Monthly Archives: January 2013

The Pancake Story: A Parable

The other day, Shamu one of the college students who cooks for Bapu, myself and whosoever comes, made pancakes.

Talking to Ethan a young man from Canada who is here helping Bapu, I said, “These pancakes aren’t very good.” Ethan who loves pancakes and is considered an authority on pancakes, muffins and assorted bakery stuff, countered, “They are good.” I continued, “He should have put bananas in”. Ethan’s reply, “But he did.” “Oh,” I said. “But he also should have added some vanilla extract that would have made them tastier.” “He did that too.” Ethan replied. “Oh!” I said again and then continued, “Well I really wouldn’t know; I didn’t eat any.”IMG_0052

I come across a Pancake Story all the time with young and even not so young people, people who visit or come as volunteers to our home in Nagpur, except it is not about pancakes but about the Bible. At the end of the conversation, though not admitted, it comes to the same thing; “Well I really wouldn’t know; I didn’t read any of it.” This is not fully true as at least they read the cover page, “Holy Bible”.

The other day I read that 80% of Christians don’t read their Bibles daily; and I am afraid, monthly and yearly would not be too much of an exaggeration. The obvious reason behind this is not just laziness but the deeply rooted belief that the Bible is not worth reading. That it contains nothing of value for their daily lives. It has nothing to offer. They come to this conclusion not because they studied the Bible but rather the reverse – they never did.

At my first year in Bible College, I am not sure it was discontinued; we had to fill out what I called the “weather report” – whether or not we prayed and read the Bible, and of course how long. I prayed three minutes or did what I considered to be prayer and read unconnected verses from the Bible. The bits and pieces I read, most of the time, didn’t make sense because they were unconnected to anything else. It all was drudgery.

It seems many Christians have not graduated from that perspective. We feel sort of proud just to have “labored” through today’s reading of Daily Bread. We are not interested to get to know God just fulfill a felt obligation. The idea is that every interaction with God be it prayer, Bible reading or ministry is an unpalatable duty. We are like the elder brother in the Parable of the Prodigal son, we serve our father out of duty not love.

That is why there is no joy in serving God. There is no “As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” Psalm 42; nor is there “I was glad when they said unto me; Let us go into the house of the Lord.” Psalm 122.

Yet to read the Bible is no more a duty than looking at your GPS while driving. It is our ignorance of the Bible that makes us turn to famous people about their idea about Jesus Christ and are thrilled when they think he is a nice guy. We are disturbed by the late Gagarin, the Russian cosmonaut who flew around the earth in a spaceship and proclaimed, “I didn’t see God anywhere!” Or Stephen Hawking when he stated “there is no heaven.” No doubt for him there will not be. The only people who can talk authoritatively about God and the things of God are the people who read their Bible and are in constant communion with him.

Therefore, the majority of Christians are like a drying lake that has stopped being fed by a stream of fresh water. The level sinks below the outlet on the other end. And our dullness and dryness affects the whole congregation. After all, we cannot teach what we don’t know. And therefore there is no “…but the people who know their God will display strength and take action.”

We are not doing any exploits great or small. We seek for job satisfaction and not for satisfying God – our ultimate employer. We seek for joy in what we are doing and not in him for whom we are doing it because – having surrendered the Bible to the attic of our lives we neither know him nor know what he expects from us.

And so the tragedy is rather than abandoning ourselves joyfully to the tasks we are engaged in we flee from job to job in the hope of finding God’s will for our life, the will he clearly stated in his word – “making disciples of all men!”

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January 25, 2013 · 4:32 pm

May We Be Living Stones

Is the church sleeping? Is the church in decline? Is the church dead? Not so! Church members may be sleeping; the number of churches might be in decline; but the Church of which our Lord Jesus speaks is alive, vibrant and growing. Jesus said, “I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” Matthew 16:18. And of the members of that Church he says, “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” John 10:29

I am afraid we are confusing two entities, the Church of which Christ speaks and of which he says, “I will build my church…” and the physical churches with all its cantankerous, warring-against each adherent of various hues of orthodoxy and plagued by heresies galore. Somehow most people believe everybody to be a Christian who by accident of birth is called thus. In years past I associated a person with a Christian name with being a Christian. In that case Joseph Stalin could be considered one – but even the most compassionate saint would quail at that.

Basically the Church, the people who worship God in spirit and in truth, has not changed over the centuries in either numbers or quality. It seems Enoch didn’t have much company while walking with God; Noah had a congregation of 8 and Elijah complained that he was the only one left, but God, showing him his math was out, revealed that the number was actually 7,000. Paul lamented that everybody cares more for his own things than the things of Christ.

The worldliness of the church and in the church has also been lamented by many of God’s great men and women throughout the centuries and – still continues. Jonathan Edwards who shook his church with the sermon “Sinners in the hands of an angry God”, lost his job when he insisted that only born again Christians (as if there are any others) should take part in the Lord’s Supper. Apparently, the congregation had the numbers but not the saints. Edwards bewailed the fact that many who considered themselves eligible for heaven fooled themselves; they had a consonant too many in the word Saint – namely the first one.

Admittedly traditions change, the places of worship change and a host of other things. When hymns were first introduced in the churches those who believed that only psalms should be sung cried heresy just as others did when the hymnbook in many churches, made way for songs projected on walls and screens; musical instruments, when first introduced were considered as coming straight from hell. While I am tolerant, at one time though, when miniskirt clad teenage girls sat in the choir benches of some churches, I thought I smelled sulfur tainted smoke coming up through the floorboards especially when I noticed that the pastor for once had no problem getting the congregation to move up to the front…

Admittedly it appears the number of people in the various churches seems in decline and so the fervor for God and his concerns. As sort of an encouragement, John the apostle put his finger – or quill – on the issue of people leaving the church or though still there, have actually left the church:

“They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.” 1 John 2:19.

Jesus placed these people in the first three categories of the parable of the sower. Matthew 13:3-8. In the parables of the wide and narrow gate and the wide and narrow path he indicates that the dead stones will by far outnumber the living stones – the ones Jesus uses to build his Church.

stone

I look at the various churches and congregations and denominations across the world as a huge quarry, a quarry from which the Lord Jesus Christ will garner the living stones – to build his Church – the Church whose number is ever increasing and the Church that the gates of hell will not overcome or rob it of its living stones.

And so rather than lament the decline of the churches in both quantities and qualities let us lament the decline of our own spirituality that prevents us from being living stones; a decline that shows itself in decreased church services, in decreased membership and closed churches and a decline that shows itself in dwindling support for missions and other church related activities. God forbid that it should be said of us, due to our indifference –

“Woe to you …! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” Matthew 23:13.

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