Sunday, July 11, 2010

Encouragement: To Whom Will You Surrender?

Pressure has become a regular part of life today. It seems as if everyone wants something of us or expects us to do something. As a result, we are often forced to choose between surrendering to the pressure of others and doing the will of God. Spiritual renewal and growth take place when we choose to obey God before we surrender to anyone else's expectations.

At Saul's coronation, the prophet Samuel exhorted him to obey God ( 1 Samuel 12:14).But Saul allowed his men to pressure him to disobey God's commands. Israel was at war. In the midst of battle, it was customery to have a priest offer sacrifices. Samuel had promised Saul that he would come at an appointed time to do this. Saul waited for a while but begam to feel pressured because his troops were leaving him. He knew that it was against God's lawfor him to offer the sacrifices because he was not a priest. But Saul decided he could not take the pressure any longer, so he offered the sacrifices himself.

Just as Saul finished his sacrifice, Samuel arrived. "How foolish!" Samuel exclaimed. 'You have disobeyed the command of the Lordyour God. Had you obeyed, the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your dynasty must end, for the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart'" (1 Samuel 13:13-14). If Saul had waited just one more hour, he would have kept his kingdom.

Surrendering to God means that we resist surrendering to those who pressure us to disobey His commands. When we surrender to ungodly pressure, we pay dire consequences.When we surrender to God, we benefit, and our family benefits for generations to come.

1Sa 15:22 And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.

Be Encouraged

A.Othniel
(www.aothniel.net)

Letter # 27 (11. 7. 2010)

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Encouragement: Choosing Trustworthy Friends

What kind of friends we choose will make a difference in our life. Friends often have powerful influence on us, if we allow them to have their own way in our lives. Because we want to please our friends, we share many things, even secrets that are even hidden from our parents or teachers! And if our friends are not trustworthy, then we will be in trouble. Here's a real and touching story.

Once we have committed ourselves to confessing our faults and weaknesses to others, it is extremely important for us to keep company with trustworthy people-godly people we can entrust with our confidences. Otherwise, we will find it impossible to speak the truth and may even find ourselves lying because we can't trust our friends.

Samson was on of Israel's Judges. As a child, he had been dedicated to God, and God had ifted him with supernatural strength. But Samson had a lifelong weakness-his desire for women. Samson was especially blinded to the dangers he faced in his relationship with Delilah. Samson's enemies paid Delilah to discover the secret of his strength. Three times she begged him to let her in on his secret, and each time she tried to use this information to hand him over to his enemies. ll three times, Samson lied to her and as able to escape, but each time he got closer to telling her the truth. In th end, Samson revealed his secret, was taken captive, and died a slave in enemy hands (Judges 14-16).

Samson's real problem can be found in his unholy passions, which caused him to be drawn into the web of his treacherous enemies. His disobedience to God caused him to gradually inch his way toward destruction and a violent death.

We can protect ourselves from falling into the same trap by obeying God and developing relationships with those who love us and are devoted to God's truth. Trustworthy confidants can be relied upon to hear us speak about both our strengths and our weaknesses.

Be Encouraged

A.Othniel
(www.aothniel.net)

Letter # 26 (4. 7. 2010)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Encouragement: Persevering Until We Find Love

Today I heard news of a supermodel committing suicide in India because of her failed love. There are so many such unreported incidents happening al over the world. Unfortunately, many in the name of love are taking their lives and causing great pain and sorrow to their family, etc. True Love never leads to tragedy but a joyful and hopeful future.

"Please love me!" Isn't this the whispered cry of our hearts? We all long for the security that love brings, but finding such love can be very difficult. "Yet we need to be in community with loving, faithful godly people in order to preserve our spiritual gains."

Ruth in the OT history was a young woman who had loved and lost and then persevered until she found love again. (Ruth 2:4-18). She lost her beloved husband and was left unprotected for a time. So she followed her mother-in-law, Naomi, to a foreign land and was forced to gather leftover grain from the harvested fields just to stay alive. Though Ruth was was not aware of it, the man who owned the fields was a relative who could , if he chose to, marry Ruth and fulfill her needs for love and protection.Naomi told her to go to the threshing floor where this man, Boaz, was sleeping and curl up at his feet. Culturally, this displayed a request to be taken care of. Boaz was quite happy to find Ruth there, and later he married her, providing the love and provision she had lost and now longed for.

In Christ, we will find all the love and security we truly needas well, for He cares for us very much. We can be sure that when we "curl up" at the feet of Jesus, He will be glad to find us there. He will provide for us, protect us, and love us. We also need to venture toward developing healthy love relationships with people in God's family.It may be scary to say, "please love me," but its worth the risk. No matter how we may have loved and lost, God wants us to move into a community that is bound together by His love. Amen.

Be Encouraged

A.Othniel
(www.aothniel.net)

Letter # 25 (27. 6. 2010)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Encouragement: So Why Are Dads Important?-A Fathers' Day Special

Happy Father’s Day! For many of you Fathers’ Day is not easy. Some of you had bad relationships with your fathers. A few of you may not have known your Dad – even if you lived with him. A preacher dad says, " I didn’t know my father, even though we lived in the same home for 20 years". For some of you this is a good day, with warm memories. If this is a _statistically_ average group, only 2-3 men out of a hundred, when teenagers, spent more quality time with your fathers than with your mothers. We are a generation of under-fathered sons.

And for those who had abusive or violent fathers, God-as-father is a problematical concept. In New York a Presbyterian pastor told that they had to change the Lord’s Prayer. Most of the fathers were cruel or absent, and the person who reminded them most of a loving God was their grandmothers. So the prayer said: God in heaven, who is loving like a grandmother…’

Being a Dad isn’t easy these days. But being a Mum isn’t easy either. Being a kid isn’t easy – or a teenager, or married, or single, or being middle-aged, or a senior… Life _is_ difficult!

Are Dads necessary? Some in the context of the current IVF debate don’t think so.

But the facts are in: there’s a wall-full of books from researchers and the Men’s Movement about ‘Absent Fathers Lost Sons/Daughters’. Where fathers are emotionally disengaged from their kids those children feel a deep emptiness within. And where Dads are cruel or abusive, the damage in the victim’s lives is awful!

The story of the Prodigal Son (or, as the real hero is the Dad, probably it should be called the Parable of the Waiting Father, as Helmut Thielicke suggests; perhaps even better: The Parable of the Two Sons) is the ‘greatest short story ever told’ (and re-told).

Every person on this planet has to come to terms with four relationships – self, things, others, and God. This story is about all four.

One of the key teachings of Jesus was that acceptance precedes repentance. Acceptance in this case came before confession. As the old saying has it: ‘Those who are seeking God have already been found by him.’ One of the most beautiful aspects of the gospel is that God loves you before you change, as you change, or whether you change or not. Do you believe that?

By the way, I’m glad the boy met the father before he met his older brother, eh?

Dad called for the ring, the robe – perhaps the one the boy once wore – the fatted calf and the shoes. Shoes are for sons (servants or slaves often did not wear shoes).

When you take responsibility for failing as a Dad there are some things you’ve got to remember: [1] You can’t change the past, but you ask forgiveness for the past, and move on; [2] you don’t have to carry destructive guilt about the past: that will kill you; but you’d better know the difference between good guilt and bad guilt; [3] you can do what you can to heal relationships in the present.

SO WHY ARE DADS IMPORTANT?

For one thing they fill young teenagers’ emotional tanks – both boys and girls. Was it a Chinese sage who said ‘The wise person learns from others’ mistakes before they make their own’? The children can learn a lot from a father, from his knowledge and experience. Children need a model-head, leader, mentor,protector,lover like nobody else. Dads can love their kids unconditionally and accept them without preconditions. Thats what was the greatest lesson Jesus taught from the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15. Children someone to disciple them, to be tough, to be strict, to keep them in the right way and to demonstrate the love of the heavenly Father. God placed children n the family of both father and mother as children need both tenderness and toughness. A single mother fails here to provide the father's role to the kids.

Today, there might be a party in heaven over prodigal sons and daughters and fathers and mothers coming come – to be forgiven, and restored to the family.

CONCLUSION: Dads, Grandfathers, Dads-to-be: here's a prayer for you.

Lord, bless these men: some of them delight in their fathering; for others it’s hard, perhaps very hard, and they’re wounded. Hear our confession of sin, of failure, of ignorance. Help us – all of us – to forgive our own fathers for their faults and failings. But Lord, we are not responsible for them, but for ourselves. Help these Dads to love their children’s mother. May they be good priests in their homes, leading their children to a living faith in the living God. And when the Great Day comes and we stand before you, our king and our judge, may we hear you say, ‘Well done, good and faithful father. Your children have delighted in you and you are eternally blessed.’ Amen.

Psalm 103:13
As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; (NIV)

Proverbs 23:22
Listen to your father, who gave you life,
and do not despise your mother when she is old. (NIV)

Be Encouraged

A.Othniel
(www.aothniel.net)

Letter # 24 (20. 6. 2010)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Encouragement: Recognizing Areas of Weakness

We all have particular weaknesses, and it is helpful to acknowledge these honestly. When we recognize where we are weak, we can set up boundaries to give us support in these areas of weakness. We may need to clearly communicate to others the boundary lines we have defined, and then hold each other accountable to them. Once the boundaries have been established, honesty is needed to maintain them.

Jacob and his father-in-law, Laban, had some conflicts. As they were working them out, they entered into an agreement by drawing a clearly defined boundary line and setting up a monument to remind them of that commitment. "May the Lord keep watch between us to make sure that we keep this treaty when we are out of each other's sight. ...The heap of stones and this pillar stand between us as a witness of our vows" (Genesis 31:49,51-52). Then Jacob vowed before God to respect the boundary line.

Recognizing our areas of weakness allows us to take precautions to make sure we don't give into our weaknesses. When we see areas where we need to set limits in our lives, we can ask God to help us. We can also ask others to watch our behavior in that area. While others can hold us accountable, however, we must always remember that we are personally responsible for our own honesty before the watchful eye of God.

Be Encouraged

A.Othniel
(www.aothniel.net)

Letter # 23 (13. 6. 2010)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Encouragement: What Do You Do with a Broken Relationship?

Let's face it. To all relationships there comes the inevitable crisis. Someone is offended, and a painful process of alienation begins. Attitudes quickly change. Inappropriate words and actions soon follow. The relationship is strained and at times even ended. Is this your experience? Then, read on.

Unless you live by yourself on a remote island, you know all too well the pain of broken relationships. Even the best of friendships can go sour. Marriages have their bad days. Co-workers can turn the office into a battlefield. Churches split over personality conflicts. Families explode because of unkind words. Neighbors argue about barking dogs. The problem is of epidemic proportions. It is a greater threat to our well-being than influenza, cancer, or heart disease.

As with physical disorders, there are telltale signs that point to the problem. Like flashing red lights, these symptoms warn that something is seriously wrong. You can probably recognize the following symptoms from your own experience.

Avoidance. Longtime friends suddenly avoid each other after a conflict. Although they used to enjoy one another's company, now when they see each other they keep their distance.

Irritability. "What did you say?" "Leave me alone!" "She makes me sick!" "Mind your own business!" "So what?" "I said no and I mean no!" "I've had it!" "Get off my back, will you!"
Do you recognize any of these fiery phrases? I'm sure you do. We've all heard them. And most of us will have to admit that we've said some of them.

Silence. A common response to a wounded relationship is "the silent treatment." We simply refuse to talk with the other person. It's a nonverbal signal that says, "I don't want to have anything to do with you, so leave me alone." For some, it is a way to insulate themselves from any further pain. For others, it is a way to get even. By refusing to talk, they hope to make the other person suffer.

Enlisting allies. It's unfortunate, but some people respond to broken relationships like nations that have just declared war. They immediately recruit allies by giving only their view of the issue. And this one-sided account is the ammunition used in the battle. Such behavior reveals insecurity and weakness. It uncovers a person's lack of confidence to handle the problem adequately on his own.

Terrorism. Like its counterpart in our world of bombings and hijackings, this form of personal agression is subtle and comes without warning. With methods that are indirect and underhanded, it often destroys the innocent along with the supposed enemy. There are angry looks and words, and even physical abuse. At times it may involve slanderous attacks, causing the destruction of someone's influence or character.

If you see any of these symptoms, your relationship may be deteriorating. Now's the time to resolve the problem.

Broken relationships can make life miserable too. But, like dealing with poison ivy, our natural response may only make matters worse. Many times our attempted solutions just don't work. The necessary repair work can be accomplished when we are willing to follow the pattern given by God.

Sounds a little ridiculous, doesn't it? Yet the Bible says that trying to win back the friendship of an offended person is like trying to capture a fortified city. It says that anger is as difficult to overcome as barred gates.

A brother offended is harder tow in than a strong city, and contentions are like the bars of a castle (Proverbs 18:19).

Repairing a broken relationship is extremely hard, but it's not impossible. Like the lone soldier facing a fortified city, you need to know what to do. In the Bible, we can find a plan of action modeled by God Himself.

In the person of Jesus Christ, we see the steps that God took to repair the broken relationship between Him and mankind. The activity of Christ was in reality the activity of God restoring an alienated world to Himself. Paul wrote:
...God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself (2Corinthians 5:19).
In His example, we see the steps we must take in order to make peace with others.
What did God do? What were the steps He took to reunite us with Himself? The Bible gives us the answer: He loved, He humbled Himself, He suffered, He invited, and He forgave.

Yes, God has modeled the steps necessary to repair bruised and broken relationships. His example should be the basis for our method of breaking down the barriers between people.

Be Encouraged

A.Othniel
(www.aothniel.net)

Letter # 22 (6. 6. 2010)

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Encouragement: Accepting Ourselves

Most of us wish we were different somehow, perhaps in personality, appearance, or physical abilities. While it is all right to admire good traits in others, often this desire to be like someone else is actually a form of covetousness, or envy, which God condemns (Exodus 20:17). Instead, we must learn to accept ourselves as God has made us.

Before we can truly accept ourselves, however, we must first see the truth about ourselves, recognizing both the gifts and the limitations that God has given us. If we do not do this, we will constantly be struggling to be someone we are not. Oneway to appreciate how God has made us is to read Psalm 139. The Psalmist rejoices, "Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous - and how well I know it" (Psalm 139:14). As God's "workmanship", we are beautiful masterpieces- works of divine poetry that ought to be highly valued.

Each of us is unique and special-embraced and accepted by God Himself- even though not one of us is perfect. We can not be really happy and spiritually strong, until we are willing to accept ourselves as God made us. Once we accept the truth about ourselves, we can bring great glory to God Himself, for He is the One who made us.

Psalm 139:13.Y ou made all the delicate inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother's womb.

Be Encouraged

A.Othniel
(www.aothniel.net)

Letter # 21 (30. 5. 2010)

Monday, May 24, 2010

Encouragement: Dealing with Tragedy

" 2 Seconds to Disaster" scream headlines of all newspapers in India today. An airplane packed with returning workers from Dubai crashed at the Mangalore airport in India on last Friday early morning. Out of 166 on board the plane, only 8 survived by jumping out of the plane as it burst into flames soon after falling into a valley after overshooting the runway. Imagine the sorrow of the families waiting to meet their loved ones coming back after several years. Think of the loss of life and property. It all happened all of a sudden when the fliers realized they had arrived in their motherland, when the plane just touched down. In seconds, they were all charred to death and no more! How do we respond to such tragedies in life?

Life often does not turn out as one had hoped. So many stories are being recolleced on TV news about the crew some of whom just jined the Ariline to realize their dreams, etc. Youthful idealism has this glowing vision of the future, colored with radiant optimism. And then real life comes along!

Tragedy may come in life, gut-wrenching heartaches. Your marriage may fall apart. Or your teenage daughter comes home pregnant and the man has no desire to marry her! After years of faithful service, your employer calls you into his office to inform you that your time has come to leave. Or the doctor tells you quietly that your faithful wife has terminal cancer. And you go through the agony of seeing your beloved wife waste away and finally die. No, life is not always good to us.

But how do we respond? We may become angry and bitter, angry at God for allowing this to happen. With Job's wife we may cry out, "Curse God and die!" (Job 2:9). We may enter into a deep valley of depression, drowning in the depths of self-pity. If we experience pain, suffering, anguish, anger, tears or sorrow because of sickness, an accident or financial trials, we should not blame God and think, "Why are You punishing me?" Sometimes He allows these things so we examine our lives.

Sometimes God allows such things in our lives so that we will be blessed by the experience we go through, and be brought closer in our relationship with Him.

Here's a real story of how those whom God loved went through sickness and death and finally came out joyful and victorious even over death and grave! In John ch. 11, Lazarus, Mary and Martha were loved by the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet, Lazarus fell sick and when they informed the Lord Jesus, He delayed to respond. Here are five truths we need to help us through our suffering and sorrow.

1. God's Glory. When the Lord Jesus heard about Lazarus' sickness, He said: "This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory..." (Jn.11:4). This was the real purpose of the sickness. So, death was not the final outcome of the sickness. It was an opportunity for Him to display His power and strengthen people's belief in Him.

2. Tears. When tragedy strikes, there will be tears, much tears. We should not try to avoid grief, because it is not a sign of immaturity, weakness or lack of faith. Grief is very real. It hurts and should be expressed, not suppressed. Also, we should support those who grieve by sharing their feelings (Rom. 12:15). That's what Jesus did.

3. Anger. Another response to suffering or tragedy is anger. Many people express anger toward God by saying like, "Why did You let this tragedy happen?" "And Why me only?" It is understandable. Lord Jesus was angry with death, with the grave and the consequences of sin that brought all this sorrow. Yes, we need to be angry with sin itself and all that it brings. Nothing good is served by being angry with God or ourselves or even others. It can lead to bitterness which is not healthy at all.

4. Truth. If you believe that God's ways and workings toward us are motivated by love, no matter what the circumstance, then you can face anything in life. We cannot control what life brings, but we can control our reaction to what life brings. If you can't react to the suffering and tragedy that comes into your life God's way, it will drag you down and away from God. But if you give it to Him, saying, "Lord, show me what You want me to learn through this. Show me how can I be a better person, how can I be more like You." Then your life will be far better.

5. Grace. We have a God who is so committed to ending suffering and death, that He was willing to come into this world and suffer and die Himself. God knows what suffering is like. If you think that God does not care about your pain and suffering, then think again. Don't blame Him for what happens in your life. He was willing to suffer and die for you because He cares about you and loves you.

Why does God allow tragedies in our lives? Because He wants to resurrect us, to give us new life, where we'll be better persons, and God will be glorified through us, and we will become more like Him.

It is God's grace that has given us the strength to face the future with confidence, no matter what suffering, pain or sorrow may come our way. God's grace is over all of our life to help us and assure us that we have a hope. No matter what happens to us on this earth, there is the hope of eternal life with Him, a hope that assures us of a future with Him forever. So we can rise up out of tragedy, give God the glory and become more like Him. We will be better witnesses because of what we have been through. Amen.

Be Encouraged

A.Othniel
(www.aothniel.net)


Letter # 20 (23. 5. 2010)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Encouragement: Releasing our Losses

All suffer losses in life. Whether it involves a loved one, a relationship, a dream, or something of material value, we tend to carry our losses with us. To be happy and victorious requires that we release our losses and the circumstances surrounding them to God.

In my own life I had suffered loss of loved ones including my dad and mom and friends whom I loved for more than 20 yrs. Some relationships were so close yet they faded away like vapor when Sun rises. I had lost my childhood Bible which I loved so much and used for more than 30 yrs to read and teach from. Of course, there were also times when I lost money and bank cards while travelling in the city. Some losses were too much to forget about or leave behind. I still rememmer some of my friends who are no longer in touch with me or have just decided to forget. It hurts especially, when you recollect how much you loved and cared for some people in your life and how they have responded to you. Believe me, it hard to get rid of the emotional feelings and to mend the broken hearts, though you can get back some of the material losses.

Though it is tough practically, here are some real examples to encourage us to leave behind our losses and to go on in life.

Abraham and his grandson Jacob both lost loved ones as they traveled to the Promised Land. When Sarah died, Abraham wept for her and then buried her there in Canaan (Genesis 23:1-4,19). A generation later, Jacob was given a new name, Israel, and the promise of a great heritage in the Promised Land. On his way there, he, too, lost his beloved wife. She died while giving birth to their son Benjamin. "Jacob set up a stone monument over her grave ... Jacob then traveled on" (Genesis 35:20-21).

As we make our journey throughout this life, inevitably we will experience losses. When we do, we need to do as Abraham and Israel did: acknowledge our losses, grieve openly over them, forgive if necessary, and then give them a proper burial. We may even build a monument to remind us of what was loved and lost, but at some point we must relinquish our losses to God. Then we can press on to accomplish what God has called us to do in this life.

Yes, let me assure you, it is possible to go on with your life from victory to victory, from glory to glory and to a better future, as we learn to leave all our losses and hurts to God and focus on His wonderful plan for our lives. I did. You can too!

Be Encouraged

A.Othniel
(www.aothniel.net)


Letter # 19 (16. 5. 2010)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Encouragement: Rearrange Priorities to Rebuild Your Life

Past few weeks we have been meditating in the church here on the book of Haggai in the Old Testament history. The Prophet Haggai was called to encourage the people of Jerusalem t return to the task of rebuilding God's house. The task of rebuilding the Temple was difficult; so is the task of rebuilding our lives. There will always be obstacles, but we don't have to let them stop us. When we feel like quitting, we can remember the message of Haggai. God is there to help and protect us each step of the way. As God's people had t reassess their spiritual lives in the rebuilding process, we need to examine our lives and act to prove our inner changes. We, like the people of Jerusalem, can respond to Haggai's message and move forward in the rebuilding and restoration process.

God's Plan Must Come First
When we face obstacles to God's plan for us, it is easy to get sidetracked from our primary mission; it is tempting to follow the way of least resistance. The people of Jerusalem started rebuilding God's Temple but then met with stiff opposition. Instead of trusting God and standing up to the opposition, the people turned away from the rebuilding project God had for them and built their own homes instead. We tend to make the same mistake. When we face an obstacle to our spiritual growth, we may turn away and take the way of least resistance. We may lower our standards, give in to sin, avoid confession, stop seeking God, and neglect relationships with those who hold us accountable. We may even look for a spiritual path that looks easier because it excludes God. But when we reject God's plan, we also reject His power and blessings in our lives. We can not experience spiritual renewal and fulfillment apart from following God's Will, even though that may not always be easy.

We will Face Obstacles
The rebuilding process is never easy. Satan will rear his ugly head time and again as we seek God and surrender to Him. The Judeans faced numerous obstacles as they sought to rebuild the Temple. Local leaders repeatedly tried to stop the work. The people became afraid and gave up on the task God had given them to do. With God's help and the encouragement of Haggai, however, the task went on, and the rebuilding of God's Temple was completed. God wants us to grow spiritually, and He will help us to overcome the obstacles if we look to Him for help.

Rebuilding Requires Action
It is much easier to recognize a problem than it is to do something about it. God's people in Jerusalem knew the Temple needed to be rebuilt if their nation was to get back in line with God's will. They had set out to complete the task but hd then become discouraged and failed to follow through. Their failure to act over a period of years brought continued suffering upon them. Haggai called the people to act; he calls us to do the same. When seeking spiritual renewal, we must go beyond the recognition of our need. We must use the keys God gives us to move toward reconciliation with God, ourselves, and others. As painful as this process can be at times, we will be moving toward restoration.

" From this day I will bless you." Haggai 2:19

Be Encouraged

A.Othniel
(www.aothniel.net)

Letter # 18 (9. 5. 2010)

Monday, May 3, 2010

Encouragement: Does Your Hope Encourage You Today?

A past filled with difficulty and broken relationships can overshadow the present. Though we have been forgiven our sins and have turned away from them, we are not automatically freed from the struggles of sin. If we are not careful, we can allow these struggles to sap our enthusiasm for life and douse our hopes for the future.

That was probably wat it was for God's people in Judah. As a result of the repeated sins fo their fathers, their families had been displaced from Palestine to Assyria and Babylonia. Seventy years later, at the decree of Cyrus, a remnant of Jews returned to Jerusalem under the leadership of Zerubabbel. Their first goal was to rebuild the house of God, but their initial enthusiasm was dampened by opposition from local residents. The work of rebuilding the Temple was soon stopped.

To counter the hopelessness, God appointed the elderly Haggai and the young Zechariah to prophecy, encouraging the returned exiles to rebuild God's Temple in Jerusalem. Zechariah, whose name means "God remembers", reminded the Jews that God had not forgotten them. Rather, he had a certain and dynamic plan for their restoration.

Hope for the future can provide great encouragement for the present. The promise of deliverance makes it possible to continue in the process of spiritual renewal. Zechariah's book in the Old Testament part of the Holy Bible is a fascinating study of how God, through His prophets, led His hurting people from hopelessness to commitment, through self-examination and transformation to a deepening spiritual perception. It is an account of rebuilding and spiritual renewal.

Disappointment ca lead to Despair
When faced with disappointment we have a choice: we can nurture our negative feelings, ro we can confront them and find a solution. The people of God chose to hold onto the disappointmentthat came from exile. This led to despair. To avoid despair we need to give our disappointments to God and confront those aspects of them that we can change. As we use the keys to spiritual renewal, we will find that our feeling of despair will pass. But we can not just passively wait for our transformation. We need to become actively involved in God's plan for our spiritual renewal.

Hope Encourages us Today
Zechariah's visions of the future gave hope to the people, helping them face the tasks their present. Our hope of God's complete transformation of our lives can encoruage us to endure the pain that may be part of our spiritual growth today. We won't always feel so hurt and confused. If we follow God's will for us in faith, we will experience His transforming power and discover the joy that only He can give.

Spiritual Renewal involves the Heart
Zechariah told the people that God did not care about fasts and religious observances. He did care about the attitudes of their hearts. Our spiritual renewal involves the attitudes of our hearts; it is not a matter of just doing and saying the right things. It is only as our minds and hearts are changed by God that our spiritual renewal can occur. As our hearts are transformed, our attitudes and actions will also be transformed. If we go through the motions without even being changedon the inside, our spiritual renewal will be superficial. We need to be changed from the inside out. Just as this was true for the people of Jerusalem in Zechariah's day, it is true for us today.

Be Encouraged

A.Othniel
(www.aothniel.net)

Letter # 17 (2. 5. 2010)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Encouragement: " If Only...!"-regretting the past

" If only..." is a haunting phrase. It implies that we have failed and that we wish we could go back and do things differently. As we dare to see the truth and accept responsibility for our lives, we may become sad and ashamed when we reflect on our past. We regret our irresponsible and destructive behaviors and wish we could erase past mistakes. This must have been how the people of Judah felt when they heard the prophetic words of Zephaniah. If only they had obeyed and trusted God!

God called Zephaniah during the days of king Josiah, the last of Judah's good kings. The prophet's condemnation of Judah's idol worship and self-centered living fit well with the early part of Josiah's reign, when his purges against idolatry were just beginning. Zephaniah's prophetic support of these purges would certainly have bosltered Josiah's efforts. However, the apostasy of Judah's previous kings, Manasseh and Amon, had left deep spiritual wounds in Judah. And despite Zephaniah's ministry and Josiah's noble reforms, scars remained visible in Judah even at the end of his reign.

The people of Judah were in need of some major changes. They had seen the northern kingdom of Israel exiled to Assyria, but they assumed that the presence of God in the Jerusalem Temple would protect them from foreign invaders. They needed to be shocked out of their spiritual indifference. Zephaniah warned the people that Judah would be destroyed fi they did not act right away. He also let them know that spiritual renewal was still possible. SPiritual awakening could still occur if they would admit their sins and trust in God. Josiah and the people listened to Zephaniah, responded, and experienced revival.

The Consequences of Inrresponsibility
Many of our troubles are direct consequences of our irresponsibility. Judah was irresponsible in her covenant relationship with God. She worshipped false gods and ignored God's laws, which were intended for her own good. Bu Zephaniah made it clear that their irresponsibility would carry heavy consequences. Encouraged by Zephaniah and led by Josiah, the peole of Judah confessed their sins, took responsibility for their lives and turned back to God. As a result they received substantial healing and restoration. When we are irresponsible in our relationships with God and others, our situations will grow progressively worse. But as we learn to live responsible lives, we begin to experience the blessings of God.

Complacency leads to a downfall
Prosperity and success often lead to complacency. Josiah's great grand father, Hezekiah had been one of Judah's greatest kings. He had led his people back to God, and God has greatly blessed them. However, Judah's next two kings, Manassseh and Amon, led their people into a period of spiritual complacency. And with time, the complacency led to sin and its consequences. Josiah followed in the footsteps of Hezekiah and helped lead the people back to God. Often our greatest failures follow our greatest victories. In order to prevent a downfall, we need to continually seek God and honestly reflect on our spiritual condition. We want to have hearts that are vulnerable dependent on God, regardless of how far we have progressed spiritually.

Spiritual Renewal leads to Joy
The process of spiritual renewal may start out painfully. When we confess the truth about ourselves, it can hurt. But as we begin to see the truth, speak the truth, and accept responsibility for our own lives, we discover the great relief and hope that God offers. s we beginto release whatever we are holding onto and redirect our course to follow God's will for us, we find joy. Then we can truly celebrate God's goodness as it filters into every area of our lives, bringing joy where there was onceonly sorrow and pain.

Be Encouraged

A.Othniel
(www.aothniel.net)

Letter # 16 (26. 4. 2010)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Encouragement: Caring About How We Do What We Do

Relationships form a key element in the discipline of service because actions- even charitable, selfless deeds- can never substitute for love on the part of the doer. Paul attested that even if he sacrificed his body and yet did not love others, he would "be of no value whatsoever" ( 1 Corinthians 13:3). Because of this, we need to be mindful of how we do what we do, for relationships develop along the way in life.

Act our of Love
Lord Jesus understood this, and this is evidenced by His reaction to Mary when she anointed His feet with expensive perfume (John 12:1-7). Judas protested the seemingly wasteful use of the perfume, arguing that it could have been sold and given to the poor. But the Lord Jesus knew Mary's heart, and He praised her for preparing Him for burial in this beautiful way. Mary's act was performed out of love for her Lord, and merely giving the money from the perfume to the poor would have been a meaningless act if she had no true concern for them.

Too often we pass right by people in our effort to get things done. Often we are more concerned with producing visible results than with caring for people. But even the most "spiritual" activities are pointless without love.

Putting it into Practice
Rewrite 1 Corinthians 13 in your own words, using specific references to your situation. For example, a teacher may write, " Though my students get all the knowledge I can communicate to their minds, unless I reach their hearts with love, it is of little value." A parent may write, "Though my family has all the bread they can eat, if I don't give them love, they will starve." Then determine specific ways to express such love as you go about your work and life.

1 Corinthians 13:1 " Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I have become as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal.
1 Co 13:2 And though I have prophecies, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so as to move mountains, and do not have love, I am nothing.
1 Co 13:3 And though I give out all my goods to feed the poor, and though I deliver my body to be burned, and have not love, I am profited nothing.

Be Encouraged

A.Othniel
(www.aothniel.net)

Letter # 15 (18. 4. 2010)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Encouragement: Responding to Disasters

Earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, tornadoes- natural catastrophes of various kinds- have a way of making us feel helpless. We can do nothing to stop them. We can only do our best to avoid them and then pick up the pieces after they have passed. The first part of Joel's prophecy is concerned with natural disasters that would lead to great suffering for for God's people- a drought of major proportions and a plague of locusts. God used these natural events to warn His people of even worse suffering in the future, should they refuse to recognize their need for Him.

Disasters can also come as a result of our own behavior. Joel realized that the natural disasters suffered by the people of Judah were God's way of getting their attention. Centuries earlier, Moses had warned that disobedience to God's plan would lead to such catastrophes (Deuteronomy 28:38-39). God sought to restore His people to Himself. Through these natural disasters, God broke through their illusions of security and self-sufficiency, showing them how important their relationshipwith Him was.

Some of us have suffered from "locust plagues" in our own lives. Through actions of our own, we have suffered painful consequences and have found ourselves unable to combat the powers that assail us. As we recognize our own limitations and accept responsibility for our sins, we should realize that this is not the end of our lives. It is a wonderful opportunity for a new start! Recognizing our need for God's power in our lives leads us to seek God afresh and once again surrender to Him.When this is happening, we are continuing in the ongoing process of spiritual renewal.

The Power of Confrontation
God's people had lost sight of their need for God. and had become complacent about following the plan God had laid out for them. So to break their spiritual blindness, God allowed them to suffer a series of disasters. Through their sufferings and the words of the prophet Joel, God let His people know that they were headed for disaster and need to make some changes in their lives. God often intervenes in our lives in similar ways. He allows us to suffer the consequences of our behavior to awaken us from our spiritual blindness and complacency. He confronts us with the painful reality of our choices and actions. But we should find comfort in this because He confronts us, not to destroy us, but to initiate the process of our restoration.

God's Power within us
Joel predicted a time when the limitless power of God would be poured out upon us through His Holy Spirit. This promise implied that God would be directly available to His people and it was fulfilled when God's Spirit was poured out after Jesus, the Messiah, ascended to heaven. This truth is of utmost importance to us in the process of spiritual renewal. God is with us, and His power is available to us as we persevere in our struggle to grow.

" You are of God, little children, and you have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world". 1 John 4:4.

Be Encouraged

A.Othniel
(www.aothniel.net)

Letter # 14 (11. 4. 2010)

Monday, April 5, 2010

Encouragement: The Glorious Hope!

Many fond memories come to mind at this time of the year when many people all over the world are celebrating the so-called Easter with so much of tradition and ceremony. But for the true believer in the Bible, the most important experience is the glory of the resurrection.
What is there for the common man in this event? There's a lot! Yes, the glorious hope! Many have no hope beyond this short-lived life. And many have become so hopeless that they are not really living but existing! So the resurrection brings us a new hope-the glorious hope! Let's see what it means to us in our practical day-to-day living.
1. The fact of resurrection is the basis for the good news of salvation for mankind: As Apostle Paul affirms in 1Corinthians 15:3, the fact of Jesus' death, burial and resurrection are the foundation of our faith to save us from our sins! That's good news! There is no gospel at all if the Lord was not risen! The resurrection forms an integral part of the good news. Only His death is not sufficient. He needs to rise to make the gospel powerful to save those who believe.

2. The reality of resurrection makes our faith real and living: It is in vain to believe in a Savior if He is still in the grave (1 Cor. 15:16). But, praise God, we have a risen and living Lord upon whom our faith rests. So our faith is made real and meaningful because the Lord Jesus is risen from the dead. All those who are born into this world die. And it is finished with them. But not so with the Lord Jesus! He began a new way again- the way to Eternal Life.

3. The reality of Jesus' resurrection makes the future resurrection of all a possible reality : According to what the great apostle Paul clarifies and defends in 1Corinthians 15: 12-23, all those who believe in Christ, they will rise from the dead one day. Even those who do not believe, later to face judgement. The basis for this hope is the resurrection of Christ Himself. He is the firstfruits of all those who died. So the death is no longer the end of everything. But it is the gateway to a better and glorious world beyond the grave. It is this assurance that enables believers find comfort and peace in the departure of their dear ones. 1Thess.4: 13-18. Oh! What a glorious hope that we all can live again in glorious bodies and never see pain, suffering, or death again! We can know this for certain because the Lord rose in glorious body and ascended to heaven.

4. The reality of resurrection is the power behind transformed lives: There is no power on earth to change a person like Paul who was such a cruel, vicious, violent and fanatical man before he met Christ. His life was totally transformed by his encounter with the living Savior (1 cor. 15: 8). What was the power that brought about this miraculous change and moulded such a man into the greatest of apostles of all times? The power of resurrection! That's what Paul earnestly desired to know and experience in Philippians 3:10, 11.

Now, what is your hope? Do you have this glorious hope? Why not possess it now? It is available to all freely today. You can know and experience the power of resurrection in your own life if you commit your life to follow the Lord who died and rose again to give this glorious hope. It is possible for you to experience a miraculous transformation into a new person, as you trust in the living Savior to change you and give you a life worth living! HE IS ABLE BECAUSE HE IS ALIVE!

Be Encouraged

A.Othniel
(www.aothniel.net)

Letter # 13 (4. 4. 2010)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Encouragement: Overcoming Expectations

We One of the most subtle enemies of spiritual vitality is the influence of others' expectations of us. The world expects us to continually seek after possessions or prestige or to always fill our time with busy activity, whether meaningful or not. How often do we allow the world's expectations of us to dictate our spiritual lives as well? How often do we act in order to please others rather than because we want to please God? Sometimes, pleasing God may actually require that we disappoint others because we cannot fulfill their demands of us.

Breaking free from others' expectations
Solitude helps us break free from others' expectations. It puts us in a place where we can see more clearly what the world is asking of us. In solitude we are more able to evaluate these expectations in relation to God:s desires for us and to decide which demands should and should not be fulfilled.

Following one of the busiest days -and nights-of his ministry, Jesus "awoke long before daybreak and went out alone into the wilderness to pray" (Mark 1:25). When the disciples came looking for Jesus to take him back to town, for the people had been asking for him, he told them instead that they must go on to other towns.

Refusing the best intentions of others
Similarly, when he fed five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fishes, they all wanted to make him King. They expected Him to give them back the kingdom delivering them from Roman rule. But the Lord did not want to submit to their wishes and avoided them. He knew very well why He came into the world and what He has to do and how long. He did not even give them food the second time when they came back seeking for him, but exhorted them to seek for eternal life. He never did what people always wanted but was concerned about what they really needed.

Kowing Your destiny
This week is popularly known as the Passion week, as the Lord enters Jerusalem to be tested, persecuted and finally crucified by the Jewish rulers. When the Lord Jesus foretold about these things, Peter expressed his displeasure and wanted to stop him. Yet the Lord refused to be hindered from anybody from doing God's will for which He was born. He steadfastly looked towards the cross because by it He was going to accoomplish the salvation of mankind. Satan, the arch enemy of God and man, tried his best to stop the Lord from going to the cross, but the Lord was totally prepared to do His Father's will. Even at the last opportunity He had to escape the death of the cross, Lord Jesus chose to accept the cup of sufferings in the garden of Gethsemane.

Opportunity and success did not dictate Jesus' direction, God did. His time alone helped him to be directed by God alone.

Practical tip: When do you feel most vulnerable to others' expectations? What specifically do you feel people expect of you? What do you do when the world's demands are pressing in on you? Spend sometime alone into prayerful reflection and respond to each of those expectations as you feel God would address them. You may say, for example, "Others expect me to solve their problems for them. But God seems to say to me, ' Let me solve other people's problems. Sometimes I will use you to encourage and support them.But sometimes I want you to leave them alone so they will turn to me."

Be Encouraged

A.Othniel
(www.aothniel.net)

Letter # 12 (28. 3. 2010)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Encouragement: Unending Love

We may hesitate to honestly confess our sins and shortcomings out of fear. At one time or another, we may have tried to share our secrets with someone, only to find ourselves rejected because of what we said. Even though people may have let us down, God is not like that. Because of the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, there is nothing we could confess to God that would cause Him to stop loving and accepting us.

Hosea was a prophet to the rebellious nation of Israel. God used Hosea's life to demonstrate His unconditional love for us. The Lord told Hosea to marry a prostitute. So Hosea married her, loved her, and devoted himself to her. Not surprisingly, she went back to her old ways, broke Hosea's heart, and brought shame on their family. She ended up falling into slavery. But God baffled Hosea by telling him, "Go and get your wife again. Bring her back to you and love her, even though she loves adultery. For the Lord still loves Israel even though the people have turned to other gods" (Hosea 3:1).

This illustrates God's love for us as well. We may ask, how could God (or anyone) still love me? But God asks, "How can I let you go? How can I destroy you like Admah and Zebolim? My heart is torn within me, and My compassion overflows.... I am God and not a mere mortal. I am the Holy One living among you, and I will not come to destroy" (Hosea 11:8-9).

Like Hosea's unfaithful wife, we may have committed sins that seem unforgivable. Yet these verses give us hope. There is absolutely nothing we can do or admit that would cause God to stop loving us. Knowing this, we should be encouraged to confess our sins to God, who offers us forgiveness and restoration.

" And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from His love. Death can't, and life can't. The angels can't, and the demons can't. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, and even the powers of hell can't keep God's love away. Whether we are high above the sky or in the deepest ocean, nothing in call creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:38, 39.

Be Encouraged

A.Othniel
(www.aothniel.net)

Letter # 11 (21. 3. 2010)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Encouragement: More than Forgiveness- Acceptance!

" I can't just forgive myself ... " How often have we heard or spoken these words? Many fo us struggle with a lingering sense of guilt in our hearts, even after we have repented of our sin and know in our minds that we are forgiven.

What we need to learn in this situation is that acceptance is also a part of the discipline of repentance and confession. " In Jesus Christ, I am forgiven." This is a statement we make by faith, and as feelings arise that contradict it, we must affirm it again and again.

ANother key to acceptance is understanding that absolute moral perfection will only be attained in heaven. We are fallible people. Scripture reminds us that, " The Lord is like a Father to His children, tender and compassionate to those who fear Him. For He understands how weak we are; He knows we are only dust " (psam 103; 13-14). We are people of dust, and often we are coverd with the grit and grime of sin. But in Jesus Christ, God loves us, neveretheless, and he is constantly transforming us into His image. No physical body has been in perefect health at all times, and its vitality can be seen even in sickness as it fights to overcome infection or heal wounds. This self-repair is itself a sign of life and health. In the sameway, our sensitivity to sin and our willingness to repent signals that our spiritual lives are alive and well.

We must also recognize that human limitations need not be merely sourse of shame, they can also be avaenues for grace. When we are tempted to despair, we remind ourselves at that very moment that this is why Christ came.

God has created us with both potential and limitations Both are to be managed by the Holy Spirit. We are not to let weaknesses or failures disqualify us nor discourage us from making an effort in the first place.Our attitude is not, "If we try harder, we will never fail," Rather we say, "Though I may fail in the attempt , I will go forward." We know that God uses each failure to bring us new growth, with His grace and acceptance undergirding us.

"But if we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from every wrong." 1 John 1:9. (NLT)

Be Encouraged

A.Othniel
(www.aothniel.net)

Letter # 10 (14. 3. 2010)

Monday, March 8, 2010

Encouragement: Turn Tragedy into Triumph!

Innocent bystanders often get hurt by the mistakes and crimes of other people. DIsasters happen that haunt us for life even though we have no direct responsibility for the events that take place. Often the best way to handle these setbacks, however, is accept them and make the best of the situation.

Succes even through Misfortune!
When we read the book of Daniel in the Bible, we can see how Daniel and his friends were innocent bystanders. They suffered a lifelong exile to Babylon because of Judah's prolonged disobedience to God. But they did not let their misfortune destroy their relationship with God. With courage and faith in God, they faced the realities of exile and lived successful livs- even by Babylonian standards. Their lives give us insight into how to deal with tragedy.

Set Boundaries
After being taken from Jerusalem to babylon. Daniel and his friends were trained for service in the Babylonian government. Their captors often demanded that they do things that stood in opposition to God's revealed will for their lives. To protect their relationship with God, Daniel and his friends set clear boundaries for their behavior. They followed God's plan for their lives, despite its conflict with the commands of their strong-willed captors. God protected His faithful men from the foreign laws and unstable tyrants they lived under.

Have Determination, Faith and Courage
Daniel and his friends were exiled to Babylon for the sins of their ancestors. But they did not use that as an excuse for continued failure. Instead, they trusted God to redeem their lives and determined to live according to His will. Because of their faith and courage, God not only repeatedly delivered them from difficult circumstances, but He also used them prove His existence and power to others.

Life is Unfair
When we experience unfairness in life, the examples of Daniel and his three friends give us soem encouragement and direction. Despite his life of obedience., Daniel was not protected from God's judgment on Judah. Innocence does not automatically protect us from tragedy. We will all face it at time or another. But we do have the assurance that God is concerned about what we are doing and will honor our faithfulness and obedience.

God is in control even when life is out of control
Daniel's life was controlled by a powerful group of people, and he had no say in his future. Even though Daniel's life was out of his control, he trusted that God was still in control. Daniel was not merely the hapless pawn of selfish and unstable foreign rulers. He was in God's powerful and protecting hands. As Daniel was faithful to God and obeyed His commands, God delivered him from terrible situations, giving him freedom in the midst of his slavery.

God can do anything
If Daniel and his friends had not believed that God was Sovereign, they might have decided that compromising on God's will for them was better than risking their lives. But then they would not have experienced the glorious victories God gave them. God is greater than anything we might face. We need only to be willing to hand it all over to Him and follow His will for us.

Pain in the process of victory
Daniel and his friends sought to live according to God's plan, but they found that others opposed their efforts. This led initially to great danger, but ultimately to glorious victory. Shadrak, Meshak and Abednego had to walk through a fiery furnace because they obeyed God's will for them, but then only the ropes that bound them were burned by the fire. Daniel was thrown into a den of lions because he was faithful to God, but he walked out unscathed. God used these trials to bring blessings to His servants and glory to Himself. As we seek to do God's will, He may lead us into some difficult situations. Often God uses such trials to bless us. We need to continually seek God and surrender to Him, no matter what difficulties we face. Ultimately, exaltation, victory and celebration belong to us. Amen.

Be Encouraged

A.Othniel
(www.aothniel.net)

Letter # 09 (7. 3. 2010)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Encouragement: Responsible to Love

True love is not something we "fall into" or "fall out of." The kind of love God tells us to show for others is not an event we simply wait for, nor is it an experience that happens to us. Love is what God commands us to do. Love is a responsibility. And we can not truly love as God commands apart from a relationship with God, who is love.

Characteristics of true love: If we do not have love, nothing else matters (see 1 Corinthians 13:1-4). Love is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, produced in our lives as we yield ourselves to God. The Bible defines it this way: " Love is patient an dkind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance " ( 1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

This passage is a description of how God loves us. As we begin to absorb His love, we will find ourselves reaching out to love others in the same way. No one loves perfectly, but we must not give up on loving. We can not expect to be good at loving right away; we can be patient as God's love grows within us. We can accept the responsibility to love others and stop waiting for them to love us.

When we choose to act in loving ways, the emotion will follow. We will find that love grows in our lives as we accept our responsibility to love and ask God to let His love flow through us.

Be Encouraged

A.Othniel
(www.aothniel.net)

Letter # 08 (21. 2. 2010)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Encouragement: Celebrating Love

All over the world is the celebration of love- though people differ in their defining, understanding and practicing the love. However, it is more thrilling and exhilarating to think of love and your loved one! The feelings and meaning to the lovers is different from how others see it or feel it.

There is a most beautiful song of love and a superb celebration of love that is both romantic and spiritual, full of dreams and reality, most intimate and extremely satisfying. It is compared to the highest level of love Christ has for His people! The Song of songs, written by the wisest Solomon, is the only romantic, poetic and full of intimate physical words and acts in the Holy Scriptures. Some doubt its canonical status.

The Song of songs is characterized by the use of rich figurative language that helps the lovers to express the inexpressible about each other. The words are full of passion and emotion, and the figures of speech are designed to paint visual pictures so we can share in the emotional exprience of the lovers.

The Solomon's song has often been used as an illustration of God's love for His people. The primary focus of the Song of songs, however, is the celebration of sexual love in the context of marriage.

The Beauty of God's Creation
Our past experiences may have limited our ability to see the many beautiful things that God hs created for us to enjoy. If we have been sexually abused, our legitimate boundaries have been destroyed. This has soiled the beautiful sexual experience God intended. When misused, sex can become an experience of pain and fear.The Song of songs helps us see sexuality as God intended it- a physical love that is shameless and beautiful in God's eyes. If we have misused our sexuality, or have been sexually abused, God can restore us so that we can see the beauty in what He has created.

The beauty of People
At several points in the poem, Solomon described his bride's appearance using beautiful metaphors from nature.She may not have been considered attractive by the general public, or even by herself (1:6), but Solomon saw her as exquisitely beautiful! In much the same way, God sees everyone as beautiful because He sees us through the filter of Christ's work on our behalf. We should all practice seeing each other as God sees us- immensely beautiful.

The Joy of Committed love
Our culturer's understanding of love is largely distorted and twisted. It is a form of love that is driven by selfish desires, and it usually causes people involved to be exploited or abused in some way. In the Song of songs, we see the beauty of a committed love, a love that is protected by God-given boundaries. As we seek to follow God's design for our lives, we need to rediscover God's design for our sexuality. God's Word makes it clear how we enjoy our bodies within the context and boundaries of holy matrimony.

How do you celebrate love? Is it within God ordained plan? Is it bringing permanent joy or pain because of sin? In pure love there is true celebration of life and all its blessings. keep it a daily celebration, enjoying the good things God has given you and freely showing unreserved love to all and esp those who need it from you.

Be Encouraged

A.Othniel
(www.aothniel.net)

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Letter # 07 (14. 2. 2010)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Encouragement:Letting Go of Our Anxiety

Forgiving those who commit wrongs against us doesn't necessarily guarantee easier lives. We still have to deal with difficult people and face the stresses of life. There are pressures beyond our control that will wear us down if we are not careful to release them to God.

Here's the solution how to face our anxieties. The Apostle Paul gave us a strategy to help us deal with the troubles of daily life: " Let heaven fill your thoughts. Do not think only about things down here on earth. For you died when Christ died, and yur real life is hidden with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:2-3). The Apostle also wrote, " Don't worry about anything, instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. If you do this, you will experience God's peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6-7). This last verse gives us the image of a guard patrolling our hearts and minds to keep out the pressing anxieties of life.

Just as we have to continually forgive, we also have to continually release our worries and specific needs to God., He will, in turn, protect us and give us the peace that passes all understanding.

Be Encouraged,

A.Othniel
(www.aothniel.net)

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Letter # 06 (7. 2. 2010)

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Encouragement:The Need for Wisdom in the midst of Confusion

I had noticed in today's newspaper that many parents are confused about how to bring up their children, how much to discipline, how much and how long to control them, etc. Some parents gave their views and shared their experiences.

The fact is today there is confusion in all areas of life as people make their own choices based on majority's choice or what they like. But hardly anybody is willing to seek for God's wisdom to clear the confusion and to make wise choices that build their lives on the Eternal and Perfect Plan of God.

Here is the hope that God's wisdom is available to all those who seek for it. We may need some guidelines to help us identify God's wisdom in our thoughts and choices of action. According to God's Word (The Bible), there are two aspects of wisdom: the spiritual and the practical.

Spiritual Wisdom gives insight into God's characterand into the true nature of things, and it helps us to live as God desires. Paul prayed for this sort of wisdom for both the Ephesians (1:17) and the Colossians (1:8-10). We will recognize such wisdom by its qualities: " The widsom that comes from heaven is first of all pure. It is also peace-loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no partiality and is always sincere" (James 3:17).

On the practical level, wisdom can be judged by whether or not our actions conform to God's instructions. The instructions God gives us naturally lead to healthy living and our spiritual transformation. As we confess our need for God's wisdom and aks Him for it, 'He will gladly tell (us). He will not resent (our) asking" (James 1:5).

Blessed are those who seek for God's wisdom to make wise choices in the midst of confusion in the world today.

Be Encouraged,

A.Othniel
(www.aothniel.net)

Letter # 05 (31. 1. 2010)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Encouragement: Accepting Life's Reality- ups and downs!

I often wonder why life is so strange at times! Many questions do arise even though clear answers are available. Only we may not like the answers as they are! Almost every one faces ups and downs in life and wonders why such and such things should happen to them? What would be the history if someone has never gone through ups and downs in life? There will be no history!

To see the truth, we must accept reality as it is and still trust God. Reality is not always kind, even when we are seeking God sincerely. Some of us are open to God's leading as long as life remains comfortable, but we close ourselves off to Him when life becomes difficult.

The Apostle Paul wrote, " I have learned how to get along happily whether I have much or little. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little " (Philiians 4:11-12). When Paul wrote these words, he was in a Roman prison, waiting to hear if he would be executed. But instead of complaining, he accepted the reality of life's ups and downs without closing himself off from God.

Life always has its ups and downs, and God uses both for His good puroses. God's plan to transform our lives, purify our faith, and strengthen our character continues to unfold, both in good times and in bad. We must maintain opennes toward God at all timesso that we will be able to accept our true spiritual condition.

Be Encouraged,

A.Othniel
(www.aothniel.net)

Letter # 04 (24. 1. 2010)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Encouragement: Where our Hope and Confidence should be?

The human heart can not thrive without something tohope for and something in whom we can place our confidence. God alone is able to perfectly fufill both needs. Placing our hope and confidence in him will help our spiritual lives to flourish.

The Lord told this to His people long ago. As enemies threatened the nation of Judah, many turned to Egypt and other human powers for deliverance. But the Lord declared: "Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans and turn their hearts away from the Lord. They are like stunted shrubs in the desert, with no hope for the future. They will live in the barren wilderness, on the salty flats where no one lives. But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they grow right on producing delicious fruit." (jeremiah 17:5-8).

Placing our hope and confidence in anything but God is like expecting a tree to flourish in a barren desert. Our thirst continues because people are unable to satisfy our deepest needs. But placing our hope in the Lord changes everything, for Jesus said, " The water I give them takes away thirst altogether. It becomes a perpetual spring within them, giving them eternal life " (John 4:14).

Be Encouraged,

A.Othniel
(www.aothniel.net)

Letter # 03 (17. 1. 2010)

Monday, January 11, 2010

Encouragement: Being a Doorway, Not A Doormat!

In this new year, how you want to influence others? Whether you like it or not, in one way or the other you are making an impact on others around you. It is wise to know how to make a positive impact for the building up of others' lives.

These days nobody wants to a servant. All want to be leaders, bosses, managers, directors, etc. Even those who are supposed to serve others do it grudgingly because they don't like to do it. To get service is what people count as dignity and to serve is below your dignity. What a warped thinking the world has!

The Lord Jesus was the only Master teacher who said, I came to serve and not to be served unto. Mark 10:45. And so did He, even stooping down to wash His disciples' dirty feet with His own hands! His ultimate service was in sacrificing His own life for the good of all mankind- for their salvation.

Service grows from the soil of humility. Too often, however, humility has been misunderstood to be a negative character trait. Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking more of God and of others. In other words, humility is not about putting ourselves down but, rather, about glorifying God and affirming others.

Lord Jesus Christ is the greatest example of humility. He left the place of honor in heaven in order to become God's Servant on earth. In the process, however, He did not tear Himself down or deny that He had any value. But He did lift others up through His humility and showed them how valuable they were. Jonathan's attitude towards David also provides a vivid example of humility. Jonathan, being a king's son, counted David, a shepherd boy, better than himself without thinking less of himself in the process.

So we see that humility is not about being a doormat, it's about being a doorway, through which others enter into the presence and the power of God. By focussing on building others up and helping them along the way, we show them the love of God, who desires the best for them.

Reflect on the ways you can strive to put others' interests ahead of your own. In what ways, can you show others how much you (and God) value them? How would Christ "make Himself nothing' if He were in your place?

Philippians 2:5. "For let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,"

Be Encouraged,

A.Othniel
(www.aothniel.net)

Letter # 02 (10. 1. 2010)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Announcement of the Launch of a New Magazine: < Green Pastures > FREE!!

A life-enriching magazine for all in the family/church.
- To encourage, edify and equip you.
* Biblical, brief, easy and quick to read & understand.
* Doctrinally sound and balanced, defending the faith
* Clearing the confusion, clarifying the truth for daily life
* Rightly expounding the Word and applying for today
* Answering popular questions correctly and Scripturally
* Feeding you with the quality spiritual food as the Shepherd does in Psalm 23, for healthy growth and fruitful living.
* Freely sent to all who request for it. Send more than 5 addresses and get complimentary music/messages CD/DVD free!

Contact today: Calvary’s touch, P. O. Box 71, Thane- 400 601. Mumbai.
Tel. 022 2597 0650. 98920 93534. Email: aocc85@gmail.com, ao58@live.com. www.ctouch.org.in

Announcement- Wanted Volunteers/Partners


Calvary’s touch Ministries needs you!
~ to encourage, edify & equip you
“HIM we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, so that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus…” Col 1:28-29.
The world wants to see the likes of Apostle Paul, who had poured out his life as a drink offering in the service of God and His people. Now God is choosing some to defend the faith (Jude3), to preach the pure gospel of salvation and to teach sound doctrine. Bro. A.Othniel, after being chosen, prepared & called by God to reach the unreached, gave up his high profile job of a Scientific Officer in 1985 and has been involved in multiplying quality disciples by planting true churches and training leaders all over India and in other countries. Has written more than a dozen books and hundreds of messages online. The life and ministry are by faith in God's promises and power alone. Today, as we see so many leaders who are not discipled and churches which are merely entertaining clubs; the need is for modern day Joshuas and Timothies who want to be mentored and discipled to fulfill God’s plan for His glory.
Interested born again believers are welcome to contact us at the info given below. For more details, please visit the sites: www.aothniel.net & www.ctouch.org.in. or write to us.

Encouragement: Freedom From Past to the Future

We are at the threshold of entering into another year. What kind of thoughts pass through our minds now? Many may regret for the lost opportunities, sorrow over so many failures, and despair about not realizing the dreams. We need not dwell in the past nor should we linger any more in these unfortunate events. There is yet hope as we look forward for better days ahead and better opportunities awaiting those who dare dream again. Want to aim for stars again!

As I write this last letter for this year, I complete ten years in sending this weekly encouragement letter all over the world. Many were encouraged and blessed as they got timely comfort and hope through this letter. To God be all the glory for all the good things that have happened through this humble letter all these years. You are an encouragement to me too as I share my heart here week by week. Hope our fellowship will continue in the coming year too.

Isa 42:9. Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I declare; before they happen, I cause you to hear.

From the Past to the Future
God wants us to move us out of our sinful past and into a better future. As we cooperate with God's process of redeeming our past ,we need to honestly evaluate our lives so that we can redirect our courseaccording to God's design.

Freedom: Lord Jesus said, " You will now the truth and the truth will set you free." John 8:32. The path to freedom always leads through the truth, even the truth about our past. Paul examined his past, making an honest review of his earthly accomplishments, his wrongs, his mistakes, his gains and his losses. It was from this broad perspective that he wrote," I don't mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perferction! But I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ Jesus saved me for and wants me to be" (Philippians 3:12).

Freedom to release our hurts: Freedom from the past also involves facing up to the times when others have harmed us and turning them over to God. The Apostle Paul once wrote to young Timothy ; "Alexander, the coppersmith has done me much harm, but the Lord will judge him for what he has done." 2 Timothy 4:14. Paul states the truth about someone who had hurt him but leaves the matter in God's hands.

When we hand over our past to God with the prayer that He work it out for the best accrding to His will, can finally let go of it. Then, we can redirect our course toward a brighter future and help others to do the same through the lessons we have learned.

Here's the promise for coming new year.

Jeremiah 29:11. For I know the purposes which I am purposing for you, says Jehovah; purposes of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Let us with this faith and assurance, prepare to enter the new year with full freedom because of our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. He alone can set us free from the past failures, and all such curses and take us in to a bright and fruitful new year. Amen.

Be Encouraged,

A.Othniel
(www.aothniel.net)

><> Letter # 42 (27. 12. 2009) <><

Encouragement: Celebrating with Gifts to Jesus

This is the season of giving! Especially, when you think of celebrating the birth of Jesus, many are thinking of enjoying themselves, indulging in wanton pleasures. Often the merry-making leading one to forget the main thing at this Christmas- the birth of the Lord Jesus! That is the reason, why there is no lasting impact of the festival on many today, because it is only a drinking, dancing and shopping annual event!

Since it's Jesus' birthday, it makes sense that all of us would be thinking about and planning something special to give to Him—just like we often give gifts to our earthly loved ones, or do something special for them on their birthdays. But it's hard to know what to give to the King of the Universe, our Great God and Creator, Who seems to r>have everything. Following are some ideas of the kind of gifts that He would treasure the most.

The Gift of Praise: Why not give Him the gift of praise this Christmas?
Praise Him for the blessings that brought a smile to your face or laughter to your lips, because they lifted your spirit.
Praise Him for the trials that brought tears to your eyes and pain to your heart, because they caused you to look to Him and rise above.
Praise Him for the tests and the challenges, because they strengthened your character and fortified your resolve.
Praise Him for the love that you received from those He brought across your path.
Praise Him for the children—yours, if you have them, and those of others—because of the purity and simplicity that they bring into the world.
Praise Him for His creation, for the beauty that He has placed around you—both in nature and in the hearts of those who love you—because it refreshes your spirit and renews your physical being.

As you strive to praise Him this Christmas in ways both great and small, you'll experience increased happiness and satisfaction each day of this season. There'll be greater contentment within your heart, which will make it easier for you to show His love to others in your actions and words.

The Gift of You: The world is often such a cold and dark place, and while He is the light of the world, He needs someone to shine that light through. He needs someone to say the things He wants to say, to do the things He wants to do, and to be what He wants to be to others. If you try to take on more of His nature and be more open to letting Him work through you this Christmas, that will be one of the best gifts you could give Him. You can change your part of the world for the better and improve the lives of those around you. You can be a sample of Him and of His care and love, and you can find tremendous fulfillment in this.

The Gift of Forgiveness: A gift that is high on His "wish list" is the gift of forgiveness. In fact, it is in essence what Christmas is all about. He came because of His love and mercy, to show forgiveness and bring you back to the fold, to wipe the slate clean, and to make everything right again—not by self-effort, but by love‚ and a choice to love despite all that has gone wrong. You can start forgiving today, this minute, by looking at your world and those around you with kindness and treating them with forgiveness. Often the best way to show forgiveness and put it into action is to start with something small: like a smile instead of a grim look on your face; a kind word in place of embittered remarks; or an unexpected kiss when your mind ponders retaliation. Forgive someone who has wronged you, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Whether the wound runs deep in your heart or it is a smaller scratch. Making things right often starts with you taking the step to forgive someone, even if you feel that person is the one who should be seeking forgiveness. Has someone said or done something that has hurt you? Forgive him. Are you harboring bitterness in your heart toward someone? Forgive him.

The Gift of Commitment means a lot to Him. Why? Because committing is giving not just something, but giving yourself to Him in a special way. When you promise Him something and then faithfully follow through with it, it's more serious and lasting than a temporary pledge or gift. It isn't a one-time gift, but something that you maintain or keep doing over and over. And every time you do what you promised, you remind Him and yourself of your love for Him and how you loved Him enough to commit yourself to something, and then to keep your commitment.

The Gift of Faith: With so much going on in your lives, I'm sure that you're hoping for Him to come through for you in many areas. Perhaps you need finances, or an increase in your business, or healing and protection from sickness, or safekeeping, or increased awareness and ability for your work‚ or added strength. You have so many needs, and if you would like Him to fill them, then He’d like you to give Him the gift of your faith. Faith in Him! Walk through this season with armloads of faith! When needs arise, press another coin of faith into His hand as you state your need to Him. When something throws your plans for a loop, again, hand Him another coin of faith. Giving Him the gift of your faith is really also a gift to yourself, because through it He is able to bless you in more and greater ways.

Make this Christmas count in the hearts and lives of others—it's not just a special time... but a special opportunity!

(See How to give gitts in the time of Recession as a beautiful slideshow at http://tommyswindow.com/english/recession_christmas_gift_ideas.pps

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." John 3:16.

Be Encouraged,

A.Othniel
(www.aothniel.net)

><> Letter # 41 (20. 12. 2009) <><

Encouragement: What it Takes to Maintain a Relationship

Tiger Woods is a famous Golfer. Now he has become infamous with his numerous mistresses. It is so sickening to hear and see all that has happened in his life and how he is now determined to save his marriage, even bidding bye to his beloved sport, though it is too late when his wife is planning to file for divorce!.

Let's be honest. No one wants to experience the pain and embarassment of a broken relationship. We would much rather have things go well between us and others. But good associations are not easy to maintain. In fact, it requires a diligent effort from all the people involved. As we take the necessary steps, it will help to promote the health and stability of the relationships that we have.

* Talk Openly: It's very important that we freely and regularly share our thoughts and feelings with one another. When we do, it helps us to be more understanding. It gives us the ability to know each other better and to respond in the ways that we should.

* Communicate Honestly: The Bible instructs us to get rid of all deceit and hypocrisy (1Peter 2:1). It also says that we should not lie to one another (Colossians 3:9). Therefore, we should be honest in everything we do and say. This makes it possible for us to trust one another, and it binds us closer together.

* Respect Each Other: Having the esteem of others is fundamental to our personal well-being. We don't feel good about ourselves unless others think that we are important. That's why friends and loved ones who care about us are so vital. They affirm our worth. When personal regard is mutually expressed, it causes us to respond to one another with a warmhearted acceptance. And this acceptance is maintained as we continue to honor one another (Romans 12:10).

* Resolve Your Anger: The Bible says, "Do not let the sun go down on your wrath" (Ephesians 4:26). Our anger should be dealt with as quickly as possible. Before the day is over, we should go to the one who has offended us and clear it up. Not only will we sleep better, but problems will be handled before they have time to grow.

* Be Patient: We need to overlook one another's imperfections. According to the Bible, we have to be patient making allowances for one another's faults (Colossians 3:13). No one is excluded; all of us have flaws in our character. Instead of judging others and being critical, we should be humble and tolerant. If we are, it will help to maintain our ties with others.

* Share One Another's Problems: Let's face it. We need each other-especially when we have problems. It's true that each of us has the responsibility to handle his own troubles, but there comes a time when we all need the help of a friend. In fact, the Bible tells us that we should share each other's burdens and in this way we obey the Lord's command (Galatians 6:2). When we share each other's problems, we show that we care-making our relationship much more secure.

* Give Constructive Criticism: The Bible says that open rebuke is better than secret love (Proverbs 27:5). We may be reluctant to confront someone about a particular fault, but it is more loving to say something to him than to keep quiet and allow him to continue on as he is. Truthful and loving criticism has its goal the best interests of the other person. Although this kind of criticism hurts, it is the pain of friendship. By helping one another this way, we show that we really care. Through constructive criticism we become better people. And as a result, our relationships are improved.

* Serve One Another: Rather than asking what we can get, we should be asking what we can give. Instead of seeking to please ourselves, we should be seeking to please each other (Romans 15:2). This attitude recognizes that selfishness only ruins a relationship, but self-sacrifice builds it up. When we serve one another, our relationship is maintained and everyone involved benefits.

Yes, these maintenance procedures are very important. If we faithfully follow them they will help keep a relationship strong.

Be Encouraged,

A.Othniel
(www.aothniel.net)

><> Letter # 40 (13. 12. 2009)

Monday, January 4, 2010

Encouragement: Turning Impossibilities into Possibilities in 2010

Resolutions mark the beginning of the new year. Perhaps, there might have been many failures, impossibilities in the past year. In this new year, you can have hope. Here's how: through trust in God and in yourself, through the reorganization of your life and your thoughts, and through persistence, life will no longer be impossible. You may be one of literally hundreds of people for whom the impossible can be turned into the possible.

I don't know what's impossible to you. Maybe, you've had trouble with relationships and can't believe you'll ever find stability and happiness. Or maybe your impossibility lies in a different area- in work, health, age, or womanhood. Whatever it is, you're probably feeling bad about it.

Facing impossible can be debilitating. It can lead to depression, produce frustration, and foster unhappiness. And the worse you feel, the more impossible your situation becomes. Dreams recede. Roads to the future are strewn with barbs. The thing that you desperately want to do, to have, or to achieve remains obstinately beyond your reach.
I want you to know there's a way around the impossible.

It begins with the word itself. Be careful waht you call impossible - because as soon as you call something impossible, you make it so. You become like a person shut in a room who says, "I can't get out, I can't get out!" when all he needs to do is push the door a little harder to find that it gives way.

That "pushing" consists of three things which I call the TOP principles. TOP stands for: TRUST, ORGANIZE, and PERSIST. The strategy is very straight forward, and it works. It has worked for many people, famous as well as not-so-famous.

Do you have the qualities required to turn impossibility into opportunity, dead ends into highways? You almost certainly do, even if those strengths are lying dormant and need to be reactivated by putting them to work.

But why trust, organize and persist at all? What makes those three qualities so special in tackling the impossible.

Trust
There is a passage in the O.T. that is profoundly relevant to the issue of trust, in Numbers 13. Similarly, not many of us can comprehend with complete, cool objectivity the real proportions of the impossible. We are forced, whether we like it or not, to trust someone else's view. But this immediately confronts us with a question: Whom are we going to trust? The pessimists? Or the optimists- the Calebs who say at the borders of Canaan, "Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it" (Numbers 13:30)?
But Whom to Trust
"All things", said the Lord Jesus, "are possible to him who believes"(Mark 9:23). So, first we need to put our trust in God who is Almighty. Then, with reliance on Him we trust our own judgement- not that of others with their questionable agenda. About trusting yourself, let me remind you that you do it everyday. If you trust yourself implicitly in simpe things, you are capable of trusting yourself in all things. But self-trust is only a foundation. We all need help. Realizing our dependence on other people is one of the keys to doing the impossible.

Organize.
When you read to the end of the story in the Gospel of Mark 9:14-29, you'll find an intriguing exchange between Jesus and His disciples. Here we pass beyond trust. Trust had to be supplemented by a disciplined spirituality.

A close look at the Gospels reveals that Jesus systematically undergirded His public ministry with retreat and private prayer. It's a good pattern to follow. Just as important, it serves as an example of the general truth that you must organize if you are to achieve. I suspect that this is the common denominator of all achievers. Apart from Geographical detail, you'll find that every one of them has at some point set a goal and then devised a strategy to achieve it. Why set goals? Simply because goal-setting is the antithesis of immobility. Although unhappiness and discontent are powerful motivators, they can not give direction. Goals can.

Persist
Persistence is essential to success. There's an old ad man's motto: the difficult we do immediately; the impossible takes a little longer. It is that "little longer" that you cover with the strength of persistence.

Trust, Organize, Persist.

- Cultivate an appropriate trust in God, in yourself, and in those around you.
- Organize a well-structured goals program.
- Don't give up

Those are the three secrets of overcoming the impossible- the TOP principles.
How are you going to implement them?

Basic to any kind of endeavor is Commitment. If you don't have that, there's nothing I or anybody else can do to help you. What does commitment mean? One achiever said: "When you start out to accomplish something, you must not come back until you have done it." Sound advice.

Be Encouraged,

A.Othniel
(www.aothniel.net) ><>Letter # 01 (03. 1. 2010) <><