Sacrificial love is the hallmark of Christ’s character. Love is giving, and then giving more, and then giving still more. Unless we are broken of our self-centered, self-serving, prideful nature, we cannot give this kind of love.
Charles Stanley, The Blessings of Brokenness
Cult membership is actually a cop out from life. The proselyte who enters a cult thinks he is boldly stepping forward to commit himself wholly for the Lord’s cause. In actual fact, he has unconsciously chosen a way to flee from having to make decisions, to have to stand to the consequences of free choices. He has in effect said to Moses, “Take me back to slavery. I can’t stand freedom out here in the deserts of life. At least I knew how to behave there because everyone told us what to do. I didn’t have to think, I only had to behave.”
– John & Paula Sandford, Transforming the Inner Man
South India has a bull taming sport called jallikattu in which a bull is released into a crowd of people and one or more person try to hold onto the hump of the bull while the bull tries to escape. In 2014 the Supreme Court of India banned this sport as it was cruel to the bull. The bull tamers and spectators regularly get killed. Strangely people all over Tamil Nadu have been demanding the ban be lifted, risking human life and continue the cruelty to animals. Although most city residents have not watched the sport yet thousands have been protesting that the ban be removed.
The situation reminds me of the riot in Ephesus recorded in Acts 19. Paul had been ministering in Ephesus for two years and “all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks. And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul”. But Demetrius who made silver shrines incited people saying “Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods …” Immediately there was a great riot and “some were shouting one thing and some another, since the crowd was confused, and most of them didn’t know why they were meeting.”
Although the history of jallikattu is skimpy, it appears that the shedding of blood during this sport was a form of blood sacrifice to appease the local deities during the Pongal harvest festival. Looking at it from this angle, there seems to be a good explanation why people who have no connection with this sport, have been taking to the streets for days and nights to keep it alive. It appears that evil spiritual forces are unhappy with the ban and have whipped up frenzy in the minds of the people to ensure that blood continues being spilt every year.
Ancient Rome had extremely violent games where gladiator fought against others or against animals or against slaves, wild animals including lions and bears fighting other animals or mauling slaves. Christianity slowly brought an end to these violent sports. In the 5th century, monk Telemachus when he witnessed the gladiators for the first time was so appalled that he jumped into the arena shouting “In the name of Jesus stop”. Though he was killed, the incident shocked the spectators and the emperor who immediately issued an edict banning gladiator sports. Let us not loose our saltiness in Christ and be “no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled on by people.” (Matthew 5:13) Let us be the salt and light of our world.
I wish the readers of this blog a blessed Christmas. At the Christmas season, there is a lot of focus on Jesus as a baby and the incidents surrounding the birth. As God has put in us an instinct to love babies and children, it is very good to remember Jesus’ birth and show love to one another. But we should not stop at baby Jesus. Jesus grew up, studied the scripture, preached the gospel, did great miracles, drove out demons, was crucified, rose from the dead and is now seated at the right hand of God. Within 40 years of the birth of Jesus, Stephen no longer saw Jesus as a baby but saw Him at the right hand of God: “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” Acts 7:56 (ISV).
The Bible teaches us that we need to wait patiently for the rewards of faith. “Moses preferred being mistreated with God’s people to enjoying the pleasures of sin for a short time. He thought that being insulted for the sake of the Messiah was of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.” Heb 11:25, 26 (ISV). David said “I waited patiently for the LORD. He turned to me and heard my cry for help. He pulled me out of a horrible pit, out of the mud and clay. He set my feet on a rock and made my steps secure. He placed a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.” Psalm 40:1-3 (GW) “We must focus on Jesus, the source and goal of our faith. He saw the joy ahead of him, so he endured death on the cross and ignored the disgrace it brought him. Then he received the highest position in heaven, the one next to the throne of God.” Heb 12:2 (GW).
If life is filled with seemingly insurmountable challenges, don’t lose heart! Keep praying and praising, waiting patiently for the Lord to act. Just as the baby was made the King of kings and Lord of lords we can overcome our challenges and the evil one. “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name is called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6 (ISV).
God consistently shows His concern for the poor in the Bible and ask us to be considerate to them. Jesus showed his concern for the poor in his message in Nazareth: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” Thousands of years ago, the Bible set strict rules for lending and stricter rules if the borrower is poor. “When you loan something to your neighbor, don’t enter his house to seize what he offered as collateral … If he is a poor man, don’t go to sleep with his collateral in your possession. Be sure to return his garment to him at sunset so that he may sleep with it, and he will bless you. It will be a righteous deed in the presence of the LORD your God.” Deuteronomy 24:10, 12, 13 (ISV) .
Still the poor are often abused and exploited. There is a crisis in India for a few weeks. Overnight, the majority of the currency notes have been made obsolete and people are facing difficulty in converting their own money into valid but difficult to find currency notes. People have died in the crisis and the poor who have limited access to banks have been put into a great predicament. The government claims that it has to restrict their citizens from withdrawing their own money for their own good and most people seem to be infatuated that this move will somehow stop “black money”. Very few seem to bother about the hardship that many are facing. Farmers are unable to sell the produce or buy seed, poor people especially those who live in remote areas cannot repeatedly leave their work and families in search of a working ATM or bank, those who need medical help do not have the “right” notes to pay. The list is endless.
Among the people that I have personally communicated about this difficult situation, those voicing concern for the genuinely disadvantaged are generally Christians. It is encouraging to see that the message of the Bible has touched these people. Some of the verses protecting the poor and oppressed are “don’t take advantage of a hired person who is poor and needy” Deuteronomy 24:14 (ISV), “defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy” Psalm 82:3 (KJV) and “oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor” Zechariah 7:10a (KJV). I hope the Bible will transform you and give you concern for the poor, the needy and the afflicted.
God is all powerful and can fix our problems. A genie is a fictional magical being that carries out the orders of a person. God wants us to pray at all times but His response seems unpredictable while a genie grants three wishes. Many people, Christians and non-Christians, want God to behave as a genie. We pray fervently with faith, expecting Him to miraculously solve our problems. If He fails to respond, we may wait longer in faith. But sometimes God never seems to reply, especially in the way we asked or wanted. If we expect God to respond like a genie, our faith can easily be shipwrecked.
Unfortunately the image that I have been having of God was closer to a genie than the Biblical picture of God. I have been going through difficult circumstances in my life. It feels like family, church and society are unable or unwilling to help. God seems to be silent. I waited patiently for the Lord for years but He doesn’t seem to take me out of the miry clay and set my feet on the rock. My soul is cast down within me. I am unable to blog anymore. Life itself is a challenge. I have been frustrated with God. But I am learning that He is not a genie but a parent who disciplines His child.
If a parent always shields a child from problems, it will struggle to become a mature adult. God our eternal Father is interested in our development and maturity. So He allows storms to hit us. In fact the Bible says “the Lord corrects and disciplines everyone whom He loves, and He punishes, even scourges” (Heb 12:6 AMP) and also “no discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful” (Heb 12:11 ISV). This is no genie! If God answered our prayers just the way we wanted, we will pray away all His discipline and remain immature. This is one of the many reasons why God doesn’t seem to answer our prayers however fervent or critical they may seem to be.
If you had pictured God as a genie magically changing circumstances, just as I did, it is time to repent. Instead of sulking and feeling sorry for ourselves, we are commanded to “strengthen our tired arms and our weak knees, and straighten the paths of our life, so that our lameness may not become worse, but instead may be healed.” (Heb 12:12,13 ISV). God does not offer a magical way out but we are exhorted to exert ourselves and take courage and the effort will be worthwhile “for those who have been trained by it, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace” (Heb 12:11b ISV).
It’s a year since Mr. Joshua Daniel, president of the Laymen’s Evangelical Fellowship passed away. The leadership has passed on to his son John Daniel. Most leaders when they take over an organisation bring in new ideas, organisational structures and steer the organisation forwards. With John spending most of his time in the US, there is little indication that he plans to directly manage the oraganisation from India just as his father failed to do or atleast go around preaching the gospel which his father did. Instead LEF seems to be looking backwards with their never ending admiration of the Daniel family and seems to continue as a personality cult.
LEF TV programs are still featuring Mr. Joshua Daniel. If LEF is the greatest and the best as we were made to believe why isn’t there anybody else in LEF who can preach on TV? Transcripts of Mr. N. Daniel’s messages were read in many centres for decades. Now they are playing back recordings of Joshua Daniel. The head quarters where live preaching happened in the Wednesday prayer meetings has switched to recorded messages of the dead man.
Their magazine Christ is Victor (Indian version) hardly had any articles by living people except for Joshua Daniel’s articles. Other articles were generally by people already dead or about people who were already dead. (There is nothing wrong with such articles but the problem is the imbalance) Now even though Mrs. Lily Daniel has taken over as the editor, editorials are being penned by the deceased Joshua Daniel! Articles by Lily Daniel, John Daniel and Lydia Daniel appear sporadically. It is sad that the magazine is unwilling to open itself to non-Daniel living Christians but continues to prop up N. Daniel and Joshua Daniel. In the September issue, Mrs Lily Daniel writes about an incident where an immigration officer mentioned to her that he knew and appreciated Joshua Daniel and then she correlates that incident with Hebrews 11:4 “he being dead yet speaketh”. Abel had sacrificed a more excellent sacrifice than his brother Cain and though he was murdered, God Himself approved it and this speaks to all humanity. I am unable to see how recognition in an airport can be compared to the glorious recognition of Abel by God Himself. This reminds me of Liz Van Camp who wrote on Facebook saying that her father was interceding in heaven. This shows either a total lack of understanding of Christianity or a blatant way to deceive gullible people and perpetuate the personality cult of the Daniels. John Daniel quotes “Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set. “ (Prov 22:28) in the October issue while describing his father achievements.
It is interesting to note that “JD” in the editorial of the September issue of Christ is Victor has called LEF “as a place which gives a little dose of opium to people” and that “some people are beginning to use the fellowship as a place where they get a dose of religious opium.” This is apparently a reference to a quote by Karl Marx which is often condensed to “Religion is the opiate of the masses.” Marx’s contention was that religion gives people artificial, illusory happiness; like opium does to a drug addict. LEF with Daniels as leaders seems to be giving an artificial, illusory confidence to many people. And as usual the leaders are not culpable but it’s the people who are to be blamed. It is sad that people are unable to open their eyes even after such disparagement.
As always, I encourage my readers not to be deceived. Paul warns us in 1Timothy 4:7 (ISV) “Do not have anything to do with godless myths and fables of old women. Instead, train yourself to be godly.” Just as sportsmen train themselves for the competitions train yourselves in godliness. Seek Biblical preachers, teachers and churches.
A Google search for unbelievable stories brings up a list of odd stories, but the story of Jesus Christ is the unbelievable story of all time. The creator of the universe leaves His heavenly abode to become part of His creation. He could have appeared on earth as an alien or a special being but He chose to be born as a (helpless) baby to an insignificant family in an insignificant town. At least when He grew up He could have boasted to the world about His heavenly credentials but he avoided talking about it and generally kept off the limelight. Without any fanfare he performed amazing miracles, made the blind to see, healed the lame and raised the dead. He made no effort to escape a horrible death. After three days, His tomb was astonishingly found empty but still He revealed Himself only to limited friends before returning to His heavenly abode.
This story seems so utterly far-fetched and bizarre but still millions have believed in this story and even given up their lives for this story. I am grateful that I knew this story from childhood. Sometimes I wonder if it was because of early exposure to this story that made me believe it. What would have happened if I grew up in a hostile environment? I can’t say; but even though the story about Jesus Christ seems unbelievable, I know that I am drawn toward it by Jesus Himself so that in spite of problems that arise due to my faith, my faith strangely gets deeper.
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6. These extraordinary words are often repeated at Christmas season especially in cards and sermons. The prophet Isaiah and the numerous people who were waiting for this promised child would have expected Him to have a peaceful childhood. But amazingly there was quite a lot of trouble surrounding the birth of this promised child.
Mary a God fearing virgin girl who is betrothed to Joseph a God fearing man, gets pregnant before marriage! She and Joseph must have had a difficult time as gossip spread. Around the time of the delivery, Caesar Augustus declares a registration and they were forced to travel (without modern comfort) to Bethlehem and there was no suitable place (and hospital) for the delivery. Seeing a special star, some wise men or magi make a trip to worship this baby. It appears that the star was not always visible during the journey and so they go to Jerusalem to get directions. Unfortunately Herod the Great who reigned in Jerusalem at that time was a ruthless and paranoid tyrant who even killed his father-in-law, some wives and two sons. Hearing their mission, Herod decides to secretly kill Jesus. When that plan was foiled, he kills all male children below 2 years in that area. To avoid it, the newly wedded couple had to escape to Egypt with an infant!
Christ never meant that we were to remain children in intelligence: He told us to be ‘as harmless as doves’, but also ‘as wise as serpents’.
– C. S. Lewis