Monthly Archives: June 2011

5 Minutes wtih K.P. – Clinging to Shadows

Destined to Soar - KP Yohannan Books

Click the image to download your free copy.

The earth seemed to tremble at the mighty shout of the Israelites as the priests carried the ark of the covenant into their war camp. Now the battle could begin. Their guarantee for victory had just arrived! The people cheered and celebrated. It would be just like in the days of Moses and Joshua: The ark would go before them, and no enemy, however strong had even the slightest chance of defeating the armies of Israel.

With great confidence the Israelites marched out to meet the Philistines, who were shaking in their boots, expecting to be wiped out by the God of Israel. But to everyone’s amazement and horror, God was not with His people. The two priests Hophni and Phinehas, along with 30,000 soldiers, were slaughtered on the battlefield. And the enemy captured the ark of God.

What went wrong? The Israelites had counted on their past experiences and assumed that God was still with them! Their earlier shout of triumph turned out to be a vain and empty noise. Their actions seemed genuine, but in reality they were clinging to shadows from the past. All of these events were brought into focus by Phinehas’ widow, who named her son Ichabod (which means no glory) as she was dying, saying, “The glory is departed from Israel.”

After this tragic defeat, the entire nation must have asked, “When did our God leave us? And why didn’t we—His people—notice it sooner?”

What about us? How do we know if God is still with us like He was 10 years or two months ago?

This account from 1 Samuel 4, as well as many others, is given to us for our instruction. It is designed to clearly teach us that past experiences with God, including miracles and answers to prayer, are never proof that God is with us and sustains us today. Each and every day, our walk with the Lord and our commitment to Him must be fresh and new.

It is of utmost importance that the people who are called to fulfill God’s plan and purpose remain close to Him and do not blindly rely on the past. You see, God has more than just one way of dealing with mankind. In every generation He does new things. He creates new wine, which requires new wineskins. The problem with us is that we want the new wine, but we also want to maintain the old wineskins from our past. It must be our highest priority, however, to continually maintain the freshness of our walk with Him.

Over and over we read throughout the Bible and Church history how God commits Himself to an individual or a group of people. But then, somewhere along the way, His presence is no longer with them. The sign on their front door now reads “Ichabod”—the glory has departed. They may still be running all their “good,” religious programs, along with preaching, shouting and doing every kind of thing imaginable. But basically all they are doing is clinging to shadows, while He is no longer there.

It is tragic, and we feel deeply hurt, when “Ichabod,” this severe judgment of God, is pronounced over a fellowship to which we belong or a Christian organization that we value. However, rather than joining them in clinging to shadows, we still have the option of moving on. But when God begins to write this word over the door of our own hearts, “Ichabod” becomes extremely personal. Once there was genuine love and reality in our worship, giving and service to the Lord, but over time it all turned into a well-rehearsed religious performance. Others around us might not realize what has happened to us because we continue to do all the things we did before. But when God looks at our hearts, He sees an empty shell: The freshness of our walk with Him has disappeared.

What is the cause of this shift in our spiritual life? It’s the same as it was for those Israelites in the Old Testament: self-centeredness. The God who delivered them from slavery and whom they were commanded to love supremely over all else had now become in their minds a genie to fulfill their wish for a comfortable and successful life. We fall into the same trap when we forget that we were made for Him alone. Belonging to Him means that we must lay aside all our own plans, wishes and ambitions and out of love and with joy seek to fulfill His will instead. This keeps us coming to Him every day, asking afresh what we can do to please Him, and showing Him that He is our greatest treasure and all we desire in our lives.

Withdrawing His glory from our lives is never God’s first reaction, but rather it is His last resort if we don’t respond to His correction and His call to an intimate daily relationship.

But how is it possible for us to regain or to maintain this fresh walk with the Lord, if those who saw God part the Red Sea lost it and died in the wilderness? I believe the answer starts with a conscious decision to daily “humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord” (James 4:10) and to begin or continue to “seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God” (Colossians 3:1). And this is possible only if we are willing to repent or forsake all that caused our heart to wander away from the Lord: materialism, seeking comfort or ease, seeking others’ approval and praise, spiritual pride, lack of concern for the suffering or poor, seeking honor from others, pretense . . . and all things that the Holy Spirit will remind us of as we honestly seek God. Daily seek God’s approval in all areas of your life. If we practice this, restoration will take place, and His presence will remain with us.

The question is: Will you act on it now, or are you going to put it off until later?

Are you clinging to shadows?

Reflecting His Image © 1998, 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. – Reflecting His Image

Destined to Soar - KP Yohannan Books

Click the image to download your free copy.

Growing up by a river flowing with crystal-clear water, we boys swam in it almost every day. Those times added much joy to my childhood. But that was long ago, and now that river is polluted. The fish in the river are dying, and hardly anyone goes swimming there anymore.

How did this happen? Over the years the pollution that was dumped into the river caused this tragedy.

This is true of our lives also. The Lord promised that out of us rivers of living water would flow—pure and unhindered, producing and sustaining life. But unfortunately, due to both lack of watchfulness and lack of diligence on our part, the enemy has polluted our lives. Now instead of rivers of living water flowing out of us, our lives have been dragged down to mediocrity.

But if we travel up from the foot of the mountain to the source of this river, we’ll find the pure crystal-clear water flowing from it. Instead of being content with superficial Christianity, we need to learn the original purpose of God for our lives. In the Word of God, we clearly read in Genesis 1:26 that God made us so that we may reflect His image.

This book is a compilation of small chapters on many subjects—but they all center on the theme of following Christ closely. It is a small attempt to help those who are seeking to be real in their walk with the Lord. The last chapter is specifically written to give new hope to all who have failed and now wonder if God will ever use them again. Nothing in this book is new except the joy I have experienced in following the truths written here. Others have gone before me and experienced the Lord in ways I long to know and learn in this pilgrimage. I follow in their footsteps.

 

Reflecting His Image © 1998, 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. – Where is the Master Plan?

Destined to Soar - KP Yohannan Books

Click the image to download your free copy.

During the last few days of Jesus’ life here on earth, the entire universe, all creation and all the angels in heaven eagerly watched every moment. They didn’t want to miss a second! He was the Lamb of God who was slain before the foundations of the world. Thirty-three years ago, they had witnessed in amazement as Jesus stepped out of eternity into time, becoming a human being in order to redeem mankind. Now He was about to wrap up His mission, but it looked as if He were running out of time, with most of His future strategy still to be set up.

First Peter 1:12 tells us that angels actually long to know the details about our salvation. I suppose they had a thousand questions as they watched Jesus walk toward Calvary.

Once in a missions conference, I heard a speaker detail a possible conversation between one of these curious angels and Jesus. It went something like this:

Angel: Jesus, could You tell me why You came to earth?

Jesus: To save the world.

Angel: How are You going to do this?

Jesus: I am going to die on a cross.

Angel: And then?

Jesus: I am going to rise from the dead and return to heaven.

Angel: But how will people know what You did for them?

Jesus: Well, I have 12 disciples whom I chose out of thousands. These men are going to be My agents of reconciliation and turn the world upside-down.

Angel: Watching them for the last three years hasn’t impressed any of us angels. Are you going to give them Your master plan?

Jesus: What master plan?

Angel: Your detailed strategy for communicating the Gospel message with everyone on earth, changing the world and training others to do the same.

Jesus: I don’t have a plan like that.

Angel: What are You going to do then?

Jesus: I will talk to them about relationship and what it means to abide in My love as I abide in My Father’s love.

Honestly, I am so amazed to read what Jesus actually shared with His disciples just hours before He went to the cross to die. He discussed no master plan, schemes, fundraising methods, building projects, spiritual laws or even Bible verses to memorize.

The entire chapter of John 15 is all about relationship— man’s greatest problem since the Garden of Eden. It was there that our relationship with God was broken, and ever since, all our human relationships have been in total confusion as well. These were the two things Jesus talked about with His followers.

When we read this chapter in John, we could easily misunderstand that Jesus was instructing His disciples on bearing fruit, such as evangelism, witnessing, soul-winning and fulfilling the Great Commission. After all, He told them, “He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit” (John 15:5).

But what Jesus is actually referring to in this chapter is their lives. He is showing them how they will be able to produce the fruit of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5:22–23: “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.”

What Jesus is concentrating on here is not at all the kingdom work that you and I do nor the work the disciples were going to do later on in the book of Acts. The fruit we will bear if we abide in Him is transformed lives. All we do is simply the result of what we have become.

What Jesus explained to His disciples worked so well that we read later on in Acts 17:6, “These who have turned the world upside down have come here too.”

A transformed life will impact everything around it and produce eternal results, without a single struggle to make it happen.

Henry Stanley, a worldly reporter, was sent to the jungles of Africa in search of David Livingstone. The last time the old missionary had been seen was seven years before when he returned to Africa in 1865. Finally, when Stanley found Livingstone in the middle of nowhere, the encounter changed him completely.

Stanley lived with Livingstone for four months, sharing the same hut and every part of his life as well. He watched him closely and listened to his words. To his amazement, he could find no fault in this man. Up to that point, Stanley had been very critical of religion and even described himself as the worst infidel in London. But there in the jungle he encountered a man who simply lived out the words of Jesus: “Leave all and follow Me” (see Luke 18:22). Seeing Livingstone’s love, his zeal and his commitment, Stanley’s heart changed. “I was converted by him,” he wrote, “although he had not tried to do it.”

With all the frantic activities of modern-day Christianity, it is time for us to learn that it is not the plans we make or the programs that matter most, but the simple truth of letting His life flow through us.

Don’t let it end. The journey continues . . .

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.

5 Minutes with K.P. – Because of Jesus

Destined to Soar - KP Yohannan Books

Click the image to download your free copy.

I had never heard anything like it.

In a village on the Gujarat-Madhya Pradesh border in India, 50 families came to know the Lord within a short period of time. These were very simple but God-fearing people who heard the Gospel and responded to Jesus—Jesus who forgave their sins and set them free from bondage.

In the midst of their celebration and joy, they received an ultimatum. Their village chief and a band of others rounded up these 50 families and told them that they could no longer live in the village.

These new Christians hurried to pack their tattered clothes, pots and pans and other few belongings, and then they walked away from everything they had known. Like refugees from a war zone, they trudged out of the village, along with the elderly who could hardly walk, little children and pregnant women.

As they were leaving, the village chief told them that they would be allowed back only on two conditions: payment of a 500-rupee penalty per family, plus each would have to deny Christ.

But not one of them returned. They walked until they finally crossed over the border into Madhya Pradesh, finding shelter under trees in the jungle.

I thought about these people and the suffering and hardship they went through just to survive and find a place to settle down. They were so new to the faith. None of them had any theological background or had had a chance to attend seminars, retreats or Bible studies.

They had never even heard about some of the most elementary truths of the Bible, much less complex issues such as eschatology with its pre-, mid- or post-trib viewpoints. I doubt that any of them knew the books of the Bible. In fact, most of them were illiterate.

What made them willing to walk away from their huts, fields, friends and relatives?

If you asked them, this is what they would tell you: “We are walking away because of one reason—Jesus.”

What causes a young brother in Maharashtra, India, to decide to return to the same village where he was nearly beaten to death for leading 25 people to Christ?

What gives African Christians in Sudan the endurance not to renounce their faith, but to go through continuous suffering, pain and death?

They all understand what it means when Jesus says: “Follow Me.” You see, Christianity is not following a system, theology, doctrines or some ideas. It is following Him.

In all things that we do, we must keep in mind that the highest, most sacred call the Lord gave us is to walk with Him, to love Him and to know Him.

That’s why Paul wrote to the Philippians: “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). In chapter three, he explains the purpose for which he renounced all things—not to reach the whole world with the Gospel, not to become a revolutionary, not to travel all over the world and plant a thousand churches—no, none of those things, but “that I may know Him” (Philippians 3:10).

When we read through the book of Acts and all the letters Paul wrote, we see the result of one man’s commitment to know the Lord. Everything Paul did—evangelism, missions, sacrifice, hard work day and night—it all came out of one thing: loving Jesus, knowing the Lord.

Unless our knowledge of the Bible turns into a relationship with Jesus, the strong winds of persecution, discouragement, enticement from the world, a better job, higher salaries, concerns for the future, life struggles and relationship problems will knock us down; we will no longer closely follow the Lord.

There is no doubt that the three Hebrew young men survived the fiery furnace because of their love for the Lord. That’s the reason the fourth one, the unseen One, was there with them. And Moses rejected his position in Egypt, for by faith he saw “Him who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:27).

Every individual in the Bible who really came through and was approved by the Lord didn’t get there because of his or her achievements. It was because of a close, personal relationship with the Lord. That was the sustaining power.

It takes this kind of love to go through trials and persecution just as those 50 families did who gladly walked away, willing to lose all and live and sleep under some trees in the jungle. Somehow, in their newfound faith, they saw “Him who is invisible” more visibly and tangibly than some of us do, who have learned everything and know our theology inside and out.

Today, the call of Jesus remains fresh and real: “Come, follow Me” (Luke 18:22). His footsteps will take us to the most unreached, to the suffering, to lost and dying millions. But serving them, interceding on their behalf and sacrificing to send missionaries to them will never be a burden for us because it’s all for Him. If we truly see the invisible One, all we do is because of Him, and it is truly our privilege and joy.

His arms are open wide—let us run after Him. 

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.