Monthly Archives: September 2011

5 Minutes with K.P. – When Can We Retire?

Reflecting His Image - KP Yohannan Books

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When can we retire? This is a very real question for us, because we are living in a society in which we have been taught to plan carefully toward a time in our lives when we will have less stress, less responsibility, less work and more time for ourselves.

What about a retirement plan from fighting spiritual battles? I suppose by the time we’ve been a Christian for a few years, we’ve learned that we really can’t afford to retire from fighting the devil without risking major shipwrecks in our lives. Even though this discovery might be terribly bothersome, we know we have no other choice if we want to make it to the end victoriously.

But there is one area in our Christian lives from which we can retire without obvious damage to our faith: the battle on behalf of others! It is definitely easier to retire than to keep fighting this battle.

How much effort is enough, we wonder, as we give of our time, strength, money and intercession? The lost world is so vast that God cannot possibly mean that we take it all on our own shoulders for our entire life. For a little while, perhaps, we might, but surely not until we die. That would mess up all our plans and dreams for an easier life.

“Lord,” we ask, “when can I shake off these burdens and finally live in peace? Don’t you agree that I deserve to enjoy my salvation, my family and my church fellowship after all the work I have done for Your kingdom?”

In Hebrews 13:7, we are reminded to consider those who walked the path before us and to follow their faith and example. With this verse in mind, I want to share with you a little bit about Brother Thomas, one of the senior missionary leaders in India.

As a young man, Brother Thomas gave up everything to follow God’s call to become a pioneer missionary in the state of Rajasthan, one of the most difficult areas for the Gospel in northern India. The tremendous suffering, persecution and hardship he and his wife and a few coworkers went through during the past 35 years are impossible to describe.

Because of God’s grace and Brother Thomas’ faithfulness and leadership, today there is visible fruit of his ministry: 482 churches established, 75 mission schools, 14 orphanages, 11 Bible colleges, seven radio programs in three languages, one mission hospital, six clinics, and church-planting work in 20 leper colonies.

Add to this the thousands of lives, including mine, that have been greatly influenced by this man’s vision for God’s kingdom, his love for the lost and his example of faithfulness and endurance.

Several years ago, I received a letter from Brother Thomas that I would like to share with you. My sincere prayer is that his words will encourage and challenge you, as they did me, to continue to fight the battle on behalf of a lost world. Here is an excerpt from his letter:

I was reading the book of Joshua during my daily devotions when the Lord particularly brought chapter 13, verse 1 to my attention: “Now Joshua was old and stricken in years; and the LORD said unto him, ‘Thou art old and stricken in years, and there remaineth yet very much land to be possessed.’ ”

Most of 1993 until now has been a time of continuous sickness in my life. It started with a cough and cold, until today even while I am writing this report, I am sick. I feel weak. When the Lord was speaking to Joshua after giving 31 kings and kingdoms into his hands, the Lord told him, “It is true that you are old and stricken in years, but there remaineth very much land to be possessed!”

The Lord never gave Joshua any appreciation for acquiring these 31 kingdoms and destroying every individual in them, because it was not done by Joshua but by the Lord. Even now, to go back and possess more land for the Lord has nothing to do with the age of Joshua.

In the same way the Lord is able to give the land of India and its surrounding nations to us in spite of our sickness, weakness and age. I praise God for this promise He has given to us.

Dear friend, if you ever feel the desire to retire from the battle on behalf of the lost world because you think you are too old, too tired or not useful anymore, let me encourage you to remember those who have gone before you. Men like Moses, Joshua and the apostle Paul also encountered the limitations of their physical bodies and mental strength. Yet they stayed in the battle until the end of their lives. Why? They had discovered, like Brother Thomas, that the Lord Himself is doing the fighting. All He looks for is a willing vessel through whom to work. It doesn’t matter how fragile that vessel might be, because the battle is the Lord’s and so is the victory.

Don’t quit; stay in the battle.

 

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. – God Didn’t Do It!

Reflecting His Image - KP Yohannan Books

Click the image to download your free copy.

Lok Bahadur, a man from the country of Nepal, had been suffering from severe back pain for three years. As he began listening to Gospel for Asia’s daily Nepali radio program, he learned that Jesus was the Son of God. That’s when Lok decided to join the broadcaster in a prayer to Jesus. He simply asked the Lord to heal his back.

A few weeks later, our Nepali office received a letter from Lok. With great joy he reported that Jesus had heard his prayer and healed him completely!

For us it’s always an encouragement and a challenge to witness how God delights in answering the prayers of people who often know so little about Him. He responds to their simple faith in Him and the Word of God they have heard.

Whenever Jesus taught His disciples about prayer and serving God, He listed two specific groups of people they were not to imitate. The first group was the Pharisees, whom He often labeled as hypocrites. The second group was the Gentiles living across the border.

I have no doubt that the disciples immediately understood why the Gentiles were totally off course with their idol worship, long and repetitious prayers, and unholy lifestyle. But when Jesus marked the Pharisees as bad examples, He must have shocked everyone who heard Him.

After all, the Pharisees knew the Scriptures like no one else. In fact, they devoted their whole lives to studying the law. They faithfully prayed, fasted, gave alms and tried to keep every requirement they could find. For Peter and the rest of the disciples, it was inconceivable that God could require an even higher level of commitment and service from them. No one could do more!

But Jesus was not looking for a greater number of good works from His followers. Rather, He desired their lives and service to be more effective than that of the Pharisees.

First, He wanted them to be real and to serve God out of love and with all of their hearts. Second, He wanted them to do everything by faith.

That’s where the Pharisees had their blind spot and were dead wrong. They believed God accepted them on the basis of their own righteousness, generated by their effort to keep the law. They never understood Genesis 15:6, “And he [Abraham] believed in the LORD; and He accounted it to him for righteousness.” Hebrews 11:6 makes it even more plain: “But without faith it is impossible to please Him [God].”

For us who have received salvation through faith in Jesus, to continue walking by faith should be easy. But that’s where we miss it the most. Whenever we fail to enter the realm of faith in our prayer life and service to God, everything we do or accomplish remains in the realm of the physical: our own selves.

Perhaps we don’t realize the seriousness of our “great works” done without faith. Hebrews 4:2 explains that even chaos, destruction and death can result if we do not combine God’s Word and faith in our hearts: “For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.”

Consider the Israelites. Can you imagine several million people who left Egypt, crossed the Red Sea, were fed by manna from heaven and were led by a pillar of fire at night and a pillar of cloud by day? They encountered God, made a covenant with Him, received the law and defeated every enemy with His help.

After a short trip, they arrived excitedly at the border of their promised land. Just a few more days and they would enter in. All they were waiting for was the report of the 12 spies Moses had sent ahead of them. With great anticipation they welcomed the men back and gathered to hear what they had found out on their mission.

“There are giants in the land and huge, fortified cities,” 10 of them reported. “It’s impossible for us to defeat them.” Those few words started a riot. The other two men, Joshua and Caleb, tried their best to persuade the people to put their faith in God and believe His promises. But it was too late—the damage was already done. The people’s hearts were defiled by the negative reports.

The rest of the story and the account of what happened to the Israelites are written in Numbers 14. First, they never entered their promised land. Second, God gave them exactly what they had asked for when they had grumbled, “Would God that we had died in this wilderness!” (Numbers 14:2, KJV). They had to wander 40 years in the desert until that entire generation had died, except for Joshua and Caleb.

We might ask ourselves, “Why did God do such a cruel thing to these people? What possible enjoyment could He get out of it?”

God didn’t do it! They themselves caused it to happen! You see, the living God is bound and restricted by His own Word. That’s the reason He has said, “But the just shall live by his faith” (Habakkuk 2:4).

The commentary on this law is the account in Hebrews 4:2: “But the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.” They died without another chance.

This verse is probably the most serious warning for us as believers. You see, we too have received God’s promises for our lives and our service for Him:

•   If our family is unsaved: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:31).

•   If we are in need of healing: “And by His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).

•   When we have needs: “And my God shall supply all your need . . . ” (Philippians 4:19).

•   When we feel lonely: “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

•   If we lack strength: “But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength” (Isaiah 40:31).

•   For our ministry: “Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you” (Joshua 1:3).

The Bible contains hundreds of promises that God is eager to fulfill in our lives as we walk with Him. Yet we will never see a single one come to pass unless the Word we have received from Him is united by faith in our hearts.

Only those who are weak in themselves can believe God for the impossible.

 

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. – Anyone Can Criticize

Reflecting His Image - KP Yohannan Books

Click the image to download your free copy.

Sixty thousand football fans fill the stadium to watch the most exciting event of the year—the Super Bowl. While spectators relax in their seats, drink their favorite soft drinks and eat their popcorn, the two teams in front of them are involved in the hardest battle of their lives. Each player is giving his utmost. Each tries his best to catch the football, run almost world-record speeds to score points and risk everything he has to win the game and a Super Bowl ring. The players are desperate in their efforts, regarding hard work, sweat, agony, physical exhaustion and possibly even injury as part of their pursuit of glory.

While these 22 men race across the field, covered with dirt, giving their all, the 60,000 spectators contribute absolutely nothing to the game, except some cheers . . . and their expert criticism. Very few of them would have even a fraction of the athletic ability to take the place of one of those players, but they consider themselves qualified to criticize every move these 22 men make. The truth is, any fool can criticize, but it takes someone with character, discipline and willingness to work hard and truly accomplish something.

In our world, it seems impossible to escape criticism. If we do poorly at school or at work, people will criticize us. Should we do well and excel in business, we still face criticism from people who are jealous of our success. It seems to be a favorite pastime of the human race to take one person after another, good or bad, and “skin them alive” with criticism.

What makes people act this way? Psychologists say one of the underlying reasons people criticize each other is to take revenge for the hurts they once received. Whether deserved or not, criticism is always painful. No one likes it. Yet people seem to enjoy themselves when others are cut down.

Most believers have accepted the fact that the world will criticize us regardless of how saintly we may live or how many charitable contributions we may make. However, I have found that the greatest shock and discouragement for believers come when they realize that they encounter this same heartless criticism from their brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ. Of course, God never meant this to happen. But many Christians have never allowed the Lord to cleanse their lives from this destructive behavior. It’s a very serious problem; and if it is not dealt with, it easily can destroy a church.

Imagine this: Jesus, the sinless Son of God, faced His worst criticism—not from the Roman government or from ungodly people—but from the most recognized and pious religious leaders of His nation. Paul experienced the same thing. His worst critics were people inside the Church, not the heathen he tried to win. In fact, he deals very thoroughly with this problem in his second letter to the church in Corinth.

Perhaps you have served the Lord with all your heart in your local church or in a mission organization. You have truly poured out your life in service to others. While you were doing your very best, others around you behaved like those spectators at the football game. They watched you fight the battle; and instead of encouraging your efforts, they criticized everything you tried to do.

Whether criticism comes from the world or from within the Church, it is important for us to know how we should respond to it. The Bible clearly instructs us in Romans 12:17 not to pay back evil for evil, which means we must not lash out and respond in anger in the same manner we were treated. On the contrary, God wants us to respond differently. We are to maintain our love for the brothers and trust the Lord to handle our defense. Only if we do this will the cycle of destructive criticism be broken.

The feelings of deep hurt and discouragement that follow criticism can easily bring us to a point of despair, giving up our calling or even suicide. In no way must we allow this to happen! If we give in, the enemy has reached his goal of stopping us from building God’s kingdom.

Let us take Jesus and the apostle Paul as our examples and act like they did when they were confronted with severe criticism. They never allowed these things to hinder or stop them from following God’s call. Their allegiance and faithfulness were to God alone and were independent from whatever others said. With their total focus fixed on the goal set before them, they were able to endure until the end and fulfill their calling.

Paul shared openly in his letter to the church in Corinth about the criticism he faced from some of that church’s self-appointed leaders. In 2 Corinthians 10:7–18, he addressed the issue of being belittled by them and having his authority questioned. If we read his response to their accusations, we cannot help but recognize that Paul wasn’t threatened by their criticism. He knew exactly who he was in Christ, what position he held in God’s kingdom and how much authority he had received from the Lord as an apostle. He didn’t try to impress his critics or the church by fighting for his rights or proving his superiority. He felt totally secure in his position and would have simply told them: “Whether I am absent or present with you, I am the same Paul. There is no pretense or games with me. I live what I am in Christ, and that’s all.”

The best we can do when we receive criticism is to look at it objectively. If the accusations are simply empty talk, we should dismiss them and by God’s grace go on with our life. On the other hand, if there is any truth in the criticism, let us be willing to change, improve and grow in that area.

As believers, we are commanded to love and serve one another, just as Jesus did. That doesn’t mean we’re supposed to close our eyes when we see a brother or sister err. The Lord has given us the responsibility to watch out for each other so that all of us will win the race. This includes helping one another to correct mistakes and overcome defeats. However, to accomplish this, we are allowed to use only constructive criticism and never any words that will destroy our brother or sister. Constructive criticism flows out of a deep love and genuine concern for the person who needs help. It’s never associated with gossip, revenge or anger.

Jesus used this kind of criticism with His disciples when they slept instead of prayed or totally lacked faith for a situation. However, He talked to them in private with gentleness and a readiness to forgive, bear their shortcomings and even wash their feet. He had their best interests in mind and was willing to lay down His life for each of them. His goal was to build them up in every way possible. Even when He had to correct them often and they felt terrible after they failed, they always knew He did it out of love so they could grow.

We must truly have the mind of Christ when we deal with other believers and the world around us. Anyone can criticize, but we have received the power of God to build up. Let’s use it!

Remember the words of Christ in John 8:7: “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”

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. – Motivations

Reflecting His Image - KP Yohannan Books

Click the image to download your free copy.

Almost daily we are exposed by television, radio or newspapers to disasters, famines and much human suffering around the world. And added to this, we are reminded frequently of the millions who die daily without ever hearing the Gospel of Christ.

But as followers of Christ, we know that we can’t just “walk away and forget it.” Therefore, many of us get personally involved or give to various causes, ministries and organizations.

But as a Christian, have you ever examined yourself and honestly answered the question, “Why do I give, pray or get involved in this or that activity for the kingdom of God?” Is it because the cause presented is so urgent or desperate? Is it because of some internal guilt feeling? Or is it because you are so overpowered by compassion or pity?

All these reactions are normal human responses; but according to the Bible, they are not good enough reasons to give to the Lord!

Then, of course, there is one more reason that probably motivates more believers to do good works than any of the above. This “reason” is that we are told that God is in terrible trouble and we need to help Him out! The appeal usually goes something like this:

“Things” are going to crumble . . . Christian media programs will have to go off the air . . . building projects will be shut down . . . social programs can no longer be continued . . . souls will go to hell, if you don’t give now.

This is actually an appeal to our unbelief. And worst of all, we are reminded that if these things happen, God’s glory will be gone, and the devil will win—unless, of course, we come to the rescue!

Now, I don’t doubt that a number of those projects would not be able to continue without these kinds of appeals! Sadly, we have been trained for decades to give to this kind of request—and too many Christians only give when they hear needs presented in this faithless way. But I also believe the main reason some of those projects would “go under” is because God never ordained them in the first place! Or maybe He is trying to get our attention because He wants to create something newer or better.

I’ve always believed that God is not in any financial trouble. We never need to panic, thinking that somehow we need to help Him out of a tight spot. He has made no promise that He is not able to keep. God is not helplessly looking at a lost world hoping that someone will finally feel guilty enough to do something. He promised that His kingdom will never fall—and the gates of hell will not prevail against His Church. He has enough power to complete whatever He sets out to do.

God is not the One in trouble—we are. We don’t understand that He doesn’t want our money unless He can have our hearts first!

Isaiah would be shocked. Ezekiel would be shaken. Jeremiah would be shattered. If these prophets were alive today, they would barely believe what their eyes would see. There is an abomination in the household of God.

Unsaved marketing experts write appeal letters for money-starved ministries . . .

Huge computer printers spew out mass produced “personal prophetic words” by the thousands . . .

Women in skin tight bodysuits advertise the latest in “Christian aerobics” . . .

TV preachers in costly apparel promise you riches if you send tithes to their ministry . . .

The blood-washed Church of the Son of God has gone Madison Avenue. Let the prophets weep and wail! The mighty have fallen—and fallen and fallen. Who would have thought we could have stooped so low?

The children of the Lord are hiring out the people of the world to help raise funds for the work of God. Sons of darkness are being consulted on how to merchandise the gospel of light. The hand of God has become attached to an arm of flesh. How can this possibly be?

There was a talented young man in the fund raising industry. He had written many outstanding appeals for religious and secular clients alike. His prize winning letters hung framed on his office wall. He knew how to bring in the bucks. But he didn’t know the Lord at all.

He had just finished writing an emergency plea for a prominent international ministry when he received word that his Christian grandmother was dying. He rushed to her side. But she had only one concern. She had to get her social security check mailed out to that very ministry before she died. She had just received their urgent appeal. They desperately needed her help. Could her grandson please send out the funds—before it was too late?

Little did she know that it was not her beloved “TV pastor” who wrote the letter. Little did she know that she was being moved by worldly psychological pressure and not the Spirit. And that young man, her own grandson, was to blame.

He was so shaken up when he saw the effects of his letter that he said, “Never again.” He swore off the business for life. But the ministry that hired him just marched right on. How many other dying grandmothers did they plunder? How many poor widows sent in their last dollar? And how much of that money was paid out to the marketing company? How much actually went into the work of the Lord?

God could easily do all His work by Himself without our involvement. After all, He spoke the world into existence. He doesn’t need us to get Him out of a disaster. Some of us have our theology all wrong. We don’t understand the role that God has created for us—submission to Him and utter dependence on Him in all we do and undertake.

God has commanded the Church to evangelize the lost because He wants to give us the privilege of learning to obey Him and to love this needy world as He does. He wants His people to participate with Him in the redemption of the world!

It is our greatest privilege, then, to serve Him out of love.

Because we have failed to understand this great truth, we serve Him with the wrong motives. No wonder so much of the Church today lacks commitment. No wonder our own personal Christian walks lack power and joy. With wrong motives, our service for Christ naturally has become a burden—and even a guilt trip for many.

Let us once again return to loving the Lord above all our programs, possessions and our very lives. Then our service, our giving and our praying will turn from being a burden into the greatest privilege and joy we have on this earth.

Remember, you are not your own.

“Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the LORD our God” (Psalm 20:7).

Let God be God in your life.

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.