Wednesday, November 17, 2021

MY STRENGTH AND MY SONG

 MY STRENGTH AND MY SONG

The Lord is my strength and my song, and He has become my salvation:  Psalms 118:14


My Lord has taught me through my multifarious experiences that I have no strength outside my Lord, as He continually strengthens and fortifies me in all my situations. 

In my lonely nights, as I am tossed around on my bed, and when I am unable to sing a comforting song to myself, He reminds me to sing about all that He has done for me. He helps me to sing about Him and His sweetness. 

When I am stuck and find no way forward, He comes to me and shows me a way out of my situations. He holds my hands and takes me out of the snares and the hindrances. He opens new doors for me when the world around shuts my way way forward. He leads and guides me. 

When I feel all alone and when I am forsaken, isolated, insulated and left in the lurk, He comes to hold me tight in His hands and holds me close to His chest and wipe my tears. He comforts me and gives me new promises to claim.  

In my lonely moments, He is my Friend to talk to me and to fill my heart with His presence. He sings with me His 'sweet songs of salvation'. He gives me His joy and peace and makes me jubilant because of the consciousness that He is with me and will never leave me an orphan. 

He gives me courage to face all my dark and cloudy circumstances and situations. He fills me with confidence in Him and fills me with His glory. He continuously fills me with His Holy Word. 
  
He helps me to run my race by looking unto Him every moment of my life (Hebrews 12:1-2). He shows me His pathways where I can see His footprints and helps me to place my feet on His footprints to run to my destination. Its amazing that He is my running-mate and my travel companion. Its a jubilant experience to run with Him, walk with Him and move with Him. 

In Him, I am safe, secure, strong and sustained! In Him, I am unmovable and I stand strong on Him the Rock of Ages! 

Prayer for Today

"Lord Jesus! Please help me to realize how trustworthy You are for all my needs and situations. I want to experience Your presence all my life and in all my circumstances no matter how cumbersome it is. Please help me to draw upon Your strength to live on all days of my life. Amen! 

SEEK AND CALL

 Seek and Call 

Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Isaiah 55:6


Our forgetfulness and carelessness make us not to seek the Lord while there is still time and opportunity. 

Somehow, somewhere, we slowly drift from our first love to the Lord. Our flesh and intellectual mind and over-dependence on wealth, position, education, power, privileges and prominence in the world deter us from loving and wanting the Lord more and more. It negatively impacts our prayer life. We start thinking that we can live without His help much. We camouflage our life behind our religiosity and traditions. 

When we follow such a self-oriented lifestyle, it so happens that we fall into trouble and desperately feel the need for the Lord, it might be too late. We would have unnecessarily suffered a lot and lost the opportunity to get settled in life. Our foolishness to seek after the Lord at the right time causes a lot of misery and heartache for us. We must realize that all of these frustrations can be avoided if only we keep seeking and searching after our Lord at the right time. We must realize that when we call, answers will come from the Lord at the right time. Seeking and calling are our responsibility and answering is His prerogative.

Let's understand that 'Today is the day of acceptance. Today is the day of God's favor" (2 Corinthians 6:2). 

So lets call on the Lord and knock at His door with passion, and earnestly knock and seek for His favors. 

Prayer for Today

"O God! Please open my eyes to see your nearness in my most distressing moments and seek and find Your presence and power, and depend on You for my every need. Amen!"

THE REFINING POT AND THE FURNACE

 The Refining Pot and the Furnace

The Refining Pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, and a man is valued by what others say about him: Proverbs 27:21


Unless the silver and the gold are ready to endure to the greatest extent, it won't be fully and perfectly purified. During the process, the metals might be crying out for a release from the fire and begging aloud for taking it out of the process. This the experience of the child of God in this life. 

But the Divine Goldsmith "mercilessly" keeps it there because He knows when to stop. He keeps guaranteeing the metal to remain there for a few more minutes. He will say: "Son/Daughter, I am holding you tight in my crucified hands. You will remain here for just the time required to be graciously purified. Take your hands off and be silent and know that I am the God of Grace (Psalms 46:10)". 

The refining pot and the furnace as God's plan to purify us so that the best in us will come out. We might go through devastating gossip, lies and distortions and misinterpretations and tarnishing and crucifixion which are too much to bear for the child of God. It might be loss of health and even livelihood. Even the best of friends and kin might turn their faces away and remain as if they have never known us. 

Sometimes the truth never comes out during our lifetime. But there will be a time when the truth will come out, at least at the Bema. Then we will rejoice. Our Lord will wipe our tears and pat our back and fill our hands with rewards. 

So today let's not get "excited" about the "scheming praises" and devastating criticisms. Let's  go to our "Heavenly Appeal Court" for ultimate justice and for endurance to remain on course. Let's look at our crucified, rejected, persecuted, forsaken and forgotten Lord and His experience of fire and get inspiration. Let's go after Him rather than looking up to the "higher mountains around" (Psalms 121:1) and get discouraged. Our help comes from our beloved Lord. He will never leave us nor forsake us.

Prayer for Today

"Lord Jesus! Give me grace and patience today to go through tough and painful experiences that you allow me in this life so that I will humbly submit to Your hands to mold me to be like Your image. Please help me not to get discouraged or impatient. Help me to wait for Your time to shape me for Your glory. Amen"  


Thursday, August 19, 2021

BATTLE AGAINST HOPELESSNESS!

 Battle Against Hopelessness!

Colossians 4:2 - Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving.
    The enemy tries to crumble our situations and puts us into deepest gloom when we might fall into utter hopelessness, and reach a stage of inability to pray. This is part of satanic warfare against us. He tries to stop us from using our great weapon of prayerfulness in all our situations (Ephesians 6:18-20). So we must fight this out with more prayer, and resist and rebuke the devil. We must be vigilant in prayer and be careful not to allow the enemy to drag us to prayerlessness. We must be earnest and vigilant in prayer with thanksgiving for answers to prayer at God's time. Thus we must get victory over our situations.

    The enemy attacked many God's servants and tried to make them stop praying. Elijah was in hopelessness when the enemy threatened him through Jezebel. So he ran away and even wanted to die because he was in utter hopelessness. He forgot that he could handle 450 prophets of Baal a few days back on Mount Carmel. There he proved that the gods of Jezebel are powerless and nonexistent. Still Elijah was sunk deep in hopelessness. He was fearful of this evil woman Jezebel and her threat. But God strengthened him by sending an angel to revive him with words of comfort and strengthened him with food and water. He was then recommissioned to continue with his ministry. During the following years, his ministry became doubly powerful through Elisha.

    Joseph was shut out for thirteen years, but God was working behind the scene to make him the Prime Minister of Egypt. Jacob, his father, was in utter frustration, hopelessness and depression for more than 15 years as he found out that his beloved son Joseph was no more. But God worked behind the scene during these dark years. Finally when he saw the chariots of Pharaoh came rolling in to take Jacob to see his son Joseph, Jacob's spirit revived.

    Yes, the God of Elijah, Joseph and Jacob lives for us! He is our God who will deliver us from the clutches of hopelessness, despair, despondency and depression. We must fight these tactics of the enemy on our knees and pray until victory comes to us.
    Praise God for the promise of victory! We are more than conquerors through our commander-in-chief who has won victory for us! Romans 8:37

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

POWERFUL LIFESTORY OF GOD'S LOVE

 POWERFUL LIFESTORY OF GOD'S LOVE

Back in 1921, a missionary couple named David and Svea Flood went with their two-year-old son from Sweden to the heart of Africa—to what was then called the Belgian Congo. They met up with another young Scandinavian couple, the Ericksons, and the four of them sought God for direction. In those days of much tenderness and devotion and sacrifice, they felt led of the Lord to go out from the main mission station and take the gospel to a remote area.

This was a huge step of faith. At the village of N’dolera they were rebuffed by the chief, who would not let them enter his town for fear of alienating the local gods. The two couples opted to go half a mile up the slope and build their own mud huts.

They prayed for a spiritual breakthrough, but there was none. The only contact with the villagers was a young boy, who was allowed to sell them chickens and eggs twice a week. Svea Flood—a tiny woman of only four feet, eight inches tall—decided that if this was the only African she could talk to, she would try to lead the boy to Jesus. And in fact, she succeeded.

But there were no other encouragements. Meanwhile, malaria continued to strike one member of the little band after another. In time the Ericksons decided they had had enough suffering and left to return to the central mission station. David and Svea Flood remained near N’dolera to go on alone.
Then, of all things, Svea found herself pregnant in the middle of the primitive wilderness. When the time came for her to give birth, the village chief softened enough to allow a midwife to help her. A little girl was born, whom they named Aina.

The delivery, however, was exhausting, and Svea Flood was already weak from bouts of malaria. The birth process was a heavy blow to her stamina. She lasted only another seventeen days.
Inside David Flood, something snapped in that moment. He dug a crude grave, buried his twenty-seven-year-old wife, and then took his children back down the mountain to the mission station. Giving his newborn daughter to the Ericksons, he snarled, “I’m going back to Sweden. I’ve lost my wife, and I obviously can’t take care of this baby. God has ruined my life.” With that, he headed for the port, rejecting not only his calling, but God himself.

Within eight months both the Ericksons were stricken with a mysterious malady and died within days of each other. The baby was then turned over to some American missionaries, who adjusted her Swedish name to “Aggie” and eventually brought her back to the United States at age three.
This family loved the little girl and was afraid that if they tried to return to Africa, some legal obstacle might separate her from them. So they decided to stay in their home country and switch from missionary work to pastoral ministry. And that is how Aggie grew up in South Dakota. As a young woman, she attended North Central Bible college in Minneapolis. There she met and married a young man named Dewey Hurst.

Years passed. The Hursts enjoyed a fruitful ministry. Aggie gave birth first to a daughter, then a son. In time her husband became president of a Christian college in the Seattle area, and Aggie was intrigued to find so much Scandinavian heritage there.

One day a Swedish religious magazine appeared in her mailbox. She had no idea who had sent it, and of course she couldn’t read the words. But as she turned the pages, all of a sudden a photo stopped her cold. There in a primitive setting was a grave with a white cross-and on the cross were the words SVEA FLOOD.

Aggie jumped in her car and went straight to a college faculty member who, she knew, could translate the article. “What does this say?” she demanded.

The instructor summarized the story: It was about missionaries who had come to N’dolera long ago...the birth of a white baby...the death of the young mother...the one little African boy who had been led to Christ...and how, after the whites had all left, the boy had grown up and finally persuaded the chief to let him build a school in the village. The article said that gradually he won all his students to Christ...the children led their parents to Christ...even the chief had become a Christian. Today there were six hundred Christian believers in that one village...
All because of the sacrifice of David and Svea Flood.

For the Hursts’ twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, the college presented them with the gift of a vacation to Sweden. There Aggie sought to find her real father. An old man now, David Flood had remarried, fathered four more children, and generally dissipated his life with alcohol. He had recently suffered a stroke. Still bitter, he had one rule in his family: “Never mention the name of God-because God took everything from me.”

After an emotional reunion with her half brothers and half sister, Aggie brought up the subject of seeing her father. The others hesitated. “You can talk to him,” they replied, “even though he’s very ill now. But you need to know that whenever he hears the name of God, he flies into a rage.”
Aggie was not to be deterred. She walked into the squalid apartment, with liquor bottles everywhere, and approached the seventy-three-year-old man lying in a rumpled bed.

“Papa?” she said tentatively.
He turned and began to cry. “Aina,” he said, “I never meant to give you away.”
“It’s all right Papa,” she replied, taking him gently in her arms. “God took care of me.”

The man instantly stiffened. The tears stopped.
“God forgot all of us. Our lives have been like this because of Him.” He turned his face back to the wall.

Aggie stroked his face and then continued, undaunted.

“Papa, I’ve got a little story to tell you, and it’s a true one. You didn’t go to Africa in vain. Mama didn’t die in vain. The little boy you won to the Lord grew up to win that whole village to Jesus Christ. The one seed you planted just kept growing and growing. Today there are six hundred African people serving the Lord because you were faithful to the call of God in your life...
“Papa, Jesus loves you. He has never hated you.”

The old man turned back to look into his daughter’s eyes. His body relaxed. He began to talk. And by the end of the afternoon, he had come back to the God he had resented for so many decades.

Over the next few days, father and daughter enjoyed warm moments together. Aggie and her husband soon had to return to America—and within a few weeks, David Flood had gone into eternity.

A few years later, the Hursts were attending a high-level evangelism conference in London, England, where a report was given from the nation of Zaire (the former Belgian Congo). The superintendent of the national church, representing some 110,000 baptized believers, spoke eloquently of the gospel’s spread in his nation. Aggie could not help going to ask him afterward if he had ever heard of David and Svea Flood.

“Yes, madam,” the man replied in French, his words then being translated into English. “It was Svea Flood who led me to Jesus Christ. I was the boy who brought food to your parents before you were born. In fact, to this day your mother’s grave and her memory are honored by all of us.”
He embraced her in a long, sobbing hug. Then he continued, “You must come to Africa to see, because your mother is the most famous person in our history.”
In time that is exactly what Aggie Hurst and her husband did. They were welcomed by cheering throngs of villagers. She even met the man who had been hired by her father many years before to carry her back down the mountain in a hammock-cradle.

The most dramatic moment, of course, was when the pastor escorted Aggie to see her mother’s white cross for herself. She knelt in the soil to pray and give thanks. Later that day, in the church, the pastor read from John 12:24: “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” He then followed with Psalm 126:5: “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.”

(An excerpt from Aggie Hurst, Aggie: The Inspiring Story of A Girl Without A Country [Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 1986].)

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

AROMA FOR CHRIST!

 

Sweet Aroma for Christ from Us!

Victorious Christian Life from the altar of true worship and sacrifice produces sweet-smelling aroma from us to Jesus! 2 Corinthians 2:14

This sweet aroma can be evident in God’s children through our response to this knowledge which is planted in us in:

OUR ATTITUDE

TO THE LORD JESUS AND HOW OUR KNOWLEDGE OF HIS PERSON AND WORK PRODUCE RECOGNIZABLE RESULTS IN US

HOW WE RELATE TO PEOPLE WHOM WE COME ACROSS DAILY AND THE QUALITY OF OUR RELATIONSHIPS

OUR GOALS AND OBJECTIVES IN LIFE

THE MATERIAL THINGS THAT WE ARE LINKED WITH

OUR CIRCUMSTANCES

OUR WILL

OUR PRIORITIES IN LIFE

OUR LIKES AND DISLIKES

OUR THOUGHTS

OUR EMOTIONS OF ALL KINDS

OUR CONTINUOUS REPENTANT LIFE

THE EXTENT OF OUR DEPENDANCE ON GOD

THE CRUCIFIXION OF OUR SELF

THE QUALITY OF OUR LIFE OF DEVOTION

OUR PRAYER LIFE

HOW WE ENJOY HEAVEN HERE ON EARTH

THE VALUE WE ATTRIBUTE TO ETERNITY


Prayer for Today:

“Oh! God! Pardon my failures in producing sweet-smelling aroma for You and help me today to produce spiritual fragrance to minister unto Your heart. Amen!”

 

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

PASTORAL CHALLENGES IN FAMILY MINISTRIES

 Pastoral Challenges in Family Ministries


A pastor is the spiritual physician of his congregation, appointed and qualified by the Lord, to help resolve spiritual and social issues confronted by individuals and families in that congregation. This is a challenging spiritual task which demands spiritual vision, commitment, patience, spiritual power, knowledge, wisdom, prayerfulness and spiritual burden.  

Historical perspective

The Old and New Testaments carry pertinent teachings and warnings related to family life. These comprise of principles, direct commandments, life centered illustrations, historical sketches and teachings on Family Life and its challenges. Wherever the people of God violated these divine principles and teachings, they ran into problems and breakdown in families. Some of these family calamities were overt and a lot more were covert.

We see in the Old Testament that God Himself directed families at the beginning, and later appointed priests, prophets, kings and leaders to instruct families. In spite of it all, there have been failures in family life of people and even in the case of leaders, priests and kings. In the New Testament, believers are taught by Jesus Christ Himself and later by His apostles to protect, teach, correct, evaluate and rebuild families. After the apostolic era, this responsibility rests with the spiritual leaders of the local church, like teachers, elders or pastors, evangelists, deacons and other ministering men(Ephesians 4:11-16).    

Pastoral responsibilities

A pastor is a divinely appointed spiritual leader, teacher, guide and facilitator of believers in all spiritual and secular matters. They exercise spiritual responsibilities on the basis of spiritual gifts, their own life examples and on the Word of God. The New Testament shows how these men devote themselves to various ministries by setting apart their time, talents, interests, convenience and health round the clock. They are accountable to the Lord and work with other ministering brethren to meet the needs of the congregation (James 5:14; 1 Peter 5:2-3; 1Timothy 5:1-2).

Pastors go out where the sheep are and minister unto the felt needs of people in all aspects of their lives. This includes leading, guiding, counseling, teaching, correcting, disciplining, educating, discipling, teaching, informing, warning, admonishing, facilitating, evaluating, diagnosing their spiritual problems and providing help in finding solutions. Their ministries thus impact the life of believers in general and their personal needs, and in their choices on education, career, marriage and conflict resolution in individual and family life.

The Laodicea challenge

                Today’s church of the Laodicea age (Revelation 3:14-22) is one where individualism, self esteem, personal freedom, desire for privacy and greater financial independence influence believers’ general outlook. Such life style and culture often make believers far removed from the biblical teachings and its application in many aspects of believers’ lives. The world thus influences families where the family as a unit often lacks spiritual leadership and unity. In this circumstance, submission to spiritual leadership at home and in the church gets seriously eroded. Thus pastoral teachings for individual and family lives remain more an option than obedience to biblical teaching. Pastors are seen not to have sufficient spiritual authority to instill discipline in the congregation because of the ultra-democratic setup of many local churches. Attempts at infusing biblical discipline in churches often result in factionalism, rebellion and conflicts. To avoid or minimize divisions, dissensions and unity, many pastors and elders try not to provoke the congregation. Thus pastors and elders involve in more pulpit-oriented ministries like preaching and teaching than personalized ministries like individual and family counseling. This is a great challenge in pastoral ministries in modern times.

Pastors’ approaches and challenges in family ministries

                It is seen that many pastors and elders wait for the congregation to individually approach them for spiritual help which happens seldom anyway. Either the pastors are too busy to be available and accessible or the individual believer doesn’t care to engage the pastor. Believers and families try to avoid the pastor by clinging on to privacy concerns. In the congregational churches, pastors seem to have more authority than found in local churches which are more loosely organized and structured. So individuals prefer to remain private and expect the pastors to be less nosy in personal matters. They would rather go on by covering up their personal and family’s problems. By the time such issues come to limelight, problems would have solidified and hearts hardened. This is true about issues related to backsliding, addiction and such other sins and conflicts between spouses or parents and children. Thus many problems remain unresolved and eventually destroy individual and family lives. In these circumstances, pastors usually become hapless and helpless spectators of individual or family issues. It’s also true that many pastors lack training in ministries like counseling to be able to handle individual or family issues, thus lacking confidence properly handling family matters of believers.

Challenging responsibilities

                God has appointed pastors and elders as spiritual guardians of the local church with specific responsibilities and accountabilities (Acts 20:28-32). They are expected to provide individuals and the congregation with the much needed spiritual nutrients based on the Word of God. The true shepherd has to use the staff and the rod to lead God’s people (Psalms 23:4). Their responsibilities to the families in the congregations include preparing believers for family life and resolving family conflicts.   

Plenary and individual teaching

                It has been observed that many pastors and churches are passive to teachings on many life-related subjects. They lean toward more doctrinal teachings and expository preaching which are vital. But it’s unusual to hear teachings or messages on practical subjects like Family Life, conflict resolutions, individual behavior, personal Christian life and the like in many local churches. It is a great challenge for the ministering brethren to prayerfully strike a balance between teachings on doctrinal and practical subjects. Then only doctrinal and practical teachings like family life can be taught on a regular basis to instruct, inform, educate and warn the married and yet-to-be-married about quality family life.   

Pre-marriage counseling

                It is important to prepare those in the congregation who contemplate on family life to lay strong foundation for a happy married life. They need to be taught the biblical truths about the duties, responsibilities, accountabilities, demands and challenges of family life including bringing up godly children and their emerging questions provided with biblical answers. Small group interactive sessions will be most helpful to provide pre-marriage teaching. Pastors have to face this challenge by humbly seeking to find help from the Word and through prayer for the enabling. 

Diagnostic approach

                The ministering brethren should attempt to make regular evaluation of the spiritual quality of life of each family in the congregation. This may be accomplished through regular visits to the families in the church and use media for regular communication. It is best if the brothers make these visitations along with their spouses except during personal counseling. Pertinent but soft enquiries may be made about the various aspects of the spiritual quality of each family including regular family altar, fellowship time and spiritual goal-setting. There may be need for wise spiritual counsel in vital areas in decision making in families. Parents may also desire counsel on how to bring up children spiritually. All of these may govern the pastors’ prayers and preparation for the various teaching and personal ministries of the church.  

Preventive measures to save families

                Spiritual leadership of churches has to take up the challenge to help build and rebuild families in the congregation and prevent its ruin and destruction. This necessitates consistent counseling and encouragement of families to help resolving conflicts. It has to be attempted at from the early stages of the development of each family by observing symptoms and through interactions. If the elder is in regular touch with the families by communicating with them through visitations, media and by sharing spiritual resources, then timely interventions will be feasible. Perhaps it will be possible for the life-partner of the elder to help the wives of the families while the elder may deal with the husbands and the spouses together.

Therapy to heal and restore

                Sharing experiences, teaching from the Word and fellowship in prayer in a consistent manner by the pastors will have therapeutic impact on each family. Interaction with the families need not always be a group activity because the spouses in a family may not open up in a group. But encouraging fellowship in groups might be of immense benefit for mutual encouragement. Spiritual and family counseling may be the much needed biblical tool that will have to be used to heal the hurts and resolve the conflicts for reconciliation and restoration. Regular time of prayer together with each family will have great healing touch on the spouses and even children.  

Follow-up of family concerns

                Pastoral Interaction with the families shouldn’t be an occasional or one-time exercise. Families have to be followed up consistently so that spirituality in the spouses can be assessed, progress determined and rebuilt. Often pastors would need to interact with the conflicting couples individually and subsequently bring them together at an opportune time to lead them to reconciliation. Regular and consistent communication with the families is the key to effective follow-up. It’s a great challenge for the pastor to find time for it all.   

Confronting critical issues

                Pastors should help couples with marital issues not to plunge themselves into despair because of intensive spousal conflicts.  They should be guarded against getting lured by extraneous forces to think about separation or even divorce. There are often issues of conflicts, arguments, abuse, disunity, non-cooperation, submission, paranoia, miscommunication, children’s indiscipline, in-law concerns and the like which pastors should address biblically. Biblical truths regarding these may be taught and discussed with one or both the spouses so that destructive tendencies could be expunged early. The pastor should not try to lead conflicting spouses to a truce or agreement, but his goal should be to lead them to confession and repentance of their individual failures and offences. Pastors should do all that is feasible to prevail over the couples from moving towards separation or divorce by encouraging and helping them to rebuild the broken walls of their family life.   

                If any divorced individual or couples or if remarried divorcees express interest in coming into or continuing in church fellowship, they and their protagonists may be taught the biblical teachings on this. The elders may convince them by explaining why the Bible doesn’t permit receiving such persons into fellowship except in the case of an innocent partner on whom divorce was forced upon by the departing partner. But the church has to be convinced about such partner’s innocence with ample evidence and testimony. However, the separated or divorced believers may not be treated with contempt, but permitted to attend church gatherings if they so desire. The unmarried divorcees may be received into fellowship eventually if they express brokenness and repentance and remain without remarriage. The congregation may be taught to deal with them with kindness and not to embarrass them.

                In matters related to separation, divorce and remarriage of the divorcees, pastors face great challenges in carrying the whole congregation with them because of divergent views on these issues by many. Pastors have to prevail over any such unbiblical views through consistent teaching and proper exposition of the commandments of Jesus and the Apostles, without developing schisms and divisions in the church. This requires much grace and wisdom.   

Conclusion

                One of the greatest challenges faced by many local churches is the lack of preparedness of elders in handling family conflicts. But if elders don’t get spiritually prepared to meet these challenges, it will lead to surge in the number of unresolved family problems. Victorious families are the result of how well the pastors take up the challenge in helping to build and rebuild families.