God is writing the story of your life

Situations and circumstances in life keep changing, much to our dislike and discomfort. At times, the decisions of other people affect us adversely and we are put through great many troubles. No matter what the cause of our troubles and loss, for a person who chooses to trust in God – He is there with us even through the darkest hours of our existence.

We need to go on with our life, trusting God and fearing Him. And we will surely find God who can bring the very best from the worst of our circumstances.

The brothers of Joseph devised evil. There were those who tarnished him. There were those who just forgot about him.

His loving father could do nothing to help him other than clinging to the remnant of the bloodied robe he had gifted him and swearing to go to the grave in sorrow. Reuben had wanted to save him, but could not. He was too late. Potiphar respected him but then could not trust him when his wife accused Joseph. The cup-bearer promised to help him, but he forgot. The keeper of the prison readily recognized him to be special, but he too, like all the others, could not help him.

Nevertheless, the life of Joseph is meaningful because of The Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God who was in perfect control through all those situations that appeared to be the doing and making of others.

People may want to hurt you and people may want to help you. People who can help you may not help you and the people who want to help you may not be able to help you.

People will do, for your good or to trouble you, what is in their power to do – but only to the extent that God will permit them.

They did to Joseph what they could, thinking that they could script his life. But praise be to God because Joseph was His project and a book He had chosen to write. Through all those conflicting interests and schemes and promises and betrayal, God writes a story of making Him a blessing for his generation.

The point that I would like to make is that Joseph was definitely not a loser with the whole world against him. He did have his family, friends, and well wishers – people who respected and loved him. People who wanted to help him and would have also. But God still allowed him to go through all those days of sufferings and trials. Therefore, we too need to understand that God in His own way of doing things may prevent or regulate the good that others can do for us. And it is not anybody’s fault; God is working out His will and purpose.

In our life – there are those who would gladly see us fall and try to orchestrate things to that effect. There are also those who would genuinely want to help us. But let us look to God alone who is in control and would make it all work out for good and His glory.

Doing the best – with the task at hand

We will have to give an account for all that has been entrusted to us. When Jesus taught the Parable of Talents, He said, that the one who “had received five talents ‘went at once’ and traded with them and made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two more.” (Matthew 25:16,17, emphasis added)

The problem is with the one who thought that his master “reaps where he did not sow and gathers where he had scattered no seed.” (Matthew 25:24)

Unfortunately, this is the attitude carried by many of the people leading unproductive lives. There is this desire to do something worthwhile, but then they also feel or think that something is fundamentally wrong with the Master and His way of doing things. They feel that they have not been given the right responsibility, or that they are stuck up in the wrong place, that they have not been given the required skills for doing the job that is given to them, that their calling is different, etc.

For some of those people making various excuses for themselves think that their opportunity is supposedly in some past situation. They forget that the world has changed and there is no going back to the past, except in our memories. Even if we succeed in re-creating some past situation, we will also have to face the rude shock that it is not the same as we had thought it could be. We can preserve our memories but the situations keep changing. People also change and nobody is the same anymore.

For many others their opportunity is in some other task or place that has not been given to them by providence. They lament saying, “If only….” Then they fail to do justice to the task or responsibilities that are actually entrusted them. They feel that if they land up in that right place they will do it exceedingly well. But, as life teaches us that our dream positions and situations do not come in a platter they are actually the result of much hard-work and persistence.

Be they tasks, or our worth, or gifts, or opportunities – they are given by the Master according to His sovereign will and wisdom. There is no necessity that we will like it or feel convinced and excited about it.

Whether we are convinced or remain unconvinced about our opportunities, we have two options before us:
1. To take up the task at once and make it double.

  1. To dig up the ground and hide it.

Those hiding their talent(s) can hold on to the hope that they can explain their disappointments to the Master. But the parable of Jesus gives us enough warning to think otherwise.

Convinced or not, we need to just recognize the task entrusted to us today and the potential we carry to double that which has been invested in us by God. To try and do the very best before the sun goes down. Taking one day at a time and pressing on. And without any shadow of doubt, God almighty will open the heavens and bless our efforts and give us the increase. Moreover, Jesus Christ will also reward us in eternity.

So, keep on at it – one day at a time. Do not give up, for your reward is with Him.

Finally,

Loving your job is wonderful, but it is more important to love your Master and do whatever He asks you to do.

Creating Resources for Growth

When we do not get good resources for our spiritual growth we tend to complain. We may blame the Church in general, or we may have serious issues with our denomination. Some people find the problem to be with their particular fellowship group and many find problem with their current pastor.

However, no matter how we play this blame game, we would do better to consider what we can be doing instead.

When we look in the Bible – the best of circumstances have produced bad results and the worst circumstances have given forth wonderful results.

The people of Israel were led by God from Egypt to the land of Canaan with the physical manifestation of God’s presence as the pillar of cloud and fire, and His mighty deeds were done one after another. Yet, the people rebelled and kept on rebelling.

The exilic period on the other hand was a very difficult time. Away from the promised land with the haunting memory of the Temple being desecrated and the land ruined. They were by the ‘rivers of Babylon.’ But, there God raised up Daniel and his companions. God used Ezekiel too. They brought forth resources not only useful for the Hebrews but also for the worldwide community of God’s people in the New Testament age.

So we do not have an excuse.

When small children look up to parents for food, growing up and having children of their own they cease to expect food from others. They do the cooking and feed their young. So also, as we mature spiritually we need to take up the collective responsibility of developing resources for growth that can benefit God’s people in our generation.

Paul wrote some of his epistles when in prison. John Bunyan wrote the great classic The Pilgrim’s Progress when he was in prison.

So really bad circumstances, where we do not have access to resources for our own growth, can in fact be a fertile place for the creation of new resources. Rather than being constrained by circumstances, let us become channels for God to move so that we may become a blessing in spite of our circumstances.

Reclaiming Your Life

It was once a tranquil, beautiful water body – the backwaters – well, most of that is now an eye-sore. Some invasive water-plant has just taken over completely. You can almost feel the suffocation as the destructive growth sucks out precious oxygen and destroys an ecosystem that used to flourish.

Looking within, the life is no longer the same. Instead of calmness and gentleness are the bitter fruits of impatience and irritation. There is no telling how it all changed so much. It just happened. Beginning with some stray root of bitterness which had posed no threat at all has grown wildly and is kind of overflowing. Well, there was a bull-headed confidence that nothing would happen – that no serious damage could be inflicted by, what was then, only a very small threat.

But before long, the life is changed. It is all thorns and thistles. The good fruit is no longer there. The bitter and poisonous is all that is being produced. There is nothing wrong with the Saviour but somewhere down the line bitterness slowly took over and now there is nothing but thorns and thistles in life.

Clearing the aggressive and invasive species of weeds is never an easy task. But it is not impossible.

God is there to help us and heal us and restore that fresh breath of life. Walking towards freedom may require discipline and consistent effort at clearing away even the roots of bitterness and other issues that have just taken over without ever being welcomed in the first place.

One thing we need to definitely do is to stop justifying ourselves for being bitter.

We may be able to explain very clearly that we were wronged and hurt and also name the people who are to be blamed. But then, bitterness is not going to do any good. So let us learn to let go and forgive and stop being stroked and pampered by the spirit of bitterness. The spirit of bitterness speaks in our favour, and keeps on reminding us of our past hurts as if to comfort, but has only one desire – to see that we are doomed.

Can we pray to God our Heavenly Father, and say – “Lord, my life is all thorns and thistles. But help me to be someone who brings forth good fruits for your glory through Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

Broken Pieces of a Life can indeed Reflect God’s Glory

A beautiful life speaks of the greatness and virtues of a life that is lived well. For that we may acknowledge God and say that it is He who is the giver of all the good things. We may otherwise also focus on the person who might actually appear to deserve them all. And we also have to take into account all the favourable circumstances that did come to them.

Job had it going good for him. He was blessed by God and also lived an upright life fearing God. As I am reading the book of Job, once again I seek to journey that impossible and painful path with the man of God who was so greatly afflicted. I am somewhere in the middle of the book and I can see a man – rather, a man of God – who is completely broken.

The cry that erupts from deep within me is – “Why should so much suffering come upon God’s people?”

I agree with the poet that – “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.” And there is hardly any doubt that a broken life is a pain to everyone. To those who are suffering and also to those who do care for them.

But broken life cannot be without meaning. Though nobody wants to suffer but when somebody is shattered, especially in a case like Job’s, for no fault of theirs, then God does ascribe meaning.

In our brokenness, when we are hopelessly shattered – if we seek the face of God, rather all the pieces that we have become seek God – then God’s glory is reflected brilliantly by each one of those pieces.

The point I am trying to make is that a good and preserved life even if it gives glory to God also draws attention to itself. But a shattered and broken life, when seeking God in its own meaninglessness, is able to truly reflect the glory of God without drawing any attention to itself. In other words, a preserved life speaks so many different things, but a broken life is such that only God can speak in its favour. And God will speak in favour of the shattered people. We have been witnesses and we will continue to witness God’s gracious outpouring on the broken life because of the One who was Himself shattered and broken on the cross for our sake.

May God give you meaning in your brokenness and in all that you feel you are reduced to because of your sufferings and disappointments and pain, may Jesus give you His strength and grace to reflect His beauty. If we consider it, that itself is a healing and blessed experience.

And so, may God be our help. Amen.

God wants to mend your brokenness….

Problems and issues that we have are hidden and tucked in somewhere deep inside. We neither have the mind nor the time to resolve them. To the strangers and casual friends we present a polished front of our personality. The people who are close to us see another face of our life altogether.

We try our best to conceal the wounds we have inside. But it is, as Richard Russo put it, like trying to put a cat into a bag – there is always one leg outside. So also there are some ‘outstanding’ issues of ours that scream for our attention. It can be that painful feeling of loneliness. It can be those terrible episodes of fear. It may be those explosive bouts of anger. It may be that irritability that we carry around always.

Ignoring the problems within us is not going to help us at all. We need to face the brokenness that we are hiding inside.

First and foremost, we need to set apart time. In our prayer, as we fellowship with God, we need to have quality time given to reflect on why we are the way we are. There we give God the opportunity to console us and mend or heal us inside. This leads to true spiritual formation. So, we need to find quality time for this discipline which will enable us to experience the transforming work of Jesus Christ.

Secondly, we need to have the focus. Generalizing things do not really help us. We need to have properly defined goals, examples, role-models, and also clear cut steps for making real progress. We need to know who exactly we want to become as a person and the steps or models for reaching that goal.

Thirdly, we need to isolate the different issues, and as much as possible, focus on solving each issue one by one. We can begin by addressing something that went wrong very recently. Wait upon God to understand the hidden but real reason for that wrong behaviour. There we not only understand why we did something wrong but also receive God’s consolation for healing. Maybe, we don’t repeat that in future or at least we are made better equipped to handle it. If we go wrong again then we can again take it up with God – till we are healed and that particular issue is resolved for good. Do not be discouraged thinking that this is going to be time consuming. The good part is that progress in resolving them one by one leads to less of clutter.

I would like to encourage you by saying that you need not live all your life with your emotional wounds and inner brokenness. Jesus Christ is able to heal you. And the Saviour who is the same yesterday, today, and forever always asks you or me – “What do you want Me to do for you?” Yes, Jesus is asking us – “What can I do for you?” And when we open ourselves in faith it is we who are made to see the wounds that we have inside of us and we can experience His healing touch for a truly transformed life.

Jesus will not give up on you…

Our God is the Lord of continuity – the master story maker who weaves generation after generation into a meaningful masterpiece. The God of Abraham continued His work through Isaac and then through Jacob. He tells Jacob that He would continue to work in and through his children also. That the promised land is for them, and more importantly, God’s salvation would unfold through them.

It is the desire of God to write meaningful stories that are really long. He loves to see that continuity – generation after generation. There are those of you who have seen or heard about what God had done with your parents, grand-parents or some ancestors. He will continue to work in you and through you also. And for those who swear that God has begun His work through you, He will continue to work even after you. It is not going to end with you.

In the short-term perspective, there are those who feel that the work of God in your individual life has ended. You feel that the continuity is broken and maybe you think your life itself is broken. Nevertheless, God is waiting to continue His purpose in your life. This phase of failure and disappointment that you are going through will be transformed as God has not given up on you.

In the physical world we see people giving up, resigning, and feeling very seriously that everything has ended for them. They wish that their life would have been different, that it could all have been so much better. They feel drowned in their past mistakes, errors of judgment, lost opportunities. They feel there is now no hope for them.

However, in the spiritual realm things are different. There we can see God warming up to do something new for those very people who think that they have lost it all. So do not go by what you see or hear or feel. God is at work, though I agree that there may not be any evidence for you to see in the physical realm. But God is doing His work and His work will surely continue through you.

Believe in your heart that God is able to fulfill that which He has purposed in His heart for you. Because our God continues His work through generations and also continues to work in the lives of His people individually. He does not give up and He will not give up on you.

God has invited us….

The King called those who were invited, but they would not come. He called them again, sending other servants. But they paid no attention and went off to do other things. Some even shamed and killed the servants. They were actually invited, but they proved themselves unworthy.

We who feel called by God need to take care that we do not take Him and His call lightly. There are enough and more distractions in this world. And if we ever lose our enthusiasm for God and His ways we will readily end up attracted to other things. We also lose the sense of urgency in responding to God. We may feel that other things deserve our time and attention. In a sense we end up saying that, “God can wait.”

Treacherous indeed is our way to eternity because of our own sinful nature that seeks to see us damned. The greatest resistance to faith does not come from outside. It comes from within, and it comes very subtle and slow. It makes convincing arguments against our convictions, but only at those moments when we are most vulnerable and our guards are laid down.

Hence, let us take care that there is no stretch in our life journey where we drift away from Jesus Christ our Lord and still feel alright.

Let us pray that God will keep us from being hardened in our hearts. That He would help us to always respond in good faith whenever He beckons. That we may never lose our passionate heart for our Saviour Jesus Christ.

Remembering God

Life is going very fast and a lot of things are happening at once. One can see abundance of riches and also abundance of poverty. Abundance of projects everywhere, even as there is abundance of destruction. In the midst of all these contradictions, most people are running, running to somewhere and there is no time for that which really matters. We forget that God is all that really matters. Sadly speaking, people do not have time for God.

When everything goes well it is difficult, very difficult for us human beings to remember the goodness of God. We are quick to complain when we run into disappointments and never think of being grateful to God for the goodness we do have. At the same time sin is often excused – it is clothed as something not as bad as the Bible calls it.

But God is calling us to remember His goodness. Not for His sake, but for our own sake.

  1. God is calling us to remember the futility of a life lived wrong. Temporal gains and the false sense of control are fleeting pleasures and promises. There is simply so benefit in believing wrong, worshiping wrong.
  2. God is calling us to remember our relationship with Him. The connection with God is not just meant for crisis relief. It is supposed to be celebrated each day. We need to remember our relationship with God so that such thoughts have a bearing in all that we do or say.
  3. God is calling us to remember that we will not be forgotten by Him. The truth is, God is always aware and thinking about us. He never forgets us, even when we fail in so many ways.
  4. God is calling us to remember that our sins are forgiven by Him. That Jesus Christ has paid the price for us to be graciously cleansed of our sins and uncleanness. Also to remember that He is patiently bearing with all our weakness and errors. There is nowhere else to go for the remission of sins. Nobody can, nobody will forgive us the way we are forgiven in Jesus Christ.
  5. God is calling us to remember that we are redeemed by Him. Of course our redemption is legitimate, but more than that our redemption is also the beautiful story of God loving us and promising us of His love for ever.

Isaiah 44:21,22 – “Remember these things, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are my servant; I formed you ; you are my servant, O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me. I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like a mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you.”

Let us find ways to remind ourselves to remember God.

Amen.

God Is Calling You

God Calls Us –

The Call of God is His own vision and purpose for our life. It is not merely to utilize us; rather, the call of God envisions our life in its entirety, in it wholeness. Hence, the call of God relates as much to the way we behave, relate, rest, recreate, etc., as to the way we do specific acts of ministry.

We need to grasp the whole of God’s call and not just some performance related dimension of the same. In doing so, we can learn to live our whole life in the sacred. Which is to be understood as a life that is ‘set-apart’ for God. It may be difficult for us to grasp that God takes pleasure in all the aspects of our life. However, He is interested in the fine details of our life as we live it.

God Takes Us –

The people who are called by God are taken by Him to be made in His image and likeness. In that process we get to become what God wants us to be. The best of our natural talents and the finest of our qualifications are only raw materials in the sight of God. Our abilities, talents, and qualifications need to be processed by the Holy Spirit in the painful furnace of life experiences.

All those moments when we feel unused, under-used, misused, misplaced, wrongly placed, not considered, etc., are steps in the process of being made the person God wants us to be.

God Keeps Us –

The world is notorious for utilizing people and then when they cross the threshold of utility and monetary value are forgotten or discarded. God is, on the other hand, more concerned with us than what we can do. This can be realized by us when we understand that God is calling us to be with Him. He wants us. He wants to keep us forever. He cherishes us.

The heart of God’s purpose concerning us is intimacy and fellowship. And there is no substitute for that. No number of hours put in labour for God’s kingdom, no amount of money spent in His name can ever be a substitute for intimacy and fellowship with Him.

God Gives Us –

God chooses to give His servants (whom He has called, molded, and cherished) as per His own sovereign wisdom. A common aspect of this truth in different life stories is that God leads us to places that we are naturally not inclined to take. Francesca Lodi-Cabrini had decided at the tender age of six that she wanted to be a missionary to China. As she grew us, let alone serving overseas, she found it difficult to enter into the vocation of the church ministry because of her ill-health and frailty. She did not give up and she did become a nun. She kept on trying to go to East, to China, the land of her dreams and vision. She worked hard in all that she was directed. Finally, when she was considered to go overseas the church posted her to America, a place near New York. She set on that voyage, burning for ever her lifelong desire to serve God in China. She did not lose her heart of service though, and did an exemplary ministry. By the time she died in 1917 at age 67 – she had founded more than 70 hospitals, schools, and orphanages in the US, Spain, France, England, and South America.
We may think East and God may choose West for us. We may desire a particular vocation and God may place us in some work that we do not like. We may have to burn our good and worthy desires in the path of obedience to Jesus Christ. But that is the beauty of this mystery of being used by God for His glory.
(Inspired by Isaiah 42:6, ESV)