Discovering Spiritual Truths & Celebrating God's Grace in the Every Day Happenings of Life.
In our new home’s development, we have many Indian neighbors. Almost all of them are 1st generation Americans. Though they come from different areas of India with different dialects, most are of the Hindu faith. This past Wednesday evening, we were invited to partake with them in one of their Hindu celebrations. Our neighbors were celebrating the Festival of Ganesh. Lord Ganesh is one of the principal gods of the Hindu faith. This formless divinity is characterized as a four-armed, elephant-headed being. (Not sure why.) This is their god of good fortune and prosperity; he brings good energy and removes obstacles. As was explained to me, they invoke this Ganesh celebration often at the start of new journeys or before big decisions. Last night, our neighbors, all adorned in their colorful Indian dress, danced and chanted (though we had no idea what they were saying), burned incenses, offered different fruits and sweets, knelt before an icon of their god, and they covered their faces (and ours) with a symbolic red-colored powder. As we stood on the outskirts of their circle, my wife and I simply took it all in. It was certainly out of our comfort level and outside the norm of our worship experiences. Sensory overload for sure! Yet it was extremely fascinating. After their celebration, we were invited inside for some traditional Indian snacks and tea. They showed us their in-home temple, right in their living room, where they regularly worship. They were very proud of their religious heritage. Our gracious new friends were incredibly hospitable and willing to answer every question I threw at them. Had it not been for our need to rush off to a back-to-school night, I may have sat there all night asking questions.
Through it all, I couldn’t help but wonder if our Christian faith is as strange and foreign to them, as their sect of the Hindu faith was to us. The differences are obvious and numerous. For my wife and me, we gained a renewed appreciation for the simplicity of our Christian faith. One God. One Savior. One God who has done it all... Creator, Savior, Sustainer. The same God who got this party started, is the one who is actively and intimately involved in our daily lives. “You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me.”(Isaiah 43:10) This is such good news indeed. We have no need to regularly beseech the pantheon of gods—seeking favor or health or good fortune. There is no endless quest of doing good in the hopes of achieving a state of nirvana. No fear that, if our deeds are bad, we may come back reincarnated as a dog or person destined for hardships. Our eternal state of bliss never hangs in the balance. We are never in limbo. Our fate in eternity is never unknown. Our means of salvation is not found in an unending path for knowledge or in a depository of our good deeds. Instead, we have that same God who is ever present and always directing our lives. God who cares and provides for His people, whether we bring sweet offerings or not. God who has acted Himself to declare us righteous and secure an eternal place for us in His kingdom. God who loves and forgives. One God who does it all for us.
We believe in One God... Amen!
It probably goes without saying, but we did not walk across our backyard this past Wednesday night to worship with them. We were bystanders. We went out of respect for our neighbors and a genuine curiosity to learn more about them and their religion. But you better believe, there is also a not-so hidden agenda. Christmas is now only 100 days away. Pretty soon we will have a chance to speak about one of the great celebrations and festivals of our faith. Soon it will be our turn to talk about the God we believe in, to answer whatever questions may come. Whether or not you have had an opportunity like this yourselves, make no mistake, the harvest field is ripe and there are divine appointments God is putting before you. Likely on a daily basis. Undoubtedly, there are people in your neighborhood or at work, that are not part of the Christian faith. Perhaps you sit beside the at football and soccer games. Maybe you see them whenever a family gathering takes place. Maybe they are wayward sheep, disenfranchised followers because they have been let down or hurt by their past experiences in the church. Or maybe they're bitter towards a God who didn't answer their prayers the way they had hoped. Whatever the circumstances, whomever these lost souls might be, look for an opportunity to give witness and to share the unmatched peace and strength you have as followers of Jesus. Be bold. Have courage. Take a walk across your backyard. Visit with your neighbors. Enjoy coffee break with a coworker. Hang out by the water cooler. Listen to them. Pray for them. Maybe it’s time for our church to get a little more prideful and celebratory about the God we believe in! “But have reverence for Christ in your hearts, and honor him as Lord. Be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you.” (1 Peter 3:15, GNT)
“ A Christian who doesn’t witness is a contradiction in terms.” (Adrian Rogers)
“Every Christian can witness to God in the workplace, not only with words but above all with an honest life.” (Pope Francis)
Pastor Steve Vera