Let me start with a question.
Are we like robots? No. We have free will. We can choose between good and evil. When God made the first human pair, He took a significant calculated risk of making us in His very own image, with free will – including the freedom for us to rebel against Him. I want to make an important point here that even the freedom to rebel against God also comes from God. We can either choose to obey God or to reject Him. Though God is Sovereign and is in control of everything, since He also created human beings with free will, He does not interfere with human free will. For example, if you try to hit me, and God tries to stop it, and I try to hit you back, and again God tries to stop it, we are not free human beings; we will become like robots. If God stops our free will, even we cannot have a proper love relationship with Him, because love relationship needs an exercise of freedom. If God interferes in our relationship to Him, our relationship with Him will become forced relationship, it will not be based on love, because all true relationship requires freedom. That is why we cannot force another person to love just by forcing them to say I love you. If there is no freedom, there cannot be true love. Since God has made us in His own image, He will not go against it by stopping our free will, reducing us to the level of robots.
Now imagine that you are an astronaut stranded at a distance 350 kilometers above the earth’s surface where there is zero gravity. Though you will be freely floating, you cannot sleep in your bed without being strapped to it. We are free human beings on earth because we are related to this planet by gravity and friction. So, freedom is best defined as a relational quality. Since God is not unipersonal but tri-personal, freedom is a relational quality. If we closely look, we can realize this mystery of God’s Sovereignty and man’s free will.
When the first human pair, Adam and Eve decided to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they proclaimed autonomy from God declaring God’s character is no more the basis to decide right from wrong. They can decide on their own, which is right and which is wrong, giving birth to moral relativism. That is why what we see in Genesis 3 is not a simple act of disobedience but a declaration of moral autonomy and rebellion. Because this rebellion is a cosmic event, even nature turned against humans bringing in destruction and brought forth thorns and thistles (Gen. 3:18). This rebellion of the first human pair have defiled the earth and caused some aspects of nature not to operate as God originally intended. Thus, nature became frustrated in its purposes and can no longer be the same as it was created to be. In Romans 8:19-23, Paul describes this suffering of the natural world in the context of great eschatological hope for both believers and nature.
Since God gave us freedom, He is not going to restrain this freedom even if it is going to result in a great evil not only for ourselves but also for the whole of his creations. That is why we can see around us, human rebellion against God as the reason for many evil. I am coming to the main point that when we see evil like this virus that is happening in the created world, we may have to reluctantly admit that our human rebellion against God has upset the moral order. That is why it ultimately required of God to send His own Son to give up His life for our sake on the Cross because He cannot stop us from rebelling against Him, but provided a way for our forgiveness and returning back to Him with our free will and thus establishing the moral order back.
Long ago in a faraway place
Rough rugged timbers were raised to the sky
There hung a man suspended in space
And though He was blameless
They left Him to die
Just to think of the Cross
Moves me now
The nails in His hands
His bleeding brow
To think of the Cross
Moves me now
It should have been me, It should have been me,
Instead I am free, I am free!
He put an end to my guilt and despair
Turned bitter hating to sweet peace and love
Even the men that put Him up there
Were offered forgiveness and life from above
Just to think of the Cross
Moves me now
The nails in His hands
His bleeding brow
To think of the Cross
Moves me now
It should have been me, It should have been me,
Instead I am free, I am free!
(“Just to Think of the Cross” by Kurt Kaiser from the folk musical “Natural High”)
My dear Jesus, Today, I stand here to thank you for your sacrifice on the Cross. Let Your haunting horrible death on the Cross, move me to holiness, propel me to service, and ignite me to embrace the hurting, crying, and dying with Your Love. Amen.
A tiny little virus from China has brought the whole world to a standstill. Did we ever expect that we would end up seeing such a dreadful time when we are scared to even look at our neighbors? Having one’s family intact with us in the same house during this lockdown is a great blessing because we feel secured and in control. But during this one full week of staying inside the house alone, while my loved ones are away in a far off country, and my son working as an internal medicine doctor during this troublesome time, I am still learning that one can choose to live in fear, or choose to live in faith in the presence of God who alone can give rest to our troubled soul.
Let us turn to the question that we have been discussing:- why do we face struggle and pain when there is a good God? Today let us see only a small portion, and I will take it forward in my next posting.
The popular belief is that – you get what you deserve. If you sow evil, you will reap evil. That is why many believe that those who suffer trauma and face struggles are being punished for some wrongdoing. But this is not always true. In the Bible, we find the story of a righteous man called Job that challenges this paradigm and encourages us to look at the world through God’s eyes. When we read the 1st to 3rd chapter of Job from the Bible, we come across Job, who was seen sitting in ashes scratching his body after losing his wealth, health, and children on one single day. And then, as we read from chapter 4th to 31st, we encounter the conversation of Job with his three close friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, about the meaning and reason of suffering. His friends were called as bad comforters as they sat with him, arguing that his suffering was basically a punishment for his sin, for God causes no one to suffer innocently. As per them, Job’s extraordinary suffering can only be explained as the punishment of God for a grievous sin. Job was seen as defending his position that he had not committed any grievous sin on the basis that there is good evidence from the history that the wicked often prosper and the righteous suffer (21:29–30). However, his friends’ speeches became repetitive and hostile, and finally, in Job 42:7, God looks Job’s three friends and rebukes them. He said to Eliphaz: “My wrath is kindled against you and against your two friends; for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.”
Though Job did not get the answer to his question- why the righteous suffer? – we can understand that though all suffering need not be a punishment for sin, it awakens one’s ear to new dimensions of God’s reality and new depths of their own imperfection and deepening their faith and godliness.
Since we cannot find a direct answer to this question of evil and suffering, it remains a mystery until we get a direct revelation from God Himself. We also encounter many end-time prophecies and warnings whenever such a horrible plague strikes us or when we confront natural disasters. But the Bible says that we ought to live expecting the second coming of Jesus not only in bad times but also in good times. In Matthew 24:44, Jesus clearly says that you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. So end time prophecies are for all times of history and not only during plague times.
Then finally, what is the reason for such an epidemic? That is reserved for the next post, but meanwhile, I want to present before you the question – Has God made us like robots? If you think deeply, you will understand that God has given you and me free will to choose between good and bad; to choose God or not to choose Him. Is it right to invoke God at the time of evil? Why is it not that we search for God when everything is going well? Why dont we shout even in our good times – O Lord, Where are you? I miss You. And I need You.
God says If you seek ME, you will find ME. Might be we should directly ask HIM to speak to us today. He alone can answer this question of suffering.
When the loving Father chose to make us in His very own image to have fellowship with us day and night, why not we accept His love and love Him back as He ought to be loved and worshiped?
I vividly remember the last week of March 2004, when I was battling for my life with Pneumonia in Ventilator. Jesus cleansed me, redeemed me, justified me and sanctified me by giving me the vision of the Cross from where His Holy torrents of blood flowed over my sins and covered it. It has been sweet 12 years from then with Jesus and I can honestly say that everyday with Jesus is more sweeter than the day before and He has provided all my needs. It is really so sweet to trust in Jesus. Friends may come and go; relations may leave this world and go; but the Only One Permanent friend who will never leave is Jesus. And every other relationship becomes sour at times but this wonderful relationship with the wonderful Lord Jesus will never turn out to be sour.
The first ever blood that was shed was the blood of Abel. Abel’s blood was shed against His will but Jesus willingly came down to this earth to shed His blood. Abels blood was sinful blood but Jesus blood was the most Holy Blood. Abel’s blood cried out for vengeance but Jesus blood cried out for mercy for the whole humanity. Now I know, that the blood of Jesus is so powerful to battle against any other evils as it speaks on my behalf in heaven. So let the dark clouds rise; it can never trouble; for I am sheltered in the arms of God. Death has lost its power because of the power of this Holy blood. Soon I shall hear the call from heaven’s portals: Come home my child, It’s the last mile you must trod; it’s your last smile in earth; I’ll fall asleep And wake in God’s sweet heaven. Oh What a privilege. I am thankful to you Lord for this Good Friday. I have no past but His Cross; No present but His Presence and No future but His Coming.
You ask me why I love the Lord.
Well, friend, just let me say
Life was not worth living
‘Till the Saviour came my way.
You say I lose so much in life.
Yes, friend, PRAISE GOD, I do.
I lose the sin and sorrow
Which was all I ever knew.
I lose the days spent seeking joy,
The long nights with no sleep;
I lose the heavy burdens,
Which I carried through the years.
But friend, I would not have them back
For all that you could pay.
My life was not worth living
‘Till the Saviour came my way.
I can assure you my friend, dare to trust in HIM on this good Friday day and you will know the difference that it makes…….
Sixteen years back
March 21st, 2004 Sunday – I had a very high fever. Took crocin whenever the fever went high but studied the whole day for my comprehensive examination on 22nd, the next day at IISc, Bangalore.
March 22nd, Monday, I took two crocins every 3 hours and went and finished my comprehensive examination and stood in the hot sun to catch a bus near IISc. I felt like fainting but still managed to reach home. I started taking antibiotics in the night for my cold and fever. I thought the next day fever would come down. But nothing happened.
On March 24th, Wednesday, my brother, Dr. Justin Paul, a Cardiologist at Apollo hospital, Chennai, found that I was breathing with difficulty during his routine call to me.
When asked, I brushed it off by telling him that it might have occurred because of my brisk walking to take the telephone. But he pestered me to go to a hospital and do an ESR test. I went to BEL hospital very close to my office, and after 4 hours to my horror, I found that an ambulance had been brought to take me to Mallya hospital, and I understood that I had a high ESR count (134). I could not walk while entering into Mallya, and in the night, they declared that I had contracted massive pneumonia, and my one lung had already been badly infected.
From 25th onwards, I was put on antibiotics. My children who were just 13 and 11 years old could not understand the severity of the situation; they only knew that they had more time to play as I was not there to force them to study. In the next two days, when I was there in the hospital ward, the medical staff were checking the oxygen level in my blood. The situation went from bad to worse, and my sputum color became dark brown.
On 27th Saturday night, my brother arrived from Chennai. When he saw me gasping for breath, He requested the hospital authorities to put me on the oxygen cylinder. The next day he had a meeting with medical specialists, under the guidance of Dr. SV Chowti, an internal medicine physician at Mallya hospital, and they decided to put me on Ventilator as my both lungs were badly affected. On 28th, Sunday evening, I was put on Ventilator. My brother called Dr. DGS Dinakaran and asked him to pray for me. My sister Josephine, who was in the US, called many prayer groups, and many across the globe, started to pray for me. Dr. DGS Dinakaran called my brother up while I was in Ventilator and said that your sister would not die but live.On the 28th night while on Ventilator, I saw a vision – a vision where I saw that I was falling from some heights, and then I saw the Cross and the blood flowing from it. On the other side, my sins from my childhood came in front of me like a movie, and I was crying- I am sorry Lord for speaking that way, for getting angry in that manner.. and then I saw all my sins vanishing before that flow of blood. In that ICU, in that darkest moment, I heard a crystal clear voice that I am giving you a new life. This Voice was heard three times by me. All the five days I was in that Ventilator with my hands tied to both ends of my cot, I felt His Presence engulfing me. After reaching home, I listened to the Voice within me that told me to read the Bible and got transformed physically, emotionally, and spiritually. This is my story.
But now what has my story to do with COVID-19? Many deaths due to COVID-19 happen due to severe pneumonia. And today, the 25th 2020 is a Wednesday.
As I got up today morning, I remembered this connection and thanked God profusely.
If we look at this COVID 19 situation holistically and combine our trust in God with the wisdom of God, we will not forget to thank God because the church doors are shut. As long as there is a ground below us where we can kneel and heaven above towards which we can stretch out our hands, Jesus, the Lord of the universe, will continue to be worshipped throughout the world.
Let us thank God because the church doors are shut. Because we will know more clearly that the church is not about building, it is about us – the temple of God. God does not live in a building. He lives in us. We are His address. Bible clearly says we are the temple of the Holy Spirit. We gather every Sunday and assemble in a building for fellowship with other believers and for corporate worship.
Let us thank God because the church doors are shut. Because we will know the importance of personal prayer – the importance of being shut with God 24 by 7 – and enjoying His awesome Presence. This is to learn that God is in control, and that prayer is not about trying to bend the Hands of God, but surrendering to God, and to come in alignment with what God has purposed for us. We will learn that knowing His heart and hearing His Voice more clearly are very important as walking with Him is more important than working for Him.
Let us thank God because the church doors are shut. Because we have given too much importance to divisions within Christendom, too much importance to various rules and regulations – whereas Christ gave us only two Commandments: To love our God with all our heart, with all our mind, and with all our strength, and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Let us cry out to God to forgive us for not showing to the world that we are Christ’s followers through our selfless love. We will realize that when we float through this devastating epidemicneither our status nor our promotions and nor our possessions are important but the One who can take us through it all,
Let us thank God because the church doors are shut. Because we will know that death is real, and in the face of death, no one is exempted. We will learn to discern the false preachers who preach immortality, that death can be overcome, and that God is like a genie only existing to answer our every prayer. We will also learn the importance of sincere preachers, and shepherds of Christ who toil for their sheep day and night.
Let us thank God because the church doors are shut. Because we will know that though the doors are shut Christ is alive. He has overcome every power of Satan on the Cross. He is powerful to break the curse due to Corona through the thorny Crown on His head.
Let us thank God because the church doors are shut. Because we will learn to cry out to God for the dying world around us – dying both physically and spiritually. We have long forgotten to pray for others; we have been selfish. Let us remember to pray for the world. The church community exists to pray for the world and not to pass judgments against the world.
Let us thank God because the church doors are shut. Because we will learn to be thankful for the breath we breathe, for the life we have today. And last, of all, let us be thankful for the wonderful doctors and the health care professionals who are standing between the dying patients and their own life. Let us remember them by Name and pray and thank God for them.
Amidst Coronavirus scare, I had to travel by air because of pre-booked programs at different places during the weekends. During one of the trip, one night, as I was trying to sleep a fear, gripped me as I read many messages about the virus. I started to wonder – what if I am carrying the virus? What if I die? What if no one can even come to see? What if I die, who will pray for my children? I was panicking because of my throat pain, amidst biblical thoughts – that God will not take anyone away till the works that have been planned by God for that person is completed, and even if we die, we will be in heaven looking at Him face to face. I felt as though I was choking. That is when I realized a few life-transforming things. Firstly, I am still far away from my Savior. I still have not realized Him to the fullest extent…. Bible says perfect love removes fear…. And God has given us the Spirit of power and love; and not of fear. I cried out God – give me Your Spirit of Power that can overcome the spirit of fear.
Secondly, I understood death looms very close to all of us. If not by Coronavirus, we will die one day by various other means..or we will age and die.. Where will we go after we die? .. I was horrified about leaving this world, but God revealed to me that it is more horrible to be separated from our Heavenly Father. I understood the importance of continual cleansing from sins through the blood of Christ Jesus on the Cross…. I cried out for forgiveness… for the good things I have failed to do… for the un-forgiveness in my heart, for that little pride and anger…. and asked me to crown me with His humility.
Thirdly, I came to realize the importance of Christ. If not for His death and resurrection, there is no hope. The hope of humanity lies in the fact that the Creator who created the whole universe one day visited this puny little planet to show Himself to us and to die on the Cross horribly to reconcile man to God. I started to thank God for His Cross and for the great things He has done .I felt at rest.
YES, JESUS CHRIST IS THE GREATEST TREASURE IN OUR LIFE; AND HE IS THE GREATEST MEDICINE FOR ANY FEAR.
In Matthew 5:13, Jesus says that we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Now, if the world is in darkness, whom should we blame? We should blame the light. If the world is deteriorating, whom should we blame? We should blame the salt. As a member of the body of Christ, taking up this blame, it is better to say that we have failed in our mission to be the light and salt. We need to pray the prayer of repentance in the first person plural – We have sinned as Ezra, Nehemiah, and Daniel (Ezra 9; Nehemiah 1; Daniel 9) prayed. That is why we must take the blame instead of blaming others. Solomon’s prayer during the temple dedication (2 Chronicles 7:14) gives a big picture to us about the same type of prayer of repentance using the first person (I have sinned) identifying with the sin of the world because we failed to be the salt and light. God chose Abraham and blessed him so that he can be a blessing to the whole nation. Genesis 18 gives a beautiful example of Abraham interceding with God against the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. God wants praying men and women who would kneel in prayer with repentance and pray for the dying world, dying in pain, dying without God, and dying in loneliness.
C.S Lewis said – God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world. For long, the world had been deaf to the plea of God, the plea of God to remain close to Him, to shun evil, and to follow justice. Year after year, His plea had continually been falling on deaf ears.
Unheard in history, the church doors are presently shut for many days to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Might be God is trying to say something specific to His church. By keeping the church doors shut, He is trying to wake up the sleeping church, that has failed in its mission. Instead of showing the love and care of God to the dying world around us, and fighting against false preaching like immortality and prosperity, some of the church leaders have been concerned about numbers, fund-raising, self-promotion, positions, and titles. Jesus Christ took 12 uneducated and untrained men to show to the world that it is not about education, not about titles or position but about men and women who would stay day and night in the presence of the Lord, and go and minister to the world outside filled with His Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ gave the church only two Commandments: To love our God with all our heart, with all our mind, and with all our strength, and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. And He said by your love, people will know that you are my disciples. Can we honestly touch our hearts and say that we have displayed this love to others? Have we loved them irrespective of religion, state, and caste? Jesus Christ taught us to become like a servant if we are a leader, but we see leadership is more about pride and power even surpassing the state of the secular world.
God says in Ezekiel 22:30 that I searched for a man among them to repair the wall and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land so that I should not destroy it. But I found no one. We have failed in our mission of standing in the gap so that the world might not be destroyed. God yearns for praying men and women who will be allowed into the divine secret chamber to discern the things of the world and raising the concern to God in prayer, acting as air traffic controllers. Intercessors are front line soldiers who will intercede to prevent the destruction coming to this world. In Isaiah 62:6-7, the Bible speaks of watchmen on the walls of Jerusalem: “I have posted watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night. You who call on the Lord, give yourselves no rest, and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth.” Why don’t we all repent as a whole and turn back to the Lord in prayer and fasting? God is raising up watchmen in this hour because the need of the hour is urgent. Let us not be apathetic but instead lay down before God with a repentant heart. Let the following words that are adapted from George Otis, Jr., the president and founder of the research group, the Sentinel grip your heart.
“If the church is the nation’s best hope, it must be awakened from its slumber and fast. …. The church needs godly shepherds who will resolutely refuse to downplay the urgency of the hour and the seriousness of the present condition. She requires committed prophets who will seize every opportunity to acknowledge with Ezekiel: ‘Our offenses and sins weigh us down, and we are wasting away because of them’ (Ezekiel 33:10). We have come to the point, both as individuals and as a church, where we can no longer coast on the momentum of past deeds and choices. Our relationship with God has become fallow, and it can only become fruitful again through true repentance and unreserved obedience. In this unsettled hour, the eyes of the Lord are upon His people. Will He find faith in the earth? Will He find a hunger for His presence? Will He find a ready remnant through whom He can speak to the nations and their leaders? Let us press in to hear what the Spirit has to say to the church. If this requires us to suspend, at least temporarily, some of our most cherished routines — let us seize the moment!”