Tuesday, July 24, 2018

When Plans Go Wrong

An air crash on June 23, 1980, stunned India. That day when doing aircraft acrobatics Sanjay Gandhi nosedived to his death. Sanjay Gandhi was the son of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Historians say that Indira was mentoring him to be her successor as the President of Indian National Congress and the Prime Minister of India. That accident grounded her plans. It redirected the course of India's politics and history. Even, Indira's families of two sons ended up in two rival political camps.
The truth is all that we plan around people have a 'use before' date. Bible affirms this truth that we have observed in history and personal lives many times. Psalm 146:3,4 says: 'Put not your trust in princes,in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs he returns to the earth;on that very day his plans perish.'
The mortal human being can fulfil his plans only while he is alive and is able. It is true that a visionary can pass on his dreams to his successors. The successors may fulfil it or fail it. King Solomon, the wisest man who lived on earth knew that all that he achieved so far is futile. The reason for his frustration is that he has to hand over all of them to his successor whose abilities he was not sure of. So he lamented: 'I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me, and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity' (Eccl. 2:18-19, ESV).
This revelation that plans that we make have no guarantee of success is disturbing, to say the least. Then where is stability? This may make us depressed. However, a person like the Psalmist who trust in God and entrusts his plans to God has no reason for despair.
Psalmist congratulates those who have their plans built around God (146:5). He argues that you can trust God with your plans for many reasons. First of all, God is the creator of all that we see and experience. Secondly, he can be trusted since faithful is his character. God's faithfulness lasts as long as he is alive and God is eternal (146:6).
A child of God realizes that they have absolutely no control over their plans. However, they also realize that God is in absolute control of their lives. The psalmist then goes on illustrating this truth.
The farmer may go hungry when the weather fails him. Or it could be a pestilence that plunges that whole land into famine. That happens even in the most developed countries. If no famine, a price hike is expected. However, God is faithful to feed the hungry when human plans don't work the way they ought to. God is the one who 'gives food to the hungry' (146:7).
One of my colleagues had a very happy marriage and a wonderful family. Everything was going fine with them. They had plans for their only son, plans for great days of retired life. A phone call on that fateful afternoon changed all that. She was waiting for her husband to come home any time that afternoon. The police rang up to ask her to come to the hospital to identify the body of her husband who died in an accident. You might have heard many such stories where a wife turns a widow in a matter of minutes and children turn orphans as well. However, the children of God find comfort in the assurance that 'he upholds the widow and the fatherless' (146:9).
When Jehoiachin was imprisoned in Babylon, he never imagined that he will be free one day. He spent a long 37 years in prison. However, the emperor of Babylon released him at the end of that long prison term. He was not only free but he was treated royally. He got his royal robes back, he dined at the emperor's table daily (Jer 52:31-34). This is not just an old story. God has repeated this in the life of my friend's son recently. He was taken hostage while serving as a doctor with a relief agency in Afghanistan. He spent many months in a Taliban camp as a hostage. However, at a time no one ever imagined the US Navy Seals rescued him. It was a freedom that he never imagined. The psalmist puts that truth rather concisely as 'The Lord sets the prisoners free' (146:7).
We live in a world of uncertainties. Nothing is stable and nothing is permanent. All that we build around human beings are tend to fail. However, it is not all that uncertain and unstable for those who trust God. God is in charge, human plans may fail, but his plans never. Sometimes God even frustrates human plans so that his plan for us may prevail.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Ready to be Served?

One of the many paradoxes of the Bible is the role reversals. The king may become a servant or someone in a lowly position may be raised to a new level of authority. Luke 12:35-40 describes one such role reversals.
This passage is undoubtedly about being ready for the masters' arrival. Just like the story of the ten maiden (Mattthew 25:1-13) this passage also talks about being ready with the lamps filled with oil. The servants should be watchful for the arrival of the bridegroom who may come unannounced to the party at an hour he chooses. He may keep the people waiting late into the night. However, the servants must be ready with their lamps, awake so that they can open the door at his first knock on the door.
It is not just opening the door and showing him the way in with the lighted lamp that is involved here. The master should be convinced that they had been awake all night. The master expects them to be awake and ready for action throughout the night ( Luke 12:37).
The master will reward them for their diligence. Here comes the role reversal. The servants are supposed to serve the master. However, God the master is different. If he finds that his servants had been waiting for him the whole night, he will reverse the role. They had been waiting without food and rest. So, God the master then decides that he should serve them first before being served himself. So, Jesus said: 'Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them.' (Luke 12:37, ESV).
Discipleship involves readiness for action. Readiness will be rewarded in the Kingdom of God. Five of the ten virgins were not ready. They were cast out. However, the five who were ready joined the bridegroom in the party.
Though God expects us to do is being 'ready for action' (Luke 12:35), the real action belongs to God. God asked Abraham to sacrifice his only son (Genesis 22). Abraham had never offered a human sacrifice and he was sure that God does not expect a human sacrifice. Still, Abraham was ready for action. God tested his readiness to the point of lifting his hands. God acted just before the knife slitted Isaac's throat. Some point between Abraham began swinging his knife and it touched Isaac's throat, God intervened. God was ready with a lamb in the place of Isaac. The lamb was trapped in a bush so that Abraham did not has to chase it. God had held it in place to be lifted up by Abraham.
This is in line with God's character. The master of the household is always diligent so that he will not let the thief break in (Luke 12:35). Thus God expects us to be like him diligent and watchful. At his coming at a time that no one expects, Christ expects us people waiting for him. He will, then, according to his promise will care for us. The master we wait for is also a servant who loves to serve us. But are we ready to be served?

Master's Voice

Sometime back, I took a team to the elephant park in my town. There are about 40 elephants belonging to a temple. Each elephant is assigned ...