Friday, February 29, 2008

A story...

An 80 year old man was sitting on the sofa in his house along with his 45 years old highly educated son. Suddenly a crow perched on their window.

The Father asked his Son, “What is this?”
The Son replied “It is a crow”.
After a few minutes, the Father asked his Son the 2nd time, “What is this?”
The Son said “Father, I have just now told you “It’s a crow”.
After a little while, the old Father again asked his Son the 3rd time,
What is this?”

At this time some expression of irritation was felt in the Son’s tone when he said to his Father with a rebuff. “It’s a crow, a crow”.
A little after, the Father again asked his Son the 4th time, “What is this?”

This time the Son shouted at his Father, “Why do you keep asking me the same question again and again, although I have told you so many times ‘IT IS A CROW’. Are you not able to understand this?”

A little later the Father went to his room and came back with an old tattered diary, which he had maintained since his Son was born. On opening a page, he asked his Son to read that page. When the son read it, the following words were written in the diary :-

“Today my little son aged three was sitting with me on the sofa, when a crow was sitting on the window. My Son asked me 23 times what it was, and I replied to him all 23 times that it was a Crow. I hugged him lovingly each time he asked me the same question again and again for 23 times. I did not at all feel irritated I rather felt affection for my innocent child”.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Life's toughest questions

People to people ministries recently conducted a survey among its broadcast listeners about the life's toughest questions. They have received hundreds of questions (I have included the top 10 here) and now answering the top ten on the radio everyday.

1. What is salvation and how can I know with full assurance that I'm saved?
2. After I've come to Jesus, why do I still sin?
3. In light of all the end-times verses in the Bible, how can I not be afraid of the future?
4. How do I love my husband / wife / kids more? How do I raise my children?
5. How do I find a good church?
6. Why do I feel the way I do, and how do I deal with my emotions?
7. How can I really know that I'm forgiven, and how do I forgive someone who has hurt me so badly?
8. What is God's will for my life?
9. What is the purpose of the 10 Commandments?
10. Can I really believe the Bible is true?

As you can see the No. 1 in the list is about the assurance of salvation. I am not quite surprised to see this because of the vast teachings going on in Christendom about the performance based holiness. This is one thing that I have struggled a lot in my Christian life. While I have been under the teaching of 'confessing yours sins keeps you saved', 'God is happy with you as long as you keep yourself holy', 'when you sin you go out of fellowship with God' etc, I was under tremendous pressure to 'keep up'. It was a miserable life as I was trying to live the life only Christ can live. God, by His grace revealed to me why the life he gives us is eternal not temporary. It is because of the eternal consequence of His cross. He took away ALL the sins on the cross and cried out it is finished. And when He said 'it is finished', he meant it. He finished the purpose of His incarnation. What was His purpose? John the Baptist told us what Messiah's purpose was when he introduced Him to us by saying, 'Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!'

The wages of sin is death; it is not going out of fellowship or being afflicted with sickness etc. While I was dead in my transgressions (enemy of God) he died for me and took all my sins away. He didn't 'cover' it, He took it away from the eyes of God, never to see them again. I can either believe Him or reject Him by trying to obtain forgiveness by my good works, confessions etc. Why my salvation is eternal? The only thing which can cause spiritual death (losing salvation) is sin and it is an impossibility that sin can cause my spiritual death because He eternally dealt with it on the cross once and for all. There is not even a single sin which he didn't take away at the cross. He left absolutely nothing for me to confess in order to obtain forgiveness. Who am I to think that my confession can obtain forgiveness when Bible says, 'without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness'?

There is absolutely no condemnation for those who are in Christ.

I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Apologetics and me

I have had a great interest in Apologetics in the early days of my Christian life. At some point, I wanted to be an Apologist myself. Many great apologists attracted me such as Hank Hanegraaff, Ravi Zacharia, and Matt of I think I have read pretty much everything on It helped me to understand different cults, bad theologies etc. I have to admit that my primary intention of learning these stuff was to use my knowledge to bash others who belong to such groups and to win the argument with others who don't believe what I believe(Wrong motive!).

Later, I learned something the FBI does to identify counterfeit dollar currencies. They won’t spend time studying all the counterfeits in the world, but they study the real currency thoroughly so that the moment they see a counterfeit they can easily identify that it is a fake. There are always going to be new counterfeits, new cults, new theologies, new philosophies etc. The trick to identify the ‘the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming’ is knowing the real thing.

I gained a lot of knowledge and I think I was more of a student of religion than the follower of Jesus.

There is this verse in 2 Thimothy 3:

always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth.

Or in another translation it says,

always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth

That was me! I wouldn’t say the knowledge did not help at all. In fact it did help a great way but I did not come (arrive) to the knowledge of truth. I didn't come to a conclusion. I was still in the 'seeking' mode.

I Corinthians 2:9-10 says,

However, as it is written:
"No eye has seen,
no ear has heard,
no mind has conceived
what God has prepared for those who love him"

I have seen people stop that verse there and use it to make points such as ‘it is impossible to know the things of God’. But the verse continues as follows,

but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.

I think every ‘but’ in the scripture comes with some kind of surprise. BUT God has revealed it to us by His Spirit. From my life experience, I would be able to boldly say that UNLESS it is revealed to us by His Spirit, all our knowledge stays in our head. When the Spirit start to reveal the things of God, the ‘head’ slowly goes out of the picture and heart comes in to the picture.

One of the questions I always struggle with is, what is the point in sharing the Gospel to a person who doesn’t even believe Bible is the word of God and Jesus is God or even doubt the existence of God. I have tried to use Apologetics, Scientific evidences of creation such as Newton's first law of thermodynamics, etc to convince such people but so far I haven’t seen anybody who has really convinced just by the logical reasoning based on these facts. I still value the genuine work some people do in this regard. I would highly recommend books like ‘More than a Carpenter’ to any skeptics. But the point is, UNLESS and UNTIL the Spirit reveals the truth they wouldn’t come to a conclusion of the reality of Christ's love and His salvation. The only 'problem' I see in those who come to believe in Jesus through Apologetics is that they believe because of the compulsion of their intelligence. If we think, it is pretty easy to rule out any possibilities of evolution, Big Bang etc with a little intellect, logic, history and science.

I think apologetics can be a starting point of any skeptic's faith journey but the true faith is beyond the intellectual capabilities of our finite mind. True faith (not just belief) sees the 'unseen' and start walking in that reality. They not only knows that the chair can hold them (belief) but they go and sit in the chair (faith). It is not enough to believe that Jesus is the way but there requires a response of faith which lead to us to resting (sitting in the chair). This is possible only when it is supernaturally revealed to us by the Spirit of God. I think it was Joel once said, the love and grace of God cannot be taught but it has to be caught. When it is revealed to us by God, we will catch it and it usually is a big 'AHA' moment; then as we start the journey, there will be a lot more 'AHA' moments. And thats where the fun starts!

Monday, February 25, 2008

A mind on earthly things

Living with a light attitude towards the 'earthly things' in this post modern competitive world is becoming an increasing struggle for me. The compulsion to be competitive is unavoidable in career, education, money etc. I think I am on a run all the time. Running from my bed in the morning to drop the kids at school, then running to the office, sitting in front of the computer 8 hrs, most of the time with the pressure building up in the head to meet certain deadlines. In the evening running back to pick my kids, running to home, rushing through many things including shower, dinner etc to get to the final point of the day – the bed. Next day continues the same journey. Week-ends are no different and in fact week-ends are much busier than week days. Is this a common phenomenon in this century? I feel like I am running to keep up with everyone else. If I drive 60 miles/hr on a 70 miles zone freeway, I feel like I am failing to keep up. On top of all these, the worries of a regular parent, giving good education to the kids, learning new skills to keep up with the competitive job industry, having enough money for the retirement...

I have relatives and friends who talk about money/business/career all the time. They read ‘how to become a millionaire’ while on vacation. They look down to us, if we don’t plan, save and invest smartly. And I am poor in all these, so I sometimes feel insecure for not having a great financial plan or a career goal.

On the other hand, sometimes I think I need to really slow down but don’t know how. It appears that there is not even a single thing I can take off from the list of things I do everyday. I really want to spend more time reading, thinking and writing.

Philippians 3 is one my favorite anti-legalistic chapters in the Bible. But when I read it yesterday I read the whole chapter and something stuck out to me towards the end of the chapter.
There Apostle Paul is making a statement such as ‘as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears’. I am not sure if there is any other passage among all the Pauline Epistles where he says something with tears in his eyes. That to me is a sign of great importance of the thing he is talking here. He is talking about the people who lives as the enemies of the cross of Christ whose god is their stomach and their mind is on earthly things. It brought a shiver to my body. Though a child of God, how much I think about the things of this world. How much I am concerned about my well being on this earth, which is destined to ‘pass away’. The psalmist reminds us of some thing about our life here which is worth remembering all the time:

As for man, his days are like grass,
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.

Going back to the passage in Philippians, Apostle Paul concludes that chapter like this:

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

I wish I lived with Apostle Paul in first century. I need somebody to keep on reminding me this all the time. It is not that I want to run away from my responsibilities as a husband, parent or an employee, but I simply want to grow in the grace of God. And often times materialism comes on my way so I keep forgetting that my citizenship is in heaven and I can think more about the things above and of eternal value rather than temporary things on this temporary earth. I keep forgetting the Jesus who said, 'do not be anxious about tomorrow'. It is so easy to tell someone to 'live one day at a time', but it is so hard to do it. Unless I am constantly reminded about the love and grace of God, I will easily drift away from the things of God, to the things of the world. I want to encourage everybody to keep on writing their blogs to encourage each other because people like me desperately needs to be reminded all the time. I like what C.S. Lewis said: 'People need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed'.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Rethinking 'Prayer'

Prayer is one of the essential components of any religion. Though they all do it in different ways, everybody believes in some sort of prayer. I think even atheists believe in prayer. I have heard some say that prayer is nothing but talking to our own heart. When it comes to Christianity, prayer is one of the concepts which has been ruined and tossed back and forth among many denominations. I have seen some extremes in this area such as a short prayer like, “God bless this. In Jesus’ name. Amen” to long lasting prayer chains.

We used to have evening prayer in our family ever since we became believers in Christ. It usually starts with a song and then one of us will pray for everything. I have to say I have prayed genuine prayers in those times , but I have also prayed fake prayers just to get rid of the guilt of not praying. In essence, it became a ritual in no time. It became a burden. There were times we didn’t know which song to sing, so we just sing one of the songs we know the lyrics well for the sake of singing it. There were times when we go back and forth on who should pray. In reality nobody wants to really pray but since we have to do that ritual, so we look at each other with the face, 'it's your turn today'.

I have also prayed to show off my spirituality. One example would be praying before a meal. We used to pray before every meal no matter whether it is at home or at restaurant. Within no time, that too became a ritual. We came to a point where we couldn’t eat without saying a prayer. Sometimes I have no patience to wait for everybody so I pray a silent prayer and start eating.

Prayer became a learned behavior. We thought, as Christians we should pray in certain occasions. I have learned to construct some great statements to insert into my prayer including bible verses. Somebody told us that we have to quote the promises in the bible to God to make the prayer more effective. (As though, we need to remind God about His promises). One great example would be the prayer for healing. People quote lot of promises of healing in the Bible to make God to heal the sick. It is like a bargaining.

Another thing I should mention is the Lord’s Prayer. This is one of the portions of the Bible which has been misinterpreted and misused among a lot of people. Some people recite this prayer 50 or 100 times. I wish they had read the verses prior to that prayer in Mathew 5: And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.. That’s exactly what they do with the Lord’s prayer: babbling like pagans, using many words and meaningless repetition. What a tragedy! I think the reason God gave us one mouth and two ears is to talk less and listen more.

Another thing I myself struggled with even after coming to an understanding of Grace is, if God knows everything why even pray? What's the point?
I think God has revealed something to me in this regard. He gave me a non religious, simple insight into the reason why we should pray. Today, I can say that prayer is nothing but conversing with God. I want to converse with my Father. Why? The same reason I want to converse with my wife. I talk to her because I love her. I talk to my Father because I love Him. He talk to me because He loves me. There is absolutely no other reason to talk to Him. Bible says, ‘pray continually’. Can you imagine inserting some pre-constructed statements, raising our hands and kneeling down before each time we talk to our heavenly Father? It doesn't look like a healthy relationship at all. Healthy relationships do not need formalism. Healthy relationships do not need to schedule time to talk.

Some of the greatest conversations I have had with Father is while driving. There is no one to distract. I don't have to watch my grammar. I don't have to be conscious. It is a free talk.
Prayer is not necessarily filling the air with chatter, the most important part of prayer is listening. We don't have to begin our day with the laundry list. He already knows our needs. He has something to tell us if we are ready to listen. One of the primary ways he talks to us is through His word. The other day while I was reading from Ephesians he spoke to me from a small verse.

the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession

Look at that! We are God's possession! He owns us! If He owns us, how much do we need to remind Him to bless us? How much difference a few mere words from our mouth can make? I can very well say a lot of things using my mouth which are totally contrary to what I have in my heart. So, does He bother for the many words I speak? I have also had situations in my life where I didn't even know what to pray. There were situations where not even a single word came out of my mouth but my heart was heavy and burdened. How am I going to say a nice prayer at that moment?

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. (Romans 8:26)

What a relief! God can hear us without even a single word from our mouth! The Spirit who lives in us intercedes for us. It is a Spirit to Spirit communication. We don't understand all the details. We have no clue how spirit is communicating. But we can trust Him. Or we can act as if we know how to pray 'in the Spirit'. The Spirit who owns us knows what is best for us. Can we trust Him? The more we trust Him the less we need to beg and instruct. The more we trust the more we can enjoy conversing with Him. He has provided us everything we need to enjoy a loving, intimate, trusting relationship with Him. He asked us to call Him "Abba" (Daddy) not 'God of Abraham, Isac and Jacob'. It gives us the confidence to trust Him for the desires of our heart or the burdens of our heart, even the ones which cannot be expressed using words.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

God of small things

God of small things is the title of a book which won the booker prize award in 1997. Though I never read that book, the title really attracted me and the author is from the same place where I was born.

And now that Joel wrote another post called God in the ordinary, I am inspired to write some of my thoughts about the God of small things.

As a follower of churchianity, I have always thought I have to do big things for God. I remember, few months after becoming a Christian I started participating in the evangelical programs of the church. I went to university campus to reach out to the students with the message of gospel. I visited homes telling them about Jesus. I distributed ‘free chilled water’ in summer for the commuters, handing over tracts along with water bottles. When some people hesitated to accept the tracts I thought that was ‘persecution’ and felt so proud that I am being persecuted for Christ! I acted in bible dramas to reach out to unbelievers. I felt so good because I was doing all the big things. Sometimes I forgot my small family back at home waiting for me. I walked with big bibles and expositories in my hand and engaged in big theological discussions. ‘End times’ was one of my favorites. People considered me as a person who is ‘fired up’ for Jesus. I liked the attention I started to get. I did more to bring more attention. I was busy and acted busy as well around others. I enjoyed the praises of elders and pastors. I appeared happy and busy for God on Sundays. After all these, on Monday when I wake up I was dry and miserable like hell. I was impatient towards my wife. I wondered what Jesus meant by the 'spring of water welling up in us'. I had no joy. I used to cry out to God while driving to office, to bring joy in my life. I negotiated with Him about the big things I am doing. I reminded Him the things I did and demanded 'joy'.

I was focused on doing big things while forgetting the small things - resting in Him, enjoying His life, abiding in Him just like a branch, allowing Him to live His life, learning to be contented in all the circumstances.

He heard my prayer and I got His attention (or He got my attention?). He put me through a revolution, a grace revolution. His radical grace changed me radically, inside out. He revealed the truth of His gospel and gave me freedom. He taught me to read the Bible for what it means, not just what it says. I came out as a new person after that deep clean process. I started unlearning religion. Now that I know that I can enjoy all the small things in life because I have a big God. I can relax and snuggle into His lap because I have a God who is serious about me. I can simply focus on Him enjoy His love in all the small things here on earth because He did some big things for me. I can enjoy this small life here because He is preparing a big life there.

Today, I don’t want to be part of a big group to enjoy their small god. I don’t want to take up big projects for a God who said His yoke is easy and His burden is light. I don’t have to invent big ‘faith formulas’ to tap God to do what I want. I have a big God who said it is not the amount of faith that matters, even faith as small as a ‘mustard seed’ can do wonders. I don’t want to seek the attention of others by doing big things, because I already have the full attention of a big God. I have a God who asked to learn to be contented in all the circumstances no matter what.

My salvation is not bigger than my Savior. My faith is not bigger than the object of it. I am glad that today I am learning to be contented in small things, such as may be writing a small blog post to encourage few people, enjoying the beauty of His creation, watching a butterfly flying, looking at the sky, watching the starts, reading a story to my kids, watching TV with my wife, going for a walk with the entire family, calling a friend, purchasing grocery for the old lady lives next door, sharing the tomatoes grown in our backyard with the neighbors,....

We will not be 'known' for these kind of acts because they are not big. But thats okay. It is Jesus who will attract people to Him. He is pretty big, not me. He can do big things. He is a big God of small things. I am glad I found this God (or did He find me?), and I want to enjoy Him for the rest of my life here. No big plans. No big visions. No big anticipations. No big programs. I just want to be a small vessel in the hands of a big God and it is up to Him what He wants to do with it. May be its going to be big, may be small. In either way I am what I am by His grace.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The power of sin

I have dieted a lot in my life. My wife and I once tried 'Maker's diet'. This was before we came to an understanding of grace. We both were all excited about it because after all it is a 'biblical diet'. As Christians we always looked for the word 'biblical' or 'Christian' in front of anything- Christian handy man, Christian hair cut, Christian mortgage, Biblical eating habits, biblical way of losing weight and anything under the sun which says biblical or Christian. I think we were so much excited about 'Christianity' than Christ himself. What a tragedy!

Anyways, we tried that diet for quite a period of time. And you know what? It worked! We both started losing weight, people started noticing it and started commenting about our 'new' looks. We thought those comments paid for the struggle what we were going through. We acted as if it is not a big deal. Certainly there were many type of food we were giving up and the truth is, it was a big deal!

We went for about 30-40 days and finally we reached at the end of our rope. We slowly started giving up and started eating the things we enjoy eating. What a relief! The moral of the story is, I now weigh more than I weighed before I started that diet!

The attractiveness of law among Christians (or among any religious people) is that it works for a while. It does. It can give some wonderful results. But the truth is that while it's working, it is gaining all its power to fail you miserably in the future. Even the people who claim to be 'law keeping' Christians knows this truth, but they don't admit it. They hide it.

The sin itself has no power. Sin is just lying there, dead and powerless. It can't do anything by itself unless and until it is connected to its power source- the law. Sin gets all its power from the law. One of the verse which gave me a lot of revelation about the power of sin is found at I Cor. 15:56

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.

Yes, the power of sin is the law. I do not need any explanation to agree to this point. My own life proves it to me over and over, even today. When we put a hole in the wall, no one really cares. But the moment we hang a sign there saying 'do not look through this hole', we all know what happens! Until I told my daughter 'do not touch the stove' she never bothered. But now that I told her and she wants to touch it.

Paul talks about 'the sinful passions aroused by the law' in Romans. Our sinful passions are aroused by the law. That very well is the purpose of the law, 'so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God' (Romans 3:19). This simple truth can save us from a lot of trouble. I praise God for law, without it, I would have never understood the significance of His grace.

The secret of not sinning is not the law, but unplugging it. Sin is always going to be with us till our last breath, but as long as it is unplugged from its power source, it will not take control over our life.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The flu bug

Finally it bit me and the entire family. Hoping to reduce the 'down time' by taking some OTC medicines. Think this is time for a little 'Sabbath rest'.

Rest & Peace,

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Rethinking 'Worship'

The comments on the What is Church? post by Nicole prompted me to write this post. It actually gave me an opportunity to do a little learning on the topic called - worship. I am going to ramble on my thoughts here and it is perfectly okay to disagree!

Have you heard statements such as ‘I was late and missed the worship today’, ‘for tomorrow’s meeting we have a special 15 minutes worship’, ‘the worship leader is on vacation so we canceled the worship’?

Jesus revealed one of the profound truths of the history to the Samaritan women at the well, ‘You must worship your God in truth and Spirit’. When we look at a little bit of background there, she was talking about doing the ‘worship’ in a particular mountain or place.

“Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem." (I wonder how people worship, if they can’t climb the mountain!)

But this was Jesus’ response:

"Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.” “The true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."

In other words, there comes a time when you don't worship God this place or that place. Or worship is not tied to a particular place or a particular style. Jesus was revealing one of the revolutionary principle of New Covenant which is much better than the Old Covenant.

God is Spirit and you must worship Him in truth and spirit. Worship him in truth. I think it’s about being real. Just being real with Him for who you are. He imputed His righteousness to me and I have absolutely no righteousness to stand on. That realization within our heart generates the love required to worship Him. Worship Him in Spirit. I think it is the Spirit who lives in us prompts us or enables us to worship Him. It is a little outrageous to think that the Spirit will prompt us to worship in truth sharp at 10.00 every Sunday morning. It didn't really work for me when I was in the church. I remember standing there numb while the people around me 'worshiping' like crazy. I have also seen pastors and worship leaders struggling hard to stir the people up to bring an 'atmosphere of worship'.

If you have a church background similar to mine, you might have already seen some interesting definitions of worship in churches. For some people it is raising ‘holy’ hands and singing. For some it is speaking in tongues, for some it is dancing, for some it is screaming, for some it is laughing (holy laugh?), for some it is being ‘slain’ in the spirit. If you see all of these different styles of worshiping, you will see one thing in common. All of them have one or more physical components – hands, mouth, legs, body etc. It is something about me or us. Also, people come up statements such as 'there is power in corporate worship'. My only problem with that is, such concepts are not there in New Testament. New Testament do not have such an emphasis on the so called worship what we see in the churches today.

Some churches have dress codes for 'worship'. Does God really care whether I wear suit or jeans when I 'worship'? Does God really care what comes out of my mouth or does He care about the attitude of my heart? When it is a mere fact that using my mouth I can speak something totally contrary to what I have in my heart, why would God see the 'many words' and 'meaningless repetitions' coming out of my mouth? . I think God is more concerned about my heart than my mouth.

We often forget that we worship a God who lives in us. We often forget the union we have with Christ Jesus. We often forget that we are indwelled by the Spirit who is actually the object of our worship (or faith. I will get to that later). We often forget that we are seated in the heavenlies with Christ Jesus. Like Bob George says, so sometimes we have to look down, not look up. We have books on ‘how to worship’, we have sermons on tips to become a great worshiper. We (evangelicals) blame Catholics about their ritualistic worship, but what we do is replacing that ritual with another ritual. Yes, we have no priests, but we have pastors. Yes, we have no Cathedrals, but we have ‘house of the worship’s. Yes, we have no bowing to images, but we have raising of hands.

I checked the concordance portion of my Bible for the word ‘worship’ and found only 5 references (3 from New Testament where it is actually addressing the worship topic. There are many other passive references though.)

1. People coming to worship Jesus when He was born.
2. Jesus talking about worship to the Samatian woman.
3. Romans 12:1.

Here is Romans 12:1, which tells me a lot about the New Covenant way of worshiping:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.

It is talking about offering our body (members of our body) as a living sacrifice. Oh… it’s about physical? No it is not! Offering the members of our body is an attitude of our heart. Offering our body for the very purpose of God so that His son can live His life through our body and accomplish His purposes! He can use our eyes, mouth, hands, legs etc. In effect, it is nothing but living by faith. Thats is the worship according to New Testament.

I checked the word ‘faith’ in my concordance and found more than 100 references to it and most of them from the New Testament. That tells me something, that the New Covenant life is all about walking by faith in the Son of God who lives in me. Bible says, without faith we cannot please God. That’s a huge principle to me. It didn’t say without worship we cannot please God. In fact, If we are walking by faith we are worshiping God.

I am not against to using our body to express our joy towards God. I think it is perfectly alright. But I can't call it an act of worship according to Romans 12:1. Act of worship is an attitude of our heart, totally surrendering the members of our body for the glorious work of Christ in and through us.

Friday, February 8, 2008

I can do all things through Christ

I think this is one of the verses which is quoted a million times every single day among Christians. We have this verse hanging right on our refrigerator, so every time I go to take water I can read it and be 'encouraged'. I remember, I used to get so excited when I hear this verse from pulpits and thinking to myself such as - So I can do everything through Christ (Evangelizing the whole world, building a church of 10,000 people, become a preacher like Billy Graham pulling big crowds, go to the co-worker and tell him about Jesus and lead him to Christ right there even praying the 'sinner's prayer' right then, or preaching about Christ in the highways and the byways). Usually pastors use this verse to motivate people for evangelism or to achieve something in the secular world such as getting a promotion, getting a dream job etc.

I wouldn't question their sincerity or the intentions. But, In my particular case, the results were often quite opposite. Later I used to feel disappointed about it. Because I wasn't able to do any of such things, and I didn't have a clue what this 'through Christ' phrase meant. I doomed into thinking that I lack the necessary skills, education or courage. To be honest, I had a numb feeling toward that verse. I knew I was missing something.

Recently, I was reading that chapter from Philippians (Chapter 4) and was quite blown away by seeing the context of that verse. What is funny is that, the context is right there in the previous verse:

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

then he goes one and say, I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

So, what is that everything?

He can live well fed through Christ, he can live hungry through Christ, he can live in plenty through Christ and he can live in want through Christ.

Apostle Paul is sharing a great secret of his life of contentment.

I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation. And that is the anything he can do through Christ. Anything such as being poor, well fed, living in plenty or living in want. In other words, the Jesus who lives in him gives him enough strength to be contented in any situation no matter what. Isn't that awesome?

This is just the opposite of what I thought all these years about that verse!

Now I am ready to learn to be contented in every situation in my life. I don't feel the burden of initiating something on behalf of God. I can trust Him to initiate anything He want to achieve through me in due time and all I need to do is to respond to it. He said his yoke is easy and His burden is light. He wouldn't put burden on His children to perform. He has called us to a Sabbath rest and it means being contented in anything and everything through Christ Jesus whether it is hunger, sickness, unemployment, poverty, homelessness, or anything! He is the source of our contentment! What a Savior we have!!!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Rethinking 'Community'

When I wrote Rethinking 'Church' I didn't even have a remote idea to start a 'Rethinking' series itself. But it seems like that is what is happening...

It is my definition of the community is that it is a place where we can genuinely open up and share everything without the fear of condemnation or judgement. A place where we can pour out our heart without any 'processing'. A place to find the much needed encouragement and true fellowship. I mean, being authentic and being just as we are. No definitions, no titles, no hierarchies, no meetings, no schedules or any such things.

I believe that Christian walk is just not about oneself but it is about a community. We can see such great communities all over the Bible. Friendlessness is a hindrance to advance in our Grace walk and to reach many others. Billions out their trapped in the dead works of religion needs the message of freedom in Christ.

Are such communities possible? If yes, will it make any difference? We can see some great communities in the book of acts such as the group of people coming together everyday and sharing everything they have, devoting themselves to the teachings of the Apostles, counting all their possessions ‘in common’.

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work:
If one falls down, his friend can help him up.
But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!

Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?

Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
- Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

I see the crucial significance of community in this verse - But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!

Isolation never have been or never will be a solution to anything. The beautiful picture of the 'body of Christ' underlines the significance of members working together for a common good.

At the same time I do not think such communities are possible only by being a part of an organization. We cannot limit ourself to such possibilities. Instead, such organizations can easily destroy the very purpose of the community itself.

I am grateful to God for giving some great friends right here in this blog world. I think this is a great way of having fellowship. How far should we go about sharing our heart on these public blogs is a question many people struggle with. Though this is a 'face less' media, we could see it as an advantage. Being an introvert by nature I have problem in opening up to a live audience (unless I am so emotional), but here I face no such issues and I think it is great.

I still need to continue learning to be real and authentic. I still need to continue learning to share my struggles. I find lot of encouragement in the Bible itself. Apostle Paul did not hide his struggles as a Christian. Gospel writers did not hide the denying Peter or doubting Thomas. The old testament writers did not hide the shortcomings of many great men of God such as David, Solomon etc. In fact I am quite surprised to see the name of harlot Rahab in Hebrews 11. Why do we mask it if we truly know that we are unconditionally accepted by God for who we are through Christ? By being real and authentic many people out there would be able to relate the struggles in their own life and be encouraged by the fact that they are not alone. Can we use this media not only to share the blessings but the struggles, doubts, questions, sins, confusion etc as well? Can we take up the challenge which James brings up to us to confess our sins to each other and pray for each other so that we may be healed?

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

We can stop acting contrary to who we are.

When we operate in contrary to our nature (identity in Christ) it is quite natural that we feel miserable. The flesh wants to do it but we feel miserable after doing it. Knowing the fact that I am going to feel miserable after this, why do we still do it?
I like an analogy Bob George uses. It goes something like this: A person who lives on the street and eats from the dumpster everyday was offered a lifetime free ticket to a cafeteria full of food. He was so happy and asked, Are you sure that I can eat anything I want from this cafeteria? Sure you can! Are you sure it's free? Yes, it is absolutely free! But he then asked, Can I eat from the trash bin as well?
As believers in Christ, God has provided (freely) everything we ever need for life and godliness, but still we want to eat some trash once in a while. I think that is ridiculous. Why would we do that?
I know that after yelling at my wife I am going to feel miserable, so why do it?
I know that after over eating I am going to feel miserable, so why do it?
I know that after looking at the porn I am going to feel miserable, so why do it?
I know that after steeling I am going to feel miserable, so why do it?
(...fill in anything which is contrary to the Spirit who lives in us)

We don't have to do it! Thats for the world, not for us. Our needs are met in Christ. We have everything we ever need.

I am not talking about being obsessed with sinless perfection or being preoccupied with behavior modification or anything like that. We have a great pasture in Christ, then why would we want to go to the dirt? and then feel miserable?

I think the reason we do that is because of the lack of knowledge of the treasure we have in Christ. That is where the 'renewing of the mind' comes in to picture. Our mind needs to be constantly renewed and reminded of who we are and what we have in Christ.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Hudson Taylor

In the letter which Hudson Taylor (The famed missionary to China) wrote to his sister Amelia in October, 1869 beautifully describes the 'exchanged life'. It is so encouraging and refreshing.

In the letter he explains the turmoil he went through in his futile efforts to please God.

Like many of us he tried, tried and tried to please God with all his energy:

I felt the ingratitude, the danger, the sin of not living nearer to God. I prayed, agonized, fasted, strove, made resolutions, read the Word more diligently, sought more time for retirement and meditation - but all was without avail. Every day, almost every hour, the consciousness of sin oppressed me.

I knew that if I could only abide in Christ all would be well, but I could not.

To will was indeed present with me, but how to perform, I found not.

I hated myself; I hated my sin; and yet I gained no strength against it.

He had the same illusion many christians live with such as:

I thought that holiness was to be gradually attained by a diligent use of the means of grace.

But the more I pursued and strove after holiness, the more it eluded my grasp, till hope itself almost died out, and I began to think that perhaps to make heaven the sweeter, God would not give it to us in this life.

All the time I felt assured that there was in Christ all I needed, but the practical question was how to get it out.

Unbelief was, I felt, the damning sin of the world - yet I indulged in it. I prayed for faith but it did not come.

Here comes the light:

But this was not all He showed me, nor one half. As I thought of the vine and the branches, what light the blessed Spirit poured directly into my soul! How great seemed my mistake in having wished to get the sap, the fullness, out of Him. I saw not only that Jesus would never leave me, but that I was a member of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. The vine now I see is not the root merely, but all - root, stem, branches, twigs, leaves, flowers, fruit; and Jesus is not only that; He is soil and sunshine, air and showers, and ten thousand times more than we have ever dreamed, wished for, or needed. Oh the joy of seeing this truth!

Can Christ be rich and I poor? Can your right hand be rich and the left poor? Or your head be well fed while your body starves?

Could a bank clerk say to a customer, "It was only your hand that wrote that check, not you," or "I cannot pay this sum to your hand, but only to yourself?"

And here is the best part:

The sweetest part, if one may speak of one part being sweeter than another, is the rest which full identification with Christ brings. I am no longer anxious about anything, as I realize this; for He, I know, is able to carry out His will, and His will is mine. It makes no difference where He places me, or how. That is rather for Him to consider than for me; for in the easiest positions He must give me His grace, and in the most difficult His grace is sufficient.

I am no better than before (in one sense, I do not wish to be, nor am I striving to be); but I am dead and buried with Christ - yes, and risen too and ascended; and now Christ lives in me, and "the life that I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."

Faith, I now see, is "the substance of things hoped for" and not mere shadow. It is not less than sight, but more. Sight only shows the outward forms of things; faith gives the substance. You can rest on substance; you can feed on substance.

Click here to read the full letter.