Month: August 2017

When You Should Ignore the Counsel of Parenting Experts

 

In all relationships, except one, you have to grow in love over the years. When a young man falls in love with a woman, that love is only a small fraction of the bond that he will have for her when she is his wife. In fact, their love for each other doesnt reach full bloom until years after they first met.

Frankly, when I fell in love with my wife, I sincerely believed I loved her so much I couldnt love her more. 40 years later I feel that my love in the first decade of our relationship was just a tiny grain of emotion compared to what I feel for her now.

But that’s not how we feel about our children. We feel that we have always loved them to totality from the first day they entered our lives.

You see, parent’s love is instinctive. Especially mother’s. You dont have to teach a new mother how to love her child. The moment she beholds the pinkish piece of newborn life beside her, her whole being swells with tenderness and an overriding desire to protect her child at any cost. The love is full blown and complete from the very first day.

So Whoever placed that instinctive love within her, can certainly be expected to place within her the basics of caring for her child too.

A mother knows by instinct what’s best for her child in the core areas of the little one’s life. And if there are areas where she is not so knowledgeable about, her mother – the child’s grandma – pitches in with her own experience. That’s why grandparents should be such a vital part of parenting life.

Earlier generations of parents didn’t have a Baby & Child Care book to guide them, but they brought up a finer breed of citizens worldwide than what we generally come across today, despite the hosts of modern sychologists counseling them in every city.

I have seen, to the grief of my heart, pediatricians and childcare specialists strongly advising parents to condone certain habits in children (such as ‘playing’ with oneself), which if continued through the teen and young adulthood years, would surely turn their future marital relationship into a flaccid one.

I have mentioned this incident in another message, but let me narrate it again. At a recent parenting forum, a female child sychologist representing an esteemed child counsel center explained that an adolescent releasing his sexual tension was like a person soothing the area where a mosquito bit him. It is natural and not to be discouraged, she advised. One mother, who was sitting beside me, on hearing this, exclaimed, ‘What nonsense!’. Thank God for the maternal instinct.

These experts are excellent when prescribing what’s best for your child’s colic or fever, but oftentimes proffer deadly advice when it comes to your family’s moral values. There are exceptions of course, as rare as white ravens. If you know of such exceptional counselors anywhere, do let me know, and I will promote their services free through this website. They deserve it, being such a rare breed in their profession.

So when it comes to the essentials of caring for your child, trust your instincts more than the worldly counsel of child specialists. Heed their medical counsel as long as you innately know it doesn’t conflict with your Nature-given maternal feelings.

I hope that you, in choosing a parenting counselor for yourself, will find one who believes there are spiritual laws that supersede all the teachings they have acquired from the world’s materialistic, Creator-denying universities.

 

Pappa Joseph

 

 

The Wonder Years With Your Child

 

The wonder years of a child are those years in es life when everything new e encounters is a wonder experience for em. A new object, a new face, a new place, a new shape…the child is wholly fascinated by the sight, sound and feel of it. The wonder years starts from the time he or she is able to perceive the world around em – which e could from infancy – to about the beginning of the teen years. At teenage, the boy or girl enters another phase of life when e begins to discover the wonders of puberty and teenhood, and es wonderment at natural phenomena wanes.

The parent who uses the precious wonder years to guide and enhance es child’s fresh experiences of the world lays an excellent foundation for es son or daughter to continue enjoying the wonders of life and nature beyond childhood and into adulthood.

A sense of wonderment along with a sense of keen humor (not to be confused with the ability to be humorous) is among life’s very special blessings for those who have them. These two dispositions make one’s daily living colorful and cheerful. There is no room for boredom or monotony for the person who never ceases to wonder at God’s creation being replayed daily in nature’s various phenomena. Every time e beholds a new flower or scents a new fragrance, es sense of astonishment at the marvel of creation swamps es heart and e can’t help but burst out in praises to God for yet another amazing facet of his handiworks.

I have already mentioned in my book on parenting (see books section) about the benefits of exposing even the child in the womb to positive external stimuli by mom exposing herself to pleasant experiences during pregnancy.

When the child is born and es eyes and ears slowly learn to focus on objects and sounds, put colorful objects within sight of the baby. Beautiful music, melodious and uplifting, may be played for a little while in the background when the child is awake and in a playful mood. Don’t play music continually, or too often in a day, for music heard too long can be torturous even to adult ears.

When the child is old enough to handle objects, place childsafe objects of different shapes and colors within es reach.

Take your baby outdoors at least once daily, if possible. If there’s a park nearby, walk under the trees and among the plants and let your offspring’s eyes soak in the wonders around em. Point out a new creature – a cat, a bug, a bird. Show leaves and flowers at close quarters, so baby can learn to observe the marvel of design in nature.

As the child grows older, the parent should provide opportunities for his or her sense of wonderment to grow correspondingly in diversity and intensity. The mere color and shape of a leaf gives way to the sheer diversity of the plant kingdom. Simple handling of objects now becomes nimble molding of shapes with clay or sand. Generic music listening advances to specific musical preferences.

When your child is about three or four, take em on your shoulders outside the house on a star-spangled night. And there in the dark, point to the constellations above and show em for the first time in es life the twinkling wonders.

In the years my two sons and my daughter were growing up from childhood to teenhood before my very eyes, I have never got back the opportunity to speak to them the words that I had postponed speaking to them; I never once got back the opportunity to touch and hold their hands when I had thought I would hold them a little later when I was just done with a particular urgent work I was doing then; in all those years of parenting my children, I never once got back the chance to look again at the same facial expressions which longed to have my attention and speak to me.

Oh, yes, I did get the chance to speak and touch, and see many facial expressions at other times. But the ones I missed were unique. I long for them now, but I know I have lost them forever.

If I were a young parent again, every time my little child’s head pops up at my desk, while I am deeply engrossed in an important project work, instead of telling him or her I cannot come with em now to see that butterfly e discovered, I will sleep my computer and rush out with my five-year old child to see that new wonder in es life.

These wonder years in your child, this fascination in es eyes for everything you show em, or do with em, alas, lasts for so short a time that even before you could provide a fraction of the wonder experiences you had initially planned for your child, the years are forever gone, and you have now a self-willed tween staring back at you and wanting to go his or her own way.

The wonder years are so fleeting you need special help from God to fully redeem these years. Therefore, before your child’s wandering years begin, and your wondering time starts, may God help you to redeem every single day of the wonder years with your little son or daughter.

 

Pappa Joseph

 

 

Yet I will continue to trust my Lord

 

A little while ago, I received a forward in my WhatsApp. It was from a man I know closely, a good man, but who lacks many good things in life. The forward contained a verse from the Bible,

‘Even strong young lions sometimes go hungry, but those who trust in the Lord will lack no good thing.’   Ps 34:10

And below the verse was a video of a young lady with a guitar and she was declaring why she was going to sing the song. There was a time when her family lacked bread…I knew the gist of what was coming, which is, somehow the Lord miraculously provided them some bread in time, before they starved to death, and they have been praising God for this bread ever since. I have heard similar stories too many times, and just can’t bear to hear another one. The sight and sound of this milk bread that’s been offered to me makes me sick in my stomach, and I long for some strong meat. Almost always this kind of story brings up in my mind another story I heard long ago:

A widow lacked bread and was praying to the Lord to supply her some. Two little rascals from the neighborhood playing under her window, heard her plea. “Let’s play a trick on her,’ said one. They got a small loaf from somewhere, and as the widow continued her supplications for the life-saving bread, they tossed in the loaf from under the window. The amazed lady praised God for such a sudden and dramatic miracle, and as she began to munch on the loaf, the lads peered in and shouted, ‘It ain’t no God supplied your bread, it’s us threw it in, hee, hee!’. The widow looked up, and unfazed, replied, ‘Yea, the devil may have delivered it, but all the same the Lord did supply it.’

I didn’t wait to hear how the Lord supplied bread to that singer’s family, but thought I should immediately write about this teaching that’s making many milk-fed Christians undernourished in the Body of Christ.

I have known several men and women in my life, who continue to live since their young days to their present senior age, or who have died, without being supplied many good things in life – people who have always trusted the Lord to supply their needs, who have been good Christians, as good or even more fervent, than the bread-supplied family of that girl in the video. Oh yea, these people lacked many, many good things in life. In fact, if they had chosen to forsake the Lord, and seek refuge in another lord, they might have had better things in life, as many I knew of, tragically did.

But the greatest testimony is my own life. To this very day, I lack too many good things in life, even some basic good things, which if I write about would shock you. But, praise my good God, who ensures that though I lack many good things in life, though he refuses to grant me many things that would have reduced the suffering in my life, though he repeatedly says a firm ‘Never!’ to many of my pleas – as he did to Paul three times in response to the fervent pleas of the Apostle to remove something that was constantly a painful part of his life (have you ever had a thorn embedded in the sole of your feet anytime?…imagine walking around with that thorn for the rest of your life) – though my life may end up being slayed by God, yet I will continue to trust my Lord. (Job 13:15)

Indeed, many are the preachers, many are the babes in Christ who pass on testimonies such as the one I received a while ago, who have misinterpreted the Lord’s ways of dealing with his beloved people. And their platitudes about the Lord ensuring that his son or daughter will lack no good thing, including good health, is confusing and undermining the faith of those little ones who are just coming to know the Lord. They are like the three friends of Job, who spoke on and on, page after page, of how the Lord will grant good things to those who love him, and if he didn’t, surely it is because of some fault in them. And what did Job reply to his friends, in the midst of his mental and physical agonies:

‘Your platitudes are proverbs of ashes, your defenses are defenses of clay.’   Job 13:12

So what is my strength, what is my hope, when the Lord continues to refuse me many good things that would have eliminated, or even just reduced a bit, the sufferings in my life? Why do I and innumerable other suffering Christians, continue to respond, in the midst of our afflictions, with the following words:

‘Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.’   Job 13:15

Because I know it is only a matter of time, when I and my fellow sufferers in the Lord, will receive a hundredfold of all that we lack in this life – food, home, clothing, job, health, and more. We are among the second category of God’s children who,

‘all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.’   Heb 11:13

We are not counted among those

‘who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again.’   Heb 11:33-35

But we are among other who were

‘tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented… having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise’   Heb 11:35-39

I praise my God daily, that though he continues to deny me many good things in my life, I can survive from moment to moment, from hour to hour, from day to day, with the fullness of joy that comes from Christ dwelling in me, from the excitement of waiting for the day of his return, when all that I am suffering now cannot even begin to be compared with what I am going to receive when my Lord comes.

‘For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.’   Rom 8:18

‘For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God’   Job 19:25,26

For this slight, momentary trouble is piling up for me an eternal blessedness beyond all comparison, because I keep my eyes not on what is seen but what is unseen. For what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal.   2 Cor 4:17

So what about the sure verse in Psalm 34:10 which was so lovingly forwarded to me for my encouragement?

As a former English teacher, and present English language reformer, I place a lot of importance on the tense used in a sentence. The verse does not say, ‘those who trust in the Lord lacks no good thing’, but ‘those who trust in the Lord will lack no good thing’.

The time is coming – O with what surpassing excitement and joy I wait for it every moment, every day! – when I will lack no good thing.

 

Pappa Joseph

 

 

God’s People, Do Not Choose the Wrong Career

This is a 3-part message that will provide some deep insights to every young man and young woman pondering their career path, and may even provide a new perspective to people who are already well-established in a profession or business.

 

God’s People, Do Not Choose the Wrong Career –  Part 1

Young Christians, Beware of the Glamor Industry

There is a saying in my native language Malayalam, stated when a person wants to send his milch cow to make love to a stud bull, so he can have the continuity of his milk supply assured when the cow calves again. He says, ‘I want to send her among the crowd’. Probably the saying originated from the fact that the cow is released among a herd of horny bulls waiting to pounce on any of their female kind straying into their midst…  READ MORE


God’s People, Do Not Choose the Wrong Career –  Part 2

Can A Christian Join His Nation’s Armed Forces?

A pastor I know closely has a son who is in the navy. Now this senior servant of God, every Sunday when he stands in the pulpit, reminds the flock entrusted to his care about their absolute need to keep God’s commandments. This, in essence, is his core message: ‘Don’t covet your neighbor’s donkey, or car, or wife, but love him as yourself; love your enemy, and pray for his protection in the time of war…  READ MORE


God’s People, Do Not Choose the Wrong Career –  Part 3

Professions and Businesses that An Earnest Christian Should Avoid

Every profession and every business in this world has been infiltrated by Satan. I do not mean taken over by Satan or run by Satan, but affected and tainted by the devil to a greater or lesser extent. There is deception and evil influence – again to a greater or lesser extent – in every sphere of human endeavor…  READ MORE


 

Professions and Businesses That Every Man and Woman of God Should Avoid

God’s People, Do Not Choose the Wrong Career – Part 3

The concluding part of a message that will provide some deep insights to every young man and young woman pondering their career path, and may even provide a new perspective to people who are already well-established in a profession.


 

Every profession and every business in this world has been infiltrated by Satan. I do not mean taken over by Satan or run by Satan, but affected and tainted by the devil to a greater or lesser extent. There is deception and evil influence – again to a greater or lesser extent – in every sphere of human endeavor. Listen to these declarations in the Scriptures:

‘that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world’.  Rev 12:9

‘Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.” ’  Luke 4:5-7

I suppose not everyone who reads these verses pays close attention to some key words in them. Some of the key words are, ‘Devil, kingdoms, world, authority, glory, worship’. But the key words that tend to be glossed over make, literally, a whole world of difference. These words are, ‘whole, all, whomever’.

First, the Devil deceives the whole world. Second, he has been given all authority and glory of all the kingdoms of the world and he can give it to whomever he wishes to give.

While every profession on earth has been tainted and influenced by Satan to a greater or lesser degree, there are some that Christians should avoid at any cost. I am, of course, not referring to professions involved in illegal business, such as smuggling or dealing in pirated or pornographic goods, and the like, which are obvious to any Godfearing person as downright sinful occupations.

Professions which are not that obvious include those in a nation’s armed forces and in the glamor industry such as acting and modeling (unless one can join them in some aspect that doesn’t involve compromising with God’s law), about which I wrote in part 1 and 2 of this message series. In this message I will mention a few other professions that God would not approve your entering – professions which are even less obvious to many Christians in the sinfulness of their nature than military service or an acting career.

Moneylending Business

God’s people can certainly lend money to whomever they want to. It is when they make it a business that it turns to an unrighteous way of earning an income. No man or woman of God should lend money to anyone in need and then exact interest on repayment. To do so is a direct violation of God’s law. Even working in an organization whose business is making money by charging interest is not a good choice of employment because you are contributing your time and effort to perpetuating an evil scheme in human life.

‘Whoever increases wealth by taking interest or profit from the poor amasses it for another, who will be kind to the poor.’  Prov 28:8

‘Suppose there is a righteous man who does what is just and right…He does not lend to them at interest or take a profit from them…He follows my decrees and faithfully keeps my laws. That man is righteous; he will surely live, declares the Sovereign Lord.’ Ezek 18:5,8-9

I consider moneylending such an accursed profession that I will have nothing to do with even the people associated with it. Some years ago a marriage proposal came for my daughter. It was brought to us by some relatives who knew the boy’s family well. The parents were extremely wealthy and highly respected in my community, and their son was a good looker and well mannered. It would have been the dream proposal for many a parent looking for an ideal husband for their daughter. But the moment I heard the name of the boy’s family, I said sternly to the ones who brought me the proposal that they should not mention this subject to me ever again. The boy’s parents were the founders of one of the largest moneylending institutions in the country. Numerous are the suffering poor who have been left poorer and suffering more because they could never redeem what they had pawned in their dire need, which was then usurped by this family of usury takers. But the relatives who brought the proposal could never understand my stance, and could only shake their heads in disbelief.

Have nothing to do with the usury profession and do not even associate closely with usury takers, and God will delight in you and he will bless you for your faithfulness in keeping all his decrees and laws.

Debt Collection Agency

Now what’s wrong in being employed by a honest-working debt collection agency? There’s nothing wrong with an organization itself that is founded to help other organizations redeem their hard-earned money from elusive clients. The wrong is in the way that an agency uses to collect the debts.

I don’t know if there is anywhere on earth a single collection agency that doesn’t use ungodly tactics to get their money. Companies, when all their reminders, pressures and threats finally exhaust, hand over the bad debt to a collection agency, even if they have to part with half the redeemed amount, which is the usual agency fees.

And how do debt collection agents attempt to get back the money? Would they go to a debtor, sit down with him, sincerely try to find out why he is defaulting, and then work out a solution satisfactory to both parties? Now a solution in most cases would mean either allowing the debtor to repay on a scheme that would not further compound the debtor’s financial misery, or keeping on giving him more time to repay. Is that how most debt collectors act towards the defaulters? They will use every legal, but ungodly, way to retrieve the money. And if they think they can get away with it, they will often use even illegal ways to get it. The degree of oppression they inflict upon the debtor varies from country to country – but the ways of intimidation are almost always those which no true Christian would resort to.

Gambling Industry

The gambling industry is one of the world’s largest sources of corporate and governmental revenue, and one of mankind’s greatest sources of addiction. So great is the revenue it generates to a nation’s exchequer that the government in several countries, including mine, has monopolized the lottery business.

Casinos and horse races are venues where daily millions of people around the world converge to bet their money away. Don’t put your money on the stakes, no, not even occasionally for fun. It is a tool of the devil to destroy God’s people, a tool that the enemy uses just as he uses alcohol, drug, pornography, and other addictions to destroy lives and tear families apart. No follower of Christ should work in an establishment that makes money by gambling in any direct or indirect form.

Even futures trading is a gambling business. This business involves speculating – actually gambling – on the price movement of commodities in the market. How can one conscientiously make money on trading that is based on future likelihoods in the market place when God’s Word states that no one can be sure of even what tomorrow will bring?

Some Other UnGodly Professions

You should be wary even of businesses that involve the ‘pyramid’ scheme of making money. It is not a right scheme for a believer to earn his livelihood.

Selling timeshare properties is another profession you should be wary of.

Research online about pyramid and timeshare businesses and you will see that in many, perhaps most, cases they end up with their customers dissatisfied and feeling cheated of their money. Not in all cases, but enough to dissuade a Godly person from entering these professions.

Under no circumstance should a person who considers himself a true Christian work in an abortion clinic.

Don’t be involved in industries manufacturing or dealing in products that cause human destruction or harm – such as armory and tobacco.

Sometimes a person may take up a safe profession such as teaching, but within that profession there may be aspects of work that promote unGodliness. For example, a believer may have to teach the devil’s lie about evolution to his students in biology class. By doing so, isnt the Godbelieving teacher implanting a there’s-no-Creator teaching into young impressionable minds? So, should a conscientious person never teach biology in a school? Now that would mean such a person is overrighteous and is not using wisdom. Such overrighteousness leads to the person losing his job and destroying his opportunity to be a good provider to his family.

‘Do not be overrighteous, neither be overwise – why destroy yourself?’  Eccl 7:16

So should a creationist teach evolution? In all such job conundrums, seeking wisdom from God is the only answer. Perhaps the biology teacher can skip this one subject in their teaching program. Or while teaching this subject, they can remind the students that this is only the opinion of people who do not believe in God’s creation and they are studying it only for the sake of the syllabus. This principle, along with deep pondering and prayer, can be applied to many other dubitable professions, or professions in which exist doubtable practices.

Let me conclude this series of messages with one profession that can be a controversial subject even among faithful people of God. I am mentioning it here only as my personal opinion, and if you disagree with me I am not going to say you are wrong. But I think I too have reasonable guidance of the Holy Spirit and what I say on this subject may not be too far from the truth either.

Male Gynecologists and Obstetricians

‘You shall not uncover the nakedness of your brother’s wife; it is your brother’s nakedness.’  Lev 18:16

Are male gynecologists exempted from this law of God? Or does it mean that they may uncover the nakedness of every woman who is not a brother’s wife in the course of their professional duty? And who, by the way, are the brothers and sisters of a Christian gynecologist?

‘But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers.’  Mat 23:8

Of course, the verse in Leviticus refers specifically to uncovering in a sexual context, and not to the case of child delivery or medical care. But for those people who desire to keep God’s law to the utmost even in the least area, this law about uncovering also applies generally to uncovering a woman’s nakedness in any context.

‘Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.’  Mat 5:19

Moreover, male gynecologists, even with Christian thought control, may not always be able to view and touch a naked lady, even with a bulging tummy, and not feel carnal sensations on occasion. If I am wrong in my perception of this profession, may the good Lord correct me; he hasnt yet, even though I have been pondering this issue in my spirit for several decades.

If any man of God is pondering the medical profession as his career, and if gynecology is what he thinks is best suited for his aptitude, then I strongly urge him to take this matter to God in fasting and prayer before he decides to follow this course.

What I counsel men of God in this profession, I counsel women also. No woman, if she is a doctor or nurse, should behold a naked man, other than her husband, or probe his private parts for medical examination. Where you are constrained by your profession to do so, then take up the matter earnestly with your Father in heaven, and he will show you a way out that a human mind thinks impossible, so your life can be chaste and without blemish even in the least areas of your conduct.

And to all other Christians pondering their life path, I give the same final counsel. Take up your job preference to your Father in heaven in earnest prayer, and he will surely guide you to the right decision. It is to his glory to lead you to a profession that is pleasing to him and that will glorify him in all that you do in it.

 

Pappa Joseph

 

P.S.  The day after I concluded this message, I was given an assignment to compile and edit the contents of an airport magazine for its dutyfree section. One minor, but indispensable, aspect of my editorial work comprised the compilation of tobacco-related content. I was to edit and refine copy that promoted the sale of tobacco products at the dutyfree outlets. If I did not do it, the assignment would be taken away from me, which I couldnt afford since such projects provided the income for my livelihood. So should I have just trusted God and looked for some other editorial work which did not involve any content related to tobacco? This particular source of income was granted to me after many months of specifically seeking it in fervent prayer, and to assume God will quickly give me another if I cast this out is presumptuousness – blatant overrighteousness. I was actually in the same position that Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, found himself. He said to Elisha, ‘From now on I will never again offer burnt offerings or sacrifices to any other god except the Lord. However, may the Lord pardon me in this one thing: When my master the king goes into the temple of the god Rimmon to worship there and leans on my arm, may the Lord pardon me when I bow, too.” And Elisha’s answer? “Go in peace,” the prophet replied. (2 Kings 5:17-19) I decided I would not write anything of my own to promote tobacco, even if that would cause me to lose this project and my means of livelihood. But since it was only a matter of editing the copy of a tobacco ad written by someone else, I would do it in the same principle of Naaman.

 

 

Can A Christian Join His Nation’s Armed Forces?

God’s People, Do Not Choose the Wrong Career – Part 2

The second part of a message that will provide some deep insights to every young man and young woman pondering their career path, and may even provide a new perspective to people who are already well-established in a profession or business.

 

A pastor I know closely has a son who is in the navy. Now this senior servant of God, every Sunday when he stands in the pulpit, reminds the flock entrusted to his care about their absolute need to keep God’s commandments. This, in essence, is his core message: ‘Don’t covet your neighbor’s donkey, or car, or wife, but love him as yourself; love your enemy, and pray for his protection in the time of war; don’t resist an evil person, but if he smacks you on the right jawbone, make it easy for him to do it on your left one too’, and other such expounded teachings based on what Jesus exhorted his disciples to do, as recorded in Matthew 5.

Now, I don’t know about the navy and other divisions of the armed forces in his country. But in my country, when a person joins the army or navy or air force, all his training is given with one purpose – to turn him into an effective serial killer, so he can shoot his enemy, or drown him or bring his aircraft down, before the enemy does it to him or to his ship or plane. And when that foe’s down and bleeding, look for another one to bite the dust.

A Christian who joins a nation’s armed forces finds himself in a dilemma not only when his enemy is pointing his kalashnikov at him. He knows very well that Paul has said ‘not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way’. And since he has to love his enemy as himself – which is, in fact, loving him even more than as a brother – he cannot even cast a caltrop on the ground to obstruct the passage of his enemy’s vehicle, lest the enemy fall and be bushwhacked.

There’s yet another area where a Christian in the armed forces will find himself in a quandary. Profanity.

Profanity is the main language of all soldiers. And if they cannot talk dirty, they cannot walk mighty before their mates. A clean-mouthed soldier or sailor, in the eyes of his commanding officer, just couldn’t crawl or swim his way out of any danger. As explained by one of the greatest military commanders in US history, General George S. Patton:

“When I want my men to remember something important, to really make it stick, I give it to them double dirty. It may not sound nice to some bunch of little old ladies at an afternoon tea party, but it helps my soldiers to remember. You can’t run an army without profanity; and it has to be eloquent profanity. An army without profanity couldn’t fight its way out of a piss-soaked paper bag.’1

Patton was a firm believer in God and in the power of prayer, but he knew his beliefs alone could not make his men fight and kill like they should. He had to go beyond Christian principles if he had to win the war for America. And win mightily he did. So, what’s my point in writing this message, anyway?

That you cannot remain a Christian and an enemy disemboweler at the same time, no matter how patriotic your slaughtering may be in the sight of your nation. So if you cannot kill or even smack your enemy across the cheek, what else can do if you are already in it, or planning to enlist? You need to get down on your knees and pray until God shows you a way out. Perhaps, you can join as a non-combatant recruit…in the engineering, or logistics, or medical corps, or somewhere else where you need only wield a screw driver or a scalpel or a stretcher rather than a sten gun.

Now, someone might ask me, what happens to a nation’s defenses when all men start thinking like you and refuse to take up a bayonet or a gun? How will any nation then be able to have an army to defend itself from being invaded?

When a nation faces such situation that it cannot have enough recruits for its defense because most of its people are on their knees praying or away at church praising God, then that nation has no need of an army in the first place. Indeed, if Biblical examples are of any value for present times, even if there are only 10 true Christians in a city, the Lord God of hosts (meaning, ‘armies’) will guard it himself. But such situation has never happened since the time of ancient Israel – when all that the people had to do was blow trumpets and lift up their banners high and stand still, or walk around the enemy’s fortresses, and their Commander did the rest –  and I don’t think it is ever going to happen to any nation until Christ returns. So, don’t worry about your country not having enough people to shoot down its enemies. They have more than enough citizens any day whose scruples will not stand in their way of taking up arms for their nation.

As for you, child of God, fight all your battles on your knees, including the battle for the protection for your country. Love your enemy, but keep him at bay with your prayers so he doesn’t get your neighbor’s donkey or car or wife.

 

Pappa Joseph

 

1Remark to his nephew about his copious profanity, quoted in ‘The Unknown Patton’ (1983) by Charles M. Province, p. 184

 

CLICK HERE TO GO TO PART 3: ‘Professions and Businesses That Every Man and Woman of God Should Avoid’

 

 

Young People of God, Beware of the Glamor Industry

God’s People, Do Not Choose the Wrong Career – Part 1
This is a 3-part message that will provide some deep insights to every young man and young woman pondering their career path, and may even provide a new perspective to people who are already well-established in a profession or business. Here is Part 1:  Young People of God, Beware of the Glamor Industry

 

There is a saying in my native language Malayalam, stated when a person wants to send his milch cow to spend some time with a stud bull so it could conceive. He says, ‘I want to send her among the crowd’. Probably the saying originated from the fact that the cow is released among a herd of horny bulls waiting to pounce on any of their female kind straying into their midst.

Many parents, who have not yet received understanding of God’s laws relating to human morality, are unwittingly doing this to their daughters – sending them among ‘the crowd’. Of course not with the same intention as the owner of the milch cow, but often with the same consequences at the end – pregnancy, or at least, pounced upon.

I am starting with the glamor industry because that’s where many young people, deprived of a firm Christian foundation, desire to enter, but on realizing they don’t have the opportunity to pursue this dream career settle for some other profession. But their initial career fantasies continue to have a firm place in their hearts as is evidenced by their keen interest in the lives of the celebrities in this industry.

Oh, how many young women, even faithfully married ones, have I personally seen swooning at the sight of some hunky actor, or describing their meeting with a male celebrity with an intense glaze of adoration in their eyes! How many young men today crave for a close encounter with the beautiful actresses over whom they fantasize lewdly in their imaginations!

Some years ago, my daughter took up, with my approval, some carefully screened modeling jobs. Until recently, if you happen to visit one of the world’s most popular tourist and business destinations in the Middle East, as soon as you emerged from the passport checkpoint in the airport, you will land in a huge lobby where the first thing you would notice was a giant poster with my daughter’s full-length picture – an ad promoting the telecom services of the government. She was winning national beauty contests as well, and there were suggestions that she be sent for global contests.

We knew she was in safe hands, but soon things were getting a little out of those protective hands. She was attracting far greater offers – even to act in movies. And she was beginning to draw unwanted attention, from powerful people in the regal circles. My daughter, trained well in prudence, knew it was time to quit, and she did. She made a decision that unbelievers could never understand, and they could only shake their heads in disbelief. But we rejoiced that her Godly upbringing kept her safe, for she chose not to go among ‘the crowd’. Moreover, she had the benefit of inheriting the spiritual genes of her father who decades earlier had made a similar choice.

My heart breaks when I see parents, especially in the materially advanced countries, sending their daughters among the herds without the least prescience of the consequences. As a young man, I was accepted into the modeling industry and my pictures appeared prominently in newspapers and on posters all over the country for a while. I was quickly making it well into this industry. Once, a father and his daughter came to the agency that had hired me so that the young lady could audition for a modeling career. The father earnestly sought an opportunity for his daughter to enter this glittering profession, and was even ready to allow his daughter to appear skimpily in some bikini ad. As he talked to the agent, his innocent daughter stood coyly near him, like a heifer waiting obediently to be sent by her master in any direction. So what’s the big deal if the young woman takes some risks in entering this industry, the father might have reasoned…there’s money, there’s fame, there’s the fantastic celebrity lifestyle, there’s the whole world to gain if his daughter could get a good opening into the glamor world – even if such opportunity might come at the cost of losing a trifle bit of her soul, and perhaps a little bit of her skin, among the crowd.

I don’t know what happened after that, but I guess with a father like that, she might have been an easy prey to pounce on, unless she was an exceptional woman with a her own strong sense of morality. (By the way, if this is not a movie actor writing this, but a servant of God, then it is because my young prudent wife, on seeing me alongside a curvaceous model in the newspaper, stamped her foot down and put an immediate end to any lingering doubts I had about this profession. Since then, I never went for a single modeling session, although the agency people came running home to plead with me to reconsider, and if I did, they assured they would ease the way for me to act in movies. Thanks, but no thanks, praise God!)

That the glamor industry, especially filmworld, is not a good place for decent young ladies to seek a career is a fact acknowledged by even the more conscientious of parents in that industry. Dharmendra, one of India’s most successful actors ever, has gone on record saying he does not believe that the film industry is a place suitable for girls. He was unperturbed by his sons joining the industry, but was vocal about his displeasure when one of his daughters chose to follow her dad’s footsteps.1 Strangely, there’s no record of him ever being vocal about other’s daughters embracing him in the over 247 films he had acted in his career.

If you are, or will one day be, the parent of a blossoming lady or a burgeoning young man, or if you are a young lady or a young man yourself, remember that there are many professions in this age which your heavenly Father would not want you, or your child, to risk entering. Some are safe to a certain extent. Acting in films with themes that promote sound family values, in which actors do not have to lock mouths or be entwined around each other, or appear as a fully dressed model in some good advertisements, are ok. But there’s always an inherent danger even within the safe limits of these professions. The young person in any such profession is constantly exposed to tempting vibes coming from avenues of golden opportunities alluring them to the glamorous celebrity world, where there are too many avenues for one to sin and too much pressure on one to lay bare the skin.

Listen to prudent counsel, young man or young woman of God – it’s a wise and safe decision for you to steer away from all those professions where there is prevalent risk of compromising your morality and shipwrecking your future happiness. In return for your faithfulness, God will ensure you have a joyous and exciting life, both as a single now and later as a spouse, more than you could ever have as a successful professional in a morally risky industry. A marriage and family life blessed by God is something that even the most sought after and slobbered over celebrity can only dream of but can never attain.

 

Pappa Joseph

 

‘People’ – BBC Asian Network

 

CLICK HERE TO GO TO PART 2:  ‘Can A Christian Join His Nation’s Armed Forces?’

 

 

The Way of Acceptance

 

Many, many years ago, when I was a cheery youth, and there was no care in life to weigh me down and no turn of events for me to anticipate except what I dreamed of, I came across an article in the Reader Digest. It was in the late 60s.

The author wrote that at one time in his life, adverse circumstances had so trampled him that he decided the less painful option for him was to take his life away. He devised a failproof way; swim out far into the sea until he ran out of stamina, and then, too exhausted to swim back to shore, sink. As he walked from the beach to the waters, the rushing waves came splashing on his feet. As the water receded, he saw something shining tucked in the wet sand. It was a shell.

While the waves brought in and took away the other shells on the beach, this little one managed to stay in its place through wave after wave. The man stopped. Another wave came, and the mighty waters rushed at the puny shell, then went round it and over it, and the shell continued to remain unmoved from its place.

Something caused the man to stare at the shell and ponder its situation. Here was a tiny presence on earth being continually swamped under by the mightiest force on this planet – the oceans. But as long as it lay low and did not struggle to resist the rushing waters, as long as it allowed the wave to run round it and over it, it was able to survive.

Now here he was, just about to wade into the water and swim to oblivion, because life had continually blasted him off his place. And every time he would regather his hope and set out to live again, the wave would hit him mercilessly again and sweep everything away into the deep. And he could take it no more, and so here he was in his final moments.

He stood there for a while more watching the shell’s calm and unresisting response to the waves, and then turned back to the dry sands. He knew now that this was how he could face and survive every wave of adversity that strikes him. Let the storms of life inundate him and take away everything around him. He isn’t going to resist them in the least anymore but lie low with just his life in his hands. And when the storm subsides, he will go on with just that spared life alone.

The near-suicide had learned a lifesaving lesson from the little shell and the mighty waves, and he went back home with a new attitude. Adverse circumstances did come again, but they could not sweep him off his place anymore because he accepted them and let them pass by him.

As I write this, I have before me a few yellowed pages of another Reader’s Digest article that I just retrieved from my old files. The article is titled ‘The Way of Acceptance’, written by Arthur Gordon, one of the favorite authors of my young adulthood (the other was Dale Carnegie). This article was written in the 60s, but its message is as inspiring to me today as it was four and half decades ago when I first read it.

Gordon wrote:

‘Some years ago, two friends of ours were given the heartbreaking news that their teenage son was going blind, that nothing could be done. Everyone was torn with pity for them, but they remained calm and uncomplaining. One night, as we left their house, I tried to express my admiration for their fortitude.

‘I remember how the boy’s father looked up at the stars. “Well,” he said, “it seems to me that we have three choices. We can curse life for doing this to us, and look for some way to express our grief and rage. Or we can grit our teeth and endure it. Or we can accept it. The first alternative is useless. The second is sterile and exhausting. The third is the only way.”

‘The way of acceptance… How often that path is rejected by people who refuse to admit limitations, who hide behind denials and excuses, who react to trouble with resentment and bitterness. And how often, conversely, when one makes the first painful move towards repairing a damaged relationship, or even a broken life, that move involves acceptance of some thorny and difficult reality that must be faced before the rebuilding can begin. It’s a law that seems to run like a shining thread through the whole vast tapestry of life…

‘ “O Lord,” goes one variation of the old prayer, “grant me the strength to change things that need changing, the courage to accept things cannot be changed and the wisdom to know the difference.” People have called it the prayer of acceptance.’

Precious child of God, having food and clothing and a place to lay down in peace, be content with them, knowing that the Lord is faithful and that he will not allow you to go through any trouble that is unbearable for you but with the trouble he will provide a way of escape (a way of acceptance) so that you are able to bear it until your Protector leads you out of it.

Yes, be content with such things as you have, for the Lord himself has promised that he will never leave you nor forsake you. Therefore do not fear anything, for the Lord is your helper.  (1 Tim 6:6-8; 1 Cor 10:13; Heb 13:5-6)

 

Pappa Joseph

 

[This message was written at a time I was living in an alien land, and circumstances were becoming so unbearable that I decided to cast away all my works and hopes there and retire to ignominy in my own land. As I pondered ways to leave as soon as I could, the lesson of the shell and the insight from the article on the way of acceptance came to mind. And I decided just that. I was not going to resist in the least anymore the constant barrage of troubles I was facing then, but let them pass by me and take anything they want from me, but I was going to stick to my life with just the barest the Lord would give me daily – even if that might be just my daily basic food, clothing and shelter.]

After reading this message, I urge you to read the unforgettable article I Am Not As Steady At Walking’ by John Elliot in this section. It’s the story of another man devastated physically by adversity and who, by acceptance, now lives a full life. A complementary message on this website which may give you more insights on this subject is ‘Reduce the Pain of the Troubles In Your Life’.

 

 

The Seven True Churches of God – In Which One Are You?

 

Before I go to The Seven True Churches let me tell you from the Bible which are the False churches – the ‘synagogues of Satan1 who say they are Christians, but are not.

Members of the false church believe that Christ is a great teacher, or a great prophet, but do not believe he is the Son of God come in the flesh. They also do not believe that apart from Christ there is no salvation, but consider Christianity as one of the pathways to the afterlife.

‘For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.’   2 John 1:7

People who call themselves Christians but are not of the Body of Christ are those who believe that because the Law was done away, there is no such thing as ‘sin’ and therefore acts of sexual immorality are condoned and practiced among them. In this category are the ‘Christians’ who say they are pro-gay, and instead of condemning this abomination they take a neutral stand, or even support it openly.

‘For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all…so speak and do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty.’   James 2:10,12

‘I say this because some ungodly people have wormed their way into your churches, saying that God’s marvelous grace allows us to live immoral lives. The condemnation of such people was recorded long ago, for they have denied our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.’   Jude 1:4 NLT

Members of the false church participate in the idolatrous practices of other religions. They have a strong ecumenical attitude towards all other religions and are ready to promote oneness of worship among people of all faiths. They have no hesitation, if invited by non-Christians, to go into the shrines of idols and offer prayers there.

‘Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God.’   2 Cor 6:14-16

The Message version says it forcefully:

‘Don’t become partners with those who reject God. How can you make a partnership out of right and wrong? That’s not partnership; that’s war. Is light best friends with dark? Does Christ go strolling with the Devil? Do trust and mistrust hold hands? Who would think of setting up pagan idols in God’s holy Temple? But that is exactly what we are, each of us a temple in whom God lives.’

If a Christian does not fall into one of the above categories, we can safely say he is a member of one of the Seven True Churches of God. That is indeed too wide a categorization of the true church of God, some may think. What about cults such as Jehovah’s Witness and the Christian Scientists, and the Mormons, and hundreds of others like them, they may ask. And what about the Catholic church itself, which bows down to carved and painted images of saints and angels and God beings, and where pedophilia among their priests is no more a rare phenomenon? Aren’t they clearly breaking the Commandments of God?

Oh, yes, they are. Even as the millions of Christians in other true churches who daily start their day by reading and believing what their horoscopes counsel them.

Acts of sin by Christians, committed in ignorance of the Word of God, or in moments of weakness but not willfully in defiance of God’s Commandments, do not unChristian them. They have to bear the consequences of breaking God’s Law. But as long as in their hearts and intent they want to follow Christ and strive to walk in God’s way to the best of their understanding, they continue to be God’s very own and special people.

What about the Church of England, where they have ordained even homosexual priests and its former head took a neutral stand on this issue and did not condemn the abomination in the strongest manner?

If individual members and even church leaders live in continual sin, or condone immorality by their beliefs, that does not make their church a false one. Only if a church’s official doctrines or public stance condone sexual immorality, or worship of other gods, or proclaim salvation by any other way except through Christ, we can confidently say it is of the synagogue of Satan.

Differences of doctrine do not falsify a church. Jehovah’s Witness believes Christ is a created angel, ordained as the Son of God. But despite their error about the origin of Christ, they believe he is the Son of God, and believe there is no name in heaven or earth by which man may be saved apart from Christ. They keep God’s commandments more earnestly and love him more fervently than many other denominations I know of. To think that the Church of England – in some dioceses, at least – acknowledge that a gay member also can enter the Kingdom of God without having to repent of his sinful lifestyle, but not a Godfearing and commandment-keeping Jehovah’s Witness, is to make a mockery of God’s justice.

Sanctioning a polygamous marriage – as the Mormons once did – does not make a church one of the synagogues of Satan. Polygamy is not a sin and nowhere in the Bible is polygamy condemned in the way that adultery and other sexual sins are condemned. But polygamy is certainly not the kind of marriage desired by God, and he strongly advises against it in his Word.

Several of God’s greatest servants had more than one wife; in fact, some of them had hundreds. But, without exception, in the case of every single one of them, their family life had disastrous consequences which continued on to several generations. A polygamous marriage is the surest way to throw one’s marriage and his family life into the abyss of spousal dissatisfaction and hatred between siblings.

But show me one place in the Bible where polygamy is prohibited by law among the lay people of God, and I will revise my understanding of this subject and confess my ignorance. It is prohibited among God’s people who want to be deacons and pastors in God’s church, as we can see in Paul’s instruction to Timothy. But if a person desperately wants to marry a second or even third wife, he may, provided he does not aim for a higher Christian life and provided the laws of his land will allow that.

Bowing down to an image of Mary or a saint is a tragic way to worship the true God. But having a canonized intermediary between the worshiper and God does not make the worshiper a member of Satan’s synagogue, because he is doing it in sincere ignorance of the Word of God. In his heart he is worshiping the true God of Jesus Christ, albeit through a spiritual proxy.

As for the doctrine of having someone to mediate for us in heaven, listen to these plain verses in the Bible:

‘For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus’   1 Tim 2:5

‘In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I shall pray the Father for you; for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God.’   John 16:26-27

These verses do not mean much to a Catholic, because for him his Church is the final authority on interpreting the Bible for him, not he himself. But that does not make him a false Christian. Nowhere in the Bible is it said that God’s people must have complete understanding of the Holy Scriptures before he can become a member of the true church. What about the innumerable illiterate Christians, many who suffered martyrdom to be faithful to Christ, who could not read a single verse from God’s Word? How did they become Christians? By hearing the Word of God spoken by other Christians.

‘So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.’  Rom 10:17

In fact, the common way that people in Paul’s time became members of God’s flock was by hearing about or witnessing the experiences of other Christians.


Only if a church’s official doctrines or public stance condone sexual immorality, or worship of other gods, or proclaim salvation by any other way except through Christ, we can confidently say it is of the synagogue of Satan.


In Which of the True Churches Are You?

Now, presuming that you are in one of the true churches of God, let’s try to discern in which of the seven churches you are likely to belong. The following descriptions are based on Revelation chapters 2 and 3.

You are spiritually a member of the church of Ephesus if your church is doing great works – conducting crusades, sending out missions, establishing charitable institutions, and more. This church cannot put up with those who say they are Christ’s servants but turn grace into licentiousness, such as the leaders of the gay churches.

But there is something seriously wrong about the individual spiritual state of most of her members. The typical member has great zeal and perseverance in preserving the traditions of the church and is actively involved in all her activities, but they are personally not in a state of intimacy with their Savior. The fervor and closeness the church’s founding fathers each had with their Lord is now substituted by works and outward show by the present leaders (the messengers) and consequently by the congregations they pastor. The intimacy which Christ longs to have with each member is missing, so much so that the Lord cares little for the great works of the church as a whole and is ready to cast her out among the false churches if the members don’t repent and return to a close personal relationship with God. Is this your church?

If you are in the congregation of Smyrna, your church is on the very top of the seven true churches. This church is not chastised by Christ in any area of her beliefs and practices. She is so extraordinarily close to Christ and so vociferous in her condemnation of the wrong doctrines and practices in the other true churches that she receives a lot of bad publicity in Christianity. More importantly, she is so intolerant of the false gospel proclaimed by the synagogues of Satan that she opposes it more vehemently than any other church in Christ’s Body. As a result, she is more persecuted by Satan’s agents than any other church. Some of the members are cast into prison because of their faithfulness to Christ, and a few even put to death. Do you recognize this church today?

You are a member of the church that had her founding in Pergamos if you live in a land where Christ is not allowed to be preached and the citizens of that land are not allowed to convert to Christianity. If they do, they go straight to prison for years, or would even be tortured or put to death. But despite this danger, you hold fast to Christ and meet secretly with fellow believers. But even in this church, there are among the members those who have a lax attitude about sexual sins and who have close fellowship with idol worshipers.

If you are a member of the true church of Thyatira, you are very likely to be a Catholic or a member of an Orthodox church where the images of deities and saints are revered. This is the church that has charity missions all over the world, her monks and nuns do humanitarian service to the world more than any other church, and her servants endure more deprivations and hardships than most servants in other churches. Her great missionary works in fact are more in the modern era than at any time in the past.

But this great church has a very serious flaw – she has allowed a spirit masquerading as a heavenly being with a female appearance to influence her to make unGodly decrees for her members and servants, such as bowing down to idols, making alliances with idolatrous nations, and prohibiting marriage among her clergy. These decrees are causing her servants to commit sexual immorality in many places where she has her congregations. Because she refuses to repent of these evil practices even though her Lord gave her enough time to transform, he is going to correct her with ‘great tribulation’ like none of the other six churches have to suffer. But those members in her congregations who have remained faithful to their Lord will be spared the terrible things that are coming upon her.

The names of the congregations that belong to the church of Sardis are well known in the world. They have magnificent cathedrals and membership in hundreds of thousands. They have regular Sunday services, holy days and all other accouterments of a church in active service of God. But Jesus considers her as good as a dead bride. There is no real spiritual substance in any of her works. But she has ‘a few’ members who are still leading a pure life for their Lord. The mainstream Protestant denominations fall into this category of God’s true churches.

If you are a member of the church of Philadelphia (many churches have this as their official name, but that in itself does not qualify them as the spiritual church with this name), you are in a great church, equaled only by the church of Smyrna. This is a true church of God in every respect, and her Lord delights in her thoroughly. As a result, Christ opens many doors for her to proclaim Christ effectively around the world – through tv, online, magazines, crusades.

Of the five churches that receive Christ’s rebuke, I wish above all that you are not a member of the church of the Laodiceans. The members of this church are of two types. The first type of members feel that their lives have been abundantly blessed materially with all that their hearts can desire, and there is nothing more they need from God to make them happier. The second type may not have material and financial abundance, but they feel they have attained an ultimate level of spiritual growth where they feel spiritually wealthier – superior – to all other Christians. But the state of both types is so nauseating to her Lord that her very sight makes his stomach churn and he will feel relieved only if he vomits her out of his system. There doesn’t seem to even a few Christians in this church that please God.

Pray earnestly and perseveringly, and follow Christ ardently so that God will consider you as a faithful member of his true church that pleases him the most.

 

The Promises

I will conclude this message with the promises that God has given to each of his seven churches – after the sinning ones have repented. What he has promised one church, he promises to all seven. I have used various translations of the passages in Revelation 2 and 3 to present the promises in unforgettable language:

‘I’m about to call each conqueror to dinner. I’m spreading a banquet of Tree-of-Life fruit, a supper plucked from God’s orchard.’

‘I will allow the one who conquers…to eat from the tree of life found in God’s lush paradise.’

‘I have a Life-Crown sized and ready for you’…’The victorious cannot suffer the slightest hurt from the second death.’

‘To everyone who is victorious I will give some of the manna that has been hidden away in heaven. And I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it.’

‘I’ll give the sacred manna to every conqueror; I’ll also give a clear, smooth stone inscribed with your new name, your secret new name.’

‘To them I will give authority over all the nations. They will rule the nations with an iron rod and smash them like clay pots. They will have the same authority I received from my Father, and I will also give them the morning star!’

‘You’ll rule the nations, your Shepherd-King rule as firm as an iron staff, their resistance fragile as clay pots. This was the gift my Father gave me; I pass it along to you—and with it, the Morning Star!’

‘They will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. All who are victorious will be clothed in white. I will never erase their names from the Book of Life, but I will announce before my Father and his angels that they are mine.’

‘They’ll walk with me on parade! They’ve proved their worth! Conquerors will march in the victory parade, their names indelible in the Book of Life. I’ll lead them up and present them by name to my Father and his Angels.’

‘Look, I will force those who belong to Satan’s synagogue – those liars who say they are Jews2 but are not – to come and bow down at your feet. They will acknowledge that you are the ones I love. Because you have obeyed my command to persevere, I will protect you from the great time of testing that will come upon the whole world to test those who belong to this world. I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take away your crown. All who are victorious will become pillars in the Temple of my God, and they will never have to leave it. And I will write on them the name of my God, and they will be citizens in the city of my God—the new Jerusalem that comes down from heaven from my God. And I will also write on them my new name.’

‘And watch as I take those who call themselves true believers but are nothing of the kind, pretenders whose true membership is in the club of Satan—watch as I strip off their pretensions and they’re forced to acknowledge it’s you that I’ve loved. Because you kept my Word in passionate patience, I’ll keep you safe in the time of testing that will be here soon, and all over the earth, every man, woman, and child put to the test. I’m on my way; I’ll be there soon. Keep a tight grip on what you have so no one distracts you and steals your crown. I’ll make each conqueror a pillar in the sanctuary of my God, a permanent position of honor. Then I’ll write names on you, the pillars: the Name of my God, the Name of God’s City—the new Jerusalem coming down out of Heaven—and my new Name.’

‘Look at me. I stand at the door. I knock. If you hear me call and open the door, I’ll come right in and sit down to supper with you. Conquerors will sit alongside me at the head table, just as I, having conquered, took the place of honor at the side of my Father. That’s my gift to the conquerors!’

 

Pappa Joseph

 

1Revelation 2:9
2‘Jews’ here refers to true Christians. For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.’  Rom 2:28-29

 

 

You will remain trapped in your troubles…until you surrender unconditionally – Part 2

 

In Part 1 of this message, I mentioned some of the most prominent fruits of the unsurrendered and of the surrendered life. So, I ask again, where do you stand today in following Christ? Have you completely surrendered your life to Christ, or are you still holding on to some things and refusing to let go of them even if you know they are the very things which are blocking you from the wondrous blessings of God?

My child in the Lord, if you have not completely surrendered your life to your Savior, you will find that certain troubles – certain sins and weaknesses, certain entrapping circumstances – continuing to afflict you mercilessly and prevent you from total peace of mind. All your pleas to God to release you from this prison of afflictions are not to make any difference to your life if you have not made an unconditional surrender. If you are facing serious persistent troubles in your life that never seem to go away, no matter how much you prayed to your Deliverer, then it is only because you want God to deliver while you are still wanting to hold on to something in your life that is detestable to him.

What is keeping you from the peace of Christ? What is that secret sin you may be committing regularly, even though you know in your heart that it is not pleasing to God. Is it pornography that you are secretly watching? Is it a drinking or gambling addiction? Is it stealing from your company, or some other form of dishonesty? Is it fornication or adultery or homosexuality, or some other sexual sin? Many Christians do not indulge in deviate acts in practice but they indulge in them to the full perverted extent in their imaginations. In God’s sight, a person who never commits adultery or any other sin in physical act but entertains it in his thoughts, is just as sinful as the one who practices it outwardly. Is it resentment in your heart toward someone who has done you a great wrong? Or covetousness, which means desiring something that you are not legitimately supposed to desire – perhaps someone else’s property, or his business, or, perhaps, even his wife? Perhaps you are obsessed with making money or becoming successful, which when done without first surrendering your life to God, becomes idolatry? What is the accursed thing in your life that is preventing God from releasing you from your trouble?

Whatever it may be, your God and Savior has only one desire in you: ‘Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings’.

Once you make up your mind to put away that hidden evil, the full force of the Omnipotent Power is released to enable you to surrender it and follow Christ. If you have tried to give it up in the past and could not, there is a definite reason. Here, let me now reproduce for your encouragement one of the greatest insights on dealing with a sinful thing in your life. It’s a passage from the book ‘The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life’, by Hannah Whitall Smith. This is a book which every person desiring to live the abundant life of Christ should read. It is available free online, and you may find it by writing that title in your search engine. But here I want to give you an extract from that book relating to the subject I am sharing with you.

‘And now, having shown the way of deliverance from failure, I want to say a little as to the causes of failure in this life of full salvation. The causes do not lie in the strength of the temptation nor in our own weakness, nor, above all, in any lack in the power or willingness of our Savior to save us. The promise to Israel was positive, “There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life”. And the promise to us is equally positive. “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way of escape that ye may be able to bear it.”

‘The men of Ai were ‘but few’, and yet the people who had conquered the mighty Jericho ‘fled before the men of Ai’. It was not the strength of their enemy, neither had God failed them. The cause of their defeat lay somewhere else, and the Lord Himself declares it, “Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them; for they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen and dissembled also, and they have put it even among their own stuff. Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs upon their enemies”. It was a hidden evil that conquered them. Deep down under the earth, in an obscure tent in that vast army, was hidden something against which God had a controversy, and this little hidden thing made the whole army helpless before their enemies. “There is an accursed thing in the midst of thee, O Israel; thou canst not stand before thine enemies until ye take away the accursed thing from among you.”

‘The teaching here is simply this, that anything allowed in the heart which is contrary to the will of God, let it seem ever so insignificant, or be ever so deeply hidden, will cause us to fall before our enemies. Any root of bitterness cherished towards another, any self-seeking and harsh judgments indulged in, any slackness in obeying the voice of the Lord, any doubtful habits or surroundings, any one of these things will effectually cripple and paralyze our spiritual life. We may have hidden the evil in the most remote corner of our hearts, and may have covered it over from our sight, refusing even to recognize its existence, of which, however, we cannot help being all the time secretly aware. We may steadily ignore it, and persist in declarations of consecration and full trust, we may be more earnest than ever in our religious duties, and have the eyes of our understanding opened more and more to the truth and the beauty of the life and walk of faith. We may seem to ourselves and to others to have reached an almost impregnable position of victory, and yet we may find ourselves suffering bitter defeats. We may wonder, and question, and despair, and pray; nothing will do any good until the accursed thing is dug up from its hiding-place, brought out to the light, and laid before God. And the moment a believer who is walking in this interior life meets with a defeat, he must at once seek for the cause not in the strength of that particular enemy, but in something behind, some hidden want of consecration lying at the very centre of his being. Just as a headache is not the disease itself, but only a symptom of a disease situated in some other part of the body, so the sin in such a Christian is only the symptom of an evil hidden probably in a very different part of his being.

‘Sometimes the evil may be hidden even in that, which at a cursory glance, would look like good. Beneath apparent zeal for the truth, may be hidden a judging spirit, or a subtle leaning to our own understanding. Beneath apparent Christian faithfulness, may be hidden an absence of Christian love. Beneath an apparently rightful care for our affairs, may be hidden a great want of trust in God. I believe our blessed Guide, the indwelling Holy Spirit, is always secretly discovering these things to us by continual little twinges and pangs of conscience, so that we are left without excuse.

‘But it is very easy to disregard His gentle voice, and insist upon it to ourselves that all is right; and thus the fatal evil will continue hidden in our midst causing defeat in most unexpected quarters.

‘A capital illustration of this occurred to me once in my housekeeping. I had moved into a new house and, in looking over it to see if it was all ready for occupancy, I noticed in the cellar a very clean-looking cider-cask headed up at both ends. I debated with myself whether I should have it taken out of the cellar and opened to see what was in it, but concluded, as it seemed empty and looked nice, to leave it undisturbed, especially as it would have been quite a piece of work to get it up the stairs. I did not feel quite easy, but reasoned away my scruples and left it. Every spring and fall, when house-cleaning time came on, I would remember that cask, with a little twinge of my housewifely conscience, feeling that I could not quite rest in the thought of a perfectly cleaned house, while it remained unopened, for how did I know but under its fair exterior it contained some hidden evil. Still I managed to quiet my scruples on the subject, thinking always of the trouble it would involve to investigate it; and for two or three years the innocent-looking cask stood quietly in my cellar.

‘Then, most unaccountably, moths began to fill my house. I used every possible precaution against them, and made every effort to eradicate them, but in vain. They increased rapidly and threatened to ruin everything I had. I suspected my carpets as being the cause, and subjected them to a thorough cleaning. I suspected my furniture, and had it newly upholstered. I suspected all sorts of impossible things. At last the thought of the cask flashed on me. At once I had it brought up out of the cellar and the head knocked in, and I think it is safe to say that thousands of moths poured out. The previous occupant of the house must have headed it up with something in it which bred moths, and this was the cause of all my trouble.

‘Now I believe that, in the same way, some innocent-looking habit or indulgence, some apparently unimportant and safe thing, about which we yet have now and then little twinges of conscience, something which is not brought out fairly into the light, and investigated under the searching eye of God, lies at the root of most of the failure in this higher life. All is not given up. Some secret corner is kept locked against the entrance of the Lord. And therefore we cannot stand before our enemies, but find ourselves smitten down in their presence.

‘In order to prevent failure, or to discover its cause if we have failed, it is necessary that we should keep continually before us this prayer, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my thoughts; and see if there be any evil way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting”.

‘Finally, let us never forget for one moment, no matter how often we may fail, that the Lord Jesus is able, according to the declaration concerning Him, to deliver us out of the hands of our enemies, that we may “serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life”.’


But it is very easy to disregard His gentle voice, and insist upon it to ourselves that all is right; and thus the fatal evil will continue hidden in our midst causing defeat in most unexpected quarters.


You may have accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, and may be sincerely striving to live a life fully pleasing to him, but at the same time there may be some or many troubles that have been clinging to your life for a long time, which, no matter how sincerely and earnestly you wish to be released from, refuse to leave you. Then, very likely, there is a detestable thing in the sight of God that you are keeping hidden in your heart. And he is not going to lift even his little finger to release you from your persistent problems until you surrender that habit or obsession or whatever that accursed thing may be.

Oh, it may not look that detestable at all to your sight. Perhaps it is just a harmless habit of taking in a few puffs of a cigarette after an enjoyable meal. Or, as was my case, taking some chilled beer in moderation on hot weekend afternoons only. What’s the big deal in having a couple of chilled Carlsberg cans, anyway? Not a big deal for most people. And I reasoned that the Bible does not actually prohibit drinking in moderation – despite what the pentecostals think. And besides, Jesus drank wine so often he gained some notoriety as a winebibber among the teetotaling Pharisees (Luke 7:34).  All true…except that in my specific case I knew deep in my soul that alcohol even in Godly moderation was an unbeneficial habit for me. Alcohol, even in ‘safe’ quantity, produced subtle psychological changes in my thought processes. I was aware of the slight changes in the kind of feelings and imaginations I had when there was alcohol in my blood. But I kept on this seemingly harmless habit for years, using my logical reasoning and the Biblical sanction for doing so. Again and again, God warned me through my conscience that if I don’t stop this habit it could become an unshakeable addiction, or cause me to speak and act in a way I wouldnt when my body is totally alcohol-free, or even lead me to a sinful act.

Let me be more specific. Often when I took alcohol during a social function or even when fellowsipping with my Christian friends, including pastors, I would tend to speak words that I wouldn’t speak when there was no trace of the spirit in my body. Then when I slept that night, strange and disturbing dreams took over my reposing mind. I was finally convinced that drink – even in moderation – was having a reaction in me that it did not in my fellow Christian winebibbers. Now that realization came several years before I actually gave up the drinking habit. For several years after this conviction, I kept postponing stopping this habit, which subtly grew to become an accursed thing in my life. And my spiritual troubles grew, along with a host of physical, mental and financial woes. I realized  with horror that I had become an addict and I just couldn’t stop this habit no matter how hard I struggled to free myself from it – and I had always been absolutely sure I could stop it anytime if I really wanted to. It took me some painful years of fervent beseeching God to enable me to break free from this enslaving spirit of alcohol before God finally gave me the strength to cast off this accursed thing completely from my life.

What is it that is preventing your release from whatever has been afflicting you for long? If you are not sure, go on your knees, and pray like David did, ‘Lord, look deep into my heart, and see if there is any little accursed thing that is offending you, and show me what that is’.

Once you are convinced there is something hidden in your life, or something obvious which you are postponing giving up, then act immediately without a moment’s delay. Make a firm decision then and there to give it up. That is the point you begin to cross the Jordan. Now there is no more turning back. You will soon reach the other side of the great river of your life and be fully liberated. The crossing may take a while, perhaps a few days, a few weeks, a few months, perhaps even a few years in some extreme cases, but the victory is sure. God’s release begins the moment you put your feet into the waters of the transition to the new life.

Hear what Oswald Chambers says to all people of God:

‘But before we choose to follow God’s will, a crisis must develop in our lives. This happens because we tend to be unresponsive to God’s gentler nudges. He brings us to the place where He asks us to be our utmost for Him and we begin to debate. He then providentially produces a crisis where we have to decide – for or against. That moment becomes a great crossroads in our lives. If a crisis has come to you on any front, surrender your will to Jesus absolutely and irrevocably.’

Don’t slacken on your determination to remove that accursed thing. Even if you fall several times during the crossing, do not lie in the waters but get up quickly and keep going. Even if you fall 70 times 7 in a day while crossing the Jordan of your life, God encourages you to get up and get going (Matthew 18:22). The devil will howl at you that it is in vain and you can never give his accursed gift back to him and that you have to carry it with you to your grave. Tell him that your Savior has already carried it to his grave with him and you have been forever released by his blood. You say exactly that to the Great Discourager each time you fall, my child, and see how he flees with his tail (if he has one) flung between his legs at the mention of Christ’s blood.

If you continue to hold on to what you know you have to surrender, God is not going to give up on you. He is even ready to afflict you 2 or 3 times more, if necessary, until you surrender to him unconditionally.

‘Behold, God works all these things, twice, in fact, three times with a man, to bring back his soul from the Pit, that he may be enlightened with the light of life.’   Job 33:29-30

Why prolong your suffering and continue your bondage to sin? Surrender absolutely the first time itself, and enjoy your liberation earlier.

Once you have surrendered unconditionally, you have passed the greatest test in your life, and thereafter any trials are just minor finishing touches to your life. This is the point where God releases you from his seemingly heavy grip on your life. Actually it is not God who is keeping captive those who refuse to surrender unconditionally to him, but that great Kidnapper who snares God’s people to make them do his will, not God’s will (2 Timothy 2:26).

When you surrender your life to God without holding on to any accursed object in your thoughts or acts, he immediately liberates you through his Son Jesus Christ.

‘Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.’   John 8:36

‘Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.’   Galatians 5:1

If today through this message our heavenly Father is calling you to surrender your life to his Son Jesus, then, chosen child of God, don’t postpone your decision for another day. That’s exactly what the Enemy wants you to do – postpone your decision – so this message will lose its impact in your consciousness as you go about the cares and chores of your daily life. The seed of understanding you have received today may either be plucked away from you as soon as you finish reading this message and get up to do something else, or it may last for a few hours or days and then be forgotten, or it may from today start to bear fruit in your life (read the parable in Luke 8:5-18). It all depends on how fervently you desire and decide today to surrender your life unconditionally to God.

‘Therefore take heed how you hear.’   Luke 8:18

Lord God, bless this son or daughter of yours who has read this message! Amen.

 

Pappa Joseph

 

 

When Someone Does You Dirt, You Never Recover Until…

 

A man did dirt to my family many years ago. Until then he was an amiable neighbor to us. He owned a taxi, and we hired his services whenever we needed a car to go somewhere. Then one day, my mother had an acute heart problem and needed to be taken to the hospital immediately. We called him as usual. But it was an odd hour of the day, and he refused. Somehow, we managed with difficulty to find another car.

Since then, the very sight of him was an abomination to me. If I passed him by, I deliberately ignored him. Over the past one and a half decades, whenever I thought of him, I also thought of how he responded to us that day.

Now, I certainly knew about Christ’s teaching on forgiveness and about praying for those who have wronged us. I agreed with Christ in principle and strove not to hate him. But my natural man continued to abhor him without abatement.

Yesterday, as I write this, another neighbor mentioned to me about this abominable man’s son. Now his children know nothing about this incident and have not partaken of their father’s dirt. Nevertheless, I wanted to have nothing to do with his children either. When the father didn’t drive anymore, one of his sons took over, and once, without knowing who his dad was, I hired the son’s services. Later, when I came to know it was the dirtman’s offspring, I wished I hadn’t taken that car. And since then, there were several occasions that when I needed a car someone would propose the offensive vehicle, and I would immediately decline it with an imperceptible snort.

This morning, I realized my dislike of him and his family cannot continue if I am to grow in the stature of Christ. You just cannot remain in a static state of not loving anyone. As a wise minister once preached to me, you either keep growing in love, or you keep growing colder. In other words, it is not enough not to hate someone. If we do not keep growing in our love for someone, we will eventually grow to hate him.

So I knew it was not only not enough to stop disliking the dirtman, and all his descendants as well, but now I have to deliberately demonstrate my love for him. My natural man couldn’t take it – no way. But by now I know how to handle my natural man. I know, thanks initially to secular sychologist William James, that I cannot control my feelings, but I certainly can control what I think, say, and do. So I went on my knees to God and prayed thus:

‘Lord, you know there is no way I can come to like that man naturally. I suppose I can keep myself from hating him with a deadly hatred, but there’s no way I want to have anything to do with him. I certainly don’t want to see him struck with a bolt of lightning, or see his family suffer a tragedy, but I, that is, my natural man, would certainly enjoy seeing him in a situation where he is having a heart problem and his children are struggling to find a car to take him to the hospital. Now that’s what I feel naturally, Lord, and there’s nothing I can do directly to confront those feelings. But you have shown me what I can do: Ignoring my natural man and his feelings, my spiritual man can pray for him and his family. And I am doing that now. Lord, bless that man and his family. Prosper them…’

As I write this, after having prayed for him, my natural feelings remain stubbornly the same toward the man. No, I can’t say, ‘Hey presto! I prayed for my enemy, and behold, now my love for him is brimful and overflowing in my heart.’ But I can certainly say that I now have a clear conscience before God, and I know that I am on my way eventually to loving him with my feelings as much as with my will. God will grant that change in me in his own time. In the meantime, every time thoughts of the dirt he did to us froth up in my mind, my spiritual man can be directed by my will – against my natural feelings – to immediately ask God to bless him.

Praise God for the spiritual man in me – his Holy Spirit, indeed God himself living in me (Isaiah 7:14. John 14:23).

‘When a deep injury is done us, we never recover until we forgive.’   Alan Paton, author of Cry, The Beloved Country

 

Pappa Joseph

 

P.S.  Two years after I wrote the above message, I can say – praise God – that if I were to encounter that dirtman again, I would smile at him from my heart and look for an opportunity to befriend him.

 

 

Reduce the Pain of the Troubles in Your Life

 

When we think of trouble and suffering in the Biblical context, the person most likely to come to our minds is Job. This is what Job said,

‘Man who is born of a woman is of few days and full of trouble.’   Job 14:1

If you are born of a woman, it is guaranteed that your life will be full of troubles. I wonder why prosperity preachers miss this verse. This should be the first thought of the man or woman who is embarking on the Christian journey, or who, having journeyed long, is now deeply in trouble. Having troubles, which means, suffering pain, throughout your lifespan is to be expected as an inevitable consequence of having been born into this evil world.

So, dear follower of Christ, that is the bad news about your life and mine – there is absolutely nothing we can do to avoid pain in our life. There will be many small pains and many great pains, and one or two death pains, that is, pains as agonizing as dying a premature death. So much so, on his deathbed, the person who has lived the full Christian life will look back and say, ‘My life has been full of trouble’. That is what Jacob, one of the greatest of God’s chosen people, felt about his life, when his days were almost over. He said, ‘few and evil have been the days of the years of my life’.   Genesis 47:9

For the true Christian, in addition to the normal amount of troubles in a human life, there will be several extra ones in his life – troubles directly inflicted on him by the enemy just because of the fact that he chose to follow Christ. You want to have a dozen or so fewer troubles in your life? Just stop carrying the cross of Christ and join one of the devil’s religions.

I am giving you the painful news first.

Now, understand something about the levels of troubles you as a child of God will surely encounter in your lifetime.

Trouble comes at two basic levels of pain.

Trouble at the second level of pain is totally beyond any human comfort or solution. The pain at this level cannot be reduced or soothed by anything in this life. The Christian going through this level of pain should not even try to seek comfort from man, and no sensible person should attempt in any way to comfort the sufferer. No sermon, no grief handling program, no human counsel, no human act can do anything to alleviate the pain in the least at this level. I call this level of pain ‘acute suffering’.

Job’s three friends did well for seven days and seven nights when they did not open their mouths once in their attempt to assuage his misery. Agony increased for Job from the minute they tried to comfort him. And the result of their sincere attempts?

‘Miserable comforters are you all!’ moaned Job.

The God’s Word to the Nation version says,

‘You are all pathetic at comforting me’.   Job 16:2

This message is not for those who are suffering or may suffer this second level of trouble. In the life of a child of God, such trouble comes only when God knows that person can go through it safely and come out of it closer to his Savior than ever before. And God takes it upon himself the full job of comforting his child in acute suffering, and all that he expects of his other children to do at this time is to quietly pray fervently for the one afflicted with this level of pain. Do not attempt to do anything beyond this if you don’t want to end up as another miserable and pathetic comforter.

Acute suffering occurs when a spouse or a child dies prematurely. Or when a physical pain occurs with such intensity there is absolutely nothing the sufferer can do except moan and groan continuously. Or when a maiming accident or illness has just left a person blind, or paralyzed or handicapped seriously in some other way. Or when a person is just imprisoned, or in imminent danger of his life. Or some other tragedy from which the victim is still reeling in extreme pain. In all these tragedies, I say again, God will take it upon himself the full job of comforting and giving strength to the one in agony so they can somehow endure the suffering. And remember, God in his great mercy has so constituted the human life that no person will ever go through any suffering that is beyond his physical and mental capability to endure it.

‘No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.’   1 Cor 10:13

The word for ‘temptation’ in the original Greek also means ‘testing’ or ‘adversity’.

Now let me tell you about the first level of pain, which is the level of 99.99 percent of the pains encountered by a person as he follows Christ on the trouble-laden path to the Kingdom of God. As I mentioned earlier, most people have chosen to walk on the broad paths of life, and they have a faster paced walk than those who have embarked on their life journey through the narrow gate.

‘You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.’   Mat 7:13-14 NLT

At this first level of pain, the suffering person can do many things to reduce his pain. And people around him can also do several things to help the afflicted person suffer less pain. This is the level where the sufferer perhaps is settling down after going through the agony of a tragedy, or he or she is going through some personal crisis, but they have enough strength to go about their work and daily routines.

This then, O child of God who may be suffering right now even as you are reading this message, is what you should do as your first act of enduring your affliction.

First of all, never think of embracing the comfort of a coping mechanism. A coping mechanism is a human-contrived method to reduce your immediate suffering to a more endurable level. And it would reduce your pain – for an hour or two – and then plunge you to a depth where you suffer more pain than you had before your resorted to the coping mechanism.

Alcohol was my chief coping mechanism in the earlier years of my Christian life when I was afflicted with severe and continual trials. The pubs had a notice in them which announced the ‘happy hours’ when one could buy liquors at half the regular price. For me, any time I was in the bar was a happy hour. I did not drank excessively or got drunk. I drank just enough so I could get a ‘high’ – a nice warm feeling when all the troubles in the world seem to be at a hazy distance, and I really felt ‘happy’ in the cheery atmosphere of the present hour. This happiness, of course, was nothing but mild intoxication. And then, next day, at around the same time, my need for being comforted in whatever was afflicting me then seemed even more urgent than the previous day, and I would go to my favorite pub like a sheep led to its shearers. Oh, what far greater pains and additional troubles I brought upon myself because of my daily comfort in the embrace of a deceptive spirit! This coping mechanism nearly destroyed my family life, but Christ rescued me in time by his unfailing grace.

Alcohol is the coping mechanism that is probably the most resorted to by people wearied by longdrawn troubles – troubles that continue unabated for months and years. After an initial struggle to surmount them or endure them, the suffering person feels he couldn’t cope anymore and desperately looks for some soothing way out. And what camouflages pain as immediately as alcohol? Even the Bible recommends alcohol for the one – certainly not a Christian – who is about to suffer some miserable form of death. (See Proverbs 31:6-7) I suppose it is ok for such person to drink and forget his misery because his situation is so absolutely hopeless that nothing is going to save him anymore, whether he drinks or not. But for the rest of us, to drink alcohol to tide over our unhappy state, or to try to palliate our suffering by numbing our pain sensors is but sheer folly that surely would lead to an increased intensity of trouble.


‘And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.’


Coping mechanisms come in myriad forms and from a multitude of dark avenues originating from hell. I know a family, where the father and husband, a prosperous banker, lost his job, and unable to accept his new situation and unable to live with his family as a loser, left his four little children and wife, ran away to the arms of another woman, where for some time he found comfort and self-confidence in her embrace. Then, as his troubles increased, he ran away to another country, where he found new soft arms to comfort him. Now, twenty years after he left his family, I heard he managed to get a new job and hence wasn’t running to newer comfort zones…yet.

Running away, pornography, extramarital affairs, foods, smoking, gambling, overworking, partying – all these give a temporary escape, a short ability to cope with the life trouble, and then drag the person even deeper into the pit of misery. It is the surest way to turn a person’s prolonged suffering into lifelong tragedy.

A former colleague of mine suffers a failed marriage. She finds a measure of relief from her constant pain by smoking, overworking, and partying her head and hips off. Today, her life is in a far more pathetic state spiritually and physically than she was in when I first met her. There are strong indications that this woman – once a beautiful, talented and affectionate lady – is now possessed by several demons who have taken advantage of her dissipated state of mind to try to destroy her completely.

Afflicted child of God, as you go through your severe trial, be on your highest alert against being drawn to anything that would serve to allay your pain – anything you know in your heart your Savior wouldn’t recommend in your present situation. If you are not prayerfully alert, you initially wouldn’t even recognize something you do as a harmful coping mechanism. But God has provided innumerable safe ways you can effectively cope with any degree of pain that life’s various troubles lash you with. Instead of calling them coping mechanisms, which has a negative connotation to the term, I prefer to call them ’principles of endurance’.

It is God himself, if you seek it from him on your knees, who will gently show you what principles of endurance you can apply in any particular trouble, which will enable you to endure it patiently until you come out of it. And come out of each trouble, you surely will sooner or later. That’s one of the great promises of God to his people going through all kinds of trials.

‘The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from ALL their troubles.’   Ps 34:17 NLT

For your reassurance, he repeats this promise just a couple of verses later.

‘The righteous person faces many troubles, but the Lord comes to the rescue EACH time.’  Ps 34:19

Each time…every time. Not just the big troubles, but even the little and the middle ones…all your troubles.

Yea, the same God who has promised to deliver you from all your troubles will also show you the best way to endure each trial. Just spend a little more time on your knees, and pray a little more fervently for urgent help to endure your pain. That, Christian, is the first and the most effective principle of endurance – increasing your prayer time on your knees. Even if you apply no other principle, this alone is more than sufficient to see you through your trial. This is how our Godly foreparents endured their troubles. They knew no other coping mechanism, but prayer and just more prayer. And how effectively they were able to endure as a result, and finally emerge from their chamber of affliction smiling each time!

Each person will be given his specific God-ordained endurance principle relative to his particular situation. But in general, I have found the following general principles helpful in my own life, and which I believe may be useful for you to keep in mind.

I took to alcohol to escape for an hour or two the trouble hounding me outside the pub. When God rescued me from this deathpit, I realized I could find equally enjoyable, but totally safe, happy hours outside the pub, if I really looked around.

An activity that can keep your mind fully occupied in it for part of the day is a highly effective principle of patiently enduring a painful trial. During one severe time of trial, I taught parttime at a high school. The smiling and responsive students around me lifted my spirits for several hours each day throughout the duration of my affliction. Interaction with a group of people whom you like and who like you brings comfort during the days of your affliction.

But on some occasions of trouble, it can happen that interaction with people you like to be around when you are not facing a trial is a depressing experience when you in an afflicted state. Once, I stopped attending a prayer fellowship which I had been attending when things weren’t that bad in my life. But in my severest pain, I just didn’t feel like being in the midst of people who were shouting hallelujahs for all the happiness they were enjoying in their lives. But I found my pain was pushed to the back of my cerebrum when I was with a group of my students or with my old schoolmates at an alumni meeting.

Another principle of endurance that may be of help to you: See if you can take up a new hobby or revive one that you had neglected for years. It helps to a significant extent.

I started to learn to play the guitar in my 58th year – during a time of severe trouble in my life. My past follies finally caught up with me, and a person very close to me who was involved with me in a former project, had to go to jail because of me. I would have any day gone to jail instead of that person, but I was inextricably trapped in another country. Worse, that person’s family who had been very close to me and looked up to me for decades, were calling me a blight to their lives. All I could do was fall on the floor and call out to my Comforter to rescue that person. After the initial acute suffering of a couple of days, God enabled me to accept the distressing situation, regather my composure and quietly go about my daily tasks, while keeping a tight rein on my pain inside me.

Moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day, in the midst of one of the greatest afflictions of my life I was strengthened to go about my daily life by the grace of Christ in me. I even found sufficient calmness of mind to compose some instrumental melodies on my guitar. God intervened and the person didn’t have to complete the whole sentence and was out after a couple of weeks. (By the way, if you happen to come to one of my meetings, ask me to play some of the melodies I composed on my guitar during this trial. I think they are beautiful God-inspired music which may uplift your spirit when you are feeling weighed down by the cares of life.)

That is the key, earnest Christian. In all your severe afflictions, God will keep you moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day, till you are out of your trouble completely. He will even give you the grace to do some of your best life works in the midst of your afflictions.


The Lord comes to your rescue each time…every time. Not just in the big troubles, but in ALL your troubles.


As you learn how to endure your troubles, always keep foremost in your mind that all the endurance principles – the props to hold you up while suffering – will go only a short distance unless God himself propped up your props. And the only way you can receive God’s prop to hold you up daily is for you to simply ask him, fervently, daily.

Pour out your heart to God without demanding an immediate end to the suffering. God has never answered my prayer for an immediate deliverance. But he has always answered my prayer for more strength to endure it.

When deliverance does not come within the deadline you set in your mind for your release, remember that setting deadlines for the trouble that God has allowed in your life is not your business. I emphasize again, don’t plead with him desperately to end your suffering. It is useless. That’s not going to happen. Plead for more strength to endure instead.

My friend, George, suffered for 15 years in a prison for a crime he never committed, in a land where a person can go to jail for decades if someone in the regal circles wanted him to. I spent about a month in prison in the same cell with him. Since I knew my term was only a month, I could look forward to my release. But not he; he could never know how long they would keep him. He established a routine. Reading newspaper, comforting fellow prisoners, then eventually finding work in the prison library. Even with all these props, no man can keep up his spirits for 15 years without God’s direct power strengthening him moment by moment, year after year. At least one of our fellow cellmate’s mind had gone cuckoo after spending several years behind bars. But George was the most cheerful person to be around in the prison, and yet among the most suffering. He continued praying, and his people kept praying for him…until the day arrived that God decided to open the prison doors for him, and he was reunited with his family that he hadn’t once seen for 15 years.

While you shouldnt demand or expect an immediate deliverance, you should perseveringly ask God to cut short the length of your afflicted days. There are several examples in the Bible where God intervened and shortened the period of suffering of his servants.

In your time of suffering, it is ok if you don’t feel like talking to anyone, or going anywhere…even to church. Don’t force yourself to act normal. You are not. Cry when you feel you want to cry. Sometimes when the pain seems too much to bear, you will have to grit your teeth and just endure and not try to find something or someone to ease your pain. Such extreme moments will be rare, by God’s mercy, but if they come, just clench your fists and endure, while crying out to God for urgent help. I pass on to you this great assurance I gained from my severe sufferings that afflicted me on and off for 40 continual years: you can endure, and if you keep calling out to God for his strength and keep trusting him to deliver you at the right time, he will give you the strength to endure and he will surely deliver you at the time that only he knows is best for you.

Some Christians may advise fasting when one is suffering. It may be a good idea for some people, who, I suspect, may have a trace of masochism in them. But it is certainly an unpleasant idea for me when I am groaning in pain. Fasting is meant to ‘afflict’ our souls, so we can realize how weak we are as human beings and how dependent we are on God for protection and blessings in this life. A trial is already an affliction, and there is no logic under heaven to afflict your soul further, unless it is an attempt to cajole God into acting sooner than he otherwise would.

‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and You have not seen? Why have we afflicted our souls, and You take no notice?’ Is 58:3

The Bible does not tell us to fast (at least I haven’t seen a passage yet) when we are already afflicted by a trial from God, unless of course the trail is a result of our sin, in which case we certainly need to fast to regain our closeness with God. If sin is not involved, James tells us to pray when we are suffering, not afflict ourselves more by fasting.

‘Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray.’    Jm 5:13

Fasting is generally for times when we are prosperous and getting distracted by worldly cares, or when we are so engaged in our work that our prayer life is getting affected and we need to get away from it all to regain our closeness with God. In such cases, the person needs to go to a mountaintop retreat, like Jesus did, or to a quiet corner of his house, and fast until he is back in the close embrace of his Father.

Fasting is also recommended when we need to make a major life decision, to humble ourselves, and to know God’s direction and will in a particular situation.

‘Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from Him the right way for us and our little ones and all our possessions.’    Ezra 8:21

Let me add one more thing before I close this message. In your trouble, if you don’t feel like applying any endurance principle to reduce your pain, that’s perfectly ok and normal. Just praying and quietly going about your daily routine – even while suffering the pain – is all that is finally expected of you by God. But for many others, including me, these endurance principles have proven of much help in enduring our trials.

I pass on to you God’s greatest assurance to all sufferers: you will come out smiling in the end. You will emerge cheerful and grateful to God for how he helped you during the period of suffering. You will be able to walk even steadier than before, and your peace and joy will be fuller than ever before. The suffering may have cost you many precious things in life, and broken some of your fondest dreams, but God’s awesome workings in your life will ensure you are able to let go of all those precious things and rejoice in the greater possessions and the grander dreams he has now given you in recompense.

And the thought to keep uppermost in your mind while suffering: Our Father in heaven – who says that even if your own mother forgets you, he will not forget you – is in control and knows exactly to what extent you, his beloved son or daughter, can endure. And he will ensure you have the strength to endure until he delivers you. And deliver you, he will surely, and not one second beyond what he has set for your good.

Let me quote again a verse I had referred to earlier. The paraphrased words in parenthesis and brackets are from the Amplified Bible itself:

‘For no temptation (no trial regarded as enticing to sin), [no matter how it comes or where it leads] has overtaken you and laid hold on you that is not common to man [that is, no temptation or trial has come to you that is beyond human resistance and that is not adjusted and adapted and belonging to human experience, and such as man can bear]. But God is faithful [to His Word and to His compassionate nature], and He [can be trusted] not to let you be tempted and tried and assayed beyond your ability and strength of resistance and power to endure, but with the temptation He will [always] also provide the way out (the means of escape to a landing place), that you may be capable and strong and powerful to bear up under it patiently.’   1 Cor 10:13 AMP

‘I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.]’   John 16:33 AMP

 

Pappa Joseph

 

 

You will remain trapped in your troubles…until you surrender unconditionally – Part 1

Surrender of Republican Soldiers, Somosierra, Madrid (Spain), 1936

In warfare there is a conditional surrender and there is an unconditional surrender of one party to the other. Conditional surrender is usually called a truce. The two warring factions negotiate a ceasefire by each conceding something to the other, with the stronger faction demanding more concessions than offering.

I don’t know if there is any truce made in the history of mankind which was permanent. Sooner or later, the two parties will resume their hostilities, until one of them reaches such a state of defeat, and the other such a state of conquest, that the latter demands an unconditional surrender and the former is forced to submit absolutely to the other or be further devastated by the enemy. The defeated party realizes that they have only two choices: give up everything to the victor and hope that at least their lives and some basic essentials of their livelihood are spared, or be absolutely destroyed by their enemy.

Many times in history, including in many of the wars mentioned in the Bible, the vanquisher is not willing to accept even the absolute surrender of the defeated party, but destroys them completely. So actually, for the conquered, absolute surrender is a mercy shown by the conqueror. Even if they have left nothing else, the enemy has allowed them to keep their most precious possession – their lives.

The Christian life, says various scriptures in the Bible, is a constant warfare. Against the arch enemy, Satan, and his evil hordes, against his human agents, and against the deadly temptations he throws at God’s people. A person who has decided to follow Christ understands that this is an unavoidable part of his Christian experience and accepts it. This is what our good preachers exhort us to do, reiterating Paul’s admonition to ‘fight the good fight’, and that ‘we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places’.   1 Timothy 6:12; Ephesians 6:12

A serious error committed by many preachers is that their exhortation to fight and wrestle refers, in 99 percent of their messages, to battling the enemy – Satan, the world, and the temptations lurking within us. In my entire life so far, having been exhorted to the brim of my ears with battle messages from the captains of our souls, I have found only four or five preachers who told me that the far greater battle is with God our Savior. The only wrestling with God they sometimes mention is the one where he had to put Jacob’s thigh out of joint to end the bout.

As in all battles that the Lord fights, in victory he is far more merciless and unrelenting in his terms for unconditional surrender than those of most human vanquishers. He demands nothing less than the giving up of all the vanquished’s possessions except the clothes he wears and his daily food, and submitting to him as an abject slave.

Actually, our battle with God, unlike other battles, does not involve defeating the enemy, obviously because God is not our enemy. Let me start from the basics about this battle.

It is not generally emphasized in the Christian salvation message that the first experience of the true Christian life is a tragic death. Too many people of God realize this only years after they repent and are baptized. Sadly, not many baptizers tell them this fundamental fact of the Christian life before they dip the repentant ones into the watery grave. Oswald Chambers, in his widely used inspirational book, My Utmost For His Highest, says,

‘If we get away from dwelling on the tragedy of God on the Cross in our preaching, our preaching produces nothing. It will not transmit the energy of God to man; it may be interesting, but it will have no power.’

It is the same tragedy of God on the Cross that is replayed in the God-child’s life, starting with his repentance. At repentance, a person realizes that he has broken God’s law, and that the penalty of sin is death. But what many who repent do not initially realize is that the baptism that follows his death is the symbol of his inward death – a death that comes at a cost and pain far exceeding the pain of a physical death. No man can naturally die such a death. The man convicted of sin realizes there is absolutely no way he can obey God by the keeping all his commandments. He knows that if he breaks just one of them, he breaks them all  (James 2:10) and is condemned.

‘The moral law…simply demands that we be absolutely moral…The moral law, ordained by God, does not make itself weak to the weak by excusing our shortcomings. It remains absolute for all time and eternity. If we are not aware of this, it is because we are less than alive. Once we do realize it, our life immediately becomes a fatal tragedy. “I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died.’   Romans 7:9’.

Let me go from the words of that great man of God, Oswald Chambers, to the words of Jesus himself.

What did Jesus say is the first step to following him, to becoming a Christian? Getting prepared to die a painful death! Not a sentimental emotional kind of death, where the repenter feels he is a new person in Christ and his past life with all its sins is now buried under water at baptism. Jesus meant a death that, I repeat again, involves a dying process that is more painful than that of a physical death caused by an accident or illness.

‘Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me”.’   Matthew 16:24

‘If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.’   Luke 14:26-27

If you desire to follow Christ, the first step is to take up the cross. And what does taking up the cross mean? It has come to mean to most people, taking up a heavy burden or enduring a difficult trial. Jesus did not mince his words, ‘whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me…’ Taking up the cross means taking it up exactly in the same attitude as Jesus took it up, and then following in his footsteps until, after a short distance, he gives up his life.

When Jesus took up the cross, it was the absolute confirmation he was going to die in a matter of hours. You don’t take up the cross, then realize you are going to die, lay it down, and go back to your old life. You have to count the cost of what you are about to do. You have to realize that when you repent and are baptized you are confirming to God that, if he so requires, you are willing to give up everything you desired and held most precious in life – even your wife or husband and children – for the one Person who is desirable above all the others in your life. Yes, you have to sit down and literally count the cost of what you are about to do.

‘For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it – lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’? Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.’   Luke 14:28-33

In most cases, God does not require the surrendered person to ‘forsake all’ immediately. What he requires above all is an attitude of willingness to give up all. The word ‘does not’ in the original Greek is ouk and it is the same word used a little later in the same sentence for ‘cannot’ in the phrase ‘cannot be my disciple’. So what Jesus meant is that, to follow him, a disciple should always have the attitude that if any of his possessions and relationships is a hindrance to his following Christ, he can forsake all to follow him. This obviously is what Jesus meant, because Peter and some other apostles did not forsake their wives when they went preaching Christ (1 Corinthians 9:5).

As I said, no person can naturally give up all his possessions and hand over his life to Christ in his own strength. But with God’s grace, with his power working in him, all things are possible for him that God requires of him.

‘it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” ‘  Matthew 19:24-26

With God’s help, even the billionaires in today’s world can enter the Kingdom of God. So don’t worry at all about your ability to give up what God requires you to give up to follow  him. If he wants you to give up something most precious to you, but which is hindering you from the Kingdom of God, he will first equip you mentally, emotionally and spiritually to be able to give up that most precious possession and only then ask you to give it up. And remember, whatever precious blessing he takes away from you now – perhaps a relationship, perhaps your family, your house, your land, perhaps even your health – you will inherit that very same blessing a hundredfold some day in your life (Matthew 19:29).

So where do you stand today in following Christ?

Today, you are in one of these two states: you have completely surrendered your life to Christ, taken up his cross and are following him; or you are still resisting giving up certain things in your life which are hindering you from surrendering your life completely to God. And if you are not sure in which state you are now, there are sure ways to know that.


You have to realize that when you repent and are baptized you are confirming to God that, if he so requires, you are willing to give up everything you desired and held most precious in life – even your wife or husband and children – for the one Person who is desirable above all the others in your life.


If your life is not fully surrendered to the will of God, there are definite fruits, or symptoms, of this unsurrender manifesting in your thoughts, words and actions. I will mention some of the prominent ones.

I think, from my personal experience, the most deadly of the symptoms of living an unsurrendered life is fear. Not just fear of one kind or in one area, but fear of every sort in almost every area of your life. It could be fear of premature death happening to you or to your loved ones; it could be fear of being overcome by a powerful temptation; it could be insecurity, that is fear of not having enough resources to support yourself and your family either because of losing your job or losing some other resource that is now serving to prop you up; it could be fear for the safety of your children; it could be…think of the fears lurking deep within you constantly.

For some unsurrendered people, more deadly than their greatest fear is a symptom called depression. In my own life, I cannot tell which was more deadly and frightening – the times I lived in great fear, or the occasions a terrible depression enveloped me in its dark and morbid pits. If depression is not a big symptom in your life, than perhaps its lesser version called ‘having the blues’, or ‘feeling low’ or ‘being down in the dumps’, ‘being moody’ could be a frequent and persistent demon in your life.

Other symptoms could be: short temper or sudden outbursts of rage; some form of addiction from which you could never free yourself so far; some terrible secret sin – perhaps some perversion – you may be committing regularly; resentment and unforgiveness at the people who have done you wrong or hurt you; suspicion; jealousy…and more.

Less obvious symptoms include: suppressed frustration that you life is not moving in the direction you want; tension and pressure in your job; lack of zeal and zest in your daily activities; workaholicism,  lethargy; constant fatigue though there is nothing physically wrong with you.

There are far more symptoms in the life of an unsurrendered person than what I have mentioned above. The symptom, whatever it is, is deadly in its eventual consequences, unpleasant to experience, and unending in its affliction of you.

Now let me mention some of the fruits of a life fully surrendered to God.

Just as the greatest fruit of unsurrender is fear, the greatest fruit of  surrendering your life completely to Christ is freedom from fear. When you are freed from fear, then another fruit keeps growing fast in every area of your life: peace. Just as the entrance of light drives away darkness from every nook and corner of the lighted area, the entrance of Christ’s peace in your life drives away every fear lurking deep in the recesses of your mind.

‘Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.’   John 14:27

A surrendered person can never be overcome by depression. He would certainly gets moments of low feelings, perhaps even actual depressions, now and then – as I have experienced and continue to experience occasionally – but these dark demons are never able to shake the rock base of his daily peace and joy of living. Depression, while it may cast its old ugly shadow over him occasionally, will never again be able to influence the thoughts and actions of one who has surrendered totally to Christ.

Since my surrender to Christ – 12 years ago at the time of writing this – depression stalked me and tried to overwhelm me two or three times, and for a while I could feel the horrible clouds of gloom and despondency hovering menacingly over me, desperate to envelop me. But that’s as far as depression could come close to my life. I know my mind can never be overpowered by depression – and that’s only because Christ, ever shining brightly in within me, can never be overpowered by any dark force.  What affects me from outside actually affects him and he knows how to respond to it effectively. I was three times held for several weeks, once upto 2 months – in some of the dankest and frighteningly depressing places on earth.  In the dungeons of Arabia, where I was shackled along with murderers and psychopaths as punishment for not being able to repay on time some debts I had incurred by my naive financial dealings in those days. Yet, as painful as my experience was, I never felt depressed or frightened, whereas even a fraction of that experience in my pre-surrendered days could have drastically altered my whole personality for worse. I know of one man, a confident and ambitious executive, who had to spend one month in the same prison. He came out a totally different person, totally broken in spirit, his countenance and outlook in life altered, and no more able to speak or deal cheerfully with his wife and other family members like he used to do before he was incarcerated.

Depression,along with fear, is the most deadly fruit of unsurrender to God.

Depression is for those who don’t know what’s happening or what will happen to their lives. I know with absolute certainty what is happening and what will happen in my life at any time. I know with absolute certainty that what is happening each moment in my life is that Christ is living his life in my surrendered body, and I know with absolute certainty that he knows what will happen to my life at any time and I need not worry a bit about it. I would not exchange this peace for literally any other happiness or blessing in this life. Or rather, I would not exchange this peace even for my own life, for I don’t fear death in the least anymore.

This fruit of peace alone is worth all the surrender in a person’s life. But that’s not all.

Another fruit that the person who has handed his life over to God will experience is a growing amazement at and love for the Law of God. The Law of God is summed up in the 10 Commandments and ramified in the various testimonies, statutes and precepts given in the Bible. And this love of God’s Law further reinforces and increases the fruit of peace in him. He will declare, as the psalmist did,

‘Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day.’  Psalm 119:97

As he grows in loving and keeping all the laws of God, his assurance of divine protection in all his ways will keep him calm in any adverse situation, which in the case of an unsurrendered person would cause him to stumble and fall into a deep pit of devastation.

‘Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing causes them to stumble.’   Psalm 119:165

The second part of that verse in the original Hebrew literally is ‘they have no stumbling block’.

The surrendered child of God finds that there is no more room for panic or desperation in his life, no matter how terrifying the outward situation may seem. His confidence in God’s presence always at his right hand is rock firm and he remains unshaken until he is out of the danger.

‘I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.’   Psalm 16:8

He will see that the danger that came to cause him to stumble has stumbled itself and fallen into destruction.

‘The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked came against me to eat up my flesh, my enemies and foes, they stumbled and fell. Though an army may encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war may rise against me in this I will be confident.’   Psalm 27:1-3

This message, already so long, will not end even after a 100 pages if I were to write more of the fruits of a surrendered life. But I will close this part with one more fruit of the fully surrendered life, a fruit that brings goosebumps and adds immeasurable thrill to my personal life every single day. I don’t have a dictionary name for it, but I call it variously as the ‘Wonder Years’ or the ‘Wonder Moments’.

A child between the ages of 6 and 10 begins to explore and discover all of nature around him. A first sight of a grasshopper, a wild flower in full blossom that he has never seen before, a multicolored bird on the lemon tree outside his bedroom, his first gaze at a star-spangled night sky – everything he sees, hears, and feels is a ‘wonder’ experience for him – that is, it brings an overflowing sense of wonderment in him.

In my younger days, I used to occasionally watch a tv series called ‘The Wonder Years’. It was about a 11 or 12 year old boy discovering one by one life’s wondrous experiences. And that exactly is how a person who has abandoned himself totally to  Christ feels every single day – even when he is going through big troubles. He ponders what he sees and experiences of God’s creation and feels a continual sense of amazement at God’s handiwork. He contemplates the institution of the relationship between man and woman, between parent and child, between God and man, and cannot cease praising God for his creative abilities, and above all for his love that caused him to make all these things for man in the first place.

No matter how old a person is when he surrenders his life to his Creator, he will start feeling the Wonder Years in him from the very year he begins to follow Christ in unconditional surrender. His youthfulness is renewed in his spirit and emotions to such an extent that even physical youths will find it hard to match his zeal and vigor of daily living.

‘Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like an eagle, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.’   Isaiah 40:30-31

Yep, the renewed man or woman feels they are soaring high through life like a swiftly gliding eagle under the skies. Yep, the youthful person, even in his or her senior years, can run and not feel weary, and, oh yes, they can walk with a spring to their steps, and not faint even if they walk seven kilometers without stopping to rest.

The fully surrendered person feels so youthful he wants to take up new hobbies and recreations which seemed daunting or wearisome activities to him in his earlier life. I got a guitar at the age of 13, and I would strum on it now and then and try to learn a few chords. I never could summon the perseverance and stamina to sit through a proper training course to learn this instrument. Then, in my 58th year, I took up the guitar again, which I had taken up in vain nearly half a century earlier. I started literally from scratch – that is, initially the sounds felt like someone scratching on the strings. But this time, with the Holy Spirit as my encourager, I persevered and learned my first scale. Soon, amazing things were happening to my fingers and my muses. I was composing original melodies, and I was trying to imitate the shredding speed of guitar virtuosos like Yngwie Malmsteen. In just two years, in my 60th year,  I have become a reasonably good player who is even considering giving some public performances if I get the opportunity. ‘But those who wait on the Lord shall mount up with’ strings like the Eagles. They shall strum and not be weary.

Praise God for his wonder life in his surrendered children!

 

Pappa Joseph

 

End of Part 1 of ‘You will be trapped in your troubles…until you surrender unconditionally’.  Click here to go to Part 2.

 

 

“I’m Not As Steady At Walking”

by John Elliot

 

I love life’s varied pursuits – flying, scuba diving, skiing, sailing, travel, archeology, hiking, producing videos and computing.

I enjoyed these besides being a husband and father and having a demanding career. Life held so many possibilities, so many activities, so many opportunities.

Pursuing an active life had been second nature to me. With my optimism, good health and eyesight and the many opportunities I had been blessed with, I found new challenges a normal part of life. One day I was responsible for several hundred people in a large region, the next I was disabled and replaced.

But things change

Today I live in a retirement community. This period of my life has brought limitations to my participation in many former activities.

I am not steady enough to fly now and problems with vertigo prevent me from scuba diving safely. Skiing causes trauma to a deteriorated back vertebra, as does carrying a rucksack.

I am not as steady at walking and exercise becomes impossible at times. Some days I have had trouble remembering obvious things, like my best friend’s name or the street I live on – and I am only 38.

Disabled (temporarily I hope) from whiplash in a car accident, I find my physical problems have steadily increased in intensity. They came upon me rapidly and at first I rejected them. I viewed them with contempt as I tried vigorously to fight them off.

My approach mimicked that of others I had seen who had fought encroaching limitations, like some who had been placed in old people’s homes, or friends who had become increasingly deaf or blind, or who had contracted a debilitating disease.

When limitations beset us, we often feel as though we are being drawn into a chasm from which we cannot extricate ourselves. Accident victims despair at the permanence of their physical handicaps. The elderly find it intolerable to lose the sharpness of the 5 senses.

Limitations are confused with lack of personal worth. It is hard to resist bitterness towards the hand life had dealt you. The thrill of former victories can transform into the agony of defeat.

The restrictions you find yourself under add to the trauma. These can be the end of a job. The loss of independently moving about and handling one’s affairs, the loss of the privilege to drive a vehicle and even the loss of personal bodily functions.

Now instead of extending helping hands, you are the recipient of helping hands. Your immediate reaction is to reject them, refusing to accept your restricted state.

How often I have heard the elderly and the disabled tell of their anguish over the limitations that gradually overtake them. I have always tried to be understanding of their plight. Now I am experiencing some of it.

Disability, if striking unexpectedly, whether from ageing, disease or accident, can be very unsettling. One moment you are reaching for the stars, then the earth falls away from under you.

Today, as I write, no boss calls to direct what I do or where I go. The pressing day’s activities have been replaced with endless quiet hours to fill.

It reminds me of the retired Navy admiral across the street. One day he directed policy from the top. The next, he was a retired private citizen. How rapid some changes can be.

The real problem

No matter what your limitation, there is only one real problem. Your attitude towards it. You can either be the ‘town grump’ over the disability you have or focus on all the limitations you do not have.

For instance, as the president of a deaf society says, ‘Deaf people can do anything, expect hear’. And, in effect, paraplegics can do anything, except walk; the blind can do anything, except see.

The same is true for you and me. We can do anything, except for the few limitations we have and they often are not totally restrictive. For instance, you are either reading or listening to a tape of this magazine right now.

That means you can pursue a degree or be a counselor to your grandchildren, a big brother to a parentless child, or a volunteer for special services.

A paraplegic has been president of the United States, quadriplegics have written valuable books, among other things. They just removed their biggest handicap – their attitude towards their disability.

Success became reality when they responded to challenges. You and I can too.

I may not be able to drive a car now, but others help me get where I need to go. I cannot work a 12-hour day now, but I can work one or 2 hours.

I may have difficulty with public speaking, but I can write. I am a better listener to others with problems and I have more compassion for and better understanding of the problems so many others face today.

A matter of focus

To focus on your own problems to the exclusion of others’ is destructive. Your condition can be so confounding, so frustrating that it occupies much of your thoughts. Too much in fact, causing you to ignore other important matters of life: interaction with family and friends, or benevolent actions to others facing crises, your personal and spiritual development and your enjoyment of life and the world around you.

I recently realized I had forgotten I was an avid flower gardener. For years I enjoyed raising annuals and perennials. In the frustration of my shackles, I have been too preoccupied to think of such an ‘unimportant’ hobby.

Last week, some blooms caught my eye and I realized I was overlooking some of life’s priorities. I had been overlooking other things too. And other people.

A burden to others?

‘I am just a burden to everyone now.’ Did you ever say that about yourself? We all feel that way sometimes.

Yet, I can tell you who are a burden – people who care only about themselves, or those who intentionally feed off the goodwill of others; or those who are ungrateful, complaining and selfish. Such are burdens to everyone irrespective of their state of health.

Not those elderly who have a story and a smile for children; not those in wheelchairs who help others have a better day; not my nearly deaf friend whose subordinates salute him for making their lives better at work. Nor the person who, even in blindness, added spark to a whole town. No, a giving person is a treasure.

New beginnings

Rather than look back at what we cannot do any more, how about finding things we can do? I am researching a master’s thesis in archaeology. I have taken up a new form of flying and I often try to fly between the radio masts on top of the Word Trade Centre, or under the Golden Gate Bridge. I usually crash, but I did make it once. I fly a computer flight simulator.

If we work around our limitations, life can still be full and rich with purpose and meaning. Life did not necessarily deal us an impossible hand. Oh, it may not be a royal flush, but that just adds to the challenge.

Something else you can do is show off a little. Show your wife or husband, your family, your neighbors what you can do. In so doing, show others an example of how to handle those limitations that eventually come to everybody.

 

 

“Help, Lord, For the Godly Man Ceases!”

There are very few good men left in this generation. So choose your paths on earth carefully, and tread with caution where the wicked traverses your path.

Photo Courtesy: bikesandwich – flickr.com

‘Help, Lord, for the godly man ceases!
For the faithful disappear from among the sons of men.’

I am writing these words of David, after having uttered them myself a little while ago as I rode my motorcycle back home from a trip to the town. I encountered several drivers on the highway who had scant regard for the safety of others; their one intent was to get their own way, even if they have to overtake a vehicle in a dangerous manner though they could see a car heading toward them in the opposite direction, or even if they have to cross a junction in the middle of a red signal, or even if they have to shove this puny bike rider to the side by driving frighteningly close to me so I would move over to the hard shoulder so they could bypass me more quickly.

The highway is one of the most popular grounds for profane people to vent their feelings of hate and anger at others. When a vehicle comes in the way of another, the most common reaction of the latter is an angry honk, or a vulgar finger sign, or some swearing, or usually all of them together. The percentage of drivers, of good people, who don’t have any of these negative reactions when somebody gets in their way, is decreasing dramatically each year.

As the world tailspins into its last days, the lives of ordinary people are becoming the growing target of marauders, assaulters, swindlers, and hostile men. The streets of the cities in many countries are no more safe for women at any time. I wrote in another message of how a group of men abducted a woman from a public transport in India in daylight even though the woman was escorted by a male companion. This is a new phenomenon in my country. Such incidents, say the Bible, are only going to increase each year in our generation which is witnessing the endtime signs.

‘But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God…Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.’   2 Tim 3:1-4,12-13

In the workplace, in the shopping malls, in the public parks, in the entertainment halls, in the sports arena – in all these places, if you keep a keen eye, you can observe the growing number of thoughtless and selfish acts by people who show little regard or courtesy to the people around them.

We are living in a dangerous world. God’s people must daily pray for their and their loved ones’ constant protection wherever they go. As each year passes and the world gets even more unsafe, you should exercise great caution if you plan to attend certain public events.

Spectator events such as sports and carnivals are prime places for demons to run riot. Most of the spectators are not Christians who live by what the Bible has instructed them. Most of them live by whatever their emotions urge them at the moment. Where there is a crowd of such people, evil spirits get into a frenzy among them, like sharks get into a deadly frenzy at the smell of blood. Anything could happen then that may endanger your life or modesty. Stampede, riot, fight, molestation, terrorist attack.

My advice to you, child of God, for these last days: avoid spectator events as much as possible. Drive defensively, with constant alertness against some Godless driver ahead of you or behind you who might unexpectedly do something that could risk your life. Walk on the streets with a prayer on your lips, especially if you are a woman. Women should never go alone to a theater or a sports event or carnival. You, if you are a woman, should never travel alone as a tourist in any country, even your own. Do you know what happened to Dinah, the daughter of one of God’s greatest men, Jacob, when she went out alone to visit some women of the new land where she and the rest of her family had recently settled? You may read the shocking story in Genesis 34.

On the road, give way to the other driver, if he seems impatient, even if you have the right of way. Give way, give room, avoid righteous confrontation of any kind, show extra courtesy to the discourteous, return soft words, such as ‘sorry’, for hard obscenities hurled at you.

Above all, daily ask God to preserve you and your loved ones from the acts and devices of the unruly and faithless people in whose midst you live and move around.

‘Help, O Lord, for the godly are fast disappearing!
The faithful have vanished from the earth!
Neighbors lie to each other, speaking with flattering lips and deceitful hearts.
May the Lord cut off their flattering lips and silence their boastful tongues.
They say, “We will lie to our hearts’ content. Our lips are our own – who can stop us?”
The Lord replies, “I have seen violence done to the helpless, and I have heard the groans of the poor. Now I will rise up to rescue them, as they have longed for me to do.”
The Lord’s promises are pure, like silver refined in a furnace, purified seven times over. Therefore, Lord, we know you will protect the oppressed, preserving them forever from this lying generation, even though the wicked strut about, and evil is praised throughout the land.’   Psalm 12 NLT

 

Pappa Joseph

 

 

Do The Opposite Of What You Naturally Want To Do

 

A Godly old woman I know had a constant problem. She had a maid who came daily in the morning and took care of all the cooking and other home chores. The old woman was fully satisfied with her maid in all aspects of her work, except in one area. Every day when the maid returned to her home, she took away with her a generous portion of the foodstuff she found in the aged woman’s house. Now the maid had all the freedom to eat as much as she liked where she worked. And the kindly old lady had never refused anything that the maid had asked her. So when such generous treatment was given to the maid, it became an unbearable thought that she should want to daily pilfer from her employer.

The Godly old woman began to lose sleep over this problem. Day by day, her thoughts about the maid’s behavior rankled her more and more. After a month or so, she became acutely obsessed with the maid’s behavior and not being able to do anything about it. Of course, she could dismiss the maid, but she didn’t want to do that. Once when I met her, she was in an especial state of dejection. For the maid had now taken away a good chunk of the special cookies the old woman had carefully kept in her biscuit box for visitors. The situation was getting out of hand, and the old woman was ever more agitated.

I told her, ‘Next time thoughts of her pilfering comes to your mind, bless God that you are able to provide her the pilfered food’.

She stared into my pupils. This was obviously an alien concept to her.

‘I will give her all the food she wants if she asks me, but I cannot tolerate her stealing food from me.’

‘Try that solution anyway’, I coaxed her. ‘When next time anger swells up in you at what she is doing to you, suppress that feeling and force yourself to thank God she has taken some food home.’

‘God has blessed you with abundance’, I continued, ‘so much that her pilfering doesn’t make you go hungry. And God is able to return twice as much as she pilfers from you. Enjoy her pilfering in the thought that you can afford to provide her what she wants even if that provision is by her own theft.’

The Godly old woman was confused but bemused at the novel solution I offered. She assured me she will give it a try.

While not many of us have to daily deal with a thief in our home, we encounter situations in our workplace that require a similar solution: Doing the opposite of what our natural inclinations urge us to do.

We realize a colleague has spoken ill of us behind our backs. Rebuke in your mind, or even aloud, the offended emotions that make you resent him and want to get even with him. Force the noxious thoughts to give way to deliberate thoughts of forgiveness, asking God to enable you to do so. Grab your reluctant mind by its scruff and force into it the words, ‘Lord, bless him who did that wrong to me!’ Yes, you have to exert mental and emotional violence against your kicking and struggling thoughts to crucify them and give birth to Godly thoughts. You see, the natural inclination to forgive any wrong done to us is anathema to our original human nature. Which is why James tell us to ‘take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ’.1

Or, say, a time waster comes over to where you sit and not only wastes your precious work time but bores you to the core with his babblings. The natural response varies from person to person. Some smile and endure the pain reverberating from their tympanums. Some shoo him or her away at the first opportunity. But the common emotion driving all these responses is the same. It’s dislike, scorn, impatience, hate. Now the Godly solution is to put your precious work aside and take captive the thoughts of scorn and impatience and willfully release the thoughts of goodwill toward the person damaging your aural apparatus.

Thomas, my fellow villager, is a unique character in every sense of the word. He has the capability to never discern even the clearest signs of unwelcome in the person he has managed to stall with his inquisitive words.

Once, very early in the morning, when the birds hadn’t yet tired of their morning chorus, came Thomas over to my place and leaned on the doorbell…until I forced myself to emerge out of my comfy blanket, and groggily headed to the door, thinking that only something of urgent import could announce itself so early in the morning and with such persevering tintinnabulation2.

On opening the door, it was a grinning Thomas. I gave him a piece of my natural mind, and went back to bed.

Photo Courtesy: Ivy Dawned – flckr.com

Over the next few months, I had to undergo further intensive training by the Holy Spirit in dealing with the natural mind. Less than a year later, Thomas, never known to give up a targeted victim, appeared at the door again at around the same time of the morning. This time the spiritual mind was ready, having knuckled the natural thoughts back into the abyss from which they came.

I smiled at seeing the horror. I mean, I really smiled from the heart. Then, opening the door wider, I greeted my tormentor warmly, and sat down to what I thought was going to be an unending hour with him.

Strangely, either because Thomas became uncomfortable with my strange response, or because of my own new mental disposition, the hour quickly came to end, and Thomas bid me good-bye.

I very seldom see him these days, and whenever I do, even my natural feelings naturally give way to my positive thoughts, so that I really look forward to meeting him now. And Thomas himself seems a changed man. He just doesn’t seem such a boring person anymore – and this is the man from whom I had in the past literally hid myself behind a bush or ducked my head whenever I espied him a 100 meters away.

There is a natural man in us which Christ’s followers had renounced and crucified when they accepted Jesus as their Savior and Lord. But the natural man, which Paul calls the ‘old man’, is often capable of wrenching himself free and  taking captive our feelings and thoughts of our ‘inward man’ for a short while. This was what Paul experienced often.

‘I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.’  Rom 7:21-23

When we detect the natural man back in our minds, we must put on the spiritual man back with vigor, and we must deliberately and willfully do the opposite of what our old nature instigates us to do. And we can do it only through Jesus Christ – by appealing to our Lord to repossess our minds.

‘O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death [from my natural man]?’ cries Paul. And he answers himself immediately:

‘I thank God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!’  Rom 7:24-25

God’s law of love never fails to eventually work dramatic changes in the affected person – both the one who loves and the one who is loved. When you force yourself to keep giving kind thoughts and kind acts, sooner or later they come back to you in the full measure you gave – plus some.

‘Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that you mete withal it shall be measured to you again.’  Luke 6:38 KJV

 

Pappa Joseph

 

1 2 Cor 10:5 NIV
2 A ringing or tinkling sound.

“You don’t appreciate a lot of things until you come very, very close to losing them”

Rape victims in Dem. Rep. Congo

That title quote is from the novel The Last Days of America by Paul E Erdman. The book is a frightening tale of how an economic crisis could lead to major political upheavals and shifts in the global balance of powers, and bring civilization as we know it to the brink of extinction by nuclear holocaust. When people realize they don’t have much time anymore to enjoy the everyday mundane benefits and facilities they had always taken for granted, they begin for the first time to realize what precious blessings these amenities had been all along. Open the tap, and there is always water flowing out for use to your heart’s content. Gasoline running low in your car…just take it to the gas station around the corner, and ‘fill ’er up’. Your kitchen cupboard needs to be replenished? Just call the grocery and they deliver it right at your doorstep, until…

Until these seemingly little facilities and services suddenly stop, and people are desperately trying to flee a city to escape impending devastation by invading forces. Or there is a deadly earthquake, and the most pressing thought of the people is not how to best spend the evening out, but how to find some unpolluted water to drink and where to find some safe shelter for the night. Or there is a roaring tide of water heading toward your house and your only thought is how best to keep your children from being swept away in the tsunami. Today, thank God, none of these things are happening to you or me. And we can continue to enjoy our daily blessings to the full. But for millions of others, these daily little appurtenances of modern civilization is the difference between survival and death.

I was in a Middle East country during the first Gulf war. When the conflict broke out, the countries close to the war zone began to quaver in fearful anticipation. Throughout the city, common household commodities like bottled water were quickly swept off the supermarket shelves. My close two colleagues and I made plans to flee to our home countries. One of them, a young man in his twenties had recently married his beautiful sweetheart. All the battle scenes on CNN, and all the usual frenzy of a battle brought in edited form to us through the media somehow made the whole war somewhat surreal for this young colleague. You know how it is…soldiers tat-tat-tatting away their enemies with their AK-47s, the explosions and vehicles thrown twenty feet into the air, a plane on a strafing pass at the convoy below… the sounds and colors can raise the adrenalin level in one who hasn’t actually seen these actions in real life. But when these sounds and sights are happening a few miles outside your door, you have a different perception of them altogether.

To put him in the right perspective, I asked my newly married colleague, ‘Do you know what is the first thing invading soldiers normally do on entering a city?’ He didn’t. So I told him: they enter apartments in groups and gang-rape any woman of any age they find there. My colleague’s countenance dropped. He now seemed more eager than any of us to get out of the country as fast as we could. [As I review this message some years later, I just read on the CNN website of a well-dressed middle-aged Libyan woman who burst into a Tripoli hotel to tell the journalists there that she had been raped and beaten by Gadhafi’s militia. She sobbed and said she was held against her will for two days and raped by fifteen men.]

A few days after the great tsunami of 2004, I visited one of the most tragically devastated areas in India. I met two survivors – a handsome man and his pretty wife, both in their twenties. Six months ago they had the fruit of their love union in their hands, a baby girl. They showed me her photo. Just like any other cute smiling baby you see on a parenting magazine’s front cover. On the day of the tsunami, they were dandling their precious gift in their arms, when the wave smashed through their walls and swept the little one away forever from their arms.

Readers do not usually want to hear these tragic tales. But I have mentioned them here in the hope that at least occasionally you may deeply reflect on the daily prosaic happenings…as daylight gives in to dusk and you reach out to press the light switch and the whole room is lit up in cheerful hues; or as you stroll on the street pavement with your wife and kids and do not have to fear any sniper’s bullet…pause a moment to ponder, and be thankful.

 

Pappa Joseph