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

Surrender of Republican Soldiers, Somosierra, Madrid 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 Tm 6:12; Ep 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 a surfeit 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 or she wears and es 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 es repentance. At repentance, a person realizes that he or she 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 es death is the symbol of es 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 or she can obey God by the keeping of all his commandments. E knows that if e breaks just one of them, e breaks them all Jm 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”.  Rm 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”.  Mt 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.  Lk 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, you give up your 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.  Lk 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 Cor 9:5

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

And again I say to you, 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.”  Mt 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 expect 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 someday in your life.  Mt 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, then 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 your life is not moving in the direction you want; tension and pressure in your job; lack of zeal and zest in your daily activities; workaholism, 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 symptoms, whatever they are, are deadly in their eventual consequences.

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.  Jn 14:27

A surrendered person can never be overcome by depression. He would certainly get 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 es daily peace and joy of living. Depression, while it may cast its old ugly shadow over em occasionally, will never again be able to influence the thoughts and actions of the one who has surrendered totally to Christ.

Since my surrender to Christ – twelve 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 two 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 the purpose of their lives. They dont know where they are eventually headed. I know with absolute certainty what my life purpose is, and I know with absolute clarity where my life is headed. 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 or her 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 expounded 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.  Ps 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.   Ps 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 es life, no matter how terrifying the outward situation may seem. Es confidence in God’s presence always at es right hand is rock firm and e remains unshaken until e 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.  Ps 16:8

He or she will see that the danger that came to cause em 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.  Ps 27:1-3

This message, already so long, will not end even after a hundred 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 six and ten begins to explore and discover all of nature around em. A first sight of a grasshopper, a wildflower in full blossom that e has never seen before, a multicolored bird on the lemon tree outside es bedroom, es first gaze at a star-spangled night sky – everything he or she sees, hears, and feels is a ‘wonder’ experience for em – that is, it brings an overflowing sense of wonderment in em.

In my younger days, I used to occasionally watch a tv series called ‘The Wonder Years’. It was about an eleven- or twelve-year-old boy discovering one by one life’s wondrous experiences. And that exactly is how a person who has abandoned emself totally to  Christ feels every single day – even when he or she is going through big troubles. E ponders what e sees and experiences of God’s creation and feels a continual sense of amazement at God’s handiwork. E 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 or she surrenders es life to es Creator, e will start feeling the Wonder Years in em from the very year e begins to follow Christ in unconditional surrender. His or her youthfulness is renewed in es spirit and emotions to such an extent that even physical youths will find it hard to match es 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.  Is 40:30-31

Yep, the renewed man or woman feels e is 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, e can walk with a spring to es steps, and not faint even if e treks eight kilometers up a mountain trail without stopping to rest, as I did a few weeks ago in my sixty-eighth year.

The fully surrendered person feels so youthful he or she wants to take up new hobbies and recreations which seemed daunting or wearisome activities to em in es earlier life. I got a guitar at the age of thirteen, 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 fifty-eighth year, I picked up a guitar again, after doing so in vain nearly half a century earlier. I was not a whit better in producing some pleasant sounds from the instrument than I was five decades ago. 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. Within a year, I was composing original melodies, and even attempting to shred in the style of guitar virtuosos like Yngwie Malmsteen. Today, I consider my ability to play the guitar one of the great accomplishments in my life, a skill which I began to acquire in my senior years. Indeed, those who wait on the Lord shall mount up with strings like the Eagles; they shall strum and not be weary; they shall shred and not fail.

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 aging, 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 anymore, 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 World 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.

 

Reprinted by the permission of Grace Communion International.

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

There are very few good men and women 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 who don’t show 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, on the streets, in the entertainment halls, in the sports arena, on tv, in movies – if you keep a keen eye you can observe how people are increasingly becoming inconsiderate of others, greedy for money, unloving, unforgiving, without self-control, violent, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.

This generation is living in a perilous age when vile people are becoming ‘worse and worse’. Therefore, those who want to live an upright life 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 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 good 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 Paul tells us to ‘take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ’.  2 Cor 10:5 NIV

Or, say, a tedious person 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 irking your aural senses.

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 tintinnabulation ringing sound.

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, my natural feelings give way, without a struggle, 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 hundred 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 the 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.   Rm 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. We can oppose our natural man’s responses if we always appeal to our Savior to intervene and transform our attitudes.

‘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:

Thanks be to God [for my deliverance] through Jesus Christ our Lord!   Rm 7:24-25 AMP

It is God himself who will deliver us from our natural man. When, with God’s help, 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 the offending person – 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.   Lk 6:38 KJV

 

Pappa Joseph

 

 

Because He First Loved Us, Let Us Love Him First

 

If you are a parent, do you recall the time when your eyes first beheld your newborn child lying naked and helpless beside es mother?  The child was your own, issued from your own body and that of your wife. Even if the child knew you not then, your love for him or her was beyond words.  This little piece of living flesh had already received the full measure of your love even before e had grown up to know you and love you in return. If need be, you would have even given up your life without a second thought to save your just-arrived baby’s life.

This, beloved child of God, is how our Father in heaven felt toward us in the day that we were first born into the world. In fact, if God’s words are true, he says that his love for man far exceeds the natural and instinctive love of a mother toward her child. Is 49:15 I am speaking about our physical birth into this world, not our spiritual ‘born again’ experience.

We were born in the filthiness of our sins, inherited from our first parents when they sinned against God and inherited all the curses of life. We were lumps of filthy clay imbued with the life given directly from the person of God. This life is a very part of God himself, and God just cannot help but love you and me from the time of our conception. We could say it is an instinctive and unconditional love comparable and yet far exceeding the instinctive and unconditional love we have for our own children. This is how much God has loved every single child born into this world from the time of Adam and Eve. A beautiful analogy of this incredible love and compassion is given in the Bible:

On the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to make you clean, nor were you rubbed with salt or wrapped in clothes. No one looked on you with pity or had compassion enough to do any of these things for you. Rather, you were thrown out into the open field, for on the day you were born you were despised.   Eze 16:4-5 NLT

Naturally. We were conceived in sin because of the original sin of our parents that was passed on in our human nature and genes from generation to generation. We were as good as dead – hastening to our grave from the second we were conceived – born into this world for a just a few years before we forever perish from all trace of existence. But the Creator looked on the absolutely helpless tiny life on the day of our birth and his heart overflowed with tender affection and excitement for this new creation of his.

Then I passed by and saw you kicking about in your blood, and as you lay there in your blood I said to you, “Live!” I made you grow like a plant of the field.   Eze 16:6-7 NLT

God wants everyone who was born to live forever – everyone born into this world of every race – Indian, Chinese, African, European, American, Arab, Aborigine, and every other race of mankind. He loves each one of them so much that long before the creation of earth he had already planned a way of redemption for mankind in case they fell into sin. The only way the Creator could redeem his children from eternal condemnation was to give up his own life as a penalty for man’s sin. His one life could redeem the total of humanity, because all humanity have their existence in his one life. And so God, in the person of Jesus Christ, came into this world to die for us and to save us.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.   Jn 3:16

That’s how much our Father has always loved you and me from our birth, before we ever came to know anything about our Creator.

We who have been called to the body of Christ as firstfruits have been set aside from the rest of the world for an awesome purpose, so that through us Christ may bring his salvation to the rest of the world. And so we the spiritual Israelites grew up in the tender care of God while the rest of the world was allowed to continue in their wicked ways for the time being.

Each of us saved by God received the knowledge of our Savior in our own particular way. Perhaps because our parents were earnest Christians we grew up to be followers of Christ. Perhaps through the influence of a Christian friend. Whatever the manner of our coming to know God, we all came to accept Christ as our Savior and called ourselves by his name, ‘Christian’, which means ‘belonging to Christ’. But like unfaithful Israel and betrayous Judah, most who profess Christianity have forgotten their roots and have turned away to serve other gods. Am I being unfactual in using the phrase ‘most who profess Christianity’? Observe the lives of the ‘Christians’ – people who have been born into Christian families – in your neighborhood, in your workplace, how many of them do you know whose lives are centered around Christ, and who are willing to give up everything in life, even their lives, if necessary, to remain faithful to God?

If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes, even his own life – he cannot be my disciple.   Lk 14:26

Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.’   Lk 14:33

What does ‘hate his father and mother’ mean here? Mat 10:37 makes it obvious: ‘Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me…’

This is the absolute condition for being a true Christian. This is the absolute condition for entering the Kingdom of God. This is the only criterion of true conversion. One iota less than this absolute condition will not do.

Do not let any preacher, any church teach you errantly that any condition less than this will enable you to be accepted by Christ as his follower. Just because you have been baptized, because you are an active member of your church, because you believe all the teachings of Christ, and even because you obey him and keep his commandments zealously, you don’t become a Christian. If in your heart and thoughts you are not fully convinced you are willing to give up even your father and mother and wife and children and your own life, if necessary to be faithful to God, you can never be looked upon by Christ as a Christian, as someone belonging to him. Either Jesus meant exactly what he stated, or he meant something else. Let your own understanding and sincerity determine that.

Does then giving up everything in life to follow Christ mean that like Buddha you leave your beloved family and your responsibilities in the family and go away to some remote corner of the earth and proclaim Christ? The Holy Spirit is our true teacher of the Word of God. Let him show us what Christ meant by this condition of discipleship.

Jesus meant that he is a most jealous God and Spouse.3 He will not in the least entertain a rival affection in your heart. His jealousy is like the jealousy of a righteous husband when his wife begins to shower more affection on other men than on him. It is a jealousy based on true unfailing love. A jealousy that is directed for the good of the one loved. God first loved us long before our parents and wife and children were even remotely in our thoughts. He gave us life and eternal hope. He gave himself for us before we even knew about him. And he wants us for himself and himself alone forever. Everything else he allows us to have in this life is like a fringe benefit, like the icing on a cake. Good to be enjoyed and appreciated for their limited value but could never begin to compare with the value of the real thing.

God wants us to make him our first love because he first loved us before everyone else and because he chose to love us unconditionally when we were without hope and squirming in our own filth waiting to perish eternally. If God loved us so much when we were still in our filthiness, how much more must he now love and rejoice over us who have begun to love him in return, though we be full of filthiness still!

O Christian, do you see how you should relate to such a God?  This is how: We should probe our every thought and intent and see if indeed God is our only basic love and happiness. If he allows us to have a little bit of fringe happiness in the form of our marriage and family and other temporal blessings, let’s enjoy them as long as we are given them. But the basis, the foundation, of all our happiness is God himself. Unless we can say with absolute conviction that the basis of all our happiness is God himself, we haven’t reached there yet.

If today all our fringe benefits are taken away from us, and every security structure vanishes from under us and we are left with God and God alone, how will we respond? Is your Christianity steadfast as long as you have certain basic conditions met in your life? Or will you continue to be faithful to him in any and every circumstance that he allows in your life? This is what our Savior desires to know about you above everything else.  And he will withhold every blessing, if need be, and allow you to go through every kind of suffering until he is convinced to his full satisfaction – and you too are in your conscience – that you are his alone.

Every trial, every affliction that comes to a child of God is for the sole purpose of drawing the person closer to God and of causing him to make God his first love and first joy. Remember, the Lord has promised that he will never leave you nor forsake you. He will never allow you to suffer beyond what you are able to endure.4 But that could sometimes mean that you might be left with nothing in this life except your joy in God and the basic material provisions for your survival. You could be left, as Baruch was, with just this one promise of God:

I will overthrow what I have built and uproot what I have planted, throughout the land. Should you then seek great things for yourself? Seek them not. For I will bring disaster on all people, declared the Lord, but wherever you go I will let you escape with your life.   Jer 45: 4-5

When the Lord begins to overthrow and uproot every idol in your life that’s competing with your Savior for your affection, your love and your time, that’s when you begin to see if you really belong to him.

Are you perhaps serving the Lord like an earnest minister of Christ did for many years until the Lord wanted to really know if this minister loved him literally more than anything else in this life? Here, listen to this eye-opening true story of a servant of God, as narrated by a pastor who knew him:

When I was a young pastor, I went to visit a man who had been one of my “heroes” and a friend. He had been the pastor of large churches, an author of some note and a famous evangelical leader. I went to visit him because he had just been told that he was dying of cancer.

I was very young and had not, to that point, found out that God’s servants also have “feet of clay”. An older friend who had been to see him almost every day subsequent to the diagnosis of cancer tried to prepare me for my visit. He said, “Steve, have you ever had all your security structure taken away? Have you ever been without any hope? Have you ever had every dream shattered and every desire destroyed?”

I admitted that I had never experienced that kind of pain.

“Then,” he said, “be careful that you don’t judge too harshly when you see one of your heroes broken, bitter and without any hope”.
Source: ‘When Cliches Don’t Work’ by Steve Brown – The Plain Truth Online, September-October 1998

Is your only security structure your Savior Jesus Christ? Is your only dream to live and die for Christ, who died for you? Is your only hope the eternal joy that awaits you when your Lord comes? If you cannot affirmatively answer from your heart any of these questions, you are at risk of being broken, bitter and without any hope sooner or later.

Beloved of God, are you willing to forsake everything, even your own life if need be, to follow Christ? Until you are absolutely sure of this, you can never be absolutely sure you are a true Christian in God’s sight. Before you decide to want to be a true Christian, you are told to sit down and count the cost.

Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?…In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.   Lk 14:28,33

But the most joyful news is, we have a Helper who can and will do for us exceedingly far more than all we ask or imagine. Eph 3:20 We need never fear we will fail to measure up to God’s expectations.  We need never fear if we will be able to cope with all that God would demand of us to be his own.  My life is a great testimony to the tenderness of God.  The harshness of the Christian life is only the initial growth pains. And we ourselves are responsible for prolonging it, because we delay committing our lives wholly to him. When we have proved that God indeed is our first love and have demonstrated it by being willing to give up our happiness based on everything in this life, then we begin to receive our joy from the Lord himself, then we begin to receive from him a hundredfold and more of all that we had given up.   Jn 15:11, Mt 19:29, Mk 10:29,30

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrated his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us…For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!

This is how we know what love is:  Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

We love him, because he first loved us.   Rm 5:6-10, 1 Jn 3:1,16; 4:10,19

Let us therefore love him first, above everyone and everything else,  above our family, above our own life, because he first loved us and gave up his life to save us from eternal death, and has given us eternal life in Christ.

 

Pappa Joseph