Sunday, July 23, 2017

Living in Full Favour

UV 2728/10000 Living in Full Favour
Neither will I hide my face any more from them: for I have poured out my spirit upon the house of Israel, saith the Lord GOD
Ezekiel 39 v 29

The Lord hid His face from man since the time he first sinned. He revealed Himself from time to time through His servants, the prophets and His Word. But the full revelation of His face came in and through His Son Jesus, sent to His people Israel. But since the house of Israel rejected Jesus, the gospel spread across the globe to all nations. Today, the time has come when the Lord will pour out His spirit of grace and supplications on Israel so that the Jews will recognize what their forefathers had done in crucifying Jesus, the Messiah. They will mourn for Him as if for their own first born.
We need to pray that the revelation and conviction of the people of Israel happens in the Lord’s time. It is the ultimate blessing of Zion upon the Jewish people. Jesus spoke of tearing down the temple of Solomon as He wanted the Jews to understand that the Lord will not dwell in a man-made temple but in the bodies of people consecrated in His name to the Lord. Even the prophet Elijah could not perceive the face of the Lord in His encounter with Him on the mountains. Moses however spoke face to face with Jehovah. It did not mean that Moses saw the face of the Lord but that he was covered by the shekinah or supernatural grace and glory of the Lord. When the people of Israel recognize their king and Messiah in Jesus, they would have an even closer relationship with the Lord. Their struggles with God would end and they would truly be the people of Zion.

Jacob, who was given the name Israel by Jehovah tried to get ahead of his brother Esau from the time of his birth. He tried to deceive his brother and had to flee from his home. Jacob struggled with the Lord when all He had to do was to yield to Him. When we are only to remain still and yield, we wrestle with the Lord. Most of our struggles in life are due to our resistance to the spirit of the Lord. We try to get ahead in life by sleight, by deception, by distrusting the will of the Lord and try to take matters into our own hands. We trust our own limited knowledge and wisdom and distrust the complete knowledge and wisdom of the Lord. These are the times when the Lord hides His face from us. If we surrender to His will in trusting submission, we would be spared of much of the pain, trouble, stress and strain. The Lord will reveal His face to us in the sense, we will understand our purpose in life. We will be content to walk in accordance with the plan of the Lord for us. We will not try to get ahead by hook or by crook. Revealing His face to us is showing favour upon our lives. The ultimate sign of His favour is pouring His spirit upon us, the spirit of gentleness, wisdom, grace and power.
Prateep V Philip

Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Peace Process

UV 2727/10000 The Peace Process
The LORD hath taken away thy judgments, he hath cast out thine enemy: the king of Israel, even the LORD, is in the midst of thee: thou shalt not see evil any more.
Zephaniah 3 v 15
A man is not aware of his snoring except he wakes up before the sound dies out. Likewise, a man is not aware of sinning except he wakes up spiritually. In the course of our lifetime, we commit many wilful sins or acts that militate against the written and unwritten law placed in our hearts by the Spirit of God. But when we first believe and receive Jesus into our hearts, our slates are wiped clean, our judgements are “ taken away”, cancelled as it were. All judgements for our acts of omission and commission of all humanity, past, present and future, in spirit, mind and body were piled on the shoulders of our divine “scapegoat” or Lamb of God, Jesus on the cross. After our first confession of faith in the sacrificial death and victorious resurrection of Jesus, we still sin given our propensity to sin as we are creatures both of flesh and of spirit. Now, we have recourse to confession for individual sins and repentance. The first confession and repentance is generic, covering all of our past offences while the ongoing confession is for specific acts.
Freed from the consequences or the power of sin but not the presence of sin, we have a bright and blight-free future. The Lord has plans to prosper us, to cause us to succeed, to bless us with hope and a future in eternity. The enemy has plans and weapons to harm us, to rob us, to kill us, to destroy our hope and our future in eternity. Which of these plans succeed depends to a great degree on which plan we chose to implement in our lives. The enemy gets his power over our souls by reminding us of our sins that hold us in his captivity. But the Lord has cast the enemy out of our lives, he has no more power to harm us. The Lord not only has obtained victory for mankind once and for all, He continues to be with us in the form of the Holy Spirit. The king is in our midst. We need to combat the presence of sin with the presence of the king. This is why Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is in you and amongst you.”
The enemy has been dethroned from our hearts. Now it is the Lord who rules in us and rules the world through us. His kingdom has come to our hearts and lives. We need fear no evil any longer. We experience instead Shalom- the peace that passes human understanding and wisdom, the peace that surpasses anything the world can give us, the peace that signifies blessing, holistic prosperity and good success as well as continual joy. The success that the world can give us or the enemy can give people for mortgaging their souls to him is a pyrrhic victory- a victory that is disguised bitter failure and misery, a success whose cost is self destructive. It is the kind of success or glory that Jesus turned down when the enemy attempted to tempt Him in the wilderness.

Prateep v Philip

Friday, July 21, 2017

The Withered Hand

UV 2726/10000 The Withered Hand
How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days
Matthew 12 v 12

This uni-verse is Jesus’s response to the insinuation of the Pharisees that He would be breaking the law by healing and restoring the withered right hand of a man on the Sabbath. Jesus compares His act of healing the man to what anyone would do to save a sheep that had fallen into a pit even on a Sabbath. It demonstrates the flexibility of Jesus on non essentials of faith. The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath implying the laws are made to facilitate man to be his better self walking in relationship with the Lord and that man was not to be rigid and unthinking or unfeeling in its application.

Jesus constantly compared the value of a man’s life with that of birds, animals and in this case, sheep. We are of far greater value in the kingdom of God than all of His other creatures. Even God’s law or His word will not stand in the way of our doing good to others. Jesus is asking us to honour the spirit of the law rather than its letter. The Word is meant to liberate us from restrictions, fears, inhibitions, limitations, artificial boundaries and man-made traditions and rites. The Word is meant to give us the abundant and eternal life and not to accuse us, to make us feel guilty, to humiliate us, to discredit us.
There is therefore, no law against spiritual, moral and personal excellence. The law is meant to define the bare minimum, the desideratum for civilized life but we are called to operate far above that level. The law tells us to avoid evil but the spirit asks us to abound with goodness. Jesus distinguished between the two and showed us that there is a vast difference between these. Man is not just a creature at the top of the food chain but a fallen angel, a heavenly being waiting to develop the wings of prayer and the word to fly back home. The restoration of the withered hand of the man by Jesus is a symbol of His grace, love and ability to restore that which is withered in our lives, to restore it to its pristine state. The hand that was restored was the right hand, signifying the restoration of that which is important and significant or that without which we cannot get on. The restored right hand of the man would enable him to work, to earn, to live with dignity. It would create the veritable and virtual ambience of a continual feast in his heart all his remaining living days as well as joy and wonder in the hearts and minds of all who knew him, his intimate circle as well as acquaintances. That act would bring much joy, praise and worship in the heart of the restored, the healed- more praise and worship than the entire ecclesiastical order of the world would ever bring to the altar of the Lord. That act of healing would bring glory to the Lord and peace and goodwill among men. Doing something of value to any one- anytime, anywhere by anybody is not going to violate any law of man or of God. Laws and rules are not to be made that would degrade human beings in comparison with other creatures. To dethrone man from the throne of the earth is to defy the One who sits on the throne of heaven.

Prateep V Philip

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Spirit Invested In Us

UV 2725/10000 The Spirit Invested in Us
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
2 Timothy 1 v 7

We do not accomplish anything worthwhile in our lives by human might or physical power but by the spirit that the Lord has invested in us. God has given us the spirit of faith, courage and hope. The spirit is invested or deposited in us. It is gifted or given by grace not earned or worked up. We are set free from the bondage of the fear of death in Christ, the Way, the Life and the Resurrection. The fear of death is the power by which the enemy of our souls controls mortal man. But when we are restored to a personal relationship with the Father through our faith in the Son, we receive the spirit of adoption by which we call Him, “Our Abba or Dear Father.” We are set free from the fear of “hamartia” or fear of falling short of the standards of holiness or perfection of the Father.
Our relationship with the Lord by faith and adoption or commitment fills us with power as we are now children of God with a right to the blessings of the first born. We are not lesser than anyone else in the sight of the Lord. We have the power to tread upon all the power of the enemy. We have the authority to command the powers of darkness to depart. The Holy Spirit comes upon us as a seal of approval and a guarantee of the promises of the Lord and we receive power over all that we were formerly subject to. We experience and comprehend the agape love of the Lord. To know Him more is to love Him more. To love Him more is to obey Him.
We also receive the power of self control in order to grow the fruit of the spirit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility and to overcome the weeds sown in the flesh for example, pride, lust, anger, lack of contentment, anxiety and so on. The spirit of love, power and self control equips us to face and handle all situations and issues in our lives. Love, power and self control need to operate concurrently in our lives in order that we are found by the Lord to be effective, fruitful and faithful. We need to exercise power in a spirit of love and with a sound mind. A healthy spirit, a loving heart and a sound mind come together in us to create a sense of harmony and balance between all parts of our lives. If any action or word or thought of ours is not reflecting a blend of power, love and self control, it implies that we are ignoring the spirit the Lord has invested in us.

Prateep V Philip

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Ship Called Leadership

UV 2724/10000 The Ship Called Leadership
Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck:
I Timothy 1 v 19
Paul draws the image of a faithful person as one who steers a ship called leadership. Faith is like holding the helm. A believer is a helmsman for the Lord as Noah was. He is to steer the ship over the ocean of life to the eternal destination, facing both good weather and stormy weather, calm seas and turbulence in the course of our lives, but always guided by the compass of the conscience. Writers like Stephen Covey refer to it as the moral compass and seeking the true North. But as believers the needle of our conscience that has been enlightened by the light of salvation and the word of truth needs to not only point us to the north but also away from the south- our negatives, our weaknesses, our temptations, our limitations, our failures.
Temptations are like the mirages that a desert traveller sees. These are the rocky shores that can break up our ship. The Word is the lighthouse that warns us of the presence of these rocky shores and helps us chart our course. We are to prefer to face trials than to yield to temptations. If we do not follow the dictates of our good conscience or a conscience informed by the Word of what is good and what is bad, what direction is to be pursued and what is to be avoided, our faith would be shipwrecked. We are to anchor in the Lord and in His word from time to time while biding our time to press forward through the waves and ups and downs of life. Like a good ship captain, we should know our maps, as to where we are at a point in time and where we are heading.
The good conscience comes from pursuing righteousness following the example of the captain of our salvation- Jesus. The good conscience comes from acting on the basis of righteous principles expounded or implied in the Word of Christ. These principles provide the high mast and sails to pick up the wind of the Lord’s favour. The message we deliver to the world is the ballast or cargo to retain in the ship’s hold to provide balance during the voyage and to be delivered at different ports of call. The chief engineer on our ship is the Holy Spirit who reveals what part of our lives are functioning well or are malfunctioning. He keeps all the parts well -oiled and adds the unction to our function.

Prateep V Philip

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Fading Suffering Leads to Unfading Glory

UV 2723/10000 Fading Suffering Leads to Unfading Glory
For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;
2 Corinthians 4 v 17

All the troubles and afflictions of our lifetime are light when compared with the eternal rewards awaiting the faithful in the life to come. Even if a person’s life is shortened by martyrdom, he is rewarded with eternal, unending life and the glorious reward of a martyr in heaven. If his life is full of tears and pain, he will one day enter a realm without tears and pain. If he is condemned, accused, scorned, punished in this world, he will be rewarded exceedingly with a crown of glory in the world to come. It was this perspective that enabled the early faith fathers to endure much suffering, trials, torment, scourging, poverty, shame and painful execution by the cruellest of methods man could devise like being torn apart by wild beasts, set on fire, crucifixion. They endured all of it like an athlete who subjects himself to discipline, knowing that his efforts will lead to his being crowned some day with a wreath or crown that perishes. But the cross of Christ leads to a crown of imperishable glory.
St Paul suffered many afflictions in the course of his ministry like being stoned, beaten with iron rods, imprisoned, shipwrecked, stripped, starved, betrayed, persecuted, accused falsely and so on. Yet he endured it all with a sense of joy, focussing his eyes on the author , the One who began his journey of faith on the road to Damascus and the finisher, the One who promised to be with him all the days of his life and receive him into eternity with a crown of unfading, undying glory. He did not wallow in self pity in the hard times he went through but imitated Christ , the glorious Son of God who embraced poverty, affliction and misery on earth to lift all mankind who believe in His promise to eternal glory which eye has not seen, neither ear heard or any mind imagined. We too need to think lightly of the afflictions we have experienced in our lives hitherto and renew our joy and faith by anticipation of the eternal, unseen crown of glory.

Afflictions test our love for Christ. Troubles are the touchstone to prove the genuineness of our faith. They also purify us and perfect us in the eyes of the Lord. They strengthen our character and remove every trace of superfluity of ego, vanity and emotions. During the trials and times of trouble, we experience a new dimension of our relationship with the Lord and His love and grace. The intensity of intimacy with the Lord increases. Our faith is purified and strengthened even as steel is wrought in fire, even as gold is purified in refining fire. Our experiences of tough times shape us and make us more patient and mature. The hope of recognition and reward by the Lord who is faithful to His promises sustains us in these times for we know that the reward would be so disproportionate to the extent of our suffering that we cannot even compare the two.

Prateep V Philip

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Law and Grace

UV 2721/10000 The Law and Grace
This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success
Joshua 1 v 8
The Bible is the book that has influenced most of the laws of the contemporary world in terms of the normative values underpinning laws. But it is also the law that defines and leads us to success and prosperity. The Bible distinguishes it as “good success” and wholesome prosperity epitomised in the Hebrew word “Shalom.” Good success is not mere financial or material success or prosperity but it is wholesome or holistic. The Bible states that the presence of the Lord with us distinguishes us from the rest of mankind. In other words, the success and prosperity or otherwise of our lives is determined by our relationship with the Lord.
There is a two way traffic of communication between our mouths and our hearts, from the mouth to the heart and from the heart to the mouth. This uni-verse states that we should always have the word on the tip of our tongues, always ready to give an answer based on the word. If the tongue is the rudder of our lives as stated by St James, the word is the rudder of the tongue. We find equilibrium or perfect balance in our speech by following the guidelines and precepts of the Word. Apt and effective communication is the hallmark of the successful. The word is our constant reference point in all our communications with ourselves primarily and also, with others. We need to be asking ourselves, “ Is what I am saying in accordance with the truth and spirit of the word of the Lord?” John used the metaphor of the word to refer to Jesus, “ In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Jesus during His earthly sojourn was perfect in His communications with self, others and God, the Father. Hence, God prospered Him in His mission to be the Saviour of all mankind. His word gave wisdom, light, love and hope of eternal life to the listener.
Our communication should be based on meditation on the Word. We should be thinking all the time 24x7 about the truths revealed to us this far from the Word. When we prove ourselves diligent in this, the Holy Spirit will reveal even deeper truths that impact our lives. The enemy of our souls will not find a gap in our fencing to enter our thoughts and divert or trap us. We should then make it a point to do all that is written in the Word. Doing is obedience and obedience is love of the Lord. These things, then make us successful and prosperous: communication on the basis of the word, communication of the Word, meditation on the Word, mingling our thoughts with the Word and the Word with our thoughts all the time, acting on the basis of the Word or obeying it wholeheartedly. But the rider in the uni-verse “to do all that is written..” is the catch, the challenge. All of us may not be able to do all that is written but unlike the time Joshua first wrote these words under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we are now living in a period of grace. Jesus, the Word will fill the gaps in our speech, thinking and actions with His sufficient and abundant grace. We can have “hyperbole” or exceeding success and prosperity despite “hamartia” or shortcomings.

Prateep V Philip