Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Book addiction?

Is there such a thing called – book addiction? I have never heard of it. Many of us have been writing about modern worship practices, the addiction people can fall into due to the emotional element in songs, music etc. People look for some ‘high’ in music and feel their dry spiritual realm is being nurtured by listening to the hyping/downing effect of music. During the death of Anna Nicole Smith and the surrounding controversies, I learned a new thing – her favorite pills were the ‘downers’, but apparently there are the ‘hypers’ as well. Interesting… Well, I think it doesn’t have to be drugs, people can look for some ‘high’ or ‘down’ in anything such as music, TV, movie, books.

Books? After all, Bible is a book and it may be a good thing to be addicted to that. I wasn’t a good reader during most of my life. I could concentrate on one book not more than 10 minutes at a stretch, then my mind would start wandering into the areas totally unrelated to what I am reading. That is history now. Grace captured my mind and surprisingly grace comes with creativity and artistic thoughts. For example, I have a great admiration towards the beauty of creation around me. The trees, flowers, mountains, animals, sky and stars were always been there, but now I am like I have never seen them before. I used to glance at these things, but now I can be totally lost in watching them. I forgot one thing in the list – books! Today, I am at a point where I can’t even sleep without reading a book. I look forward for that one hour after putting the kids to sleep. My question is, is this a problem? Can any of you relate to what I am saying?

Few days ago, I wrote a blog about approval addiction and quoted a scripture where Paul says, though everything is permissible, he wouldn't let anything to take control over him. Well, I don't think, books control my life, but it has a huge impact, especially the books which talks about the love of God. I never get tired of reading them. Now I am wondering if I am addicted...

Friday, April 25, 2008

The real Jesus and real people

I have a high respect towards those who choose to live a monastic way of life, isolating themselves from the world for seeking spiritual truths. I am not saying all of them are genuine cases, some may be influenced by hallucinations and mistake it as truth. During my teenage years and early twenties, I wanted to go to the mountains and write poems. I wasn’t really ‘spiritual’ but I always had a tendency to be alone. Solitude can be very soothing and refreshing to me (even today). Jesus took time to withdraw Himself from the crowd and Bible says, early in the morning He went to the mountains to pray.

To me, that is a dream. I have no such luxury in life (at least as of now). I am consistently tossed back and forth between work, home, bills and problems. Apart from few isolated moments of spirituality, I have nothing much to claim that I have experienced the presence of God. The feelings such as no enough prayer, no enough Bible reading are so very common in life and to be honest I feel guilty about it some time. The other day my wife asked me if I have ever felt that God directly speaking to me. Well, I had to think hard to remember at least one occasion.

I understand how monks can be spiritual. But, can the rest of us be spiritual? Can I be spiritual when I have a leaking basement, unpaid bills and a car with transmission problems? What about those who have mentally challenged kids, teenagers with behavioral problems, old age parents, life threatening sickness, divorce issues, disabilities, addictions and condemning church members? Can they be spiritual?

I am talking about real people with real problems. The messy, rejected and depressed. I am not talking about those who appear as if they have figured everything out in life. I am not talking about those super religious, extraordinary, disciplined, "church potato"s. I am talking about the people who are messed up in life and in need of rescue. I am talking about the people who agree that they do not experience the presence of God in their life, no matter how hard they try. I am talking about the people who have been ridiculed by the ‘super religious’ saying that the cause of their problems are their lack of faith. Can they be spiritual?

The answer is YES. Those are the kind Jesus need. He came for the sick and He hanged out with such kind. The kind of people society rejects – sinners, lepers, blind, prostitutes, tax collectors, homeless, weary and laden…
He went to the midst of them, loved, hugged and supped with them. He wasn’t doing the ‘extraordinary’ charity, it was normal to Him; He loved the messy, weary and heavy laden. Folks, this is what gives me hope, that He can love me right in the midst of all my nonspiritual, unworthiness.

He loves me even when I am devastated in the crowded busyness of my life. He loves me right through my unbelief, sins and bad temper. There is nothing I can do to stop Him from loving me. I can boast in His love because it is solid, unwavering and unshakable. I can't help but thank Him for the of the rest of my life.

I am tired of listening to those double talking, rigid hearted, hypocritical, judgmental pharisees. I am sorry, I am only interested in real people. Don't come to me with a lie that I need to get all my acts clean for Jesus to love me. I am not interested in such a 'made up', 'religious' Jesus. I want the real Jesus, the Jesus whom the Bible proclaims!

I am convinced that there is hope for any sinner. Jesus forgave those who killed Him; and believe me you aren't as bad as them. Our messiness has value in the sight of God (and only in the sight of God). The problems, confusion, questions we face have value in the sight of God. In EVERYTHING, even in our sins, He works for our good.

"Everything--great, small, important, unimportant, distant, and near--has its place, its meaning, and its value. Through union with Him...nothing is wasted, nothing is missing. There is never a moment that does not carry eternal significance--no action that is sterile, no love that lacks fruition, and no prayer that is unheard." - Brennan Manning

He sees the desires of our heart, the desire to get out of the mess we are in and He respect that desire, not necessarily by pulling us right out of it, but by loving us right through it...

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Approval Addiction - Overcoming

I have realized and convinced that no matter how spiritual people are, they can still be trapped under any kind of addiction. But the good news is that there is hope. The root cause of approval addiction is believing error. Jesus said, the truth will set you free; so the opposite should also be true: error will put us under bondage. Approval addicts are evidently under the bondage of error. They have learned a pattern from the world, from their own past, from other people, during the many years of their life and apparently believe that it is their actions or behavior what makes them acceptable to people and God. The hope is found in Jesus, when we put faith in Him, He makes us a new creation. Our true being is regenerated by God and He gives a brand new spirit; our way of life would change from outside-in to inside-out. The rest of the life we will go through a process of learning to walk by faith in the Spirit who dwells in us. To me, though I have started my Christian life many years ago, I didn't really believe the unconditional love, total forgiveness and total acceptance of God. There is a big difference in knowing and believing and believing the truth is the key to beat approval addiction.

Acceptance by God

It is not enough to know the love of God; do we believe that God loves us and accepts us as we are (messed up, weak and sinful)? Are we ready to believe what God says about us?

Self Acceptance

Knowing and believing the acceptance by God lead us into self acceptance; which contributes to self esteem. As we start accepting ourselves we tend to judge us less and less. One of the key verses which convinced me that we shouldn't be judging ourselves is this:

But [as for me personally] it matters very little to me that I should be put on trial by you [on this point], and that you or any other human tribunal should investigate and question and cross-question me. I do not even put myself on trial and judge myself. - 1 Corinthians 4:3

Why wouldn't Paul care others judgment? Why wouldn't he judge himself? There was One who was judged on his behalf. The lamb of God was judged, ridiculed and crucified on our behalf; He became sin for us by hanging on the tree to take our sins away from the eyes of God, never to see them again. In Him, we have the total approval of God. Knowledge of this truth is what gave Paul the confidence to say the above statement. Not only he knew it, but believed it, which enabled Him to say one of the startling statements in the Bible: 'For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.'

Paul's past failings did not make him a failure. In fact, God used his past to advance His kingdom among Gentiles. God can use our past for His purposes. Paul talked about his weakness in Romans 7, but he offered it to God and God used him mightily. Let's start believing what God says and let's stop listening to the lie Satan tries to induce into our mind. Renewing our mind with truth is the way to replace the lie we have believed for a long time.

Paul said, "I would not allow anything to control me" (1 Corinthians 6:12). He made this statement right after making one of the most controversial statements in the Bible: "Everything is permissible". Everything is permissible because we are totally free from the law. But Paul wouldn't misuse that freedom to allow anything to control him. He wouldn't allow him to be addicted to anything. I wouldn't believe he conjured up that strength by his own energy; but his total dependence and total confidence in Christ is what strengthened him. It is knowing that we are weak and His strength comes in full in our weakness is what makes us strong. His power is made perfect in our weakness. Lets not be afraid when the Light shows us our weaknesses; lets not run away from it; instead lets be truthful and bring it unto God and offer it to Him.

God separates what we do from who we are. We are identified with Christ and it is our identity what makes us who we are, not what we do. As we start believing it, we enter into His rest where we can be at ease, not performing to gain acceptance, but totally resting from all our works and snuggling into His lap and enjoying His acceptance.

Ephesians 4:15 encourages us to 'speak truth', and James encourages us to 'confess our sins to each other'. If we do not agree that we have an addiction, it would be hard to deal with it. Speaking the truth and confessing to each other will allow us to be healed from the wounds we all carry in our hearts. It is the understanding of our acceptance by God is what makes us to be truthful. Being truthful is nothing but living without a mask. I am not saying it is easy, but it is possible. We are sealed with a seal of approval in Holy Spirit, which is the guarantee of our hope. No matter how hard we try, it still wouldn't be enough to satisfy the people around us. They will need more and more, demanding all our strength and eventually we will burn out. Such consumerism is what we see around us, and we can only stand in the middle and wonder how we are going to satisfy all their demands. Well, the truth is we can't, and we will never be able to. So, quit trying.

The epidemic of insecurity in our life can only be dealt by God. In Him we can be totally secured, fearless and totally loved. Our deep need for love, acceptance and approval is fulfilled in Him, and no human can never ever satisfy that to the full. The foundation for our security is knowing who we are in Christ, accepting His unconditional love, and accepting ourselves as we are. Remember, we are referred to as believers, not achievers. What ever needed to be achieved was achieved by God once for all of us, now we need to only believe.

If we believe the error that we are "an old, rotten sinner", then we will just keep sinning and sinning because what we do comes out of our "who" - out of who we believe we we are. We need a "righteousness consciousness", not a "sin consciousness".

Be relaxed

Stop being against yourself just because Satan is against you! Let's join with Apostle Paul saying "I do not put myself on trial and judge myself". We can be relaxed in Christ because He called us into a 'rest'. We can be gentle on ourselves thinking the right thoughts. Proverbs says, "For as he thinks in his heart, so is he". We need to renew our mind (thoughts) in accordance with God's thoughts about us, then we will see the victory over the approval addiction. I wouldn't expect this to happen over night, but it is a process. Today, I can very well say that I am not where need to be, but thank God I am not where I used to be.


1. Victory over Depression - how to live above your circumstances by Bob George is the best bet. Though I haven't read that book by myself, I have heard the testimonies of others and guarantee that there are a lot of truth in it.

2. Approval Addiction - Overcoming Your Need to Please Everyone by Joyce Meyer. To be honest, I am not a big Joyce Mayer fan. In fact I do not agree with everything in the book. My wife bought this book a long time ago, read it and gave a great feedback. But my skeptical nature didn't allow to pick it up. But couple of weeks ago, I didn't have anything else to read and I picked this one. Now I am glad I did it. I was amazed by the fact that she gives so much emphasis on our identity in Christ. I really don't know everything she teaches but this book is great and it will certainly help those who struggle with the issue of people pleasing.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Approval addiction - signs

One of the areas in my life I have been seeing a great deal of difference is the area of my need for approval from others. I lived a life of approval addiction for many years starting from my school days. One of the ways I dealt with this issue was by being extremely ‘nice’ to others, suppressing my own opinions (though I had opinions) many time due to the fear of rejection. Sometime during my life I have learned to cop with my need to be loved and accepted by pleasing others and there by inviting their approval and love. I lacked true character and integrity and I was driven by this deep fear inside me that people would reject me if I don’t live up to their expectations. During my college days I started smoking and drinking alcohol and tried to do some ‘heroic’ things to attract and keep friendship with the ‘like minded’ batch mates. It was my phony attempts to be a ‘cool’ guy. I wasn’t living a life of mine but the life of the impostor in me. Needless to say that none of it really fulfilled my need of approval, love and acceptance; but I wasn’t ready to give up.

These are some of the signs of approval addiction (based on my observation):
  • Heroism
  • Workaholicsm
  • Obsession with the looks - body/outfits etc
  • Pity party
  • Sentimentalism
  • People pleasing
  • Acquiring knowledge – to bluff
  • Developing unlikely skills – to show off
  • Imitating others (movie stars and other celebrities)
  • Acting ‘cool’.
  • Unwillingness to say ‘No’ to others.
  • Perfectionism.
  • Being philosophical but denying religion.
  • Psycho acts – making wounds on their own body etc
  • Body piercing, tattoos and other body decorations and alterations
As I continued my journey in life, the next thing I tried was religion, thinking thats what I was missing in life to have the need for fulfillment. In the religious world, it didn't take much time to figure out that there is no difference and I suspect the cancer of approval addiction is much more evident and worse there. There, we see people diligently looking for other’s (and God’s) approval and fight for important positions in church, sometimes in much worser ways than the secular world. The performance-based religion is nothing but a group of such people. The need to please others comes from our own insecurity, which could be the result of our past physical, emotional, and verbal abuse. People cop with such past wounds in different ways – being ‘nice’, being ‘tough’, substance abuse, self pity, self exaltation, religious etc.

These are some of the signs of approval addiction in the religious world (based on my observation):
  • Self righteousness and personal exaltation
  • Church activities
  • Struggling for positions in church
  • Fasting, public prayers, bumper stickers and other public displays of spirituality
  • Judging others
  • Control and manipulation
  • Perfectionism
  • False humility
  • Self pity – to attract other’s attention
  • Public charity works
  • Acquiring theological/biblical knowledge – to show off
  • Seeking sinless perfection, hypocrisy
  • Being extremely ‘nice’ to others
  • Forming/following false doctrines, cults etc
  • Seeking extra biblical revelations/prophecy
  • Seeking and/or misusing supernatural gifts
Most of us have a healthy need for appreciation from time to time. However, some of us require constant approval from peers, parents, children, friends, church members, pastors, bloggers, superiors, and co-workers. This never-ending desire for human approval can constantly disappoint us and as a result we might live the life of an impostor, trying hard to please others around us (in vain).

In my own life, I have treated my wife differently based on who is around us. For example if my parents are at home, I try to be more tough and serious towards her because I fear if my parents would mistake me as a henpecker if I treat her so nice! This incident convinces me that the issue of approval addiction is a very deep and dangerous problem which can control us and hinder us from living an authentic, real life. Well, God is doing a tremendous work in that area of my life and this post and the following post where I would discuss the root cause of the approval addiction and the solutions based on God’s Word, are my attempt to share what He has done in my own life.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Do we need another Luther?

Catholicism restricted the authority to interpret Scriptures to the clergy of their church and pretty much oppressed those who tried to interpret. It required a Luther to be born and used by God to break that bondage to some extend and as a result, the sect called Protestants originated. It was considered as a radical revolution and indeed it was. Now, within the Protestantism, we are in a situation where we need another Luther (or many such kinds) to take the authority to interpret Scripture from the clergy of Protestant churches and denominations to the individuals through the revelation from Holy Spirit. When I challenged some of the teachings of a particular church I attended in past, I have been handed over with some printouts of ’16 fundamental truths we believe’ from their denomination’s website. It was almost like a blow on my face, telling me to accept these ‘16’ things or keep your mouth shut. There was not even a room for sincere discussion or expression of concerns. Pastor clearly conveyed to me that he is dedicated and authorized to strictly follow the teachings of ‘their’ church and used many hours of his preaching to bash me from the pulpit (which in my opinion was a one-way-speech, in other words – cowardice).

This is my question: What is the significance of Holy Spirit in the lives of individual believers? How we (Protestants) are different from Catholics if we do not let the individuals freely depend on Holy Spirit for any revelations from the Scripture? Does Jesus save individuals or institutions? Who invented the practice of ‘ordination’? And what does it mean? ‘Ordained’ to do what?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Worship - Personal or Corporate?

Darin Hufford has written an excellent article (in my opinion) on the issue of worship in today's churches. You can read the full article here. Here are some of the comments he made in the article (It may sound outrageous, but I would encourage you to read the entire article, especially if you have ever struggled with the charismatic style of worship):

[Thanks to Aida for recommending this. I have always wrestled with the kind of worship I have seen in my past church experiences]

New Testament worship is actually a "consummation" of a marriage relationship between the individual and God. In other words, it is not a corporate event, and for Heaven sakes we don't need a leader! Could you imagine if I were to allow a man to enter my wife's and my bedroom with a megaphone, stand over our marriage bed and give us directions?

We have learned to market worship singers in very much the same way that the world markets porn stars. The more expressive and loud (and attractive) they are, the better chances they have at being "on the team." We take pictures of people in personal moments of worship to the Father and use them to advertise our church and worship albums. If we think any part of this is acceptable, we are sadly mistaken.

When your worship leader tells you that it is his job to "lead you to the throne of God" with his worship leading skills, he is telling you that Christ's death and resurrection didn't do the job.

For many people, their so call "addiction to worship" were they sob and cry in a fit of ecstasy during the dimly lit song service is nothing more than a spiritual masturbation habit.

I am not suggesting that getting emotional during worship is bad, however I am suggesting that when getting emotional BECOMES worship, it is very very bad!When the experience becomes about finding gratification for yourself, rather than connecting to the Father, it's time to take another look at what you call worship.

Monday, April 14, 2008

"You have a bad card"

“You have a bad card, Sir”. When I heard that from the local Sam’s club cashier, I was busy emptying the shopping cart into the conveyor belt at the checkout counter. Without hiding the shock on my face I turned and asked in disbelief, “What?”. He said, “Your membership card is bad, the computer is not accepting it”. It was on a Saturday, I spent almost 2 hours going around the store picking up all the stuff as per the list given by my wife. To me, that 2 hours spent was very precious because I took it out of my time with kids at home. As I stood there, the cashier re-swiped the card and made sure what he saw on the screen was right. As we continued the conversation the line behind me started piling up and all he wanted to do was to get rid of me. The manager of the store came by seeing the ‘commotion’ and took my card to his computer and returned with a dull face, came very close to me and told, “There was a problem with your card in another Sam’s club, you need to go there and dispute with them to take the block out. We have no much detail here” and he gave me the card back with a “sorry” at the end and that ended my 2 hours effort in vain.

I entered the store 2 hours earlier as a ‘proud member since 2001’ and spent some valuable time picking up the stuff needed at home for the next 2 weeks; but now I am leaving the store empty handed, disappointed, humiliated and angry. As I was driving home my helplessness on the situation was so evident in my emotions afterward. It didn’t matter how much stuff I had in my cart; it didn’t matter how much time I spent filling the cart; it didn’t matter how desperately we needed diapers at home for my 2 year old son; it didn’t matter anything to the store. All they cared was a ‘right’ card.

This incident reminded me of the ‘religious works’ we try to do in an assumption that we have the right ‘card’ in our wallet. It is so easy to get busy filling up cart, earning points, running around, abandoning time with loved ones, totally forgetting the fact that all these matters only if we have the right card - Jesus - in us.

Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!' That’s exactly what the cashier told me, ‘depart, we don’t recognize you as a member’.

Do we know Him and does He know us, is the only thing what matters and nothing else! Whatever we accomplish in the energy of our flesh during our lifetime here on earth will have no value in the final analysis. The saddest thing is that if we wait till the time of 'check-out' it will be too late. It doesn’t matter how much sacrifice it may involve, or how great our enthusiasm or our sincerity in doing it. It is so easy to fall into the trap of busyness in the name of evangelism, mission, charity and church activities, but if it is not Christ who is accomplishing it through us, it is all nothing but ‘filthy rags’.

Major Ian Thomas once said:

As far as God is concerned, Christ is the preacher, Christ is the missionary, Christ is the Christian Worker, Christ is the witnessing Christian. Only what He is and what He does is righteousness - and what He is and what He does is released through you only by your attitude of dependence. This is called faith - and “whatsoever is not of faith is sin”

As I have tried desperately in the past to duplicate His work, I lost contentment in life and always looked for some 'work' to fill up my emptiness. I became workaholic and used the works I do to hide my true self from others. I could never be honest and authentic in my personality as I was trying to 'please God' and earn points.

The Major went on saying this:

This is the curse of Christendom! This is what paralyzes the activity of the church of Jesus Christ on earth today! In defiance of God’s Word, God’s mind, God’s will, and God’s judgement, men everywhere are prepared to dedicate to God what God condemns – the energy of the flesh!

I could accomplish nothing in my energy; If I could, why would the God of the universe stepped out of eternity, came down to live in me? What is the significance of his indwelling? Let's learn to being held by Him, lets not wiggle as He tries to hold us securely in His hands, lets not try to grasp the mysteries of godliness with our high IQ, education and training. Is living as a mere branch too simple for us? Are we too sophisticated and educated that we came to a point that we could do the works of God with our education, technology and planning?

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him - Colossians 2:6. We received Him by faith and we want to continue to live in Him by faith and thats pretty the Christian life is all about. It is supposedly simple, easy and light and may be thats the reason Jesus instructed us to learn something from the little children.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The cult of success

Jehovah witness, Mormons, Seventh day Adventist, universalism, unity doctrine, new age, the list of cults, according to the scholars is increasing drastically. A great amount of time and effort has been spent on scrutinizing them and bullet proofing the original ‘Christian’ doctrine. I am not a cult specialist, but I observe a not-much-addressed cult called – the cult of success.

Child care, old age care, health care, education, church and pretty much everything in this materialistic world is coming under the category of enterprise and success is measured on the scale of money, profit, building and head count. And as a result, we lose the sweetness of relationship, authenticity and love in all these aspects.

The ‘success demon’ enters our brain during the childhood of our life. Parents give us the first dose of pills to make up our mind to succeed in education, then in career, in family life and so forth. In the Christian ministry, the phrases such as ‘successful minister’ or ‘successful ministry’ or ‘successful author and speaker’ are not uncommon at all. How do they measure success? By counting the people, equipments, buildings, media coverage, circulation of books etc.

Tomas Merton once said, "Be anything you like, be madmen, drunks,... but at all cost avoid one thing: 'success'." We live in a depraved world where our success is determined by the type of car, size of home and title of job.

I used to get excited by news such as Bible is America's favorite book , but not anymore, even if it is considered as a Christian or Evangelical success. I can very well get a doctorate in Biblical knowledge and still live without any clue what the Gospel of Jesus Christ really means. So why are we boastful that Bible is still the best selling book in the world? That means nothing, unless we understand the meaning of Bible passages and find the Person it points to, not just the history, literature, poetry, moral standards and principles. We have countless number of seminaries all around the world, which are supposedly producing ‘disciples’, but the sad truth is that we seldom see such kind. Instead we see puffed up knowledge and intellectualism and an increased desire to use godliness as a means of financial gain (1 Timothy 6). Brennan Manning once said, "as systematic theology advances, the sense of wonder declines."

During the time of Jesus, the Pharisees were considered as successful people. They were successful in keeping the law of God and imposing it on others. They earned the respect and admiration of society which ultimately made them the most prideful people who ever lived on the earth. Their success mesmerized them and they kept the unsuccessful people (tax collectors, prostitutes, gentiles) distant away.

Living selflessly may not necessarily bring the ‘success’ as the world sees it. The early church did not measure up the success by the size of their gathering. They were in authentic relationship with God and others, considering ‘everything in common’ was their way of life. Jesus said, do not store up your treasures here on earth because it is destined to perish. At the end all we can brag is about the size of the pile of ashes. Look, I have more ashes than you! What a pathetic situation! Jesus taught the simplest act of love and friendship which would transform people in an exciting way. Somewhere along the line we lost that, we have learned to consume and compete, but forgot to ‘live’. Schools teach us to compete in academics and win the competitive job market. Churches teach us to compete in singing, bible quizzes, scripture memorization, observance of law etc. They brag about their 'disciplined' members who can recite the entire book of Bible. I am like... So what?

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” If you and I see a group of little children playing in a play yard, would we ever think ‘how successful they are’? I would say to myself, how cute, innocent and playful they are. That’s how God loves to see us, His children – simple, innocent and joyful. He cares only less about our finance, career, possessions, discipline, religiosity etc.

"All these I have kept," the young man said. "What do I still lack?"
Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."
When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

That’s the problem of wealth and success. While accumulating it we wouldn’t realize how hard it would be to lose it sooner or later.

According to Wikipedia, Alexader the great was one of the most successful military commanders in history, and was undefeated in battle. By the time of his death, he had conquered most of the world known to the ancient Greeks. Alexander died after twelve years of constant military campaigning, possibly as a result of malaria, poisoning, typhoid fever, viral encephalitis or the consequences of alcoholism.

As a final wish, he asked his officials to put his hands outside his coffin, for people to see that he came to this world in empty hands and now leaving the world in empty hands. The story of a king who conquered major parts of the world ends there!

Apostle Paul warns us wisely in the book of Timothy, For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.

King Solomon had pretty much everything many wish for – wealth, power, fame, wisdom, beautiful girls (thousand wives) around him. Bible describes how the fame of Solomon's wisdom and wealth spread far and wide, so much so that the queen of Sheba decided that she should meet with him.

He searched for meaning in life from hedonism, materialism, intellectualism, and ultimately finding a lack of fulfillment from all of these “meaningless” pursuits.

He said:

"Meaningless! Meaningless!"
says the Teacher.
"Utterly meaningless!
Everything is meaningless."
What does man gain from all his labor
at which he toils under the sun?

I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

I thought in my heart, "Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good." But that also proved to be meaningless.
I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;
I refused my heart no pleasure.
My heart took delight in all my work,
and this was the reward for all my labor.
Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
nothing was gained under the sun.

Lets be careful not to take delight in all our 'work'. Lets realize that there are people who have had everything under the sun finally said it all meaningless. 'Nothing was gained under the sun' said Solomon and I find wisdom in it. Let's not be fooled by the futility of filthy success. It counts nothing to God. As Brennan Manning, one of my favorite author said, the only question we will ever be asked on the day of judgment is, 'Did you believe that I loved you?'. We all like the pleasure of achievements, compliments and praise; and many of us have moral superiority complex. It's my prayer that I want to lay it down, I want to stop entertaining my flesh, I don't want false humility either. There is pride in false humility which alienates and isolates us from real people. It is better to live as a 'failure', than living as a successful impostor who trick people and themselves to impress, achieve and posses.

Monday, April 7, 2008

The life of an impostor

Sometimes I still have to try desperately to convince myself that God loves me just as I am. Yes, all the doctrines are there to help me. But beyond the lifelessness of doctrines, I want the love of Jesus to be real. I admit I am an impostor in this world, acting different roles to different people. I have one face at home, another one at work. There is nothing in this world, which would let me be just myself. I have a desperate need deep inside my heart to be loved, which would be the only thing brings fulfillment and true purpose to my life. I am a poser to the world, but I don't want to be one to my Lord. I don't want to make any false claims that I know everything about His grace and unconditional love. The truth is I still have no clue what it really really means. It takes more than a lifetime to figure out the love of Jesus. I know it is true and I am convinced that it is there, but I just don't get my hands around it most of my life.

I started the life of an impostor the day on which I was born. I showed the sings of it by crying when I was hungry. I started learning to ‘consume’ from the very first day of my life. Life taught me how to pose myself to different type of audience. I acted as a 'nice' student to earn the love of my teachers, I acted as a 'cool' guy to earn the love of my friends, I lied and exaggerated my skills to the employer to get a job; I posed as if I knew everything about the tools and skills needed to do my job and succeeded to win his approval. I did everything I can in my strength to impress the girl I met to earn her as my wife. I posed as if I am the biggest lover in the world and was quite successful in convincing her. Each success of my poser encouraged me to pose more. I could never be just myself, I always felt that the true ‘me’ wouldn't fit anywhere in this world. Nothing in this world, regardless of my posing and acting filled the hollowness and emptiness in my heart. Nothing! But I feared that, if I stop acting I cease to exist.

After becoming a Christian I became a religious impostor, acting holy and ‘nice’. Not even a single person whom I came across during the span of life thus far taught me to be authentic and real. What a stressful life to live! I tried to produce smile on my naturally smile-less face and failed. I tried to ‘be in peace’ in my naturally restless mind and utterly failed. I tried to suppress my anger to make my loved ones around me feel good, but failed miserably. Why did I try those? To earn love of others! What other proof do we need that there is a deep necessity of love in human heart? That’s the deep cry of a human soul - to be loved by somebody. They will go to any extend to earn it. The fake nature of humanity is exposed (but suppressed) in the pursuit of love. The life of a people pleaser is quite an ugly life. During the course of my life in this world, every fiber in my body learned to present myself in ‘nice’ package to the world to be accepted by it. I can never, ever be myself at my work place. I can never, ever be myself at home. I can never, ever be myself at church. It is a long journey started by trying to please my parents, then my friends, then teachers, boss, co-workers, pastor, church members, spouse, kids and it will continue till the day I die still wondering whether I really pleased any of them! The entire world is dancing around me, trying to consume everything from me, in the middle I am standing desperately unable to provide what they need. On the other hand, I play the same role of consumer to others looking for love, acceptance and approval from them. And so far none could fulfill it.

"Do you really know how much God loves you?" No, I still don’t. I know He loves me but I haven’t figured the depth of it. If I did, why the impostor is still active in me?
Why am I silent when I see injustice right in front of my eyes? Why is it still a struggle for me to say ‘no’ to others? Why I am tempted to exaggerate my resume?
God can’t do anything about the impostor, because it is a ‘false self’. It is not there in reality but I am haunted by the strength of that nonexistent being. How strange is that? When will I be truly truly free? I am almost losing my hope that it is going to happen during my life in this world. I know there is nothing hidden to God, but there are a whole lot of things hidden to others. Who I am afraid of? The impostor?

Jesus, thank you for making me a new creation. Now, teach me to live as one. Teach me to be faithful to that new being. I still don’t know how much you truly love me and as a workaround I drag this impostor all along with me all the time. The only solution to get rid of this poser is to know how much you truly love me. I want to settle on the issue of your love not just in theory but in true life. I can’t do it. So do it for me. Impress your love in my heart in a convincing way so that I can take the pressure of the poser off of my head and live a free life as you intended. I am tasting it little by little like a dog drinking from the ocean, but its not enough to get rid of the false self. I tried to find a solution in the religious world but that was the place where I met some of the biggest impostors in my life. I just don't want to be one of them. I want to run as fast as I can into your arms and know for sure that I am loved and totally accepted in my sinfulness, weaknesses and all the negatives in me. You are the one who made me as a brand new being, clothed me with your righteousness and seated me with you in the heveanlies, now I want to live that life here on earth as a true restored human, expressing your love, encouraging others to see the life on the other side of the impostor in them.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Immanuel - "God with us"

Something I read in Brennan Manning's ‘Abba’s Child’ made me think what it really means by ‘God with us’.

Born in Bethlehem

"The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"—which means, "God with us." - Matthew 1:23

That was the words of the prophet Isaiah hundreds of years before the actual event took place. Majority of the Christian community believe Jesus was God in flesh and was born to Mary in Bethlehem, which is right on according to the Bible. But one of the common misunderstanding Christians possess is that God came to be with us just 33 years.

The God of the universe, by whom all things are created, came down from heaven, leaving His glory behind for a while to live as a man among us. He wasn’t just a man who was 'enlightened' while sitting under a tree, but he had been always enlightened before He even appeared to us. He wasn’t someone who became 'divine' at age of thirty, but He was always divine. He wasn’t just a prophet but the originator of all prophecies. He wasn’t just a Jewish Rabbi, but He was the cause for a Jewish generation in the first place. He wasn’t like the Old Testament High Priests, but much better High priest who entered the real Holy of Holies forever. He was God, I mean that baby in that manger was God. He is the God whose glory was hidden behind the curtain and now revealed unto us, ultimately He Himself tearing the curtain from top to bottom, removing any barriers or the need of mediators to approach Him.

Why did He come?

Sure, He came to die. But is that it? No, to rise from the dead. Sure, But is that it? No, to ascend to heaven to be at the right hand of God. Sure, but is that it? No, Here is the thing: He came to die, to be buried, to be raised, to be ascended to heaven AND to come back in the person of Holy Spirit to dwell in those who believe forever! Sadly, many miss the significance of the last part of His ministry - permanently dwelling in believers. That entire doings of Him from death to the indwelling is what makes godliness possible among us. Nothing less could have done it.

Jesus came back in the person of Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost

The day of Pentecost has to have a lot more significance than Christmas. On Christmas, Jesus came to live here for some years and go back; but on the day of Pentecost He came to live in us forever. Just prior to His ascension to heaven after the resurrection, He told His Disciples that it is good that He is going away, so that He can send Holy Spirit. In other words, He can come back in a mightier way to indwell in the multitudes forever. That is what happened on the day of Pentecost. It's interesting He called that person ‘comforter’. A comforter is one who comforts, not the one who put burden upon people. He came so that we can be comfortable (peaceful, restful).

Christ in us – the hope of glory

That’s the ultimatum of His ministry on this earth. Nothing less. His death was a prerequisite for His life to be given to us. Many believe ‘Christ in us’ is a positional truth or just a theological truth. Was His death positional? Was His resurrection positional? If those were real, this is also real. Our body is His temple and He lives in us. Literally. The life we live is His. In Him we have our being. We could still act stupid by asking Him to ‘come down from heaven’, ‘come closer to us’ etc. Hello? He is IN us! How can He come ‘closer’ than that?

Why would He dwell in us?

We all want to ‘feel’ spiritual. We like ‘feel good spirituality’, so we sing and dance to convince us we can still ‘feel’ His presence. There is nothing wrong in singing and dancing, but don’t mistake it for the true spirituality. True spirituality is far beyond our emotional experiences. There will be times in our life where we lose the sense of all our 'experiences' and feel blank, in such moments we need the truth to sustain us. And what is the truth? The truth is that the life of Christ Jesus is in us and He will never leave us nor forsake us. True spirituality is the realization and assurance of Christ’s life in us forever, which enables us to have a quiet confidence to rest in our soul. It is quite the opposite of the ‘bumper sticker spirituality' where everything seems to be about external but deep inside they are dead as a hammer. If Jesus meant to establish a show biz Christianity He could have done it by sitting in heaven by giving some instructions to follow. He didn’t have to come and dwell in us. Isn’t it quite obvious that He did it for a reason? Isn’t that a good reason to believe that He is truly interested in a relationship with us? The cry of our soul in hollowness and emptiness is answered in Jesus and in His life in us. It is in Him we stop wandering. It is in Him our deep need for love is fulfilled. He is faithful to lead us into rich pastures. I love this Savior! He didn't just save me from hell but gave me a life to live right here, right now. He made my heart lovable and it is my desire to spend the rest of my life enjoying the riches I have in Him.