Everybody likes ‘new beginnings’, fresh starts! Having said that, I also believe in continuity and faith-fulness to the task at hand or, in the way I sign off my letters – ‘Pressing On’. There is much value in ‘positive, forward thinking’. I understand the Greek god Janus, from whom we get the name for the month January, has two faces. One looks backward with a frown, and the other ahead with a confident smile. Paul, the early Church’s missionary and gospel preacher was once Saul of Tarsus, its menace and persecutor. But, an encounter with the resurrected Jesus, transformed his life. He made a startling statement in Phil. 3:13-14 that can help us have a fresh start and as Christians ‘press on’ in our faith, work and witness, no matter what…
Paul declared: This ‘one thing’ I do, forgetting the things behind and reaching forward to the things before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Paul was Christianity’s greatest theologian, a well-traveled missionary, evangelist, church planter, pastor, minister in fact, over half the literature and library we call the ‘New Testament’ was penned by this apostle. What didn’t he do? Yet, amazingly he was a specialist in singleness of purpose: acutely focused with dogged determination to do ‘one thing’– press on! This he did quite simply by forgetting what is behind him and focusing on what was before (v.13). What does this mean and how can it motivate me?
1. Elimination: Forget what lies behind
At times I wish my mind had ‘total recall’ yet often I’ve coveted the gracious ‘gift of forgetfulness’ for some of life’s painful situations. Surely Paul is not referring to a state of mind that forgets history, one’s responsibility or ‘all God’s benefits / blessing’ (Psa.103:2). Rather, this a selective forgetfulness that chooses not to dwell on those aspects from the past that interfere and ruin living well in the present. Anxiety can clog what we ought to do ‘here and now’. Worries are yesterday’s mice eating today’s cheese!
First, past sins must be put away. Our failures and short-comings from the past can haunt us and soon hinder us from effective service then hold us back from receiving what God has for us, here-and-now! Why do we dig up and fish for that which God does not hold against us but buried in the depths of the sea? (Isa.38:17; Psa.51:7; 103:12; Mic.7:19) If the Devil does, we must remind him of God’s abundant mercy and grace. Apart from ‘besetting sins’ there are ‘weights’ to cast off that slow us down in this race-of-life (Heb.12:1).
Second, surprisingly, past successes must put aside. Paul uses the analogy of a Greek marathon runner. How true, our past victories can make us conceited or so content that we become complacent- mediocre and lethargic. But notice it is not just the bad things Paul was laying aside but also the good for the Best, what he once counted ‘gain’, i.e. his worldly accomplishments and self-righteousness. Now, that’s hard! It is precisely here that we must ask ‘why’ did Paul delibrately embraced such a view.
2. Exertion: Focus on what lies ahead
Winston Churchill once warned, ‘If the present quarrels with the past there can be no future’! I believe it was Bonhoeffer, who came out of the Nazi camp who said: He who has a ‘why’ for living can face the ‘how’ of life’s struggles! Paul’s life’s ambition (3:10) placed him among ‘the Unstoppables’ and in his image of an athlete we see two clear motivational factors: the mark i.e. his Goal and what he reckoned as prize or reward i.e. his Gain.
First, consider the challenge Paul’s goal posited. It made him to concentrate and ‘press on’, to reach out, stretch and strain every muscle to get his body into motion. There was a cause as well as a cost. Winning the prize meant paying the price – that discipline and audacity to keep on keeping on. There is only one place where success comes before work– in the English Dictionary, everywhere else its ‘no pain; no gain’. It is incredible to see what a deep sense of what my destiny is, can actually do to me and for me.
Next, consider the crown Paul’s reward promised. ‘Where’ Paul was heading determined ‘what’ he chose to leave behind as well as his perspective on those things he was leaving behind. ‘Things’ he once deemed as gain he now calculated as ‘loss’, even ‘dung’ in exchange for ‘knowing’, ‘being found in’ and ‘becoming like’ a person – his Lord, Jesus. His destiny is not a place but to ‘be with Christ’ – a Treasure and ‘Pearl of great price’ worth trading for everything else in life. In Paul’s sanctified aspiration, we find no ‘I can’ activism or ‘may be’ passivism, but a sure and steadfast hope. Not a fading earthly crown (stephenos) but Christ himself was his Vision, Mission and Ambition!
Hudson Taylor, missionary to China, pronounced: “I am willing to go anywhere, as long as it is forward, onward and Christward’. Let us with undivided hearts not look back and worry, but count the cost and press on toward this high and upward call in Christ Jesus. The winner of the Greek Olympics was given much honor. An effigy of his face was craved in marble and he was given a front seat in every game. He was exempted from paying taxes to Rome but most of all, he would receive a crown that laurel wreath from Caesar himself. My goal is to be with Christ and one day hear Him say to me: ‘Well Done! My good and faithful servant’. Till then, may we also demonstrate that ‘to live is Christ, and to die is gain’. Remember: the Christian’s past is under the blood – forget it, the present is under the cross – live it, the future is under the crown – go for it!
No other topic evokes my attention as the subject of pride. This may be because the Lord has caused me to become more aware of its vicious activity within me. Praise be to the Lord of mercy!
The worst nature of pride is that it is best visible in others than in oneself, unless the Lord mercifully opens our eyes to see its merciless destructive work within us and through us in others.
“Father in Heaven, enlighten our eyes to clearly see that arrogance within us and deliver us for this evil. Humble us, O God of humility, to walk with you intimately and to get along with people peacefully.”
It’s always humbling to read on pride. In my personal study on this pathetic topic, I recently came across an intriguing description on pride penned by Beth Moore. May the Lord use this to help us know the deceptive nature of pride within us.
Remember, pride is no friend of us; it is a deadly foe. The more we nourish it, the more it ruins us from within and without. It gives a good feeling of yourself while degrading you before others.
So, here is pride personified:
My name is Pride. I am a cheater.
I cheat you of your God-given destiny…because
you demand your own way.
I cheat you of contentment…because
you “deserve better than this.”
I cheat you of knowledge…because
you already know it all.
I cheat you of healing…because
you are too full of me to forgive.
I cheat you of holiness…because
you refuse to admit when you are wrong.
I cheat you of genuine friendship…because
nobody’s going to know the real you.
I cheat you of love…because
real romance demands sacrifice.
I cheat you of greatness in heaven…because
you refuse to wash another’s feet on earth.
I cheat you of God’s glory…because
I convince you to seek your own.
My name is Pride. I am a cheater.
You like me because you think I’m always looking out for you.
Untrue! I’m looking to make a fool of you.
God has much for you, I admit, but don’t worry…
If you stick with me, you’ll never know.
Note:  Beth Moore, Praying God's Word (Nashville, Tennessee: B & H Publishing Group, 2009), pg. 59
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I have a young rapper friend, Jeevan. God has been using his style and music to bring many pub goers and drug addicts to Jesus. He is at times disliked by some traditional Christians for wearing his hair in dreadlocks. Let’s not forget that we are all in the process of being shaped according to God’s will. We would not want to be found judging someone’s appearance to please our cultural mannerisms; God has different purposes with each of our lives. The Lord enabled me to serve and fellowship with him in a closer way. I realized that God could use his music to go to places and reach out in a way I was not called to do.
Some Christians argue that music is not important and the message is all that matters. But in fact, the question is not really whether music is as important as the message. Music is just one of the different mediums that is used to spread the gospel. Some use puppet shows, some use music, some others just scream it out without a tune. Each medium and style reaches out to an audience that no other medium can reach out to.
Here are few thoughts to ponder on about Music and the Church.
The type of music differs from one culture to another. It is a fact that music and cultural identity go hand in hand. If you decide to sing hardcore rock-style song in your service, you will have some who will dislike you for it and some who will really appreciate it. If music is a medium to bring people closer to Christ, then pay attention to the community’s needs that you minister to.
Don’t Beat it Down
Even as musicians try to be culturally relevant, the Church must also be conscious to the need of the present generation. It is true that music has changed a lot from the last decade to this. The style of songs that were sung in the last generation is no more the ‘in thing’ for this generation. And very often, I have seen pastors and worship leaders go tight fisted about what kind of songs are to be sung. While being relevant, it is good to bring balance and keep up with the times as well.
Turn the Lights on Jesus
I would not go as far to say that there is too much attention given to the execution of the worship today because I believe that it is also important that we do things in style for the King of Kings. But there is caution that we need to exercise. Do not let the focus be turned away from the Creator to the creation of the music. It is possible that music can be so good that people are lost in the talent and not in worship. You are a fine worship leader when you can step back and people are still lost in worship.
Fine Tune it
Now the style, the culture, people’s likes and dislikes; none of it should stop you from doing what you do in an excellent manner. Find the right chord, learn the best technique and get the best tune for your Master’s presence. Aim at the best in the best possible manner without sowing rebellion. Remember to cater to the diverse taste of your audience in the service. Lean not on your own understanding. Seek God to fill you with wisdom for every individual service. It is only the presence of God that can change the hearts of the people. Soak in God till He stands out louder than your music – now that’s fine tuning!
And till that day (Revelation 7: 9-10) where we all meet in heaven and sing the heavens song, in heaven’s style with heaven’s music, the Holy Spirit will be your helper.
What do you like to see the church accommodate in terms of music?
What are the challenges you face with music in your church?
These days as spiritual things gets commercialised just like any other market commodities in the buisness, we as christians have truly lost what it means to be in relationship and intimacy with Jesus. The saints of old longed for fellowship with God, this was the greatness in life they intensely desired after. Loving Jesus in an intimate way will make our hearts tender and will lead us to love others unconditionally (Matt 18:3; 1 John 4:20-21). This is what made the apostles who were sold out lovers of Jesus to share through their apostolic letters, how we as the child of God can have a tangible fellowship daily with Jesus (1 John 1:3; 1 Cor 1:9). The apostles were men full of joy and swam being drunk in the Spirit (1 John 1:4; Eph 5:18). These apostolic men hardly were able to remember their miseries of life because they were too drunk in the Spirit of Christ to remember it (Prov 31:7; Rom 8:9).
They were too addicted and enraptured to the contagious and ecstatic Joy that they experienced daily in fellowship with Jesus, they were not able to clearly express to people what makes them experience such heavenly life on earth and finally told to the people to believe the word of God to experience such Joy in their lives too (1 Peter 1:8; Acts 3:19). They never thought that they were sacrificing their life greatly for God, but they considered the ministry that they were doing as a privilege that God has given it to them mercifully because of His great unconditional love toward them (1 Tim 1:12).
The one thing that the apostles consistently desired in their lives was to live like Jesus lived on earth. They wanted to speak like Jesus, behave like Jesus, love like Jesus, eat like Jesus, sleep like Jesus, walk like Jesus and die like Jesus. In other words, they wanted their heart to beat the same way like Jesus. They had great apostolic family and fellow apostles around them, but they never looked on to their lives as any examples to emulate in their lives (1 Cor 11:1). Their eyes were fixed on Jesus and consistently exhorted the apostolic believers to live like they lived because of the qulaity of abundant life they experienced (Heb 12:2). The one desire that the apostles had in the recesses of their heart for the believers was to take their lives as a pattern to walk, be intimate with Jesus, walk in the joy of the Lord that is set before them always and set themselves as an example for others to follow (Phil 3:17; Phil 4:4).
These men knew what it means when the Bible says, "Much water may not put out love, or the deep waters overcome it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would be judged a price not great enough." (Sos 8:7, BBE). They gave up their possesions, status, frienships, comfort and even their time spent with their family to follow this embodiment of love whose name is Jesus (Matt 19:27; Phil 3:7-8). If we ask the question, what did they find in Jesus that they were willing to lose their very life for Him? In Jesus they found the true meaning for the existence of life. They found a passion for living that they did not find anywhere in the world. In short, by willingly losing interest in all the temporal things which they held as something of great value in their past life, they found out the very reason for the existence of life on earth (Matt 10:39; John 14:6). This is why the only man who was called by God as the one after His own heart said this wonderful statement, "Your unfailing love is better than life itself; how I praise You!" (Psa 63:3, NLT).
The true mark of a man of God is not how big and powerful their ministries are, but how devoted they are to Jesus in this life. This is the scale of measurement that should be used to measure a man or a woman of God.
Read the following devotion of the great man of God Thomas O. Chisholm and his desire to be like Jesus that drove him in to deeper intimacy with Jesus and be inspired to follow Jesus with the heart beat that he has expressesed in the follwing poem,
I have one deep supreme desire,
That I may be like Jesus.
To this I fervently aspire,
That I may be like Jesus.
I want my heart His throne to be,
So that a watching world may see
His likeness shining forth in me;
I want to be like Jesus.
Oh, perfect life of Christ my Lord,
I want to be like Jesus.
My recompense and my reward,
That I may be like Jesus.
His Spirit fill my hung'ring soul,
His power all my life control;
My deepest pray'r, my highest goal,
That I may be like Jesus.
-- Thomas O. Chisholm
My question to you is, 'Are you longing for fellowship and intimacy with Jesus?' I praise God if you really are, other wise I advice you to change priority and spend your time with Jesus daily (Eccl 12:13). At the end of your small life that God has given you (Ps 90:10), all that matters will be how much time have you spend with Jesus alone. The out of this world retirement benefits awaits you if you are really intimate with Jesus now. The supernatural heavenly world's joy, empowerment and satisfaction is yours, if you continue to carry your cross that Jesus has given you in order to be yoked with Him and fullfill His plan for your life (Matt 10:38-39; Mark 8:34-35; Luke 14:26-27).
In The New York Times last week (27 November 2010), Paul Vitello reported on a debate which has been sparked by a Hindu group’s campaign trying to reclaim yoga as belonging to “the Hindu religion”.
Apparently, yoga is practised by about 15 million people in the United States, “for reasons almost as numerous - from the physical benefits mapped in brain scans to the less tangible rewards that New Age journals call spiritual centering. Religion, for the most part, has nothing to do with it”.
Well, religion may have nothing to do with yoga, so far as Americans are concerned, but that is precisely what this Hindu group is complaining about: they would like the popularity of yoga to produce some mileage for “Hinduism”!
Predictably, reactions to the campaign ranged from sympathetic to oppositonal. For example, Deepak Chopra has, according to the report, dismissed the campaign as it is based on “a jumble of faulty history and Hindu nationalism”.
I guess anyone’s response to the campaign will depend on what exactly one means by “yoga” (Indian tradition distinguishes between many different sorts of yoga).
Also on whether there is such a thing as “Hinduism” - or whether there are in fact “many Hinduisms”, as I tried to show as long ago as 1984 in my little booklet titled Indian Spirituality (available for free download – or, if that fails for any reason, directly from me).
Briefly, my position is that yoga did not originate in whatever one might call “Hinduism” today, but in those traditions that opposed what was Hinduism at that time - specifically, yoga originated in the traditions that eventually ended up creating Buddhism and Jainism (which are clearly Indian traditions, but whether they are “Hindu” or not is a point that can be, and has been, argued either way; originally yoga was “anti-Hindu”).
Actually, few people care about the zig-zag and contradictory history of the relationship between yoga and “Hinduisms”.
Since the debate in the USA is principally about Hatha Yoga (the physical aspects of yoga - which are not usually linked to philosophy, ritual, etc), I guess we should say that today yoga is simply another form of exercise.
That is the case not only in the West, but also in India!
South Asian Concern