Let Convicted Christians Arise

Let Convicted Christians Arise

Goliath of Gath had been terrifying King Saul’s army for forty days.  Yes, Goliath was a giant. He was loud-mouthed and threatening, equipped with note-worthy armor, shield and sword. He looked formidable, he sounded formidable. Saul and his army believed their eyes and the enemy and cowered before him. But this kind of cowardice did not happen overnight. We see the root of this around 25 years ago, as recorded in 1 Samuel 13.

When the men of Israel saw that they were in trouble the people hid themselves in caves and in holes and in rocks and in tombs and in cisterns.-1 Samuel 13:6 

Now there was no blacksmith to be found throughout all the land of Israel, for the Philistines said, “Lest the Hebrews make themselves swords or spears.-1 Samuel 13:19

So on the day of the battle there was neither sword nor spear found in the hand of any of the people with Saul and Jonathan, but Saul and Jonathan his son had them.-1 Samuel 13:22

King Saul was anointed to be the leader of Israel. He was anointed to be used by God to give victory to Israel. Yet, under his rule, the people became scattered, defenselessly hiding in caves, stripped of weapons and convinced of defeat.

Saul was led by fear. He was afraid of the people scattering leading him to offer an unlawful sacrifice to God (1 Samuel 13:12). He saw himself as small, operated from insecurity and accumulated that which God commanded to destroy (1 Samuel 15:17). Instead of rallying the people to move in faith in God, he stood with them, silenced against the challenge. He gave excuses instead of truly repenting and he led the people into unbelief.

The nation of Israel stood facing old enemies quaking with fear. Until Young David shows up as an errand boy/shepherd boy/ musician. When David saw the enemy smearing the name of God, David adjusted his resume before King Saul and stepped up.

“Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, since he has taunted the armies of the living God.”

David had the same or worse limitations as everyone else in the country. A long history of war against powerful enemies, lack of armor, weapons, and fitting leadership. He was easily discounted by his own family and he was altogether nonthreatening to Goliath with his stick and his sling. But He had trained with God. He had felt God move through him when he killed the lion and the bear. He didn’t fight from a place of self-reliance. He didn’t trust in his physical prowess or his great skill or Saul’s armor but as he ran towards the giant. He was singularly propelled by his conviction. And before him, Goliath fell, slain by his own sword.

The enemy had planned well and stripped away the weapons from Israel, terrorized them and oppressed them. But when an anointed man of God stepped into the battle field with a clear conviction, the enemy’s weapon was turned against his own head.

Saul continued on his downward spiral being consumed by madness and envious rage against the anointed, prosperous, faithful David. When David fled from Saul weapon-less, afraid and hungry, true to form, he ran to the house of God. There he met the priest Abhimelech who gave him the holy bread and armed him with a familiar sword.

The priest said, “The sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom you struck down in the Valley of Elah, behold, it is here wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod. If you will take that, take it, for there is none but that here.” And David said, “There is none like that; give it to me.” 1 SAMUEL 21:9

Dearly beloved, the weapons of the enemy may seem advanced. The tricks and strategies may seem insufferable. The challenges we face may appear insurmountable. But we can overcome the oppressor as we are anointed and convicted by the Holy Spirit. God has a PLAN. God is in CHARGE. God only wants a PARTNER.

People around us may fail, may step back and fall off track. People may reject us or attack us. But if we rise like David, God will turn the enemy’s advantage against him. When we are overwhelmed, if we respond like David, God will remind us of the lions, the bears and the sword of giants that we slayed by the power of God and we will build the Kingdom just like David.

Centuries have passed but the city of David stands. The throne of David lasts. That’s the power of God upon an anointed man whose convictions are focused on God.

Petrified wood and Living Water

Petrified wood and Living Water

Transformation is an integral thread in the whole Bible. Abram, the childless idol worshiper, was transformed to Abraham, the father to many nations. Jacob, the deceiver, was transformed to Israel, the one who rules with God. The persecutor, Saul, was turned to Apostle Paul, the missionary. A volatile Simon became Peter, the rock. The name Peter comes from root word ‘Petros’ which means ‘rock/stone’. The term, petrified wood, also comes from the root word ‘Petros’.

Petrified wood literally means wood turned to stone. In nature, there is an amazing process by which wood becomes stone. The wood gets buried under a layer of volcanic ash or sediment in a way that it escapes the natural process of aerobic decay. Over thousands of years, ground water flows through the buried wood. The minerals that the water carries starts replacing the organic matter of the wood. Little by little silicates, iron oxides, manganese oxides are deposited into the buried wood till cells of the wood gets replaced with minerals that the water brings it. Cell by cell, year by year, drop by drop the water turns the wood to stone.

This process can be used to illustrate our own process of transformation. When we are buried with Christ under the Grace of God, we, who were meant for quick decay and rotting under the law, gets preserved for the process of transformation. As long as we lay buried and sealed under grace, the decay of sin under law will not set in. Then works the waters of the Holy Spirit, bringing to us the imperishable fruit and gifts of God. Transforming us daily, reaffirming us in our weakest parts with precious minerals, colouring us and drawing us in the image of God. The more we are open to the living water, the more we receive. The Sovereign Lord wills to transform us, yet He limits Himself from enforcing His will. He waits for us to be still under His blanket of grace and awaits our hearts to open up to allow His life to flow through us depositing in our mortal bodies, His eternal glory. How do we open ourselves up to God?

2 Corinthians 3:16, 18 says “whenever a person turns to the Lord, the cover is taken away. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.

We are required to position our hearts to God and behold Him in Faith. Through this submission to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we are transformed from glory to glory. From Saul to Paul, Abram to Abraham, Simon BarJonah to Simon Peter. The stone is a symbol in the Bible for firm and strong. It also represents truth. The hasty, volatile, shaky, drowning and inconsistent Simon, the disciple of Christ, became Apostle Peter, the martyr for the Gospel, laying himself as a firm and steady stone of truth of the revelation of Jesus as ‘Christ the Son of the living God’. (Mathew 16:16)

1 Peter 2:4 says ‘As you come to Him(Christ), a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up’.

Each of us experience the transforming power of God when we receive Christ in to our hearts. Let us continue to allow the living waters to flow through us, filling us with His life and glory as we grow to be fully mature children in the image of their Father.

A Conversation with God

A Conversation with God

In the Bible, Jerusalem had Bethesda where many invalids, the blind, lame, and paralyzed, laid waiting for a miracle. Among them was a man who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 

The man lay on a portico by the healing pool unable to move forward, unable to access the miracle, being denied an escape from his miserable life for almost 4 decades. Then he has a conversation with His maker and his life changes forever.

John 5:6-9 says – When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” 7 The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.”
8 Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” 
9 And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.

The Gospel of John records this important conversation for those of us who are stuck in bed, literally or metaphorically who are waiting for the miracle. The pain of wasting away, time washing over you, having no one to help is a miserable reality for multitudes.

Some of us waste away in front of our gadgets. Some are stuck in the past and its mistakes, the losses and failures of the days gone by. Some have the misfortune of inherited traits that keep them on the ground, sharing in the misery passed on from generation to generation. Families of broken wings, dreams and tragedies.

Many among us are living in a crippled economy, rejection letters piling up in our inboxes, unemployed, disillusioned, in debt, and suffocated. Always left watching someone stronger, smarter, faster or abler walk away with the opportunity that could have changed our lives.

A lot of us are like that invalid man, awaiting our chance to improve our life, to be set free from the insufferable place of immobility. A lot of us are in desperate need of a conversation with the only one who can save us.

“Do you want to be healed?” 

Imagine if Christ stood before you asking you this very same question. Do you want to be set free from your state of immobility? Do you want things to change? Examine your heart, face the years of disappointments and allow the Holy Spirit to reignite a desire to leap forth from whatever has been holding you back.

“Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” 

It HURTS to be so abjectly alone with no one to lend you support or wisdom or understanding. This man couldn’t find a single person who would help him for four decades. Nothing stopped Christ from saving him. No matter how great a betrayal/tragedy/rejection/ abuse you may have faced Christ can save you.

“Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” 

The conversation with Jesus ends with instruction and immediate obedience.

“In a dream, a vision of the night, When sound sleep falls on men,
While they slumber in their beds, Then He opens the ears of men,
And seals their instruction.”       -Job 33:15,16

Jesus left the splendour of heaven to freely give us the Kingdom of God. He is speaking to each of us, within our hearts, His spirit is convicting us, instructing and empowering us today to walk in His salvation. It doesn’t matter how deeply stuck or abandoned you are at this moment, for the miracle is no longer out of reach. Will you be as brave and ready as the invalid man to have this conversation with God today? If yes, the miracle worker stands at your bedside today with instructions for you to get up and walk in His way- The way of new life.

Cornelius meets Peter

Cornelius meets Peter

At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!”- Acts 10:1-3

At a recent Christian conference, I met a missionary, who has been working with the refugees from the conflict areas of the Middle-East. He shared accounts of many refugees from other faiths, approaching him with accounts of visions and dreams of Jesus Christ and asking him to tell them more about Jesus. One day, such a young man approached him and asked about Jesus and the shaken missionary shared the Gospel with him. The next day, the young man brought 25 other young men to him and they all heard the gospel again and they asked him to pray for them. This is not an isolated incident. Hundreds are getting baptized there daily. The light of God is almost always most visible to those who are suffering in abject darkness.

Cornelius prayed. From the biblical account we know that He and his family were devout and God fearing. Yet he hadn’t heard about Christ. An angel visited him not to convert him but to direct him to Apostle Peter.

“The angel answered, “…Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea.”- Acts 10:6

God gave Cornelius a supernatural encounter but gave the assignment of sharing the gospel to Apostle Peter. One man’s encounter lead to the transformation of all Gentiles. The bible tells us that Cornelius was expecting Peter and had called together his relatives and close friends. When Peter went inside Cornelius’s home, he found a large gathering of people. 

Not only was Cornelius a man of prayer, but his family also sought God with him. When Cornelius received a response from God, he didn’t hesitate. He stepped out and obeyed. Even before becoming a Christian he became a missionary by gathering his folks at his home to hear from Apostle Peter.

For the gentiles, the receiving of the gospel began with one man seeking and praying with his family for God. It began with one man willing to open his heart, his family and his home to be blessed by the Gospel of Christ and then readily share that blessing with his friends and relatives. This very event is going on right now in the Middle East. If it can happen in a war zone, it can happen anywhere. Even in your own city.

This blog is just a reminder to us that God hasn’t changed. He is still reaching out to the lost sheep. He is very busy connecting sheep to shepherds. People are searching for God amidst the shattered remains of their abusive homes, broken economies, unravelling social morality and war torn nations. Are the shepherds ready? Are you ready to live lives worthy of the calling that Peter received one afternoon at the tanner’s house?

It’s not about us anymore it’s about millions of people whose cries and petitions are before the Lord. Let us send our prayers before God, share in His burden for the people, answer when He calls and not allow convenience to prevent obedience.

The Syrophenician Woman- A New Testament Shadow to the Gentiles

The Syrophenician Woman- A New Testament Shadow to the Gentiles

An unnamed woman gets introduced in the gospel of Mathew 15 and again in Mark 7. St. Mathew calls her a Canaanite woman and St. Mark attributes her as a Syrophenician Greek. Jesus compares her to a dog.

“And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.”- Mathew 15:22,23

I feel almost embarrassed to see how Jesus behaves with this woman who is clearly suffering. He says He has been sent only for the lost sheep of Israel. His demeanor shows He isn’t available for or interested in helping her. His response to her request was first silence and then an excuse. Neither of which inspires confidence, much less worship.

And yet this is her response.
“Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!” –Mathew 15:25

Jesus was getting closer to his betrayal, suffering, and death on the cross. In a little while, He was about to die for this very woman and the rest of the world. His sacrifice was about to rip away the veil that separated God and man. So why did he treat her so poorly?

“It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.”

This interaction would mostly leave me with an impression of an unfair God. In her place, my response would have probably been to raise accusations against the indifferent God of the Jews.
But then she said,
“Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
I can’t tell exactly why Jesus behaved this way. But the account leaves me with a sense of marvel at the concept of faith according to Jesus as expressed here.
What was her faith? When Jesus confronted her with her inadequacy in receiving anything from Him, she did not respond with blame or disappointment with God. She did not grumble as Israel did in the wilderness. She did not walk away. She held on to one thing- the goodness of God.
Her response acknowledged that she was not worthy of help. She didn’t have the right to receive. She accepted that the salvation came for the chosen people, God’s elect, the seed of Abraham but she held on to the overflow of grace that the Jews received and she staked her claim to partake of it.
All salvation is salvation through God’s covenant with Abraham. It traces back to Genesis when God makes a covenant with Abraham saying “And in you, all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12.3)
Her argument here is simply one of humility, perseverance, and truth. Yes, I am an unworthy foreigner. But Your grace abounds toward Israel and through Your promise of salvation for them, I receive salvation by faith. She didn’t question his goodness and his grace but instead, she depended on it.
A test of faith often brings us to our knees admitting our lack of credentials but also gives us an opportunity to express our steady confidence in the promise God has extended to us. When I look at this incident, I see God working in her to establish a new shadow for all the believers that come after her. I am able to see not an unfair God but a God working to reveal His heart to us through faith and actions of people like this gentile woman, encouraging us to trust in Him, to be humble before Him and to believe in His goodness especially when our faith is tested.