Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Encouragement: Overconfidence Or Self-Assurance?

Overconfidence is usually viewed as a negative personality trait. The youthful boasting that Joseph displayed with his brothers was no exception to the rule. His claims that the others would someday bow down to him, coupled with his father's favoritism, led to jealousy and borken family relationships. In the end, his brothers sold him into slavery, cutting him off from his family altogether.

All the suffering Joseph had to go through was due to his dream! How quickly we want to share our dreams with others!? We have to be careful and wise in revealing God-given secrets to others who may not share in our joy or welfare. Often people can become jealous and may create unnecessary hindrances to realizing out goals. Samson is another sad example of the one who revealed his secrets and lost everything in life. Secrets must be kept secret. It may not be appropriate to share them even with close friends, etc.

Throgh years of difficulties and suffering, Jospeh's overconfidence was developed by God into a mature self-assurance.In times of personal struggle, this self-assurance, based on his on his personal knowledge of God, enabled Joseph to ask, "what shall I do now?" instead of "why me, God?"

Joseph's self -assurance made him capable of tackling and succeeding at jobs that most other people would have run away from. His high personal integrity , resulting from his relationship with God and refined throughout his life, took him from the bottom of the social ladder to the top. Because of this, Joseph was in a position to save the young nation of Israel during a time of terrible famine.

Overconfidence without God's perspective will invariably lead us down the pathway to other personal problems and mistakes. On the other hand, self-assurance based on a strong faith in God will enable us to overcome the obstacles we face in life.

Principles to remember:
Our responses to the circumstances we face are more important than the circumstances themselves.
God can mould our weaknesses into strengths.
God can cause good to come out of the evil intentions of others.

So persevere in spite of various trials and testings in life, to realize your dream and vision. The best is yet to come! Never give up because others don't appreciate or approve of your goals. Don't be discouraged when you face opposition from others while pressing towards your God-given goals and plans. Remember what God shows and begins in your life, He will bring it to pass and ultimately you will win.

Be Encouraged,

A.Othniel
(www.aothniel.net)

><> Letter # 39 (6. 12. 2009) <><

Encouragement: The Stress of Not Knowing

The National Institute of Mental Health (USA) once conducted an experiment to determine the impact of the truth upon human stress levels. Four groups of soldiers were assigned the same fast-paced march. When the march was over, each soldier's blood was tested for the level of stress hormones. The only variable was how much truth each group was told about the march.

Group I was told the whole truth about the march before it started. Group 2 was told the march would be 14 kilometers long, but then were surprised when 6 more kilometers were added. Group 3 received changing information throughout the march. Group 4 was given no information at all.

Guess who had the lowest stress level at the end of the march? Group I. And why? Because, as the head of the experiment concluded, "Hope, kept alive by knowing the truth, slows down the production of harmful hormones created by mental stress."

Man's greatest stress comes from not knowing the truth about what's going to happen, as life is so transient and uncertain. Especially, man does not know for sure what happens after death and where he goes. And this can be a real source of anxiety and stress for many.

Since we do not know what happens tomorrow (Proverbs 27:1; James 4:14), we become so concerned that many become depressed and lose the joy of living happily today! However, we can be sure of something good happening because our lives are in the hands of the Almighty God, our heavenly Father. He always gives and does what is good for us, even better than our earthly fathers! (Luke 11:13).

Many are anxious and worried about meeting the day to day basic needs. But we are given definite promise about these that our heavenly Father knows our needs and has made better provision to mankind than other living beings on the earth. We only need to make sure that our focus is on Him and we seek to live righteous lives (Matthew 6:30-33).

We can also be sure that all things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His plan (Romans 8:28). This is such a powerful and reassuring promise. We only need to make sure that we love God and do what is pleasing to Him and seek His plans always. Rest He will see that all things somehow work together to bring good to us, even if it appears not good to us.

None of us has to suffer the stress of not knowing where we're going after death. The Bible tells the whole truth about the end of this march called life. Those who made sure that they are saved and received eternal life by faith in the Lord Jesus will know for certain that they are headed to their eternal home with the Father. This was what the Lord promised in John 14:2-3. He is preparing a place for all who follow Him in this world.

And many in this world who live in sin and follow Satan and die without any hope of eternal life are condemned already to end up in the lake of fire prepared for Satan and his devils. But many are not knowing these truths and so they live in perpetual despair and agony. You can know for sure without any shadow of doubt where you'll go and what will be your destiny. That will in turn decide how you'll live in this present world. You can be free from stress if you know that you had made a wise choice- today!

"Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." John 14:27.

Be Encouraged,

A.Othniel
(www.aothniel.net)

><> Letter # 38 (29. 11. 2009) <><

Encouragement: If Not the Cs, What then are the Keys to Joy?

What brings joy? In South Africa, I have seen that people are crazy about 2 or 3 'Cs'- (Bollywood) Cinema, (IPL) Cricket and (imported) Cars! In India and other countries people's top interestes are the 5 Cs! Can cash, credit card, condominium, country club membership or car make you happy? If joy be abiding and happiness momentary, then the above can at best bring happiness but not joy. Where then can the elusive joy be found?

* Joy and fruitful labor: As a student, there is the satisfaction of being able to solve a tough question. As a working adult, there is the pleasure of meeting a deadline or completing a project after working on it for months. The wages obtained from honest labor is sweet indeed.

The Bible tells us that blessings and prosperity will be yours when you eat from the fruit of your labor. (Psalms 128: 2). From the very start, work is a gift from God. (Gen. 1: 28). We derive satisfaction from the end product of our creativity be it assembling a computer, writing a new program or cooking a new dish. Sin makes work hard not ad. (Gen.3: 17). The satisfaction and pleasure gained from work is joy.

* Joy and wonder:Young parents can testify to the ceaseless inquisitiveness of their toddlers. Questions about the world abound. Their sense of wonder is palpable. And in their presence one can learn joy.

The well-known writer and philosophical speaker Ravi Zacharias said that as we grow older, it takes more to preserve the same amount of wonder. He added that only the infinite God can be the source of continual wonder. Hear the amazement of the psalmist when he says, The heavens declare the glory of God and the skies proclaim the works of His hand. (Ps. 19: 1) Joy and wonder are intertwined. When I lose my sense of wonder, I lose my joy.

* Joy and hope: Uncertainty causes worry and insecurity. That unsettles us. In the midst of retrenchment, sickness and death, can there be joy? No one can promise me that tomorrow I will find a job, my health will improve, my spouse will come back.

Against the backdrop of fear and pain, I hear the words of Jesus, Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. (Jn 14:27, Heb. 13:5). Beyond the veil of suffering, God alone is the source of hope. When the cries of agony and melancholy resound, joy is the settled peace and assured hope that the sovereign God is still in control. His throne is intact. The scepter remains in His hand. The curtain is torn. With compassion and love, God beckons His child to enter with joy.

* Joy and relationships: Joy flourishes at the meeting of hearts. Observe the camaraderie of a group of friends whose ties are strengthened by the years of being together through school and the army. The spontaneity and laughter is priceless. Note the quiet affection between couples married for a long time. Relationships are fragile entities. In relationships when love, trust and acceptance are given and reciprocated, one finds joy.

However this joy is a foretaste. To paraphrase CS Lewis, " Our earthly loves are but a pale reflection of heaven where our ability to love and be loved will be perfected in Christ." There, my friend, is the ultimate joy.

Joy can be found in fruitful labor, wonder, hope and relationships, the source of which can all be traced to the Creator Himself. So let us turn ourselves away from the temporary pleasures of sin, lust, covetousness and greediness, toward the One who came to give us His heavenly and everlasting joy.

The Lord Jesus said: " These things (i.e. about abiding in Him) I have spoken unto you, that MY joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be FULL!" John 15: 11 (Emphasis mine).
That's the secret! His joy in us!

Be Encouraged,

A.Othniel
(www.aothniel.net)

><> Letter # 37 (22. 11. 2009) <><

Encouragement: The Importance of Grief

The Importance of Grief

Grief is the process that helps us release our pain and losses to God. In it we come to terms with our past and find freedom to live in the reality of the present. It also lays the ground work for our hope for the future. When we harden our hearts and refuse to grieve over pain, we make it difficult to progress in our spiritual renewal. We see that God honored the tears and grief of Jerusalem. He will also honor our honesty as we share our pain with Him. Then He will bring healing for the present and hope for the future.

The Pain fo Consequences
God does not always protect us from the consequences of our attitudes and behaviors. Through them we learn to accept responsibility for the mistakes we have made. Then our spiritual growth can continue.

The Gift of our Emotions
Emotions flow from the core of our being. If we have developed a pattern of denying or hiding our feelings, we will lose the sense of who we really are. Jeremiah shows us that we have nothing to fear in bringing even our most raw or embarassing emotions to God. The more honest we are about how we feel, the more completely we will become involved in our relationship with God and with others.

Forgiveness- A way of Life
Jeremiah, in the book of Lamentations, finished his grieving and turned to God to seek forgiveness. The book ends with a question of remorse, "Are you angry with us still?" Behind this question is Jeremiah's humility, coupled with his hope that God will start the process toward reconciliation and forgiveness. Jeremiah knew God's heart, so he knew that God would forgive. If we truly repent of our sins, we ca be sure that God will forgive us, too, no matter how great our sins and failures. We need to come humbly before Him and place our lives in His strong, gentle hands. Amen.

" Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The unfailing love of the Lord never ends! By His mercies we have been kept from complete destruction." . Lamentations 3:21-22.

Be Encouraged,

A.Othniel
(ww.aothniel.net)

><> Letter # 36 (15. 11. 2009) <><

Encouragement: Hoping when all is lost!

How did you feel when you saw on TV, so many dying such a tragic death when the twin towers were destroyed in USA some years ago? Neeedless to say, the world reacted with unbelievable shock and sorrow. Tears came down many eyes and it appeared the end of the world was so near! Though many were expecting some sort of judgment to visit the ungodly in America, no one ever imagined to such terrible extent the destruction would be wrought by the enemy! But it happened before the very eyes of the world! It appeared impossible to comfort America and all those who love humanity. Yet, it is now a part of history and life goes on as usual.

We have similar incident recorded in the history of Israel, many years ago, in the Old Testament by the Prophet Jeremiah. With head bowed in humility and pain, Jeremiah penned the book of Lamentations in the Bible. His heart was broken. He wept to see the great city of Jerusalem destroyed and God's people in exile. He had lived with God's people and pleaded with them to return to God.But his pleas fell on deaf ears.The prophet's tears were God's tears,for God weeps for our sins and mourns with us in our losses. Jeremiah did not mince his words or hide his pain. he wept openly and fully, releasing his emotions to God. His example can help us as we grieve our own losses.

As we read the book of Lametations, we discover that it is all right to be real- to be angry, to be dissappointed with life, or to be concerned about what tomorrow holds for us. God accepted Jeremiah as he was- angry, tired, and discouraged- and He will accept us as well.

Here we have a model for expressing our pain to God. IN response to his honest cries, God listened to him and comforted him. In the midst of his agony, Jeremiah found one ray of hope despite the destruction around him- " The unfailing love of the Lord never ends! " (Lamentations 3:22). As we face great pain in our lives, we also can find hope as we tell God what we are feeling. he really does hear us and care for us.

Be Encouraged,

A.Othniel
(ww.aothniel.net)

><> Letter # 35 (8. 11. 2009) <><

Encouragement: What It Takes To Make the Right Choices?

Life is so full of choices. Some are easy, but some are hard. Everyone must make choices. No one is exempt. We must learn to make the right choices. Unfortunately, we often learn the hard way, by making the wrong choices. It requires God's wisdom to make the right choices. How we make our choices can mean the difference between success or failure. It is vitally important that fathers make the wisest choices because their entire family will be affected by them.

Joshua is a good example of a godly father who made a major choice that touched his family and affected a nation. God appointed Joshua to be Moses' successor to lead the children of Israel into the promised land. For 25 years he gave direction to them, but they still remained undecided as to which God they would serve - Jehovah, the false gods of the Egyptians, or those of the people in whose land they lived (Josh. 24:14-15).

Joshua reminded them of God's goodness, telling them that God had never failed to be true to His promises (24:13). He then called them to choose who they would serve. In doing so, he set a challenge and an example before them: "Choose ye this day whom ye will serve ... but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD" (24:15). Joshua's choice was not dependent on theirs. It was already a settled matter with him and his family. Tragically, we often wait to see what others do before we decide.

To be as decisive as Joshua in making our choices, we need five things.

DESIRE

We have to want to do it. It is the lack of desire that often keeps families from making important choices.Somehow we've come to believe that it's easier to remain undecided, to stay neutral. But in doing so, we've already made a choice, and it's usually the wrong one. We need to desire what God wants.

DETERMINATION

We have to make the commitment to do it. Lack of determination is where desire dies. We may want to make the right choice, but if we are not determined, it won't happen. Joshua not only had the desire, he determined to do right even if his was the only family in the whole nation to do so.

DISCIPLINE

We have to pay the price to do it. Making choices is costly! That's what discourages many families. They have the desire, and are determined, but when they count the cost they change their mind. They lack the discipline to make the choice and abide by it regard less of what's involved. There is risk in making choices. That's where faith enters. Facts and feelings can be discouraging, but faith says, "I can trust God, no matter what!" Joshua was willing to take a step of faith in spite of the risk.

DIRECTION

We have to have a plan to do it. Where can we get the direction we can trust, when we have to make choices? Only in the Word of God! Human reasoning is not enough. We often shy away from making difficult choices because we lack confidence. Romans 10:17 says, "Now then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God." Psalm 119:105 reminds us that God's Word is "a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." The darkness of the unknown can be very forbidding. But allowing God's Word to be our light gives us the security we need in the choices we must make.

DYNAMIC

We have to have the power to do it. God's Word gives us direction; God's Spirit gives the dynamic. Human wisdom and strength fail. But in God's strength we succeed. God says it is "not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit sayeth the LORD of hosts" (Zech. 4:6). What we can't do in human weakness, we can do in God's strength. Only as the Holy Spirit energizes us can we make those all-important choices that seem so hard. Is your family facing difficult choices? If so, remember Joshua. His determination to make a very hard choice encouraged Israel to say, "The LORD our God will we serve, and His voice will we obey" (Josh. 24:24). You never know how your choice to obey God may affect your family and other families as well.

Be Encouraged,

A.Othniel
(ww.aothniel.net)

><> Letter # 34 (1. 11. 2009) <><

Encouragement: Do You live by Feelings or Faithfulness?

Nobody is immune from emotions. At times, emotions rule our minds and hearts and we lose balance in life to make wise decisions. There have been times when I was so emotionally down and depressed and wanted to run away from people and all that is disturbing me emotionally. Here's a powerful example of a great prophet of God who was also emotionally so down yet remained faithful.

God Understands our Emotions:
Jeremiah (in the Old Testament History of the Bible) has often been called the weeping prophet. But he did more than weep- at times he was bitter, angry, discouraged, depressed, and lonely. We have all experienced those feelings. Jeremiah even complained to God, "Why then does my suffering continue? Why is my wound so incurable? Your help seems as uncertain as a seasonal brook. It is like a springthat has gone dry " (15:18). God's acceptance of Jeremiah's emotions frees us to bring all of our failures and strong feelings straight to God. He accepts and understands us just as as we are, and He is ready to heal our broken and hurting parts. We simply need to be honest with Him.

Faithfulness overcomes Failure:
From our human perspective, Jeremiah was a failure. But from God's point of view, Jeremiah was one of the great success stories in the Bible. He remained faithful to God and His commands despite the powerful opposition he faced. When we feel discouraged, we need to remember that God simply calls us to be faithful - to keep on going. We don't have to be a raving success. We just need to be faithful in the long haul. God will honor our faithfulness by providing us with the strength we need when we need it.

Hope Despite Disaster:
Jeremiah's warnings of approaching judgment are punctuated by promises of ultimtate deliverance. Jeremiah told the people about the "new covenant" that God has for them. Despite their impending doom, he told them that God loved them and had a wonderful future planned for them. "For I know the plans I have for you," says the Lord. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope" (29:11). When God confronts us with the truth about our sin, He also desires to give us a message of hope. He is the God of hope and restoration.

Be Encouraged,

A.Othniel
(ww.aothniel.net)

><> Letter # 33 (25. 10. 2009) <><

Encouragement: Your Future is Blessed- Beyond Your Wildest Dreams!

I visited the jail where Joseph was a prisoner and I found the warden and he was astonished. When I sought to know what was happening he said Joseph had gotten a promotion he is no longer a prisoner but a prime minister!

Do not worry about your past; your future is blessed.

I went to the forest to look for David and met with Samuel with anointing oil in his hands. When I asked him about David, he told me, David is no longer a shepherd boy but is destined for State House!

Do not worry about your past; your future is blessed.

I went to the hospital to look for Job and went to the ICU i did not find him.The doctors told me, Job was miraculously healed- Jehovah Rapha touched him without any payment. Now he is a billionairre and is so blessed.

Do not worry about your past; your future is blessed.

I went to see Matthew and found he wasn't there and so i knocked at Luke's house, he wasn't there also, the same to John and when I enquired, I was told they were writing the gospel. Jesus had uplifted them to spread His Word through writing.

Do not worry about your past; your future is blessed.

I went back to Abraham to greet Sarah. I was told Sarah has gone to maternity ward. She had not gone to visit someone but to deliver a baby. Later it was announced, grandmother Sarah now has a baby called Isaac. The baby was a blessing.

Do not worry about your past; your future is blessed.

Mary visited Jesus' grave and found it was empty and when she asked the soldier where the body was, he answered He is not there but alive. He who was crucified has defeated even death!

Do not worry about your past; your future is blessed.

I went to the factory to visit my brother. I was told nowadays he has been uplifted. Instead of being an office messenger, he is now the Manager! Another one, I was told, has ceased to be employed and now he recruits employees!

Do not worry about your past; your future is blessed.

"Do not worry what you eat or what you wear... seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added into you" - Lord Jesus. (Matthew 6:32,33).

Be Encouraged,

A.Othniel
(ww.aothniel.net)

><> Letter # 32 (18. 10. 2009) <><

Encouragement: Living Life Reflectively

Here are some questions that may help in our reflections those deliberate, thoughtful pauses that we need to create in the whirlwind of life.

  • Where am I heading? ...in my job, my business, my family, my relationships...? Is where I am where I want to be? Is where I am bringing me to where I want to be?

  • What am I doing now? Is it what I really want to do? Would I be very happy at the end of my life that I had done what I am doing now? Am I doing what I am doing because that's God's best for me, or am I just pleasing others...my spouse, my pastor, my friends, my family?

  • Am I growing in my job? Am I growing my job? Am I doing dfferent and new things regularly that stretch my potential and myself, or am I just repeating the same old stuff that keeps me on a perpetual plateau?

  • Am I growing in my relationship with God? Is He occupying a greater and greater part of my life, including my thoughts, my heart, my finances, my priorities, and my time? Am I growing in my knowledge of God? DO I know more about Him today than yesterday, not just mind-knowledge, but in heart and experience? Do I detect His hand in every incident of everyday? Am I seeking more and more of Him than the goodies in His hand?

  • Am I growing in my marriage? Is it becoming better and fresher or is it degenerating into staleness and sluggishness? Am I taking my spouse for granted or am I more and more thankful that I have this person for my spouse? Are we sharing more or are we drifting further and further apart? Is the romance still alive or has life been reduced to grocery lists and children's needs?
  • Am I growing in love? In patience and kindness? Am I becoming more calm and collected, or am I getting more touchy, demanding, and resentful? Do people matter than results to me? Do I care more about relationships than things? Do I think well of others or am I continually submerged by critical and unforgiving thoughts?
  • Am I growing in faith? Do I believe God to provide, or have I succumbed to the worldly way of getting things? Am I walking by faith or by sight? Am I asking God for the impossible or has my God become too small to meet all my needs and desires?
  • re my children more and more blessed? What part am I playing in their lives? Are they learning the fear of the Lord from me, or do they see in me the image of Mammon? Are they better off because I am their parent, or are they limited because of my neglect? Do I know my children more today than yesterday? Are they sharing with me their secrets, hopes, dreams, problems, and heartaches? Am I spending quality time with them?

    As you reflect on the foregoing questions, think of ways you can make the necessary changes to improve yourself with God's help. Remember all things are possible, if you determine to achieve, seeking God's grace and strength.(Philippians 4:13).

Be Encouraged.

A.Othniel
(www.aothniel.net) ( typed in Kenya Airport)

><> Letter # 31 (6. 9. 2009) <><

Encouragement: What Causes Conflicts?

" From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. "

James 4:1-3.

As we behold with fear and awe what may happen between Korea and USA in the nuclear arms race, India and Pakistan relations and Iran and Israel in missile war, we think of conflict being inevitable. Especially so when it comes to personal conflicts. And we can see that the Conflict is unavoidable. Now, one of the most practical things we can do is realize that as far as conflict is concerned...
The problem is not the problem. Disagreement over issues is not what causes us to walk all over one another. Disagreement is not what causes committee meeting to erupt in anger. The real story of conflict occurs not in what we are disagreeing about, but in why and how we are disagreeing. Until we get below surface issues to our own unseen motives, we have not even begun to deal with the problems that are dividing us. And until we get below our unseen motives to the underlying beliefs that form them, we will still have a very shallow approach to conflict.

Our differences might be important. What we need to see, however, is that issues do not cause conflict. Unseen motives and underlying misbeliefs cause conflict.

To cultivate relationships that enjoy the freedom of healthy disagreement, we need to develop an understanding of unseen motives.

Motives Behind Issues.
The issues in a conflict are like the tip of an iceberg. Underneath are the unseen motives that cause healthy disagreements to turn sour.
The Apostle James shows us (James 3:13-16) that unseen motives can cause us to be like trouble looking for a place to happen. He made it clear that if we resent the attention or recognition that someone else is getting (envy), or if we are committed to getting ahead even at the expense of others (self-seeking or selfish ambition), we have a hidden conflict of interest that will shape and sour our approach to disagreement.
Paul, on the other hand, shows us ( 2Tim. 2:24-26) that if our motives are right, we can act graciously- even toward those who are against us. Even if we are convinced that the other side is caught in serious error, our goal can be for their good.
James and Paul are not alone in their emphasis on the role of right attitudes and motives. The whole Bible is a book of the heart. The Scriptures teach us that if our motives aren't right, our knowledge, faith, and self-sacrifice are of little value in the eyes of God (1Cor.13:1-3). Over and over the Word of God calls for the kind of love that is a motive before it is an action. The Scriptures are also clear about what happens when bad motives displace good ones. (Lk. 22:14-27).

Beliefs Behind Motives.
Conflict could be defined as "two or more people trying to occupy the same space or control the same limited resources." This was what was happening between the herdsmen of Abram and Lot. There was not room for both of them. (Gen.13:1-9).
Abram's response was peaceful- offering Lot his choice of land. The reason for Abram's generosity goes beyond his good motives. Abram was able to be so vulnerable because he was being taught by God to realize that his well-being was not found in his own clenched fists but in the open hand of the One who was leading him (Gen. 13:14-18).
Our motives and approach to conflict will not be shaped by rules but by whether or not we join Abram in trusing the Provider God. Are we willing to let Him provide for us on His terms and in His time? Or do we believe our security depends on our ability to take matters into our own hands?
This is not to say that we are to lie down and let people walk on us whenever they want. Love doesn't always give others their way. Sometimes they need to feel the weight and intensity of our concerns and convictions. In the process, however, they need to sense that our disagreement is gracious and loving in nature. They need to know that we are not resisting merely to protect our own interests. And the only way we can be so loving is to rest in God's ability to provide for us.
People who know they are secure in God's hand find their motives shaped in that awareness. They learn to live with grace, to love freely, and to trust God from day to day when matters beyond their control do not go their way.

Misbelief Behind Cycles.
We repeat cycles of conflict when we assume that what we want is always what we need, or when we are more concerned about the people who are against us than God who is for us. Misbeliefs are the fuel of ongoing cycles of conflict. They lead us to think that it is up to us to take matters in hand, and that if we don't protect ourselves no one else will.
Underlying misbeliefs also help to explain why the apostle Paul wrote as he did to disputing parties in Philippi. See Philippians 4:2-7. He must have known something of the matters that were separating them. Yet he didn't even mention the specific issues. Instead, he wrote as if the details could be worked out once both sides came to terms with the underlying misbeliefs that had caused them to turn away from the Lord and against one another.
By addressing the real issues underlying belief, Paul gave them a means of breaking the cycle of conflict that could have spread to many others. He knew that the formula for unity is not found in agreeing about all issues. Neither is the solution merely in knowing that we should find it within ourselves to love one another. The answer for those who know God is to have the right beliefs about Him in the troubling circumstances of life. This alone will enable us to avoid the self-protection, fear, and anger that otherwise lead to returning evil for evil and harm for harm.

Be Encouraged.

A.Othniel
(www.aothniel.net)

><> Letter # 30 (30. 8. 2009) <><

Encouragement: Faith Runs on a different Clock

"... With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible ..." Mark 10:27.

Many of our struggles with faith have to do with timing. We believe, at least in theory that God will keep His promises-but when? If the answer does not come as soon as we expect, fear begins to assault us, and then soon we are tempted to "throw away [our] confidence," ignoring the fact that "it will be richly rewarded" (Hebrews 10:35). How many times have you prayed for your son or daughter to be more obedient? Are you still praying? Do you really believe God is listening?

It would be a good idea if we all just admitted that we need to learn about God's way of doing things. One of the best illustrations of divine pacing in the Bible is the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth, which is laid out in elaborate detail. In fact, the Gospel of Luke has almost as much to say about these two senior citizens as it has about Mary and Joseph.

GOD MAKES SOME VERY ODD CHOICES
RIGHT AWAY THIS STORY shows us that God's way of doing things is very different from ours. Even the way He chooses to order events holds specific lessons for us.

Many times in life, God waits while a situation goes from bad to worse. He appears to let it slip over the edge, so that you and I say, "There's no way now for this ever to work out. But that is the point when the omnipotent God intervenes in our hopelessness and says, "Oh, really? Watch this...!"

So many times when we get into emergencies and the situation seems totally hopeless - it's actually a setup. God wants to do something great. He wants to demonstrate his power, so that his name will be praised in a new and greater way. The next generation will hear all about it. After all, their spiritual nurture is far more important than mere material things.

GOD IS DRAWN TO PRAYER
God could have shown up at any time, but over and over in the Bible, He revealed himself when people began to pray.
When we seek God for answers, we must persevere in prayer, letting it build up day after day until the force of it becomes a mighty tide pushing over all obstacles. No wonder God says his house is supposed to be known as a house of prayer-not merely a house of preaching or of singing, but especially of prayer. How else will we receive great answers from God unless we persevere in prayer?
What a terrible epitaph: "You do not have, because you do not ask God" (James 4:2). God is drawn to prayer. He delights in communion with us. Prayer releases his blessing into our lives.

GOD DOES NOT APPRECIATE SECOND-GUESSING
When God sends his divine promise, He is very grieved and saddened if his people do not believe him. It breaks his father-heart to hear his own children say, "Well, maybe ... I hope so... but how could that be, really, now?.. .Yes, God has said he will bring back my daughter - but, you know, she's so hard...." Is it not enough that God declared he would do some thing? He doesn't have to explain any of his methods in advance. "Nothing is impossible," remember?

The great battle of our spiritual lives is "Will you believe?" It is not "Will you try harder?" or "Can you make yourself worthy?" It is squarely a matter of believing that God will do what only he can do. That is what God honors. He treasures those who respond and open their hearts to him. He's looking for faith so strong that it will anchor on his Word and wait for him, the One who makes everything beautiful in its time.

LET GOD DO IT HIMSELF
THE HARDEST PART of faith is often simply to wait. And the trouble is, if we don't, then we start to fix the problem ourselves - and that makes it worse. We complicate the situation to the point where it takes God much longer to fix it than if we had quietly waited for his working in the first place. The timing of God is often a mystery to us, and even sometimes a frustration. But we must not give up. We must not try to arrange our own solutions. Instead, we must keep on believing and waiting for God. We will not be alone as we patiently wait for his answer in his time. We will be joining the great host of saints down through the ages whose faith was tested and purified by waiting for God. This is what David meant when he testified, "I waited patiently for the LORD" (Psalm 40:1). Instead of taking matters into his own hands, or despairing of God's help at all, David learned to wait for God to work out his plan in his time. But after a while, God proved faithful as always, for David continued his story by adding, "He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm; place to stand" (vv. 1-2). What happened was all – glorious, but it came only after a time of waiting in faith.

Don't give up today, and don't give in to the voices of unbelief and impatience. Remember these words from a beautiful song: Keep believing in what you know is true; Keep believing - you know the Lord will see you through. When troubles rise in your life, and you don't know what to do, You'll be fine if you just keep believing.

It’s not STARTING the race that counts; its how you FINISH! Amen.

Be Encouraged.

A.Othniel (www.aothniel.net)

><> Letter # 29 (23. 8. 2009) <><

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Encouragement: A Challenging Choice

"... Choose ye this day... as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord ..." Joshua 24:14-16.

On India's Independence Day, 15th Aug'09, I had the privilege to speak on making choices in life in a city church in Mumbai. Later in the day, on " how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation" as per Hebrews 2:3.

Our lives consist of hundreds of choices that we make every day, and the living out of the consequences of those choices. First we make our choices. Then our choices make us.

It was a harsh edict, every male baby must be killed, disobedience would be ruthlessly dealt with...But one mother was different. She looked at her baby,...then looked at her God....Then she made a choice:she would hide her baby, doing everything possible so this baby could live. The rest was up to God.

One moment of decision changed forever the destiny of Moses, and that of the Jewish people, one mother's choice saved baby Moses from a watery grave and propelled him into the palace fo a king, catapulting an unknown Hebrew into the annals of history. So much power resided in that choice.

For those of us responsible for other lives, our choices not only make us, they make the lives of those we are responsible for. The choices of the teacher affect the destiny of her students in ways that she may never fathom in this life. The choices of parents mould and determine the destiny of their children and their chidren's children.

Joshua in the history of ancient Israel made a crucial choice. He challenged the people to choose and then affirmed his covenant, saying, as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord. What a definite decision made by a dad! It clearly pointed to the welfare of the whole family and their allegiance to the One God they worshipped.

We can choose... to love or not to love. We can decide and choose to be patient and kind, not to be touchy or resentful; to forgive and not bear grudges. Or we can choose to indulge in self-righteousness and criticism, to judge and spiritually lord it over others in pride and prejudice, to slander others in our thoughts and words. Not loving, and not forgiving, is a choice that only serves to shackle us, rather than the offending person!

We can choose to learn or to stagnate. We can decide whether to learn from the mistakes that we make, or try to forget them in a hurry and hope that no-one else noticed. When a mistake has been made, we might as well learn from it, and if we are generous enough, let others learn from us, so they won't have to tread the same path - ouch!

We can choose what words to say. We can choose to encourage, uplift, cheer and affirm anyone and if we lack the words, there are plenty of good words in God's own Book. Who knows which soul will be brought to Jesus because of some words that you sow today?

We can choose how we're going to spend our time. To spend more time with people rather than with things. To serve the Lord instead of surfing the net. To talk more with friends and colleagues or with our families and children. To spend more time alone with God or in the company of people. How we spend our time is really how we spend our lives. Some people have their lives all spent. Others invest their lives, deliberately choosing to do the few things that last-and outlast them!

Freedom to Choose - Victor Frank once said that robbed of every freedom in the world, he still had the freedom to choose his attitude, and he did. In the midst of the overwhelmingly hopelessness of a concentration camp, he chose his attitude - that he wanted to live. And live he did.
Most of us are not in a concentration camp, and do not live in the degrading circumstances that Frank endured; yet in our minds, we may have chosen an attitude of defeat. We blame the 'system', whatever that may mean, the economy, the government, the church-we even blame God.
We need to be reminded that God holds us responsible for choosing our own attitude in any circumstance. Why else would Paul urge us to 'rejoice in the Lord always and again I say, rejoice"? He's telling us that we have the freedom to choose our attitude, and we should choose to rejoice in any and every circumstance.
How do we rejoice when the boss is mean, the children are hopelessly behind in their schoolwork, the prospect of retrenchment looms large, our spouses are unreasonable? One way is to pray and rejoice because our prayers are heard.

Choosing Our Attitude- Our attitude determines our action. Deliberately choosing an attitude of praise and rejoicing will lead to positive and powerful actions: of prayer, which releases the dynamite of God's power to work for us; of positive words, which will lead to a virtuous cycle of encouragement and faith.

One person who chose differently was Joseph. He chose to see Cod's hand through every misfortune. He chose to walk, and talk right. He chose to forgive, even before his brothers were brought to him. He chose to serve God everywhere he went-as a slave, as a prisoner, as a Prime Minister. Stripped of every freedom, Joseph chose his attitude- of faith and love. He chose to trust in the one and only God who never fails, no matter how depressing the circumstances he found himself in. Because Joseph consistently, persistently chose right. God favored him. And wherever he went, whatever he did, he prospered.

Choosing To Praise My personal favourite attitude-booster is the Book of Psalms. It is impossible to immerse myself in the praises of God's psalmists and not be infected by their attitude of praise, joy and positive cheer. "Let everything that has breath praise the Lord." Psalm 150:6. Do you have breath? Then praise the Lord and march into your day with a praise-attitude. Choose to praise!

Be Encouraged.

A.Othniel (www.aothniel.net)

><> Letter # 28 (16. 8. 2009) <><

Encouragement: Why Some are NOT worthy of Love?

" Jesus looked at him, loved him and said, you lack one thing....but he went away sorrowful... " Mark 10:21,22.

Have you ever wondered why some miss out on real love in their life? I have been thinking about this for some days now. I have heard and seen some who were in love for many years and yet fell apart and became strangers. Some even become depressed and regretful because they missed the love offered to them and may never get it again from anyone else!

For one, here is a real story of twenty plus years love. Though the boy showed so much love and care for the one he loved, she on the other hand always wanted to get things from him and never appreciated his genuine concern and sincere love for her. Even after spending much time and money on her, he got fed up as she never responded with words of love nor showed interest in his life at all! He had plans to show much love and lift her up in many ways and make her great but she appeared not worthy. Finally, he called it a day and quit contacting her and answering her calls. That put a natural but sad end to the longtime friendship and courtship. How many such wonderful relationships coming to end so abruptly because some are not worthy of love!

Often people's unrealistic expectations come in the way of expressing and experiencing true and lasting love. Some people are not sensitive to the sincere expressions of love from others. So they miss out and regret later. Someone said, till you lose something, you don't know its real value! How true with love!

I think of a few incidents where the Lord Jesus, the heavenly embodiment of love, tried to reach out in love but the recipients proved unworthy and were lost forever. Why and how people became unworthy of such supreme love?

1. Their hearts were not right: At the time of the first miracle the Lord Jesus performed at Cana, many wanted to believe in Him. But He did not commit Himself to them, says the gospel writer. Why? Afterall, He came to seek and to save the people and to call them into His Kingdom, yet He was not accepting them here!? Because He knew their hearts were not right. They had ulterior motives in wanting to believe in Him and He does not want to be played fool by such selfish people. Love comes from the heart and touches hearts. If hearts are not right, love can not flourish nor last longer. Love did not happen here because their hearts were not fit to receive the supreme divine love. How is your heart? Are you honest and free from deceit? Is you heart worthy of love?

2. Their hunger was not real: In John 6, Lord Jesus fed five thousand people who were listening to His Word all day long. Fearing they may faint on their way, He gave them bread and fish and strengthened them to go home. After some time, they came back seeking for Him, even crossing the lake to the other side. The Lord noticed that they were seeking for free food and laborless wages. They were seeking to satisfy their temporary hunger and make themselves comfortable without any hard work. He counselled them not to seek for temporary pleasures but to seek for eternal life. They had no real hunger for eternal life. Lord Jesus refused to do another miracle nor fulfill their desire. Imagine, five thousand precious souls lost at one go! What a tragedy! Loving Savior waiting here and calling them to taste, eat and drink the real food that never perishes but they were not worthy! They left Him. They forfeited the love He was offering to them freely and abundantly. Do you realize the preciousness of the moment and accept the offer of love from God and others?

3. His love for riches made him to miss out on love: A rich young ruler came to Jesus oneday and asked, what to do to inherit eternal life? Lord Jesus reminded him to keep the laws of God. The youngman replied affirmatively that he kept them all from his childhood. Then the Lord looked at him, loved him and said, go and sell all that you have and give to the poor, come, take up the cross and follow Me. He was sad and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions." Mark 10:17-22.
Why this youngman refused the offer of love? because he loved his riches more than eternal life. Though Jesus loved him, yet that love could not draw him to Jesus. Riches have power. They can keep man from Eternal life and blind him to the real love. Riches are not permanent and they can't offer true love. And many today are making themselves unworthy of God's supreme and eternal love because they love their riches and pleasures of sin more than experiencing God's love. What a great tragedy this youngman suffered! Came to the right person with right question and got the right answer at the right moment in life but made the wrong choice! Made himself unworthy of divine love.

Your dishonest heart condition can make you unfit to receive love. Your selfish seeking after temporal, short-lived pleasures can keep you away from true love that can truly satisfy you. Your covetous attachment to the worldly possessions and unholy comforts can make you forfeit the free offer of priceless love. How is your heart? What are you really seeking for? What is the onething that you lack and want to be complete? Think honestly what is making you unworthy of love from God, and from others?

Be Encouraged.

A.Othniel (www.aothniel.net)

><> Letter # 27 (9. 8. 2009) <><

Encouragement: The 3 Tests of True Love

I had just now read in today's newspaper that love is ageless, limitless and has no retirement! People love and want to be loved at all ages. Not just young people but also old folk need love. But how do we test if our love is true or if others truly love us?

"Wherefore show ye to them..., the proof of your love" (2 Cor. 8:24). Love is capable of demonstration. Where it really exists, it will manifest itself. It need not be made known by mere assertion. We are told to love not in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. In these days there are many who, like some of old, show much love with their mouths while their hearts are far from God. The test of our love is not how much we talk about it or how much we feel it, but how much we manifest it in our lives. There are three tests of love, which never fail to show exactly just how much we love. Let us consider them in order.

1. How Much We Serve

We are told that Jacob, in the O.T. history, loved Rachel so much that he served seven years for her, and that those years seemed to him as only a few days. Love makes people willing-hearted. There are many things to do; there are many ways to serve; and love prompts us to serve wherever possible. If we have love in our hearts, our hands will always be ready for service. Many people always look for others to serve them; but when it comes to the labor and responsibility connected with anything, willingness suddenly disappears. The test of their love proves that love is wanting. That's the reason many people get so few blessings because they do not love enough to serve.

There are duties for all. There are opportunities everywhere. Every one of them is a test of love. How does your love stand the test? Love will not grumble; it will not complain; it will not shirk from service. Do you love as fervently as you ought? Demonstrate it in your family, in your community, etc.

2. How Much We Sacrifice

The mother who loves her child thinks no sacrifice too great for it. Even her life will she give for it, if need be. The man who loves his country will, if the need should arise, count no sacrifice too great. He who loves God as truly as the mother loves her child or the patriot loves his country is willing to sacrifice for God. Abraham proved his love by not withholding his son. He offered him freely in obedience to God's command. Paul loved, and as a result he counted not his life dear to himself so that he might do the work of God. Christ so loved the world that he sacrificed everything for our salvation.

Many persons spend willingly and even lavishly for self who give sparingly and reluctantly to God. They spend more for their pleasures than they give. Some spend more for candy than they give to God's work. Some spend more for gasoline for pleasure-riding than they give to good causes. In fact, some spend so much on their own selfish desires that often say, "I can not give much to others." They might feel disposed to give if they had anything to give, but are they willing to deny themselves of some self-gratification in order to have something to give? There is the test of love that proves its real direction-whether it runs our self-ward or God-ward. If we love God and others as much as we love self, we can spend money for them just as willingly and with as little reluctance or regret to see it go as if it were being spent for ourselves. If we can not spend for God and his work more willingly than for self, it is because we do not love him more than self. If we do not get more pleasure out of giving than we do out of consuming, we may well question both the amount and quality of our love and its direction.

There is no way to avoid the issue. The fact is, there are too many whose love is wanting in that quality which draws out their hearts into the work of God until they are willing to sacrifice for it. It is true that there are many who do love and who prove it by their sacrifices. But it is just as true that there are many others who do not deny themselves and will not even from a sense of duty, to say nothing of making willing sacrifices through the prompting of love.

It is time that we heard more of the practical side of love practiced by people. A sacrificing person will be blessed if the sacrifice is prompted by love. People who are willing to serve and sacrifice have true love.

3. How Much We Endure

Christ proved his love by enduring the scoffs and ill-treatment of the people and the shame and suffering of the cross. By this He proved His love to be real. If our love is genuine, we will rejoice in our sifferings for God and others. Paul endured all things for the elect's sake, that they might be saved. If we cannot endure the little persecutions, the unkind words, the sneering smiles, the scoffs and jeers, of the unbelieving world, is it not because our love lacks fervency? Those who want to show love will endure hardships and perils and suffer in a thousand ways. Love that cannot endure hardness, misrepresentation, neglect, and such things, and still be sweet and strong, needs to be increased. Love suffers long. 1 cor 13.

Love makes service sweet, sacrifice easy, and meek endurance possible. Love enriches, ennobles, and blesses. It sweetens the bitter cup; it lightens the heavy load. It strengthens the faltering soul. Let us, therefore, see that we have fervent love toward God, toward each other, and toward others in the world.

Be Encouraged.

A.Othniel

(www.aothniel.net)

><> Letter # 26 (26. 7. 2009) <><

Encouragement: What is your greatest motivation in life?

What is the reason you live each day in spite of so many pressures and some times hopeless moments? Of course, some people may not know as they seldom stop and think in the humdrum of daily mechanical life. There are some who appear to be enjoying life to the fullest and maximum but sadly, they can be the most miserable people on earth! Because they think enjoying pleasures of sin is the purpose of life. But the reality is, they are so depressed and so abhor their lives that they have no desire to live and can not afford to die also!

What motivates people to indulge in pleasures of sin, knowing they are self-destructive? What motivates people to develop relationships that are fleeting and transitory? Self-interest is the motive of majority of people in the world today. To get something out of it. This may bring temporary happiness and short-lived pleasure but in the long run can result in sorrow, pain, and tragedy. And even in death, as it happened in case of MJ.

Here is something that is permanent and eternal. It is priceless and ageless. It is selfless and self-sacrificing. The supreme, divine quality called LOVE. Let me show you how this love should be the greatest motivation in every aspect of our lives. If this is the driving force behind our existence, then we will be the happiest and most satisfied people on earth.

1. Love for God: Our real existence begins with God because He created us and gave us a purpose and plan to live. Though many may not accept and appreciate this fact. However, realizing this truth brings meaning to our being and living here. That God loves each of us is so clearly declared in His Word and in all His creation. And in particular, God's love was embodied and manifested in the person of Lord Jesus Christ when He lived as a man and sacrificed His sinless life for mankind's salvation. Once you experience this love, you want to love Him back wholeheartedly. In this is the fullest contentment. Not in loving materialism or created things but the Creator Himself. If you love Me, you will keep MY commandments, said the Lord to His disciples (John 14;15). The proof one's faith in God is love for Him. And the proof of love is obedience. God does not demand anything from man but only to keep His commands, so man stays in God's eternal and perfect plan for His well-being. By nature, man is a rebel and always wants to have his own way and so its the most difficult duty to obey God's laws. But therein is the foundation for a stable and everlasting life. A life that has blessings overflowing in this world and unspeakable joy awaiting in the world to come. Are you motivated by this love for God, to live daily and grow from glory to glory?

2 Love for Self: Love your neighbor as you love yourself, is a very familiar statement. Yet many don't realize that before one can really love others, he needs to know how to love himself first. Many think, enjoying the pleasures of sin like using drugs to get a kick and using other intoxicating drinks and indulging in immoral activities, are to show love for oneself. But, sadly, it is the very opposite of loving oneself. It is self-destroying. Knowingly, you are hating your own body and mind when you indulge in such acts and activities that harm your own life like MJ!.

Genuine love for oneself is when you really accept yourself as created in the image of holy God who wants you to live holy life and enjoy all good things He has created for you. And to appreciate what He has already given to you. Many love the worldly possessions and passing pleasures of sin and not their own precious life. It is like grabbing the wrapping design paper rather than the valuable gift inside it. All that is in the world is lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and pride of life, these are not from the heavenly Father but from the enemy of mankind, Satan.

We often hear the popular slogan, love life and hate drugs! Yes, love life, your own God-given life. Then you will be able to love others similarly. Accept yourself as you are, an unique being and appreciate all the good gifts, talents God has given to you to thank Him in gratitude and live life to the fullest possible enjoyment!

3. Love for Your Family: It was God's own plan to give a family to man, who was single and never knew and never asked for one. In God's perfect and best plan for man's welfare, He has given a helper in his wife and gifts of children to bring joy to his heart. In such context of a God-ordained marriage and family, children are placed and nurtured with love and care. Man's first love after God is his wife, the better half. A husband is commanded to love his wife as himself. and together they need to love children as God's special gifts to take care.

Today, the enemy of man, Satan, has ruined family set up leading to eroding family foundations. Today family is under attack from all sides. Only the original foundation laid by God in His Word can sustain and empower the family based on love. Practice of love begins in the family and lasts even in the heavenly family. If you fail here, you will fail everywhere. So let love be shown in the family freely and fully. Unreserved love and unconditional forgiveness establish homes and perpetuate the blessings. Let this be your motivation to live, as your family needs your love and wants to love you too.

4. Love for Others: Love survies in giving and receiving. Once you stop giving away love, there will be no love left in your life. Man is a social being and needs others around him. Sometimes, we feel we don't need others when we encounter problems in society. However, man needs others to express his love and also to receive love from others. Love is a two- way street. Love flourishes between two individuals. Your capacity to love is enhanced as you begin to love others around you. The best and most appreciated parable Jesus taught was about the Good Samaritan. The very reason He expounded it is to show how one needs to love his neighbor and who that neighbor is! It does not take long to see the truth. Your neigbhbor is one who is in need! There are people all around us who have so many needs. We have needs that only others can meet. Hence love connects us. Love meets needs and thus fulfils God's command to love your neighbor as yourself. It is next only to loving God among the ten great commandments. Often it is not easy to love the unloveable, unworthy and unfortunate. We usually choose whom we want to love and they are usually the better lot. But the moral of the parable is that, the Samaritan chose to show love and concern to the one who was rejected by others like the religious, self-righteous and duty-bound levi and the priest. Love has no choice, Love does not discriminate. Love does not see anything but only the need of the other. Love is blind to divisive attitudes and actions. Love even covers multitude of sins, so you can love a sinner that the world hates. Though not the sin!

What is your motivation to live? Is it love for God who gave you life and loves you so much? Is it love for yourself as God's unique creation? Is it love for your family whom God gave you to share love and enjoy life together forever? Or is it love for others that is keeping you going with great excitement? Let them all be your motivation in life. You will enioy life meaningfully and will be a blessing to others.

" For the love of Christ compels us,...that He gave Himself up for us, that we should no longer live for ourselves........" 2 Cor. 5:14,15.

Be Encouraged.

A.Othniel

(www.aothniel.net)

><> Letter # 25 (19. 7. 2009) <><

Encouragement: Living Life Reflectively

When God created the earth, He took a step back after each stage of work, reflected upon what He had done, and concluded: it's good! And at the very end of all the work, He evaluated the results of His workmanship and passed His verdict: it's VERY GOOD! (Gen. 1:3-31).

We are made in God's image. That means (among other things) that we are made to do as He did; to reflect as He reflected.

Why the Need to Reflect?

To Develop a Grateful spirit
In today's fast paced life, most of us take things in life for granted: our parents, children, jobs, government, the convinience of the multitude of services and facilities available to us. We take our colleagues, subordinates, our maids for granted. We even take our own lives for granted. But if we could take a step back and reflect upon the benefits that we receive from these relationships, and consider where we would be without them, we would be more grateful and appreciative.
Ordinary, little almost-non-events can take on great significance when a person reflects on their value. Positive reflection helps take our eyes off what can stir up discontent and complaint, and get us to focus on the good and positive in the mundane, humdrum daily routine. Psalm 103 says: "Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits..." When was the last time you reflected upon God's many benefits and blessed Him?

To Check if We are on Track
Life consists of thousands of decisions. The cumulative effect of these gives us a certain course and direction, and leads us relentlessly towards a certain destination. But is it the destination what we had set out to reach? Is it the course we intended, or are we going off-course?
It is very easy to let the hundreds of daily events, weekly habits, and monthly routines dictate the shape and structure of our lives. Unless we step back and take stock, evaluate and make corrections, we allow the multitude of circumstances to push us onto a route we had not intended.
At the end of a long life, King Solomon reflected upon his life and found that it had been vanity of vanities- void, futile - and wrote the book of Ecclesiastes as a warning to us.
There are many Solomons around- you've met them! People who strive to climb the ladder of corporate success, material acquisitions, children's academic excellence, and many other such ladders. People who keep climbing, and pushing, trying to go ever higher...only to find when they've reached the very top, that the ladder was leaning on the wrong wall!
I think a regular hour of reflection might have averted a lifetime of mistakes. But most people are so busy living , they don't have time to remember what they are living for!

To See the Big Picture
In the midst of troubles, and problems, many people don't see the big picture at all. Their noses are so close to the grindstone, they fail to see the tapestry of their lives evolving.
Not Joseph. In all those years of slavery, of proving himself, of pining for home, of remembering the harm done to him-what was he thinking? I believe he stuck resolutely to his dream because he saw every injustice and hardship in the light of the big picture, the dream that God had given him. His constant reflection kept him focussed on the end-result, the dream of his life.
There are people who endure similar suffering today. The only way not to be engulfed by the slavery and tyranny of hardship is to reflect upon what God has given us. His promise that somehow all things work together for good, that He gives us a better future and a bright hope.

To Ease the Stresses of Life
Often, a few minutes of thoughtful reflection will ease unnecessary tension and pressure on our minds and bodies. Like, do we have to hurry? Why are we hurrying? What is the effect of all this hurry on me? On others? Is there a better way to do things? Do we need this kind of activity, etc? What's the big deal in this?
This will lessen the unnecessary stress many put themselves through, lengthen their lives a little, and make life a bit more pleasurable.

Be Encouraged.

A.Othniel

(www.aothniel.net)

><> Letter # 24 (12. 7. 2009) <><

Encouragement: Life Beyond the Limits

Have you ever thought of or expected to live your life beyond limits!? Actually, do you know that there is such a life waiting for you? Or it is possible to live life even beyond your expectations or wild dreams? Here's the secret to get blessings, enlage your life, experiecne supernatural presence and stay away from evil. All these, just by a simple and shortest prayer! Can you believe this?

Here's what an obscure statement in the historical records of the Bible says: "And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!" So God granted him what he requested." 1 Chronicles 4:10. A little prayer, but a giant prize!

This simple, direct request to God changed Jabez's life and left a permanent mark on the history books of Israel. At first glance, the four requests may strike you as sincere, sensible, even noble, but not terribly remarkable. Yet just under the surface of each lies a giant paradigm breaker that runs exactly opposite to the way you and I usually think . In this letter, I want to show you just how dramatically each of Jabez's requests can release something miraculous in your life.

1. Ask for God's Blessings: It is not seeking for more of what we want! This is what normally all people are doing. But asking for God's blessings means to ask Him to pour out His vast resources in heaven, His rich goodness and favours- waiting for you! Out of His riches in heaven God blesses and provides, is what even Apostle Paul assures us in Philippians 4:19. Usually, we are not reaching for those immeasurable riches but only focussing on our problems and asking for His help. Ask, and it shall be given to you, promised the Lord Jesus. You do not have because, you do not ask, reminded James in his letter. Open you heart wide and ask for God to bless you indeed, really hard and abundantly. When God blesses you, your life changes and you will help others too. Jacob sought for God's blessing so desperately that he was determined not to leave God unless He blessed him there and then! Then what we read happneed in Jacob's life is the wonderful history of Israel!

2. Ask to Enlarge your territory: Many of us are satisfied with our present siuation unless we face some problems. The lethargy and complacency are the greatest enemies of development. But God wants to give so much for you that you have to ask for enlarging your borders- of your own personal life, family life, financial life, and professional life. Don't you want to stretch yourself and make an impact on others? Desire for a greater ministry to be given to you so that you become more useful and your territory extends farther and wider.

3. Ask for God's Presence with you always: To go through life's difficult situations or to accomplish great things, you need a supernatural power. The Lord promises His presence with those who go forward in His name, to do and work wonders. Jabez asked for God's hand to be with him, since he asked for large responsibility to be given to him. Yes, we all need this assurance that He is with us always, in everything and at all times.

4. Ask to keep you away from evil: Evil is all around us in this world. Wherever you go, you can not run away from evil. This is like your shadow that always follows you! Sometimes, you have to face evil and fight the battles of life. But, it is better and safer that we pray for not to enter into a struggle with the powerful Enemy of God. The Lord Jesus taught the little prayer to pray for deliverance from the evil one. As you step out of your house, ask God to keep you away from the evil one. As you deal with people, ask God to keep evil far from you both. But you need not fear the evil one. Pray and trust the Lord that you would be kept safe.

Say this prayer of Jabez daily. Count the good things that happen to you. Make sure, you are obeying God's Word and are doing everything to please Him and He will blesss you. Join me in this transformation. You will change your legacy and bring supernatural blessings wherever you go. God release His miraculous power in you now and for all eternity! He will lavish on you His honour and delight. Amen.

" Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart." Psalm 47:4

Be Encouraged.

A.Othniel

(www.aothniel.net)

><> Letter # 23 (5. 7. 2009) <><

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Encouragement: Why Popularity Ends Tragically?

Saith the Lord: "I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked;but that the wicked turn from his way and live:" Ezekiel 33:11.

It has been a great surprise to many and shocking to some people to hear the news of the sudden and mysterious death of one of the greatest entertainers of this age! Tv channels have been feverishly and persistently showcasing the life and times of a man who was so popular (as well as unpopular) for many reasons. Yet nobody expected that his end comes so soon and so tragically when he was planning a comeback soon. Sadly, he passed into eternity without experiencing true love and peace in his life. Though had so much riches and lived like a king as some people say, yet he never had salvation or eternal life. How sad and hopeless can a life be!

The events of past few days made me think why all those who ever became popular, ended their lives tragically? Is it part of being a celebrity or being popular brings with it anytime death? Whether a person is known for his good life or bad life, there is this common end to all the famous people in this world.

The TV was recollecting the lives of some of the famous stars who ended their lives, either by taking drugs, or alocohol, etc. But there are also good people who became so popular that their lives were cut short by those who could not endure them. Anyway, the world celebrates death of all.

Mahatma Gandbi was assassinated at a time when he became so popular as the father of Indian nation, leading the country to independance. It was so sudden, world was shocked. and India mourned endlessly.

In recent times, we have Princess Diana whose colorful and romantic life came to a tragic end in a car accident. Literally millions shed tears because she was so dear to so many hearts. Many women identified with her struggles in life and were emotionally touched..

We have our own dear Pime Minister of India, Rajiv Gandhi, who was so young to accept the reins of the govt after his mother's tragic assassination. He became victim of a suicide bomber at a time when he taking the country forward with many reforms. Like this the list goes on, of the most celebrated people meeting death before their time.

Here is a different person whose life was unique, had very limited time to fulfill the eternal plan of saving mankind. Prepared His successors because He knew His time. Though it was the most tragic and torturous of all, it was not unexpected. In fact, it was foretold and was destined to happen. Though He was not so popular in His days, He became most popular after His death, because He rose again and lives forever. And He promised to come again soon, to take to Himself who believe in and entrust their lives to Him.

The Lord Jesus Christ came into the world, leaving His glory, and became a servant. Though He was the sinless and perfect Son of God, yet He humbled Himself even unto death on the cross to save sinners. The enemies who were not able to accept His supreme claims, crucified Him, thus planning to end His life and work. Yet He overcame death and lives forever to give new life to all who come to Him. He gives Eternal life, peace and more than all pours out His supreme love into the hearts of those who receive Him as their Savior and Lord.

Many celebrities ened their lives without experiencing true love and peace in their lives. But you and I are privileged to hear these good news today and to sieze this opportunity to come to the Savior and receive freely all that He is promising for us. Remember He said once, what shall it profit a man, to win the whole world and lose his own soul? How true! You need not have that tragic end. You can live with peace and joy and leave this world with hope and assurance of Eternal life. Lord Jesus can give you this perfect peace that the world can not give. John 14:27. Do you want it now?

Be Encouraged.

A.Othniel

(www.aothniel.net)

><> Letter # 22 (28. 6. 2009) <><

Encouragement: The True Love Says...

I RESPECT YOU:
I see you, as you are, a unique individual-as we are all unique.
I accept you as you are and will permit you to develop as God purposes for you.
I will not exploit you for my own benefits. I will attempt to know you as well as I can because
I know that increased communication and knowledge will enhance my respect for you.

I CARE FOR YOU:

It matters to me what happens to you.
I am concerned for your life and growth.
My desire is to promote your interests even if it means sacrificing my own.

I AM RESPONSIBLE FOR YOU:

I will respond to you, not out of a sense of duty which obligates me, but voluntarily.
Your spiritual needs will motivate me to pray for you.
I will protect you, but will guard against overprotection.
I will correct you in love, but will attempt not to overcorrect.
I will find no pleasure in your weaknesses or failures, and will keep no records of either.
By God's grace, I will be patient and will not fail you.

~~ ( Paraphrased from 1 Corinthians 13)

" Many waters can not quench love; neither can the floods drown it." Song of songs 8:7.
"There is no greater love than this that a friend lay down His life for His friends." Jn. 15:13.
"God demonstrates His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."Ro. 5:8.
"Love one another as I (Jesus) have loved you."Jn. 15:12.

Be Encouraged.

A.Othniel

(www.aothniel.net)

><> Letter # 21 (21. 6. 2009) <><

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

What is Worship? -a deeper study

Worship

A number of years ago I read a newspaper account of a christening party in a wealthy Boston suburb. The parents had opened their palatial home to friends and relatives, who had come to celebrate the wonderful event. As the party was moving along and the people were having a wonderful time eating, drinking, celebrating and enjoying one another, somebody said, ''By the way; where is the baby?'' The heart of the mother jumped and she instantly left the room and rushed into the master bedroom, where she had left the baby asleep in the middle of the massive bed.

The baby was dead smothered by the coats of the guests.

I've often thought about that in reference to how the Lord Jesus Christ is treated in His own Church. We think we are celebrating Him, while in reality we're preoccupied with f'ulfilling our own selfish desires, unconcerned and uncaring about the real reason we're here. One of the great tragedies of contemporary Christianity is that we have allowed the concept of worship to degenerate so that Christ can be neglected or even opposed by those who think they are worshipping Him.

What is Worship? Many are not certain what worship is. Some Christians think of worship as sitting quietly and piously, dreamily contemplating some abstract and ethereal noumenon. Other Christians see worship as liturgy-a structured system to be followed at a certain time, in a specified place with the proper atmosphere and just the right words and music. Still others equate worship with motion or emotion or even volume. To them, intense feelings, loud noise or frenzied activity are essential to fervent worship. Modern Christianity as a whole tends to view worship as an activity that takes place usually in Church on Sunday and perhaps occasionally in the prayer closet during devotions or with a Bible study group. Consequently the spate of books and articles recently published on the subject has focused largely on the forms of worship-style, order of service and ritual-often missing the real point that worship is a life-style, consuming the whole being. Worship is not just mystical, it is intensely practical. It is not rigid, void of spontaneity, but neither is it mindless emotion and activity Worship is nothing if it is not continuous, deliberate, purposeful, active and dynamic. It is all that we are, reacting rightly to all that God is.

In the Old Testament: The first mention of the word worship in the Old Testament is by Abraham. Speaking to his servants, Abraham said, we both will go up that mountain and worship God and come back to you. Genesis 22:5. Here, actually Abraham was going to offer his only son Isaac as a burnt offering to God, in obedience to His command. The burnt sacrifice was meant to please God as a sweet smelling savor. For Abraham it was worship. The meaning for worship, is offering sacrifice to please God, laying on the altar that which is close to your heart, which you love so much!

The Hebrew word for worship in OT is ‘shaw- khaw’, meaning to prostrate, bow down to royalty or God, humbly beseech, do reverence or worship. It is more to do with external expression of respect to a superior being, by bowing down, prostrating oneself before the royalty. Since God manifested through His glory in the temple, Israelites prostrate in towards the temple.

Psalms are full of worship expressions, beautifully describing worship using these same words and adding more expressions like music and singing, etc. E.g. Psalm 95:6-7, Oh, come, let us worship and bow down, Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker...” Also Psalm 96 and other worship Psalms.

Similarly, when the Wise men came from the East to visit the Lord Jesus when He was born, they said, they came to worship Him. In Matthew 2:11, we notice that they fell down and worshipped Him and presented to Him gold, frankincense and myrrh. So the worship involved outward expression and giving costly gifts. Thus, we see that the worship in the OT was mostly concerned with external expressions and offerings and animal sacrifices in the temple. Now let us see what the NT teaches us about worship.

In the New Testament: According to 1 Corinthians 6:19, every believer is a living, breathing temple in which God dwells. That means believers can worship anywhere, at any time-God goes with them in an abiding defense. A Christian can worship anywhere under any kind of circumstance or condition. The sphere of worship is unlimited and worship reaches its most sublime heights when the worshipper is living continuously in God's presence, in the glow of His glory, a life of worship. Biblically, worship is simply honour and adoration directed to God.

The New Testament uses several words for worship. Two of them particularly are noteworthy. The first is proskuneo, a commonly used term that literally means 'to kiss toward,' to kiss the hand,'' or to bow down.' It is the word for worship used to signify humble adoration. The second word is latreuo, which suggests rendering honour or paying homage. The Anglo-Saxon word from which we get our English word weorthscipe, which is tied to the concept of worthiness. That's appropriate, for worship is ascribing to God His worth, stating and affirming His supreme value. All of those terms carry the idea of giving and worship is what we give to God.

Modern Christianity seems committed instead to the idea that God should be giving to us. God does give to us abundantly but we need to understand that a consuming, selfless desire to give to God is the essence and the heart of worship. It begins with the giving first of ourselves and then of our attitudes and then of our possessions-until worship is a way of life...... Read more >>

Encouragement: Life is Unfair--when things don't go my way!

"Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord's coming." (James 5:7)

Past few days I had been down, depressed and in despair because so many I loved, cared for and encouraged have left me and behave like strangers! I have to begin all the way to develop new relationships and friendships.
My experience is not unique. Others before me had, and I am sure others after me, will know the experience of losing people or things or things not going their way. The Bible is full of men sinking into despondency precisely for this reason. E.g. Peter and the other disciples after crucifixion of Christ. Elijah when he heard of the threats of Jezebel. David when his son Absalom pursued him. The list goes on. But why things happen like that?
Sometimes we experience adversities because of our own folly or sin. Part of maturity is to accept my mistakes, admit my sins and hopefully learn from the experience. That's what I realized. I should have been more careful and wise in choosing friends or whom I should be more closer to. Failure in relatioships do happen to all and it is painful.

Adversities as a result of our own folly are almost easier to bear. But not all setbacks can be attributed to personal sins or folly. And this presents the believer with a number of thorny epistemological questions: "How can an Omnipotent God let bad things happen to me unless He is powerless to preventing them and therefore protecting me?" "How can a loving God allow so many innocent children to perish in a fire at a care centre in Mexico recently, etc?" Such questions can not be satisfied even if one proposes that there may have been some greater purpose behind this disappointment or disaster. One could argue if God could not have chosen a less painful way of driving home His point. To take this argument to the extreme, what possible explanation can one have in response to the death of the millions, many of whom were innocent children, in the Second World War?

How to Respond to all this?
The inability to have a reasonable way of understanding such events led many to the conclusion that God must surely be dead. If not dead, then aloof and removed from intervening in human events. Or perhaps powerless. This was the very place God began in His response to Job (Job 38). Instead of explaining Himself or justifying His actions, God simply reasserted who He is. Thus whilst we are unable to understand God's actions, our lack of understanding does not mean that God is not who He proclaims Himself to be. It is our lack of wisdom, or more correctly our lack of faith that is on trial, not God. God does not require us to understand- only believe that He is who He said He is. Thus the response to events that go wrong or do not go our way should be to remain faithful to Him.
What we need to guard against is not being able to see the bigger picture and only focus on the immediacy of the loss. The bigger picture is reflected in the encouraging words, "be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord's coming." (James 5:7) We are reminded that makind though lost and fallen is not doomed to repeat the follies of history. With every successive rise of oppressive regimes and wicked dictators, we are reminded that the Lord's Second Coming draws nearer. When that happens, everyone will be required to give an account for his actions. When He comes again, all our human striving and suffering will come to an end. Thus, as believers in God, our response should be to continue to acknowledge the supreme wisdom and power of God. And when our strong emotions are allowed to be experienced and given vent, we can then acknowledge the supremacy of God over all events including those that affect our lives.

How should we live in the face of adversities that were not of our making?
First, remind ourselves of who God is and chose to remain faithful to Him.
Second, grieve if we must.
And finally, remember that the Lord is coming when all wrongs will be made right.
If the wait seemed long to us, it is only because a thousand years is to the Lord as one day and one day as a thousand years.
In the meantime, don't let your experience go to waste. Comfort others with the comfort that you yourself have been comforted with. You know someone experiencing hardship? Be a supportive friend. Allow the aggrieved person the opportunity to be his or her true self. Let them express their feelings freely. We offer this type of supportive relationship by being available. Accepting and not judging nor condemning their actions is also helpful in showing support. We can also be helpful by being sensitive to the needs of the hurt individual.

Our Lord is coming back soon. And when He does, He will establish justice. His promise provides hope for the future and a balm for the present disappointments.

Be Encouraged.

A.Othniel

><> Letter # 20 (14. 6. 2009) <><