A Table In The Wilderness

A few weeks ago we traveled to Eluru town in Andhra Pradesh to spend the weekend with a church group very close to our hearts. Having visted a couple of times earlier , the route to Eluru was familiar and we began to drive early Saturday morning.

My husband, who loves a hearty breakfast was looking forward to stopping at one of the breakfast places on the outskirts of Hyderabad before we hit the highway . But all of these were shut as it was a little too early to begin service I guess . Disappointed a little, he continued to drive, hoping we would find a place to eat on the way. Sometime later we came across a huge billboard announcing a breakfast place about 15 minutes away. The hoarding with drool worthy pictures of Dosas made my husband drive faster. There seemed to be a kind of anticipatory twinkle in his eye which I found quite amusing, and he was on the lookout constantly to make sure we did not miss it . Finally we drove past another hoarding that said the place was ‘just a minute ‘ away ! My smiling hubby continued to drive and we finally reached the spot of the advertised ‘breakfast stop’. Much to our disappointment the place was still under construction! I didn’t know what to say ! I felt so sad that he was disappointed a second time , but he said nothing and continued to drive! About 20 minutes later we crossed a restaurant sign that said – N Grill. We knew they had one with a similar name back in Hyderabad – a posh grill place owned by a movie star. I somehow felt this name seemed out of place in the wilderness but couldn’t believe my eyes at what I saw when our car whizzed past..there was a restaurant and people were actually eating at 7:00 am!

Then, to our delight, we entered the driveway of a beautiful and serene restaurant and, that too on the highway, in the middle of nowhere. My husband grinned from ear to ear not believing his eyes! Soon we found ourselves tucking into one of the best South Indian breakfasts we’ve had in a long time, and in a lovely corner overlooking the lawn ! This was unbelievable! How marvellously our Lord had taken care of my husband’s tiny disappointment !

Over coffee I couldn’t help but think of the phrase “ a table in the wilderness “ . Yes that’s what our Lord had done for us that day! He provided a table in the wilderness ! But, there was a deeper lesson He was teaching us through this exercise of disappointment followed by delight. And that was – that He has the best in mind for those who love Him and wait patiently for Him. With a phase of disappointments recently, it seemed as if the Lord was showing us in practical terms what it is like to wait for Him. Sometimes options that seem just right and perfect according to us may not be the right one according to our Lord. “There is a way that seems right to a man but the end of it is death.” We need to learn to wait for Him.

In the middle of deep disappointment and despair we often ask – Why Lord? During such times doubts can arise in our minds about the character of God as loving, compassionate and kind. While it is normal human thinking, we who are learning submission to CHRIST will look to Him and to His Word for reassurance and draw our comfort from Him and turn a deaf ear to the false suggestions about the goodness of God that the evil one may try to whisper. We need to guard against such thoughts from entering our minds.

We discussed about this when on the road again.

An amazing weekend followed over fellowship and bible study with Brother Nagesh and the lovely bunch of the Lord’s people in Eluru. We practically experienced the reality of Christ’s love through His saints as mentioned in Ephesians 3: 17-19. On Sunday evening we also visited another small group gathering in the village of Asanagudem thirty kilometers from Eluru. We found that to be the highlight of our weekend as we soaked in the sights of rural Andhra and enjoyed sweet fellowship and studying the Word with a group of simple believers full of love for the Lord and hunger for His Word.

While we shared our thoughts and experiences on our journey of faith during this time, we also received strength and encouragement so needed for our current situation . Being thankful in all circumstances and praising Him in the midst of fiery trial were our takeaways from that glorious weekend in Eluru.

The scriptures passages were from letter to the Philippians chapters 1 and 4.

In Philippi, Paul and Silas were arrested for preaching the Message , flogged severely and thrown into prison with their feet bound by stocks . But instead of being anxious or upset they were singing hymns and praising the Lord in the middle of the night. And then there was a huge earthquake that broke the prison shackles of all the inmates .. the entire episode is narrated in Acts 16 .

Praise and thanksgiving that stem from a sincere heart are powerful in themselves .A reason why we don’t see the supernatural hand of God in our circumstances, is because we sulk instead of giving Him thanks.“ Give thanks in ALL circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 4:18). It is tough to thank God for disappointments but yes He allows them with a reason and when we don’t know them we continue to trust His intentions that are nothing but in the best interests of His children .

How often do we find ourselves teetering on the edge of the faith fence almost ready to fall into the valley of anxiety when things don’t work out the way we want them to? Paul commands us “ do not be anxious” and our Lord commands us “do not worry”. In the letter to the Philippians chapter 4 Paul instructs not to worry about anything and also reminds us of the Lord’s assurance to provide all our needs . These were deeply comforting words that touched our spirits – and we were like thirsty desert travellers drinking cold refreshing water that instantly dissipated our weariness !

And strange as it seems we were reminded again of this through the incident in 2 chronicles 20 when king Jehoshaphat began to praise and thank God in faith after being assured of victory in battle by The Lord.

The path of discipleship is not easy but the one who makes it worthwhile is the One who went before us on that same path and promises His presence with us till the end.

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Riverside Reminisces

4bccf8a3-9bd4-4da6-9a1d-c4036c5cda29-1

We are back from a trip to the north-eastern state of Meghalaya, where we visited our dear friends, the Vincents, at their riverside home some 2500 feet above sea level. We spent a few days with them before heading to Shillong, the state capital.

For a while, it was on our minds to visit these dear friends and the time spent fellowshipping with them in the midst of natural , unspoilt, serene beauty left us refreshed in our spirits. The church they meet with are a bunch of fine brothers and sisters whose fellowship we enjoyed, soaking in every moment.

The river Umtrew is a stone’s throw away from their place. We constantly hear the babble of the river as it flows past, sometimes in a steady quiet hum, sometimes in mighty rapids. This amazing place is also a kayaker’s delight and we also happened to meet some international pro kayakers who were exploring the rivers of Meghalaya and had stopped by the Umtrew for a few days of kayaking. Brother Vincent, an expert kayaker himself has participated in world class events and still continues to be an avid paddler.

Standing by the Umtrew, seeing it flow in calmness and strength had me thinking of our Lord’s words :-

John 7: 37-38 “…Jesus stood and cried out, saying, if anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”

John 4:13, 14 – Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Incidentally we also saw a tiny spring nearby which has the purest, sweetest water I’ve tasted in my life.

The spring and the river together formed a mental picture of the living water and eternal life our Lord mentions about . From a spring well it turns into a gushing river in us.

Christ offers us Life Eternal. Yes, He does! What is eternal life ? Is it immortality ? For many years I thought , like many do , that it is something we receive after physical death. But searching the Scriptures in Berean spirit , reveals that it is the perpetual, never- ending life of God promised to those who believe in Christ while they are still on earth . Our spirit receives this life of God in us when we believe in the redemptive work of Christ by faith . It is this life that grows from a trickle and can become like a river inside us overflowing and abundant . Imagine being filled with the very life of God and the transformation that happens as a result of its presence in our entire being . Christ said “ I have come that they might have life, and life abundant.” John 10:10 .

In Christ we have this eternal life. The power of this life is able to transform us from previously carnal , sinful beings to those who reflect the very nature and Spirit of God and His Son. (John 3:16, 36 , I John 5:11, 13, 20. John 14:6, Romans 6:23, John 10:28-30 ).

Without eternal life growing constantly in us now here on earth, we cannot expect to have it in eternity. Revelations 3:5 . It has its beginnings here on earth and continues forever. We continue living it in the place Christ has prepared for those who belong to Him . John 14:2-4.

The gurgling waters of the Umtrew are etched in my memory forever, for they are a sweet reminder of the gifts God offers us through our Lord Jesus Christ – Living water / eternal life.

Further Scripture references : John 17:3, 1 Timothy 6:12, Galatians 6:8, Romans 5:21 , john 6:40, Hebrews 10:22

9f345404-4752-49c5-9059-49d174470bf1-2

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Reading & Using God’s Word – The Difference

Hebrews 5:14 “But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”

The constant usage of Gods Word is crucial to growth and maturity in the faith. Our measure of maturity depends on how less or how more we USE the Word Of God in our daily life . It doesn’t say ‘those who by constant ‘reading’ but by constant ‘using’, which means read and apply.

We use something to do something. Like I use my toaster to toast bread and rice cooker to cook rice. While I am aware that these gadgets are used for a particular purpose and even know the procedure having read the user manuals, yet how will I know they work unless I actually use them? Someone once said to me that if we keep electronics unused for long they turn into junk. Usage is extremely important. Similarly if we invest in buying expensive Bibles and showcase them as part of our home or office decor it won’t do. It won’t do even if we go the next step and spend hours just reading them. We must learn to use in our daily life what we read from God’s Word.

The Bible is the most effective utility tool because with its constant usage the user learns the most important principle of life – to discern between good and evil. That is the wisdom of the mature. That is Godly wisdom. That is being transformed into the image of God. No instrument on the face of the earth is as powerful and as effective, and yet how many of us actually know how to use it? Paul says that people who were supposed to be eating solid food were still being fed on milk all because they did not know how to use this tool effectively. (Hebrews 5:12)

It is not enough to read the Word and gain knowledge. The knowledge that is gained has to be put to work constantly. It doesn’t say occasional usage but constant and that means ‘in a flow’ without interruption. Our daily life is a constant flow of some activity or the other in our waking hours. Applying the Word or using it constantly in those daily activities provides a training opportunity to know good from evil. “Discerning’ is the word used by Paul . What does that term mean? The dictionary meaning is ‘ the ability to obtain sharp perceptions’. In another place – ‘Discernment is the ability to grasp, comprehend, and evaluate clearly. It means we can see the true nature of things; it allows us to distinguish between what is real and what is imitation.’

Discernment is the prized possession of the wise as mentioned in the Proverbs. We are to exhibit maturity through training ourselves to discern good from evil from the Word’s viewpoint. There are several shades of evil around us which are garbed as good and on the surface do not seem harmful.

How would we know if God approves of what we do? By learning to use the weapon of His Word practically every day. 2 Timothy 2:15 . The simple minded, spiritually challenged (read spiritually handicapped ) Christian will buy a lie without having the wisdom of discernment because they have not been trained through constant use of the Word also referred as a double edged sword. One of the biggest such deceptions going around is the prosperity gospel which does not preach Christ crucified and His offer of discipleship , it preaches to put your trust in a Benevolent Christ who is waiting to bless you with all earthly blessings, health, wealth and happiness. A mature Christian learning to apply the truth of following Christ through obedience to His command of denying self, taking up the cross and following after Christ will be able to discern if such a Gospel is from God or the devil. But someone who uses the Bible rarely in daily application stands in danger of being deceived . It is not just about discerning truth from lies in the doctrinal aspect but in all aspects rather. The Word is active and alive . It has life. It is not just words meant to be read for our spiritual knowledge. It actually is alive . It works just like a motor that comes to life when you switch the ignition on , and which turns into a powerful moving machine used to transport you from one place to another. The Word is active when we begin to use it. It does its work of cleansing, pruning and renewing our minds and hearts to ultimately transform us into the likeness of Christ.

The Word of God teaches us to choose right over wrong every time . It cannot make a mistake . It is infallible. Other machines can be faulty but with this one there is divine guarantee that it is flawless and perfect. Learning to use it will never let you go wrong. The psalmist in psalm 119 vs .. says 2 Blessed are those who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart—they do no wrong but follow his ways. Note that he doesn’t say “read “ His statutes but “keep” which means do or apply or observe them in a practical way. They do no wrong. They are being made perfect.

A seasoned worker or sportsperson will have little or perhaps no flaws in the way they work or play as they have learned the techniques perfectly as opposed to amateurs .

The difference between pros and amateurs with regard to using the Word of God is pretty much the same. Some have been introduced to the Word maybe several decades ago but they still fumble with the techniques due to lack of regular usage although they may have read the Bible faithfully everyday for all those years. While there are some who have learned to apply on a constant basis whatever they read from the Word. There is no doubt that over time they become mature , their mistakes are fewer as they grow and they are aimed at perfection. They are becoming pros who are in turn used by the Lord to further His work.

Scripture Passage references :

Hebrews 5: 12 -14

In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

Proverbs 3:21-24

My son, preserve sound judgment and discernment, do not let them out of your sight; they will be life for you, an ornament to grace your neck. Then you will go on your way in safety, and your foot will not stumble; when you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet”

2 Timothy 2:15

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Not I But Christ

Sharing the lyrics of a song that echoes the longing of a disciple of Christ.

Not I, but Christ, be honored, loved, exalted;

Not I, but Christ, be seen, be known, be heard;

Not I, but Christ, in every look and action;

Not I, but Christ, in every thought and word.

◦ Refrain:

◦ Saved from my sin and myself, dear Lord,

◦ Saved to be filled with Thee;

◦ Self crucified, so now not I,

◦ But Christ, that lives in me.

Not I, but Christ, to gently soothe in sorrow;

Not I, but Christ, to wipe the falling tear;

Not I, but Christ, to lift the weary burden;

Not I, but Christ, to hush away all fear.

Not I, but Christ, in lowly, silent labor;

Not I, but Christ, in humble, earnest toil;

Christ, only Christ—no show, no ostentation;

Christ, none but Christ, the gath’rer of the spoil.

Christ, only Christ—no idle words e’er falling;

Christ, only Christ—no needless bustling sound;

Christ, only Christ—no self-important bearing;

Christ, only Christ—no trace of “I” be found.

Not I, but Christ, my every need supplying;

Not I, but Christ, my strength and health to be;

Not I, but Christ, for body, soul, and spirit;

Christ, only Christ, here and eternally.

Christ, only Christ, ere long will fill my vision;

Glory excelling soon, full soon I’ll see—

Christ, only Christ, my every wish fulfilling—

Christ, only Christ, my all in all to be.

———————————-

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Stop And Smell The Roses!

Recently my husband took up gardening as an interest and is growing a variety of flowers and veggies at home . He spends most mornings nurturing and tending to his plants in both our front and back yards. I, on the other hand do not have a green thumb and am unable to share his interest. But every few days he calls me out to the front yard and asks me to enjoy the flowers in bloom especially the roses . There are almost ten variants and each is a joy to behold. In the midst of morning chores, those few moments spent to stop and smell the roses sets a lovely tone for my entire day .

This morning I’m reminded that our life in Christ is not a drab, dull or boring journey as some portray it to be , but rather, it is an exciting journey filled with the fragrance and beauty of Christ.

Do we have in us the love, joy and peace from God our Father that grows day by day? It will do us good to do a self-check , as these attributes are proof of the presence of the eternal life that Christ has promised to those who follow Him.

There is real enjoyment in Christ. which comes from living in Him and, in restful assurance that He is in charge of every detail of our lives when we are submitted to Him totally. Even details that are in the future which we may be unaware of !

Sometimes we become so preoccupied with responsibilities at work, school or home that we miss savouring this fragrant beautiful life promised to all who walk in faith .

Every difficulty and problem however complex, can be removed or solved through complete dependence on our Lord . It is but our natural instinct to find ways to get out of our difficulties and solve problems on our own. But remaining still in the middle of such situations and trusting in the Lord to bring us out , results in savouring the beauty of the Lord’s divine / supernatural interventions in our otherwise grey lives. This, coupled with choosing to do the Father’s will over our own every time fills us with the fragrance that is of Christ and which is acceptable to God the Father! This is faith at work .

Building such faith day by day , is marked by “awe” moments and “wow” moments that are beyond our understanding and have their designs from the Lord of our faith! In the end the beauty and fragrance of our Lord is seen and felt by all who cross our path .

( 2 Corinthians 2:15 ; Psalms 90:17)

Following Christ in faith is not a mundane, boring ride , but a beautiful journey where you get to stop and smell the roses all the time !

Galatians 3: 26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Receiving encouragement

The journey or quest that we are in as disciples of the Lord Jesus is marked by seasons of sowing , fruitfulness, harvest and rest .. the beauty lies in experiencing Christ , savouring Him and enjoying Him in every season , described by Apostle Peter as “ growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” He has given us the exclusive privilege of getting to know Him experientially every moment of every day.
Through every season that we enjoy in this exciting journey of being discipled by our Lord, our biggest comfort is His encouragement received through close personal communion and fellowship with Him.

Ian Vincent

The person who honors God by spending time alone communing with him receives his encouragement primarily from God.

View original post

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Joshua 22 – An Altar of Witness

 

 

altar

 

 An Altar of Witness   

It is  most natural to form assumptions from what we see on the outside even before we know what’s on the inside.  Often, such assumptions are far from the truth, and actions stemming from these can be disastrous.   Joshua 22  has God’s blueprint  to deal with misunderstandings or wrongly formed assumptions in a godly, biblical way!

In the referred passage of Joshua 22 :  The time of war had temporarily ended and Joshua allotted each tribe their portions in the land of Canaan, which they had conquered with the Lord’s help.  The  tribes  of  Reuben and Gad along with the half- tribe of Manasseh (a.k.a. the Eastern tribes)  were returning back to their allotments eastward across  the Jordan. They had the blessings of Joshua who was sending them back fully-loaded to settle into their homes and begin living with their families, in the land that God had given them as their inheritance.  His parting  instructions to them were to  hold fast to God, and love Him with all their heart and obey all His commands.

They left and crossed the Jordan. And they built a grand altar there.

Building an altar could mean several things. But when their brothers back  on the western side heard of it, they set out to wage war with them. (Hearing from a third source caused them to conclude the worst possible scenario)  – that their  brethren in the east  had gone against God’s command to Moses –  that no other alter  be built to make offerings and sacrifices  except that which already existed at the Tent of Meeting in Shiloh. (Leviticus 17:1-6)

Handling Conflict

Thankfully, when the western tribesmen crossed over,  they acted in wisdom first. Instead of fighting their eastern brothers, they had a face-to-face dialogue with them, with Phinehas the priest, grandson of Aaron being their spokesperson. And it turned out that there was a misunderstanding. The altar was not built to compete with that in Shiloh, or to dishonor God’s commands, or to act in unfaithfulness toward Him as was concluded earlier. But it was built only as a memorial and a witness for the coming generations to say that  Israelites on both east and west of Jordan worshipped the same God.

Responding to Wrong Assumptions

The Eastern tribesmen began their response to Phinehas with these words…””The Lord God of gods, the Lord God of gods, HE KNOWS THE TRUTH” ( Joshua 22:22). They were sure what they had done  was right before God. How often have we faced situations when we too were misunderstood and then said, “but  God knows the truth”! The path of discipleship is costly, and at times, we are misunderstood for the things we do and say and what we stand up for. Our Lord was misunderstood to the point of being called a glutton and a drunkard Matt 11:19 . He was never perturbed when misunderstood by people because He did not live before men, to gain their approval;  but before the Father, and His approval was all that mattered to Him.

 And… If We’ve Misunderstood…..

On the flip side, many of us are guilty of  misunderstanding our brothers /sisters, concluding wrongly and also acting on them.

How did Phinehas handle his assumption that the Eastern tribesmen had sinned and grieved the Lord?

During the dialogue between  both parties,  Phinehas  did not accuse in a harsh tone even though, he too had misunderstood his eastern brothers. Instead he reminded them of the consequences of unfaithfulness to God and he also offered a way out. If we wish to confront those  we think are  opposing the Lord or dishonoring His name, we  can do so with a motive to help ( if it turns out  that they have acted in foolishness). Phinehas, who had thought that the eastern tribes-people had wronged God,  invited them to come and live with the tribes on the western side of Jordan just so that they don’t fall into the grave sin of being unfaithful to God.This invitation was made not without a cost. It would mean lesser land area for the rest of the western tribes. But just to see their brothers free from any kind of sin, they were willing to make that sacrifice. Too often, we lack such willingness. We are ready to tell people to stop sinning but are not willing to help them if it costs us something.   This was a godly  method of confrontation.

But, confronting with a motive to accuse, put down or project someone  in bad light is the exact opposite of the Phinehas way, the biblical way.

Conclusion 

Godly wisdom prompted Phinehas to voice  his  concern for God’s honor and holiness,  and confront in gentleness and love, making an attempt to reconcile before attempting to make war.

In the end,  he was met with the most surprising, God honoring  response  which caused the others to retreat in gladness and peace.

The altar  was named ED – which means a witness.  Our God is witness to all that we do, and HE KNOWS.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment