Friday, August 21, 2020

A God-filled lives lead to hearts filled with genuine joy

'By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life' (Psalm 42:8, ESV).

Living fully immersed in the presence of God is the greatest of all experiences. The psalmist says that the whole day he experienced the love of God. Quiet hours of the night is his time to respond to the love that God has showered upon him in songs of prayer.

His songs are prayers to God whom he calls 'the God of his life.' The expression 'God of my life' means, the God to whom I owe my life. God is the master of my life, who directs it every day by his steadfast love.

Most of us who have to slog eight to twelve hours a day doesn't have much time to experience God. We hop from one task to another without any time to think about God who is the owner of our lives. Though each moment is filled with his acts of love towards us, we seldom recognize that.

The Psalmist is different in his attitude. In every task and in every achievement he could see the loving hands of his God. She could see the love of God when every sheet of paper went through the printer without getting stuck. Even when one got stuck, he is so light-hearted that he stops to thank God for the distraction and the challenge of clearing the jam. Your daily routine may not involve getting printouts, but you can extend this illustration to apply to your specific situations. A loving God fills our lives, all that we need to do is to recognize him in the moment of our lives.

Such people, who experience God in their day's work, retire for night with songs of prayer to God--certainly prayers of thanksgiving. They don't return home with bagful of worries and anxieties to be carried to the next day. 

A God-filled lives lead to hearts filled with genuine joy.

Photo courtesy-- Artem Beliaikin

Friday, July 31, 2020

Being the light of the world

'You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.'
Matthew 5:14-16 (ESV).

Jesus said, 'you are the light of the world.' He did not ask his disciples to be the light of the world or to become one. By default, every disciple of Jesus is the light of the world.
The only option is where the lights are placed. It could be covered by a basket so that its light is not visible and useful in any way or it could be mounted on a lampstand. If mounted on the lampstand it will give light to all those who are in the room. In short, the option is to be useful or to be useless. The light ought to shine before others.
Being a lamp and being the light are also different. A lamp can choose not to be lighted and not to give out light. However, disciples are not just lamps, they are lighted lamps. Jesus also added that they shine for the glory of God, the Father in heaven. The good work that the Christian disciples do in the world is the light they shed in the dark world. Every good work they do certainly bring glory to God. It makes the name of God shine!
Isaiah prophesied: 'Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you' (Isa 60:1). It is fulfilled when men and women turn to God through Jesus Christ. They are lighted by Jesus to shine in the world for the glory of God.
Photo courtesy: Ahmed Aqtai

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Thoughts on Anxiety

The literature on anxiety is aplenty. YouTube has a lot of advice from experts and non-experts on how to cope with anxiety. I don't want to add to these. What I offer here is a personal insight into the spiritual aspects of anxiety.

Anxiety is a type of eclipse, like the lunar or solar eclipse. A lunar eclipse happens when the shadow of earth falls on the moon making the moon invisible to those on earth. But the moon is still there. It is still visible to the Martians!

Anxiety works similarly. It casts our own shadow on God so that he becomes invisible to us. God is not in hiding but is hidden to our eyes because our own anxious self is casting the shadow on him.
Then we blame God for hiding from us as the Psalmists often do in their prayers. God is not hiding, but we have made God vanish from our consciousness.

That is why the Bible says 'Do not be anxious about anything!' This is very much in line with what Jesus taught: 'Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?' (Matt 6:25, ESV).
Photo Courtesy: Alexander Dummer.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

IS LIFE TOO HARD? Cast your burdens on Jesus by yoking with him

Jesus invited the crowd that followed him: 'Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.' (Matthew 11:29-30).

The modern mind may be puzzled when a religious guru invites people to come under a yoke. First, most of us living in the age of cars, planes and metros, may not have even a yoke. Those of us who might have seen one know that it is something that joins either a pair of burden-carrying animals to each other to pull a cart. So, we usually attach ideas like subjugation and suffering to this symbol.

However, that is not what Jesus meant or his hearers might have understood.
For the pious Jews who were Jesus' audience that day yoke carried meanings more than subjugation. In their religious writings 'coming under the yoke' was a metaphor for being obedient to someone, especially the Law of Moses which guided the life and faith every Jew.

When someone invites us to be yoked with them it is an offer to share the burdens to make our life easier than before.

Jesus's offer is to learn a new way of living that he has to show. That is why he expanded the invitation to 'learn from me.' This is a call to discipleship, following Christ by living the way he lives.

He also assures that he is a teacher who is gentle with us. He is not a teacher who will make the life of the disciples burdened with the demands of the curriculum. But he is more like a father who teaches his baby to walk, by walking gently by the child's side, watching each step and being there ready to pick up the baby if she stumbles.

He will not give his disciples a load that they cannot carry so that they are crushed under its weight. There are no rituals and rules that we have to follow. Just respond to his voice to follow him and respond to it. Then the rest is upon him. He will guide us. We don't have to worry that all the rituals are done in the proper time and the proper way to the satisfaction a religious system or the demands of a deity. Jesus guides us, if we accept his call to be yoked with him in an eternal relationship. That relationship with Jesus will bring comfort and joy into our troubled lives.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Strength in Weakness

'For he delivers the needy when he calls,
the poor and him who has no helper.
He has pity on the weak and the needy,
and saves the lives of the needy' (Psalms 72:12-13) 

There are times when realize how frail we are; these are times when ll the self-confidence that we have gathered over the years vanish. Coming to the limits of our strength is a scary experience. In such times, faith in God strengthens us. God strengthens those who are weak and needy. He is willing and able to help them. The only thing we need is to realize our helplessness and reach out to God in faith trusting in his mercy and power.

Saturday, June 06, 2020

Reminders of God's great love

"Blessed be God,
because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me!" Psalm 66:20 (ESV).

What does answered prayers demand from us?
Most of us seek God when we are out of our depths in adversities. We feel the need of God when we reach the end of the ropes. However, God is a kind God; he answers us when we cry out to him from the depths of our adversities.
Every answered prayer requires from us to learn something more about the character of God. The psalmist shares with us what he has learned from God when he cried unto God, and he graciously answered his prayer. He learned that God still loves him. Answered prayers reminds us that God hasn't 'removed his steadfast love' from us.
This is the response of a grateful heart; to believe that we are objects of God's ardent love.

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

God is still good when things are bad

"For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations." Psalms 100:5

When I write this cyclone Nisarga is about to hit our coastlines. The weather department has issued a red-alert. It is likely to cause immense casualties. The  Coronavirus is lurking everywhere we go. Swarming locusts have reached deep south in Tamil Nadu in their flight from the North western deserts. They have already stomached most of our food supplies for the year.
Surrounded by all these, we need a lot of faith to say that God's love still triumphs. It is an act of faith. These are times when our faith in a good and loving God is tested. We need the grace to say, in the midst of all these bad things, that God is good.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Christian lifestyle matters

Many Christ-followers think that what they believe matters more than how they appear to others: colleagues, friends, and others with whom they have to rub shoulders on a daily basis. However, Paul corrects that mistake in the eighth chapter of 1 Corinthians while discussing the issue of food offered to idols in the pagan temples in the city of Corinth.
Pagan temples where animal sacrifices were offered had also meat stalls attached to them. There the meat offered to idols was on sale. When sacrifices were offered not all the meat is burnt on the altar. Only choices pieces were offered; the priests got a share of the meat before it was burnt on the altar. The worshipers were also given a portion to be shared among the family. All this meat showed up in the meat markets attached to the pagan temples. Probably it was much cheaper than the butcher shops in the regular markets.
What is wrong with eating meat sold in the temple-precincts? For believers in Christ, it doesn't matter. They have come to know that there is no God other than the one true God who is Jesus. Idols are nothing, they have no power and their claim of any significance is wrong (1 Cor 8:4-6).
However, all Christ-believers don't know that idols are powerless, worthless and the fear of them is unfounded. They haven't come to fully realize that Christ is supreme and there is no power to match his. Paul calls them 'weaker brothers.' I counted four times that the word 'weak' is used in this chapter.
Not all of us are on the same level of Christian knowledge and maturity. Some of us have a better knowledge of Christ and some are making baby-steps in faith and trying to make their legs steady.
Paul's concern here is that the strong, mature faith of some believers should not cause those who are weak in their knowledge of Christian faith to lose their faith. They may stumble, or may not make any progress in their faith in Christ. They may think that a believer in Christ eating meat in the pagan temples are endorsing pagan beliefs. That may cause their faith to weaken.
So, Paul concludes in verse 13: 'Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.'
There are many reasons for Paul's conclusion. First, what matters is not what we know! What we love is more important than our knowledge. Knowledge without love is like popcorn. It is puffed up: 'Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up.' (1 Cor 8:1). We get the same calories and nutrition from corn and when the same is puffed up to make popcorn; the only difference is that you have to eat a lot of popcorn to get the calories you get from corn. Because it is puffed up.
Secondly, the behavior founded on most of our superior knowledge can have destructive effects on those who don't measure up to our level of knowledge. In this chapter we see Paul using very strong words. In verses 11-13, he uses words like 'destroying', 'sinning' and 'wounding' to explain the destructive effect of our careless lives could have on those who are weak in their faith in Christ.
Whether we are weak or strong in our Christian knowledge, there is one thing that is common to all those who are in Christ. That they are precious irrespective of their levels of knowledge. Because Christ died for all; since he offered his precious life for us our lives have become precious to God. 'And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died' (1 Cor 8:11).
This principle applies not only among members of a congregation but has a wider application. When we are among other people whether it is in the workplace or while traveling we are being watched. People constantly make judgments about us based on our behavior. Our food choices, our habits, etc. While traveling, I make sure that my food choices should not make my fellow travelers make a low estimate of my faith. I prefer to eat vegetarian while traveling because the person (who may be a vegetarian) in the next seat may make a judgment about my faith (if I am going to share it with him, or if he already knows it) from what I eat.
This applies to what I read, or what I wear. A disciple of Christ is ruled by the principle of love; it may be safe for us but it may not help others to come to Christ and grow in Christ. My call is to build bridges and not put up roadblocks for those who seek Christ. So, lifestyle speaks volumes than what we preach.

Monday, April 27, 2020

If COVID dampens your spirit....

"How clearly the sky reveals God's glory! How plainly it shows what he has done!" Psalm 19:1 (GNT)

Is the locked-down due to COVID 19 dampening your spirit? To be frank, that is what I am going through at times. Work from home (WFH) is a good idea: travel time saved is great; more time for Netflix or Amazon Prime, to read and enjoy music. But I do miss friends, even the walk to the coffee machine and sipping hot coffee while planning the next things to do.
As the sun sets and the night falls, I call it a day. Put away the work I had been drowning in. But still, that cold spirit lingers on. I am tempted to have another dose of caffeine to rev up my spirit.
COVID has also ordered the vehicles off the road. They are no more spitting Carbon Monoxide to the skies. The cheerful sky displays its wonders once hidden behind the thick layers of pollutant gases.
As I gaze into the wonders that the sky now puts on display, my dampened spirit warms up to the creator of these wonders. They twinkle and shine reminding me of the splendour of their creator.
The thought that I am in a world the most intelligent Designer created thaws up my sullen spirit. It makes me breaks forth into praise: "How great thou art!" When I am immersed in the praise of the creator, all feeling of loneliness, dispirit beat retreat and joy and gladness marches in.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Coronavirus Wisdom: Lessons from the virus!

The Coronavirus has shut down the world. It has caused the death of thousands in China, hundreds in Italy and Iran. It continues to threaten life all over the world. However, there is a lot of wisdom church-goers can gather from the epidemic.

Scientists say that Coronavirus spreads by physical contact only. It is not airborne. So, the best way to stay safe is to avoid physical contact.

Shaking hands is an import from the West. Before colonialists and missionaries came to our shores (Indian subcontinent) we used to greet each other with folded hands--the Namaste! It is a grand, gracious posture! Why can't we go back to it? Stop passing the kiss of peace which some Christian traditions practice or the holy embrace in other traditions. None of this has any biblical foundations. Yes, Paul wrote to Corinthians 'Greet one another with a holy kiss' (2 Corinthians 13:12), but if he addressed the letter to Bangaloreans, he would have said, 'Greet one another with a holy Namaste!' It is a cultural matter!

Now, coming to the practice of holy communion in some traditions. These traditions interpret the biblical phrase 'partakers of one cup and one loaf' literally. They make the participants drink from the same cup (with lip-contact) and pinch the same loaf. There is nothing more unhygienic than this! We don't know how the early Church practiced the holy communion. It seems that each community had its own way of sharing a meal and eating together. This phrase doesn't have to be taken literally, it is a metaphor of our oneness in Christ.

Many congregations have already moved to separate communion cups and wafers. But some are very literal still. The virus seems to tell us that it is time to get some wisdom in this matter also.

I heard a preacher in Singapore say that when the church is gathered there will be no virus activity! He argues that there is powerful angelic activity where believers are gathered. That is sufficient protection, he says. He also quoted Psalm 91:10 that, 'No evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent' to support his position. I can see his concern about losing Sunday offerings and its impact on his annual budget.

Don't be fooled by such preachers. Their eyes are on your wallet and not on your health nor the health of their country-men. Avoid them to avoid the virus! And detest them as much as you detest the virus!

This a time not to panic but to pray. When the plague spread through the camp, Aaron charged his incense and stood among the people to protect them from its spread. This is a time that the Church do the same, intercede for the world--the health of those who are affected and the protection of others. Let's cry, 'Kyrie Eleison', Lord have mercy!'

Monday, March 09, 2020

Something more serious than Coronovirus!

Coronavirus is dreaded. The dread has affected all aspects of our lives. Hundreds have died, thousands are infected, the economy is on a downturn, international tourism has taken a hit, the list goes on.
Why is this virus so dreaded to make the world look for cover? There are many other virus infections known to humans and show their heads again and again. But none of them frightens people so much as this one!

There are two main reasons why Coronavirus frightens modern man than any other disease. First, this infection is sure to cause death. Secondly, scientists haven't come up with a cure or vaccine for this virus yet. The fear of this deadly virus is genuine. It comes out of the realization that modern man with all technological advances is still helpless before this puny little virus--puny in size only.

However, sin is even more serious. It also causes death. Death not in the sense of the end of life, but even more seriously being cut off from God, the source of life. God gives life to all that is living. Separation from him is real death. A sinner who is alienated from God is dead though he may be breathing. Jesus said, 'I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins' (John 8:24).

Many people don't dread sin because they don't realize that it leads to death. They are already dead. People don't take sin seriously since they don't even know that all that they need to do is to believe in Jesus as their saviour.
Sin is more serious than Coronavirus. However, it has a cure--faith in Jesus Christ as the saviour, the one who has defeated sin and death.

A God-filled lives lead to hearts filled with genuine joy

'By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life' (Psalm 42:8, ESV)....