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Striving In Prayer?

Question text:  Why did God wrestle with Jacob in Genesis 32? What was the point?

Answer text:  You have a very good question.  Many well meaning Christians do not understand the logic of prayer.  They say, rightly so, that God is loving and almighty and He knows all our needs even before we ask Him.  No loving parent who knows the need of children would ever wait for children to ask. But Jesus, after telling that our father knows  before we ask goes on to say, “Therefore pray in this way “(Mt.6:9).   Please note the last phrase of the verse in Mt. 7:11.  “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father in Heaven give good things to those who ask Him?” (Matthew 7:11).  And James says, “you have not… because you ask not” (Js.4:2).

The Bible contains what is known as progressive revelation.  For example, if the Book of Revelation was not there, we would not have known who that serpent was who came to the garden of Eden to deceive Eve.  But Rev.12:9 makes it clear that it was the Devil who was that old servant.   Now, the OT can be understood  only in the light of the NT.  While OT is the shadow of things to come, NT makes things explicit.   In OT we read about men praying.  The NT makes it clear that with out prayer God would not do any thing spiritual in the world today (Mt.7:7; Js.4:2). The NT also goes on to say  that the will of God is achieved only through striving in prayer (Rom.15:30-32).  Striving in prayer is essential  not because God is unwilling to fulfill His promises but because Satan is against us enjoying God’s best for us.

One of the greatest truths of the Bible is that God does NOT fight the devil!   How can the infinite God fight against his own finite creature who rebelled against Him?  After all, when God became man in Christ our Lord,  He asked us to love our enemies.  How could He Himself fight against His own enemy?  Satan knows it and He prevents man from enjoying God’s best for them.  But we can resist the devil and remove Satanic hindrance for us to enter into the perfect will  of God.

This is the truth that is exemplified in the life of Jacob.  At Bethel God promised  Jacob that He would bless him (Gen.28).  Jacob, after 20 years of his sojourn,  became more miserable and helpless.  But then at Peniel (ch.32) Jaocb wrestles with the Lord and enters into the blessing that was promised at Bethel.  His name was changed now.  So wrestling in prayer is not trying to move an unwilling God but rather it is resisting against the devil to remove his hindrance  to obtain the promises of God.

Again this truth is exemplified in the life of Daniel.  In ch.9 Daniel learns that the captivity was to come to an end at the end of 70 years.  Living at the end of 70 years Daniel turns his face to God in fasting and in prayer asking God to fulfill His promises for His people.  In the tenth chapter of Daniel we see that Daniel had to fast and pray for 21 days (or wrestle in prayer) to remove Satanic hindrance before he could get answer from the Lord  (Dan.10:2,3  cf.vv.12,13).

Let us learn this truth clearly that all promises of God remain promises unless they are claimed in prayer.  There are areas where Satanic hindrance is heavy and we need to strive in prayer before we can enter into the promises of God.  May the Lord help us to learn this truth and may He give us grace to strive in prayer against Satan and his viles. If interested please read my small book on prayer from www.mathewpaul.org/category/book-on-prayer . God bless

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Posted by on March 21, 2011 in Prayer

 

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Bindi (Hindu mark of respect) and Christian believer.

Queston text:  Is wearing Bindi(Mostly Indian women wear on middle of forehead) wrong in christianity? Give us bibilical answer please.

 
               
Answer text:  

Indian culture is very much influenced by the Indian religion. In fact, it is very difficult to separate Indian culture from its religion. Most of the cultural practices are based on some religious concepts. Bindi is no exception. It was originally given by the poojaries as a mark of approval after idols were worshipped. Though Bindi today has become just a beauty spot, originally it has had its religious implications. Now to answer your question whether it is right for a Christian believer to use it, you need to see it in this light. We are commanded in the Bible that no relics of idolatry is to be brought home lest we be cursed(Dt.7:25,26). Read what the Psalmist would say about other gods in Psa.16:4. God hates idolatry and worship of other gods because it destroys the worshipper and takes the worshipper away from God for time and for eternity. So no trace of idolatry is to be found any where near the child of God. God bless!

 
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Posted by on May 27, 2010 in Christian life, Uncategorized

 

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Changing Name to Follow Christ

Question Text: There is a recent convert to Christ out of Islam and he feels that he needs to change his name and I am urging him not to. He lives in Yemen and I feel it would put his life in danger and I feel that he can be a testimony for the Lord with a Muslim name. Can you give me some advice to share with him, please. Thanks, Ralph

 
   

Answer Text:  It is true that God has changed the names of a few people in the Bible.  Notable ones are Abraham and Jacob in the Old Testament and Peter in the New Testament.  But if we were to look at the names of the New Testament, majority of them, yes indeed,  very few ever changed their own names,  I can give you dozens of examples of pure Greek and Roman names which have no religious significance at all.  For example the name Philip  means ‘lover of horse’.  Luke means light etc.  Please look through all the NT names and you will hardly find any one who changed their names.  God changed the names of a few only and the number of those whose names were changed could be easily counted on fingers while numerous names are found in the NT.  So God does not require a name change if some one was to follow Christ.  Look at it this way.  Some one with a Muslim name can go as a Muslim and be accepted as such in the society.  And it gives an opportunity for him to witness personally to all who will come into contact with him.  But if he changes his name and accepts a  so-called Christian name (remember that there are no christian names.  They were either Jewish, Greek or Roman names of people who followed Christ), he is likely to be isolated from society and some times he is in the danger of getting killed for openly challenging their age old tradition.    Our Lord taught us that a little leaven leavens the whole lump and we all know that leaven does not remain isolated in the lump to perform its function.  Again, we are the salt of the earth.  As long as salt remains isolated it can not savor food.  May your friend see this truth and may he continue to be known by his original name as name is not what makes a person a Christian but his faith and His inner character.  God bless.

 
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Posted by on April 13, 2010 in Christian life

 

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Brahmin Wanting To Be Christian.

Question Text “|: I am born a Hindu (Brahmin). My family is a staunch Hindu one.   Unfortunately, Hinduism has rampant caste system, in which our families believe. There are several (I mean hundreds) blind practices our families follow, and we are not allowed to question them! They expect us to follow these traditions and practices (including severe forms of untouchability, casteism, hypocrisy, so on) very obediently.  I am very frustrated by such a religion. Just because we were born into it doesn`t mean we need to be in such a dark religion life long! This is where we need your help sir. All of a sudden, I felt being called by Jesus. I started reading more and more about Him, till I realized He has to be my Lord. His forgiveness, His love, His life – all these attracted me to Him. After several months of reflectioion,  I am convinced that I  should follow Jesus. The problem is I have none to guide me. It looks like I am alone in this journey. In particular, I am drawn to Protestantism. Can you please guide me  in whatever way you think will help me? What all should I do in this transformation? 

I have some specific questions too: 1. I will be staying with my parents (who are staunch Hindus) for 1 year. So in this 1 year, I cannot take any `visible` steps towards Christianity. I really want to be a Christian, and be proud about it. And I don`t want to hurt my family. If I tell them about my becoming a Christian, they will disown me and get deeply hurt. I am so confused about how to manage this situation. And right now, is there anything I can do without getting baptized? I am not a scripture oriented person. I just want to lead my life as Jesus taught. Can you please suggest me a simple lifestyle till I get baptized? 2. I want to know why there are denominations within Christianity and specifically in Protestantism. 3. There is a Protestant Church in our city (Bangalore, India) that I have been to once. Since I am Hindu now, I feel somewhat weird and a little scared as to how the Pastor and others may feel and react. Is it normal? And what should be my first step towards becoming Christian? 4. How should I pray to Jesus?  I don`t have His photo. Is that required? What is the `method` to pray to Him? 5. Should I change my name on baptism?

Answer Text:  

I am so glad to meet you with your questions.  May the Lord guide you in your desire to be His follower.Before answering your queries, let me just give you a link from where you can read about Anand Mahadevan, Business Editor of Outlook India. Anand published his testimony in the opinion column of their magazine and publicly declared that he is a follower of Christ for the last 15 years, though he was born and brought up in a staunch Brahmin family. This he published at the time when riots were taking place in Orissa last year reconverting Christians into Hinduism. http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?238770  . For some reason if you can not open that link, this article is published in Oct.27,2008 issue of Outlook India. It is a must read for you.

Now let me try to answer your questions from No.5-1. Your fifth question was whether you should change your name at baptism. If you have been able to read Anand by now, you would have learnt that he not only did NOT change his name, he did NOT throw away any of the cultural traits which was NOT against the Bible. The Bible does NOT require you to change any thing except your heart. In fact, the Bible asks you to continue in the social and cultural stream where you were at the time of accepting Christ. `Each of you should remain as you were when you accepted God`s call` (1Co 7:20). One of the reasons why Christian faith did NOT impact the high castes of India is that the early missionaries did not remove the offence of the gospel as they preached Christ here. The impression that high caste Indians got was that one should become meat eaters and wine drinkers to become followers of Christ!!  What a tragedy!! I wish you would remain a Brhmin as far as your food habits and other habits which do not go against the gospel. So, please do NOT think of a new name for yourself or a new way of eating or dressing to follow Christ. NO!!

 Now, in your fourth question you asked about praying to Jesus. There is absolutely NO formality at all when it comes to praying to Jesus. Prayer is talking to God. If you want to talk to your friends, you go near or get connected. Like that, if you want to talk to God, go to a quiet place and get connected to Him. The amazing thing is that God has already spoken to us and it is found in the Bible. So when you want to talk to God, first listen to what He has to say by reading the Bible. As you read the Bible desire in your heart to hear the voice of God and tell Him, ` O God, speak to me`. When He speaks to you as you read the Bible, be prepared to do what He says. Then you can open your heart and tell Him every thing as you tell your friend. God`s years are open to our prayers any time. And the first thing we need to get from God is His forgiveness and then invite Jesus to come and live within your heart so that He will live within you.. So, why don’t you go to http://www.4stepstogod.com and pray that prayer at the end of the page from your heart and God will forgive you and Jesus will come to live within your heart. That will get you connected to God through Christ. Now you need to live a thankful life to God and from then on God’s ears will be open to you to listen to all your prayers. You need to pray at least twice daily spending a minimum of half hour each in secret.

Then you asked about the photo of Jesus. We really do NOT have the photo of Jesus. What is circulated as Jesus photo is just imaginary drawing which comes from the middle ages. It is a Catholic invention. Now, I have never seen you. If I draw a face and circulate among friends saying that it is you, how pleased will you be? You would think I am mad. Will you not? Jesus may be thinking the same about those who circulate a picture saying it is His photo. PLEASE HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH IT.

Your third question is about how Christians react to others coming to church. One of my close friends is Dr. Namboodripad who is a Brahmin convert now in Chennai. He said he walked into a church once just because on the name board it said, `All are welcome`. Though it may not be found written out on the name boards of many churches, the attitude really is the same towards any one who comes to them. So feel absolutely free as you walk in next time. In some churches, strangers are warmly welcomed. Tragically in some churches strangers are ignored. I do not  know what your experience was when you went in once. Try not to choose a large congregation because you get lost in the crowd.  If it is a small Bible lovers’ group, you really get a family atmosphere there and you can get people to pray for you personally which will be one of the greatest assets in your life.

Now, your second question is a very important one about denominations among Christians. Well, I would put it bluntly like this. Christianity is a living organism. New branches are bound to come when the old become lifeless and useless. I think, you got the point. The Bible is our ultimate authority as it is God`s Unchanging Word to man. As days went by, as Christianity became an organized religion when the Roman Emperor Constantine accepted faith with out real repentance in his life, Christianity began to become corrupted. You and I know that Vedic Hinduism has nothing to do with present day practicing Hinduism. But when that happens in Christianity, God raises new people who will go back to the Bible to rediscover its truths. Unfortunately some among Protestants too have grouped themselves under human heads and headquarters with diocese and bishops which are NOT found in the Bible. The NT pattern of church life is NEVER an organized religion. There are several NT patterned churches/assemblies in India and in Bangalore as well. You need to choose one that you think is doing maximum justice to the Bible.

Now, for your first question, I am so excited that you found Christ to be a unique person. In the next one year when you stay with your parents, do every thing possible to get to know the Bible and the truth of the gospel. Baptism is the final step when you publicly declare your faith. Once you do that, it should be a life time commitment. Even death or severest persecution should NOT deter you from your decision. So before you accept baptism, make doubly sure that this is the faith you want to follow till your death. Read your Bible and pray in secret every day. Remain in close contact with the Lord and now that internet facility is there, you can be in link with many practicing believers like you. Meet me in my personal website which is on prayer. www.mathewpaul.org/2008/10/21.beief-testimony  . I do an online Bible study every day at 11 am (IST) and on Thursdays at 8 pm also at http://www.looktojesus.com/chat/study.php?study=4  .  I shall be very happy to be in touch with you and guide you in every step of the way for His glory. God bless.

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2009 in Christian life

 

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The Bible on Obedience

Question Text :  What does God say about obedience?

Answer Text :  One of the dictionary definitions of obedience is `humble respect`. God expects man to pay humble respect to all His laws. In fact, the very first sin of humanity was disobedience to the command of God. The word `sin` is a totally misunderstood term. When the Bible says all men are sinners, many are offended at that. When one realizes that the word `sin` in the Bible is a technical term and that it has special meaning attached to it in the Bible, the problem is somewhat solved. For example, the words `bug` and `virus` in a computer textbook are technical terms and they have special meanings attached to them. Unless those meanings are arrived at, one can never comprehend a computer textbook. 1Jn.5:17 defines what the Bible means by the word sin. `All wrongdoing is sin` (RSV).

In simple terms all mistakes are sins. Is there some one out there who has never ever made a mistake in life? The Bible categorizes all spiritual and moral mistakes as sins. If God expects man to obey Him and then when man disobeys, it is a mistake and therefore it is a sin. The Bible could not be clearer when it says, `And Samuel said, `Has the Lord much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed better than fat of rams` (1Sam.15:22). Why is there such an emphasis on obedience in the Bible? Are we to think that God is a cruel despot and He does not want anyone to think or do anything against Him as some people are prone to think? No, never. God is not a cruel despot at all. He is a God of love. Yes, indeed, God is love (1Jn.4:8,16). Why does the loving God expect every one of His creatures to obey Him always? The answer is very simple. Since He is our creator, He knows what is best for us. Psa.103 v.14 puts it so beautifully when it says, `He knows our frame`. He knows what is best for us. He also knows what is going to hurt us. And graciously He has revealed His laws to His people.

The Bible is like an operator’s manual. `He shows His Word to Jacob, His Precepts and His judgments to Israel`(Psa 147:19). He has not done so with any nation; and they have not known His judgments. Praise Jehovah!` (Psa 147:20). And that is why Ezekiel would ask, `Oh, House of Israel, why should you die?` Eze.18:31b). In His sovereign will, God has given man the ability to choose to obey Him or not to obey Him. But when man chooses to disobey Him, God knows it is going to hurt man. When man gets hurt, that is hurting God Himself (Is.63:9). That is why God says, `I have no delight in the death of the wicked` (Eze.18:23).

God hates disobedience and sin as it is going to hurt the sinner. In turn it is going to hurt God Himself. So let us remember that when ever we break a known command of God, we are hurting ourselves and in turn hurting the loving heart of God. Hence the talk about crucifying the Son of God afresh in Heb.6:6.

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2009 in Bible Questions, Christian life

 

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Christian Bowing Before Idols To Please Others!

Question Text :  hey i`m a teenager who lives in a hindu family. I want to be a christian and i have already accepted Jesus Christ as my savior. I confessed that i am a christian to my parents and they are taking it hard. My parents told me that they dont `grant` me to be christian, and i have to bow down to their idols for like 2 sec and they also said that even if i dont believe in the idols i still have to bow down to them. My dad didnt even slap me when i didnt bow down. My dad said he lost hope for me and that his only happiness is that i become of something of myself. It hurts me to see my parents this way. i dont understand what i should do next. Should i still rebel and hurt my parents? Is it right to hurt your parents this way?

Answer Text  :  Hi, I am very proud of your parents. I know parents who disowned their teen aged children for becoming believers in Christ. I know young people made to streets,the only crime being their faith in Christ. So, to begin with you should thank God for your loving parents who are still willing to keep you at home and consider you as their child.  Be doubly obedient to your parents in ALL matters except in this matter.

Now the words of Christ are crystal clear. No one can ever misunderstand these words. He says, `If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children, and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he can not be my disciple`(Lk.14:26). `Hate` in this passage does not mean animosity to our loved ones. It means when it comes to choosing between them and Christ, we have no option at all. Either you choose your parents or you choose Christ.

Children are asked to obey thier parents `in the Lord` (Eph.6:1). When parents are against you obeying the Lord, you must choose to obey the Lord only at whatever cost. I am sure that you are an obedient child to your parents in all matters. Now that you have become a child of God, you need to be doubly obedient and loving to your parents. Let them notice a real love in your heart and life for them.

Do not bow to idols. If you do bow before the idol, remember that you are breaking a clear command of the Scriptures. As never before, go out of your way and be obedient and helpful to your parents in all areas of your life except in this matter. Surely they will notice this in your life sooner than later.

Peter tells believing wives to win their unbelieving husbands by their lives and without words(1Pt.3:1-2). This is exactly what is required of you. Now, I want to tell you some thing which is absolutely true according to the Scripture. The Scripture promises that by your faith, eventually you can save your family too (Acts.16:31).

Do you know that there is one prayer for which God will never say `NO` to? That is, if you pray for the salvation of someone whom you love, God will never say `No` to that prayer. Because according to 1Jn.5:14 prayers in the will of God can not go unanswered. And God is not willing that any should perish(1Tim.2:4; 2Pt.3:9)! It may take a little time. But it all depends simply upon your fervancy in your prayer (Js.5:16b).

So, be a doubly obedient and loving child in your family. Only in the matter of faith be stern and disobey them, but do it politely. I am sure your parents will soon become believers themselves due to your changed life and your secret prayers on their behalf. May God bless you, dear child!

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2009 in Christian life

 

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Praying for others

Question Text :  If you feel led to pray for someone, do you need their permission to so?

Answer Text :  That prayer is a big mystery is indisputable. That God carries out His purposes in this world through answered prayers of His people is some thing the Scriptures teach again and again (cf. Dan.9:1-3; Lk.24:49; Acts.2:1). So if I feel led to pray for someone this means that God is at work within me (Phil,2:13). Since everyone does not have this kind of burden to pray for others, we must definitely cash in on this and do the needful immediately.

I wish to bring two examples from the Scriptures of people who were led to pray for others. In Gen. 18 the angel of the Lord appears to Abraham and tells him what was going to happen to Sodom and Gomorrah where Lot and family were staying. And this led Abraham to intercede for the cities of the plains. The cities were not spared, but Lot and family were spared; we are told in 19:29 that it was because the Lord remembered Abraham. Another example is found in 1Sam. 15. Here in vv.10-11 we are told that the Lord told Samuel of the behavior of Saul and his disobedience and this led Samuel to pray the whole night before the Lord and the result was that Samuel was shown David as the next one to be anointed as king instead of Saul (1sam.16:1).

 On both these occasions the Lord gave a burden to pray for someone else and they prayed without the permission of the ones for whom they prayed. I think it is a general principle taught in the Scriptures about praying for others. We are asked to pray for all men(1Tim.2:1). Naturally it is impossible for us to get everyone’s permission to pray for them.

But if we were led to pray for someone close to us, we might get into contact with them and find out the actual situation in which they are found so that we could meaningfully intercede for their needs. When prayers are specific answers are specific as well. When general prayers are done, answers are usually in general categories. So if we need specific answers it is essential to pray in specific terms.

The author remembers an occasion when he was led to pray for a pioneer missionary in an alien field. From four o’clock early in the morning till 12 noon the burden was so heavy on his heart that he spent the whole time interceding for that missionary. But he did not know what exactly was the situation there. So he prayed that the Lord would be gracious to him and protect the missionary. There were very few words in that prayer. It was like sending SMS after SMS to heaven at an SOS level (cf.Mt.26:44).

When at noon the burden was relieved, a letter was sent to the missionary in the field asking him what exactly was happening there. His response was awesome. He began his reply this way, “That you wrote to me on the 2nd of Feb. is remarkable. It is a red letter day in our lives when the Lord saved us from our enemies…”. The one who prayed did not know that the missionary in the field was planned to be attacked on that day. But the Lord placed a burden to pray for the missionary. And the result was, before the enemies came together on that day, the ring leader among them had an accidental death on his way! Remember we are asked to pray that the Lord would deliver His people from the hands of evil men (2The.3:1-2).

So if any one has a burden to pray for someone else, it is essential to pray through till the burden is over. One need not wait till permission is received. Let us remember that the Lord does nothing spiritual in the world today except in answer to prayers of His saints. It is a very clear teaching of the Scriptures and is seldom recognized and understood even by many well-meaning believers today(MT.7:2; Js.4:2: Eze.36:37; Isa.64:3; Is.62:6,7). So if you are led to pray for someone, try and stop doing every thing else and get on your knees and pray till the burden is lifted!

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2009 in Prayer

 

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