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ARTICLES

Compassionate Christ

By A n a n d  D a v i d

 

Jesus was moved with compassion when He saw the multitudes.  When His disciples drove away little children from approaching Jesus, He rebuked His disciples and permitted children to be brought to Him to be blessed.  He was a people-Person.  Out of His compassion for the broken hearted, Jesus said, “Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest1.”  While labor causes physical exhaustion, heaviness of heart causes mental fatigue and even spiritual deterioration.  But when you turn to Christ, He gives you hope, victory and joy.

 

Turn to Christ

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you2.”  David in his Psalm of confession said, “A broken and contrite heart – these O God, You will not despise3”.  “In this world you will have tribulations4”, Jesus said.  Solomon observed, “All things come alike to all; one event happens to the righteous and the wicked; to the good, the clean and the unclean; to him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice, as is the good, so is the sinner, he who takes an oath as he who fears an oath5.” There are two ways you can react to problems in life.  You can either turn bitter cursing God or turn to God who turns all sorrow into joy.  Too many Christians today are in self imposed exile in the valley of tears, instead of celebrating the joy of salvation.  “All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer”! 

 

Hope

A father brought his son who was afflicted by a mute spirit, to Jesus.  Whenever the evil spirit would seize the boy it would throw him down to ground, to fire and to water to destroy him.  The boy would foam at the mouth, gnash his teeth and become rigid.  He probably took his son to doctors, magicians and priests.  Yes, he took his son even to the disciples of Jesus.  No help came from any direction!  At this hopeless juncture, Jesus with great compassion said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes6.” A man who was bedridden for 28 years had hope that one day he will get healed, at the Pool of Bethesda and finally received his healing from Jesus.  Hope abides! “Anyone who comes to Him must believe that he exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him7.”  One of the hopeless things in life is a prayer said without hope.  It is hope that keeps you from sinking into doubt.  Hope will enable you to say, “For His anger lasts only a moment, but His favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning8.”

 

Victory

Eve was tempted by the old serpent, Satan.  And so was Jesus in the wilderness.  You may be facing many temptations in your personal life or job.  It could be a war within you ... a hard decision to be made for life.  While making the right choices in life can shape your destiny, it is not so easy when it comes to facing temptations.  “For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.9” His help is found in the Bible, which is the sword of the Spirit.  We are told not to resist temptations, but be armed with the Scriptures and then resist the Devil and he will flee from you.  That was how Jesus confronted Satan’s lies and defeated his cunning schemes.

 

Joy

The greatest sorrow on earth is bereavement due to the death of a loved one.  In the city of Nain, there was a widow who lost her only son, a young man.  A large crowd from the city was with her when they took the coffin towards the graveyard.  But that could not stop the tears of the mother going through unbearable bereavement.  Jesus had compassion on her and said to her “Do not weep10” It was a “sample” miracle to remind us of the fact of resurrection.  Sickness can bring us under the shadow of death.  Threat from enemies or hatred and rejection from one’s own family can bring us into the shadow of death or isolation.  “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.11” If Jesus can deal with the worst of sorrow with a miracle, He can certainly help you to overcome sorrow, for He has promised, “I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.12

 

Are you feeling restless, burdened with too many cares and concerns, with damaging effects on your health?  Jesus loves you enough and so He died for you.  As you go to Jesus in prayer this moment, He will record your tears and answer you.  Turn to Him.  Confess your sins and failures and receive His new life and compassion in faith.  He alone can bless you with undying hope, real victory and lasting joy. 

 

1Mt 11:28;  2Js 4:8;  3Ps 51:17b;  4Jn 16:33;  5Eccl 9:2;  6Mk 9:23;  7Heb 11:6b;  8Ps 30:5; 9Heb 2:18; 10Lk 7:13; 11Mt 10:29-30; 12Jn 16:20

 

** END **

A Time to Be Quiet

By A n a n d  D a v i d

 

In the business world, people strive to talk their way to success.  While it may be true, the more a man talks, the less he listens, much less learns.  King Solomon said, “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: … a time to keep silence and a time to speak.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1,7).  Being lost in a maze of activities, it is becoming impossible for man to observe silence on a regular basis.  “Quiet time” means the time spent consistently every day in self-isolation in a quiet and private ambience for the purpose of meditation of the Scriptures and prayer.  Psalmist unravels the secret of prosperity: “Blessed is the man … his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.  He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.” (Psalm 1:2, 3).  Jesus’ life was punctuated with times of prayer.  “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where He prayed.” (Mark 1:35). The most important relationship one can have in this life is with God and it is nourished and strengthened through daily mediation and prayer. 

 

Meditation

Meditation of the Scriptures quintessentially means reading and quietly contemplating truth that leads to understanding God, inner strength, calm and composure by the help of His Spirit.  This enables one to face trials, temptation, pressures and challenges of life, victoriously.  This is far different from what is talked about in recent times … transcendental meditation, Yoga, breathing exercise, thought orientation, thought conditioning, self-searching, eye rotation exercise, laughing exercise, chanting and several other strenuous and arcane methods of psychotherapy.  By reading the Bible and praying, many find the way of salvation, comfort in time of loneliness, mental relief in time of suffering, guidance when making vital decisions, protection in time of danger, courage in time of fear, peace in time of turmoil, rest in time of weariness, strength in time of temptation, warning in time of indifference and forgiveness in time of conviction.  The central theme of the Bible is God’s loving plan to rescue mankind.  Bible answers life’s greatest questions – Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where will I go?  It portrays what God is like – His thoughts, His plans and His promises for an individual. The Bible is celebrated as a traveler’s map, the pilgrim’s staff, the pilot’s compass, the soldier’s sword and the Christian’s charter.  The Gideons International advocate, “Read it to be wise, believed it to be safe, practice it to be holy.”

 

Psalmist says, ‘Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path; it gives understanding to the simple’ (Ps 119:105, 130).  Meditating on commandment of love, Biblical laws and instructions of Biblical writers, results in perfect understanding, spiritual satisfaction and health.  King Solomon admonishes, “My son, give attention to my words, and incline your ear to my saying.  Do not let them depart from your eyes; for they are life to those who find them and health to all their flesh.”  (Proverbs 4: 20-22) 

 

Prayer 

Once a TV newsreader couple asked their child to pray before retiring to bed.  After uttering a few lines, she said, “Lord, here are the main points again.”  There are adults who doubt whether God listens at all.  ‘Prayer’ is a two-way communication – a request to God and listening to Him.  There are many kinds of prayers like … the Lord’s Prayer, confession prayer, intercessory prayer, invocation prayer, prayer of supplication, thanksgiving prayer, seasonal prayer, individual prayer, secret prayer, family prayer, fasting prayer, prayer of faith and public prayer.  Varying forms of postures, gestures, words, emotions accompany prayers.  The charismatic Christian prayer is said with much noise.  Congregations following ‘Old-time religion’, Orthodox and Catholic churches read or repeat written prayers week after week.   But prayer in some form is a vital part of Christian worship.  A praying man quits sinning and a sinner quits prayer.  For those who love God above all, prayer is certainly the refreshing breath of abundant life. 

 

The secret of prevailing prayer is praying in secret.  Jesus taught, “Go into your room, and when you have shut the door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” (Mat 6:6).  The Bible commands,  “Watch and pray always.” (Luke 21:36); “Pray lest you fall into temptation.” (Mat 26:41); “Pray … that He sends labourers in to harvest (of souls).” (Luke 10:2); Pray for those in authority (1Tim 2:1,2); and Pray for your enemies (Luke 6:28). 

 

A prayer should be simple, not with many words, said with tenacity, importunity, intensity and confident expectation.  A prayer should have in-built: 1) adoration of God, 2) confession of our sins, 3) supplication of our needs, 4) interceding for others and 5) thanksgiving.  The criteria for prayers to be answered are: a) Purity of heart characterized by a forgiving spirit, humility and repentance; b) belief that God will answer; c) It should be said in Christ’s name; d) and subjected to God’s will.  Theologian Chrysostom writes: “The potency of prayer has subdued the strength of fire, it has bridled the rage of lions, hushed anarchy to rest, extinguished wars, appeased the elements, expelled demons, burst the chains of death, expanded the gates of heaven, assuaged disease, repelled frauds, rescued cities from destruction, stayed the sun in its course, and arrested the progress of the thunderbolt.  Prayer is an all-sufficient panoply, a treasure undiminished, a mine which is never exhausted, a sky unobscured by clouds, a heaven unruffled by the storm.  It is the root, the fountain, the mother, of a thousand blessings.” Observance of quiet time will speak volumes of success in one’s life.

 

** END **

Understanding the Church

By A n a n d  D a v i d

 

Introduction: 

Austin O’Malley who wrote catchy aphorisms, observed, “There are ten church-members by inheritance for one by conviction.”  In mid-90s, an American survey found five most common reasons why people don’t attend a church:  1) Churches are always asking for money; 2) Church services are boring and lifeless; 3) Church services are predictable and repetitive; 4) Sermons are irrelevant to daily life scenario, and 5) The preaching may make people feel guilty, so they leave church feeling worse than when they entered the doors. Well, the Church has been a mistaken institution, despite its unceasing effort to maintain its rightful estate and relevance in a world that is racing after money, material, pleasure and newfangled ideas of social connectedness.  British theologian Gerald Vann said, “If you say that the history of the Church is a long succession of scandals, you are telling the truth, though if that is all you say, you are distorting the truth.”  Should we expect the church alone to be perfect and fix all problems of the society that is so self-willed? Yet, the Church has a constructive role to play in today’s world.

 

The Role of the Church:

What is a Church?  It is a congregation of believers – saved by grace through faith, called to be holy, baptized by one Spirit as one body, with Christ as its Head; they share resources with one another, without any discrimination of caste, colour or social status; there are individuals with apostolic vision, prophetic insight, evangelistic enthusiasm, pastoral spirit, and teaching ability, who work in disciplined unity, under the oversight of a pastor or a group of elders, to edify the congregation by Scriptures to fulfil the commandment of love; they evangelize the world despite persecution to ultimately stand a chaste virgin to receive Christ at His second coming.

 

1. The Church primarily Exists to Evangelise the World:  While Christian leaders have a right to say what they believe, they appear to expend their energy indiscriminately on a range of issues, some of which may pertain to the state – water or economic crisis, homosexuality or global warming, nuclear holocaust or local politics, contraceptives or genetically modified foods, ecology or human rights, live-in relationship to communal harmony. The Church is to bear the good news that Jesus is the Saviour of the world, from sin and curse – the taproots of all problems that fragment a society.  The Bible mandates the church thus: “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9). 

 

2. The Church Guards the Truth:  The lifestyle of early apostles revolved around emulating the life of Jesus, holiness, prayer, worship, sacrificial sharing, soul winning and preparing people for the second coming of Christ.  Once the church proclaims these, it will certainly face rejection, threats, mockery and hostility from a deviant society obsessed with abuse of liberty.  C.H. Spurgeon observed, "Gospel’s plain dealing with human sin excites deadly antagonism. Therefore, the gospel itself would make no progress were it not for the divine power. There is an invisible arm which pushes forward the conquests of the truth. There is a fire unfed with human fuel, which burns a way for the truth of Jesus Christ into the hearts of men." Apostle Jude exhorted, “I ...urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 3). Paul advised Timothy thus: “the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others” (2 Tim 2:2).  The Church guards the truth with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

 

3. The Church Edifies the Saints:  Edification is the process of building up one’s faith, so that a person will seek to sustain the new nature received upon Salvation, and bear the fruit of the Spirit and exercise the gifts of the Spirit, for the benefit of the Church.  An edified believer will live in contrast to the ways of the world, and seek another’s good and build him up as well, in Christ.  Church-life facilitates such a lifestyle of faith, where believers will commune with God and one another, and endeavour to know and do His will, according to His high calling. The edified believer serves as the salt and light of the world.  To actualise this process, Jesus, gave “some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” (Eph 4:11-12).

 

4. The Church Disciplines the Unruly:  Discipline is eroded by wrong company, when discernment between right or wrong is blurred by false teachers and false brethren.  The Church obviously has diversity, based on local history, culture, nativity, language, race and context, but when people form factions on these factors and major over minor differences to the advantage of one group over the other, chaos prevails to upset the holy order of the church. Therefore, it is sane to nip indiscipline in the bud. The early church insisted on the discipline of the tongue, discipline of the spirit, discipline of the body, discipline of the mind, discipline in prophesying, giving, caring, sharing, etc.  Discipline comes by total surrender of a person to God – man and woman, leader and follower alike.  Paul instructed Timothy to “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Tim 4:2).

 

5. The Church Responds to Persecution with Discretion: Persecution is a predictable reality for a true Church. Theologian Tertullian said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”  Jesus taught elaborately on dealing with the reality of persecution: “But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles” (Matt 10:16-18). As we obey the great commission, Christ bestows us with the authority to also confront injustice. King Solomon’s bold advice is: “Open your mouth for the speechless, in the cause of all who are appointed to die. Open your mouth, judge righteously and plead the cause of the poor and needy” (Proverbs 31:8).  God who delivered Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, knows to deal with every form of persecution. Christ has promised His presence, while the church looks to Him with patience, prayers and discernment, in these last days.

 

Conclusion:

No other institution as the Church has ever instilled morality in the collective conscience of civil society, since the reckoning of modern history.  Former US President Gerald Ford once observed, “For millions of men and women, the church has been the hospital for the soul, the school for the mind and the safe depository for moral ideas.” An old advice: “Do not wait for the hearse to take you to church."  You can be useful to the Lord, first in the Church, then elsewhere and everywhere. Ask not what the church can do for you.  Ask what you can do for the church. Let the Church march triumphantly, till His coming!

** END **

Resurrection – A Good Bye to Death!

By A n a n d  D a v i d

 

The song, ‘By the rivers of Babylon’ has been popular as people could emotionally rhyme with the lyric … ‘there we sat down, yeah, we wept!’  Grief, weeping, mourning and a heavy heart seem to have become distinctive marks of human existence, ever since Adam and Eve disobeyed God. On hearing of the death of Lazarus, Jesus wept due to his compassionate heart, but was rather upbeat in His mind, as He taught, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die’ (John 11:25-26).  The day of Christ’s resurrection was on a Sunday, and since then, it has been called the ‘Lord’s Day.’ Early apostles chose to fellowship on Sundays, which has been followed by Christians, ever since, as a mark of persistent hope and a good bye to death.

 

The doctrine of Resurrection: Bible triumphantly declared for ages, ‘Those the Lord has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away’ (Isaiah 35:10).  You may ask, ‘How do I believe on something which I have no way of testing it?’  Here is where, divinely inspired Biblical doctrines can proactively work in us to be convinced by faith in resurrection, before we can experience it.  Christ’s own resurrection foreshadowed in the writings of Psalmist David, Prophet Isaiah, and Prophet Hosea (Ref: Psalm 16:10 and11; Isaiah 55:3, 25:8; Hosea 13:14).  Job, an old testament saint, observed, ‘For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God, Whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!’ (Job 19:25-27) Isaiah taught affirmatively, saying ‘Your dead shall live; together with my dead body they shall arise. Awake and sing, you who dwell in dust; for your dew is like the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead’ (Isaiah 26:19). Young prophet Daniel could foresee millenniums ahead thus: ‘And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever’ (Dan 12:2-3). Jesus not only taught on resurrection, He embodied it as the first fruit of resurrection, a pattern to follow, for all who die in the Lord.  Jesus affirmed the fact of resurrection by teaching, ‘this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.’ (John 6:40) Paul’s firm rhetoric was, ‘if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!’ (1 Cor 15:17)

 

The nature of Resurrection: Paul was no farmer. However, his explanation was convincing that resurrection was ‘according to the Scriptures,’ as he cited the example of a lifeless seed, sprouting to life again. He described graphically, ‘I tell you a mystery: we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed --- in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality ...’ (1 Cor 15:51-54). Here we understand God’s glorious plan of turning human existence to go on for eternity in a state of spiritual incorruptibility.  There is no marriage in heaven, but an angelic existence (as taught by Jesus in Matthew 22:30).  Philippians 3:21, says, ‘The Lord Jesus Christ, will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body ...’

 

The Power of His Resurrection:  It takes the power of the Holy Spirit to raise a dead body.  But the Holy Spirit already works in us with such power, while we are still alive, because Romans 8:11 says, ‘the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you.’ The power of His resurrection is also meant to keep us alive in Christ, first in this very life, before we can look forward to bodily resurrection later.  Paul declared, ‘I want to know Christ – yes, to know the power of His resurrection’ (Philippians 3:10). The secret of being alive in Christ is hinted by Paul in Philippians 3:13-14: ‘Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.’ The Holy Spirit empowers us with ‘Kingdom lifestyle’ for ‘the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit’ (Romans 14:17). In practice, the power of resurrection enables us to press on ... with righteousness, peace and joy.

 

Pressing on with Righteousness: ‘God is a righteous judge’ (Psalm 7:11).  Therefore, pressing on with righteousness means, pressing on with discernment – judging matters of life from the perspective of God’s word – and obeying His Word.  The Holy Spirit is called the ‘Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord” helps us in our pursuit of righteousness’ (Ref Isaiah11:2).  When the human mind is ruled by the Holy Spirit, there is a transforming effect in giving and sharing of one’s time, talent and treasure.  ‘The righteous are generous in giving’ (Ps 37:21).  This entails attending to the needs of saints and those who are less privileged and needy around us.  This would also involve being mindful and praying for the persecuted brethren, and sharing the gospel of deliverance, with love and compassion of Christ, to those writhing in pain, rejection, sickness and bondage.  Righteous living does not involve judging others, but judging oneself, against the standard of God’s Word.

 

Pressing on Peacefully: Lawyers will be there as long as human nature remains belligerent, dogmatic and unforgiving, but the Bible exhorts, ‘If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone’ (Rom 12:18). We pursue peace in terms of consciously preserving relationships in different settings – family, workplace, Church, neighbourhood and the public square.  Peaceful relationship will be possible when one has the fruit of the Holy Spirit – “Peace,” without which, all our people skills will only be manipulative, artificial and sterile.  The Bible teaches, ‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God’ (Phil 4:6).  Saint Paul’s life was punctuated with hunger, lack of proper clothing, nagging ailment, persecution, discord, ministerial cum administrative burden, perilous journeys, and even loneliness, left to defend all alone before a hostile multitude in the court of King Agrippa.  Yet he writes even from the prison: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4) That could have been possible only by power of His resurrection in Paul.

 

Pressing on Joyously:  Jim Reeves sang right – ‘Across the bridge there's no more sorrow / Across the bridge there's no more pain / The sun will shine across the river / And you'll never be unhappy again.'  Resurrection, for a Christian, is the theme of celebration here and now and a song of hope in advance, in this wilderness journey.  Prophet Habakkuk’s joyous testimony was ironic, but authentic: ‘Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Saviour.’ (Habakkuk 3:17-18).  James encourages us: ‘Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds’ (James 1:2).  David prayed, ‘Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.’ (Psalm 51:2)  The enablement of the power of His resurrection is a lived-reality evidenced by a new nature – marked by peace of mind, joyous spirit and righteous deeds. May our risen Lord Jesus Christ who promised the Holy Spirit to His followers bless you with the power of His resurrection, by which you can bid a good bye to death one day, or night – for there is an eternal morning!

 

** END **

The Pursuit of Peace

By A n a n d D a v i d

 

Famed Hollywood comedian Robin Williams, who was called the ‘funniest man on earth,’ committed suicide due to acute depression.  Several others in the entertainment industry have ended their lives abruptly, despite all the fun that the world could offer them and all the thrilling sensation they could be to the world. Here’s why we wonder why peace is so elusive and so costly.  To attain peace of mind, people may try anything– workaholic lifestyle, wealth, entertainment, cheap popularity, pleasure, alcohol, aesthetic living, addictive shopping, wanderlust, meditation techniques, secretive societies etc. At last, nobody seems to exclaim ‘life is sweet!’  Puzzled enough, the human mind despondently rues:  Where is peace?  Is there a sure way to it? How do I get there? We are only echoing what Solomon said centuries ago: ‘All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.’ (Ecclesiastes 1:18) 

 

The Cause of Conflict:

 

Several years ago, I read of an elderly Italian couple, who had never spoken with each other for over five decades, though they were living under the same roof!  The Mayor of that little town attempted to broker peace between them on their 60th wedding anniversary, but couldn’t succeed.  It is pride that remembers the hurt long enough.  Pastors or elders may recall how they had counselled some estranged couples to reconsider their marital vows and reconcile.  Alas, pride would not let the couple even try it!  Pride is the quintessential brand of wickedness.  The Bible plainly states, ‘Pride leads to conflict.’ (Proverbs 13:10)   ‘There is no peace,’ says the Lord, ‘for the wicked.’ (Isaiah 48:22)  ‘The way of peace they do not know, and there is no justice in their paths; they have made their roads crooked; no one who treads on them knows peace.’ (Isaiah 59:8)

 

Disunity is plaguing the church like never before!  It is not uncommon to see these days, that police protection is sought for security of worshippers, partly because the congregation is at war within itself, leave alone persecution, which is not new to Christendom!  Legal advisors, property managers, election commissioners and auditors are more hallowed functionaries of Christian institutions than the ‘simpletons’ who labour with the Word of God.   C.S. Lewis in his Reflections on the Psalms observed, ‘If the Divine call does not make us better, it will make us very much worse. Of all bad men religious bad men are the worst. Of all created beings the wickedest is one who originally stood in the immediate presence of God.’

 

Global peace has been an unresolved question for ages for thinkers, religious leaders and rulers.  Increasingly, countries are re-aligning themselves at far ends of contentious political spectrum for want of territorial hegemony, religious authority, oil or other natural resources.  It appears like the new world order, whatever it may emerge to be, may not deliver the ultimate expectation of humanity – peace.   Apostle Paul prophetically warned, ‘While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labour pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.’ (1Thessalonians 5:3) 

 

The Source of Peace:

 

In a world of hatred and retaliation, Gandhi observed, ‘An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind.’  Law demands punishment and retribution.  Human nature is vindictive and vengeful. Therefore, peace is not free!  Jesus paid an exorbitant cost for it, by His own death on the Cross, to atone for sins of humanity, thereby appeasing the anger of a righteous God, who could not see sin unpunished.  The Bible says ‘(Jesus) reconciled to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross.’ (Colossians 1:20)  Therefore, Paul observed, ‘since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.’ (Romans 5:1)   Psalmist David sang, ‘May the Lord bless his people with peace!’ (Psalm 29:11)   Jesus is called the ‘Prince of Peace’ because ‘He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him.’ (Isaiah 53:5)   Graciously did Jesus declare, ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.’ (John 14:27)  To the woman who touched the edge of Jesus’ garment in faith for her healing, He told her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.’ (Luke 8:48) 

 

Men and women of God for ages have lived and died in perfect peace, in spite of untold miseries, war, famine, sickness, bereavement, loss, and loneliness. Their peace passes our understanding, as they hung to a silver line in dark clouds, hard for us to identify. The Bible assures, ‘And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.’ (Philippians 4:7)  As we turn our eyes upon Jesus, our hearts and minds are miraculously enabled to be attuned to His guidance and comfort enough to bear the fruit of the Spirit, which is ‘love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness.’ (Galatians 5:22) 

 

The Path of Peace:

 

When Nelson Mandela was realised from prison after 27 years, there was jubilation worldwide.  However, civil strife within South Africa was escalating, with majority blacks wishing to take over political power from the whites with a view to settle scores through reverse-discrimination.  At that pivotal point in its national history, Mandela had to make a choice – that mind should take over emotions and firmly observed, ‘If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.’  He thereafter created Truth and Reconciliation Commission to improve multi-racial relations. It took a man who suffered 27 years of oppression and discrimination to bring hope to a nation that might have otherwise witnessed a violent bloodbath!  When leaders lead the people with God-given wisdom, there will be peace. ‘During Solomon’s lifetime Judah and Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, lived in safety, everyone under their own vine and under their own fig tree.’ (1 Kings 4:25) 

 

Solomon, a keen observer of human life for a lifetime, authentically states, ‘When people's lives please the Lord, even their enemies are at peace with them.’ (Proverbs 16:7)   When Israelites bowed to Prophet Samuel’s leadership, there was peace.  ‘The cities that the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron to Gath, and Israel delivered their territory from the hand of the Philistines. There was peace also between Israel and the Amorites.’ (1 Samuel 7:14) 

 

Peace is accessible to people of faith – who believe on the Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour and follow His sermon on the mount.  Isaiah prayed, ‘You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.’ (Isaiah 26:3)  Pages of human history are full of innocent blood, shed since the time of Cain!  Jerusalem has been the most embattled place on earth, even as enemy nations seek to over run it.  God is mighty to grant peace and the world will one day witness it.  God promises, ‘Nevertheless, the time will come when I will heal Jerusalem's wounds and give it prosperity and true peace.’ (Jeremiah 33:6) 

 

The Pursuit of Peace:

 

American media proprietor and talk show host, Oprah Winfrey, on a recent visit to Mumbai, was surprised to visit a family where member of four generations of that family were living under a single roof.  She remarked how religious Indians were, as she saw in some houses a traditional worship (Puja) room.  On the flip side, Christian family values in urban India are deteriorating.  As in the West, infidelity, live-in relationships, divorce, teen rebellion, new age religious practices, etc., are being accepted as liberated ways of living.   Such permissiveness is just a step away from self-destruction of society itself.  Christian marriage is one where both partners necessarily win by forgiving each other.  Otherwise, both lose!  Conflict and reconciliation are not like choices over a restaurant menu, but a product of either diabolical rebellion from or humble surrender to God’s law of love. 

 

The world, including some Christians has been hypocritical.  Apostle James noticed it promptly – ‘and one of you says to them (the poor), “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?’ (James 2:16)  The pursuit of peace involves a lifestyle of care and compassion towards those in need. To such generous souls, the Bible promises, ‘Blessed is the one who considers the poor! In the day of trouble the Lord delivers him.’ (Psalm 41:1)  The Bible admonishes us to pursue peace.  Paul’s fatherly admonition to young Timothy was this: ‘flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.’ (2 Timothy 2:22)  Here’s an encouraging advice from American writer Kent M Keith, as found in his poem, Paradoxical commandments:

 

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centred. Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds. Think big anyway.

People favour underdogs but follow only top dogs. Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them. Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you have anyway.

 

Apostle Paul admonished early Christians, saying ‘let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual up-building.’ (Romans 14:19)  To a highly contentious, disunited, and immoral Corinthian Church, Paul wrote, ‘Dear brothers and sisters, I close my letter with these last words: Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you.’ (2 Corinthians 13:11 NLT)  The secret is: if you pursue God, you unknowingly pursue peace as well!

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Word of Guidance, New Delhi, India. Email: wordofguidance@gmail.com