Thursday, May 29, 2008

I hate organized church, now what?

So how do we solve all the problems in the institutionalized church? It is so irresistible to our humanity not to provide a solution. Even to the problem of organized religion. We think we have solutions. But the truth is we don’t. I don’t think home churches are a solution. Any solution other than the total abolishment of institutionalization is just another system. Who wants yet another system? Where there are two or three gathered in the name of Jesus, there are also rules, principles, schedules, plans and all those things we hate inside a church building.

One of the stunning things I notice in New Testament is that, though Jesus resisted the monstrous hands of religion, He did not try to fix it. He simply went on with His purpose. We cannot fix any system, no matter how badly we are tempted to do so. I think the legalism in Christianity will be on the rise as we approach rapture, because that’s a very attractive tool Satan can effectively use against God’s children to bind them by taking away their freedom in Christ. He is using it today and he will continue to use it.

When I left organized church few years ago, I thought about a replacement (substitute) system all day long. I was so badly addicted to religion and though I left it, I didn’t feel free of it. So I wanted another system so badly. But thankfully, God did not give me an instant answer. I am glad he did not, because I learned so much more about walking by faith. In my desperation, I cried out to God for a community. I wanted that human security or support system. It is so easy to find security in a group, church or community than trusting Jesus. Trusting Jesus requires courage, and I didn’t have it.

I am not against the fellowship of like-minded believers but all I am saying is that, it is not a substitute for walking by faith. I have fought legalism in general, but now I fight only the ones coming on my way. Not that I agree to the legalistic teachings in church, but I am totally done with it. God has put me in a position where I am not controlled by Christian laws (at least for the major part), so I have a less need to fight against it. That is not to say that I am totally free from the performance mentality. It still creeps in once in a while.

Though I am discouraged by the amount of legalism in Christian circles, my hopes are on the high to see the tremendous number of people who are coming into the understanding of unconditional love and grace of God through Christ Jesus. It is an awesome thing.

Going back to the original question: I hate organized church, now what? The answer to that question in its most simplistic form would be: do proclaim truth. I have no solutions to fix religion, and I don't think it is my job to fix it either. My job is to expose truth, and when truth does its job, there is freedom indeed.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Selfish spirituality.

People use God as means for physical, emotional, financial, and spiritual well being. Spiritual well being is the most accepted form while the others are also on the rise. I know people push their children to church to make them morally pure. I am going to call it selfishness and self-centeredness. Sunday school classes are filled with programs to make 'nice' kids. No wonder people reduce God into church, denominations and principles. Well, it's okay to make them nice, but don't forget to tell them that living in a relationship with Jesus is not about being nice or problem-free.

The blessing of God comes in the ultimate form of LIFE in Christ, and nothing less. It is not about living a 'peacful' life here on earth. It is much much bigger than that. It took Jesus to shed His blood to the last drop to prepare us to receive His resurrected life. I am not saying a morally pure character with physical, financial and emotional well being is impossible or unimportant for Christians. But that’s not the goal or means of Life in Christ.

It is a tragedy that people measure victorious Christian life on the basis of the above mentioned prosperities. We are rich in Christ, not in material. We are well in Christ, not necessarily in our body. We are blessed beyond measure in Christ, not necessarily in the world.

“My grace is sufficient for you”. Are we contented in Christ? Are we truly fulfilled? Or are we still seeking? Is it possible to be totally free from the pressure of the world and abandon ourselves to the perfect will of God in Christ?

It is unrealistic to expect to be a problem-free Christ follower, because there is no such thing existing on the pages of Scripture. When it comes to the issue of following Christ, Scripture is the final authority. Expect rejection, ridicule, strange looks, issues and problems and see the normal Christian life. But experience the peace/fulfillment/wholeness which transcends all human understanding in the midst of all the problems. Out of 12 disciples, 11 were brutally killed and we are expecting a trouble-free Christian life?

“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death.” – (1 Corinthians 1)

How many of us have felt the ‘sentence of death’ for Jesus's sake? I can’t even endure a 102 degree body temperature!

“For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.”

When it comes to sufferings, why are so quick to become defensive?

Paul says, “God of all comfort, comforts us in all our troubles”. He comforts us in all our troubles! Not by letting us bypass the troubles, but making us capable of being in trouble ‘comfortably’.

Selfish spirituality on the rise. I am always worried about my well being. I will use even god to achieve it. That is the attitude of selfish spirituality. Look at any religion, all it talks about is about living a 'nice' life and finally reach a nicer place called heaven. This is worse than worshiping idols.

Life in Christ involves suffering. I hate suffering, but I can't suppress truth. Selfishness has no place in Life in Christ.

"Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it"

Is this called the 'inconvenient truth'?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Questions, questions, questions,...

“Papa, why Jesus died?” My daughter, with all her 4 year old curiosity and innocence asked me with a serious sounding voice while I was driving her to school one day. Usually such questions arise when she sees a cross on a church building. She knows Jesus died on a cross and for some reason she thinks Jesus died on all the crosses on all the churches! She would say, “Papa, look at that cross, that’s were Jesus died”. Once my wife tried to explain to her [in vain], “Look, that’s not where Jesus died, that’s just another cross like the one where Jesus actually died once”. "Mommy, but... but.. but Jesus died on the cross".

Anyways, when she asked “why Jesus died”, my quick answer was “to save us” (my learned answer). “But WHHHHHYYYYYY?” she blurted out the tougher one in a much louder voice. Now I thought she is really serious and I felt glad about it. As her Dad, I always look for opportunities to tell her about God in general and Jesus in particular (Secretly thinking that I can make her love Jesus in a very early age!). Here, I thought this is the best opportunity to explain to her the reason for Jesus’s death. It’s quite hard for a 32 year old guy to think like 4 year old. In my mind, I tried to simplify my answer the best I can but still wasn’t satisfied. Then I immediately thought it may not still make sense to her, so let me try something different, I said, “though He died, He woke up on the third day!”. While trying to take a breath of relief after giving my ‘smart’ answer, here comes the next question, “But, why did bad people kill Him?”. Ah… I said, “because they didn’t like Him”. “Jesus was good right?”. “YES”, “Then, why bad people kill good people?”. She continued mercilessly. She kept on asking so many questions without waiting for my hard worked answers.

At this point, I realized one thing (a huge thing): My answers are irrelevant to her! She is not so much interested in hearing my theologically formulated, politically-correct answers; rather she is interested only in asking a whole lot of questions. All she wants is my acknowledgment to her questions, not necessarily the right answers. That’s the way she get in touch with a lot of realities in life: by asking questions! A lot of them!

Asking questions without any apology is the sweet, essential characteristic of childhood. We all have asked several questions to our parents, most of them inconvenient and uncomfortable. But that’s how we learned. What if our parents would have ignored such questions? What if they have discouraged us from asking questions? It would have certainly impacted our personality. To be honest, I just don’t have answers to all my daughter’s questions. Not so much that I don’t know the answer, but I don’t know how to explain to her in a way that it is comprehensible to her. But I will certainly still encourage her to ask more and I make sure she is comfortable to ask me any questions. It is a matter of intimacy in a relationship and it also contributes to the development of a creative mind.

As we all grew older, somewhere along the line as we evolved into a more sophisticated, tamed beings, we (tragically) stopped asking questions. We stopped exploring. We learned to suppress our curiosity. We learned to keep quite while still struggling inside. And we called it ‘maturity’.

When Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”, He meant something. His kingdom is of the innocent. His kingdom is of the ones who ask questions. He promoted challenging questions. He satisfied the curiosity of Thomas in a fascinating way. He Himself asked tough questions. He answered them as well. He also left some unanswered.

When did Christian life become pursuing answers, instead of pursuing questions? When did we lose our innocence in asking questions? Why are we in a hurry to make everything so predictable and answerable? Isn’t the “Mystery” (Christ in you) supposed to be a mystery, always?

In mystery, there are more questions than answers and it is absolutely alright. Finding the treasures hidden in Christ involves asking the tough, uncomfortable questions. If we are not asking, there are only two reasons for it: 1. we are acting as if we know all the answers. 2. we are fearful.

Religion (the 'unquestionable' authority), never ever promotes asking questions. They are afraid of them. But Jesus is not. He welcomes our questions. He acknowledges it. He loves it! Religion suppresses it. It oppresses the questioners. Because it act as find-all-answers-encyclopedia. (Remember Pharisees of Jesus' time. They were the people who 'knew' everything)

I left the church(religion) wounded emotionally and spiritually. The reason for my leaving was nothing but asking some questions. Now, thankfully Jesus is healing those wounds. Though I physically left church couple of years ago I never left it from my heart until recently. Now, within me, I am done with it. I am not talking about the church Jesus is building, which He said the gates of hell will not prevail against. I am saying, I left the ruined, enterprised, institutionalized, people ruling, buildings of caged ‘animals’. Such buildings give me an awkward, insensitive, motionless feeling and I hate that. There is no room for mystery. There is no unpredictability. There is no wild abandon. Nothing. But bunch of well-domesticated, lifeless, ‘all knowing’ hypocrites.

I want to reclaim childlike faith. That is the desire of my heart. I find it difficult, challenging and often times risky. I am nowhere near! As the thoughts comes into my mind about abandoning everything, all my comforts for pursuing this , it sends a shiver through my body. Career? Money? Others expectations? Secured future? Home?

"and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him."


"Jesus, How is this possible?"

Monday, May 19, 2008


It is one of those times, I feel spiritually dull and unproductive. Times, I have nothing much to say or encourage. Times, I am tempted to ‘do’ something on my own to boost up my spiritual energy. I struggle to deal with the hard numbness within the spirit, but unable to even pray. It is not unbelief, it is not the lack of knowledge, it is not the lack of encouragement from others, but it is simply the unfelt Love.

But one good thing happened this morning; I watched one of the videos of Steve McVey in his ‘Sailing In Agape’ series - Sailing In Agape - Day Three. In the video he addresses a question which I struggle with often times - When the wind (Christ within you) stops moving you forward, what should you do? His answer is - Do nothing but WAIT! [overcome the temptation to row the boat with my own energy of the flesh]

Well, that is the hardest thing I can do - Waiting. My brain is somehow not programmed in such a way. But at the least, it (the post) gave me little hope, realizing that 'waiting' is also part of our life in Him. I don't know why is it required, but I am simply going to WAIT! [Be still!]

Thursday, May 15, 2008


Here is a quiz (a real brain teaser!) for you scholars.

This is a two part question, not intended to trick; so log your answer in the comments section (don't think much, just log what comes to the mind first)
  • Who is the first canonized Saint in the New Testament (other than Jesus)?
  • And what saved her/him?
For the second part, there are 8 options to pick from (choose only one):
  1. Religion/Church
  2. Confession and Baptism
  3. Law/Obedience
  4. Charity
  5. Faith in a god
  6. Faith in Jesus
  7. All the above
  8. None of the above

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Quoting some quotes...

"All the persons of faith I know are sinners, doubters, uneven performers. We are secure not because we are sure of ourselves but because we trust that God is sure of us." - Eugene Peterson (A long obedience in the same direction)

"Spiritual growth thrives in the midst of our problems, not in their absence. Spiritual growth occurs in the trenches of life, not in the classroom." - Michael Yaconelli (Messy Spirituality)

"The church, by and large, has had a poor record of encouraging freedom. She has spent so much time inculcating in us the fear of making mistakes, that she has made us like ill-taught piano students: we play our songs, but we never really hear them because our main concern is not to make music to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." - Robert Capon

"For God so loved the world, that whosoever believes in him will, from that point on, be considered weired by the rest of the world, which means the church should be more like a zoo than a tomb of identical mummies." - Michael Yaconelli (Messy Spirituality)

"How unutterably sweet is the knowledge that our Heavenly Father knows us completely. No talebearer can inform on us; no enemy can make an accusation stick; no forgotten skeleton can come tumbling out of some hidden closet to abash us and expose out past; no unsuspected weakness in our characters can come to light to turn God away from us, since He knew us utterly before we knew him and called us to Himself in the full knowledge of everything that was against us." - A. W. Tozer (The Knowledge of the Holy)

"Nothing makes people in the church more angry than grace. It's ironic: we stumble into a party we weren't invited to and find the uninvited standing at the door making sure no other uninviteds get in." - Michael Yaconelli (Messy Spirituality)

"What landed Jesus on the cross was the preposterous idea that common, ordinary, broken, screwed-up people could be godly." - Michael Yaconelli (Messy Spirituality)

"Spirituality isn't about being finished and perfect; spirituality is about trusting God in our unfinishedness." - Michael Yaconelli (Messy Spirituality)

Friday, May 9, 2008

Fragility of life

About 3 years ago, I attended a marriage in New York. It was one of the finest ceremonies I have seen where these two people in their youth came together with a lot of aspirations and dreams. With tears of joy they both read their wows to each other, frequently looking deep into each others eyes. Their parents and siblings stood next to them with pride, joy and mixed emotions.

After the ceremony, after lot of hugs and kisses among family members, we all traveled to a nearby hotel, one of the fine hotels in Long island for the dinner. There were a great number of people invited to attend this wonderful event of the most joyful day in this couple’s life. I watched them dancing, people wishing them all success and happiness, their parents standing there with tears of joy. The young man, Vice President of an IT division of a company in Manhattan, and the young lady, a lawyer in profession didn’t have much botherations or worries about the life ahead. All they had in mind was the upcoming honeymoon, life together in their own home and all the joy they are going to share in the intimacy of their relationship.

After 2 years of wonderful, joy-filled marriage, the wife was pregnant. The fact that she was carrying twins (boys) doubled their joy and excitement. Each doctor’s visit was so exciting for them, and on the first day they heard the heartbeat of their little ones in the womb, they almost exploded in limitless joy. Doctor gave them the heartbeat sound recorded in two different audio files, one of each boys. They sent the files to all their family members in email, sharing their excitement.

One day, the wife, 23 months pregnant felt an unusual discomfort in her tummy. Since her husband was on a business trip, she drove herself to the nearby hospital and they admitted her for checking. As the news came from the mouth of the doctor that she was having premature labor pains, she immediately called her husband who just landed in Florida for the next day conference. Without giving a second thought, he managed to get a return ticket to New York on the same day. To make things worse, her water broke and doctors suggested immediate abortion. No matter how hard they tried, they couldn’t even think about destroying their precious boys through abortion. Shattered, tired and confused, with the help of other family members they made a decision to continue the pregnancy, knowing fully well that there is a risk of infection for the mother since the water broke. She had to be on full bed rest, lying in an awkward position in all the discomfort, pain and emotional strain. She survived one week, thus reaching the magic 24 weeks pregnancy. Doctors started showing hope but they were still worried because the babies were still too tiny (less than a pound). The young couple counted each hour, day and night with all uncertainty, unpredictability, confusion and pain. The mother, in her pain made a comment, “these boys, in few hours taught me more than I have ever learned from my entire life”.

Well, they couldn’t go on like that for long. After couple more days, she had intense pain and the doctors had to perform an emergency cesarean. The tiny, fragile babies, weighing 1.7 and 1.4 pounds each were immediately moved into isolation. All the advanced technologies of medical science and expertise of world-class doctors were in place, to miraculously saving the two little lives. Prayers were requested and offered from many among the family and friends. Two days later, the condition of one of the boys was worsened; doctors gave a chance to the Dad and Mom to hold him in their hands during the last few hours of his life. Lying in his Dad’s hands he took his last breath.

I have no capability of writing the pain they went through because I have never been there. I don’t know how they survived. I don’t know what their spiritual condition is at this moment. I have no consolation to offer whatsoever. I am deeply saddened and confused. I am almost certain that no philosophies and bible verses work at this moment. The ability to have faith is shattered.

The second boy, weighing 1.4 pounds, already underwent a surgery and still fighting hard for his life. According to the doctors, he had brain damage in both the sides of his brain and 96% he is going to suffer from Cerebral palsy, a condition in which he require 24 hours human attention even after his survival.

The mother in the above story is my dear cousin. The little boy is still in hospital under the intense supervision of doctors and nurses. It is my desire and prayer that they get this child in good health. After reaching home from hospital, my cousin had infection at the surgery wound and had to be hospitalized again. Few days ago, I was told that she now fell from the stairs while walking down and broke her tailbone. I hesitate to give them a call, because I don't know what to tell them. There is no encouraging words coming from my mouth and now I am struggling with escapism.

The fragility and unpredictability of life is so real. This is what makes me to think about the temporal nature of life and our futile efforts in this planet. I don't know if I just throw up my hands into the air and give up all the efforts for being "success" in this world. What value such success has in the midst of unbearable pain? How ignorant I am when I give up the opportunities for love and compassion and constantly running to keep up with the clock? It wouldn't take more than a second to encounter the unpredictable in life. Are we prepared? Do we have a strong foundation on the Rock? Shouldn't we realize that, as long as life allows, we shouldn't forsake any opportunity to sharing the love of Christ with others?

Laying down the love of money, desire to be "successful", accumulating possessions, can we take moments of silence to think about the preciousness of the 'present moment' which God has given us? It is not the 'big' things what are important in life, rather it is the tiny things. A phone call to a hurting friend, a visit to the sick, a hug to the weary, a little time of childlike laughter with our kids, moments of silence in the busyness of our life are the things critical.

Jesus, through whom all things were created, having a friendly, compassionate talk probably for hours with an women at the well who was rejected by the society and considered immoral and outcast. This is a story which touches my heart. Who is talking to her? The promised Messiah, God of the universe, the God who created everything seen and unseen, even the star which is 26 trillion miles away from earth but still visible to our naked human eyes. Can we slow down just like He did? Can we stop measuring the time we spend for others, loving them and sharing the hurts and joy? Can we spot the tiny, little, but important things in life and ask God to use us to extend His love? That is my own prayer. His love reminds me of such in the midst of my ignorance.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The picture of God

The image imprinted into my brain about God wasn't very different from this picture where God keeps His finger at the "Smite button" ready to strike when we blow up. During the many years of human history, somehow we invented such a joyless, sadistic, controlling god and not many people even dare to question such a ridiculous theology. It is as if we keep forgetting the God who came down from the glory into the planet earth, offering us the way, the truth and the life by being a sacrifice on the cross. I am not talking about a God who compromises sin; but since He was a Holy and just God, he had to pour out His wrath on sin and He chose His own Son to do just that, there by providing forgiveness for the entire sins of the entire humanity through His one and only sacrifice. Deliberately or unknowingly forgetting this historic one time event, people still go back to Old Testament daring to point out a wrathful God and preach the sadistic sermons on God's wrath and hell. This is absurdity! It is not that God changed His standard 2000 years ago and ok'ed sins; but His punishment for sins were fulfilled (atoned) by the one sacrifice of Jesus.

How hard is it for us to picture a God who smiles, with full of joy and love waiting for us to run into His arms? No, He is not waiting for us; He is coming after us, not to punish us but to tell us about the punishment His son endured and offering us freedom and joy. Bible talks about a Jesus, 'who for the joy set before him endured the cross'. It was a joy for Him to redeem us, provide us a way to be renewed and to be regenerated into the true image of God which we lost in Adam. Such a joyful restoration of our true humanity has to be celebrated and proclaimed with overflowing joy instead of being debated, argued and ridiculed by wrongly dividing the Word of God.

I couldn't get rid of such an angry grandfather image of God by my own futile efforts, but He replaced it by giving me a brand new heart (which He offered us ages ago through His prophet - Ezekiel 36:26); opened my eyes to see His unending, unconditional love and awesome Grace. He is the cause and effect and guarantee of my salvation.

The angel who appeared to the shepherds, told them about the birth of Jesus, "I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people." (Luke 2) Jesus is the good news of great joy, He brings joy, He fills us with His own joy and gives us new hope to see God as He is... This is the truth what fires up our heart. The other picture, which the religion tries to portray is ridiculously false and depressing and thats is not the God of the Bible. The God of the Bible can be seen in Jesus - we may know Him and know His characteristics by reading the Gospel accounts - hangs out with hopeless people, tax collectors, prostitutes, outcasts, nonspiritual, messy... not to strike them, but to love them and embrace them dearly... and we may anchor our hope courageously upon this Jesus.

Friday, May 2, 2008

GoodSearch and GoodShop

I just received the following news letter from People to People Ministries, introducing and Through these sites, as we do a web search or online shopping, there is money contributed to our selected ministry. It doesn't have to be People to People since any ministry (Non Profit) can be added to their database. Hey, if our favorite ministry gets a donation for just using that website for online search or shopping, why not use it?

News Letter:

What if you could help People to People every time you search the Internet or shop online? Well, now you can! is a new Yahoo-powered search engine that donates half its advertising revenue, about a penny per search, to organizations its users designate. Use it just as you would any search engine, get quality search results from Yahoo, and watch the donations add up! is a new online shopping mall which donates a percentage of each purchase to your favorite organization! Hundreds of great stores including Amazon, Target, Gap, Best Buy, ebay, Macy's and Barnes & Noble have teamed up with GoodShop and every time you place an order, you'll be supporting People to People.

Just go to and be sure to enter People to People Ministries (Carrollton, TX) as the organization you want to support. You will only have to do this one time; after that, every time you use GoodSearch to search the internet or GoodShop to shop your favorite online merchants, People to People will receive a donation!

Please be sure to spread the word by sharing this email with friends and family! Thank you for using this new opportunity to raise funds to continue broadcasting the message of God's love and grace!