Tag Archives: God

God’s system of justice

inequalityMany cultures have traditional moral stories. Aesop’s fables from ancient Greece, Panchatantra from ancient India and many more. These commend good and denounce wrong by making the characters derive benefit from good deeds and suffer punishment from wrong deeds, usually very quickly. This philosophy is not restricted to moral stories and most of us subconsciously subscribe to this thought process. When the Biblical character Job suddenly lost his oxen, sheep, camels, children and his health, that is what his friends and towns folk believed. Eliphaz said “Who, being innocent, has ever perished? Where were the upright ever destroyed? As I have observed, those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it. At the breath of God they perish; at the blast of his anger they are no more.” Job 4:7-9 (NIV). Bildad said “Does God pervert justice? Does the Almighty pervert what is right? When your children sinned against him, he gave them over to the penalty of their sin.” Job 8:3,4 (NIV). Zophar said “Surely you know how it has been from of old, ever since mankind was placed on the earth, that the mirth of the wicked is brief, the joy of the godless lasts but a moment. Though the pride of the godless person reaches to the heavens and his head touches the clouds, he will perish forever, like his own dung.” Job 20:4-7(NIV). On the contrary, God gave a completely different appraisal of Job saying “There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” Job 1:8 (NIV).

We know that “God is true, even if everyone is a liar” Romans 3:4 (ISV). So we have to dismiss the philosophies of the ancients, Job’s friends, our own ideas and turn to the Bible for answers. Job himself observed and said “Why do the wicked live on, growing old and increasing in power? They see their children established around them, their offspring before their eyes. Their homes are safe and free from fear; the rod of God is not on them. Their bulls never fail to breed; their cows calve and do not miscarry. They send forth their children as a flock; their little ones dance about. They sing to the music of timbrel and lyre; they make merry to the sound of the pipe. They spend their years in prosperity and go down to the grave in peace.” Job 21:7-13 (NIV). Such observations are not limited to Job and it is found in other parts of the Bible. Asaph says “… I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from common human burdens; they are not plagued by human ills. Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence. From their callous hearts comes iniquity; their evil imaginations have no limits. They scoff, and speak with malice; with arrogance they threaten oppression. Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth. Therefore their people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance. They say, “How would God know? Does the Most High know anything?” This is what the wicked are like — always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.” Psalm 73:3-12 (ISV). Another Psalmist says “… How long will the wicked be jubilant? They pour out arrogant words; all the evildoers are full of boasting. They crush your people, Lord; they oppress your inheritance. They slay the widow and the foreigner; they murder the fatherless. They say, “The Lord does not see; the God of Jacob takes no notice.”” Psalm 94:3-7 (NIV). Jeremiah says “Why are wicked people successful? Why do all dishonest people have such easy lives?” Jeremiah 12:1b (NET). We would also personally know people who live wicked lives but are prospering.

Job gives us a clue about the punishment of the wicked “Here is the fate God allots to the wicked, the heritage a ruthless man receives from the Almighty: However many his children, their fate is the sword; his offspring will never have enough to eat. The plague will bury those who survive him, and their widows will not weep for them. Though he heaps up silver like dust and clothes like piles of clay, what he lays up the righteous will wear, and the innocent will divide his silver.” Job 27:13-17 (NIV). This principle is found in other parts of the Bible. The Lord said to Solomon, “Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates. Nevertheless, for the sake of David your father, I will not do it during your lifetime. I will tear it out of the hand of your son. Yet I will not tear the whole kingdom from him, but will give him one tribe for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem, which I have chosen.” 1 Kings 11:11-13 (NIV). The word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite saying “have you noticed how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself, I will not bring this disaster in his day, but I will bring it on his house in the days of his son.” 1 Kings 21:29 (NIV). It may surprise us but that is also how God introduced himself to Moses when he went up to Mount Sinai saying “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.” Exodus 34:6,7 (NIV). It is also an integral part of the 10 commandments “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.” Exodus 20:5 (NIV).

When people are quickly punished, they avoid doing wrong just to escape punishment. Jeremiah 17:10 (ISV) says “I am the LORD who searches the heart, who tests the inner depths to give to each person according to what he deserves, according to the fruit of his deeds.” When justice is meted out immediately it is impossible to test the heart and the motives. So God may defer his justice to subsequent generations to verify if the person truly believes and fears God. This does not exempt man from having a judicial system and passing out justice quickly. God clearly specified the judicial system for Israel and for the church. There also remains a final judgment that nobody can escape. Acts 17:30,31 (ISV) mentions “God now commands everyone everywhere to repent, because he has set a day when he is going to judge the world with justice through a man whom he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”

Many find it difficult to believe in God when they see injustice everywhere Are you willing to believe that there is a God who metes out justice to every one, even if it is not instant? God is testing us to see if we will walk in His walks even if not walking in His ways does not seem to have consequences. Do not live a life ignoring God’s commands just because God seems to be ignoring your rebellion. Your future generations will face the wrath of God and you cannot escape the day of judgment.

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Jesus, The Perfect Lamb of God

lambMost of us know how the shepherds were told by an angel “unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:21 ESV). The sign given to them was “you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:12 ESV). Since we are not familiar with many Jewish customs, this sign has not meant much to most of us. These shepherds who were in the vicinity of Bethlehem and Jerusalem would have been those who took care of sheep meant for temple sacrifice. When a lamb was born, it often thrashed around and sometimes got hurt in the process. But Leviticus 22:20 (ESV) says “You shall not offer anything that has a blemish, for it will not be acceptable for you.” So to keep the lamb safe and un-blemished, shepherds seemed to have had a habit of wrapping their lambs in swaddling cloth and put it in the manger away from the other sheep! New born Jewish babies seem to have been usually dressed in baby clothes and not normally wrapped in swaddling cloth! When these temple shepherds were given the sign of baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger by the angel, it was the perfect sign that the baby was the true Lamb of God that they had been eagerly waiting for!

Another interesting custom was that before a lamb was taken for sacrifice, it was cleaned and its legs were again swaddled so that it will not become dirty and it was carried over the shoulders to the temple for sacrifice. When Jesus entered Jerusalem a few days before his crucifixion, he didn’t walk in! Matthew 21:7-8 (ISV) says “they brought the donkey and the colt and put their coats on them, and he sat upon them. Many people in the crowd spread their own coats on the road, while others began cutting down branches from the trees and spreading them on the road.” Another proof that Jesus was indeed the true Lamb of God!

Hebrews 9:22 (ESV) says “under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” Hebrews 9:28 (ISV) says “The Messiah was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people.” With this fresh understanding, spend some time this Christmas meditating on how God prepared Jesus Christ of Nazareth, to be our perfect lamb to take away our sins. If you have not believed on his sacrifice to cleanse you from your sins, this is the perfect time to do it.

Wish you all a blessed Christmas and a happy 2019.

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Inheriting the promises of God

PromiseGod gave amazing promises to men. He told Abraham “I will make you a great nation, I will bless you. I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you, I will curse. Through you every family on earth will be blessed.” (Gen 12:2,3 GW). Joseph dreamt that the sun, moon and eleven stars bowed down to him (Gen 37:9). David was anointed king over Israel when King Saul was reigning (1 Samuel 16:13). But these men had to patiently wait in faith for the fulfilment of their promises: Abraham for 25 years, Joseph for 29 years and David for around 15 years.

Waiting is not meant only for Old Testament heroes. The Christians to whom the epistle of Hebrews was originally written had endured a lot of hardship and pain, were publicly insulted, mistreated and their property was violently seized from them (Hebrews 10:32-34). They were not asked to pray more or run to others for prayer nor were they asked to keep speaking and claiming the promises as popularised by the Word of Faith movement. Though these are not wrong, the Biblical advice given to them was to wait! They were told in Hebrews 10:35-36 (ISV) “Don’t lose your confidence, since it holds a great reward for you. For you need endurance, so that after you have done God’s will you can receive what he has promised.”

Similarly if God has promised you something but you don’t seem to receive it, confirm that you have understood His Word correctly and that there is no sin or disobedience blocking the answer. Seek Godly counsel and prayer and you may find reasons why you haven’t got an answer from God. But in some occasions God may just be asking you to wait! Unfortunately God does not tell us how long the wait will be and He seems to like to give His promises well before the time of fulfilment! God could have delayed giving His promise to Abraham and spared him many years of longing for a son or delayed Joseph’s dream and allowed him to stay longer with his family or delayed David’s anointing so that he did not have to keep running endlessly from King Saul. But God in His infinite wisdom gave the promises early and made these men to wait without a specific timeline. He does this since such testing of faith produces endurance (Jas 1:3). So if you have been made to wait don’t get desperate or give up. Some desperately approach a great number of persons for help and prayer or get frustrated with God. (At least I am guilty of these). You cannot artificially speed up the process. Waiting is not easy and this does not seem to be commonly taught.

God seems to be making me wait. How much ever I pray and seek his face for a very important issue in my life, He doesn’t seem to open any door. A keen reader will note that I have even made references to this waiting in my blog over the years ago in these articles Problems and Christians, I will be with him in trouble and God is not a genie. I have been told that my problem is because I have not done God’s will (i.e., LEF’s view of God’s will). The Daniels of the Laymen’s Evangelical Fellowship say that I need to repent and doors will be opened. Some would feel that because I write against wrong teaching in the Church, trouble has come upon me. But I believe that God’s message to me is “Be still in the presence of the Lord, and patiently wait for Him to act” (Psalm 37:7 NLT) and to be “followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises. (Heb 6:12). This post could probably be more appropriate to me than to my readers!

We start our life as a Christian by faith (John 3:16, Romans 10:9) and we continue to live by faith (Hebrews 10:38). But it is not often taught that along with faith, there is an element of waiting to inherit our promises. Although Abraham waited 25 years, Joseph 29 years and David around 15 years before their promises were fulfilled, in our age we do not always connect inheriting the promises of God with waiting. We seem to prefer to blame it on sin or lack of faith or other reasons and seek out our own solutions. But Hebrews 6:11,12 (ISV) teaches “we want each of you to continue to be diligent to the very end, in order to give full assurance to your hope. Then, instead of being lazy, you will imitate those who are inheriting the promises through faith and patience.

“Be strong and of a good courage” (Joshua 1:6). “We don’t belong with those who turn back and are destroyed. Instead, we belong with those who have faith and are saved.” (Heb 10:35 GW). By waiting, Abraham, Joseph and David saw the fulfilment of God’s amazing promises. Job received double for what he lost. So “endure until your testing is over. Then you will be mature and complete, and you won’t need anything.” (James 1:4 GW).

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Understanding the value of man

CrucifixionOnly the Bible describes God that dies for man. God undergoes an unfair and brutal death to free man from sin and death. “By oppression and judgment he was taken away” (Isaiah 53:8a ESV) and “His appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind” (Isaiah 52:14 ESV). When we see God who sacrifices himself so that we may be saved from our sins and death we understand that the life of every person is very precious.

After going through such a horrifying process to save us, God could force us to follow Him. Instead he says “I am standing at the door and knocking. If anyone listens to my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he will eat with me.” (Revelation 3:20 ISV) “My sheep hear my voice … and they follow me” (John 10:27). When we see God who does not bully or compel, we understand the value of human freedom.

Sadly many do not understand the infinite value of a human being over any other creature. Many do not understand the value that God places on their life. Growing up in a country where animals are worshipped and given undue respect, many have lost respect for human life. Often cows get too much respect and people get killed for transporting them but basic needs of a human like food and water get withheld just because they get labelled as inferior. People are sometimes not free to even choose their religion or a spouse.

Sadly many Christians are not much better than their neighbours and have not understood the value and freedom that God has given man. The Church has not always been able to rise above the wrong values of the society. Even as Jesus said “I do not call you servants anymore” (John 15:15 ISV), we should treat one another with love, respect and with freedom. When India sees the Church implementing this, especially in the rural areas, I believe their eyes will be opened and they will run to the church. They will then demand such respect from the political leaders and government officials and we will have a transformed India.

In this season, may we understand the value of man which made necessary the death and resurrection of our God and be transformed and then transform our society.

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Love

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

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October 29, 2017 · 4:18 pm

Baby Jesus has become the King of Kings

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).

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Blessed is the one who considers the poor

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.

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God is not a genie

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).

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The unbelievable story of all time

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.

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Believe and be saved

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16) This is the most important verse in the Bible in my opinion. Being sinners we were all destined to perish but God’s grace and love made a way for our salvation. Amazingly God did all the hard work and asked us to believe on His Son! This sounds too good to be true and so unfortunately people add extra rules to receive this gift. The Roman Catholic Church adds baptism, the sacraments and other regulations into a package for salvation. The common “sinner’s prayer” is an unwanted adaptation since the focus is on the prayer and not on believing.

The Laymen’s Evangelical Fellowship sadly has its own version of salvation. Since they do not have written doctrines, it is not possible to determine their official position but they have a fairly consistent approach to salvation. In its evangelistic meetings there will be one or more testimonies in which the person usually gives details about their sinful past, how it was confessed and stolen money and goods were returned, how God “spoke” to them through a Bible verse and finally how they were filled with peace and joy. Then the message, especially Mr. Joshua Daniel’s message, will focus on sinful actions and end by asking the gathering to go home and pray and that God would “speak” to them. Not much is preached about how Jesus obtained salvation nor believing on Jesus for salvation. In the oral and printed testimonies of people the pattern recurs. Confession of sin, returning stolen money and goods, getting right with people they earlier had problems and God speaking to them from a verse in the Bible showing them that their sins are forgiven and they are saved and finally being filled with peace and joy. There is nothing wrong with these steps but unfortunately the fundamental step of belief is relegated to the background and rarely mentioned.

Since the simple step of belief has been wrapped around by many “holy” procedures, the general attitude of LEF is that they are superior Christians. This is probably the biggest reason why people do not easily leave the Laymen’s Evangelical Fellowship. Nobody wants to leave superior Christianity for  inferior Christianity! Confession and restitution are good but it should be spontaneous and not forced. In Luke 19:8, Zacchaeus committed to return four times the amount he cheated people. In Acts 19:18&19 some new believers in Ephesus confessed their deeds and burnt their books of occult. But the Bible does not record such incidents happening for every new believer. It is recorded that in the early revivals of LEF, incidents of public confession spontaneously occurred. In my opinion, what happened spontaneously has been converted into a doctrine without a strong Biblical mandate. They also incorrectly use the term repentance for this process. In the Bible, the word “repent” means “to change one’s mind”. By changing the meaning of the word, there is a false feeling that they are more closely following the Bible than other churches. LEF’s “superior” position has led to some people feeling that they are not saved since they did not get any verse from God or feel saved even though they believe in Jesus, pray and read the Bible regularly. Also when people wait for verses for a proof of salvation, it is no longer by faith but by sight! There is also no guarantee for a nice feeling after believing. “The wind blows where it wants to. You hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. That’s the way it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:8 (ISV).

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