Sunday, September 20, 2015

Your friendly Navigator | Manna for your Soul

The Israelites were redeemed from slavery in the most epic way. 
When I read through the Exodus, I am astounded with the way God would soften and harden the hearts and minds of the Pharaoh until the moment they were let go. 
As a young child, I would ask myself why God would harden the heart of the people that He was trying to rescue His children from?
Then as I grew up, I understood why - If there is anything worth having, it is worth fighting for. God wanted His children to fight for their rightful place in His kingdom.

But the fight was not over yet.
The Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 long years. Even considering the time it took to travel the physical distance between Egypt and the promised land of Israel (about 400 kms), this was an inordinate delay. Why didn't they just ask for directions?

This is exactly how our lives are as well. When I am driving to new destinations, I program my destination on my GPS. Sometimes, I take a wrong/incorrect turn and the navigator lady politely 're-routes' and tell me how to go back to the correct path. When I fail to follow instructions, she simply 'finds a new route' and gives me the route to follow to get to my destination based on the road I am on at the moment. Unlike a real human navigator, she is never rude, she doesn't get frustrated and ask me why I didn't follow her instructions and she won't yell at me for taking a left turn when I was supposed to just go straight. Sometimes, I end up lost. That is when I realize I should have backtracked and followed the route I was supposed to take in the first place. Argh! The aggravation! 
After a couple of cross-country misadventures, I've now laid my trust on the friendly, polite voice from the GPS. Because I have realized the GPS doesn't lose anything if I don't follow instructions. The instructions are for my benefit. 

God is pretty much like this. 

He got us out of the slavery of sin centuries ago. He promised us the land of milk and honey. But we still haven't reached our destination! 

We tend to lose our way among the by-lanes and back-alleys of sin. We ignore the little voice that guides and plans our route to salvation and end up in a tangled web of our own making.

So who do you look to for direction?
Of all the stories, two of the most astounding stories of determination are in Mark 5:21-43.
We see the story of Jairus, a patron ruler of the Galilee synagogue, who is asking Jesus to come with him to heal his daughter who is very ill. Now, Jairus is probably one of the top 10 powerful people in the empire at that time. Someone very powerful and used to having people trip over themselves to serve him. He probably didn't even have to come personally to ask Jesus but could've sent his servants. Let's also remember that Jesus wasn't exactly the darling of the synagogue. But Jairus did the unexpected and came to Jesus himself, and asked him to come and heal his daughter. And this takes humility and tons of faith.
Midway through this story, Mark tells us about a lady with a serious illness. She probably had abnormal vaginal bleeding for many years that made her an outcast in the society. Having heard of the miracles Jesus has been performing, she follows him. 
She knows she is not worthy to have a conversation with Him. All she wants is to just touch any part of Him. 
The moment she touches His robe, she is healed! 
And Jesus realises that someone has touched Him (with faith), stops to recognize and validate her faith.
Later, Mark wraps up the chapter nicely by demonstrating how Jesus raises Jairus's daughter from the dead. Only because Jairus and his family believed.

This is a rare form of faith. Something that we don't seem to possess anymore. 
We are a very visual generation of people. 
We can't seem to focus on God if we don't have an idol or an object in front of us. 
We don't believe in miracles that we don't see. Seeing is believing, they tell us.

One of the remarkable thing about this chapter is how humbling life really is. 
Jairus and the Lady with the gynec problem are people from 2 ends of society. Jairus would have had legions of people at his command. And the lady was shunned by the world. Yet, disease and despair struck them both. By catering to both their needs, Jesus shows us how His Grace is enough and more for all the problems we might have.

He is moved by the Jairus's faith who requests (instead of taunting) Jesus to heal.
He marvels at the faith of the lady, who didn't want anything else, but to touch His garment. 
Having millions of followers thronging by Him, touching His robes would have been something millions of people would have done almost daily. But the Bible talks only about the Lady with the continual flow of blood, because she was the only person who touched Him with her faith. 
I can only imagine how word of this could have spread and how millions would have gathered just to touch His garment and be healed but returned disappointed.

Today, Christians around the world believe touching an idol in a church or dabbing some 'holy' oil is going to heal their sickness and rid their misfortune. Wrong.

Jesus is the ONLY way to redemption. He won't yell at you if you take the wrong turn. He just re-calculates your route so that you can return to Him. 
Now the choice is yours - Do you want to turn back and take the right road to Him or do you want to take the much longer, windier, uncertain route and end up getting lost?

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Trust me - Trust Him | Manna for your Soul

What are the 3 most important things you cherish in a relationship?
What are the 5 most important traits you look for in a person?
What are the 7 reasons you dislike someone in your life?
Chances are the common trait in your answers to the 3 questions above would have something to do with 'trust'. 

A couple of months ago, India or atleast the inflammable and socially-networked part of India erupted in self-righteous angst when a young lady posted a picture of a man who 'outraged her modesty' at a traffic stop. Her facebook post spewed enough venom to sedate a nation. And fall we did. Fast forward a week later, the truth leaked out. Jasleen Kaur did it for 15 minutes of fame. So while she can argue she did achieve her goal, I ask - 'At what cost?'
I doubt if someone will ever believe her again. In a nation where women have been given the rude end of a short stick for decades, an ill-thought stunt like this only spoils the fragrance for the rest of them. 
In doing this, she broke our trust in women, in our belief that women will use the law only in good faith. 

The Bible is replete with teachings of trust. So are most other books of religion.
Whilst some advocate you to 'finish off' a person who betrays your trust, the Bible tells us to be aware of the person who could break your trust and move on. Proverbs 14:5 & 26 tells us 'A faithful witness will not lie: but a false witness will utter lies... A true witness delivereth souls: but a deceitful witness speaketh lies.'
I'm sure you know of someone who fits the description of a false witness. A deceitful witness. 

Our parents tell us not to lie and we repeat the same when we are parents. Yet, popular culture has somehow made it look like 'white lies' are okay and sometimes necessary. 

Even when most religions admonish dishonesty, we love exaggeration and fluff. 
When was the last time someone betrayed your trust because of their lying tongue? 
How did you feel when you came to realize something about someone that wasn't exactly the truth?

Your little white lies are neither little nor white. Like an inverted pyramid, they grow into monstrosities of factual misrepresentations, gross fabrication and deliberate deception. In the end, you won't even remember what was the first little lie you told. But would it even matter?

Which brings me to what I want to talk about - Can we rebuild trust? 
A few years ago, when my ex broke my trust in her, I was shattered. As the deception unraveled, I realized she wasn't the person I knew. No matter how hard she tried after the revelations, I could never trust her again. 'Is this another lie?' was the thought that stayed in my mind.. 

'Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding' says Proverbs 3:5.
You must understand that people who lie frequently only do so because of their unbelief - in themselves and in God. 
We live in times when we are on auto-pilot most times. We know our emails will reach on time, we (think) know that we will wake up tomorrow and head to that meeting, do that chore, watch that movie, go to that trek, be on that date, get that job interview, get that hike and generally be the recipient of all things good in our lives. We believe technology and law of averages won't fail us. 
We panic the moment our lives go off the rail. And that is when we clutch to the straws of our religion.

I know a person who has been going through a lean patch in his life for a few years and he has been dabbling with every ritual there is. He has stopped eating meat (because he thinks vegetarianism is what will win the favor of the Gods), has begun wearing 'lucky' stones on his finger-rings, has tied 'raksha' threads/beads on his forearm and has fasted for over 60 consecutive days. This was months ago and he isn't any closer to 'good fortune' than he was 4 years ago. 
Aren't we all like this? We put our lives on cruise-control but the moment we fly off the smooth roads off the cliff in to the deep sea, we desperately look for God in all things. 

The Bible tells us 'It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.' People of little faith are convinced that this is why they must take refuge in rituals during difficult times. But the Lord also tells us to 'Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His presence continually!' 

So can we learn to trust again? Yes, if we learn to lean on Him and not on our wisdom.

Personally, I've learned more lessons in trust from my pets than I have from humans. 
For anyone who has had a pet dog will vouch, everytime I'd take my pup Snoopy down strange new roads which had a lot of strays, he would trust me to be the alpha dog. He knew I would never let anything bad happen to him. He would walk like he owns the road, because he trusted me. Larger strays would come barreling down him and he wouldn't as much as cower in fear. Because he knew I am bigger than any of the menacing dogs and that I will take care of him. 

We are much more precious to God than any pet can be to us. He walks with us. Most times, He lets us walk without a leash so that we can wander, sniff every scent and explore every sense. But when danger crowds us, we do need to trust that He is bigger than all our problems and their problems put together. 

We are the most precious children of the most powerful God. How can anything be more comforting than this?

Sunday, September 06, 2015

The God Of People You Hate | Manna for your Soul

'They will put you out of your places of worship; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service.
And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me.
But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them. And these things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you.

This is from the Bible, but this could've come from the Quran or the Bhagavad Gita and it would've made sense too. 
Like kids who can pick up quarrels on the most trivial things, grown-up people choose to fight over religion. It's a no-brainer.

While religious persecution isn't new, over the last few years, more people have been killed just because they were Muslims (or Christians) more brutally than every other cause of deaths put together. Most people don't know how bad this is because we aren't living in places like Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, or Somalia. 

A few weeks ago, I watched a radicalized Hindu lady ranting and raving against the Christians in India. She was blaming the 'foreigners' of coming and stealing jobs and opportunities in the land of Hindus. 
The news channel fed fat to the fire by publishing statistics of how the minority communities have been growing since the last decade. Yes, we reproduce too.
Back online, I did a little research on this lady. She was abandoned by her Hindu parents because she was an unnecessary girl child. Was brought up in a Christian orphanage, went to the missionary school and later a Christian college run by the nuns, until she could stand on her own feet. And I had this singular question - Did our backs hurt your knife? 

Many years ago, when Hindu hardliners burned Graham Staines and his 2 young sons to death in their car, his widowed wife forgave Dara Singh and wished he and the mob that killed the rest of her family would repent and be reformed. 

We are all very flammable people. When we rush to lynch a suspect, we need to pause and introspect. 
'So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves..'

Until a few decades ago, the term Mob Justice used to conjure images of the KKK lynching and dragging bodies of African-Americans. Later CNN fed us new images of ethnic cleansing in Africa. In the last 4 years, Indians have discovered the adrenalin rush of a unhealthy dose of mob justice.
Our journalists are public prosecutors, judge and jury. Instead of being unbiased, they regurgitate semi-digested chunks of verdicts into the eager mouths of arm-chair patriots and moral cops. 

Why should anyone suffer because who they worship or not is not someone/something you worship.
We can't afford to kill and we don't deserve to die. 
Which one among you, if your child is ill, won't rush him/her to the doctor in the middle of the night? 
A parent can't bear to see their child being weak, much less die. 
Why can't we extend the same courtesy and thought to someone else's child too?

The God of that man/woman/child you persecute is also the same God you will answer to. Get your act together. Now.

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