Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Art of Listening to God

God is contantly speaking. He hasn’t stopped when the canon of the Bible is completed as some people wrongly think. God continues to speak through his Word—through its reading and proclamation. Moreover, God is speaking to us through nature, history and all that happens around us.
To hear God we just need to listen to him. Listening to God is an art. A.W. Tozer wrote many years ago: ‘The Voice of God is a friendly Voice. No one need fear to listen to it unless he has already made up his mind to resist it.’
How do we hear that friendly voice speaking to us? There are lessons to be learned in this regard from Samuel’s encounter with God. We read of this in 1 Samuel 3.
The first thing is to tell God that we are willing to hear. God called Samuel by name before he told him what he wanted to tell him. Young Samuel was not used to the voice of God, so he ran to the only other person in the sanctuary where he slept. It happened three times. On the third time, Eli realised that it could be God calling him. So, he instructed Samuel to say when God call him again, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.’ The next time God called him, he said exactly the same words that Eli taught him and God spoke to him about his plans for the household of Eli.
It is God’s prerogative to choose the person he wants to speak to. Though he is speaking continuously, he may prefer certain people to receive his message. This may depend on that person’s relationship with God. God did not tell Lot what is going to happen to Sodom and Gomorrah though he was a citizen there. That plan was revealed to Abraham though Abraham was not going to be affected directly by God's action. God did not choose Eli to disclose the plan of judgement on his house, but it was revealed to Samuel. It is a privilege to be the person that God chooses to speak to.
Many people are experts in the technical details of having a conversation with God. Eli is a good example. However, one can use the technical knowledge only if God addresses them. Eli knew what to say when God calls, he probably had many such experiences even. However, he was not chosen to receive God’s message.
It is sin, Eli’s sin and that of his children that snapped the hotline between him and God. The continuous resistance of God’s voice, even through a prophet directly amounted to a break of talking terms with God.
The art of listening to God’s voice thus seems to be simple. Be ready with hearts purified before God. Wait for him to call, and say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.’

Saturday, May 06, 2017

The Lonely Apostle

Mark 5:1-20 is the story of Jesus healing a demoniac. This man had withdrawn from the society. He was living in a graveyard. Graveyards are always away from where people live, usually outside the village or the town. Under the demonic oppression he ‘was always crying out and bruising himself with stones.’
The story goes on to say how Jesus healed him. Jesus commanded the multitude of demons that has possessed him to come out. The came out and entered the pigs and perished as the pigs frantically ran to the lake and drowned. According to popular beliefs of the day, the demons would perish if they touch the water. So, Jesus cleansed the land of the multitude of demons.
A legion is a unit of Roman soldiers. We are not sure how many people are there in a legion of Roman soldiers. But according to some scholars, five to six thousand members formed a legion. However, it is not the number that matters here. The demoniac says, ‘My name is Legion, for we are many.’
The word ‘legion’ is symbolic. The man is occupied by a legion of demons like the land is occupied by the legions of Roman soldiers under various army commanders. The story thus has a message beyond merely healing a sick person. It has another level of meaning. If Jesus can handle a legion of supernatural forces tormenting one man, then he has the power over legions of soldiers who are just men of flesh!
The situation of this man is pitiful. He is occupied by demons the size of a legion that is required to command and control a whole region. They have been oppressing him and was not willing not to leave. However, at the command of Jesus, they finally had to leave.
The story ends with a commission to this man. He wanted to follow Jesus in his forward journey. However, Jesus denied his request. Jesus said, ‘Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.’
This command of Jesus is a total reversal of the condition of this man. He was living in a place where there are no living. He was in a graveyard. He had shunned people. Jesus thus sends him back to people from whom he has withdrawn. He will go to the people from whom he has withdrawn with a new message. That message is that Jesus has overcome a legion of demons. It is a message of hope for his region under Roman occupation. He is a walking symbol of liberation, once occupied now liberated. Once oppressed by violent forces but now free. The legion had taken over his mental processes, but now he is in control of his mind.
He is an apostle because he is sent by Jesus with a message. That message has to do with the mercy of God on his oppressed people. He will be a lonely apostle among his own people. That was his commission from Jesus.

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 t...