Monday, July 1, 2019

Series: THE REVIVAL OF A GREAT PROPHET - 5



The revival of a Great Prophet-5


The Speakers and the Listeners

The Speaking Seraphs

The seraphs are the only speakers in the first part of this scenario as they attribute holiness to the Lord. These angelic beings heard from each other the praises of their mouths. Their Lord heard it all loud and clear. Prophet Isaiah was also able to hear it all. It spoke to him in a mighty and powerful manner. The seraphs spoke out of strong convictions. They had heard, seen and experienced the Lord, as did John the Apostle when he wrote about his experience in John 1:1. The seraphs, in essence, ask Isaiah as to whether he has seen and experienced the Lord. There was a challenge to Isaiah to get to know the Lord in His glory. It was time for Isaiah to respond.

The seraphs knew something about the turmoil that was going on among God’s people and the situation related to the departure of King Uzziah. But even in such a situation, the Seraphs didn’t speak to the Lord about it, but only recognizing and affirming about His being above all the problems around them. In essence, the utterances of the seraphs were focused on the Lord and His power rather than on the problems that were looming large above the head of Isaiah and the people of Israel. They worshipped and served the Lord and committed the future to Him. The national situation has not affected them because they knew the power and wisdom of their Lord who was above all circumstances and situations. This was sufficient to greatly embarrass the prophet of God who should have known better had he known the Lord well.

Isaiah the speaker

Isaiah was a bold and powerful preacher of Israel who was charging the nation against their sinfulness. His words were convicting and his tone was sharp. He declared curse unto the people several times in the preceding five chapters of his book. He offered a message of forgiveness to those who were willing to confess and pronounced strong action from the Lord to those who were unwilling to listen and change their ways. He gave the people the right diagnosis for their sin sicknesses. He made spiritual prescriptions for their ailments. This is the prophet who has now been found to be dumbfounded at the engagement of the seraphs at the exposure of the glory of the Lord.

In the first five chapters, Isaiah pronounced “woe” unto the people of God seven times. He had no doubt that they deserved cruse from the Lord for their sinful lifestyle and attitudes. The depth of the woe that was pronounced on Israel was such that it would break our hearts as we read it. There is no doubt that those who violate God’s laws deserve such punitive measures from God. Of course, these punishments were intended for the people to repent and get back to God. The prophet has been in the past pointing his finger at the direction of the people and spoke to those who deserve such a warning. Now his own fingers are pointing at him.

Isaiah could not utter the words, “Holy, Holy, Holy” because of the inadequacies in his life. His tongue was not as holy as it ought to be. Even though he was burning inside, it was not totally for his Lord, but for his ministry and for himself as the prophet with his position and privileges. But when he saw the interaction of the seraphim in their articulated intimacy with the Lord, Isaiah felt like he has not arrived at the place of total commitment.

Here we see a crying Isaiah. He felt his own need to cry aloud and confess publicly. He realized his sinfulness which stood on his way to approach the Throne of his Lord like the seraphim. Now he forgets all about the context of his entering the Throne room of the King. As he saw the vision of the lifted up Lord, the death of Uzziah and the corresponding national confusion was no more the prime concern in his heart. He became more concerned about his relationship with the Lord and his access to Him.  The renewal of a prophet is slowly taking place in the Throne room of the Lord. The Lord was getting his servant Isaiah fully into His fold and control. A great change is being ushered into the life of the prophet.

If the great prophet needed such a revolutionary change, how much would be the need for such a change in us today as we try to live for the glory of the Lord?

"Woe unto me!"

The preacher who pronounced woe unto the people of Israel seven times in the first five chapters is now loudly and powerfully pronouncing woe unto himself. Here we find the prophet with the deepest contrition about his own sinfulness. It is a sincere confession at which he agrees with God that he is sinful and inadequate to access the Lord. It is the confession of the whole person whereby his tongue, heart, eyes and environment are sinful and he is no more embarrassed to bear his inner person stark naked before the Lord. In other words, the prophet confesses sinfulness of his five senses. He recognizes that God’s holy presence has caused him to see his true nature. He is not simply saying a ‘social expression of being sorry’, or expressing remorse. His confession is total, unconditional, and without reservation. He feels horrible about his wickedness, inadequacies and unholy attitude and cries desperately for cleansing and pardon.

The Word of God is clear that if there is no repentance, the Holy Spirit living in a believer will be grieved and over a period of time will be quenched. Thus the impact of the Spirit of God in the ministry will be gone which the people will often realize. We find an array of confessing saints in the Bible including John the Apostle, Job and Paul. John confessed his inadequacy and fell as though dead before the Lord who appeared in glory before him (Revelation 1:17). Job confessed his nothingness before God when he met with the God of the impossible (Job 42:2-6). As we read and meditate on Isaiah Six, we are confronted with the reality that we all need a life of continuous confession and repentance in order to live a holy life with a holy detachment of the worldly and holy attachment to the heavenly.

Isaiah didn’t repent in the Throne Room because he heard a sermon on repentance. He didn’t repent because someone told him about the need for it. Inasmuch as these are desperately needed ministries among God’s people, it is not imperative that human hand is always necessary for repentance to become a reality in the life of a servant of God. It is possible that the heavenly wave of repentance will sweep away even the most inhibited life because the vision of the Lord and the magnificence of His presence with His unexplainable glory will enter into the hearts of people to confess and repent. God speaks in mysterious ways and through unexpected circumstances. It is likely that the people would then be shocked to hear that their prophet has confessed and repented of his sinfulness. But that is a greater witness to the fact that even a preacher and a prophet would need as much repentance as in the case of an ordinary believer. If such an impact of the glory and magnificence of the Lord is not seen in a servant of God, we would not wonder why his ministries do not touch the lives of people. Every minister of the Word needs to be ministered unto before he ministers to the people. Every repentant minister will lead people to confession and tears of repentance which will touch the lives of people and impact them for the Lord. This might be the greatest message we will be able to learn from the life and ministry of Isaiah, the prophet.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Series: THE REVIVAL OF A GREAT PROPHET - 4


Revival of a Great Prophet-4


The Great Coverup Act

Unlike the covering act in the Garden of Eden by Adam and Eve where they tried to cover up their sinfulness, the seraphs tried to cover all that they were given by the Lord (beauty and excellence) so that they would become His true worshippers and servants. First, they covered the most beautiful parts of their body, their faces, with their own wings willingly and voluntarily. But they have more to cover, as we go forward with the narration of the events in the temple. When the glory of the Lord is exposed to us, we can’t withstand the power of His glory and so we run for cover even in our best of capabilities. That takes us to the eagerness of the seraphs to cover their feet.

Cover the Feet

We find the seraphs cover their feet with two of their wings. Feet talk primarily about their walk, work, and achievements. All of these personal gains which give the seraphs the kind of prestige, popularity, and prominence in the eyes of the beholders are now declared unworthy by the seraphs and so they cover it with their wings. They shudder to exhibit all their personal glory in the presence of the glory of the Lord. To them, these personal glimpses are like garbage as Paul declared it (Philippians 3:7). This is yet another challenge to the great prophet in his personal life and in the ministry. He might be made to wonder if it is appropriate to think of him as a ‘prophet’ or as an unprofitable servant.

Feet also talk about their weaknesses because of the dirt that they gather as they travel around and minister. But when they come to the presence of the Lord, any of the filth that they might gather on their feet is quickly and consciously covered because the seraphs are fearful about exhibiting these in the light of His glory.

We should not lose track of the fact that the feet of those who declare the good news are beautiful (Isaiah 52:7). And these seraphs are the carriers of good news that our Lord is seated on the throne, high and lifted up and that His glory is unfathomable. But even such feet are not worthy to be exhibited in the presence of the glory of the Lord.  Such is the magnificent lesson coming from the temple for us in the light of our total unworthiness and the Lord’s pre-eminence that we are able to learn, along with Isaiah, through the revelation of His glory.

The Lord allows Isaiah to witness to the worship of the seraphs to teach him lessons of his unworthiness which is a lesson to every Christian everywhere at all times.

The Wings that Fly

It is the heart that flies before the wings and the body because the heart is fully sold out on the glory of the Lord. The heart is so moved as to fly swiftly to declare the glory of the Lord.  When we see that the seraphs fly and express their adoration to the Lord, we see that the seraphs can’t stand still and adore the Lord. Once they start, they can’t even stop and take a break because the glory of the Lord compels them to keep on flying and moving and expressing adoration. They are moved because of the impact of the glory and the person of the Lord that they have experienced in their hearts. They are thrilled and encompassed about His salvation which they declare.

Why do the seraphs repeat utterance about the holiness of the Lord? Apparently, they are not satisfied with uttering it once or even twice. They wanted to sing about it more and more until they are satisfied that they would have witnessed the glory and experienced it. But they realize that they can’t be fully satisfied with speaking about it that they keep on repeating it. Such repetitive worship will never lead them to boredom because it is living sacrifice and keeping on active as long as time and eternity would last. It is also likely that each of the three utterances is for each Person in the Trinity, the Holy Father, Holy Son, and Holy Spirit. They want to repeat the affirmation of His glory which is worthy to be affirmed and reaffirmed forever.

Let us now focus on the pitch and tone of the utterance of the seraphs! The seraphs can’t keep a low tone and pitch and be soft-spoken about it because of the impact it has created in them. They want to use all their energy to express themselves because this is the greatest song of the glory of the Lord which they can keep on singing. It has impacted them so much as to raise their pitch and sing about it at the top of their capacity and strength. They responded to the extent of their maximum ability to sing about Him who is seated on the Throne.  These gestures and responses are the evidence of the impact the glory of the Lord has created in the seraphs. If we are impacted by the power of His glory, our worship will rise above our routine patterns and will find that the sky is the limit to our expressions. It will thus reach the uttermost part of the earth and will turn it all upside down (Acts. 17:6).

It seems the seraphs were totally involved in serving and worshipping the Lord to the extent to which their six wings, feet, eyes, mouth, heart, emotions and body were fully embodied in it. This is a continuous activity in heaven which is difficult for the human mind to comprehend. As we are all seated in the heavenly places, it is expected that our worship today also emanates to that level in a dynamic manner.

The seraphs were shouting at the top of their voice so that all could hear their voice and their praise. Such shouts were to send shockwaves to the whole world or even the universe about the reigning Lord. They had no embarrassment or reservation as to who were all listening. They didn’t care who was listening and who was taking offense about their shouts. They actually wanted the whole world to listen to such high-level business of glorifying the Lord.

Modern science tells us that sound is very powerful and that it can move and shake up its immediate environment. So is the voice of the seraphs as they sang the praise of the Lord. The immovable door posts were moved at the power of their voice. Even today His voice moves the immovable hearts and lives of people. The space in the temple gets filled with smoke as all the empty spaces are filled by the Lord. This spectacular chain of events is capable of dynamically changing every rocky heart. But we wonder if it has sufficiently impacted prophet, Isaiah? So also, is it adequately impacting our contemporary prophets, preachers, and pastors? It seems many of our modern day preachers are like the Pharos of Egypt who has not known the real ‘Joseph’ and His glory (Exodus 1:8).

The seraphs and their loud and impact-oriented praises ask us as to whether there is smoke or fire in our hearts as we witness the expression of the glory of the Lord(Psalms 39:3). Perhaps we are not able to witness the fire and the smoke because we are not meditating enough to see the image of the glorified One in our hearts.

The Prophet’s silence

All the while as the events in the Throne Room unfold, we need to watch Isaiah the prophet learning great lessons that the Lord wanted to teach him. He is stunned and speechless and in a great shock. He has not seen anything like this so far in his ministry. This astounding scene has penetrated into every corner of his heart, soul, and mind. When the environment has also been impacted through the sound of the worship of the seraphs, the prophet begins to respond. When the prophet came into the temple, his mind was so much preoccupied with the apprehensions about the future of Israel and so his heart was heavy. But the unfolding events shifted his focus from his problems to the Lord God Almighty who is still on the Throne. As he witnesses heavenly worship, Isaiah forgets about his problems and the removal of the king from the throne by the Lord. When he looks at the Lord, he was compelled to look into his own heart. He was filled with repentance and he begins to utter words of confession.  

As we read the story, we might be compelled to think that the prophet has reached a level at which he would have had several questions in his heart. These questions could have been:

a.      Why these heavenly beings are so much moved as to continue to pour out praises and adoration to the Lord?
b.      Why do they never get tired of repetitive worship?
c.       Why they are moved so much as to shake up even the environment?
d.      How they are able to focus on the holiness of the Lord forever like this?
e.      Why do they show no sensitivity to the onlookers about their spontaneous worship of the Lord?

The answers to these questions might be seen in the subsequent and consequent behavior and utterances of Isaiah. He realizes the height and breadth of the sensitization of the seraphs about the greatness and glory of their Lord. We might see the prophet being challenged to examine his own heart and life to see what hinders him from offering such qualitative worship as that of the seraphs. Perhaps his preoccupation with the cumbersome situation is now giving way to the greatness of the Lord. The message from the Lord to Isaiah was to look at the seraphs and learn lessons about his own wrong disposition. At that moment, he breaks his silence and begins to speak.   
(To Continue)
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Series: THE REVIVAL OF A GREAT PROPHET - 3


Revival of a Great Prophet-3

The Seraphs’ challenge to the Prophet

As the events at the Throne Room of the Lord emerges and unfolds, we are wonderstruck at fascinating beings called the Seraphim. They are innumerable, but their overwhelming number would not let them lose their identity. They are a distinct creation of God to serve Him, worship Him and do His perfect will. They presented a great challenge as a role model in serving the Lord for the prophet about his willingness and commitment to serving, obeying, worshipping and accomplishing the Lord’s perfect will. The very sight of the seraphs and their service to the Lord was posing a great example to Isaiah.

By exposing Isaiah to the way these created beings (Seraphs) worship and serve the Lord, a challenge is posed for Isaiah to consider and re-examine his willingness to serve and commit himself to the cause of the Lord with all that he has for the service of the Lord. This is greatly pertinent for the present-day believers because whereas the Lord Jesus didn’t die for these seraphs, He died for the NT believers. So they ought to have a greater zeal to committing and serving the Lord. These seraphs and their zeal is a great embarrassment to the modern believers considering their shallow commitment to their Saviour and Lord. We call Him “Lord, Lord” (Matthew 7:21), but often do what we want with our lives. Our worship, giving, service, and commitment are often half-hearted and bound by jealousy or competition and for popularity, prestige, prominence, position, and possessions. So the events at the Throne Room were meant to spoke to Isaiah through the seraphs and its account in Isaiah Six is foreordained to speak to us in the same manner. He expects us to respond to these events befitting to those who live in the dispensation of grace.

Living Sacrifices

The seraphs are portrayed as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1). They are the “burning beings” who keep burning for their Lord. When they burn, they show light to the dark world and shed warmth to the cold hearts of people around. Isaiah as the servant of the Lord is created as a living light (Matthew 5:13) and so he is expected to burn and shine for the Lord and for the dark world that is around him. The seraphs now challenge the prophet to burn for the Lord so that those around will see the glory of the Lord through the light that he is expected to produce by burning for Him. Isaiah is reminded of the primary purpose for which he is placed among the disobedient and worldly people of the nation of Israel. This encounter of the burning seraphs thus poses a great challenge for Isaiah and for us to be willing to burn for Jesus like Jim Eliot, Graham Steins and John Alan Chou in our daily lives.

All from Him and all for Him

Isaiah watches these seraphs were using all that they have in the service of the Lord. Their wings are for flying, covering and showing respect to the Lord. Their mouths are to shout out the holiness and greatness of the Lord. They fly in a hurry because they have so much to do to shed abroad the greatness and glory of their Lord. They have a lot to do for the Lord including helping to cleanse even prophets like Isaiah. All of these are ministries and responsibilities given to them by the Lord. And they are demonstrating their willing and voluntary service and commitment for the service and for the glory of the Lord. Far more than obeying any commandment to serving the Lord or expressing gratitude to Him for giving them everything, these seraphs worshiped Him for who He is. It comes from the intimacy they have with Him and the love and respect they want to show to Him because of His greatness. They gave Him back all that He gave them so that they will be completely His to do whatever He wants to accomplish in their lives.  They gave Him all their talents, treasures and time. They are fully aware of the fact that all of these were given to them out of His benevolence and love towards them and they ought to reciprocate it to Him out of their love and respect to Him. In the light of the attitude and surrender the seraphs demonstrated, Isaiah is now compelled to re-examine his worship, commitment, and love for the Lord. If Isaiah had to re-examine and rededicate himself to his Lord, how much more should we do for the Lord is a puzzling question before every New Testament believer!

The Four and the Two Wings

It is interesting that the seraphs have six wings. Why wings and why so many wings is an intriguing question. Wings are given so that they can move swiftly in their service. The six wings must have so much responsibilities and opportunities embodied in them. It certainly indicates the need for using additional cover to be part of true worship even as they move around. It seems the seraphs are desperate and passionate to serve the Lord as fast as possible. They have no time to waste and no opportunity to lose as they serve the Lord because their Lord deserves so much more than what is possible to humanly anticipate. The time, treasure and talents at their disposal could all be fully and far greatly used for the service of the Lord as they have these six wings. Do we wish we had more legs to move, more hands to work with and more mouths to declare the praise and glory of the Lord?

Out of the six wings, the seraphs used two for covering their feet and two for covering their eyes or faces showing great reverence to the Lord by being extraordinarily humble and respectful in their approach to worship and service for the Lord. Such efforts at worship come from their attitude because when they see Him, they discount themselves totally and respect Him to the utmost. For them, worship of the highest form is imperative as they see the Great Lord and offer Him Great service and Worship. Will the Lord find these qualities in us today?

Seraphim and their challenge in worship

It is interesting to note that the Seraphs used all their wings in the service of the Lord and none for their personal agenda. They used all their wings for the Lord and for His glory. They had a holy detachment with all that they had and they were willing to forsake all for Him. It was like Mary using even the last drop of the ointment for the Lord. It was like the pearl merchant who sold all that he had in order to purchase the most precious pearl that he could ever find (Matthew 13: ). They found the greatest satisfaction as they used all they had for their Lord and still wanting to give it all to Him through the fastest and loudest expressions of their commitment to Him. As the prophet watches the scenario, it speaks and challenges him to the utmost to give all that he has to the Lord at the fastest pace. How about the response of the modern day prophets, preachers and priests to the glory of the Lord? 

Covering the Face

In our vernacular, we often mention ‘angelic face’ of a person for comparative purpose. It is considered as the ultimate in beauty. These seraphs definitely have the most beautiful faces. But as they are broken and burning beings, these seraphs do not consider their beautiful faces worthy to be exhibited in the presence of the Lord of Glory. They cover their personal glory and achievement and keep it under check so that the glory of the glorious One may be fully exhibited. Their motto is that no one ought to show off anything that they have in them no matter how excellent these might be. They turn off all their personal lights with its glitter in the presence of the Shekinah Glory. They wanted all that they have to be hidden under their own wings so that no one would or could see even a glimpse of it. They show that any effort at exhibiting our personal glory might be considered competition to the glory of the Lord and will allow it all to be burned off as they burn for the Lord. All their personal glory is on the altar as a living sacrifice.  They are challenging the ‘ME-MYSELF-I’ culture of contemporary Christianity. They show that they do not have any name, titles or exhibits of their own as they stand in the presence of the Lord and minister unto His name. This scene is a serious reprimand to the prophet Isaiah as he goes into the presence of the Lord bearing his ministries and his experience in the work of the Lord. 

In essence, watching the seraphs covering their face preaches a great sermon to the prophet. He realizes that he and all that he has can best be considered worthless in the presence of the glory of the Lord. It thus preaches a thunderous message to all of us who live in the era of grace to re-examine our styles, moto, motives, approaches, and strategies in the ministry of the Lord. (To continue)
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Monday, April 15, 2019

Counselor's Corner: HELP TO COUNSEL AN ESTRANGED COUPLE

Counselor’s Corner

Help to Counsel an Estranged Couple

Dear Sir:

Will you please help me to counsel an estranged couple who came to me for counseling? I have been trying to help Brother Tom and his wife Sister Tessy who are faced with a serious family problem. My efforts have so far not found positive results. So I prayerfully decided to seek your help.

Both Tom and Tessy are believers from our assembly and are married for over 2 years. They both come from local assemblies in our neighboring districts. Tom got a job in our city and so he has been living here for over 4 years. After he married Tessy, she resigned her job in another city and moved over to our city where Tom and Tessy started their family life. Later Tessy also got a job in our city and so they were having a fairly comfortable life. They have been regular in the assembly meetings and seemed to be a happy couple.

After a few months, we found both Tom and Tessy looking very gloomy while in the meetings. Tom stopped actively participating in the Sunday gatherings and they started missing the midweek meetings. They always gave the excuse of stress at work when enquired about missing meetings and nonparticipation. Then we found them missing even on Sunday gatherings frequently. Eventually, we found that Tessy was in the family way. Soon she moved back to her home in the native place with the explanation that she needed the care of her mother.

One day, I met with Tom and enquired about the changes in their expressions, quietness in meetings, missing gatherings of the assembly and why she decided to go back to her home. It was then that Tom opened up and told me the story of their miserable family life. Soon after joining her husband in our city, Tessy started expressing dissatisfaction about almost everything with her husband. Apparently, he lost his job (or he resigned) and started studying for a better job. She found out that he didn’t have the educational qualification he claimed to have at the time of their marriage. His job was also found to be below what he claimed to have because of poor qualification. Tessy was upset that they didn’t have a house or flat of their own as against the impression created by Tom’s family during the time of the marriage proposal. So for several months, they were surviving on the salary of Tessy which Tom spent according to his desires and priorities. All of these made Tessy upset, disappointed and she felt cheated by Tom and his family. They had many arguments and angry outbursts at each other. They even had quite a bit of physical fights and verbally abused each other. Apparently, the parents got involved and justified their side. Tom’s people said that they never cheated Tessy and her people and that Tom is studying for a better job. They also said that Tom would soon buy a flat. They were upset with Tessy because she was always quarreling with her husband and not ready to accept him and his situation and not at all patient. According to them, Tessy is very argumentative, quarrelsome and use disrespectful words at the husband which is unbecoming of a believer. Tessy’s family counter-argued that Tom is very abusive and seemed like a fraud because everything about him is questionable.  It was at the peak of their quarrel and infighting that Tessy wanted to go to her parents for confinement. But this happened about 15 months back and she never came back with her baby because she hated Tom and didn’t want to come back to live with a “liar and cheat”.

Now their baby is almost one year old and Tom has not seen the child yet. Tom is upset with Tessy for making a false allegation about him and not willing to come back to live with him. In the meanwhile, there have been some discussions among the families which have widened the gap between Tom and Tessy.

I tried to speak to both Tom and Tessy and asked them to forgive each other of all their failures in the past. But they are not willing. Each feels deeply hurt in the hands of the other. There is a stalemate and I am unable to resolve it for them. Please read the above account and give a reply to help me reunite this estranged couple soonest possible.

With prayers
Joshua Paul

Dear Brother Joshua

Thank you for your mail. I praise God for your concern and care for this couple and for all the efforts you have taken to help reunite them. You mentioned about meeting Tom, but I wonder if you had a chance to meet with Tessy, and parents of both Tom and Tessy. This is also important. It is unfortunate that Tessy had to experience such frustrations in her married life. It is also unfortunate that Tom failed to give spiritual leadership to his wife (and also their child) because of allegations about the cover-up in his life. These have sadly affected their family life which has led to serious spiritual failures in their personal and family life. All of these have unfortunately affected both their parents and their assemblies. I hope that it will be possible for you to touch this couple and the two families and to bring them to reconciliation!

From your description, it seems to me that Tom and his family have not told the whole truth about his education, job and living facility before the marriage. If so, they need to be led to confess these, repent and ask Tessy and her parents for forgiveness for this great lapse. They may have some explanations as to why they told things which were not factually correct, but these explanations will not exonerate them of their sin of a cover-up before Tessy and her parents and the believers at large. Once there is a heartfelt confession accompanied by the humility that is to be evident in their behavior, and then it is for Tessy and her parents to forgive them wholeheartedly and accept them. It is our responsibility as believers to grant forgiveness and apply it without hesitation. As Jesus said, we are bound to forgive the offenses of others seven times seventy unconditionally. If we do not forgive others, God will not forgive our offenses (Matthew 18:22; 6:14-15; Colossians 3:12-15; Ephesians 4:32). We are commanded to forgive unconditionally.

Secondly, Tessy and Tom are both guilty of their behavior and actions against each other verbally, emotionally and physically. Such behavior from a believer can never be justified even though there were provocations. Every such expression, including words, body language, physical violence, etc. needs to be confessed by both of them and ask for forgiveness. You will have to try and bring them to such a point of confession through counseling. Once a genuine confession is expressed, both should have the grace to accept confession in good faith and extend forgiveness. This may best be done in your presence.

Thus it should be possible for them to be reconciled and reunited. Genuine confession, repentance and forgiveness will be possible for those who are genuinely born again and those who repent of their failures and sins in their hearts and towards their life-partners. I suggest that you may please meet with Tom first and then Tessy separately and convince them of their failures in this matter and bring them individually to a level of confession and repentance.  If Tom is not willing to come to a point of confession and repentance, then a spiritual solution to this situation will be difficult to arrive at. (I am sure you know that biblical counseling is not bringing about a truce, patchwork or agreement of some sort). The goal of biblical counseling is to bring the erring persons to the confession of their sins and failures. Along with counseling Tom and Tessy and bringing them to confession, you may bring them together for a joint session where each can respond to the other and clarify issues and ask for forgiveness. Along with that, please counsel the parents of both Tom and Tessy to accept the situation and to encourage them to do whatever possible to somehow help their children to confession, repentance and to the reunion. It is important that the parents also come to repentance of all their sins of omission and commission in all that they had said or done. It is important for them all to realize that all of us believers are called upon to unilaterally forgive each other.

Please remind all the parties concerned that it is important for all of them to be governed by the principles of the Word of God and the working of the Holy Spirit in their hearts. It is also important to help them understand that for the wellbeing and proper upbringing of the child given to Tom and Tessy and for the testimony of the families and their respective assemblies, there is a dire need for a proper scriptural settlement of this matter as soon as possible. They all need the grace of God to accept the confession of each other and to forgive and forget the past events and start rebuilding the family life of both Tom and Tessy.

May God grant you the wisdom, grace and patience to counsel the couple and their parents and lead them all to a new chapter in their lives! I am praying for you and for Tom, Tessy, and their families.

Yours sincerely in Christ
Oommen Philip  


Thursday, March 28, 2019

Series: THE REVIVAL OF A GREAT PROPHET -2

The revival of a Great Prophet- 2

Meditations from Isaiah Chapter Six



Problem-solving or renewal and revival?

When the people of God forgot their Creator and Redeemer and lived erratically and in passivity, God visited them in a special way by sending His salvation in the form of great men of God (like Isaiah whose name means the Salvation of our Lord) to revive and renew them. Isaiah started his ministry by declaring woe unto the people unless they repent which is seen throughout the first five chapters of the book of Isaiah. God has warned repeatedly, but the people were nonchalant and cold-hearted. They seemed to have left their first love for their Lord.  It was at the time of the pinnacle of their backsliding that God touched the nation by removing their powerful and efficient king. The usurping of the king to perform priestly duties is clearly an indication that the people and their king have become hot-headed.  When the king was removed from the scene in a dramatic way, it seemed to have touched the prophet himself to rethink and so he goes to the presence of the Lord. Here we see the prophet stops to preach and goes in for a shock treatment in the presence of the Almighty.

Of course, the prophet goes to God with a backpack full of complaints, fears and apprehensions about the fate of the nation. He had a craving for God and a realization that God’s presence is the only solace for him to depend upon for answers to his concerns and fears. He had no other place to go and he was driven to the wall with no space to manoeuvre.

It seems the prophet expected to have a usual encounter with God and lodge his petitions and then to come back. But God overwhelmed him with His mighty presence. God filled Isaiah’s eyes with a vision of Himself to comfort the prophet and to give him renewed courses of action. There he experienced strength and encouragement which he and the people so badly needed. He was filled with the power and protection that only the presence of God could provide in his most difficult circumstance. He was exposed to the glory of the Lord and seemed to be lost in its wonder and awe. He became a true worshipper rather than a usual complainer and petitioner. He found his Lord a far greater source of power for him to continue with his ministry than ever before.

The forgetfulness of the prophet

As Isaiah entered the temple of the Lord, he saw the Lord in His glory and seated on the Throne and highly lifted up, perhaps to the extent to which he could envisage with his human eyes. The Lord in His lifted up position shocked Isaiah as he realized that He was far above all the problems he and his people were faced with. Here is the Lord showing Himself to be in total control of all of Isaiah’s situations. From the Throne, a powerful message comes to Isaiah that He was in control of all that seemed to be in disarray. He declares His power to rule and overrule from that Throne. He makes known to Isaiah His sovereignty and that He has all the authority to do whatever He wanted to accomplish. His Throne is shown to be above all the thrones on earth and seen as capable of resolving all instabilities and failures of His people. The vision of the Lord sent the most powerful message to Isaiah to declare that when Uzziah’s powerful throne is gone, the Lord is still on the Throne to rule over everything and everyone. By being seated above everything, the Lord declares to Isaiah that he needed no anxiety or phobia about his situation because the Lord is on the throne and that He is capable to clear every doubt and to comfort every anxious soul. He tells us today that He is still on the Throne and that He has a message to everyone everywhere to be calm and that His people confide in His power in all situations.
  
It is interesting to realize that Isaiah is in the Throne Room of his Lord. Isaiah now seems to have forgotten all his problems, fears and apprehension and is lost in the glory of the Lord and focusing on the person of the Lord. He experiences the all-pervading power of the Lord to make all his concerns vanish and vaporize in the glory of the Lord. He finds that the Lord’s glory overshadows everything in and around His servant and makes him like a sheep being calm in the presence of its shepherd.

No room for the baggage

As Isaiah enters the Throne Room of the Lord and saw His glittering glory filled the temple, he realizes that there is no room for him to place his baggage of complaints, problems, apprehensions, and fears (6:1). The train of the Lord filled the temple. He could no longer claim that he came after preaching his heart out to the people because there was no room in the Throne Room of the Lord for his achievements, experience, expertise, prestige, prominence, ordination, oratory, eloquence and scriptural knowledge which he brought in with him. He realizes that all of what he was as a prophet has drained out and that he has become so empty when he saw and experienced the glory of the Lord. In essence, the prophet could only say, “Just as I am, without one plea”. He realizes that no matter how great a prophet he might be, he is absolutely nothing and totally empty of himself and all that he has when he saw the glory of the Lord.

The unfolding drama

In the presence of the Lord, Isaiah was overwhelmed to see a number of awesome events which were all focusing on the glory of the Lord. The Lord’s all-encompassing robe of glory, the relentlessly worshipping seraphs with perfect concentration, the thunderous sound of the outcry of the glory of the Lord from the throats of the seraphs, the superlative speed of the flights of the seraphs, the smoke that fills the temple, the shaking of the doorposts of the temple, the burning coal at the altar, a tong, an angel ready to cleanse the servant of God and a sound of the Lord speaking were all experienced by Isaiah in great power. All of these unfolding movements were the ways by which the Lord was speaking to the prophet to shake and wake him up to the reality of responding to the glory of the Lord.

It’s all for the prophet

The interlude of Isaiah Chapter 6 in the book of Isaiah is not for God to focus on the death of Uzziah. It is not to show how seraphs worship and travel fast to declare the glory of the Lord. But it is to focus on the spiritual and emotional needs of the great prophet. But the scene centered on Isaiah’s unworthiness, his detestable environment, the sinful hearts of the prophet and the people of God, the sheer emptiness in his heart and then move on to true repentance. It then moved on to the revival and renewal of the prophet so that a changed Isaiah could go back and preach a thunderous message on the need for a revival among God’s people. We are reminded of the fact that if the prophet is not right with God, the people will not be right with God.  If the prophet is not truly repentant, the people will not be able to listen to the Word of God which comes out of his mouth.  The iniquity in their hearts would otherwise shut their ears so as not to hear the voice of the Lord.

It is likely that the prophet who was fully immersed in preaching didn’t have time to see the Lord in His glory on a regular basis and listen to Him. But God was not going to make him a repetitive preacher, but one with new experiences in His presence to become a passionate preacher. This was possible by giving him newer visions of His glory to revive and renew him. So in Isaiah Chapter Six, God speaks to him through the elegance of His presence, His being the lifted up Lord above all situations and circumstances and through His servants (Seraphs) who were totally and absolutely sold out on Him and His glory in their commitment to serving the Lord. The vision was thus a great reprimand to the prophet to renew and revive him for the mighty work that lies ahead for him to declare the ‘Salvation of our Lord’ to the people of God. 


The vision which Isaiah received is a great challenge for us to re-examine our commitment and loyalty to our Lord so that we would be useful instruments in His mighty hands in the days to come. The vision of our Lord through the pages of His Word demands our adherence, repentance, commitment and loyalty as we are renewed by His Spirit to shape us for His use.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

COUNSELOR'S CORNER: WEATHERING STORMS IN MARRIAGE

Weathering storms in Marriage
Dear Uncle:

I hope you will patiently read the story of my marriage and offer me help to keep going. I am going through a difficult time in my marriage and family life and do not know what to do.

Professionally I am a nurse. I got married 9 years ago to James who is a business executive in our city. We have two children, aged 7 and 4, both girls. As we both earn well, we have a good life. I am a born again and baptized believer. James is a believer and he hails from a good family and his parents are involved in the assembly. My parents are also believers and active in the church. 

 We started our married life quite happily. We communicated well with each other and attended church regularly. We also have a number of professional and family friends and we visit many of them on a regular basis.

Of late, I found James not showing any interest in spending time with me. He comes from work late. Sometimes he comes after his dinner from some restaurant or a party. As soon as he comes home, he spends his time on the mobile phone, checking WhatsApp and calling some friends. Then he goes to bed without family prayer. I called him initially for family prayer on several evenings, but he then gets irritated and excuses himself by saying that he is tired and sleepy. He doesn’t spend time with the children and they miss him much. When they go to him, he gets angry and responds with outbursts, and so children become scared and run away from him with tears. One night I woke up in the middle of the night and found him watching some strange things on the mobile phone (possibly movies or wrestling) and he quickly hid it from me. I am sorry to see that James has changed totally. He always looks depressed and is in a bad mood. Nowadays he is not showing any interest in going for meetings. Added to that, our spiritual friends who used to visit us stopped coming because James doesn’t show any interest in visiting them or welcome them to our house.

I told his parents about him, but they seem to be helpless and ask me to pray. I am praying for him for quite some time. But there is no visible change in him. Our spiritual happiness and peace at home seem to be lost. Of late, he doesn’t seem to bother to buy food materials for the house. I do not know what is happening to my husband and my family because of these visible changes in him. I am helpless and am deeply frustrated.

Uncle, please help me to find out what is wrong with our family and how we can regain the joy that we lost. I am a broken-hearted woman and I am desperate for your help.

Yours sincerely in Christ
Josephine



Dear Josephine

Thank you for frankly sharing your burden about your husband and family with me. I am glad that you are a praying woman. Rest assured that the Lord will answer your prayers and that He will give your husband and family back to you as it has been before.

Going through your narratives about your husband and your family life, I feel that there is serious spiritual backwardness in his life. This seems to be the reason why he has lost interest in family prayer and in going for assembly meetings. It seems he is not even reading Bible daily, but much interested in WhatsApp and watching ‘strange things’ on the phone and the Internet.

From your email, it is not clear as to what has led him to such spiritual backwardness. But it is likely that his spiritual backwardness is linked with his cold relationship with you. But we do not know which started first. I also wonder if he has some job-related issues which made him frustrated and subsequently depressed. Perhaps he is into bad friendship circles.

No matter what his problems are, the key to bringing him back to normal behavior and attitude to the Lord and to you rests with you as you commit him in earnest prayer. Your patient, loving, concerned and considerate approach and sympathetic attitude to him should slowly change him and draw him back to you and the children. You may take maximum effort to try to spend more time with him. Instead of complaining or nagging, be kind to him and try to understand his spiritual difficulties. If overuse of mobile phone and watching movies and other strange things on it persists, see how you can occupy his mind with spiritual things and loving conversation. Try to see if you can call him up a few times a day and inquire about him and work. Tell him how much you miss spending time with him. But your conversation with him may be, as much as possible, non-irritating, soft, friendly, warm and courteous. Your facial expression, body language, the tone of voice and gestures are important. Ask him how you can together plan family time for you and the children. Tell him that you are praying for him for his work situation. Lovingly persuade him to sit for family prayer, but never rebuke or find fault with him or fall for verbal abuse of any sort. Tell him how much you value him in life and how you and the children miss him. Ask him to speak to you openly about any of his problems, but never put pressure on him. Your patience, maturity, and prayerfulness will be the tools through which the Lord will bring him back to Him and to yourself and your children.

Please be much in prayer and ask the Lord to give James back to you. Prayerfully claim him for Jesus and for you. When he sleeps, try to touch and pray for him. All day, as you work, let short prayers rise up from your heart for James and your family. Ask your parents and his parents to pray for him, but please tell them not to make any complaints about him. It is a good idea if both the parents make occasional visits to your home and stay for a few days at a time. When the parents visit, it will possibly be good for them to show love and concern and to encourage him to sit for family prayers. On such occasions, they may softly try to make him read the Bible and sing songs with you all. You could all go for some of the meetings of the assembly also when the parents are around. But please remind the parents about the need to carefully deal in all these matters and not to pick up any arguments with him.

It is also good to check and see if James has any addiction in behavior or actions and if he has any element of depression or stress due to the work situation. If so, he might need serious counseling.

Let me remind you of the fact that James needs help now and you should not wait till it becomes very serious. It is better to attempt to help him resolve his difficulties before his heart is hardened. It is also important to guard your children against getting affected by the behavior of James. Please continuously, but softly counsel them and sit and pray with them.

I am praying for you, James and your children. Please don’t be discouraged, but trust the Lord to change your situation and make it as happy as it used to be. Please read Psalms 42:5 and meditate on it and find comfort in the promises of God.

Yours sincerely

Oommen Philip

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Series: THE REVIVAL OF A GREAT PROPHET - 1


The revival of a Great Prophet-1

Meditations from Isaiah Chapter Six

Let’s meet Isaiah in the valley of life

Many servants of God had their share of the valley experience of their life and ministry. More often than not, we are given very little details of those experiences and inroads into their brokenness. So we are unable to dive into those valleys to learn what they have learned and how these can be applied in our own lives. Brokenness is rarely shared with anyone and so the pain, shame, misery, tears, groaning and griping accompanied with it are left in oblivion.

Prophet Isaiah is an exception to this. He received the grace to articulate every detail of his experience of brokenness for God’s people to learn great lessons from it and apply in scores of lives. He was willing to expose himself and the lowest point in his life for others to see as a testimony to God’s grace and mercy towards him. Isaiah has already been a preacher and prophet for years as we come to Chapter Six of his prophetic book. His ministry has powerful and penetrating all the while. His words were bold and expressions were focused in order that the people of God would experience a revival in their souls. Like Paul, Isaiah did not hide from God’s people anything that the Lord had laid on his heart. He was not at all concerned about the consequences of the message he was entrusted with to preach because it was not his message, but the Lord’s. He recognized that his life was first and foremost the Lord’s message to the people among whom he dwelt. Of course, his utterances were equally his life in a message, but he felt that his life and words must complement each other to make it credible and powerful. He knew that the message of the Lord will not come back without result and so he preached his heart out and lived his life out. He used words like that of John the Baptizer. But as he continued to preach, he became more and more aware of his own needs for a revival, dynamism and greater spiritual revolution.

One would normally not expect the preacher to experience revival and feel that the people need it badly. But the experience of Isaiah brings home to our hearts the truth that the preacher needs revival in his soul more than the people who listen to his message. The Prophet’s message has to be his life itself and unless it is broken, rebuilt, revitalized and exposed to the people, the message he preaches will be conceptual and not practical. So it was the divine plan that early in his ministry, prophet Isaiah had to be exposed in the height of his brokenness. So God uses contemporary situations to grant the experience of brokenness in the life of His choice servant Isaiah.

Preliminary considerations

Isaiah Six teaches us that even as we continue to preach and minister unto the spiritual needs of God’s people, we need to feel a craving for continuous brokenness and revival in our souls so that our messages will be sharper than ever before. Isaiah’s experience asks us as to whether we desire a fresh visitation from the Lord to do something in our souls that has never happened before? Do we have pant for a fresh experience with the risen Lord in all His glory? Are we ready to be exposed openly when our only cover will be the Lord and His glory and not our eloquence, expertise, experience, and exuberance? 

It is at this juncture that Prophet Isaiah comes alive in front of our eyes as we open the book of Isaiah and go to the vision he received which is elucidated in Chapter Six. His experience was primarily for him to be cleansed and revitalized. But it is a model for every Christian believer, to take a hard look at the brokenness of this great preacher and prophet, and profit from it for him to start with and for the Lord’s people. If Isaiah needed such an experience, modern day preachers and servants of God need it all the more.  

Let’s understand the context of Isaiah’s Prophecy

Isaiah was permitted to minister unto the people of God to show them that even when kings come and go one after the other (Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah: Isaiah 1:1), the Word of the Lord remains unchanged in its power, glory and sharpness as it is eternally secured in heaven (Psalms 119:89). The message comes through the seraphs, the servants of God, who are made instruments for a ministry unto the prophets of the old and the new. Their responsibility it is to have action-oriented preaching in its seriousness. Through it all, God shows Isaiah that He is the preeminent God who rules over all other forces and speaks through them all.

Isaiah acknowledges at the beginning of his book that God speaks to the wind and the sky (Isaiah 1:2). This is because nature and all of the creation listen to and obey God unquestionably. It is also a reminder to the people that God still speaks even when the man doesn’t listen, obey or take God’s commands seriously. There is an alluding question as to whether the prophet himself listened to God. The answer to this question is seen in Chapter Six.

Through the life of King Uzziah, God wanted Isaiah to understand that no matter how powerful man is and how sustainable he thinks he is, God will remove him from power if he is not willing to abide by God’s commands and His Word.

The events leading to the death of King Uzziah is a situation of the end of an era of national stability, growth in technology, industrial and agricultural development, enhancement of commerce and military power which make Uzziah’s kingdom invincible by the enemies. His success in multifarious sectors made Uzziah proud and arrogant. He took God’s law of worship for granted and acted like a priest which was against God’s law. Uzziah had to be dealt with by God for this violation. Through the removal of Uzziah from power, God taught Isaiah and the people of God that if they break God’s commandment, they will be handled by God in His own way. 

The overall situation of the division of the kingdom because of the quarrel and fight among the brothers was another pitfall among God’s people. There was also no separation from the sinful life of the Gentiles around them. There was competition, rebellion, jealousy, and idolatry among God’s people. God dealt with all of these offenses of His people sternly which remains as a warning for us today. 
  
At His perfect timing, God withdrew Uzziah from the scene and sent bewilderment and apprehension to the hearts of people about their future. They didn’t know what to expect from the upcoming kings. Israel was ultimately captured by the enemies in 721 BC. Judea was captured by Sennacherib. God’s people as a nation experienced national confusion. There were fear, hopelessness, and uncertainty everywhere.  Little did they realize that not too far from there the foundation for the upcoming Roman Empire was being laid as a great power which will be another threat to Israel in the future? This is the setting of Isaiah Chapter Six. 

It was a time like that of our present world and the state of the church of Jesus Christ today. Abrahams are in the tents, but Lots live in bungalows! (Genesis 13:18 & 19:2). Many of our families are taken captive by the world, flesh and the enemy and there is no one to go and fight to release them from its clutches! (Genesis 14:12-15).  Our Youth have fallen in this desert of the world, with no one to lift them up and give them water of life! (Genesis 21:18). Our Gahazys, Demases and Baalams have all gone back to the world and its riches! The enemy is hiding and living in the secret chambers of the assemblies, as in the times of Nehemiah! (Nehemiah 13:7). Our Jeremiahs, Peters and Pauls are in the pits and in shackles in prison cells! Our Jonahs have gone their way to Tarshis rather than obey the call to go to Nineveh to preach revival and repentance! (Jonah 1:3).


Just as in the case of Isaiah, it’s time our preachers and elders renew their visions and get a new vision of the Lord and His true and majestic glory. They need fiery tongues and eyes to preach a more powerful and sharper message. They need a change of attitude and heart to receive and preach a timely message through their renewed tongues. Then and then alone will the people catch the fire of repentance and experience revival and renewal in their souls. This is why God made Isaiah go through the experience of the altar and the fiery cleansing of his tongue. If Isaiah needed brokenness and cleansing, we need it many more times. If he needed a new tongue, we need it all the more. We need to be convicted of sins in our lives and must move forward with true confession and repentance so that God can renew our messages and revisit our people in a fresh manner. If Isaiah needed to cry aloud for renewal, we need it in a greater manner. Then we will get a new zeal. Yes, prophets, preachers and pastors need revival and preach with a broken heart and eyes overflowing with tears. Then we will all see the vision of our Lord and experience His power. It will follow on to change us to passionate preaching and obedient living.