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3 Ways To Respond to A World With Changing Values

Written By Julian Panga, India

Julian grew up in India and then lived in Australia for 12 years. While working in the banking and finance Industry in Melbourne, he also served as a church elder, missions trainer, and Bible teacher. In 2014, he returned to India in response to God’s calling and is currently involved in pastoral ministry and theological training. He is passionate about teaching and training as well as engaging the youth and those in the marketplace with the Gospel.

On 6 September 2018, India’s Supreme Court overturned a 157-year-old law which had previously criminalized consensual gay sex.

This may come as a surprise to many, since India has long been known for its family values and traditional views on marriage. But all over the world, same-sex relationships have become more and more accepted, so this move by India’s Supreme Court was inevitable.

The LGBT community in India—which used to be a hidden minority—are now coming out in the open and reveling in their victory. This landmark decision was a huge relief to the LGBT community, as well as activists and supporters who stood by them. Celebrities and politicians across the country have expressed support and congratulations over social media, reflecting the increasing acceptance of same-sex relationships.

This news has highlighted a growing trend towards changing values that are at odds with the Bible. Going forward, we will more and more frequently encounter people with ideas, mannerisms, and desires different from ours. How then should the Church respond?

Should we respond in protest and anger, or should we continue to spread the message of love, acceptance, and inclusion? Should we seek to hold on to our core beliefs revealed in the Bible, or compromise our message in favor of being progressive and accepting? What is clear is that we need to make these choices with sensitivity, wisdom, and with the help of God’s grace and love.

Here are three ways I believe we can respond to a world of changing values with love and gentleness:

 

1. See each person as made in the image of God

Regardless of what someone’s views on sexual relationships or any other divisive issue may be, it’s important that we remember that we are all broken, sinful, and in need of Christ. All of us need the good news of the transforming power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We all need to learn that our identity does not come from our sexual orientation, social status, or even personality—but in the privilege of being called Sons and Daughters of the Living God.

This begins with being committed to seeing each person we meet as made in the image of God and valued by Him. As long as we focus on showing people the love, grace, and mercy of God, the Holy Spirit will bring about transformation in our lives and the lives of those around us. Take time to build relationships and trust with genuine love.

 

2. Demonstrate the love of Christ through practical ways

As Christians, we are called to love God and love our neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40)—and our neighbor is anyone around us who is in need and hurting. This call remains the same regardless of the legal changes or societal views that prevail. There is no list of requirements our neighbors need to meet before we shower them with our love. No one is out of bounds.

Instead of retreating in fear or shame, or inciting anger or hate, we must seek to be the hands and feet of God in practical ways. As Christians, we recognize that only Jesus Christ, the Son of God, can offer real hope to this lost, broken, and damaged world. And His love is demonstrated when we serve others in practical ways.

This could take the form of taking the time to listen to the stories of those who struggle with same-sex attraction with sensitivity or empathy, helping those who are hurting find counseling avenues, and keeping our hearts and doors open to anyone seeking refuge.

 

3. Get to know those who are different from you

Many churches have already begun doing this by breaking down age-old stereotypes, educating themselves, and reaching out to those unlike them. This often comes about through church services that are welcoming, intentional acts of compassion and mercy, friendship evangelism, and providing counseling and pastoral care.

There are also focused ministries that are committed to reaching out sensitively to LGBT communities as well as many others, presenting the message of the Gospel. Much fruit can already be seen as a result of the persistent efforts of these ministries.

My church, for example, has organized a seminar for youth and young adults to hear from experts and ask questions relating to our sexuality. These young people are also encouraged to invite friends who are either curious or troubled about these changes and are seeking frank answers to difficult questions.

As a church, we have also taken steps to proactively approach the transgender community in parts of our city, and invited them to a special service at our church. Many attended, and were received with warmth and genuine love. We desire to continue building relationships with the leaders of this community, so that we may have more opportunities to engage with them and share the transforming love of Christ.

 

In a world where ethical and moral values are shifting endlessly, it’s even more pivotal that we understand our role as Christians—to be the salt and light that will draw others to the Light of Christ and His offer of eternal life. Let’s hasten to do this and ask God to lead us in our interactions with the world around us.

3 Things To Do When Life Feels Meaningless

Written by Julian Panga, India

Julian grew up in India and then lived in Australia for 12 years. While working in the banking and finance Industry in Melbourne, he also served as a church elder, missions trainer, and Bible teacher. In 2014, he returned to India in response to God’s calling and is currently involved in pastoral ministry and theological training. He is passionate about teaching and training as well as engaging the youth and those in the marketplace with the Gospel.

I felt like I was on top of the world. It was, after all, any young man’s dream come true. I was in my mid-20s with a high paying job, good career prospects, and all the comforts and luxuries that life could offer. What more could anyone wish for?

However, something deep inside me felt amiss. There was a growing dissatisfaction in my heart. It all boiled down to one pertinent question: What is it that would truly make my life meaningful?

I couldn’t answer that question straight up. As a believer who grew up grounded in biblical principles, I had been taught that I needed to please God with my life. So, in spite of all the temporary highs that life brought my way, the thought that came to my mind instinctively was whether I was doing what God wanted me to do.

One part of me persisted in that thought. Another part of me justified my actions—after all, I was successful in life and had achieved so much so quickly. Surely, God would not be against that? What’s more, I was also active in church and missions, and gave generously to Christian work, so that should keep God happy, shouldn’t it?

I had defined success the way I understood it and the way the world applauded it. However, I never paused to consider how God looked at success. My seemingly full and abundant life was empty and meaningless when seen from God’s perspective.

I began to realize that I had never sought the reason for true meaning and significance in my life. Rather, I set my mind on and pursued those things that would never satisfy. As a result, I had become a purposeless, directionless individual just cruising along life, not knowing what I was doing or where I was going.

That relentless still small voice of God became a persistent prompting in my mind, and there was nothing I could do to distract myself from it. I continued to be restless until I came to a point of confession and answered that question truthfully.

The truth was that I was busy building my own kingdom with my own goals, plans, and thoughts—and neglecting God’s Kingdom. Little did I know that these vain pursuits in life would never give me meaning, significance, and purpose in life.

When we give undue importance to secondary aspects of life, such as career, money, comforts, relationships, fame, etc., we end up dethroning God and placing ourselves and other things on the throne of our life. We buy into a lie that says that our ultimate purpose in life is to pursue the things of this world.

The Bible, however, tells us that our true purpose is to seek God and His Kingdom first, and all other things will be added to us (Matthew 6:33). Seeking after God and His glory is what will truly give life meaning and significance. We need to come to the realization that we don’t exist for ourselves. Rather, we exist to bring God glory, and when we do that in all we say and do, we become truly fulfilled.

The author of the book of Ecclesiastes had a similar sentiment thousands of years ago. He had also untiringly explored the pursuit of wisdom and knowledge, pleasure and satisfaction, toil and self-indulgence. He tried to find meaning and significance in his work, his pursuits, his goals and desires. However, he came to the stark realization that all these were vain pursuits, a mere chasing after the wind. There was nothing under the Sun by which man would be able to find true meaning and significance.

But he didn’t leave it there. Rather, he punctuated the book with precious nuggets of wisdom. There are three keys lessons that we can learn from the Teacher in Ecclesiastes, which help us live a life of meaning, significance and purpose. It is the kind of a life which would put a smile on God’s face when lived out authentically.

 

Fear God Alone

In Proverbs 9:10, we are told that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Those who practice the “fear of the Lord” will have good understanding, but the one who despises it remains a fool. The Teacher in Ecclesiastes picks up the same idea. He says that the fear of God comes by recognizing God’s authority and presence over our lives (Ecclesiastes 3:14). God is not appeased by our gifts or sacrifices. Rather, He is pleased when we are attentive and obedient to His Word (Ecclesiastes 5:1b). He urges us not to set our eyes on our own dreams and words, but to fear God because those who do so will flourish in life (Ecclesiastes 8:12-13).

How have I practiced the fear of God in my life? By recognizing who He truly is. Regular reading of the Bible helps me understand who God is, what He has done for me, and what He continues to do in and through me. God’s divine attributes—such as His immanence, holiness, sovereignty and mercy—remind me that although I am unworthy, He continues to be gracious. A fitting response to the Living God is that of reverent fear. And I choose to do that not out of compulsion, rather out of love.

 

Remember God Alone

The Teacher urges us to focus our mind and heart on remembering God, especially from our youth and before the dark seasons of life come our way (Ecclesiastes 12:1-2). Remembering God and doing so from a young age will set us on the right trajectory for the rest of our lives. When we remember His love, care, and grace, we come to a true realization of who we truly are and our complete dependence on Him. We understand that life is a precious gift of God, and not something we have achieved ourselves. This in turn fills our hearts with humility and gratitude. Remembering God always fills us with great joy, which can never be obtained from wealth, possessions or power (Ecclesiastes 5:19-20).

Remembering that I am God’s child, and that He knew my unformed substance and chose me before the foundations of the earth were laid (Psalm 139:13-17, Ephesians 1:4), humbles me to surrender my will to Him and be grateful for His saving grace. This realization moves my entire being to worship my Heavenly Father. I no longer am concerned about gaining people’s approval or drawing my identity from the world, but I choose to remember God’s goodness in my life and worship Him without any pretense.

 

Pursue God Alone

Rather than chasing the vain pursuits of life, we will find true meaning and significance in the relentless pursuit of God. The pursuit of wisdom and knowledge, wealth and happiness, purpose and meaning can be seen from the right perspective when we set our hearts on pursuing God (Ecclesiastes 9:7-10). All these things under the Sun, if brought under the Son, will bring purpose and significance to life. Our faith in the Son of God, Jesus Christ and His completed work on the Cross, transforms our otherwise mundane and meaningless lives to be deeply satisfying and full of purpose. The free gift of salvation reminds us that we don’t need to strive for it through our works, but can rely on His Finished Work. We can rest in the fact that it is in Him and what He has done for us that we find our true identity as God’s children—forgiven, redeemed, reconciled and set free.

On a practical level, each time I make a decision—regarding my lifestyle, investments, relationships, or anything else—I evaluate whether this choice would align me with God’s purposes for my life. Only if I feel that this would help me further God’s Kingdom and become a better follower of Christ, then I would embrace it wholeheartedly. God has become my sole focus and priority, and all other things in my life are consciously allowed in only if they deepen and strengthen that relationship I have with Him.

 

Applying these principles in my life has turned it around. I learned that success is not in what I achieve for myself, but in how I grow closer to God in my walk of faith. True meaning and significance in life is not found in the pursuit of things or accumulation of stuff, but in understanding who God is and who I am in relation to Him. This revolutionized my thinking altogether. I was no longer chasing vain dreams, but chasing after God. My greatest satisfaction was found in seeking after God, knowing Him intimately, and pursuing Him passionately. When I turned over my life to Him, began to seek His face and walk in His ways, life became worth living. Life had an ultimate purpose, and there was joy in loving and serving God.

By being obedient to God’s voice and surrendering myself to His will, I am now truly on top of the world. God’s plans and purposes have come to fruition in my life, and I realize now that there is no greater calling than loving Him, serving Him and making Him known to others.

It’s so easy to believe a lie of the devil and finish life having achieved nothing. But if we fear God, remember and pursue Him, life can be full of joy and significance. It is through the intentional pursuit of God that one could unearth the real meaning and purpose of life.

How Do I Stay Close to God in A World Full of Distractions?

Written By Julian Panga

Julian grew up in India and then lived in Australia for 12 years. While working in the banking and finance Industry in Melbourne, he also served as a church elder, missions trainer, and Bible teacher. In 2014, he returned to India in response to God’s calling and is currently involved in pastoral ministry and theological training. He is passionate about teaching and training as well as engaging the youth and those in the marketplace with the Gospel.

 

Life and all that it entails has become extremely complex today. Social media like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as well as the real-time availability of entertainment on mobile devices are just a few examples of technological advances that—if not handled correctly—can consume our time and energy and become major distractions in our lives today.

Technology has to a large extent replaced the humanistic element in face-to-face, interpersonal communication with superficial, emotionless jibber-jabber. We have given up more demanding, but relationship-building methods of communication for the ease of video calls, phone calls, and instant messaging.

The incessant demands of the workplace and the tremendous pressure this puts on the workers to perform consistently have further opened up a plethora of stress-relieving distractions such as online gaming, recreational sports, expensive hobbies, and extracurricular activities. These have drawn many away from meaningful relationships.

With the many distractions around us, we also struggle to find a deep, satisfying relationship with God. We lose Him in the myriad of things that cloud our minds. Spiritual disciplines like Bible-reading, prayer and fasting take a back seat in our lives. Our treasure is no longer God, but those things that gather dust and rust and corrode (Matthew 6:19–20).

We are also constantly in danger of becoming superficial in our relationship with God. We are often content with skimming the surface, rather than putting in the time and effort necessary for a more satisfying and intimate relationship with Him. Oftentimes, we use God as a cosmic genie by calling on Him when we need something or when we are in trouble, and otherwise prefer to keep Him at a distance.

As a result we become isolated from God as well as from each other thereby becoming disillusioned with life overall. We do so much more, but find less meaning in our pursuits. In our rush to keep pace with all that is flying at us, we have neglected three fundamental areas of our lives. These three things anchor and orient our soul. If all is well, they quiet us before God and provide room for peace. There is no way we can enthrone Jesus in our lives if these three aspects are off-kilter. We have to closely guard our heart, devotion and our desires.

 

Guard Your Heart

Jeremiah 17:9–10 tells us that the human heart is deceitful and desperately sick. Yet everything we do flows from it. Whatever occupies our hearts governs our lives. Therefore, above all else, we have to guard our hearts for from it flows the springs of life (Proverbs 4:23).

In Matthew 6:21, Jesus pointed out that we set our hearts on whatever we value most. So if we consider God our greatest treasure, we would set our hearts on Him and guard that relationship zealously. We would saturate our hearts with His Word on a regular basis, so that the Word infuses life into us and brings about holistic transformation on the inside as well as on the outside.

Knowing His Word means more than just reading the Bible. The four soils in the parable of the Sower (Matthew 13) represent the condition and receptiveness of our hearts and the seed represents the Word of God. Some of us reject God’s Word outright, some stay in the faith for a while but eventually give up, and some go a bit further but are unfruitful because of other cares in their life. Then there are others who receive the Word and strive to understand it. The Word remains in them, and they gain a bountiful harvest.

In Matthew 4:1–11, the devil offered Jesus an easy, alternative way to the pleasure that would be His through submission to His Father’s plan. The devil even quoted Scripture, hoping to sway Jesus from His determination to do things God’s way. Jesus had no problem rebutting him. He was familiar with God’s will through a thorough understanding of God’s Word, and knew that Satan had quoted the scripture out of context.

The constant barrage of temptations on our senses and our minds might take root in our hearts and distract us from loving and serving God. However, if we have hidden God’s Word in our hearts, we would know what is pleasing to Him and what is not. We would be better equipped to decide whether it is beneficial to continue with certain activities or relationships, or to change our perspective on certain situations. Our hearts would have become shaped by God’s Word, and not by the world. When we stand firm in God’s Word, we can overcome distractions by its power instead of succumbing to temptations. This gives us confidence, boldness, and motivation to live life counter-culturally.

 

Guard Your Devotion

I live in India, where, like in many other places around the world, devotion to a deity is shown through one’s actions—fulfilling a vow or a penance or offerings or gifts to charity. The way of gaining favor or appeasement from that deity is merely shown by one’s actions on the outside—regardless of whether that impacts or transforms that person on the inside. The One True and Living God that we worship however, doesn’t delight in sacrifices or offerings or any external facade of devotion (Psalm 51:16, Isaiah 1:11). What He desires is a true worshipper who worships Him in Spirit and in truth (John 4:24).

What does true devotion and commitment to God look like? It means deciding to do whatever it takes to please God—not because we need to earn His favor, but because we love Him. It means full allegiance to the Master. Such unwavering devotion and commitment can only come from a grasp of God’s love and commitment to us first, shown supremely on the cross, and this will help us to pursue God in spite of distractions.

Devotion may start with pure discipline—waking up earlier to pray, setting aside time to read the Word, cutting off activities we know are harmful to our testimony of God’s truth. But, beyond that, when we remain committed to God, we allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives, and we begin to bear the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23). Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control grow as evidence of and fuel our ongoing commitment to God. The more we are changed, the more we desire change.

Jesus said in Luke 14:26–27 that only if we elevate our relationship with God above earthly relationships then are we fit to be His disciples. But it is easy for us to have competing loyalties, robbing God of His rightful place in our lives.

Personally, I always thought that advancing my career prospects, achieving financial goals, and enjoying a luxurious lifestyle were of utmost importance and as a result those things clamoured for my devotion. Eventually I realized that none of them could bring about the true fulfilment which can only come from a personal relationship with God. When we make anything other than God of primary importance, it becomes our idol, demanding our worship and loyalty. God won’t tolerate such divided allegiance (Exodus 20:2,3).

 

Guard Your Desires

A desire is a deep longing that sets the direction for our hearts. Our world fell into sin when Adam and Eve reached for the forbidden fruit in their desire for the knowledge that only God can have (Genesis 3:6). In Deuteronomy 5, the Lord forbids us to covet what is not rightfully ours. James warned that “after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:15).

There are good desires too. We who have been renewed and freed from the slavery to sin now live by the Spirit and gratify the Spirit’s desires for us (Galatians 5:16–24). The psalms are filled with the longing for God and His ways. Our heavenly Father knows what His children need. When we seek His Kingdom first, we will see his provision according to His will and prerogative (Matthew 6:33; 1 John 5:14).

Our desires, like our appetites, can be trained. We have to first wean ourselves off what is not beneficial, and develop a yearning for the things of God. When we begin to taste and see that He is good (Psalm 34), that His plan for us is indeed sweeter than honey (Psalm 19), and experience our sustenance through Jesus, the Bread of Life (John 6), we learn to hunger for God.

 

Guard Your Time with God

Spending time with God is necessary if we want to guard our hearts, devotion, and desires. An intimate relationship with God is foundational for every Christian. Without an ongoing connectedness with God, we die in our spirit. All meaningful relationships require time. We will never know the majesty, love, discipline, fellowship, and wisdom of the person of God if we do not spend time with Him. But if we do guard our time with God closely, we discover a deep sense of identity, belonging, and union with our Maker, and then life becomes fruitful, joyful and much more fulfilling.

My prayer and desire is that we earnestly seek God’s kingdom here on earth, identifying worldly distractions, and putting them in their rightful place—under the lordship of our King. A life that abides in God rises above all distractions. This doesn’t mean that we live an ascetic life, but rather even in the midst of distractions, we can live a life deeply rooted in God’s word, satisfied by His Spirit and graced by His presence.

Starting Work? Here’s 3 Must-have Attitudes

Written by Julian Panga, India

Julian grew up in India, went for higher studies to Melbourne, Australia and then stayed on for 12 years and worked in the Banking and Finance Industry there. At the same time, he also served as a church elder, missions trainer and Bible teacher in his local church. In 2014, he returned to India in response to God’s call and is currently involved in training Christian workers for effective ministry within the Indian context. He loves reading, listening to music and long country drives.

I’ve been down this road many times before. I did my postgraduate studies full-time and worked part-time as a lecturer in my university. Then the roles reversed and I worked full-time in banking and studied theology part-time. After that, I went from full-time work to full-time theological study and then back to full-time work.

Each time I made those transitions, the experiences were different and always beset with new and varied challenges. What I’ve observed in my own life and with others is that when we transition from study to work, we take certain attitudes, habits and behaviors with us into the workplace. Soon we find to our utter disappointment that those things don’t fit there. We realize that working life comes with a new and different set of challenges.

Some cope well—and hats off to them—but some others get disillusioned, discouraged and often give up. Others go to the other extreme and become ambitious and strive hard to be over-achievers. This leads to its own set of pitfalls such as neglect of family, poor health, undue stress, addictions, and a constant fear of failure.

So how do we handle this transition from studying to working? How can we develop that which is essential to handle these new challenges that come our way and how can we continue to remain a follower of Christ in the workplace or business world? I’ve listed three attitudes that are non-negotiables when handling such a transition.

 

1. Be Authentic

Proverbs 14:23 warns us against empty words: “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty”. Pretense, in whatever shape or form, shows up eventually. Abraham Lincoln once said, “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” So, regardless of how you’ve aced that job interview by parroting responses to routine questions, or put up a masquerade at work pretending you’re someone you’re not, there comes a point where you will be found out for who you really are. Being authentic is important because that will keep us in good stead along life’s journey.

What does it mean to be authentic? Simply put, it means you don’t pretend to be someone else on the outside. Rather, you are truthful, honest and straightforward. Of course, this doesn’t mean you are insensitive to others around you; instead you exercise wisdom in all your dealings—and who better to teach you wisdom than God Himself?

In my own corporate experience as a senior project manager who regularly handled post-sales situations, I sometimes found myself in a tight spot. I knew that what had been sold to the customers by my predecessor was not the ideal product for them. So I had a choice to make: Do I just do my job and leave it as a problem for someone else to handle, or do I rectify the mistake and go the extra mile (often with lots of extra work involved) to provide something that will benefit the end customer?

To me, that decision came easily and naturally because I wanted to honor Christ, who had blessed me with that job, in the workplace. I also knew that by my actions, I was upholding the reputation of my employer. Whether those noble actions get you into the good books of your boss or not, always remember that we serve an “Audience of One” and your job is to please Him above everyone else. The Apostle Paul encourages us to do exactly that in Colossians 3:23: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters”.

 

2. Be Accountable

As a student, you are often accountable to no one but yourself. You can stay up late, wake up any time you like, turn up for classes if you feel like it or turn in your assignments late. In a student’s life, the constant temptation is to slack off in areas of accountability and responsibility.

But in the corporate or business world, accountability is pivotal. Workers are accountable to management, who in turn must answer to senior management, who are accountable to the Board and the Board to the investors. Even independent traders need to be accountable to their customers, the law, the government etc.

As we all know, being accountable doesn’t come easy. We often like to take things into our own hands. In fact, we may dislike or even detest anyone to whom we may have to give an account for what we do or how we do it.

Consider this: right from creation, when Adam and Eve turned their backs on God and sinned, they were held accountable for their actions. Bad decisions or actions have negative consequences, but we must find the courage to own up and set things right. We must strive to conduct ourselves in such a manner that we take responsibility for what we do. If we are accountable to someone, then we ought to respect them and their authority over us.

Much of the conflict that happens around us is down to our fallen human nature and our stubborn refusal to be accountable. Always remember that we are also accountable for our feelings, thoughts and actions to God, and so we conduct ourselves in a way that brings Him honor and glory.

 

3. Be Excellent

Going to work each day can be a drudgery for many. We struggle through it since there are bills to pay, loans to clear, family members to feed, elderly parents to care for and a myriad of other basic needs to be met. Regardless of what factors compel us to work, the attitudes that we take to work is what matters most. I find from personal experience that when I take a bad attitude to work, it affects me and everyone around me negatively. I tend to be harsh, negligent, arrogant or half-hearted at work.

But if I take a spirit of excellence into my work, with an intention to do my work to the best of my abilities for my employer and for the Kingdom of God, it just turns my day around. I am able to greet people with a genuine smile, talk to them from the heart, care for them and show my concern in practical ways. It brings a joy deep within me that positively affects everyone around me.

My personal motto has been that I want to do my very best at work, not because I get paid for it, but because by doing it, I am being faithful to God and also my employer. Such an attitude brings many blessings along my path but more than that, it gives me a chance to reflect the nature of God at my workplace. This then gives me unsolicited opportunities to share the Gospel of Jesus in meaningful and practical ways.

It is often said, “Your life may be the only Bible that some people read”. In many workplaces where matters of faith are often not talked about or are seen as being intrusive, having an excellent spirit will speak for itself and give you favor among your peers and employers. Excellence begins deep down in our hearts with intentionality and purpose and works itself out through our thoughts, behaviors and actions.

We can be encouraged by God’s word in Titus 2:7-8 to do what is good, and show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech in our teaching so that those who oppose us will have nothing bad to say about us. Won’t that be a powerful and impactful testimony in the workplace?

 

Transitions are not easy, but with God at the center of your life and armed with the right attitudes, you can manage those transitions well and help others along the way too.