Daily Thoughts from Exodus: Your Promised Land

“Behold, I send an angel before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared. Pay careful attention to him and obey his voice; do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression, for my name is in him.

“But if you carefully obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries.

“When my angel goes before you and brings you to the Amorites and the Hittites and the Perizzites and the Canaanites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, and I blot them out, you shall not bow down to their gods nor serve them, nor do as they do, but you shall utterly overthrow them and break their pillars in pieces. You shall serve the LORD your God, and he will bless your bread and your water, and I will take sickness away from among you. None shall miscarry or be barren in your land; I will fulfill the number of your days. I will send my terror before you and will throw into confusion all the people against whom you shall come, and I will make all your enemies turn their backs to you. And I will send hornets before you, which shall drive out the Hivites, the Canaanites, and the Hittites from before you. I will not drive them out from before you in one year, lest the land become desolate and the wild beasts multiply against you. Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased and possess the land. And I will set your border from the Red Sea to the Sea of the Philistines, and from the wilderness to the Euphrates, for I will give the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you shall drive them out before you. You shall make no covenant with them and their gods. They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against me; for if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.” (Exodus 23:20-33, ESV)

The word “angel” means “messenger” and Yahweh says here that this messenger who is going to accompany Israel and guard them on the way has His name, Yahweh, in him. The nation must be careful to obey this messenger and if they do they will have complete victory over all enemies. It is quite likely that this messenger is the Son, the pre-incarnate Jesus (before he took on human nature), the second person of the Trinity.

Yahweh promises that in Canaan, if Israel worships Him alone and makes no covenants with any in the land, that He will remove all their enemies and make them supernaturally prosperous, with no miscarriages, abundant supply of food, and eventually a homeland that stretches from the Red Sea that He miraculously enabled them to cross, to the Euphrates River in the north. Though Israel’s record of obedience will be quite spotty, in the day of Solomon Yahweh will nevertheless give Israel a time of prosperity much like this and land dimensions like this.

Yahweh also acknowledges the mutual dependence of the ecosystems He created and explains that He will not immediately drive out the current inhabitants lest the land get overrun with wild beasts.  God is the ultimate ecologist.

There is so much God wants to do for us and so little we trust Him for. In our covenant with Him He has not promised perfect prosperity, despite the teachings of prosperity gospel preachers, but He has promised to use us to spread the kingdom message to the whole world and see the powers of the kingdom irrupting into this present age.  He is not immediately bringing the kingdom but using us to “conquer” territory from the devil little by little.  And there is always the need to maintain the conquered land.  Where do you see idolatry rampant in your sphere of influence?  What is your plan under God for taking it in His name?  May we trust Him for our Canaan victories, our promised land.

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Reflections on India

A Report on Some of the Pastors Supported by

Light of Hope Mission

In my recent trip to India I once again worked with the Light of Hope mission in Madurai, Tamilnadu. S.J.P. Vijayakumar (Vijay), the director of the ministry there, has been training men in groups of 12 for the past eight years. These men are apprenticed to minister in the Hindu villages which some estimate make up to 80% of India’s population. The following four men are his veterans who have been successful in establishing churches and are at the vanguard of this outreach ministry.

Pastor Duraichamy

I first met Duraichamy four years ago on my first trip to India. I took an immediate liking to him despite being unable to communicate with him in English. Vijay took us to his village, which consisted of several mud brick huts with thatched roofs. Without a doubt his is one of the poorest of villages. The church building he served from was attached to his house, another mud hut with a thatched roof that Vijay had taken responsibility for replacing every couple of years because of insect damage.

Vijay took us across the road from Duraichamy’s village to an undeveloped plot of land that Duraichamy had donated from his family to further the gospel. Because of Duraichamy’s position in society no one outside his caste would come to his church. But this property, being outside the village, would permit many to overcome their social hesitations about attending.

To date there has not been enough money to build the proposed concrete structure, but Duraichamy has moved to this property nevertheless to attract more attendees.

When I saw Duraichamy this time he was in obvious emotional pain. June,06, 2012 was the one year anniversary of his youngest daughter’s death. She was 17 years old and had been of great help in leading outreach events for children. But a recurring brain condition that had previously only temporarily incapacitated her took her life. When Duraichamy and I set eyes on each other at the Bible conference we were attending his tears welled up and he couldn’t speak. But he was still praising the Lord and is still serving faithfully.

Pastor Gnanaselvam

Pictured here are Gnanaselvam with his son Johnson and wife Indira. In a picture next to them is their daughter Jansi who is living and working in Chennai. Gnanaselvam lives in a town called Kovilpatti a few hours south of Vijay’s home, Madurai. Across from Gnanaselvam’s rented house is the church building where he ministers every week.

This family hosted us and our Bible conference, attending to our every need and were responsible for inviting all those who attended. Their hospitality was amazing! Gnanaselvam tirelessly works with his own congregation, giving generously of his time and talents to encourage them in their walk with the Lord. He has been working in close association with Vijay for many years in furthering the gospel to some of the southern states of Tamilnadu, India.

Pastor Jothiraj

You see pastor Jothiraj pictured here on the roof of his home, which also doubles as the church building where his congregation meets. In the background is a Hindu temple. This plot of land was actually all owned by those who built the temple here and when the portion of plot his house is standing on was purchased by him, someone threatened that the Hindu god, who was said to roam this property, would kill him. Sometime later that person died, but the work of God has continued.

Besides pastoring this church pastor Jothiraj ministers in 18 Hindu villages in the area. Despite receiving a mere 8-10 rupees in congregational tithes (mere pennies a week) he also manages to house a woman and her two children whose husband/father is a drunkard and does not provide for the family. The son, Barnabas, has been through Vijay’s training and is called to the ministry, but his father is demanding that he go to work and support the family, something Indian culture says is his responsibility to do. Whether Barnabas is able to do both is still up in the air. In the meantime, pastor Jothiraj is supporting this impoverished family.

Pastor Jothiraj helped lead worship music at our conference in Kovilpatti and his son Paul helped, pictured here with his mother. Their other son David is a bright boy as well who also helps minister in their church meetings with music.

Pastor R. P. John

Pastor R.P. John prayed for a place to build a church building that would have public exposure and God answered by placing them in this property right on a main road outside Kovilpatti. One of his sons is pictured here. This young man had begun attending Vijay’s one-year training but due to epileptic seizures had to return home. This man faithfully preaches the Word of God from this pulpit. Though you can’t see it too well, the pulpit behind him is a c-shaped structure you enter from the back, and it puts the teaching of the Word of God front and center in the life of this congregation.

It has been my great privilege to meet these men of God who courageously stand for the gospel and serve our Lord Jesus Christ in a very difficult setting where they are by far the minority. May God continue to use men and women like them to spread His Word throughout the world.

Reflections on India 4

I am just returned from a 12 day trip to India where I partnered with John Marley, a teacher from my church, to hold two 3-day Bible conferences.  The first was in Madurai, or more specifically, Light of Hope Gospel Mission just outside of Madurai.  The second was in Kovilpatti, a 3 hour trip south of Madurai.  All this is in the southern tip of India.  Our host was S. J. P. Vijayakumar, or Vijay.  He has been a missionary sponsored by Central Church since the mid 90′s.  His father-in-law, the founder of Light of Hope, has been supported by Central for many more years.  They are faithful servants of the kingdom.

I found myself drawn to several of the participants and their stories and would like to share some of those with the world (or at least whoever reads this blog).

1,000 Songs in an Unknown Tongue

She was given in marriage to a 25 year old blind man when she was 9 years old.  This tells you right away that she came from a poor family and she married into an impoverished marriage.  Undoubtedly her parents thought this was the best way to take care of her.  The new marriage was so poor that she had to go to work breaking rocks.  The woman standing to her left was explaining to us that this is why her feet were in such poor condition.

Somewhere along the line she became a follower of Jesus Christ and found ways to minister to others.  I had asked, during one of our sessions in which I was teaching on the filling of the Holy Spirit, if anyone there had some experiences of being filled with the Spirit that they would like to share.  She did.  She explained that she had gone to another state in India where she did not know the language.  But miraculously she found herself able to speak it and wrote 1,000 songs in this previously unknown language.

She sang for us that day in the Tamil language, the language everyone at this conference spoke since all were from the state of Tamilnadu, where Vijay lives.  She has had a hard life, but God has transformed her life in Christ.

Reflections on India 3

I am just returned from a 12 day trip to India where I partnered with John Marley, a teacher from my church, to hold two 3-day Bible conferences.  The first was in Madurai, or more specifically, Light of Hope Gospel Mission just outside of Madurai.  The second was in Kovilpatti, a 3 hour trip south of Madurai.  All this is in the southern tip of India.  Our host was S. J. P. Vijayakumar, or Vijay.  He has been a missionary sponsored by Central Church since the mid 90′s.  His father-in-law, the founder of Light of Hope, has been supported by Central for many more years.  They are faithful servants of the kingdom.

I found myself drawn to several of the participants and their stories and would like to share some of those with the world (or at least whoever reads this blog).

Jesus Was More Powerful Than the Occult

Her father was a Hindu priest of the Brahman caste and she was assigned, among all his children, to be his assistant.  He created many potions and participated in sorcerer’s arts and she helped mix the potions.  I don’t recall how she became acquainted with the gospel, but she came to question whether her father’s magic arts were really his power or not.  So she devised a test.

I am not sure exactly how this test makes sense, but it made sense to her.  If in the alcohol her father used in many of his potions she were to mix some salt and the potion did not work, this meant that Jesus was lord and her father’s powers were not his own.  So she secretly added salt to the alcohol and the potions ceased to be effective.  As a result, she gave her life to Christ and had been serving him some time when she came to our conference.

In the newspaper today in Memphis is an article on science and religion and the evidentiary nature of scientific knowledge versus the more subjective nature of religious knowledge.  But on several occasions the people I encountered had clear power encounters with Christianity and Jesus and He demonstrated His superior power over their wrong views of life and persuaded them that Jesus was the truth.

Reflections on India 2

I am just returned from a 12 day trip to India where I partnered with John Marley, a teacher from my church, to hold two 3-day Bible conferences.  The first was in Madurai, or more specifically, Light of Hope Gospel Mission just outside of Madurai.  The second was in Kovilpatti, a 3 hour trip south of Madurai.  All this is in the southern tip of India.  Our host was S. J. P. Vijayakumar, or Vijay.  He has been a missionary sponsored by Central Church since the mid 90′s.  His father-in-law, the founder of Light of Hope, has been supported by Central for many more years.  They are faithful servants of the kingdom.

I found myself drawn to several of the participants and their stories and would like to share some of those with the world (or at least whoever reads this blog).

Jesus Answered Prayer

A Pentecostal woman, she says, told her one day that Jesus is the only true God.  She was a Hindu but this idea stuck with her and so she decided to test it.  She had a brother-in-law who was told he needed surgery to get well and he couldn’t really afford it.  So she decided to pray in Jesus’ name for him to get well without surgery and he did.  Her husband was a drunkard, so she decided to ask Jesus to make him stop drinking.  And lo and behold, he did.  So the next inevitable step was to believe in Jesus and become a follower.

She came to the conference having led several of her family members to Christ in the years since she became a believer and having become a full time evangelist for the Lord, ministering mostly to women in home to home type ministry.  With her at the conference were her mother, a sister, and the sister’s two daughters.  One of the daughters (the girl in the red in this picture) told me at a break that she was studying the Word of God so she could become a preacher of the Word.  She’s following in her aunt’s footsteps.  Three generations of family have been redeemed.  God is at work in India!

Reflections on India 1

My friends and co-laborers, Vijay and John Marley

I am just returned from a 12 day trip to India where I partnered with John Marley, a teacher from my church, to hold two 3-day Bible conferences.  The first was in Madurai, or more specifically, Light of Hope Gospel Mission just outside of Madurai.  The second was in Kovilpatti, a 3 hour trip south of Madurai.  All this is in the southern tip of India.  Our host was S. J. P. Vijayakumar, or Vijay.  He has been a missionary sponsored by Central Church since the mid 90’s.  His father-in-law, the founder of Light of Hope, has been supported by Central for many more years.  They are faithful servants of the kingdom.

I found myself drawn to several of the participants and their stories and would like to share some of those with the world (or at least whoever reads this blog).

A Vision From Jesus

The young man shown here was a Hindu, as are the vast majority of Indians.  His mother was particularly devout and was a frequent visitor to the temple, offering sacrifices, and even frequently sending her son to temple to pray for her.  At one point she became deathly ill and sent her son to pray for her.  But one night in a dream or vision the Lord Jesus appeared to her and told her that what she was worshiping was a lie and that he was the only true savior.

On hearing this she herself renounced Hinduism and embraced Christ as her Lord.  She told her son that she had misled him all these years and urged him to follow Jesus instead.  He was moved by this and knew of some Christian missionaries with whom he consulted and he too became a follower of Christ.  Since then he has studied and become a missionary to Hindu villages under the auspices of a local Church of South India.

I am impressed with the work of the Lord Jesus, even apart from human witnesses to His glory, reaching out to bring those He loves to Himself.