Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Human Possibilities and Divine Potentials

“Take stock of your talents, skills and experience. What are you good at. That is what you should focus on and that is the direction that you should take.” This is a standard advice given to young people who seek direction in their life and career. The best career is something that is in line with what you are good at. No one can question the wisdom in this and that is true when every person is on his own with no help coming from anywhere else.

However, the stories of God’s dealing with individuals in the Bible tells us that when God takes control of a person he takes them beyond their abilities. Moses is a typical example. God called him to do a job where a lot of talking was involved- reasoning, negotiating, teaching, and the list goes on! But when God called him he was not eloquent and was a man who stammerred. God takes that man with speech impediment and takes him beyond that limitation.

What about the «unschooled» fisherman who followed Jesus? For example, Peter turned out to be a great preacher and gave some crucial sermons. Their wisdom surprised the scholars at the Sanhedrin (Acts 4:13). God does not look at what we are but what we could be. Being our creator he knows best what he can turn out to be. He will equip us for that and takes us beyond our own limitations.

Trust God to take us beyond our present capabilities to his possibilities.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Handling Abusive Surprise

All these years my work always involved dealing with youth who have left their old ways and made a commitment to follow Christ. Just as old habits die hard, so also the old friends. They have to keep the old companies for various reasons. They live in the same neighbourhood, they are the same college and there could be various ways they share their spaces. There are times of conflict as their conversion brings in new moral demands different from that of their friends. For example, a new believer in Christ who was a chain smoker finds it difficult to keep the friendship of his fellow smokers. Peter wrote to first generation Christians who were in a similar situation: "They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you" (1 Peter 4:4).
Unable to enjoy the company of the new believer, the friends begin to abuse that person. Many of us who had to part with sinful ways of life when we embraced the new life in Christ may still remember some hurting abusive words that we had to endure. However, the encouraging thing is that this abuse is the result of their surprise. Friends who shared their sinful ways with us are surprised that one of them could break away with those ways and start a new life! If our lives have caused that surprise then the abuse can be ignored.

However, this surprise and the abuse may not last long too. Moreover, it may have positive results as this story about a young soldier that I read long time ago illustrates. A young man who lived a very bad life joined the army and there he accepted Jesus as his personal saviour through the army chaplain. A few months later he had to go home and he was afraid that his old friends waiting for his return might drag him back to his life before Christ. His Chaplain had a very good advise for him. He told him not to keep his conversion a secret and let his friends know about it.

As he landed in the railway station he met one of his friends who offered him a cigar as he always used to do. This young man not only politely refused it but also told him that he is a new creation. The friend laughed at him and hurled insults at him as he walked away. Then he meets another friend who invites him to have a drink in order to celebrate his return. He not only refused it but also told him why as a follower of Christ he should not do that. The news spread in his small town that he is different. The prostitute whom he used to visit spotted him in the market and hurled insults at him. As he walked past the pub people came out and made painful comments about him. But nobody dared to force him to get back to the old ways. They had given up on him; that was a new freedom! However, it had a cost: abusive surprise.

If we can give our sinful companions a surprise, then the abuses are worth it. What is important is to shock (or embarrass) them with the radical change in our lives.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Divine Light and Human Flares

Isaiah 50:10-11 gives two options for those want guidance. One is to
depend on the leading of the Lord even though it is darkness around.
The other is to light up one's own flares and find the way through.
"Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the word of his servant?

Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of
the LORD and rely on his God.
But now, all you who light fires and provide yourselves with flaming
torches, go, walk in the light of your fires and of the torches you
have set ablaze. This is what you shall receive from my hand: You will
lie down in torment."

Flares don't last long and they light up only the surroundings. Since
it lights up the darkness for a while and then dies out, those who
venture into darkness with them may find themselves deep in darkness
when the fuel of the flare is gone. Such people may end up groping in
darkness.

The other option for those who are in darkness is to trust in the
Lord. Trying to walk in our own light is another word for self-
reliance, which rejects the role of God in our life. This invites
trouble. However, venturing into the darkness knowing God is out there
is faith which honours God.

Nothing illustrates this aspect better than a poem by Minnie Louise
Harkins (1875-1957), which my friend sent to me recently.
I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year,

'Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.
'And he replied, 'Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the
hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way!'
So I went forth and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night.
And he led me towards the hills
and the breaking of day in the lone East.

Burning Bushes

'And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning,...