Jun 29, 2009

Square Pegs

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you. (Psa 139:13-18)

We are differently made. It is always a wonder, how different we can be from one another. It is all the more amazing, that the very things that distinguish us can both draw us together, and then makes us so revolting to each the other. What was once the source of attraction can morph into an abhorrent object. But is it so strange, that the foot is different from the eye? One can be so tough but menial, the other so delicate but precise. We can drag our feet through the mud but not the eye. The eye can distinguish near and far, and any shade of the rainbow but the foot nary a sight. It comes as no surprise that we can not choose between one and the other unless we are prepared to be either lame or blind! It is here that we frequently make for a confused lot; we cherish the thought that it is well to be an individual ourselves and to be unique, yet we struggle with another’s uniqueness or individuality. We become hamstrung in the notion that if one is not like us, he is a square peg in the midst of round holes. We are not comfortable with people who are different from us; and so we refuse or refrain to relate. It is enshrined in taxes, that it is permissible to avoid taxes so long as one is not guilty of evasion; one wonders at this creativity of man and whether if the LORD would tolerate a similar proviso in His dictionary and statutes.

In church, we seek, worship and relate to the LORD following frequently different paths. Some confirm commitment in expressions and activity. Those of quieter ilk, not quite comfortable with pomp and clamor often prefer the less demonstrative. There is praise nonetheless for those who prefer the anonymity of hidden pews and places. The tensions of Martha and Mary, Peter, Phillip, Nathaniel, Nicodemas, Zaccheus, James, Paul and John are clearly evident amongst us. Do these separate personality traits bind us or divide? Is the church above these differences?

The mosaic of separate, several personalities, woven by the LORD in the church makes for the finest embroidered tapestry. How often have we submitted that we find completeness only in each other; that we truly need and appreciate the different traits, the different personalities, the different colors, yes even all our agonizing differences? So often we forget, grow impatient, and contend because we have been made differently. Far too often, the character between us becomes hurdles by which we cause each other to stumble.

The LORD did not make us monotonous replicas of one the other. We know for a fact that no two fingerprints, no two snowflakes, are ever the same. It should stir our hearts to appreciate that us creatures, formed from the mere dust of the earth, have been given careful consideration, to be endowed with what we so proudly proclaim to be our own unique individuality; an individuality that should engender praise and thanksgiving as opposed to conflict.

Would it not be timely to look at each other and then to remember, that we have each, been made in His image? The luxury of having our own particular song, story and gospel can not presume on the earlier.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, (Joh 13:34)

God bless.


Jun 22, 2009


"Surely there is a mine for silver, and a place for gold that they refine. Iron is taken out of the earth, and copper is smelted from the ore. Man puts an end to darkness and searches out to the farthest limit the ore in gloom and deep darkness. He opens shafts in a valley away from where anyone lives; they are forgotten by travelers; they hang in the air, far away from mankind; they swing to and fro. As for the earth, out of it comes bread, but underneath it is turned up as by fire. Its stones are the place of sapphires, and it has dust of gold. "That path no bird of prey knows, and the falcon's eye has not seen it. The proud beasts have not trodden it; the lion has not passed over it. "Man puts his hand to the flinty rock and overturns mountains by the roots. He cuts out channels in the rocks, and his eye sees every precious thing. He dams up the streams so that they do not trickle, and the thing that is hidden he brings out to light. "But where shall wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding? Man does not know its worth, and it is not found in the land of the living. The deep says, 'It is not in me,' and the sea says, 'It is not with me.' It cannot be bought for gold, and silver cannot be weighed as its price. It cannot be valued in the gold of Ophir, in precious onyx or sapphire. Gold and glass cannot equal it, nor can it be exchanged for jewels of fine gold. No mention shall be made of coral or of crystal; the price of wisdom is above pearls. The topaz of Ethiopia cannot equal it, nor can it be valued in pure gold. "From where, then, does wisdom come? And where is the place of understanding? It is hidden from the eyes of all living and concealed from the birds of the air. Abaddon and Death say, 'We have heard a rumor of it with our ears.' "God understands the way to it, and he knows its place. For he looks to the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens. When he gave to the wind its weight and apportioned the waters by measure, when he made a decree for the rain and a way for the lightning of the thunder, then he saw it and declared it; he established it, and searched it out. And he said to man, 'Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.'"(Job 28:1-28)

Every then and again, we hear of people striking gold. There will be stories of men flocking in droves, willing to endure demanding living conditions to sift the earth in search of specs of metal. Men have toiled and killed to stake out claims where the lode is thought to be found. Job speaks of a mine that has something that surpasses all the gold and precious stones and ore known to man.

The Lord Jesus Christ had this to say;

He who has ears, let him hear." Then the disciples came and said to him, "Why do you speak to them in parables?" And he answered them, "To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. (Mat 13:9-13)

But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it. (Mat 13:16-17)

"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. (Mat 13:44)

We have been given the knowledge of the whereabouts of this mine. We have been blessed with eyes that see and ears that can hear. We are the people who would sell all that we have to purchase that treasure-filled field; mere cliché or blasé rhetoric. It would be wise, to remember that this gift can be withdrawn if we choose to despise.

When was the last we went down into the mine to sift through the earth in search of nuggets and precious stones? Do we still remember the joy of finding these precious gems? We know that there is a vast difference between sitting through a presentation of a friend’s travel video clip versus making the trip ourselves. There is some small measure of worth in a postcard, but no where in comparison to the physical experience.

And he said to them, "Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old."(Mat 13:52)

Our Lord has mandated that we bring out both “new and old”. I wonder what that really means, especially the “old”. The commandment that we should bring out the “new” is formidable; how do we find new nuggets from places already mined- over? But the mine is deep, perhaps we have to dig deeper! How often have we missed the treasure, only to discover them after several culls? Can this be the rationale for meditating?

Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts. (Jer 15:16)

May the proclamation in Jeremiah be our own personal experience and confession also, as we continue to work in the mine of His Word.

God bless.


Jun 15, 2009

Stranger at the door

There was an Indian stranger at our door the other night. Food was laid out on the tables and we were continuing to ready the satay. He was an older person with weathered hands, uncut hair and without shoes. His clothing were aged and discolored, not visibly dirty but neither pressed. He was probably a street-person though he claimed to be a guard. There exuded a faint trace of body odor around him. His English was commendable, his demeanor polite even, he dotted his “please” and crossed his “thank-you’s”. The apparent seniors around church were addressed as “Sir’s” and he had the good sense of staying clear of the ladies. He was clearly interested in the food on the table, and having been given some, came back to pack more for later. He sat on the fringes and did not presume to participate further in our proceedings. On the fringes, he attempted to gain acceptance by displaying appropriate decorum. There were even words of praise for the church and God Himself. He made the mistake of repeatedly asking for cigarettes, as if he sensed that perchance, some of us would be closet smokers.

He did not make us comfortable. We were surely not keen on sharing our cups with him though we were too embarrassed to refuse, so we let him. Obviously we were thankful that he did not presume more.

Looking into the mirror in my mind, I see a man standing outside the same house. The LORD was there amidst His mighty Ones. There was food and blessing laid out on His table, and many desired to partake of His goodness. Dressed in, at best, filthy rags, with wounds and sores all over his body, the man was unkempt, untidy to say the least, and not quite sanctified enough to be admitted into the presence of the LORD. There was still the scent of flesh around him. But this man knew the “right” language and was also seen giving praise and thanksgiving. He would call on the LORD and knew also the etiquette and protocols. Repeatedly, he seemed to make the mistake of asking for either the wrong things or for the wrong reasons. Fearful to enter into the presence of the LORD, he stayed on the fringes and tried to present himself as acceptable amongst the others. Remarkably, he did not, quite stand out amidst the others.

Is it not strange, that there is so much similarity between us and the Indian gentleman? Is there still much, that we would despise in him? Are we really comfortable about and recognize what separates us?

Except for the longsuffering mercy and grace of the LORD, and His provision of , a cloak, of the imputed righteousness of His Son, paid for dearly at Calvary, we will never be able, to approach His House less we perish, because of the zeal of His mighty Ones, who would put to shame the zeal of Phinehas, and the LORD Himself, a consuming fire.

But one wonders; can we put on this cloak of righteousness, as if with any other garment? Can we wear it as a Sunday suit only? Is there any real difference between us and the Indian gentleman? Do we not partake of His table of goodness and blessing? The stranger at our door was the wiser, in that he did not dare to presume.

God bless.


Jun 8, 2009

The Fear of the LORD

The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. (Psa 103:8)

And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, (Deu 10:12)

We proclaim a loving God, yet men must know, to fear the LORD. We understand the fear of wild beasts. We have a latent fear of the dark. Fear the LORD? Who is the LORD? We will not fear Him if, at the very onset, we do not properly know Him.

The fear of the LORD has been explained as reverence. But is it just reverence? Can not the literal meaning be equally explicit? Has the LORD changed with the advent of the New Testament? Have His attributes changed?

From the OT, there are many good reasons for fearing Him. He flooded the earth and erased all air-breathing beings, babies included. He rained fire and brimstone to annihilate Sodom and Gomorrah. Egypt suffered plagues and the death of all her first-born, of beasts and man. Even with His chosen ones; He disposed of them by snakes and laced quail. Aaron’s sons were consumed, Miriam was made a leper. Achan’s family was stoned to death. Korah and his revolting priests; buried alive. Well-intentioned Uzzah was struck dead. The LORD Himself raised the Babylonian, Assyrian and Roman armies to destroy Israel. It does not always strike us that innocents, if there were any, also suffered censure. He was a terror, especially to His own people.

The New Testament does not veer far from the Old. The Lord spoke of Hell; a place where there will be eternal weeping and gnashing of teeth, where neither the worm nor the flames die, was He being dramatic? The eternal lake of fire; a crucible of love? That men will be trampled and blood gathered till the height of a horse’s bridle for 1600 stadia; an exaggeration or mere symbolism? When the Lord said that He would spit us out of His mouth, because we are lukewarm; was that an inadvertent choice of words. “Depart from Me” are not quite words of adoration. The Hebrew’s writer cautioned trampling underfoot, the blood of the Lamb. He further warned against falling into the hands of; not a loving, not a merciful, not a gracious forgiving God, but those of a living God. That the LORD is a consuming fire is attested to in both the New and Old Testaments. There is good reason to fear the returning Judge of all mankind. That everyone, beginning with His house, would be called to account before Him, is sufficient motivation to fear.

Our conduct proposes that we have a dulled appreciation of the fear of the LORD. Mere mortals seem more successful in evoking our fear than the LORD of Hosts. By a lopsided focus on His goodness alone, we have conjured an idolatrous deity whose pleasure is, to dote on his children; ever gracious, ever merciful, ever forgiving, ever loving. We have reduced our Abba Father to a parent who will exempt our not too significant or marginal behavioral glitches. We have decoupled forgiveness from confession, from repentance. We forget that all creation bows and trembles at His presence. Where angels proclaim to each the other, when mountain wax, and waves hold their peace, His children conduct themselves with leisurely ease whilst the returning Lion of Judah is preached; a domesticated peacenik. We perpetuate with grave consequences; when wrath and eternal damnation are submersed by inordinate promises of divine patience and love.

With the help of His Holy Spirit, a careful consideration will provide for a revised estimate of the fearfulness of the LORD Almighty. It is truly our privilege and blessing to be granted audience and may our days reflect the growing awareness and due regard of the immensity of His fearsome Being.

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. (Ecc 12:13)

God bless.


Jun 1, 2009

Scandalous III

(A soliloquy)

“I had followed the Man for three years and some. He came into my boat one day and asked that I cast away out, to give Him space to speak to the crowd. After His discourse, He said that I should let my nets down again. Despite a whole fruitless night earlier spent and reluctantly complying, there was that huge catch that broke the nets. Undone, I had asked Him to leave but in reply, He asked that I and my brothers follow Him, to become fishers of men. We left our boats and followed Him.

We traveled all over the coasts and towns, and crowds would always gather. There was healing for the sick, the lame, the blind, the palsied and the mute, why even the dead were raised. He would cast out demons who hailed Him in terror. Some said He was of Beelzebub. With some loaves and a few fish, we had fed thousands in the wildernesses with balance left over. The crowds would come and not leave though His sermons, of parables were oftentimes difficult to understand. He said we were more blessed because we were given to know. He required us to give all to follow Him. The call to forsake all; our possessions, our families, life even to take up a cross and follow Him was clearly too much. Many left.

But we stayed. He wanted to know, who we and the crowds thought He was. I confessed that He was the Christ, the Son of the Living God, the foretold Messiah; the son of man, the son of David, whose kingdom would never end. He will deliver us and restore the Kingdom of Israel. And had he not chosen us twelve. I belonged in His inner circle.

Why should I not stay? I had seen the signs and miracles He executed. Even the wind and the waves obeyed Him. I had walked on water to Him at His invitation! At His command and commission, and in His Name, I was able to do powerful signs and miracles. Even the demons feared. Everything was possible, in His Name; everything done in His name. Yet He said that I should not be happy, only because, I had all this power? And there was indeed power. Did He not speak and teach with an authority, such as I had not seen before?

It was not so long ago that He brought us up a hill. We were tired and rested when suddenly we were immersed in thick clouds, and there appeared, the Master with two others, all in glorious appearance and bright shining apparel. That must have been it, or so I thought, that I had asked that booths be immediately constructed to honor all three, but a Voice from heaven thundered "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him." I reopened my eyes again and there was only Him. Mine own ears had heard the voice thundering from heaven. Did not heaven testify?

Was it not surreal; when we entered Jerusalem, the Master sitting on a colt that was readied for Him? The whole city came out to receive Him, resounding with Hosannas and palm leaves strewn across the paths. The reception was clearly fit for a king. Coming into the city, He wept, over an impending destruction of Jerusalem. Proceeding to the Temple, He cast out the merchants and announced that it also, would be leveled to the ground, one day.

It was all so tumultuous, His triumphant entry, in the tradition of kings, clearing the Temple, rebuked, challenged and standing down the authorities. Then He pronounced doom. A glorious entrance culminated with weeping. Prior to His coming to Jerusalem, He had repeatedly informed that He was coming here to be delivered into the hands of His enemies and that He would be killed? The son on the throne of David, whose reign will never end, foretells that Jerusalem, the city of David His father, will be destroyed? The Son of God, announces that the Temple of the LORD will be razed? This Messiah had determined to die? What Kingdom is this? That my earlier protestations were severely reprimanded?

It was the time of the Passover and before the feast, a dispute had arisen amongst us, as to who would be the greatest. Zebedee’s wife asked that her sons be seated on the left and right of His throne. The Master did a strange thing then; like a slave, He stooped to wash all our feet. I would have had none of it. But the Master chided, and taught us all, His own lessons.

At Passover, He spoke of a new covenant, of His body broken, of His blood and of a new Helper. He had given us a new commandment. There was some talk of buying swords and talk of betrayal. The notion of betrayal was reprehensible and we had all pledged our allegiances. After the feast, we sang some and retired to the garden. He again alluded that He would be struck down and that we would all run away. Even I would fail Him and deny Him, not once but thrice. I was infuriated at His allusion and declared that prison and death would not deter my following after Him.

He was troubled, wanted to pray and asked that some of us pray with Him. It had been a long day and being tired, I kept falling asleep. Then soldiers and the authorities came. Judas came with them. Pulling a sword, I managed to strike someone’s ear. He stopped me. I was told to put away the sword while He healed the person’s ear. I was ready to fight and die there if necessary, as I had promised, if that was what was required. But He quietly surrendered Himself over!

We all ran away, but I had decided to follow from afar. It was already early morning and somewhere in the distance, a cock was crowing. Amidst the turmoil, I was let into the High Priest’s courts and some silly servant girl had to ask if I was His disciple. Within the court, I observed all manner of accusations heaped at Him but He remained silent. They could not get witnesses to agree and when He again said He was the Son of God, the High Priest rent his clothes and then things became even nastier. They had slapped Him. They spat on Him, abused Him, mocked Him, and they ridiculed Him. It was a heart-breaking and confusing spectacle. My Master? My Lord? The Messiah? The Christ, the Son of the Living God? Where are His legions? His army? And His mighty hosts? Where is God Himself? He was an army of one.

It was cold so I warmed myself by a fire. Some other person remarked that I sounded like Him, that I was a Galilean follower of His. Then another claimed that he recognized me from the fracas. Being in the wrong place I denied ever knowing the Man. A cock crew. Then as eyes met, it was there, in His eyes. I had denied Him thrice before the cock crew twice just as He said I would. So? I was wrong. Again. I had failed. Again. Loud professions so often entangle.

They stripped Him naked and crucified Him the same day. He had already been badly flogged. They nailed Him down, and hoisted Him up, for all to see; a Roman execution reserved for the worst of criminals. They made sure, for Him, a slow death; the King of the Jews, cloaked in crimson, of His own congealing blood, wearing a crown of plaited thorns. Everyone was there. The whole circus. They tagged Him in three different languages, so that all would understand. Accursed on a tree, they challenged Him to come down from the cross, to save Himself. Can one unable to save oneself, save others? They waited, to see if any, or that God Himself will come to His rescue, if indeed He be the Son. What does the Voice from heaven say now? Everyone looked on, the Man, whom demons had feared. They defied Him, who called Himself the Son of God, the Man, who even the sea and waves obeyed. They lifted Him up, but on a cross.

Then You died. The Son, of the Living God, died, as You said You would. Who had I followed, for three years, and some? Ask me now, who do I say You are; a controversy? A stumbling block? Folly? Scandalous? ”

God bless.