When Resurrection is Not Enough

‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’ Luke 16:31

In a recent debate between Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church, and the author of “The Purpose Driven Life”, and Sam Harris, the outspoken atheist, and the author of “The End of Faith”, Sam challenged Rick to perform a simple experiment –
Get a billion Christians to pray for a single amputee. Get them to pray that God re grow that missing limb”1.  I suspect that if this really happened, Sam would still not believe.  I think he answered it himself when he added, “This happens to salamanders every day, presumably without prayer;” 1.  The fundamental assumption is that God has a simple task – dramatically prove Himself by intervening in a supernatural way, and everyone would believe.  The fundamental accusation is that God has not adequately revealed Himself.  

Jesus, through the mouth of Abraham, says something very bold and insightful at the end of the sensational story of Lazarus and the rich man.  The rich man is in hell and in torment, and is asking Abraham to send a warning to his brothers in the form of a resurrected Lazarus.  The assumption of the rich man is that a dramatic and miraculous intervention would settle the question once and for all.   Abraham replies “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.”  In other words, remarkable wonder can never replace revealed Word.  What was performed and seen would be temporary; what was written and heard would be permanent.   If the brothers of the rich man were not willing to honestly engage what was already revealed; if they could write off the entire miraculous history of God’s provision for a nation, then one miracle disconnected from all of history would be easier to write off.  The problem was not that God had not provided enough evidence, but rather that they did not want any, so they discounted what they had, and kept asking for more. 

To the skeptic, I cannot say much more than what Jesus already advised – honestly consider, and grapple with what Christians consider as the revealed Word of God, the Bible, before asking for more evidence.   Consider the claims of Christ honestly before asking for the dramatic. 

But there is an equally important lesson for the believer in these words of Jesus.  Some of us have a tendency to desire the spectacular more than the Son.  We want to freeze frame those moments of glory like Peter.  But the momentarily dazzling can never replace the eternal Word.  The dramatic may illustrate and inform, but it is only truth that can transform.  

It is exhilarating to see the miraculous provision of God in our lives.  It is faith enhancing when we pray and God answers.  But we cannot spiritually subsist on the breathtaking, we must have the bread of Life.  After Jesus had healed many, and delivered the crowds, the next morning, His disciples came looking for Him to repeat this wonder.  They said, “Everyone is looking for you”.  But He said to them, “Let us go to into the next towns, that I may preach there also because for this purpose I have come forth.” (Mark 1:37)  I suggest Jesus knew that the miracle would deliver temporarily, and the glow and the excitement of that encounter would eventually fade away, but the Word would be the eternal truth imprinted, and it would inspire even in the absence of signs.

Perhaps too much of your life is ordered around the sensational.  Perhaps you have a frustrated faith this day because you are looking for a sign that has not been provided.  You could believe so easily if God would do just this or that.  If Jesus is right, ultimately even resurrection will not be adequate enough for you.  I urge you pray and expect God’s miraculous intervention, provision, and deliverance, but above all “hear Moses and the prophets”     and may I add – “the Son”.

Danesh Manik

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References

1.  The God Debate, Newsweek, April 9, 2007

“A Soul’s Anchor” is a daily inspirational message prepared to challenge your mind, inspire your heart, and motivate you to anchor your soul in the person of  Jesus Christ.

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When Grace Became Potent

“..we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia … see that you abound in this grace also.”  2 Corinthians 8:1,7 Examples always inspire, especially of those who seem to rise above their limitations.  Paul is lifting the relatively poor Macedonian church as an example to the relatively affluent Corinthian church, and describes their extraordinary giving in a statement that I suspect has never been equaled in the use of so many opposites in one sentence and still make complete sense.  Trial, affliction, deep poverty – joy, abundance, riches, liberality – all describing the Macedonian church!   Paul says that this church gave what they were naturally able to give, but were willing and even gave “beyond their ability”.  And that is remarkable.   How does one “in deep poverty abound in riches of their liberality”?  How does one give “beyond their ability”?  Was it some latent ability that they just were not aware of, and a good inspirational sermon acted as a catalyst allowing an expression of this generosity?  Or, was it a supernatural act of God that made the impossible, possible? Paul answers this for us.  He explains that it is the supernatural grace of God.   The example of the Macedonian church is simply parenthetical, an illustration to this supernatural grace.  He begins with saying “we make known to you the grace of God …”  and ends with the appeal to the Corinthians to “abound in this grace also”.  Between the two statements is sandwiched an example of the working of this supernatural grace of “giving beyond ability” and “abounding in liberality in the midst of poverty” in the Macedonian church .

I say all this to emphasize something that we seem to have lost in the modern age.  One of the words that has lost its potency is the word grace.  We often think of grace as simply a “favor” or “approval” of God.   We think of grace as passive.  In the Old Testament it is mostly referred to as a passive favor or approval. 
 But something happened to grace!  Grace embodied itself in flesh when God penetrated the fabric of humanity, and revealed Himself.  John, talking about Jesus tells us that the “Word became flesh and dwelt among us full of grace and truth … and of His fullness we have all received grace for grace.”   In other words, grace became potent.   

Grace is not simply the passive approval of God, but the active power of God in us.  It enables us to do what we could not otherwise do, not only in the matter of material generosity, but in the generosity of love, forgiveness, selflessness and sacrifice.  It is not simply grace that is received and cherished, it is grace that is received, and abounds, and then impels us to do what would be otherwise impossible.   Are you facing an impossible circumstance?  Is there a limitation that you battle?  A betrayal impossible to forget and forgive? A hurt and a wound too deep to heal? May I point you to the One who made the grace of God potent.  The grace of God that is not just passive, but an active power that enables you to do that which is otherwise impossible.   Danesh Manik
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“A Soul’s Anchor” is a daily inspirational message prepared to challenge your mind, inspire your heart, and motivate you to anchor your soul in the person of  Jesus Christ.

If you know a friend who would enjoy receiving “A Soul’s Anchor” in their email box each day, tell them they can sign up by emailing us at subscribe@asoulsanchor.org .  The messages may also be read at our website, http://www.asoulsanchor.org.  To unsubscribe, please email, unsubscribe@asoulsanchor.org with your email in the subject line. To change to a weekly instead of a daily subscription, email weekly@asoulsanchor.org  with your email in the subject line. For receiving messages by mail, please write to us at A Soul’s Anchor, India International Church, 3654 Okemos Rd., Okemos, MI 48864

Published in: on July 23, 2007 at 9:48 pm  Comments (1)  

Righteousness and Rightness

The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’  “But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Matthew 13:28-29

In this familiar parable, Jesus gives us a glimpse of at least one of the aspects of the Kingdom of God.  For those who may be unfamiliar, Jesus describes a man who plants good seed but in a short while as the harvest approaches, the servants find tares that were sown by the enemy, and were alike enough to the wheat to be undetectable in the beginning.  They are surprised, and naturally want to get rid of them.  The master in his wisdom advises against it for the potential harm that will be done to the good wheat and asks them to wait for harvest time.   The most obvious and direct application of this parable is the insight into the nature,  albeit temporary, of the Kingdom of God.  In the Kingdom of God there will always be dupes that will be similar in appearance, but not in substance, to the real servants of God until the appointed time.    In addition to the insight into the Kingdom of God, I think it gives us a wonderful insight in the heart of the King.  It reveals to us the very heart of our Lord.  The master cares for the wheat’s wellbeing enough to suffer the tares.  He will not suffer even little collateral damage to thwart the enemy.  The King is more concerned about individual subjects than simply the Kingdom as a whole!  He will suffer the enemy for the sake of his subjects.   Think of the implications.  On a personal level, the child of God can rest assured that he or she does not serve a King that is more interested in simply the overall rule, but cares for the individual.  The Lord will even suffer evil to ensure your care.  On a corporate level it implies that the Body of Christ is more precious to God and He will not allow it to be bruised, even for a seemingly good and a right purpose.  He will wait till the end.  In the end all things will be made perfect, but for now God will even allow a seeming victory of the enemy.   

God would be right to destroy the tares, but God cares more to be righteous than simply right.   If I may draw out a principle from the very heart of the King, it would be this: Anything we do or say, even if it is right, if it bruises the body of Christ, the Church, it cannot be the will of God.  If it damages and uproots a brother or sister in Christ, even if it is right, it will not be a righteous thing to do.  And God cares more about our righteousness than our being right.  Because being right is for the moment, righteousness is for eternity.  At the end of it all righteousness will make everything right.  I suspect that it is not the obvious onslaught on Christ, or His followers by those who vehemently disagree with Christianity or Christ that bothers our Lord, it is our tendency of not caring what happens to our brothers and sisters in our pursuit of being right.  We have all heard of church splits, scandals, and venomous words that have often destroyed the precious wheat while the tares were being pulled out.   

Friend, I pray that we will recognize this great responsibility on those who have responded to the sacrificial death of Christ, to those who have repented, and been born again in the  Kingdom of God, that we will be pursuer of righteousness above rightness.   Danesh Manik 
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“A Soul’s Anchor” is a daily inspirational message prepared to challenge your mind, inspire your heart, and motivate you to anchor your soul in the person of  Jesus Christ. If you know a friend who would enjoy receiving “A Soul’s Anchor” in their email box each day, tell them they can sign up by emailing us at subscribe@asoulsanchor.org .  The messages may also be read at our website, http://www.asoulsanchor.org.  To unsubscribe, please email, unsubscribe@asoulsanchor.org with your email in the subject line. To change to a weekly instead of a daily subscription, email weekly@asoulsanchor.org  with your email in the subject line. For receiving messages by mail, please write to us at A Soul’s Anchor, India International Church, 3654 Okemos Rd., Okemos, MI 48864

The Divine Invitation

“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.”
Matthew 11:28-30
 

The distinctive characteristic of the Bible is its emphasis on invitation.  All of the Bible is primarily an invitation.  The highlights are less its comprehensive commands, and more its incredible invitations.  It is an invitation to be counted as the redeemed, an invitation from heaven to earthly beings, of glory to the corruptible flesh.  Of the invitations, here is the one that is universally appealing – “Come to Me all you who are weary and burdened”  – an invitation to rest for the weary soul.   A weary soul is a miserable thing.  It is an experience all know of but none can quite describe it.  It is an invitation that at once shines in its simplicity as it astounds us with its audacity.    

“Come to Me!”  It shines in its simplicity.  Jesus does not demand hardworking toil, intellectual gymnastics or our unending contemplation.  All Jesus yearns for is our attention.  It does not list qualifications to be achieved, attitudes to be attained, or works to be accomplished.  It is liberating.  It is a simple invitation to come.  It simply requires a willingness to answer the invitation.  A little child understands what it means to come.    

It also stuns us with its audacity.  Who can claim to give rest to our souls?  Who can understand the depth of our hearts?  It would be quite bold and unbelievable if it was not for the Person doing the inviting.  With a confidence that can be only possessed by the One who has created the soul is this invitation to assuage it.  It is only a Sovereign God who can promise to have a cure for weary souls.   

Are you soul weary?  Slumber can revitalize the weariness of your body, but soul weariness can be only be relieved by the One who knows you and knows your thoughts, your successes, your failings.  And the answer is a simple invitation. 

“Come to Me” is the echo of divine desire.  Ever since the beginning God’s call has been Come to Me!  To those who thirst, he says “Come to me and drink from the living waters.”  To a bunch of fishermen He says, “Come follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.”   To sinners he pleads “Come, Now let us reason together Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.”  To the hungry he cries out “I am the Bread of Life.  He who comes to me will never go hungry.” To the faithful he says “Come and share the Master’s happiness.”   To the rich man looking for eternal life, he says “Sell your possessions and Come follow me!”  To the dying he says “Give ear and come to me so that your soul may live”.  To those rejected he says “Come, Whoever comes to me I will not cast away.” To the redeemed He says “Come to the wedding banquet.  Enter into my rest.”   The Bible ends with this call to come.  And at the end of history, we are told “The Spirit says come! The Bride says Come!  Let him who athirst come.  Whosoever will let him come.”   And no one who has come to Christ has been sorry.   Friend, if you are you weary and burdened, will you come to Christ? 

Danesh Manik
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“A Soul’s Anchor” is a daily inspirational message prepared to challenge your mind, inspire your heart, and motivate you to anchor your soul in the person of  Jesus Christ.

If you know a friend who would enjoy receiving “A Soul’s Anchor” in their email box each day, tell them they can sign up by emailing us at subscribe@asoulsanchor.org .  The messages may also be read at our website, http://www.asoulsanchor.org.  To unsubscribe, please email, unsubscribe@asoulsanchor.org with your email in the subject line. To change to a weekly instead of a daily subscription, email weekly@asoulsanchor.org  with your email in the subject line. For receiving messages by mail, please write to us at A Soul’s Anchor, India International Church,

3654 Okemos Rd., Okemos, MI 48864

 

Seeing Our Neighbor

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”   Matthew 22:39
 
Few commands in the Bible combine with such magnificence a fairly ambiguous concept with such a pragmatic object.  Fewer still identify the precise mode in which that command must be carried out.  

“Love your neighbor as yourself!” What’s more intangible, ambiguous, and so defies definition as love? What can be more flesh and blood, tangible and identifiable as your neighbor?  The command does not stop at “love your neighbor”, but paves a pathway for this love – “as yourself”.  It sets a standard for this love.  We are not simply to love our neighbor, but to love them as ourselves.   It is this precise mode, this standard, that has so captured the attention of theologians and psychologists alike, and spawned many a good pages on the subject of learning to love yourself.   While there is much truth in all of our excursions in the subject of loving ourselves so we can love our neighbor, I suspect that there is a simpler, more subtle truth intended in this command, and it has less to do with how much in the abstract we love ourselves, and more to do with how much in the concrete we see our neighbor as ourselves. 
 
It is a universal experience that we are intimately and distinctly aware of ourselves in the concrete, but we often think of our neighbor in the abstract.  For example, I am rarely aware of myself (and hardly think it as my major identity) as an “Asian Indian” with a distinct accent who loves curry and rice, owns a good Japanese car, and sports a bad haircut.  But I am perpetually and intimately aware of my feelings, my pain, my joy, my dreams and my struggles – in essence my humanity.  In contrast, when I meet my neighbor, I often see him in abstract – for instance as a tall, thin, southerner with annoying habits, or worse, as a proud, pompous northerner whom I differ sharply in my worldview.  It is only by a conscious effort that I see him in the concrete – as another human being with frailties, with feelings, with desires, with sorrows and fears not much different than mine. 
 
I suggest that when Jesus emphasized loving the neighbor as yourself, that at least one of the things he was commanding was a radical change of perspective that would make that love possible.  He was advocating viewing our neighbor not in the abstract categories that we so automatically place them in, but as the tangible concrete fellow human beings, made in the image of God whose essence is the same as myself.  
 
In fact that is the only possible basis of genuine love to our neighbor.  You cannot love the neighbor as yourself until you see them as yourself – frail humanity with a stamp of divinity.  As long as you see them as abstract categories, you may tolerate them, you may even help them occasionally, but you can never truly love them.  Love is not only difficult, but hate finds its roots when we do not see the neighbor as ourselves.  History itself testifies to this.  One of the reason the holocaust happened was the fact that a fellow human being became a category – a people group to be annihilated.  The essence of humanness was blurred, and the abstract became the focus. 
 
The Gospel narratives brim with examples of this very thing.  In the story of the Good Samaritan, the glory of the Samaritan’s action is that he did not see the robbed and battered man in the abstract as a “Jew”, but in the concrete as a fellow human being in pain, dying and in desperate need for help.  The rest of the actions simply were a natural response to his seeing the man as himself.  

It is perhaps this lack of the vision of the tangible humanity was the failing of those who were shocked and asked Jesus, “ Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?” (Matthew 25:44). Perhaps all they saw was the problem of poverty, the oddity of the stranger, the crisis of health care, and the scandal of the prisoner.
 
It is expressed in the  astonishment of Simon the Pharisee on seeing the sinner woman washing the Lord’s feet, and annointing His head with fragrant oil.  The thought in his mind exposes how he sees her – not as a imminent, corporeal, weeping and broken woman but rather as a representative of that flaunting city sinner, a blot to civilized society. 

It is expressed in the public prayer of the Pharisee who sees his neighbor prayiong, not as a fellow worshipper, but rather in that abstract category of a “publican”. 

How do we then as Christians, mandated by our Lord, love our neighbor as ourselves?  May I point you to the One who is our inspiration, our strength, and our enabler!  The One who saw us, not in the abstract of a fallen and rebellious humanity, but as individuals worthy of the price of His very own blood for our redemption! May the same Lord give us the grace to see our neighbor as ourselves, so we may love them as ourselves!
 
Danesh Manik

The Tyranny of the Memory of Guilt

“I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy … that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. 1 Timothy 1:13-15

In October 2003, The Washington Post carried an article on North Korea, subtitled, “Haunted by Guilt over Loved Ones Left Behind.” It profiled a couple of defectors who had run away leaving their families behind to save their lives from an oppressive government, and their unrelenting memory of guilt on leaving behind friends and family who were suffering. The article ended with a quote from one such defector, “I don’t think you can be happy when you feel guilty.”1

While I cannot interpret the action, or comment on the psychological implications of such a feeling, it is a universal experience – the tyrannical collusion of memory with conscience, indicting the heart of past guilt, and casting a shadow over the present. The joy of the present is mingled with the pain of the past. The actions of the past have blemished the conscience and taken residence in memory.

Paul lived with such a blemish, but the secret to his powerful life was that he had found that which defanged the memory of its venomous power – he had learned to live in the shadow of the Cross.

Writing to Timothy, he says, “I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, an insolent man but I obtained mercy.” The memory of the angelic face of Stephen as he was stoned, the people who had become objects of hate because of his zeal, the scorning of Christ as he sat with the Sanhedrin rose its head to accuse him, but he looked to the Cross of Christ and it was robbed of its power. It was a past scar, not a present wound.

It is not a simple magically waving of a wand to wave away any responsibility for past actions, Paul is fully cognizant of the struggle of his present nature. He is fully aware of his current weaknesses. He starts, “I was formerly a blasphemer” – past tense, but he ends, “I am” the chief of sinners – present tense. The past guilt of sin, and the present power of sin, and the Cross can take care of both! Paul learned to bring both the past action, and the present nature under the shadow of the Cross, and the result is his life being of service to God. He concludes, “for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life”

May I suggest that the only way to unshackle yourself from the guilt of the past, and the struggle of the present, and be of authentic service to God is by living under the shadow of the Cross. Friend, is there is a past guilt that haunts you, or a present weakness that assails you? Then bring it to the Cross, for there and only there will you obtain mercy. It is only there where our sin is requited, the sting of guilt removed, and the power of sin subdued.

Danesh Manik

References
1. Opening a Window on North Korea’s Horrors, Doug Struck, Washington Post Foreign service, October 4, 2003

What are you doing here?

And there he went into a cave, and spent the night in that place; and behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and He said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”  1 Kings 19:9

What are you doing here, Elijah?  In a conversation with God, a question is not a request for information, or a clarification of fact.  It is a solicitation for a confession.  It is God’s petition to us for self-reflection.  It is the question we ought to have asked ourselves, but were too distracted to ask.  Sometimes, it is the question that is absolutely essential for our redemption from our current estate. 

“What are you doing here?” was such a question for Elijah.  Elijah, perhaps the greatest prophet of the Old Testament, one who was ultimately privileged to circumvent the way of the grave, and be carried away on the chariot of God was hiding in a cave wanting to die when God asks him, “What are you doing here, Elijah? 

Often, saints of God find themselves in a place that is not their inheritance.  It is not where God wants them to be.  It was a place that the devil would be delighted them to see, a place far away from the center of their calling.  In Elijah’s case, it was a cave far away from the center of evil, from Jezebel and Ahab, and their plans to ruin the nation of God to which Elijah was called as a prophet.  And it was an appropriate question, a question God articulated that Elijah would have done well to ask himself , “what am I doing here?”   If you read the answer of Elijah you realize that it is discouragement that has brought him there.  He has been zealous, and he seems to be fighting a losing battle with evil.  God has not lived up to the expectation, evil has not been completely vanquished. Good wins, only for evil to suggest a new renewed attack.  He is disheartened, and the cave is his refuge.

Sometimes it is discouragement, sometimes it is sin, and other times it is simply busyness or apathy that has pulled us away from a place of God’s center.  The tragedy of many lives is not that they have ousted God completely, but that they have put God on the periphery.  They have pulled from the center of their calling and taken refuge in a cave.  And the question to Elijah is the question to all those who find themselves in a cave of doubt, discouragement, despair, or apathy – what are you doing here?  The cave is no place for the prophet of God.  Sometimes our geography illuminates the philosophy of our mind.  God was asking Elijah to reflect what state of mind had caused him to retreat from his calling.  It is interesting to note that God’s answer to Elijah is not a rebuke, nor an explanation.  It is not even a set of instructions to change his mind about the place where he was.  It simply begins in the following verses with, “Go return”.  In other words, just go back and do what God has called you to do.  Go back to the center of God’s calling. 

Perhaps you find yourself in such a cave.  You are not in a place of your inheritance.  You are away from God’s center of your calling.  Perhaps it is not discouragement, but like the prodigal son, a result of rebellion and sin.  Then I pray that this question to Elijah becomes your question.   And the answer of God to Elijah becomes your answer.  In God’s strength and purpose, “Go return”.  Return with a renewed trust in your Lord and Savior.

Danesh Manik 

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A Soul’s Anchor” is a daily inspirational message prepared to challenge your mind, inspire your heart, and motivate you to anchor your soul in the person of  Jesus Christ. If you know a friend who would enjoy receiving “A Soul’s Anchor” in their email box each day, tell them they can sign up by emailing us at subscribe@asoulsanchor.org .  The messages may also be read at our website, http://www.asoulsanchor.org.  To unsubscribe, please email, unsubscribe@asoulsanchor.org with your email in the subject line. To change to a weekly instead of a daily subscription, email weekly@asoulsanchor.org   with your email in the subject line. For receiving messages by mail, please write to us at A Soul’s Anchor, India International Church, 3654 Okemos Rd., Okemos, MI
48864

How Much More

“how much more shall your Father in Heaven give ….” Matthew 7:11
“how much more shall the blood of Christ …cleanse…” Hebrews 9:11

There are some declarations in the Gospels we find in opposition to our natural understanding. For example, the Bible declares that giving is better than receiving, loving life is losing life, to be last is to be first, and that meekness is the gateway to inheriting the earth. Heaven seems to be operating on a principle contradictory to strictly earthly realities. And to those who have an unqualified trust in the Author of these declarations are filled with hope. Here faith precedes and breeds hope! But then there are other declarations in which earthly realities are a faint reflection of a much grander heavenly reality. The heavens work on the same principle, only on a grander scale. The earthly principle we so easily recognize and implicitly trust is a little glimpse of the heavenly reality. Here, hope is the progenitor of faith, and it begins with these three little words, “how much more!”

If there are breathtaking vistas on earth, how much more is heaven? If an apathetic judge answers incessant cry for help, how much more a just God? If the frail earthly father displays kindness, then how much more is the Heavenly Father? If God cares for the sparrow, then how much more does he care for you? If we are capable of such great sacrificial love, how much more is God capable of? Charles Simeon, the vicar of Trinity Church in Cambridge, close to his death was reported to have said that his favorite verse in the Bible was, “In the beginning God made the heavens and the earth” because if God could make something so beautiful out of chaos, how much more had he hope yet for himself! He lived a life on the hope of a “how much more” God.

Indeed, these words are heralds of hope, but those who take them seriously, sooner or later come to realize the sobering side of these words. They are filled with hope on one side, but there is also a horror on the other. If a wayward son or daughter brings so much pain, how much more does the willful rebellion of his people bring pain to the heart of God? If humanity recoils at evil, and seeks justice, how much more shall we expect God to recoil at sin and deliver justice? If our imperfect conscience can convict our hearts of wrong doing when there is no fear of judgment, how much more when we are face to face with the perfect God who judges all hearts? The hope of the “how much more” God is also the horror of the “how much more” God. And the beauty of the Gospel is the story of the reconciliation of this hope and horror. A couple of thousand years ago, outside the city limits of Jerusalem , hung the Son of Man, the Son of God on a cross sealing the hope and stilling the horror, once and for all. How much more shall your Father in Heaven give? Gave Himself, and sealed the hope! How much more shall the blood of Christ cleanse the conscience? Cleansed completely, and stilled the horror!

Friend, let us rejoice at the cross. How much more do we need?

Danesh Manik

The Offense of the Cross

“And I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why do I still suffer persecution? Then the offense of the cross has ceased.” Galatians 5:11

The Cullinan diamond, also called the Great Star of Africa, one of the largest polished diamond gem at 530.2 carats now adorns the Sceptre with the Cross, one of the British crown jewels. A recent ad for a diamond cross read, “your faith deserves a shining tribute”. With such associations it is hard to imagine that the cross is an offense or an insult to anyone in the modern world.The cross may have gained popularity as a symbol, but the essential offense of the message of the cross has not ceased. And I am not referring to the quarters where the offense would be expected. For example, atheists objecting to the display of the cross in publicly funded places. I am not too shocked by that. There are some to whom the Christ of the cross is an offense, so it is no surprise that the cross of Christ is an offense. What I am bothered about are those to whom the Christ of the cross is not an offense, but the cross of Christ is. I remember having quite a lengthy discussion with a young man who had no trouble accepting Christ, even worshipping Him but when I diverted the subject to the message of the cross, He simply could not accept that Jesus would have to suffer on the cross for his sins. There are others I know who adore Christ, and heartily cheer the name of Christ, but are offended by the message of the cross.

Paul was writing to the same problem. There were those among the Galatians who could accept the cross as long as Paul preached the circumcision. In other words, cross would cease offending if it simply would accommodate human effort at salvation. But the cross in Paul’s day, as well as today is an offense because it is all-inclusive in one sense and all-exclusive in another.

It is all inclusive because it makes nothing of human effort. It invites one and all to the same cross of Christ. It levels the criminality of one sin or a hundred. At the cross, they are all the same – the saint and the sinner, the upright and the thief, the moral law keeper and the flagrantly disobedient. It gives preference to no one, it ignores all titles, it levels the ground and makes nothing of human effort. And this is an offense to those who think that their standing, their uprightness ought to amount to something. They want to have a part in their own salvation. These are those who think too little of their sin, and to much of their works. They do not like the broadness, this horizontal nature of the cross.
It is all exclusive in the sense, the Cross of Christ unequivocally states that there are no other alternatives to reconciliation with God. We have been hopelessly alienated and the only way is the way provided by God Himself. There are no other options. All can come, but all must come to the foot of the cross, cognizant of their sinfulness, thankful of His offer. And this is an offense to those who think too little of God’s Sovereignty, and too much of their autonomity. They do not like this narrowness, this vertical nature of the cross.

The cross is an offense because it is too infinitely parallel for some, and too infinitely perpendicular for others! It is God’s all-inclusive offer – no matter you’re your state, and it is God’s all-exclusive offer – there is no other way to be reconciled to God.

I pray if you haven’t done so, that you come to that cross of Christ today.

Danesh Manik

The Value of Imperfection

“For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.  For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Romans 5:6-8 Just this week someone paid $405 for a $1 coin.  Apparently the US Mint released an unknown number of new U.S. $1 coins bearing the image of George Washington which were missing the words “In God We Trust” and other lettering along the edges.  Those who understand numismatics nod in appreciation, but many of us would not assign that value to a dollar.  

One of the resonating reminders of our humanity is the assigning of value to a thing.  We sell imperfect clothes at a discount, but we pay 400 times more for an imperfection in a coin.  Economists tell us that the intrinsic value of a thing is proportional to the scarcity and the usefulness of a thing.  But we know that it is not always so.  Often it is the intangible emotion or an association to a memory of that item.  How many of us know of things around the house we would never sell, or bear to see it damaged because of the loving memories it contains?  It has a value beyond usability, it has an imputed value.   And imputed value is a precious thing because it has acquired a value it could have never achieved on its own.  It was given to it by the giver.  It is a reflection of the one owning it.  And one of the most consistent thoughts all across the Bible is the value imputed to man by God.  Paul, the persecutor who ruthlessly executed those he saw as dangers to his faith, now with passion reverberates this value God put on mankind – “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”    

Paul is astounded, and deeply grateful.  Twice he repeats this in a short three verses. First, Christ died for the ungodly.  There was not a natural worth that we had that Christ undertook such a mission.  And as if that was not enough, he reminds again that while we were yet sinners, that is, it was not because we showed any signs of becoming worthy.  There would seem to be no reason to salvage this fallen mankind, yet God saw that humanity was worth redeeming.  Like that imperfect coin, our value was not diminished in God’s eyes due to imperfection, but rather the cross is the evidence that God put a very high value on even in our imperfection.   In our modern age much has been written about self-worth, and trying to motivate people to believe in themselves.  But self-worth will always fall short because it is based on “self”, and the great yearning of the human heart is to be found worthy by a standard outside of oneself.  But here is a wonderfully liberating thought – our value is not in simply our usefulness or even our uniqueness, the great value that we have is the value that is imputed to us by God.  It is the value we carry because of the reflection of the One who values us.   

Friend, God valued you as worth the pain, shame and isolation of the cross.  In those moments of honest reflection, are you haunted by guilt?  Are you disappointed in yourself?  Are all your actions, your passions and desires directed by wanting to be worth something to someone?  God has put a value on your life, and it was His life for yours.  May I point you to the cross where “Christ died for us while were yet sinners”.  The cross is, and forever will be an eternal symbol of the imputed value of an imperfect humanity!   Danesh Manik