Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A case to defend

Over  the past few weeks we at church have been looking at the whole area of relationships, conflict resolution, forgiveness etc in a series called Family Matters.

 I have been reflecting on various aspects of this especially in the realm of conflict resolution and forgiveness. 

What I have observed over time is that often conflicts that don’t get confronted stay unresolved and tend to harden into bitterness, resentment toward each other and cold wars. The irony is that neither party are clear on what went wrong not do they know what to do about it. Have you been there?

Conflicts stay unresolved when stuff gets swept under the carpet and over time everyone is scaling Mt Evert yet unwilling to face the mountain of unresolve looming large in the face! What is to be done?

There is also the view that one must not say anything in ones defense because God will vindicate you and Jesus’ silence before his accusers is the quoted example to follow.

I have thought about this and it raised a few questions in my mind. I believe a lot of conflict in relationships happen because of assumptions or misunderstandings and these can be sorted out if we do not take such a stand  in any and every situation.

Jesus as I see Him in the Bible was outspoken when he needed to be, and explained himself to the disciples who were lacking in understanding at that time.

What does Jesus say about Conflict? We have two classic passages of scripture quoting our Lord himself.
Matt5: 23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.25 “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court.
Matt 18:15 “If your brother or sister[b] sins,[c] go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’[d] 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”

Nowhere in these two passages do I see room for being silent as the answer to resolving conflict. In fact, I see the very opposite. Jesus encourages us to go and have a chat and sort it out whether you are the perpetrator or the victim. The rule of thumb seems to be that when in doubt, speak up and not shut up.

I think if we practice this, it will end so many misunderstandings and cold war between friends and families. I have seen this in my own life. A friend who heard only a part of a conversation I had had with a common friend drew certain conclusions that resulted in a standoff in our friendship and sadly for many years. This disturbed me greatly but I did not know what the matter was, till I applied Matt5. However, when I learned the reason for the standoff I choose not to say anything in my defense and applied the “silent as a lamb” principle here. The result was the situation never changed which only added to my sorrow. Finally I decided that I needed to speak up and bring clarity to the situation. We visited these friends of many years and spoke face to face, heart to heart. The light came on! The assumptions crumbled in the face of clarity and truth and there was reconciliation in the relationship. What would have happened if I had continued to stay silent?

When then do we stay silent as a lamb? Look at the context in which Jesus was silent. It was in the presence of his enemies that were falsely accusing him with malicious lies wanting to crucify him. It was not a case of misunderstanding between friends. This was an evil plot to kill the King of Kings. I believe that when we are falsely accused like this we need to commit ourselves to our Father in heaven who will vindicate us.  We have experienced this time and time again. When vicious tongues wag and aim to slander us, our character and reputation with no intent of finding out the truth or seek clarification, we need to keep silent and let the Righteous Judge take over.  And we have seen God come through for us. If opportunity presents itself to explain ones actions one must do so in all humility, grace and wisdom.

But in most cases I suspect it is a case of applying Matt 5 or Matt 18. So let’s go sort out those misunderstandings. Sometimes the other party does not have the moral courage or the fortitude to face the situation. In those cases we are called to forgive unilaterally and let by gone s be by gone s and continue to express love to that person as Jesus would have us do. We are to trust God to grant us grace for such a situation.

I have realized that life is not made up of nice neat boxes all well stacked and labeled. We cannot dot every “I” and cross every “t”. We have to move on throwing aside everything that hinders and run the beautiful race in life that Jesus has marked out for us.

I end my reflections and rest my case knowing I rest in the shadow of the Almighty, my ultimate defense and deliverer.

Navaz D Cruz

August 2013

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A faith struggle- straight from the heart.

Life throws many things at us - good, bad, perplexing and simple. The Christian life is no different. As life rolls on, we encounter so many different situations not only in our lives but also that of the family, friends, neighbours and colleagues.

This is an honest, straight from the heart blog - no pretense, no mask, no charades. Today is a day that started with many question assaulting my mind. I feel like the psalmist David who was perplexed at times. Maybe you too feel like this sometimes.Then reflect with me..

We are called to live by faith and not by sight. WE are sons of Abraham, the father of faith. Jesus said if we have faith even as mall as a mustard seed we can say to a mountain "move" and it shall be done!!!

However, today I sit reflecting on those mountains that need moving and NOW. They seem to have been around for a looong time : mountains in my own life, in the lives of my friends, family, church. Mountains of crippling health situations, failing finances, relational strive, challenging addictions, a battle for spiritual fruit. The list can go on and on.

I think of all those people of the "faith movement" who keep shouting "believe it, name it, claim it..", like a magic mantra! You don't possess it because you don't have faith. How re assuring!!!!

But, when I anchor in the WORD I see two things happening- there are the suddenly s of God - where God breaks upon a situation causing the dead to come alive, the blind to see, the cripple to walk, finances restored, the stranglehold of addictions broken, storm stilled.
I also see the great heroes of faith ( that is what they are called) who despite believing died not having received what they were in faith for and they are still commended for their  - Faith ( not for having received what ever it was they were in faith for )

As Job said shall we accept only goodness from God and not accept the trials?James encourages us to persevere  under trials, testings of many kinds.

I know that my God is sovereign and in control. His ways are higher than mine and incomprehensible a lot of the times. When I sit perplexed on such a day as this, I know that in times like these, the wise thing to do is to sit still in His presence, still my soul and find rest in God alone.
He is my anchor, the horn of my plenty, my refuge and strength in times  of trouble.

My heart goes out to all those who I am praying for today - those struggling with illness, the pain of bareness, for children who long to see their father delivered from the clutches of alcohol, those who are longing to meet their life partner, the poor who feel trapped in their helpless state. Oh , this list can fill pages.. I know I long for rapid answered to prayer. 

But I also know I believe in a prayer answering God. Scratched out prayer lists over the years bear testimony to God's faithfulness. So I am learning to straddle the truth that faith can move mountains and will; while on the other hand there is the waiting and the possibility that the answer to a prayer is actually a "no".  I am reminded of a quote:WHAT IF ?

What if the Israelites had stopped circling Jericho on day six? What if Elijah had quit praying for rain after his sixth request? Or what if Naaman had only dipped in the river six times? (Batterson, Mark Draw the Circle: The 40 Day Prayer Challenge 

This I know, God is for me and for all those who love Him and are called by His name. While we are promised abundant life ( the definition to that is open ended and does not consist of material blessings only ), Jesus also reminded us that in this world we shall have many troubles and I have to straddle the two truths with His grace.
"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 Savior. 
The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
    he enables me to tread on the heights." ( Habbakuk 3:17-19)

So I end this morning's reflections lifting my eyes to the maker of heaven and earth, to Jesus, the great high priest who was tempted in every way therefore able to sympathies with my weakness. He is the author and finisher of my faith. He will keep me strong till the end. I'll end with copying the lyrics of a song I recently wrote and if you struggling to find faith in your heart - focus on Christ the hope of glory.

Christ in me the hope of glory
Christ in me bringing new life
          Christ before me, the world behind me
Gives me the power to live this life
Christ in me to will and do
Christ in me will see me through
Christ will be my guiding light
In valleys low and darkest nights

My hope is in Christ alone
He is my Rock, my cornerstone
And I will trust in His great name
Christ forever the same.

Christ in me, my help in weakness
Christ in me giving me the strength
Christ makes me an over comer
And keeps me strong until the end
Christ in me my help in life
Christ in me be glorified
Christ in me this hidden treasure
Life’s author and, perfecter.
Navaz D Cruz
© 2012 ( you can listen to it here

Stay strong, keep the faith!

August 2013