Better things

I first came across this thrilling verse at the beginning of the year.

Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are confident of better things in your case – things that accompany salvation.

Hebrews 6:9

The author (unknown) is addressing (or rather dressing down) the Hebrew audience. He’s just finished telling them that they ought to be teachers by now (5:12) but instead still need teaching. And not about the deep things of God, but about the basics. 

These Christians/believers haven’t matured enough to learn about “righteousness”. They haven’t been using what they know and are untrained in what is good and evil.

Chapter 6 talks about the various aspects of the Christian life. For me, it was worth taking note. In our generation, different truths are emphasised depending on which church you belong to. I enjoyed hearing it from an early Christian – historians say Hebrews was probably written before AD 70 since Timothy is apparently still alive (13:23).

So here, according to the author, are the basics, the elementary teachings, the foundations

  • Repentance from dead works (acts that lead to death)
  • Faith in God
  • Baptisms
  • Laying on of Hands
  • The Resurrection of the Dead
  • Eternal Judgment 

Interestingly, many of us are still majoring on the above and still talking about it over and over again. I wonder if it’s time for us all to move on…

[In fact, just recently I noticed we keep singing songs about our sin and how Jesus washed it away – kind of seems strange that he washed it away and we’re still talking about it. Sometimes we seem to talk more about sin than Him.]

But moving on, what does the author say about the ordinary/normal Christian life/experience. We have been enlightened, have tasted the heavenly gift, have shared in the Holy Spirit, have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age! (6:4-5)

Whoa…and that’s just mentioned in passing. Like, “oh, yeah, you couldn’t have experienced all this and turn back now.” So yes, that was what was considered normal.

So it seems to me this was the normal way – Repentance, faith in God, Baptism, laying on of hands, learning (being enlightened)  the foundational truths on eternity, tasting eternity on earth, enjoying the Holy Spirit, the word of God, exercising the powers of heaven and then producing the fruit that benefits the world and constantly being trained to distinguish good from evil.

This is the normal Christian life. 

I really wonder how many of us are enjoying these wonderful everyday experiences?

Going back to the text, he writes, now you (audience/and us Christians) have drank in the rain (teachings/blessings/experiences) and now must produce a crop that is useful to those for whom it is farmed. But if there is no crop, it’s useless, cursed and in danger of being burnt.

And then he says, no, not you. I am confident of better things for you. (6:9)

Wow. That is awesome.

I wonder, though, if the ‘better things’ refers not just to vs 6:8 (the danger of being cursed) but all that came before (the enlightenment, the heavenly gifts, sharing in the Holy Spirit, the word of God, the power of God). It sounds to me like there’s much more!

To me, after walking with Jesus for 26 years, I’m excited to hear of better things. I’m excited to hear that walking in enlightenment and power is normal and this can be my daily experience and there’s more!

This has been the most exciting thing I’ve read in 2022. After 2 years of a pandemic and a sense of gloom and defeat…here is something I can hold onto and soar again. There are better things and I’m heading towards it.

Thank you for this image of soaring – Photo by Wolfgang Hasselmann on Unsplash

A deliverer on a donkey

Woke up early this morning, thinking about Palm Sunday. After almost 40 Palm Sundays in my life and more than 2000 in the life of the church, I wondered what could be different about this one. How does God want to be worshipped today? How does Jesus want to be remembered? Is there something new He wants me to experience through this Palm Sunday?

Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

Mark 11:9

I love the word “name” in this context. It beautifully means both ‘name’ and ‘reputation’ in one word. Blessed is He who comes in the reputation of God.

Deliverance

As the people saw Jesus entering the city, they laid down palm branches and cloaks shouting Hosanna (literally, save us), Blessed is He who comes in the name/reputation of the Lord. The reputation of God is to save. It’s a consistent theme through the Bible – God rescuing the helpless. Our God is a delivering God. That is his reputation. His eye (as He tells us himself) searches the earth for those who need His help, his deliverance.

From myself

This Palm Sunday I want to acknowledge that I forget grace. I’m much like the church in Galatia in that I started in grace and frequently find myself now trying to finish my race by my work. [Gal 3:3]

And I strive day and night to be better, to do more, to be more, to be perfect.

And today I want to lay my cloak down for the King. To lay down what I think is honorable for the only One who is honorable.

Today I allow Him to deliver me from me. And I’m covered by His grace. I honor Jesus in my heart – that the King is here and He is within me.

From others

And I see Jesus receiving honor and then being hung in shame shortly after. But neither honor nor dishonor impress him. Because He knows that is how it is with people. We change, our opinions change, our emotions drive us, our dedication wavers and we follow the crowd. The praisers can quickly turn into mockers.

And so I pray deliverance for myself from the power of others (and their opinions) over me. And I pray that we find the honor that comes from God and seek after that alone. [John 5:44]

From the power of evil

I thank God for the reminder that the lowly savior riding on a donkey is really a powerful King and deliverer who sits on the throne today!

And the power of evil, in its many forms, that oppresses the world and the weak is not absolute and certainly not undefeatable.

And I pray I may move forward, taking authority over wickedness, the root of evil, knowing that the Deliverer is within me and his deliverance is my mission.

May the power of God’s deliverance and his reputation for saving overshadow, hold and sustain us as we celebrate Him this Palm Sunday.

(Photo by Syd Sujuaan on Unsplash)

Cooking Rendezvous

“I hate when I’m waiting for my mom to cook dinner and then I remember that I am the mom and I have to cook dinner!”

15 years ago if someone told me that I would spend a good part of my day cooking and checking blogs and YouTube videos to learn new recipes, I would’ve laughed on their face. You see I’m not one of those people who derive pleasure and joy from cooking. I’m not a perfectionist too but today I can whip up a meal for two or twenty with the same ease.

Well my tryst with cooking began right after I got married. The fact that my husband (the greatest foodie in all the world) never let it become a sore point between us, made me less stressed as I took my first baby steps. Just like with all new beginnings, there were accidents, imbalances, rejects and disasters in the kitchen. Through it all, I received appreciation and encouragement and over time my skills got better.

Then came my babies and now my limited knowledge wasn’t enough. There were many firsts, each drawing ounces of courage and persistence from me. But when those little arms would hold me and say “Ma, you make the best food eva!” it ignited me, gave me the drive I needed to improve, to explore, to perfect.

Now with 15 years of experience, hundred odd recipes, countless scars, burns and cuts, I can truly hold my own in the kitchen. Although every time I hear the words “Don’t cook today… lets order instead!” makes me ever so joyful.

You see, cooking for me will always be an expression of my love for my family and the people I care about. I’m willing to make the time and effort to fill their tummies and leave their souls satisfied. My rendezvous with cooking, reminds me that failure is bound to happen but planning, preparation and persistence will triumph. Cooking gives me a chance to add that extra zing into everyday life, that ray of color and the surprise element. It brings us together as a family and it’s my little way of adding magic to my world.

There were certain teachers…

Suddenly had an urge to listen to the second part of Another Brick in the Wallthe live version from the 80s. [skip to 4:00 to hear part 2]
I went in wanting to listen to Gilmour’s outstanding seconds and guitar solo…and ended up getting really deep into the lyrics for the first time since I was in college.

My heart grew cold when I heard this –

When we grew up and went to school,
There were certain teachers
Who would hurt the kids anyway they could
By pouring their derision upon anything we did
Exposing every weakness
However carefully hidden by the kids…

In an instant I was back in first grade, tasting the fear and dread I felt for most of my formative years in school. With my dad in the armed forces, we moved schools every two years. Now, as an adult, and a parent, I can testify to the disruption little changes make in the lives of kids. But, as kids do, we rolled with it. But school was the hardest part of moving so often.

We spent the better part of our childhood in tiny schools, in tinier towns where teachers had little training and often even less of a calling to be a teacher. I recollect vividly being humiliated for various minor issues – one comes to mind – where my teacher in grade 1 mocked my Hindi when I asked to use the washroom. I had used the wrong form of the word “I” and she asked the entire class if they’d ever heard anything so silly. And she didn’t correct me. She kept asking me if I thought what I had said was right and she kept giving me options. I can recollect it so well…I was thoroughly confused. We had just moved from a non-Hindi speaking state to a Hindi-speaking one and I remember the class laughing at me, my face turn hot and my eyes start to burn with tears – but I was too afraid to cry in case she laughed at me even more. [more on how it ended later]

And suddenly thinking of that moment made me realize why this song was such a hit. It wasn’t so much an ‘education, thought-control’ thing that kids and adults probably caught onto. It must’ve been recollecting those moments of absolute helplessness that a child feels at school and so many miserable children face even at home.

And maybe that’s the generation often labelled as over-protective and over-indulgent parents. And it’s true. But most likely ’cause this is the generation whose parents thought tough love was the best thing their kids could do with. I don’t disagree. But tough love is very different from scorn, derision and humiliation.

We all remember the loving teachers we had to this day. When you’re a child, it matters so much. Same school, second grade, I had the most wonderful teacher. I remember walking all the way to her home to give her a card on Diwali. I loved her. Don’t remember why – but I remember I felt safe with her.

Today as a mom, I try my best to ensure that discipline in our home is loving, even if stern, and never scornful. Sometimes my kids tend to talk back and we walk a fine line every day trying to ensure that they respect their elders yet retain a sense of who they are and what they think.

I watch over my kids like a hawk. Yes, I am overprotective sometimes (my husband will roll his eyes at that). But I have decided that it is a mom-thing, often seen in the wild, too, – a mother will defend her cubs to the death – and so will I.

Back to my story, several incidents later, I must’ve mentioned what had been happening in school to my mom. Don’t remember really how she found out, but  I remember my mom coming to school and having it out with my teacher. Injustice has always incensed my mom. Having her kids at the receiving end of it made her become the proverbial hen, gathering her chicks under her wings and pecking the living daylights out of anyone who dare come near. 

There’s little kids all over the world, in various circumstances, many worse off than others, but all of them little, helpless, and when in trouble, often very very lonely. We’d do well to keep an eye on them. The world is a cruel place but maybe we can be that one person who always made kids feel respected and safe around them.

Photo by Austin Pacheco on Unsplash

Lenten Diaries – Day #14

As I meditate on holiness – I am realizing that any holiness in a person’s life will have to originate out of the holiness of God. Scriptures which record visions of heaven always describe angels calling out: Holy Holy Holy is the Lord God Almighty. Basically He is 3x Holy. Any definition of Holiness must originate from Him – He would be the gold standard.

The world mocks at holiness. Phrases like “holy Joe”, “holier than thou” etc make us cringe to be described as holy.

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http://www.alittleperspective.com

And yet, when I think of it, to be holy, is to be like Him. At least 1/3 of Him.

It seems to me that there are two aspects of Holiness, from what I read and what I have interpreted.

The first is the substance of Holiness – that is God. His very substance is Holy. He doesn’t try to be, He isn’t holy because of what he does. He is Holy because it is who He is. (I imagine that’s why the Holy Spirit is called the Holy Spirit not the Love Spirit, or the Peace Spirit, or the Good Spirit – the Holy Spirit is the very essence of God and therefore his Holiness is what defines Him. )

So, then, what He does, flows from who He is.

Now, we, who are in Him, in whom is He, thus carry within us, the very substance of Holiness that came by virtue of being one with Him. So we are, by that standard, holy.

Yet, Peter writes, Be Holy as He is Holy. Here, I believe is the second aspect of Holiness – the actions which testify of the inner reality – the evidence of things not seen, the fruit which testify to the nature of the tree.

What would qualify as holy actions? I don’t know, to be frank. We have so many rules and restrictions placed on us by tradition – drinking, watching movies, partying… Yet the Bible doesn’t have express rules on so many things – I think that’s where people get it so wrong – because God is a God of such freedom. It’s too much for us to handle, so we put impositions on it – for ourselves and for others.

But I read the first letter of Peter today – the whole thing. There’s a wonderful wholeness that comes with reading a letter in one setting. And I could glean, really, two primary aspects of holiness and the sanctified life –

  1. Love – Pure love for others. Love covers a multitude of sins.
  2. Self Control – Anything that controls us other than the Spirit of God would be undesirable.

When I love and exhibit self control in all aspects of my life, I am being holy, as He is. For me, I think a BIG one would be controlling my words and my temper – especially on the roads. I’m hoping that the end of this fast would usher in a breakthrough in this aspect of my life.

[Merriam Webster defines Holy as “exalted or worthy of complete devotion as one perfect in goodness and righteousness” and “devoted entirely to the deity or the work of the deity” and “having a divine quality”]

Lenten Diaries – Day #8

This is my week of focussing on holiness.

Religion offer us several ways to “work towards” acceptance. But Jesus calls us to “work out of” acceptance. Acceptance is already our inheritance – not because of what I do but because of what He has done. And that’s why the acceptance is full and final.

Eph 1:4 – For He chose us in him before the creation for the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.

What does it mean to be holy? Only God is Holy. Which means to be holy – is to be like Him.

I am already holy and blameless before God because of his grace to me through Jesus. Thus Christ’s nature – holy and blameless – had been imputed to me. So then I am holy not because of what I do but because of who I am.

So now, I am called to live in accordance with who I am – in accordance to what God gave me – an indescribable gift – the gift of being righteous before the only Judge of the world.

Lenten Diaries – Day #6

The end of the first week of my fast, I studied 2 Corinthians 7:9-11 that says godly sorrow leads to salvation and leaves no regret as opposed to worldly sorrow which produces death

A note to self to keep a check on what fruit my sorrow bears – so I know where it’s coming from and to what it will lead me.

Also closed out this week’s meditation remembering Psalm 51 and David’s clear focus on what God can do and who He is rather than on what David himself had done.

As I tie it all together, I’m trying to carry an attitude of repentance in my heart. Always depending on God and looking at him for righteousness and purity.

Lenten Diaries: Day #4

I spent some time this weekend reading 2 Chronicles 7:14

“…if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

and was surprised that though I’ve read this many many times before, and have heard it being preached, I had never noticed a key aspect of this verse.

If God’s people, called by His name will do x…then God will 1. Hear 2. Forgive 3. Heal. But here’s the interesting part – the healing comes to all – to the land – not just to God’s people! The actions of some, lead to the healing of many.

Don’t know how I missed that.

Reading the newspapers, I often feel like the state of affairs here (and really everywhere) is beyond control – genocide, ethnic violence, hatred, evil, misery, poverty, despair… and yet, the solution is in our hands. It seems that all we need to do is “x”.

What’s x?

Humble ourselves, pray, seek God’s face and turn from our wicked ways.

Which means, that we obviously haven’t been doing that – we, who are called by God’s name – the Christians aren’t doing x, and hence healing isn’t flowing to our respective lands.

Praying that I get grace to understand how I can do the above and trigger this beautiful landslide of God’s grace and mercy that will eventually heal my land.

 

 

Lenten Diaries: Day #2

I meditated on Psalm 19:12 today and considered “hidden faults” – examining the very motivation of repentance. Sometimes I may repent with the wrong attitude. I didn’t even think this was possible till I came across this video.

This video has inspired my meditations today – the idea of godly sorrow and worldly sorrow – the difference between the two, the idea of being empowered by grace to live a godly and holy life and the idea of changing my heart desires. Much of what John Bevere shares is applicable to any sin really – and the key to breakthrough.

I’m not sure yet how this applies to my struggle with my drivenness, my need for my children to excel, my constant struggle with too much that I want to accomplish and too little time in which to do it – leading to always being in a hurry and always ready to snap at anything or anyone that comes in the way of my goals for the day. I don’t know how to fail and I drive myself and everyone around me till I succeed in every single thing my hand touches. It’s exhausting and I’m desperate for a breakthrough. This, the Lord revealed to me, is my hidden fault.

I guess my goals are good goals – excellence, success, perfection – but they stem from the wrong motivation – my eyes are on me, not God and I’m trying to please God without his empowering grace!

Reminds me of one of my favorite lines from Murder in the Cathedral by T.S. Eliott:

The last temptation is the greatest treason,

To do the right deed for the wrong reason.

Ps 19: 14 aptly concludes: May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

I hope this is the beginning of my breakthrough…

Lenten Diaries – Day #1

My theme I’ve chosen for this week is Repentance.

I meditated during my lunch hour on 1 John 1:9

And I spent some time praying through it. As I reflected I realized that heart of hearts, I have believed that I am without sin. Sure I know the things I do wrong…but in my estimation they’re not the really ‘bad sins’.

So as I got on my knees, I humbled not just my body but my heart – asking God to forgive me for thinking I had no sin – and standing against the truth in doing that.

Then I asked God to show me what he considers as sin – and help me repent.

God showed me two areas – my words and my fruit.

I examined my words and realized that they left much to be desired. Harsh words, bitter words, angry words (especially while driving), critical words, unkind words, unecessary words, untrue words… the review was not pretty.

So I repented and asked God to sanctify my mouth – and use my words, written and spoken, for his glory. I asked that they be filled with grace, truth and power accurately reflecting the spirit of Christ in me.

I examined my fruit next – both in word and deed – and observed how my fruit was not always consistent with my tree. Though the tree of life was in me, I often neglected to water it and look after it. I prayed that my fruit would be consistent with my repentance.

My biggest lesson today was finding out that I am not the judge of the world or myself – and I had best leave the judging to God, who accurately discerns the thoughts and attitudes of our hearts.

She who walks with wise women will be wise

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