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Friday, January 16, 2015

" Perfect"

Wow! This is a word that we women (guess some men too) are sometimes so caught up with. Trying to be the perfect girl, teenager, lady, wife, daughter-in law, mother and what not, has always been the dream of many . And if you are any thing like me then its just another impossible dream like many others. I have read umpteen number of books on 'How to' but all that it sounded in my ears while reading them was "BORING". My! it does ring quite loud too. Sorry, maybe it just too much information for me to handle. You know, as a person I just like to see the books not that neatly aligned,love to wear that crumpled shirt or build a tent under the dining table for my kids to play with.I  just love to live life just as it comes. But alas the world doesn't go that way. You need to be in time for meetings,you are expected to be prim and proper and not climb trees when you are forty, sent kids to school on time, take care of meals, keep a good house, fulfill all your family social responsibilities.

 What can I do when I know my weakness just much as I know my many strengths. Guess that's that the time I take out my secret weapon one that many self help books don't share about. Its nothing but a small prayer that I just shoot up to the ONE above. When things seem overwhelming I hold on to "Trust in the Lord at all times and lean not unto your own understanding", " I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me". somewhere I came across these words that say "I am imperfect but I am loved by a Perfect GOD" His love and strength helps me to overcome my weakness. Each day  I get up knowing that He is going to help me plough through the day doing things as best as I can and He will surely take care of the rest!!!" Perfect"??? not yet, but with His power I am getting there!.

Monday, January 12, 2015

“Integrity” – an endangered and fast depleting quality

A recent news item in a major national newspaper had reports of a prominent Christian leader caught in corruption and he had numerous charges of misappropriation and swindling against his name. We do not know the veracity of these allegations, the leader in question has out rightly denied all the allegations but reading through that news, the bad taste it created seeing a Christian leader in public glare, in some kind of reproach, does not make a very pleasant reading. Sadly this is not an isolated case; in fact there has been a flood of cases of misappropriation, swindling, mismanagement, corruption, pilfering, conflict of interest and nepotism in high places among the leaders in Christian organizations and churches.

 “Integrity” a word that has been dear to the hearts of Christian leaders few decades ago has become redundant and of mere lip service value now. As a teenager growing up I heard numerous powerful and passionate messages by eminent servants of God on this topic and was personally touched and convicted by their rallying call to “walk the talk” and by the lives they lived out. But today I don’t hear many talks on that as the moral credibility to talk on it fearlessly is fast diminishing. With the whole political and government sphere caught in the quagmire of corruption and greed, we hear of massive scandals every day, even corporate institutions which were considered to be immune to this plague has been affected with misappropriation, swindling and conflict of interests. The Church, Christian Institutions and organizations which are supposed to lead the way and model the principles of integrity, propriety and high ethical and moral standards have sadly dimmed their lights and are no more light houses or models to be looked up to in a fallen world.

What is happening with our leaders? Why is there so much lack of integrity in Christian leadership? Why are we consistently failing to walk our talk? Why are the leaders given a free hand to misappropriate and swindle God given resources for their personal and families benefit? Why is there so much of “conflict of interest” and nepotism in Christian leadership? When scandals break out and comes to the limelight, often we hear names of a brother or cousin or some blood relative- hand in glove with the leader and responsible for his fall. Why is there a glaring lack of accountability and transparency in Christian leadership right at the top where these unwarranted activities go unchecked till the whole thing comes crashing down? It is alarming to hear of kickbacks for procurement of official items or in plain terms commission percentage which is now sanctified in Christian circles as “Service charges”. Pilfering from the official funds is nothing new, it is as old as Judas Iscariot who was put in charge of the money by Jesus, but he pilfered from it and we all know how it all ended.  It is heartbreaking to see a Christian leader fall due to lack of integrity especially in financial area because the impact of that fall is huge, it is not just limited to that individual, the tragedy is that it affects his family, the people in the organization or church he leads and ultimately it affects the whole body of Christ.

One of the important truths that is emphasized in the Bible is Gods expectation of His leaders. Apostle Paul constantly exhorts Timothy and Titus that, “Leaders should be above reproach” 1Tim 3:2; Titus 1:6 ; we are called to  give no room for others to point a finger at our life and words.  In Psalm 15, King David asks a rhetoric question, "who may abide in God's Presence or who can dwell in His holy Hill?" And the answer is He who walks with integrity, works righteousness and speaks the truth in His heart (V 2). It is later said of King David in Psalm 78:72 that he shepherded his people with the Integrity of his heart.  Integrity of Heart is something that God is looking for in His chosen leaders, God says in 2 Chronicles 16:9 that His eyes are skimming the whole earth to show Himself strong and mighty on behalf of those “whose hearts are completely loyal to Him”. God is looking for leaders who will walk their talk - come what may and who will lead the flock with integrity.  Integrity is at the core of a leader, it is the rock of Gibraltar on which he sets his leadership and pursues the vision and people will rally around it, without integrity it is just talk and hype, people will eventually see through and walk away. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Conversion and Gharwapsi – A Closer Look

The recent hue and cry over conversion has managed to garner national attention. Conversion has become a contentious issue with re-conversions and a sudden suspicious call being given by some parties for a national debate on it and passing an anti-conversion bill all across India. Why is it such an emotive and contentious issue? Why is there so much insecurity and fear when the word conversion is mentioned?

Freedom of religion is enshrined as a fundamental right in our constitution, the right to practice, profess and propagate any religion of our choice is a fundamental right of every citizen in this country. There are specific laws in the Indian penal code against any misuse or fraudulent means or forceful conversion. Over and above this to bring a blanket ban on conversion is infringing on the individuals fundamental rights and it goes against the secular and democratic credentials of this nation. To paint all conversions happening in this country as induced and fraudulent is doing injustice to the sensibilities of the common man and dehumanizing them as without any ethics or sense to make a simple choice. Freedom of choice to eat what they want, to dress as they like and to believe in what they want to, is very basic to every civil society.

Conversion is not just limited to the externals as many think and view it, conversion is primarily an inward transformation which no human being on the earth can stop, if a person wants to believe in something and follow that truth then it is impossible for someone else to evaluate it and stop it simply because it is an inward invisible change. There might be some external elements accompanying a person’s conversion, like some rituals or practices or even a simple thing like change in their attitude or habits etc. Most of the time it is these external elements that people see and then say that a person is converted. Another fact about conversion is that no human being can make another person to convert in the actual sense of the term; if conversion is a result of human action alone then it as a false conversion. God alone can bring a genuine transformation of the heart. If a person has so called converted for benefits or for upward mobility or through force or inducement then it is not a genuine conversion.

Another important aspect is the objectivity of truth and its exclusive nature. I think you would agree with me that there cannot be differing statements on the same topic that can be true at the same time. For example; the law of gravity is true everywhere on earth and in any place at any time. It is an absolute truth. No one can say that we have the law of gravity different in Delhi than in Mumbai, we will call that ridiculous or foolish. But when it come to matters of faith many tend to become subjective and inclusive, they would start defining truth in any way they want and even claim that there are no absolute truth with regard to God, well interestingly for that statement to hold water  it has to be an absolute truth by itself otherwise it is self contradictory. When people are confronted with the truth and when they are convinced of it, they believe it and voluntarily choose to follow it, this actually is an inward change or transformation which many call as conversion.

Jesus is the only one who claimed to be God – He said, “I am the way truth and life, no one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6) He is the only one who rose from the dead- the empty grave is the proof and He appeared to many after His resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:3-6) He claimed to have the power to forgive sins and He is the only one who died for the sins of the world- no one else has ever done so, “God demonstrates His own love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8) and He is offering eternal and abundant life to anyone who believes in Him (John 3:16 & 10:10). If the claims that Jesus made were false and He knew it then that would make Him a blatant Liar; and if His claims were false and He didn't know it, he was sincerely deluded then that would make Him a Lunatic or a mad man. Well all of us would agree that Jesus was neither a Liar nor a Lunatic; that leaves us with only one option, what He said was true, in which case He is God Himself and one can either accept Him or reject Him as their Lord and savior. Jesus never said that He came to establish a religion or a sect. He called people to come to Him and Know Him and follow Him. His call is for an “everlasting relationship” not to a “religious conversion”. 

If someone chooses to believe this truth and is willing to follow Jesus what do you call that?  Forced conversion! Induced conversion!  Whatever you call that the truth is that thousands are coming to Him and knowing Him and finding purpose and meaning for their lives, not just in the illiterate, rural and poor tribal belts as some claim but right in the hearts of our metros- educated, high profile, elite are also making this choice to follow Him. Well as some people claim, if people have converted from other faiths through inducements, or for benefits through fraudulent means then it is good that those people as well return to the original fold ( home coming) through the same means that is now being publicized and offered by those groups. But for those who have had this genuine encounter with Jesus and have come to know Him and have experienced His unconditional love and the life transforming power, nothing can make them go back, even mighty force leave alone petty inducements, they would rather gladly lay down their lives for their master, millions of people have done so in the past and even now thousands are doing it every day in different parts of the world; history is a witness to this.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Christmas – The Joy of Giving

One of the earliest memories of Christmas deeply etched in my memory is the Christmas celebration at my ancestral home. My grandfather would organize a big celebration on the Christmas day, starting off the day with an early church service followed by the festivities culminating in a big meal. Many of my relatives would be invited, the house would be filled with uncles, aunts and cousins running around. But the most memorable aspect of the day was that he would not forget to invite all the workers and helpers who had been involved with him in some way or the other over the years. Most of them were from the lower strata of the society, they would come as whole families, they were given gifts and new dress and were treated to a sumptuous meal. He would oversee all this with a large heart and at the end of the day he would slump into his reclining chair with a look of satisfaction and fulfillment written all over his face

Very early in my life this was ingrained in my psyche that Christmas is all about giving - God giving his only son Jesus as a gift to the whole world and the Son giving His life as a ransom for mankind’s sins. God is the greatest giver of all no one can beat that but this is the time of the year that we as mortal humans can emulate this to a certain extent and  give and be generous to people in need around us. In a world caught up in the throes of ‘getting’ and ‘receiving’, with the catch word being ‘give me more’ or ‘Yeh dil mange more’ (my heart needs more) it is difficult to be cheerful givers. Probably the first thought that comes to our mind will be, what about “my” Christmas celebration, what about my family, the new dress, the cakes and gifts for the kids etc that we are planning. No doubt, that is important and we need to enjoy the time with our families and dear ones but if the celebration is limited to only them that’s when Christmas loses its real meaning.

We are living in an “i” generation with everything coming out designed for the individual, be it iPad or iPhone or a i20 car. It is when we can elevate and liberate our thoughts from the self-centric individualistic level to being other-centric, to those who are suffering, downtrodden and underprivileged around us and be willing to reach out and meet their needs then the Joy of Christmas becomes real, it is a shared joy, the Joy of giving. Remember the good news of the birth of Jesus, the King of Kings was not first proclaimed to the rulers or in a palace to the rich but to the lowly downtrodden shepherds sleeping out in the field.  Jesus himself said in Luke 4:18, The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free”.

What are your plans for this Christmas? Would you take a moment to think of someone who is in need or marginalized in the society around you?  Would you share this joy of Christmas with them? Try it out! There is no greater joy or fulfillment than the one found in generously giving and sharing what God has bountifully blessed us with, however little that might be.