Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Being on Fire for the Lord

“Why am I not on fire for the Lord?” This cry of the heart makes room for introspection and spiritual growth. This is a cry that longs for more of God. But it is better to ask this question, than not realizing that we are to be on fire to serve the Lord.

Although we question our ineffectiveness in God’s kingdom, we should realize that by virtue of our belief, we are safe and secure in God’s presence, and that none can snatch us from HIS hand. We should plead with God to strengthen us, for spiritual growth is a process, not a onetime experience. This is a recap of the previous blog.

We suffer from comparisons! One reason we question our ineffectiveness, is due to the magnificent testimonies we hear of our brothers and sisters in Christ. These could be about experiencing God’s power through deliverance, healing, or other material blessings. Another reason is that we see others actively working in HIS vineyard, and our lives only seem mundane in comparison. Some of us may lead hectic lives where we would not have the time to serve God and HIS people through various ministries in church. This is fairly normal! However, it is wiser to introspect instead of succumbing to comparisons.

There are two sides to “being on fire for the Lord.”Consider the words of Chuck Colson and Nancy Pearcey, “Gordon Allport, the great psychologist of religion, drew a distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic religion. Extrinsically religious people use religion for external purposes, like the politician who attends church to gain respectability or the person who prays for purely material benefits. But intrinsically religious people serve God without ulterior motive: They pray in order to commune with HIM and understand HIS truth; they give without any utilitarian calculation.” 1

The Sermon on the Mount magnifies the heart of a man into a greater perspective in his relationship with God. Man cannot please God externally. Man’s external actions are a result of his heart’s disposition (Luke 6: 45b). Although man’s external actions are an outpouring of his internal being, some could fake an external without a truthful heart.

So there ought to be an intrinsic and an extrinsic fire. Intrinsic fire is to be on fire for the Lord from within our hearts. We are on fire when we possess: a deeper fellowship with God and a greater joy in intrinsic worship (not only inside the church, but significantly, outside the church). Extrinsic fire is in serving God and HIS people through the effective use of our spiritual gifts. (You could refer to my previous blog "Miraculously Blinded Church" for the list of spiritual gifts.) It is immaterial if one serves God from the forefront or from the background. Conventionally, extrinsic fire would manifest through:
·         Public prayers or attending prayer meetings.
·         Preaching / teaching biblical truths or attending bible studies.
·         Serving the underprivileged.
·         Defending our faith.
·         Use of our spiritual gifts.

However, those with deep intrinsic fire need not necessarily manifest an abundance of an extrinsic fire due to the complexities of their life. We need not be concerned about those whose difficult life situations deny them the privilege of serving in God’s kingdom through the church ministries, especially when their intrinsic love for God is stable and growing. There will come a time in their life when they can serve God through the local church.

In my opinion, intrinsic fire is more foundational to a successful Christian life than the extrinsic. If love for God, in our heart, decreases, then our separation from HIM increases. This situation should be overcome through prayer (and fasting) – pleading for God’s power to strengthen us to draw closer to HIM.

Conventionally, we are aware that to be on fire for the Lord is to possess:
·         …an immense desire for HIM (Psalm 73:25).
·         …an enormous love to know more of God through the Bible (Deuteronomy 6: 5-9).
·         …a sacrificial heart to obey the Lord and HIS commands (Romans 6: 16-18).
·         … a growing and an unshakeable faith and hope in HIM despite life’s situations (Romans 15: 13; Ephesians 6: 16 - ESV)
·         …a fullness of Joy (Psalm 16:11).This is not a constant joy for there will be times of pain and other responsibilities in this fallen world.
·         …a loving responsibility for our fellow brothers and sisters (Mark 12: 31).

In other words, to be on fire for the Lord is to live a life of constant worship of the living God. There could be ups (joy, without problems in life) and downs (pain) in one’s spiritual life, but the glorious truth is that we can win spiritual victories by the power of our Lord. Thus although the ‘low’ could be a momentary constant, that “low” will be perceived a ‘high,’ by the grace and power of our Lord, when we seek HIM with all our heart (cf. 1 Peter 1:6).

I submit an unconventional conclusion without corroding the conventional understanding. Looking into the church of Jesus Christ, we will observe Christians professing their greatness in the Lord. They are those who verbalize and vocalize their spiritual achievements (e.g. “25 people were baptized yesterday by me,” “I preached an anointed sermon,” “the prayer meeting I was a part of was so anointed” etc.). I do not think an anointed sermon, a powerful prayer, or an active service to the underprivileged, are sole manifestations of being on fire for the Lord.

Consider the gospels where the Lord emphasizes on the fruit the disciples ought to bear (Matthew 7:15-23; Luke 6: 43, 44). Let the passage on love also be in the backdrop of our minds (1 Corinthians 12: 31b-13). The “beatitudes” (Matthew 5: 3-12) and the “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5: 22-23) are the foundations to the existential excellence of a Christian life. This is where I find the essence of being on fire for the Lord. We are on fire for the Lord if we adhere to the commentary of these sections that is found below:

“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.
For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith;
if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach;
if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.
Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.
Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.
On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12: 3-21, NIV).


1 Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey, How Now Shall We Live? p314.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Am I on Fire for the Lord? (Our Christian Identity)

At some point, these questions may have crept into our hearts: “How can I be on fire for the Lord, when I vacillate between hot and cold?” “I was excited when I gave my life to the Lord and felt I was on a spiritual high; I was constantly adoring and worshiping God. After a while, I felt my heart grow cold….” “Sometimes I feel I am on a spiritual high, and often I feel as if I am on a spiritual low.” Some of us may wonder why we at times read the Bible and pray earnestly, but slowly and eventually cease our Bible reading and praying. A [seemingly] defeated heart cries: “God’s sick of me. I can never be right enough for HIM. Even though I assert myself to make it right the next time, I fail once again. Why do I even go to the lengths of trying harder? I am disgusted with myself.”

“Who am I in Christ?” is the foundational cry of the believer’s heart in this context. The other foundational cry is, “Is God pleased with me despite my failures?” We question ourselves and seek God’s mind about us.

These are honest questions of a believer, but blame not the questioner for asking the question. This is an existential dilemma experienced by many. Let us realize that these questions are not an aberration but more or less common. Significantly, we must acknowledge our need to overcome this problem.

We should realize that our relationship with Christ will grow and mature into an unshakeable faith and love in HIM. Growth in faith and love is a process similar to a baby learning to walk. Crawling is the first step to walking, and then the baby walks with a support. After a while the baby walks without an aid but does fall. Slowly the baby gains strength in legs, the needed balance, and the confidence to walk steadily. Until this moment, walking is an intentional event in the life of this child. When the baby grows, walking transforms from an intentional to a default event. Similarly, we are growing in holiness in Christ.

Possessing the faith of the stalwarts in the Bible - Apostle Paul, the disciples, the faith hall of famers (Cf. Hebrews 11) - is an ongoing process. This is not an aberration but a part of our Christian growth. The failures and successes of Apostle Peter and other biblical stalwarts are well documented to encourage a growing Christian. Peter grew through his failures to what he became to be – a rock on which the church is built (Matthew 16:18).

The questions mentioned earlier suspect our position in Christ. We doubt who we are in Christ, and thus doubt exists in a believer’s life. Please listen to Os Guinness, “Picture a small boy frustrated with a jigsaw puzzle because he is certain that the pieces do not fit the picture on the box. We are like this when we doubt…But shake the pieces up a little, rearrange the one or two that we have put in the wrong place and everything changes. It is not the fault of the puzzle or the picture but the boy.”1When we doubt ourselves, the temptation is to blame and mutilate oneself. “Oh I am unable to solve the puzzle, I am a fool!” could be the cry of the heart. This is not a remedy. The effective remedy is to seek help to complete the puzzle. We should acknowledge our inward need to be strengthened in God’s presence. The cry of our heart should be, “I need God’s wisdom, confidence and strength.”

Just as a sick man visits the doctor, we ought to take our weakness to our Heavenly Father. Os Guinness says, “Any unresolved doubt will tend to thrust us away from God, but our experience of his resolving our previous doubts should encourage us to come nearer. The first reaction of our hearts should echo William Cowper’s prayer, “Decide this doubt for me.””2

The questions we pose in search for answers do not eliminate us from God’s presence. God understands human heart better than man himself (1 John 3: 20; Romans 8: 26-28 - The Message). God’s grace and love for a believer is the believer’s assurance that he will not be rejected from God’s presence on account of these honest questions. Christ said it is impossible for anyone to snatch a believer from HIS hand (John 10: 28). So even as we acknowledge the need for strengthening, let us be assured that we remain to be the children of the living God. We are God’s own, so we will take our questions to the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2, NASB). Os Guinness quotes Martin Luther’s prayer, which is very apt for this situation:
“Dear Lord,
Although, I am sure of my position,
I am unable to sustain it without Thee.
Help Thou me, or I am lost.”3

When in doubt, run to God. This song was originally sung in Tamil (one of the languages of the Indian subcontinent, and my native language). It reflects the heart of a believer who seeks God. May it be your prayer as well.

In my prayer I seek you (எந்தன் ஜெப வேளை உமை தேடி வந்தேன்) 4

In my prayer I seek you, LORD
Be gracious upon me – for
You are my fortress and refuge
I come seeking you, LORD!

Give me the grace to -
Interact with you always, Lord!
To listen to Your Word,
All through my life.

All through my life, LORD
I would be seated at your feet;
Listen to the tearful prayers,
Oh stream of Mercy!

I pray you may deliver all those
Who are in darkness and hopeless
Save us Oh my Jesus
Fervently we pray

Give me the spirit of intercession
To pray tirelessly
Remove all obstacles - for
I have come at the foot of the Cross.

We love the verse from the Bible that says we are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2: 8-9). But let us also be equally aware of the verses preceding this verse. When God saved us, HE raised us up with Christ, and seated us with HIM in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:6, NIV). A believer in Christ is seated with God in Christ in the heavenly realms. This is pivotal to the cognizance of our Christian identity. It is impossible for anyone to snatch a believer of Christ from God’s presence. If we desire to be on fire for the Lord always, we need to know and believe in this crucial truth.

I hope to conclude this theme in my next blog, but in the meantime may these verses strengthen you:

“You are My witnesses,” declares the Lord,
“And My servant whom I have chosen,
So that you may know and believe Me
And understand that I am He.
Before Me there was no God formed,
And there will be none after Me.
“I, even I, am the Lord,
And there is no savior besides Me.
“It is I who have declared and saved and proclaimed,
And there was no strange god among you;
So you are My witnesses,” declares the Lord,
“And I am God.
“Even from eternity I am He,
And there is none who can deliver out of My hand;
I act and who can reverse it?” (Isaiah 43: 10-13, NASB)

We are God’s own and HE will bless us. Amen.


1 Os Guinness, God in the Dark, p215. 

Ibid., 216.



Monday, May 13, 2013

Miraculously Blinded Church

Many state emphatically or imply succinctly that a church is dead if God fails to manifest Himself through ‘signs and wonders.’ Further variations to this statement are: “God is not present in a church where there aren’t any ‘signs and wonders,’” “the Spirit’s anointing is missing in this church,” or even “signs and wonders are needed in this church.” Such bewildering utterances! These statements do not implicate God for failing to manifest, but they placate God and implicate man. They accuse the faith and/or holiness of man and his church and deem him/her spiritually inadequate. Are these statements competent, and do they possess comprehensive biblical wisdom? Is God present in a church devoid of signs and wonders? Is the church where God manifests in ‘signs and wonders’ superior to the church devoid of such manifestations?   

Here is a quick understanding of ‘signs and wonders.’ Mark 16: 17-18 states, “And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well. (NIV)  “Sign” indicates God’s activity and power in reference to miracles. “Wonder” is an event that astonishes people. “Miracles” are a display of great divine power. ‘Signs and wonders’ is often used interchangeably with ‘miracles.’1

It’s a fact that miracles have their place etched in the local church. But what’s puzzling is when Christians claim that miracles are the only evidence for God’s presence in the local church. Some accentuate a church or a person with the gift of miraculous powers as superior or holier. Such a claim stem from the speaker’s arrogance and it further depicts his exceedingly constricted biblical knowledge! (Let’s not even consider those who glorify the agents of signs and wonders more than the source HIMSELF!)
    Please observe the table below which features the spiritual gifts:
ROMANS 12: 6-8
1 CORINTHIANS 12: 7-11, 28-30
1 PETER 4: 11
Miraculous Powers
Acts of Mercy
Discernment (distinguishing of spirits)
Tongues (various kinds of)
Interpretation of tongues
1 CORINTHIANS 12: 28-30
Workers of Miracles
Gifts of healing
Helping others
Tongues (various kinds of)

            Spiritual gifts are gracious gifts of God for the unity of church, equipping the saints for works of God’s service thus leading to the growth of the church. Miracles are not the only, but one among the many gifts God has given HIS people (1 Corinthians 12: 14-21). All gifts are not equally conspicuous; but equally important (1 Corinthians 12: 22-26). The Holy Spirit distributes these gifts to those HE wills (1 Corinthians 12: 11).

Miracles should build up the church, not destroy her. If a member has a gift of miracles, he should be encouraged by the church to use this gift. But if the church has no member with the gift of miracles, then the church will surely have other spiritual gifts (Romans 12: 6a).

 ‘Love,’ the supreme ethic, is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, which is available to everyone in the church. The church should use this ‘gift’ in abundance. 1 Corinthians 13 is termed as the chapter of love. But Paul’s emphasis on love is in the context of spiritual gifts. Paul compels the church to be united amidst the existence of varied spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:12 – 13:13). Love, as the greatest gifts, should be used to accommodate and encourage the diverse spiritual gifts. But when statements of arrogance are uttered, Christ is dethroned and Satan is exalted in the church of Jesus Christ!

While answering a question pertaining to miracles at Georgia Tech University, Dr. Ravi Zacharias said, “we live dangerously when we think we can only depend on HIS activity because of the miraculous that is invading our lives and I think one of the things church does unwisely is always banking on another miracle, that is a kind of an insatiable desire. The miracle of a life transformed is a miracle that takes place everyday somewhere in this world. That is the greatest miracle of all, then there is the miracle of conquering over the suffering and the great miracle where people can live in trust knowing God even though the temporary circumstance do not seem to have HIS presence that manifests, but they conquer that. I think there are marvelous stories if you read what happened in Romania and in China…” (emphasis mine). He also recollected the miracle in Russia where the nation is being spiritually transformed.

Ravi’s thrust is vivid and profound. We unashamedly desire the so-called eminent miracles of healing and exorcism, but shamefully ignore the supreme miracles of life born-again, life well lived by conquering suffering, and life lived victoriously amidst the temporary silence of God (cf. Hebrews 11: 1). This is a sad reality in the church of Jesus Christ.

Miracles serve at least three purposes: to glorify God (to credit the miracles to God and not man - a mere channel), to establish the supernatural basis of revelation, and to meet the human needs as a measure of compassion for the needy and hurting people who approach God.2 Fracturing the church is not among the purposes of miracles.

The wind blows where it pleases. God cannot be boxed on account of miracles. Leaders of churches should stop playing spiritual games with people by using God or HIS people as their pawns.

The Bible mandates us to be continually filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). This is a matter of HIM possessing more of our lives. We should desire to give the Spirit a complete control of our lives. Since this is an ongoing process, our lives will manifest whatever gift God sovereignly endows us with. It’s also abundantly clear that no one gift is for all Christians, nor is any gift more significant than others.3

Is God present in a church devoid of miracles or signs and wonders? The answer is YES, for God has bestowed the church with other spiritual gifts. Is the church where God manifests through ‘signs and wonders’ superior to the one without them? The answer is NO, for all gifts are equally significant.

I have scratched the surface here, and volumes have been written elsewhere. Please enlighten me if you disagree. Amen.


1 Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, p356.   
2  Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, p434.
3 Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, p896-97.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Loving the Sinner

“True Christians rebuke sin and expose it; False Christians practice sin and defend it.” While this slogan recites the truth, it needs to be understood well.  Does “rebuke” involve condemnation?

“I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay,” confessed Jason Collins, a professional basketball player on 29-April-2013.1 Some offered support to Jason Collins, and others rebuked him. ESPN’s sports analyst Chris Broussard said, "I would not characterize that person as a Christian because I don't think the Bible would characterize them as a Christian." 2

I disagree with Broussard and the many who brand sinners (in this context, LGBT – Lesbians, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender community) as non-Christians. The rationale for my disagreement is in my blog, “Way to Heaven, Not by Works.” Since I am blogging on the subject of church, I wish to scratch the surface of “church’s response to a sinner.” How should the church rebuke sin? We should integrate truth from Christ and HIS response to sinners.

First, Christ does not condemn the Samaritan woman for her sin.  HE appreciates her honesty and gently highlights her sin, “Jesus said to her, “You have correctly said, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly” (John 4:17b-18, NASB). Christ exposes her sin without condemning her. Christ’s response to the woman caught in adultery reveals a similar response (John 8:11).

Second, Christ reveals HIS love for sinners. Although there was a history of bitterness between the Jews and Samaritans (John 4:9), Christ accepts Samaritans’ request and stays with them for two days (John 4:40). Thus Christ reveals HIS love for the sinful Samaritans (cf. 2 Kings 17: 26-33; John 8:48; Acts 8:25).

Third, Christ defends the sinner against the accusers. Christ urged the sinless to hurl the first stone at the woman caught in adultery (John 8:7). In the very next chapter, Christ defends the blind man by emphasizing that his blindness was not due to his sin or that of his parents (John 9:3). (The rabbis believed that suffering was due to sin.)

Although Christ defends the sinner (not the sin), we can, from the instances mentioned above, reasonably claim that the Samaritan woman, the woman caught in adultery, and the blind man, were unbelievers. So we could assume that the sinners Christ loved and defended were unbelievers.

In other words, we can theorize that Christ would permit condemnation of a believer’s sins. So Broussard’s condemnation of Jason Collins could be legitimized (Jason Collins is believed to be a Christian). To condemn a sinner, Christians could cite Paul’s mandate to excommunicate the man accused of incest (1 Corinthians 5: 1-5) or Christ’s condemnation of Pharisees and the teachers of the law (Matthew 23).

When we research Paul’s writings on sin, we should recollect Paul’s self-description as the ‘worst of all sinners’ (1 Timothy 1: 15). The tense in this statement is ‘present’ not ‘past.’ Moreover Paul’s letter to Timothy was written at the end of Paul’s ministry. So Apostle Paul affirmed that he is a sinner. The man in the incestuous relationship was also a practicing sinner. Thus we are consistent with Bible’s teaching that all are sinners (Psalm 143:2; Ecclesiastes 7: 20; Romans 3: 23; 1 John 1: 8 et al.). The man in the incestuous relationship was to be excommunicated for deliverance from sin. However, excommunication does not merit condemnation, for the church was asked to mourn (1 Corinthians 5: 2, NIV), not hate. Mourning need not elicit condemnation.

The Bible teaches that man should not sin. Christ urged the woman caught in adultery to leave her life of sin (John 8: 11). But the existential dilemma is that the Christian succumbs to temptation and sins. He does not want to sin, nevertheless he sins (cf. Romans 7: 15-25). Let me get this straight, homosexuality is a sin and a sexual aberration. Those within this sexual orientation should plead with God for forgiveness and deliverance. A Christian cannot take pleasure in his sins; he repents and prays for its removal. Even if he takes pleasure in his sins, I do not see any reason for condemnation.

Is homosexuality a greater sin that deserves condemnation? Let us examine Paul’s statement for relevance and coherency. Paul said, “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6: 9-10, NIV). Homosexuality is a sin at par with theft, drunkenness, and slander.

In Matthew 23, Christ respected the position of the Pharisee and the teachers of the law for they sat in Moses’ seat, so HE encouraged people to do everything they were told (v 2-3). However, Christ condemns these ministers, for they did not do what they preached. HE condemned their hypocrisy (Matthew 23: 13, 15, 23, 25, 27, 29). The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were hypocrites who did not walk their talk. In stark contrast is Jason Collins, who confessed to his sin!

We have now observed that:

·         A Christian’s sins will not relegate him as a non-Christian.

·         Christ loved the sinners; HE did not condemn, but defended them. HE urged them to leave their life of sin.

·         Homosexuality is a sin that is at par with any other sin (with the exception of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit – Matthew 12: 32; Mark 3: 29).

·         So we reasonably infer that a homosexual, even if he is a Christian, should not be condemned.

Since homosexuality is at par with other sins, if one condemns homosexuality then by the same logic he too can be condemned for he is not sinless. Christians love John 3:16, but they should also love and practice John 3:17 - Christ came not to condemn. Since condemnation is against the tenet of Christianity, we do not condemn each other. To rebuke is not to condemn.

How then should a church respond to a sinner? Ephesians 4:15 offer us an insight. We ought to speak the truth, but we are called to do so in love. Wayne Grudem says, “Paul reminds us that we are to “restore” the sinning brother or sister “in a spirit of gentleness” (Galatians 6:1)…”3 We are called to rebuke sin, but as Christ did, we should in love and gentleness, and by defending the honor of the sinner. We will do this, if we believe we are practicing sinners, but saved by grace through faith. Amen.

1 http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/magazine/news/20130429/jason-collins-gay-nba-player/#ixzz2Rrh8O559

2 http://www.christianpost.com/news/chris-broussard-questions-jason-collins-christianity-on-espn-sparks-debate-video-94974/

3 Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology.

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