just as well be called to do something for Him.

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He Came to Save the Lost

Did human beings ever realize that going away from God was not to live with themselves but to end up in servitude and slavery to Satan who had the sole intention to ruin and corrupt all that God had made?

Probably the demon possessed man in the country of the Gerasenes is a vivid symbol of what a God less life can result in. Cut off from everyone else. Terrifying others. Destroying himself. Tormented day in and out.

Let us remember that the demon possessed man, whom Jesus delivered, in his state of helplessness was in effect no different from not only the many people who are tormented by evil spirits but also many others who may appear normal, or even sophisticated and cultured. In their Godlessness they are no less cut off from their fellow beings – for relationships are maintained for selfish ends. They are destroying themselves – though they seem to flourish on the outside. They may not terrorize others now – but, God forbid, in hell they will become a symbol of terror indeed. They are also tormented day in and out – but they drown them all in their busy schedules and worldly living.

The man in the country of the Gerasenes was a crude manifestation of what Satan can do. There are countless others who though they appear and act normal but are just as broken, as lost, as helpless, as ruined.

Godless living in not a smart proposition. It is a highway to hell. If that man was pushed to the brink by a legion of evil spirits, then the lost people are pushed to that very same destruction by the huge crowd of all the others as lost as themselves who are all so stunned by the vain and deceptive attractions of this world.

Amazement does change into disillusionment when realization sets in and most often when that happens it is too late.

Too late! Too late, it is indeed for those who keep denying God and refusing His outstretched arm to save.

I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ who comes to save every one of the lost and rotting lives no matter where they happen to be. He comes to save and He is able to save.

Let the episode of the Gerasenes country make us realize the futility of the Godless life. Let us face the reality of our state. Godless living is a ruined life. We need, and let me say, we all need Jesus to save us from all our lostness and give us the right state of mind so that we will live the way He wants us to live, and that is the way we were created to live.

Jesus Saves!!!

Resetting our Preoccupation

“Dear God, I pray that we your people will continue to seek you. For you are the bread of life and you alone enable us to have life eternal. Amen.”

Often the physical needs and the desires of this life entangle us and keep us from the pursuit of God and His ways. They have a way of keeping on coming upon us as an onslaught so that we are never ever actually free from our entanglements of life and its needs, wants, and greed. One leads to the other, this happens after that. We hope for a time when we will be relieved. We think, optimistically that after the present issue we will get some relief. However, all that we hope for and optimistically anticipate remain elusive. We see, but it turns out to be a mirage.

Christian life is not one that waits to be lived when we are permitted by our circumstances, because in real life, our circumstances may not grant us such a privilege. Christian life is a clear call to make a conscious switching of priorities so that the eternal aspects of life and calling take precedence over the temporal affairs of life.

To facilitate this we need to program our mind, by the Word and the Holy Spirit, so that we are able to ascribe priority to the things of God, though they are intangible. This has to become the constant practice of the Christian because, the temporal things of the world are not only tangible, they are aggressive in their demands for attention. Pamper them and you are easily enslaved.

Nevertheless, let us break free and choose to live this day, let us live this week – come what may – by giving priority to the things of God. You may not find it easy, but it is not impossible. And then you will find yourself in the glorious liberty of life that God provides for His children. And let me also assure you, that you are not to do all this in your own strength. You believe Jesus for it and you will indeed be helped by Jesus to live with a new set of priorities that relate to the life eternal. And yes, Jesus Christ died for you that you may inherit eternal life. It is yours to both claim your inheritance and also experience some of it here on this side of eternity.

Take courage. Go on. And live by it….

Wrong Priorities

Having our own priorities, we tend to stick to them. However, if we seek to serve God in response to His call then we need to properly understand and live by God’s priorities.

Saul as king of Israel was called and entrusted with a task that was communicated clearly to him by prophet Samuel. He missed the mark because he ended up doing things in his own way.

  1. Most people do not even venture out into the realm of God’s will and they try to keep a distance from the things of God. That is, they do not ‘hear’ anything concrete from God and so they do not feel accountable to Him in any way.
  2. Of those people who do hear God’s instructions, or are pro-active in seeking to do something for God as desired by Him, many are not able to continue in the plan and purpose of God.
  3. The way to live our life well is to begin, go on, and finally conclude our life in the will of God. If such be the pursuit of our life then we cannot afford to have our priorities differ from God’s. Therefore, we constantly seek to have our priorities replaced by God’s priorities.

When our minds are constantly transformed by the Word and the Holy Spirit – we begin the journey of inheriting God’s thoughts and we are enabled to prioritize like God wants us to.

To begin with, Saul was reluctant to become king. His thought process and life priorities apparently did not want anything like that. So, in one sense, he was cajoled, coaxed, and led to become king of Israel. Then, having assumed kingship, his thinking changed and he tried his best to sustain his dynasty. However, he never really tried to understand God’s heart, God’s mind, and His ways. There was no effort on his part to conform to God’s way of thinking and prioritizing. He never desired to be transformed by the God who had called him to that great task.

And because he failed to even try to become as God required of him, he was very bluntly rejected by God. After that rejection by God though he continued as king, his life was useless and bereft of any meaning.

Let us take this lesson to heart – that we are called to serve God and we can fulfill His call only when we keep on seeking to be transformed by Him and thus have our priorities become like God’s own. Only then will we be able to do justice to our call and gifting.

Be Generous to Yourself!!!

They all seem to want so much more –

It is never sufficient…

Greedy for good food, they take in their plate the best portion, sometimes more than what they can eat!

They also want better house(s), more property.

They want more money. Anybody quitting these days???

They want higher positions: Oh! How they love it when they get to lord it over others.

In this fallen world – greed rules the day, and greed celebrates after nightfall.

 

It is so good to our ears when somebody says, “Do take a generous portion for yourself.”

 

Yes, take a generous slice, a very heavy cut of your time everyday – And pray for more hours.

Take a generous portion for yourself, devour, yes, literally devour the Word of God. And it will definitely do good to your famished, under-nourished, frail inner person within.

Do not give up your score, do not let go – And have your fill of your days of fasting and praying. Shut the whole world out.

Instead of bragging about your meetings and appointments with the big-shots – may your calendar be decorated with your fulfilled appointments with the King of kings.

 

Do not be greedy for the things of the world. For it is in vain that you run, in vain you strive, in vain you build, in vain you conquer. There is no doubt – it all feels very good. But remember, you were made for better things, for the greatest purpose.

Rather, be generous to yourself and seek out those things that many despise in their youth. Be generous to yourself when it comes to your spiritual health.

Think big for yourself when it is about your spiritual growth.

Push yourself real hard when it is in your opportunities to minister and serve and give.

Do not wish small when it is about the things of God.

 

Give God the best days of your life.

Give God what is right and not what is left – because God deserves it.

And, when you finish your race – you will never regret a life lived for God in earnest and faithfulness.

Holding the Law, but Missing God

They thought they were doing ‘the Law’ a favor by going out and immediately holding counsel with the Herodians against Jesus Christ, regarding how to destroy Him. (Mark 3:6)

It is not enough to claim that we are upholding the Law, when in truth we end up missing God altogether. Isn’t it a pity that the ‘teachers of the Law’ and the ‘upholders of the Law’ – those who had supposedly given their entire life for the Law – could not recognize Jesus, the Word of God. Moreover, they sought out ways to destroy Him.

They thought of Jesus as being a ‘threat’ to their system of religion that they wanted to keep at any cost. And it did cost many of them their Savior and their salvation. The system that they so badly wanted to keep for their own gains also fell, as history testifies.

It is never ever enough to look like a fruit bearing tree without having any fruit. We can boast all we like, that we are having more leaves, and that we are actually specializing in leaves or branches, etc. But boasting of any or many features other than the actual fruit, and for that matter good fruit, is never enough.

People then, through the ages, and even today are experts at misinterpreting the Law so that their lack of fruits are covered up or excused. Nevertheless, when God comes seeking, He is coming for the good fruits. Many people are guilty of refusing to do good and bless others because of their own inability and specifically their refusal to allow Christ to work through them. However, the pretext given seems very spiritual and scriptural. But they are not. They are mere misinterpretations and misrepresentations to cover up their own fruitless estate.

They wanted to prevent Jesus from healing on the Sabbath. However, on that very day they had no problem whatsoever in going and holding counsel to destroy Jesus.

We will all do good to carefully examine – what we believe, why we believe, and for whom we believe. It will be a terrible tragedy indeed, if we keep pursuing our systems in the name of God without having God Himself in our life.

Worship

When God gave laws about Altars – He commanded that altars for offerings may be made of earth. If stones are used for making an altar then it should not be made of hewn stones, for God explained, “If you wield your tool on it you profane it.” (Exodus 20:25)

Now keeping those instructions in mind when we look at the prophecy of Isaiah, where he condemns the rebellion of the people in ‘making offerings on bricks’ (Isaiah 65:3). It is given as one of the many characteristics of rebellion by his generation of God’s people in ‘provoking God to His face’ and inviting severe judgment as a result.

Let us try to understand something about Worship even as we consider what was commanded by God regarding altars and then see what it meant to disobey in making offerings on bricks.

So the summary of instructions is as follows:

Stones may be used – but stones touched by tools are profane.

Earth may be used – but bricks are profane, using the same reasons, since it is human made.

But, human rebellion, as always, is marked by willfully going against of God’s commands.

An altar of bricks is actually very convenient because it neither gets your hands dirty (as in using earth), nor does it prove challenging as working with stones that are not hewn. Stones come in all shapes and size. So the altar has to be carefully made and may require undoing one or more times in the process.

We have to understand the whole process of making the altar as being synonymous with worship. We do have confidence in and access to God’s Holy presence and worship is not burdensome. However:

  1. Worship calls for being careful with our steps, words, and the process as a whole; and
  2. Worship requires the undoing of ourselves, again and again, so that we truly become, in character and nature, like the God whom we adore and worship.

We see Isaiah condemning the rebellious people who made offerings on bricks. Working with bricks is, as mentioned before, very convenient. Hands are not soiled and fingers are not hurt, no undoing is required. You just need to stack them up. Talk of human genius and invention.

Nevertheless, worship was never ever intended to be a testament of human genius and invention. Also, worship is never to be done as per our convenience.

False worship is based on human convenience and the human self is exalted in the celebration of human abilities. God is not at the center. The question we need to ask is – “Is our offering a mere token, done to make our own abilities and achievements visible?” and “Is it tailor made to suit our own convenience?” Moreover, in false worship, absolutely no transformation is called for, as undoing of the self is also so very inconvenient.

No wonder people prefer either a pain-less religion or a system of religion on their own terms and conditions. Most people just enjoy celebrating themselves and God is reduced to being made the means to such selfish and self centered ends.

Let us repent of false worship and the pretense of serving Him. Let us not hesitate to do it God’s way, even if it means that our hands will be soiled and fingers hurt.

“Let me, O Lord, be undone before you,

If need be, let me be undone again and again so that I am truly transformed.

Let me seek neither significance nor convenience.

Let me worship you Jesus, in spirit and truth.

And as I worship, make me more like you.

Amen.”

No Outsourcing Your Experience of God’s Presence

The Ark of God is most crucial for the people of the Old Covenant. The ark testifies to the desire and yearning of God to dwell among His people. The ark also sufficiently warns everyone that God’s presence is not to be taken lightly. That the presence of the one, true, holy God is unlike any other place of worship, that it is unlike anything else that human beings can come up with in their sinful disposition.

So also, God had given clear cut guidelines as to how to handle the ark and where it was to be placed. However, presumption on the part of the Israelites resulted in the ark going into the custody of the Philistines and the priests who were responsible for the ark were very dead. This teaches us that nothing related to worship and prayer, not even the ark, can insure us when we are ourselves removed from a right standing with God. Unless I repent, return to God, and abide in Him there is nothing else that is going to work for me.

Let me say here that the ark in the enemy camp was more than able to defend itself. Very soon the Philistines wanted to return the ark. So a new cart was prepared, two milk cows that were never yoked and their calves separated from them were also set apart.

There are two things to understand here about the logic of the Philistines:

  1. Preparing a new cart and making use of cows that were never yoked showed that the Philistines, despite having their own religion, honored the God of Israel and wanted to act with utmost reverence. Everything used was new.
  2. Making use of ‘Milk cows’ separated from the calves was to make sure of the power and influence of the God of Israel. For unlike oxen that are used to the yoke, the milk cows, never ever yoked, would naturally only return back or just wander about. Moreover, being separated from their calves would have them behave according to their natural instincts. They wanted to see, whether the God of Israel was able to steer them to the right destination.

We know that the ark returned to Israel. 1 Samuel 6:12 says – “And the cows went straight in the direction of Beth Shemesh along one highway, lowing as they went. They turned neither to the right not to the left…”

We have seen that this was the Philistines way of doing things. Unfortunately, the people of God were so quick to adopt the method, with slight changes. 2 Samuel 6:3 says – “And they carried the ark of God on a new cart and brought it out … and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were driving the new cart, with the ark of God.”

And Uzzah had to pay with his life.

  1. Does God’s presence mean judgment and death?
  2. No.
  3. But can God’s presence be taken lightly?
  4. Again the answer is No.

Two lessons for us:

  1. To know God’s way we need to seek Him – individually and as a community – and receive His help and guidance. We either follow the written Word or wait upon God to guide us in cases where we lack clarity. But, there are people in this world depending on animals, planets, stars, etc for making decisions. The Philistines made use of two milk cows, and people today use a host of methods to solve their problems, make decisions, etc. Not us. We cannot do that. We are called to hear the voice of our Shepherd. Jesus Christ our shepherd will speak to you, will speak to me.
  2. In doing God’s work, we cannot just make use of beasts of burden or, let me add, people of burden to do what we are called to do. What the Levites are called to carry they have to carry. There is simply no option for putting the load on oxen and playing cool. I have to do what I have to do. And you have got to do what you have to do.

Let me leave two questions for you to ponder on:

  1. Are you hearing God’s voice?
  2. Are you doing that which God has called you to do?

Never think of outsourcing them, i.e., decision making by hearing God’s voice and doing the work you are called to do.

You have to hear God.

You have to do God’s work.

Amen.

Jacob – You Don’t Know It All

Jacob, you don’t know it all –

You seek the privileges of the first-born – But you do not know that you will have to flee from your home.

You seek to marry the girl whom you love – But you do not know that the package includes another one and 14 years of bondage.

Jacob, you are factually correct in knowing that your twin brother is coming along with four hundred men to meet you. You fear his anger and revenge – But you do not know that he is coming to help you have a safe passage.

You are right in realizing that your hot-headed sons have brought trouble on your tribe, making you obnoxious to the inhabitants of the land – But you do not know that God is covering you under His wings.

You think that your beloved son Joseph is no more. You are pained every time you remember the evidences that speak of the violent end that he should have had – But you do not know that your beloved son Joseph is in Egypt. That God has placed him next to Pharaoh so that many lives will be spared in the 7 years of famine, including your own life, Jacob, along with your household and also your livestock.

Jacob, you have concluded that you will see Joseph no more – But Jacob, you do not know that you will indeed see your beloved son.

You are thinking that you will go to the grave in sorrow for having lost Joseph – But Jacob, you do not know that the son who was separated from you for many years will be there for you and with you in your last days.

You see your circumstances. You hear the reports. You analyze the evidences. You have also suffered for years together. You have come to your conclusions.

But, you do not know it all.

You sought the blessing – the blessing of the God of Abraham and Isaac; and, you will find Him at work in your life all the days of your life.

Jacob, you never knew it all – But your God, the God of your grandfather Abraham and your father Isaac, He knows it all.

Counter-Culture

The world is defined by change, nothing is constant. And the world expects and entices us to dance to its tune and rhythm. However, we know that, in spite of all the pomp and show, the world and the lust therein is passing away. Despite the glamour, it is hollow inside. Despite making profound pitch for selling itself, it is bereft of meaning. Despite its claims of success and growth, it is mostly driven by greed and selfishness. There is hardly any need to tell what becomes of the people who stand on such shaky foundation.

The challenge for God’s people is to make their stand on the Rock Jesus Christ, while at the same time relating on a daily basis to the people – both within and without the church. Legalism has been the resort of probably many well meaning people. But legalism only leads to self delusion, cutting off of relationships; and it ends up producing a bunch of religious nuts and hypocrites.

Allowing for a permissive culture is also not the solution as we would end up losing all relevance and fail in our call to be a prophetic voice to a desperate world that is filled with the lost, defeated, and hopeless.

John the Baptist was for his generation a symbol of ‘counter-culture.’ He dressed different. He ate different. And of course his message and ministry also belongs to a higher level.

I would like to present some principles from his life that may be relevant to us no matter how we choose to dress up and what we choose to eat.

  1. He was close to God.

We should not forget that we do not oppose any culture just for the sake of opposing it. It is our positive decision to stand for God that makes us go against several aspects that are considered normal in this world. John the Baptist was close to God and it was his proximity to God that made him stand apart from the vanity of the world and its enticing worldliness.

  1. He remained close to the call of God in his life.

John the Baptist stayed true to his call. He did not look for success the way it is defined by the world. He did not alter his track for ‘better prospects.’ He also did not hesitate to prophecy sharply even when it only meant that he would have to pay with his life. Many people doing God’s work are, sadly to say, as worldly as any worldly person can be. This is because they are actually holding on to worldly values and standards while being engaged in Christian work.

  1. He was close to God’s creation.

His dressing sense and food habits were very close to the natural world. This principle is more relevant to our generation when most aspects of our life have become more and more removed from nature. Everything today is engineered, processed, and modified. John’s life was simply defined by his closeness to God’s creation.

  1. He was close to the ordinary people.

John the Baptist was close to the common person. They came in large numbers to hear him. The ordinary people recognized and held him as a prophet of God. The group that had problems with him was mostly the religious authorities and the high and mighty that were stung by his clear message.

As we live in this generation, we are placed in different life situations and are called to be the witnesses of Jesus Christ. Let us remember that we are made neither for legalism nor for permissiveness. Rather we are called for the sake of Jesus Christ who gave Himself for us all. And our focus in life should not be to spend ourselves in opposing things that we feel are wrong. We are called to focus on: 1. Being close to God; 2. Remain close to our call; 3. Stay close to God’s creation; and, 4. Relate closely to the ordinary people around us.

Living in this manner we automatically become a tribe of people who swim against the currents and accomplish great things for God through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit who abides in us.