Monthly Archives: November 2010

The Fear of the Lord

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Psalm 111:10 says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” More often than not, the “fear of the Lord” is just a vague spiritual term. But the way to become a friend of God and to have our lives built on the correct foundation is to understand what it means to walk in the fear of the Lord.

In Genesis 22:12, God says to Abraham, “ ‘Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.’ ” This passage is the first time in the Bible that the fear of God is mentioned.

For most people, when we hear the word “fear” it brings a negative connotation. But to fear the Lord is not to be afraid of Him. Rather, it is to have a deep reverence for Him, to realize that He is God—all-knowing, all-powerful, all-encompassing. A.W. Tozer said, “If there is one terrible disease in the Church of Christ, it is that we do not see God as great as He is. We’re too familiar with God. I think we ought to remember who He is. ‘He is thy Lord; and worship thou him.’ And though he comes down to the lowest point of our need and makes Himself accessible to us as tenderly as a mother to her child, still don’t forget that when John saw Him—that John who had lain on His bosom—he fell at His feet as dead.”1

The fear of the Lord is not a happily received message in today’s Christianity. We like to hear about the joy of the Lord, His blessings and grace and how much He loves us. And although all these things are true, the blessings of God come through the fear of Him.

Did you know that three-fourths of the Bible is Old Testament and only one-fourth is New Testament? The principal theme of the Old Testament is the fear of God, while the principal theme of the New Testament is the grace of God.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not against the grace of God. But in today’s Church we hear so much of the grace of God and so little of what it is to fear the Lord.

The way to distinguish between false grace and true grace is by finding out whether the grace being taught has incorporated into it a fear of God. If the grace of God preached does not include the fear of God, it is false grace. For how can we really understand grace unless we know what grace has done for us?

The grace of God is preached in the New Testament to a people who knew the fear of God—the Jewish people. The Jewish people were established in Old Testament teaching; they knew the fear of God. Then came the revelation of grace in the New Testament. Grace was not given as a replacement for the fear of God. The revelation of grace was meant to build upon the Old Testament understanding of the fear of God. Grace is a completion, a culmination, of the Old Testament teaching of the fear of God. You can’t know grace without also knowing something of the fear of God. But today, we preach the grace of God to a group of people who don’t understand about the fear of God.2

That is so sad because we cannot walk with God as Abraham walked—in sacrificial obedience and as a friend of God—without the fear of the Lord. Many of today’s Christians desire all the blessings but don’t want to pay the price. We want to be God’s friend and we want to serve Him, but we also want to skip over the surrender and obedience parts because they are hard. Rather, we like to say, “If you feel like it, do it.” I’m sure Abraham did not feel like sacrificing his son. But he was prepared to do anything, motivated by love and holy fear.

God tells us that this holy fear of Him is the beginning of all wisdom in our lives (see Psalm 111:10). “Nowhere in the Bible does it say that ‘the grace of God is the beginning of wisdom.’ ”3 Wisdom is practical knowledge of the Word lived out in obedience. To have wisdom is to understand. Our word “understand” comes from a root word meaning “to align oneself with or stand under.” To understand, a person must “stand under” in obedience to God and His Word. The fear of the Lord helps bring this obedience.

So often we misunderstand obedience and call it legalism. We resist doing anything that we do not want to do and quickly cast off the guilt that comes from not obeying. Because of this, we miss the whole reason that God calls us to obedience—that we might know Him, be blessed by Him and be a friend of God. He is God and He is to be feared and obeyed, known and loved.

In Matthew 7:24, Jesus said, “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock.” The wise man heard God and then obeyed. This must be the progression in our lives—acting on the things that we hear. This is how the fear of the Lord is the beginning—the foundation— of our whole Christian life. The fear of the Lord is like the ABCs; it is impossible to walk intimately with the Lord Jesus without it. This is why we cannot downplay obedience and consider it something optional.

So often we make the mistake of treating God as if He were a nice little buddy we carry in our pockets, taking Him out when we need something and praying, “Do this for me, Jesus.” Then we put Him away and merrily go on with our lifestyle. We treat Him more like an equal, someone we consult for an opinion when we cannot figure out what to do on our own. And we only take His advice if it seems good and is not too difficult. There is no cross. There is no pain. There is no sacrifice. There is no true obedience.

We are those who call Him, “Lord, Lord!” but do not do what He says (see Luke 6:46). Brothers and sisters, please be aware of the horrible consequences of this type of lip service. Jesus Himself warns us, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21, NIV).

It is only as we fear Him, obey Him and trust Him that He will continue to lead us deeper into Himself.

Have you ever heard God calling you to hard and difficult tasks like He called Abraham? Moses, David, Esther, Paul and so many others heard God calling them to hard things. Or do you only hear God comforting you with promises all the time? Oswald Chambers asked, “Have you ever heard the Master say a hard word? If you have not, I question whether you have heard Him say anything.”4 Abraham had ears to hear hard words. He had a heart that was willing to obey difficult requests. I pray that the Lord would give each of us ears to hear and hearts to obey difficult requests.

Notes:
1 A.W. Tozer, Worship: The Missing Jewel of the Evangelical Church (Camp Hill: Christian Publications, 1996).
2 Taken from a message shared by Zac Poonen at the Gospel for Asia Biblical Seminary in India.
3 Ibid.
4 Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest (Ohio: Barbour Publishing, Inc., 1994).

© 2003 by K.P. Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia. It was written with the intention of encouraging and edifying the Body of Christ. To learn more about Gospel for Asia or to receive additional free resources, visit Gospel for Asia’s website.

5 Minutes with K.P. – Here Comes God with the Pruning Shears

Destined to Soar - KP Yohannan Books

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You are so excited. For the first time in your Christian walk, you have discovered a fruit of the Spirit in an area of your life in which you’d struggled for years. Just when you’d almost given up, you read John 15:5: “He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit.” Suddenly you understood that the whole concept of fruit-bearing was so simple: By staying in Jesus, letting His life flow through you, the fruit would naturally grow.

Now it has actually happened. You are rejoicing, and you can’t wait to show the new fruit to your Heavenly Father. To your great joy, He lets you know that He will soon come to inspect the branch in your life that has produced fruit. You can hardly wait for His arrival and suspect that He will surprise you with a certificate or a reward for doing so well.

But to your bewilderment, when He arrives He carries nothing but a pair of big pruning shears in His hands.

What is He planning to do? Somehow you get the feeling that His idea of inspecting your fruit-bearing branch doesn’t exactly match your own expectations.

John 15:2 tells us what God has in mind: “Every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” This means that He will not leave us alone but instead is determined to make us even more fruitful. His strategy is to begin a very deliberate pruning process by allowing us to encounter troubles, tribulations and difficulties. These adversities serve as His shears and pruning knife.

That doesn’t sound like anything we would choose for ourselves. Often, our biggest concern is how much God is planning to cut off of our branch!

But let me tell you about the tea plantations in my native country of India. Thousands of acres are covered with beautiful, lush, deep green plants. But if you were to visit these same tea estates during a certain time of the year, you would immediately think that something had gone very wrong. Instead of thriving bushes with healthy, growing leaves, you would only find naked little stumps with a few bare branches clinging to them. They look dead and hopeless. All of their beauty is gone. If you were to search for answers, you would find laborers with sharp knives and shears going from tree to tree and mercilessly cutting nearly everything off, while others continually haul away truckloads of green, leafy branches.

That is pruning.

When God puts His knife to our branches and begins to slice off the parts that must go, we often experience great loneliness, low emotional feelings and pain. Pruning actually creates a temporary dry spell in our spiritual life very similar to those barren tree stumps on the tea plantations. Saint John of the Cross from the 16th century termed this season of our lives “the dark night of the soul.”1

Very often we feel confused, and we fail to understand what is going on. We pray, but God doesn’t seem to hear. We fast, but our situation stays the same. We repent of every imaginable sin we could have committed, but find no answer. Discouraged and frightened, we conclude that something is wrong with our spiritual life.

This is the most dangerous time during the pruning process, and it’s the one most often used by the Enemy to trip us up. He intends to deceive us into thinking that we have backslidden, have lost God’s grace and should quit serving God. Or he tries to convince us to create a counterfeit spiritual life to compensate for what we think we have lost. If we believe him, we will generate all kinds of carnal activities so no one would easily discover that God’s presence has left us.

But all the while, nothing is wrong with our spiritual life, and we haven’t lost anything. We are just going through the pruning process.

If we could only recognize that it is the hand of God that holds the knife, then we would be able to do the right thing: trust in His wisdom, humble ourselves and honor Him by walking in faith rather than sight. Then we would be able to accept the wilderness, the cutting, the discipline, the loneliness and the pain as necessary preparation for the future.

As the Master Gardener, God can already see how this pruning process will bring about character changes within us, transform our nature and deepen our relationship with Him. He knows how best to care for us.

Choose to walk by faith during your “dark night of the soul.”

Destined to Soar © 2009 by K.P. Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia. It was written with the intention of encouraging and edifying the Body of Christ. To learn more about Gospel for Asia or to receive additional free resources, visit Gospel for Asia’s website.

The Road to Friendship

The Way of True Blessing - KP Yohannan Books

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Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.”

Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”

Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”

“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.

When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied.

“Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

The angel of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, “I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me”    (Genesis 22:1–12, 15–18, NIV).

There’s a wonderful hymn that declares, “But we never can prove the delights of His love until all on the altar we lay; for the favor He shows, and the joy He bestows, are for them who will trust and obey. Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”1 How true this is.

When God called Abraham, He absolutely promised that He would bless him and make him a blessing. But none of this happened overnight. The journey was long, and many tests came along, as well as many failures. And in the ultimate test, Abraham’s absolute confidence was found in the character of God as he laid the son who would fulfill God’s promise on the altar.

Imagine the scene the night before. Every time I read this passage about Abraham, I cannot help but think about my two children. I wonder if Abraham could sleep that night. I wouldn’t have slept. Maybe he tried to sleep, but memories from the previous years filled his mind—like the moment he first heard God tell him and Sarah that they would have a son and they both chuckled as they thought about the silliness of a promise like that in their old age. And then that day when Sarah was indeed pregnant and no one could believe it. Or Isaac learning to walk and the first time he said “daddy.” What memories must have filled his mind?

Perhaps Abraham spent that night in Isaac’s room, watching his son as he slept, trying to freeze that moment in his mind forever. After looking at his son dozens of times, he wiped the tears and tried to go to sleep once more. Imagine how difficult it must have been for Abraham to even think about sacrificing his own son and the promise that God had given him. I am sure he would have gladly died in Isaac’s place if he could. But Romans 4:17 gives us a glimpse of how Abraham was able to obey the Lord, even in such a difficult request. It says that Abraham believed God, “who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did.”

The road to friendship was the road of trust.

The dictionary defines trust as the “firm belief or confidence in the honesty, integrity, reliability and justice of another person or thing.”2 Abraham trusted in the character of the God who called him and took care of him from the moment he first left Ur. He trusted that God was able to fulfill the promise He had given him even if his son was dead. It was only Abraham’s absolute trust and confidence in the sovereignty and nature of God that caused him to follow at all costs.

I am sure that if God had asked Abraham to sacrifice 10,000 sheep or 5,000 bulls, he would have surely done it. That type of sacrifice would have been easy and mean very little to Abraham. It would have been a sacrifice that cost him nothing. David echoed Abraham’s attitude concerning this in 2 Samuel 24:24 (NIV) saying, “No . . . I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” Abraham chose to obey God even when it was very costly.

As a result, in Genesis 22:16–18, we hear God telling Abraham,

‘By Myself I have sworn,’ says the LORD, ‘because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son—blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice’ (emphasis added).

The road to friendship was the road of obedience.

This truth is paralleled in the New Testament as well. “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you” (John 15:10, 14–15).

The more we understand the nature and character of our Lord and His absolute love, compassion and mercy, the more we will be able to abandon ourselves at His feet, obeying whatever He calls us to do. Through the life of Abraham, we see how obedience and trust precede friendship and blessing.

How was Abraham able to trust and obey the Lord in such a great way? Surely the sacrifices in his life were already great. He gave up his homeland, his riches, everything that was familiar to him—wasn’t that enough? I’m sure a lot of us could talk ourselves out of such a difficult request, especially after already sacrificing so much. But Abraham did not do that. What kept him in obedience and in a tender walk with God was his fear of the Lord. For “by the fear of the LORD one departs from evil” (Proverbs 16:6).

Notes:
1 John H. Sammis, “Trust and Obey,” 1887.
2 Webster’s New World College Dictionary, Third Edition (New York: Simon and Schuster, Inc., 1997).

© 2003 by K.P. Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia. It was written with the intention of encouraging and edifying the Body of Christ. To learn more about Gospel for Asia or to receive additional free resources, visit Gospel for Asia’s website.

Friend of God

The Way of True Blessing - KP Yohannan Books

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Like most young kids, my son, Danny, loved to play at the playground when he was young. Oftentimes, after being at the playground for only 10 minutes, he would come running back over to me, excitedly asking, “Can me and my friend go play together on the swings?!”

“What friend?” I would reply, knowing I had only brought him and his sister to the playground.

“That one!” as he turned to point out a boy he had just met. After a couple swings together on the monkey bars, they were “friends.”

But true friendship runs much deeper than that which marks childhood. It is not just happy, cozy feelings. True friendship is in no way self-centered. It is laying “down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13). Consider the following example of true, costly friendship:

Out of the furnaces of war come many true stories of sacrificial friendship. One such story tells of two friends in World War I, who were inseparable. They had enlisted together, trained together, were shipped overseas together, and fought side-by-side in the trenches. During an attack, one of the men was critically wounded in a field filled with barbed wire obstacles, and he was unable to crawl back to his foxhole. The entire area was under a withering enemy crossfire, and it was suicidal to try to reach him. Yet his friend decided to try. Before he could get out of his own trench, his sergeant yanked him back inside and ordered him not to go. “It’s too late. You can’t do him any good, and you’ll only get yourself killed.”

A few minutes later, the officer turned his back, and instantly the man was gone after his friend. A few minutes later, he staggered back, mortally wounded, with his friend, now dead, in his arms. The sergeant was both angry and deeply moved. “What a waste,” he blurted out. “He’s dead and you’re dying. It just wasn’t worth it.”

With almost his last breath, the dying man replied, “Oh, yes, it was, Sarge. When I got him, the only thing he said was, ‘I knew you’d come, Jim!’ ”1

One of the true marks of friendship is that it is costly. Friendship, by nature, involves sacrifice.

Give Me Jesus

There’s a well-known song with lyrics proclaiming, “Take the world, but give me Jesus . . .”2 For most, this song remains a matter of emotion and feeling. But for one young man I met on the mission field, this song had a deeper, more intimate reality.

Ram grew up in a prestigious Hindu family as part of the high Brahmin caste. He lived with the many benefits of being a Brahmin and was denied nothing in his life. But he grew up never knowing anything about the Savior, Jesus. It wasn’t until he received a Gospel tract while studying in college that he learned of the Lord Jesus Christ. Convicted of his sin and moved by Jesus’ love for him, Ram soon made a definite commitment to follow Christ and become a child of God.

As he learned about being a disciple of Jesus, one of the first steps he took was to be baptized, making public his declaration as a follower of Jesus. When his family heard of his baptism, they became outraged, for the act of baptism was a public announcement that he was walking away from his previous life. In the Eastern cultures, religion is tied into every aspect of life—family, job, relationships—everything. It is not like changing the political party you are associated with. For Ram to walk away from Hinduism meant he was turning his back on the belief of his parents, his whole family and his village. And being from a respectable, high-class family, this had huge repercussions and brought shame upon his family.

Ram’s parents and relatives tried their best to persuade him to come back to Hinduism. But when their gentle persuasions, tears and pleading failed, his family gave him an ultimatum: deny Christ or leave home, never to be part of the family again.

The reality of walking away from the parents and the sister he loved dearly, including all extended family and the inheritance entitled to him as the son, was a tremendous sacrifice that flashed before his eyes. But a choice must be made.

Walking away from everything he had, Ram left his home with only the clothes on his back to an unknown future. He had chosen Christ.

In God’s mercy and grace, Ram ended up in one of our Bible colleges with the determination to prepare himself to become a servant of God. This is where I met him and heard of his tremendous and difficult testimony. When asked if he regretted leaving his family and wealth behind, he gently responded with absolute confidence and humility, “They can have the whole wide world. All I want is my Jesus.”

He went on to explain about the pain and sadness in his life when he thinks about his parents and sister he left behind. But he said, “My greatest sorrow is that they do not know the Lord Jesus Christ the way I know Him. If they knew Him and could see His face, they too would walk away from everyone and everything else. That’s the price that must be paid to know Jesus and to be His.”

Ram’s story reminds us a lot of the life of Abraham, who, having heard the voice of God, left his home and all familiar circumstances in Ur of the Chaldeans to follow his God.

Many people, when they hear the name “Abraham,” immediately think of “father of many nations” or how, in a miraculous manner, he and his wife, Sarah conceived Isaac in their old age. And of course, it is impossible to forget about his incredible act of obedience as he prepared to sacrifice the son of promise. What a man Abraham was! Our minds easily classify him as a saint, and rightly so. But what makes all of this even greater is the fact that Abraham was nothing special. He was an ordinary man just like you and I. Raised in an idolatrous home, Abraham grew up knowing nothing about the living God. In between the stories of the incredible things that happened in his life, you’ll see a man who was fearful and weak, lying to protect himself and his family. Abraham was no superstar.

Yet the living God called Abraham to come and walk with Him, inviting him to enter into a covenant and to know Him. “Now the LORD had said to Abram: ‘Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing’ ” (Genesis 12:1–2).

And when all was said and done, Abraham was blessed and called a “friend of God” (James 2:23). If Abraham was just an ordinary man, how was it that he became a friend of God? It is friendship with the Almighty, intimacy with Him, that was the true blessing in Abraham’s life.

True Blessing

Thousands of sermons are preached today on the blessings of Abraham and how we, too, can lay claim to the very things promised him. But much of these teachings refer exclusively to material blessings and how it is possible to achieve material prosperity in this world. Have we forgotten that he who was blessed (Abraham) gave up everything, walking away from the material blessings afforded him by his family? Ancient history tells us that the Chaldeans, of which Abraham was a descendant, were by no means frugal sheepherders. They were a luxurious people, eating and drinking from golden spoons and cups and all the finest of ancient culture.

This is what Abraham left behind—an established family and luxurious circumstances—to follow the living God in total obedience. This was the way of blessing. Throughout his life, Abraham lived in tents, not in mansions (see Hebrews 11:9). Hebrews 11:10 (NIV) tells us that “he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.”

Abraham was not looking for the blessing of things in this world and material possessions as the end and reward of his obedience. But he looked for and saw something most preachers and shallow Christians are not able to see today.

If you were to ask Abraham what he would consider the greatest blessing in his life, he would surely echo Brother Ram: “to know the living God and be known by Him and to have Him as my friend.” This is the blessing of Abraham and the most incredible honor in life: to be called the friend of the Almighty God.

We too are given the same invitation to friendship as was given to Abraham. And if we are truly seeking to have intimacy with the living God and not being satisfied with the things of this world, we, like Abraham, will know the friendship of God.

God longs for that intimacy, that fellowship with us. He wants to share with us His intimate feelings and concerns. Our relationship with Him cannot be based just on the fact that now we are saved. We cannot just have the attitude that says, “Praise the Lord. Now I am saved. Now I am born again.” No. There is more! We must grow to the place where the Lord can say to us, “Tom, Lucy, John (whatever your name is), I just want to talk to you.” Then we answer, “Lord, what do You want to tell me? What do You want to say to me? What do You want me to do?” That kind of close relationship is what He wants—a friendship. He wants that friendship with us because He loves us and wants to share Himself with us.

A friend of God. What an incredible honor!

Do you truly long to have this kind of intimate and close friendship with God? If the Lord were to make a statement about you, would He be able to say, “He or she is My friend”? Think about it.

The invitation the living God gave to Abraham is extended to you as well. Friendship is offered. But this friendship and intimacy do not come instantly or without a price. If Abraham was a man just like us and he became a friend of God—and God is no respecter of persons (see Acts 10:34)—then it must be possible for us to become the friends of God as well.  How does this happen?

Notes
1 Gary Inrig, Quality Friendship (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1981).
2 Frances Jane (Fanny) Crosby, “Take the World, but Give Me Jesus,” 1879.

© 2003 by K.P. Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia. It was written with the intention of encouraging and edifying the Body of Christ. To learn more about Gospel for Asia or to receive additional free resources, visit Gospel for Asia’s website.

5 Minutes with K.P. – Striving for Unity

Destined to Soar - KP Yohannan Books

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The whole world agrees we are in need of peace and
unity. Governments turn to force and strict laws to
keep people from destroying each other. On a much
smaller scale, millions of families and married couples have
their own difficulties as they seek to find enough common
ground to live in peace with each other.

God, on the other hand, expects Christians to “be likeminded,
having the same love, being of one accord, of one
mind” (Philippians 2:2, kjv).

Why is unity so important to God? Paul Billheimer explains
the reason in his book Destined for the Throne: Before
the world began, the Father wanted to find a Bride for His
Son, so He created us. God didn’t look for many brides, but
only for one Bride.1 The purpose of the cross is to make millions
of people from a million different backgrounds and
races into one individual—the Bride of Christ.

In the light of this high calling, it is so serious and of
utmost importance that each of us is “endeavoring to keep
the unity of the Spirit . . .” (Ephesians 4:3). “Endeavor” is another
word for try, attempt, labor, strive, exert and struggle.
Just by looking at these synonyms, it is obvious that it is a
very deliberate, conscious act. We cannot simply say to one
another, “Well, if you agree with what I say and if you eat
the same food I like, I will sit at your table and we will have
unity.”

In fact, the Apostle Paul tells us in the same text of Scripture
exactly what we must do to be able to attain this unity:
“I . . . beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which
you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with
longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring
to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”
(Ephesians 4:1–3). What Paul is expressing is that we should
do everything we can, even at the expense of our own feelings,
to maintain this unity of the Spirit.

We find a beautiful picture of what it takes to maintain
this kind of unity in Jesus’ last Passover with His disciples.
When He took the bread, He said to them: “ . . . this is My
body which is broken for you” (1 Corinthians 11:24).

If we look closely at a piece of bread, we will find that it
is made up of thousands of kernels of grain; however, none
of these individual kernels was left whole. They were all
ground up into powder and mixed together before a loaf of
bread could be formed and baked.

The bread Jesus gave to His disciples was not only a picture
of His body being broken on our behalf on the cross
of Calvary, but it was equally a picture of what it took for
Jesus to become the Bread of Life. He was crushed and powdered
as He laid down His own will and learned obedience
through the things He suffered.

What about us? The Bride of Christ is also the Body of
Christ. If we are His Body, we must also become bread that
God can break to feed the multitudes of our generation.

We can only become a loaf of bread to feed the hungry
if the oneness of the Spirit is among us. And oneness only
comes by yielding ourselves to be ground, powdered and
mixed together.

Will you yield yourself to Him in your own circumstances?

Destined to Soar © 2009 by K.P. Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia. It was written with the intention of encouraging and edifying the Body of Christ. To learn more about Gospel for Asia or to receive additional free resources, visit Gospel for Asia’s website.

The Way of True Blessing – Lessons in Obedience

The Way of True Blessing - KP Yohannan Books

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“Friendship with the LORD is reserved for those who fear him. With them he shares the secrets of his covenant.”    Psalm 25:14, NLT

There are plenty of books that tell about “how” to receive God’s blessings and how to obtain material blessings for a more comfortable life on earth. Yet we see through the life of Abraham that true blessing is much deeper than the material and comes only through a holy fear and love for God.

So often our Christianity starts with us and ends with us. It is all centered around ourselves. Even when obeying some Scriptures (like “giving”) we are focused more on what we can get from it! May the Lord bring us to the place at which we obey Him because we love Him and do all for His sake because He is Lord. May our comfort, joy and peace not be the issue, but what our Lord wants. And only out of a life lived in the fear of the Lord and in love with Him will we find that our lives are blessed and we are a blessing.

© 2003 by K.P. Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia. It was written with the intention of encouraging and edifying the Body of Christ. To learn more about Gospel for Asia or to receive additional free resources, visit Gospel for Asia’s website.

God’s Promises

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Please, my precious brothers and sisters, when discouragement comes, look to the Lord. Use every hard situation, every bad circumstance, every illness—everything—as an opportunity to seek the Lord and rely on Him.

When you are discouraged, I strongly encourage you to remember the promises of God, given to us in the Bible. Many times it has helped me to say these promises out loud, applying their truths to the situations I am facing at that time. Boldly confess that:

• God is a good God. He is my Father (see Romans 8:15).

• The Father loves me the same as He loves Jesus (see John 17:23).

• I am redeemed by the blood of the Lamb by grace . . . a new creation (see Revelation 5:9, 2 Corinthians 5:17).

• God is the strength of my life (see Psalm 27:1).

• I can do all things through Christ . . . (see Philippians 4:13).

• The Lord is my Shepherd. I want nothing (see Psalm 23:1).

• Surely He has born my sickness and carried my sorrows, and by His stripes I am healed (see Isaiah 53:5).

• My God shall supply all my needs according to His riches (see Philippians 4:19).

• I can resist the devil, and he will flee from me (see James 4:7).

• No weapon formed against me will prosper (see Isaiah 54:17).

• I am more than a conqueror through Jesus Christ (see Romans 8:37).

• All things work together for my good (see Romans 8:28).

• I am bold as a lion (see Proverbs 28:1).

• He will never leave me nor forsake me (see Hebrews 13:5).

• Blessed be the Lord, who daily loads me with benefits (see Psalm 68:19).

• As the days, so shall my strength be (see Deuteronomy 33:25).

• When I am weak, then I am strong (see 2 Corinthians 12:10).

• Let the weak say I am strong (see Joel 3:10), for the Lord is the strength of my life.

God’s faithfulness and His mercies are new every morning! God wants us to know this. It is beautiful to know the freshness of God and how He restores our souls. Stay encouraged!

© 2004 by K.P. Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia. It was written with the intention of encouraging and edifying the Body of Christ. To learn more about Gospel for Asia or to receive additional free resources, visit Gospel for Asia’s website.

5 Minutes with K.P. – What Keeps Us Going?

Destined to Soar - KP Yohannan Books

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I am always intrigued when I watch the start of the marathon during the summer Olympics. All the runners appear to be in top physical shape, excited to represent their countries and determined to win the gold medal. However, it’s an entirely different story when I watch them 15 or 20 miles later. They look exhausted from the hot sun that beats down on them or miserable because of rain that makes their road slippery. Some have trouble breathing
when the race takes them over a mountain, and others struggle to keep up with the fast pace.

Although everyone, no matter how long it takes them to cross the finish line, is celebrated with cheers and applause, some runners will never get there. Somewhere along the route they drop out of the race due to exhaustion, injury or discouragement.

In the marathon race and in our Christian life, persevering until the end is what it’s all about, not just starting well. What do I mean? Don’t give up your walk with Jesus; endure in the call He gave you to win this lost world and build His kingdom.

Like the marathon runners, we, too, will encounter adversities along the way that could cause us to quit the race. What are some of these adversities?

  • Relationship problems with other Christians that severely threaten our treasured self-life.
  • Physical and financial setbacks that cause us to lose hope.
  • Lack of apparent fruit and thus fulfillment in our service to the Lord.
  • Facing our latent failures and sins that expose our unbrokenness, pride, selfishness, stubbornness or critical spirit.
  • Frustration when serving the Lord becomes hard work and the feelings are gone.
  • Feeling inadequate and overwhelmed by the expectations of others.
  • Spiritual dryness that comes when God tests us to see if we will still walk with Him by faith, even when there is nothing within or without to support
    us.
  • Losing sight of our priorities—shifting from serving the Lord to protecting our self-interests.

I have served the Lord full-time for the past 40 years. From my own life and experience, I can tell you this: The godliest Christian leaders I have met, the most challenging sermons I have heard and the best books I have read on evangelism and discipleship have not been enough to help me survive in the race!

Only one thing has kept me in the ministry and following Christ, and that is learning and practicing what the writer of Hebrews said: “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1–2).

The secret of our survival is fixing our eyes on Jesus and making Him alone our focus. Then our walk with God and our commitment to serve Him will no longer depend on whether or not people treat us right or circumstances are in our favor. We will no longer rely on our emotions to support us or on our successes to keep us going. Jesus alone will become our goal and motivation—our prize—and we will live for Him, run our race for Him and cross the finish
line for Him.

My dear friend, unless you learn to fix your eyes on Jesus alone, you will have no stability in your walk with God or in your service to Him.

Jesus Himself said, “Follow Me.”

Therefore, meditate on Him, consider Him and think about Him so that you may not grow weary in your heart. The answer to enduring until the end is not self-effort or a rational attempt to figure out the answers, but rather to stop and look into His eyes.

If we do this, all the things that surround us in this world will become shadows in the light of Him. After all his struggles, Job found the answer he was searching for when he fell on his face and worshiped the Lord.

Look to Him. He’s waiting for you.

Destined to Soar © 2009 by K.P. Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia. It was written with the intention of encouraging and edifying the Body of Christ. To learn more about Gospel for Asia or to receive additional free resources, visit Gospel for Asia’s website.

Be an Encouragement

Stay Encouraged - KP Yohannan Books

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Spread love everywhere you go: first of all in your own house. Give love to your children, to your wife or husband, to a next door neighbor. . . . Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness; kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile, kindness in your warm greeting.1

Take a minute and look around you. Look close at the faces of people and see in their eyes the desperate longing for understanding and their cry for a few words of encouragement. If nothing else, just a look, a pat on the back or a smile can make the greatest difference in their day.

We are such self-centered creatures that from the moment we wake up until the moment we lay our head back on the pillow, we are consumed with ourselves. We think about our sorrow, our concern and our need for understanding and affirmation.

But what does the Bible say about this? “Give, and it shall be given unto you” (Luke 6:38).

Are you one looking for encouragement and appreciation? Then I have a suggestion for you: Encourage someone around you. Give to them what you are looking to receive, and you will be surprised how it will return back to you a hundredfold.

Listen to the words of Christ, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12, NIV).

William Barclay once said, “One of the highest of human duties is the duty of encouragement. . . . It is easy to laugh at man’s ideals. It is easy to pour cold water on the enthusiasm. It is easy to discourage others. The world is full of discouragers. We have a Christian duty to encourage one another. Many a time a word of praise or thanks or appreciation or cheer has kept a man on his feet. Blessed is the man who speaks such a word.”2 How true this is.

While reading through the well-known and loved book Chicken Soup for the Soul, I came across this story, which again shows the significant impact a little encouragement can have on the people in our lives.

A college professor had his sociology class go into the Baltimore slums to get case histories of 200 young boys. They were asked to write an evaluation of each boy’s future. In every case the students wrote, “He hasn’t got a chance.” Twenty-five years later another sociology professor came across the earlier study. He had his students follow up on the project to see what had happened to these boys. With the exception of 20 boys who had moved away or died, the students learned that 176 of the remaining 180 had achieved more than ordinary success as lawyers, doctors and businessmen.

The professor was astounded and decided to pursue the matter further. Fortunately, all the men were in the area and he was able to ask each one, “How do you account for your success?” In each case the reply came with feeling, “There was a teacher.”

The teacher was still alive, so he sought her out and asked the old but still alert lady what magic formula she had used to pull these boys out of the slums into successful achievement.

The teacher’s eyes sparkled and her lips broke into a gentle smile. “It’s really simple,” she said. “I loved those boys.”3

If we as parents or friends want to motivate our family members or people around us, we must be encouragers. We must choose to give sincere appreciation and honest praise for even the slightest good that people do. Thus we can spur others to greater achievements in life.

The renowned psychologist and thinker, professor William James of Harvard, mentions that each individual has tremendous energy, power, strength and potential in themselves. According to him, compared with what we ought to be, we are only half awake. We are making use of only a small part of our physical and mental resources. Stating the thing broadly, the human individual thus lives far within his limits. He possesses powers of various sorts that he habitually fails to use.

Encouragement is a powerful force. An earlier study shows that no one can achieve significant heights in life alone; it is always done with the help and assistance of others. In this, encouragement is without any doubt one of the most powerful things we can do to help others. Those who have studied the lives of people such as Charles Dickens or H.G. Wells know how timely a word of encouragement and praise proved to be the turning point in their lives, enabling them to attain great heights.

Consider Charles Dickens. His life did not exactly provide him with the conditions to be one of the greatest literary writers, yet that is what he became. Forced to quit school when he was 12 due to his father’s imprisonment (for outrageous debt), Dickens spent his days pasting labels on bottles in a rat-infested workplace.

He desired to write and pursued that dream, only to have his work rejected time and time again. But one day, one of his stories, although denied for publication, was returned to him with a note saying that he was a great writer and the world needed him. These small words of encouragement sent Dickens running up and down the streets of London rejoicing. They also served as the staying power in his writing, therefore bringing us such literature masterpieces as Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, The Tale of Two Cities and others.

When you read about the lives of great men and women in history, you will always find there was some person or group who encouraged them, being the key factor to all that they achieved.

Just think about it. Who taught Martin Luther his theology and inspired his translation of the New Testament? Who was the individual who witnessed to Sadhu Sundar Singh of India? Who encouraged Mother Teresa to leave her home in Albania and travel to India? Who was behind the staying power of Amy Carmichael in the midst of endless years of physical suffering and difficulties on the mission field in India? Who was the elderly woman who prayed for years and witnessed to George Verwer for over a decade? Who financed William Carey’s travel to India and his ministry?

You see, it is easy to understand. It doesn’t take superstars and the most brilliant to encourage others. You can do it. I can do it. English poet, William Wordsworth, once said, “That best portion of a good man’s life, his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and love.”4

I want to ask you, when was the last time you encouraged someone with your words or actions? We are most Christlike when we can show compassion and love for others. Jesus always affirmed and strengthened the weak, the lonely and the unwanted.

One of the most significant ways in which we can encourage others is to listen with our hearts to what they are saying. Often people say things not in words, but in their feelings, their actions and even their silence. While listening, ask the Lord to give you understanding to what they are saying. Then you will be able to respond with the determination to encourage and strengthen them.

There are times you can do things to show your support and encouragement. Sometimes it is sharing finances, giving them a book that will help them through a difficult time or sharing a song that will encourage their heart. It could be just simply taking the time to sit down and listen to them.

Daily look for something positive and encouraging that you can do or say to the people around you to strengthen them in this life’s journey. Appreciate people and acknowledge even the little things that they do. Never underestimate the power of positive words and a solid handshake or pat on the back.

When I look back over the years of my serving the Lord, there have been numerous times of deep discouragement and struggles. Many times I have thought about running away from it all. In each of those times, it was some brother or sister saying “I am praying for you” or doing something to encourage me with their words or actions that gave me the courage to continue the journey. Even today that is true.

May you be that to someone today. “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38).

Notes:

1 Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, Chicken Soup for the Soul (Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications, Inc., 1993), p. 3.
2 William Barclay, Letter to the Hebrews: The Daily Study Bible (Edinburgh, Scotland: St. Andrews Press, 1955), pp. 137–138.
3 Canfield and Hansen, Chicken Soup for the Soul, pp. 3–4.
4 Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, A 2nd Helping of Chicken Soup for the Soul (Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications, Inc., 1995), p. 3.

 

© 2004 by K.P. Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia. It was written with the intention of encouraging and edifying the Body of Christ. To learn more about Gospel for Asia or to receive additional free resources, visit Gospel for Asia’s website.

Take Heart

Stay Encouraged - KP Yohannan Books

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Although God is able to take the plans of the enemy and use them for our good, we must also see these as the spiritual attacks that they are. Therefore, we must keep our mind and heart in gear, ready to stand against our adversary and receive the promises of God.

I want to share a few thoughts on things that have helped me in times of struggle and discouragement. God has given us focus in the battle and weapons to fight with.

First, no matter the reason for the discouragement, think about the Lord. Hebrews 12:1–3 says,

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.

It is when we look horizontally that we get discouraged. When we let what people say or think and the expectations people have of us to influence us, then discouragement sets in. When we look to men (horizontal) rather than to God (vertical), we easily become weary.

These verses say, “Look unto Jesus” and “consider Him.” It is in bringing our lives before the Lord that we find encouragement. All our troubles and all our reasons for discouragement fade away when we look up and see Him.

When we do this, we realize that the difficulties we face are just another way for us to identify with His sufferings (see Philippians 3:10). He is able to turn them around into a means through which we become more Christlike. Discouragement simply becomes a way for His treasure to shine out through the broken clay vessels that we are (see 2 Corinthians 4:7). In our weakness, He is made strong. “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:9, NIV).

Second, think about the good things in life. Come before the Lord in praise. Philippians 4:8 tells us,

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

Let us not make a list of all the reasons why we are in trouble or to stay discouraged. Don’t think about the negative. Scripture says to think about things that are lovely and wholesome and of good report. Think on these things.

One of the reasons why people become cold and cynical is because they forget the place from where the Lord has brought them. They forget His goodness toward them in times past. They forget that He is faithful.

That is why throughout the Old Testament, God seemed to continually remind His people saying, “Don’t forget. Celebrate the Passover year after year. This will remind you of Egypt and how I brought you out to freedom” (paraphrase, see Exodus 13:6–8). “Collect a jar of manna and save it to remember how I fed you in the wilderness” (paraphrase, see Exodus 16:32–33). “Take twelve stones out of the Jordan and make a place of remembrance. Then someday you can explain to others what I did for you” (paraphrase, see Joshua 4:5–7).

Likewise, we must keep ourselves in remembrance.

I encourage you to take some time now to write out a list of all the good things God has brought into your life. There are so many reasons to thank Him, and there is power and victory when we praise Him.

Consider this remarkable story of one man who chose to see the good things in his life rather than the bad.

As a recently retired man was sitting on his porch down in Kentucky, his Social Security check was delivered. He went to the mailbox to retrieve it and thought to himself, Is this all my life is going to be from this time on? Just sitting on the porch waiting for my next Social Security check to arrive? It was a discouraging thought.

So he took a legal pad and began to write down all the gifts, all the blessings, all the talents, and everything that he had going for him. He listed them all, even small things. For example, he included the fact that he was the only one in the world who knew his mother’s recipe for fried chicken in which she used eleven different herbs and spices.

He went down to the local restaurant, and asked if he could get a job cooking their chicken. Very soon the chicken became the most popular item on the menu. He opened his own restaurant in Kentucky. Then he opened a string of restaurants and eventually sold the Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise to a national organization for millions of dollars. He became their public representative and continued in that role until his death.1

Third, pray. Come before the Lord in prayer. You do not have because you do not ask. You do not find because you do not seek. The door doesn’t open because you don’t knock (see Matthew 7:7–8). Please pray. God really answers prayer. Please believe me. He does! It is a great encouragement to see God work in answer to prayer.

Remember 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

When we pray, our attitude is transformed. It is through prayer that the Lord changes our hearts and His peace is able to enter in, lifting us above the circumstances we may be facing.

Fourth, remember the Lord has good plans for you. He is faithful to you no matter what. We must remind ourselves of this truth continually, especially when things become difficult and unclear. Remind yourself and say, “God loves me. He called me for a purpose. He is always good, always faithful. I can trust Him.” It is because of the assurance of who He is that we are able to continue on, never turning back or walking away from Him.

Fifth, live by faith, not by sight or feelings. Faith, by nature, is based upon what we cannot see. Things happen and we can’t understand why. But we can believe that God will work it out for the best. We can cling to Him in depression, hurt or sorrow, knowing that these things are for a reason and that He is strong enough to carry us through.

Only by faith can we look to the Lord in every situation. We may not know the solution yet, but He can give us peace as we trust Him to work all things together for our good. By faith we come to Him with whatever life brings—joys and sorrows—knowing that He is “our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).

Listen to this cry of faith in Habakkuk 3:17–19:

Though the fig tree may not blossom,

Nor fruit be on the vines;

Though the labor of the olive may fail,

And the fields yield no food;

Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,

And there be no herd in the stalls—

Yet I will rejoice in the LORD,

I will joy in the God of my salvation.

The LORD God is my strength;

He will make my feet like deer’s feet,

And He will make me walk on my high hills.

Sixth, know that no matter what, you are forgiven. Sometimes that is the hardest thing to believe. All the sins you have ever committed, all the sins you are committing now and all the sins you will ever commit until the last second of your life are forgiven. They have all been taken care of. All you need to do is acknowledge that work of God and live by it. Don’t hold things against yourself. Live with forgiveness for yourself and others on a constant basis. Because of the blood of Jesus, we can “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

Finally, have patience with yourself. Philippians 1:6 says, “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (emphasis added).
Sometimes we get so discouraged and so impatient with ourselves. We can’t see any good fruit being produced in our lives, and it tempts us to just give up. But we must remember that it takes time to be molded into the image of Christ.

Godliness, maturity and spiritual depth do not come through reading books and acquiring information. Often our problem is that we know so much. We know about what it means to be a good husband, a good father and a hard worker in the ministry. We know about being burdened by the Lord and about humility and brokenness. I know so many things in my head, yet still I long in many areas of my life to be the message I am preaching.

Rather, it is God working in us that brings maturity. The problem is in here, on the inside. I need to let the Lord work on me. I cannot do it, but God has a plan and a perfect way. He is the potter; I am the clay. With this understanding, I don’t have to get all bent out of shape and be unforgiving with myself. I can know the Lord is working with me.

Keep in mind how Jesus responded to Peter after he denied Him. Jesus did not focus on Peter’s mistake, but He saw beyond that, knowing what He was going to make him. Jesus was patient with Peter.

And just as God has patience with us, we must have patience with ourselves. We need to be objective and honest about our real condition, dismal as it may be. Yet we also must be willing to live with that truth and accept God’s grace to change us instead of trying to correct ourselves (see Isaiah 45:9).

© 2004 by K.P. Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia. It was written with the intention of encouraging and edifying the Body of Christ. To learn more about Gospel for Asia or to receive additional free resources, visit Gospel for Asia’s website.