A Great Leader in the Church, but a Failure at Home


Image by Monika Robak from Pixabay


Among the greatest Godly leaders mentioned in the Bible are also the greatest failures as fathers. That seems like an impossible paradox. How can a man be great in his relationship with God while he is an utter failure in his home? But the mystery of truth is that such paradoxes do happen.

I haven’t taken a count yet, but it seems to me that there are more failed fathers and husbands among the Bible heroes than there are those who have successfully parented their children and happily spoused their wives.

The greatest failure as a father and a husband is one of the greatest men of God, David. Is there any other Godly man whose many sons, every one of them, turned out to be unGodly? The one seeming exception, Solomon, was an exception only in his younger days, for in his old age he too turned to idolatry. Worse, he fathered children who were even more profane than his brothers.

The second greatest failure as a father, among other Bible greats, is Samuel. This man is so great in God’s sight that he is one of the two persons (the other is Moses) given special mention by the Lord.

Then the Lord said to me, “Even if Moses and Samuel stood before Me, My mind would not be favorable toward this people”   Jer 15:1

Now let’s hear what God’s Word says about the outcome of Samuel’s parenting ways.

Now it came to pass when Samuel was old that he made his sons judges over Israel. The name of his firstborn was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judges in Beersheba. But his sons did not walk in his ways; they turned aside after dishonest gain, took bribes, and perverted justice. Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, “Look, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.”  1 Sam 8:1-5

The wickedness of Samuel’s sons was the direct cause for Israel’s desiring a human king and rejecting God as their king. Israel’s great King had been directly reigning over his people and administering his justice through human ‘judges’ he appointed in each generation. Samuel was the last judge of Israel, the last representative of Israel’s theocracy – the last one only because this great man of God did not have one righteous son to succeed him.

But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” So Samuel prayed to the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, “Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them”   1 Sam 8:6-7

Samuel’s childhood guardian, Eli, although not mentioned as a great servant of God, was nevertheless a priest and the judge of Israel prior to Samuel. His failure as a father caused the death of his two sons, which brought a tragic end to his own life.

Now the sons of Eli were corrupt; they did not know the Lord…Therefore the sin of the young men was very great before the Lord…Now Eli was very old; and he heard everything his sons did to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who assembled at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. So he said to them, “Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil dealings from all the people. No, my sons! For it is not a good report that I hear. You make the Lord’s people transgress. If one man sins against another, God will judge him. But if a man sins against the Lord, who will intercede for him?” Nevertheless they did not heed the voice of their father, because the Lord desired to kill them…Then the Lord said to Samuel…In that day I will perform against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. For I have told him that I will judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knows, because his sons made themselves vile, and he DID NOT restrain them…So the messenger answered and said, “Israel has fled before the Philistines, and there has been a great slaughter among the people. Also your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead; and the ark of God has been captured.” Then it happened, when he made mention of the ark of God, that Eli fell off the seat backward by the side of the gate; and his neck was broken and he died, for the man was old and heavy. And he had judged Israel forty years.’    1 Sam chapters 1-4. Emphasis mine.

Eli did admonish his sons now and then, but he did not do enough to restrain them. He totally failed in God’s sight as a parent.

As in ancient Israel, many leaders in God’s church in the present generation are so busily and faithfully engaged in doing the Lord’s work they don’t realize their home life is being seriously neglected.

Their children are being slowly lured away by the devil, their wives are secretly sorrowing. And someone or something will have to give way in the family lives of such leaders sooner or later.

In my native country, teeming with itinerant evangelists and local pastors, there is an impression in the general Christian community that many of them have children who are generally more wayward than children of parents not in the Lord’s work. Now this may not be a fair evaluation; perhaps only an infinitesimal fraction of church leaders may have begotten unruly offspring. But it certainly is a significant infinitesimal fraction. Just one pastor or priest failing as a father or a husband is sufficient for the devil to wreck much harm on the reputation of both his particular church and Christians in general in the eyes of the unbelieving public.

About three years ago I read of Benny Hinn’s divorce. A few months after his divorce, Benny Hinn said on his show ‘This is your Day’, that he was oftentimes ‘caught up with the ministry’ so much that he neglected his family. ‘I’ve made mistakes because I wasn’t the perfect husband and the perfect dad because I was always gone traveling the world,’ he remorsed. ‘That’s probably what broke the whole thing up.’

Hinn then told his viewers ‘not to neglect your family’, saying that the call of God should first touch the family.

Then recently I heard that the couple have been reconciled, and I heard Hinn declaring on his show: ‘I always thought that it was God first, then his ministry, and then my family. Now I realize that it is God first, my family second, and then God’s work’.

Benny Hinn is fortunate to have a reconciliation with his wife and the realization of the priorities in a minister’s life. But the tragedy is, too many other church leaders have not realized what Hinn had to discover painfully. Too many of them are unintentionally causing their children to turn to unrighteous ways. Too many of them are divorcing or having an unhappy marriage. I could give many examples, but don’t think that is necessary. You could easily have an idea of the scope of these sad realities in God’s church by an online search. But I wish to give one tragic example, just one that saddens me whenever I think of it.

It is the story of Jim Bakker and his wife, and their son.

Jim Bakker, as many of you may remember, was a famous televangelist in the 1970s and 80s. As has happened to many other faithful people of God, he once succumbed to the devil’s temptation, and his ministry and his reputation were totally destroyed. But worse, his family life was also splintered when his wife divorced him. God forgave his sins the moment he realized it and repented, which might have been immediately after his sinful act, or during his imprisonment. But he did repent.

‘My heart was crushed to think that I led so many people astray. I was appalled that I could have been so wrong, and I was deeply grateful that God had not struck me dead as a false prophet!’ said Jim in his 1996 book ‘I Was Wrong’.

But the public was not as quick to forgive him. And Jim faded from the annals of Christian evangelism. I did not hear of him again for a couple of decades, and then, a few years ago I read that he is back in the Lord’s service, full of the old gusto but with a new heart and a new zeal, and a new Jim Bakker Show – an hour-long daily broadcast that is aired throughout the United States, Canada, and other countries. I was happy for him.

Then, some months ago, I accidentally came across a video of a handsome young preacher and church leader. It was Jim Bakker’s son, Jay, co-founder of Revolution Church in New York City. Out of curiosity, I listened to his message…and I heard tragedy again. I heard him with my own ears declaring in his sermon: ‘I am pro-gay marriage. I don’t think it is a sin’.

Jim Bakker slipped once, repented, and now serves as a faithful minister of Christ. But the most tragic aspect of the story of his life is not related to his fall as a minister, but his failure as a father. His greatest sin may have been that he didn’t restrain his son from attitudes and ways that turned him into rejecting God’s Law relating to sexuality. Perhaps Jim may have restrained his son, I don’t know, but that didn’t prevent his offspring from not just condoning but actually promoting sin (by heading a ‘pro-gay’ ministry) in his congregation through his messages.

If a man desires to be a leader in Christ’s household, he should first prove his capability and earnestness to God by the way he rules his own household.

If anyone wants to provide leadership in the church, good! But there are preconditions: A leader must be well-thought-of, committed to his wife, cool and collected, accessible, and hospitable. He must know what he’s talking about, not be overfond of wine, not pushy but gentle, not thin-skinned, not money-hungry. He must rule his own household well, keeping his children under control, with true dignity, commanding their respect in every way and keeping them respectful. For if a man does not know how to rule his own household, how is he to take care of the church of God?’   1 Tm 3:1-3 The Message; 4-5 AMP

So, Christian worker – pastor, priest, preacher, evangelist, elder, deacon, Bible teacher, or a servant of Christ in some other field – how faithful have you been in the greatest aspect of the Lord’s ministry through you – bringing up your children in all Godliness and being a wonderful husband to the woman you married?

May the Lord direct your path into serving him both as a great servant of God and equally as a great father and husband.


Pappa Joseph



How to Discipline Your Children Without Future Remorse


There are five verses in the book of Proverbs the misreading of which led me astray in disciplining my children. I wish I had never read those verses. And yet I knew God wanted me to read them. But it was only after my three children outgrew their father’s discipline and went off to live their own happy lives that I began to understand what God meant by these verses:

He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him promptly.

Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of correction will drive it far from him.

Do not withhold correction from a child, For if you beat him with a rod, he will not die.

You shall beat him with a rod, And deliver his soul from hell.

The rod and rebuke give wisdom, But a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.   Pr 13:24;22:15;23:13-14;29:15

All five verses speak of the rod in disciplining a child. And so I kept one paddle for smacking my little kids’ seats and two thin switches for caning their legs. And I kept them on top of a cupboard in a conspicuous way so my children, even in their best behaviors, can always behold the terror that awaits them should they revert to any misbehavior.

The fears, impressions and perceptions of little children are as real to them as are the real terrors and horrors to adults. But rare indeed is the father who can perceive experiences through his children’s senses. But it is my earnest prayer that this message will be able to do just that – to encourage and guide fathers so they will be able to perceive the feelings of their little ones and turn their hearts to them, and thereby the hearts of the children will turn to their fathers in affection, respect, and bonding that will never diminish with age.

Today I am able to feel to the core of my senses, in my very bones and liver, exactly how my children felt each time they passed by the cupboard. It’s the same feeling that would sweep through me if this scenario were real: My Father takes a lightning rod from the many stocked in third heaven, and pointing to it, tells me, ‘Look, my son, I am doing this for your own good, so you never go astray and land in hot water. I have given you my laws and shown you the path of life; if ever I catch you breaking any, this bolt will zap your seat with such searing heat you would think seven times before you want to do it again’.

For the rest of my life that I would be under the tutorage of the law (Galatians 3:23-25), I would live in daily dread of the consequences of forgetting that’s there’s a rod awaiting my every breach of good conduct. This was how the ancient Israelites lived, under the constant cloud of a Disciplinarian (1 Corinthians 10:1), except that instead of a bolt from the blue on the seat, a merciless barrage of granite stones awaited the sinner’s head.

This is how the churches under the legalistic system live today. Under the constant fear of breaking the law and coming under the wrath of God. Praise our Savior that his blood was shed for our sins, and not our own! Jesus has taken all the wrath that was due us upon himself. There is no more wrath awaiting us, even if we slip and sin, for our Father will forgive us the instant we realize our slip and ask for forgiveness.

Our children should never, even for a moment, live under the hovering fear of the rod of punishment. The father or mother who takes a cane or a paddle or some other instrument of torture in the sight of their child, has not attained the emotional and spiritual maturity that God expects fathers and mothers to attain before they decide to bring forth a child to the world.

So why does the Bible recommend the rod of punishment for children? Because there are possibilities of situations arising where only the physical rod, and nothing else, can discipline a child. It is truly a rare possibility, and I can say with sufficient confidence that if you use wisdom, you very probably need not use even once a physical implement of correction.

What are those possible situations where nothing else but the rod is effective? See this verse again:

Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. You shall beat him with a rod, and deliver his soul from hell.   Pr 23:13-14

A rod should be used in a situation that will deliver your child’s soul from hell. May our Father in heaven give you the wisdom to know what are those situations in your own child’s life. Here’re a few that I can tell you from my observations:

When a child displays a constant attitude of hatred towards another child, and in spite of your repeated verbal corrections, the child shows actions and speaks words that originate from an evil source that has somehow managed to penetrate your son’s or daughter’s subconscious mind.

Children who were left uncorrected with such an attitude are the ones who turned into human monsters in their adult lives, such as Hitler, Idi Amin, Bokassa, Stalin, Mao, and many others in the modern era, whose childhood hatred of other people went on wrecking their consciences until they could directly be responsible for the death of hundreds of millions of innocent people and think of it with impunity. “I can send the flower of German youth into the hell of war without the slightest pity”, boasted Hitler, echoing what another man with the same spirit in him uttered a hundred and twenty years earlier. “A man like me cares little about losing the lives of a million men”, said Napoleon.

It is natural for little children of even Godly parents to display wrong attitudes. It is a trait that they and we have inherited from our first parents when the tragic fate of all their descendants’ genetic dispositions was sealed at the moment that Adam and Eve decided to go their own way against their Creator’s will. This naturally inherited disposition in human beings can be suppressed only when their human spirit is overridden by the Holy Spirit on being born again. Until then, parents have to be constantly alert against their children’s natural spirit gaining a permanent stronghold in their consciences.

When a child speaks or acts in a spirit of hostility against another child, parents must correct that behavior with immediate gentle correction. Gentle, because the child is not doing it deliberately. But when gentle correction is proven futile after a couple of times, the correction should take on a sterner approach. But our Creator has put within every child an innate desire to please es parents. When e sees that e has done something displeasing to es parents, and that the parents are not happy with em as before, extremely rare is the child who would not want to do all he or she can to regain es sense of assurance of es parents’ delight in em.

But should it happen on rare occasions that a child continues to display a wrong attitude, and gentle and stern correction (including withdrawal of privileges and other forms of nonphysical correction) are not effective enough, then, and only then, should the parent resort to a physical rod. When such a situation happens, the parent may take the child and give em a smart, but not too hard, smack on the seat with es palm or a flat object. Alternatively, e can use a thin switch for a single whip below the knees. Just a single whack or whip.

You should absolutely never punish your child when there is even a trace of anger in your mind. A child corrected in anger is a child that imbibes a similar quality – a spirit of retaliation. That’s actually what the parent is doing when e hits a child in anger – retaliating against es child because the child has done something that offended em, not solely because the child has done something that endangers the future of es soul.

If you feel anger in you, pause, and pray a short prayer for wisdom and restrain in correcting your child. When your emotions are under control, then take the paddle or switch and correct your child.

I know from experience that just a single use of the paddle is enough. For some sensitive children, even the sight of the parent taking a cane to punish em is effective enough. If your child shows much fear in sighting es instrument of torture (for that’s how any normal child will view the rod), refrain! Call your child, and tell him or her firmly that if e doesn’t want to be caned, then e should never repeat the offense again. Only an unusual child will refuse to immediately accept this condition for nonpunishment. You have already used the rod on your child, though it did not land on es body.

Photo Courtesy: Wesley Fryer – flickr.com

After you are done with the correction, there comes the ‘restoration of hearts’ phase between parent and child.

In the mind of the child, es parent’s punishment of em, no matter how much e himself feels e has earned it, is a short breaching of the absolute confidence e has in the one person e loves and adores above everyone and everything else. This temporary breaching, if left unattended, creates a deeper sense of rejection in the child. E feels the parent may have never really forgiven em fully, or that es parent’s love for em may have diminished. Unwise parents have suffered the consequence of little children being left alone with their hurt emotions after physical or verbal chastisement. The effect of unattended hurt is seen in the rebellious responses of the child when he or she becomes a teen.

Soon after the rod is administered – in situations where it is absolutely necessary to save the child’s attitude from being hardened in hatred or rebellion – the father or mother should make the first move of reconciliation. The parent should go to where the child is, embrace em and tell em that dad, or mom, loves em and he or she is just as dear to them as before. Some children may be immediately comforted, some others may take a little longer for their hurt to be soothed. However long it takes, the first priority in life for the parent then is for em to turn es child’s heart back to em as before.

Another situation where the rod may be necessary is when the child repeatedly forgets or ignores a strict instruction of the parent, the disregard of which may endanger the child’s physical life. For example, a child continuing to go to a dangerous area to play, or a stubborn tendency to get into fights, or repeated stealing, or repeated lying. By ‘repeated’, I mean’ doing it again after being warned at least three or four times.

Again I say, that such situations will be very rare, and it is my constant prayer that parents whom I am privileged to be able to counsel will never need to use the physical rod even once in their parenting years.

An example of a family where the rod was never used once stands as a great encouragement and testimony to the truth that a physical rod need never be resorted to in bringing up your children to be Godly people.

I once got into a personal conversation with the head of a school where I served under him as the vice principal. He is one of the most principled and Godly persons I have known. He has two sons and a daughter. He said he and his wife had never once used a cane on any of their children. Once, however, he said, he scolded one of his sons, using a tone of rebuke that his child had never heard before. It happened only once. But, the principal said, this child was so affected by this verbal rod that it made a permanent scar in his mind. If the principal had refrained from even that slight rebuke, he could have had a 100 percent physical and nonphysical rod-free parenting life. But my point is, if you would diligently look for an alternative way to correct your child, a rod need never be used on him or her.

The principal’s children are successfully placed in life today and are parents themselves now. I do not know if they are able to continue the same kind of nonrod discipline in their own children’s lives as their parents were. I haven’t met the principal for many years now, but when I meet him next, I will ask him and find out.

I was an overstrict disciplinarian of a parent, to my excruciating remorse many years later. But by my Father’s grace, all my children have grown to be loving and lovable members of society, faithful to God and faithful to their families. But that’s because I have spent years and years of tearful prayers that God may negate any unhealthy qualities my children may have imbibed from my parenting follies in my earlier years as a father.

In all cases where the child’s soul or body is not in danger, never even think of a physical rod. Even depriving a child of a privilege should only be applied after es repeated infringements of an instruction.

The best short answer to how best to discipline your child is to put yourself in a similar situation between you and your heavenly Father. How many times have you committed the same sin, given in to the same weakness, and the Father did not so much as utter a single word of impatience, but was longsuffering toward you, and waited patiently until you came to him in repentance. And that’s why you and I love him so much and want to obey him so earnestly. Not because we have to, not because we fear his rod, but because we want to, because of his lovingkindness towards us even while we were sinning against him.

However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.   1 Tm 1:16

The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.   2 Peter 3:9

Our Father doesn’t just forgive us a few times or several times until he reaches the point of too-many-times-already and then takes up his rod of correction. He forgives us any number of times we turn to him after a repeated sin. Even when we are forgiven a sin against him, and after a while we become careless and commit the same sin – seven times a day, or a total of 490 times – our Father’s forgiveness is still the same (Luke 17:4; Matthew 18:21-22). That basically sums up the attitude that fathers on earth should have toward their little ones.

The way we discipline our children will be the way they will live even to their old age.

Train a child in the way he [should] go; and, even when old, he will not swerve from it.  Pr 22:6 CJB

Our loving and forgiving Father in heaven, bless every parent who has read this message and enable him or her to bring up their children in the way that you want them to grow up, so they can become Godly parents themselves, and above all, become children of God in whom you delight greatly. Amen.


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