Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Christian double talk

People say and sing with their mouth that it is all about Jesus. But if we observe them, it’s all about them – their church, their pastor, their baptism, their evangelism, their charity, their spiritual gifts, their community.

It’s like listening to a sermon where the preacher says that it is the grace of God what saves us and it is the grace of God what sustains us and it is all about His grace and at the end of His sermon he would give a list of things to do to improve our spiritual life. And the entire congregation has no problem with these clearly contradicting points that they would receive it with applause. What is wrong with us? To see the contradicting concepts in Christianity, I do not think we need to be seminary trained or to have a possession of deep theological knowledge; all we need is some common sense.

A pastor once told me that New Covenant is a continuation of Old covenant. At the same time he believes in the FULL gospel and the forgiveness by the death of Christ. How can these two concepts go hand in hand? Under the New covenant we are forgiven by the death of Christ, which was a one time act, whereas per the Old Covenant the High priest has to go to the altar with the blood of bulls and goats day after day, year after year, again and again and again. To me, I can either believe that the one time sacrifice of the perfect lamb of God (Jesus) took my entire sins away OR I can believe that I need to do some kind of sacrifice (killing bulls and goats, confession, walking the aisle etc) to keep me forgiven. How can I believe both at the same time? It simply negates logic.

Another big one is, it is not by works we are saved. I knew it and I memorized Ephesians 2:8-9. But then I heard, we need to ‘work out our salvation' or we may 'fall from grace' and lose our salvation.
Again, both these concepts cannot be true. It’s like C.S Lewis said: either Jesus is a liar OR He is God. He cannot be both and He cannot be someone in between.

I wrote a post back in January on Christian Double talk. I am still amazed at the fact that people can believe with all their heart the two totally contradicting concepts, which totally defies any human logic and reasoning. It is one thing that Bible says ‘My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge’, but it is whole another thing that people don’t even use simple logic when it comes to their religious beliefs.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Being dogmatic.

At some point, after saying goodbye to the institutionalism, as I saw NOT being dogmatic is a fashion among liberals, I foolishly tried to follow them. I tried to be 'liberal', tolerating and accepting by being non-dogmatic. I thought biblical doctrines weren't that fashionable, especially when we hear stuff like 'Oh..don't be too dogmatic on that'.

If doctrines weren't that important, why did Apostle Paul write 14 Epistles?

At the same time, I don't want put some big theological words out there and see everything in life through the eyes of a 'theologian'. That is not my point.

I am still not dogmatic (and don't want to be) in so many issues of daily life but when it comes to SALVATION, I have to be dogmatic. There is no other way we can understand what salvation truly is. I have observed among those who practice Christianity, evangelical Christianity, only a very few percentage truly knows what 'Salvation' really means. For some, it's being in 'nirvana', for some it is escaping hell and for some it is getting our sins forgiven, for some it is a way to achieve sinless perfection, for some it is finding God in 'everything', for some it is charity, social activities and good works. But, what truly is salvation in the light of New Testament and how can we explain that without being dogmatic?

Is it time to get back to some of the fundamentals of Christian faith?

I am seeing the stuff like, universalism, Calvinism etc and I truly think all these theologies are the result of a poor understanding of the fundamentals of Biblical Salvation in the light of Gospel.

No matter how beautifully we can build, if the premise (foundation) is not right, we miss the point, right?

Friday, July 25, 2008

So, you want to stop sinning?

Then, stop trying to stop sinning!

In a podcast I recently listened over at The God Journey, Darrin Hufford shared a story of the Supper Nanny dealing with the father of a little boy. This boy was seeing the video player in their living room as a ‘toy’ and was trying to insert his sandwich into it. His Dad came running, furious and said a series of loud 'NO's, yelling and trying to stop him. But Nanny took a different approach and explained to the Dad that during such times, show the boy a better toy and turn his attention to that toy instead of telling him bitter 'No's which is only good to make him sad or rebel further. Sometimes he wouldn't even realize why he should stop what he is doing.

Darrin mentioned, 30% of the kids who are brought up under strict, hardcore, ‘NO’, ‘DO NOT’, ‘STOP’ rules will have a low self esteem when they become adults. I agree with him.

I think the super nanny got that principle from New Testament.

It is the Grace of God what teaches us to say "No" to unrighteousness - Titus 2:12

This is against the popular belief that it is the law what teaches us to live a righteous life.

Paul also makes it clear that ‘the power of sin is in the law’ - I Cor. 15:56

This is not so hard to prove, especially if you have children. Tell them No for all the bad things they do and see the results. It is like, people paying no attention to a hole in the wall unless you write 'do not look through the hole' on top of it. All of a sudden, because of the law, everybody wants to look!

As Christians, we have something better than law to enable us to live a righteous life.

When I was born into this world, I was born spiritually dead. It is as if being born in the street, homeless. Then I live in the street, hungry and miserable until I come to my senses and realize that there is a huge inheritance, a beautiful palace (of the King), waiting for me to go and live in and it is totally FREE. As long as I live in the street, not knowing that there is a palace where I can go and live in harmony, it doesn’t matter how many people come and tell me to ‘stop living in the street’, I will continue to live there trying hard to make the best out of it. But once I move into the palace, and begin to explore the beauty, luxury, peace, joy and coziness of the place, I hardly want to go back to the street again.

I might still go at times due to some of my old memories (habits) but soon I will realize I am acting as a fool by living in the dirt when I have a world-class home to live in and enjoy. Or someone has to gently remind me of the beautiful palace and then I will run to it.

Believe me, living in the palace is better than living in the street! Grace is better than law!

God is not dealing with us on the basis of sin today. He said, he took it away at the cross, never to see them again. And it has been removed from His sight as far as the east is from the west. Today, we have better things to deal with.

As long as we preach, teach, think, read and write about law, all we are talking is sin, sin and sin. It doesn't matter what law it is, 10 commandments, our own Christian principles, NT principles, the do's and don't's of Sermon on the mount or what ever.

If I am dealing with a sin of over-eating (for example) and trying to stop it, any or all of the following could happen:
  • A short victory (most likely a very short one)
  • Thinking about food all the time and end up eating more
  • Infatuation with self
  • Feeling miserable and struggle with self-pity due to failure
  • Feeling rejected by God
  • Burn-out and depression
This is true for any sin, for that matter - lust, envy, pride, anger or hatred.

This is where the truth of New Covenant or the covenant of grace, which has been buried under the faulty teaching of religion over the centuries, comes for our rescue.

Under this covenant, which came into effect by the death of Christ (Heb. 9:17), which was prophesied centuries before by Jeremiah, 'I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more' (Jeremiah 31:34). It is not just the forgiveness but note the forgetfulness.

This understanding of the finished work of Christ and the finality of the cross is what enables us to totally take our focus from sins. But that is not possible if we have no better place to put our focus on. Today, He deals with us on the basis of His LIFE in us, the new life, our new identity in Him which made us a child of the most high. We don't have to live in dirt now, spending all our energy to stop sinning; instead we could spend our energy and time to discover the treasures we have in Christ (the new life), and naturally we will have only less time to think about sin. We are King's kids now and supposed to live in palace and we have better things to deal with!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Room to heal.

About two years ago, after going through a lot of emotional, theological, philosophical and social turmoil, we made a decision to stop attending the church which we attended for years. Well, making such a decision was easier than facing the first Sunday after that. The first Sunday came quickly, than I thought. As usual I woke up that day, ready to face the reality that we were not going to church. It was okay at first, but then as the time approached 10:30, I started becoming restless. I couldn’t believe I wasn’t in the church service at 10:30. I felt awkward and nervous; my heart started beating so fast and I even thought something bad is going to happen to us. My mind wandered and I imagined my kids being afflicted with sickness due to God’s anger on us.

Through the debates, conflicts, discussions, reading, listening and thinking God showed me that He never intended His grace to be mixed with law in any form, at any cost. I was convicted and confident when I made the decision to stay out of church. But it wasn't as easy as I thought. So many years of faulty teaching patterned in my brain and on that Sunday everything came to the surface. I was filled with fear. I wasn't sick, I wasn't out of town and I had no other excuse not to attend church other than my own conviction that everything I was taught in the church over the years was dead wrong.

Finally I ran to my computer to listen to some sermons online! I thought I will pass out if I don’t do at least that part of my Sunday routine. My wife went to the basement to sing songs and worship. We both tried to imitate church at home. I was like a nicotine addict who didn’t have a Cigarette to smoke – sweating and all that stuff. So, I listened to Bob George on and felt little relieved, but still not settled, after all it is still my home, not the 'House of the Lord'!

People say once we are out of an addiction, we will never have a temptation. I don’t agree to them. I quit smoking 6 years ago, but I can still, even today, light up a Cigarette and smoke right away.

The second Sunday wasn’t as bad as the first and eventually the pressure melted down. The process of unlearning started, the detox process from a deadly addiction. A very painful process. I admit I still struggle with it. We attended a community church once in a while just to gratify some of our old religious patterns. But when they mix law and grace, I could hardly sit there.

Knocking legalism off our head is a long process, in most cases. The people who come out of legalistic churches go through a lot of stress and I think it is okay to give them some room to heal. I can’t expect them to get going with grace in full-fledge all of a sudden. They might keep going back and forth between law and grace and that is okay as well.

As I was reading through the book of Acts, couple of incidents really stuck out. Such as the below:

Paul wanted to take him [Timothy] along on the journey, so he circumcised him – Acts 16

This is after Paul’s conversion and he is in full swing on preaching and teaching.

The next day Paul took the men and purified [a Jewish religious custom] himself along with them. – Acts 21

It could be, Paul himself was going through a process of shedding his religion or he was being gentle with Jews in order to earn their trust or to reduce the intensity of rebellion from Jews.

Either way, Paul knew how hard it is for a hardcore Jew to accept the salvation by grace when in all their life time they were taught, brain-washed and indoctrinated on the law. I think he was trying to give them some room. It's not really tolerating legalism but tolerating the legalists who are pathetically caught up in the bondage.

It is the same Paul who taught fervently about the danger of mixing law and grace, in the book of Galatians. He even called them ‘Foolish’ since some of them tried to mix law with grace.

Matthew, in his recent post called Getting Grounded, said:

I realized Jesus gave His disciples time to transition from Law to Grace. He wanted to lay the foundation of love and not duty. Of Grace and not Law.

Jesus was patient with His friends, to allow them to grow in Grace and in the knowledge of Him.

I think, we all, in one way or other, responded in anger - overturning the tables. But, laying the foundation in the solid teaching of grace and unconditional love of God is, in most cases, a long process and this realization alone gives me some patience on others who still struggle with legalism and bondage in their life.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Bible, Evangelism, Foolishness

Once I thought I had a lot of Bible knowledge! I thought I knew a lot of things others didn’t know and displayed my book collection in our living room. I have at least 10 different bibles, commentaries and fancy study bibles, including a Dake’s Bible which is at least 10 inches thick. I bought it for $65 and I read it only twice. I have pretty much all translations except Eugene Peterson’s The Message. Out of these 10, the only one I read quite a bit was a tiny, ordinary NIV Bible. I still felt it was worth owning all these bibles and though I didn’t read them I displayed it proudly.

I have never read a bible cover to cover in my life. My wife, who never claimed she had a lot of bible knowledge, knows a lot of Old Testament than me. I have read only Genesis, Psalms and some Proverbs from OT and anything else I know about OT is either from my wife or from other preachers/teachers/authors. I just don’t have the patience to read through something which doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. The reason I like Genesis is that it talks about the origin of everything – humans, animals, earth, sun, stars, languages, marriage, sex, family, good and bad, genders, sin, death, cloths.

Psalms is easy to read and Proverbs is philosophical.

To me, New Testament is the interpretation of Old Testament. If there wasn’t any NT, where Jesus interpreted a lot of OT for what it truly means, I wouldn’t have had a clue. One example would be the purpose of the law. It’s hard for me to understand the purpose of the law by reading OT, but it makes so much sense when we come to NT where it says, the purpose of the law was to accuse us, to point us to Christ.

I have tried evangelism, I mean personal evangelism. I tried to share Gospel with my parents. We did a bible study from the Gospel of John for few months.
I was honest, sincere and very enthusiastic in explaining to them about the love of God. But the problems was, I used love as a commodity and tried to sell it. I tried to share Jesus as though I was trying to sell Him. Shouting between each sentence: ‘Buy It’, ‘Buy It right now’.

In the first step, I used love, then, as I realized that they weren’t buying it, I used ‘fear’. I talked about hell, end times, Antichrist, and I told them the tsunami was a result of god’s anger.

What I wanted to convey was that if they don’t accept what I am saying, expect afflictions in their life. It was okay for me even if that really happened!

Then, when I saw that my product wasn’t selling, I withheld it. I withheld love and showed my dislike on my face and actions. I was so foolish to think if I show my dislike to the fact that they weren’t accepting what I was saying, they would somehow accept it.

If Jesus wanted us to be afraid of Him, he would have come as a dragon, not a mere man.

It took so much time for me to realize it. “Selling” would never work, but Loving will work, eventually.

Then I thought if I had the gifts like Benny Hinn I would have used it in their life. I dreamed of them being sick and lying in the bed, I am entering the room, laying my hands on them, Booooomm…. they are instantly healed. Now I can put a victorious smile on my face indicating its better they accept what I am saying.

But it didn’t happen either.

I am learning to love now. I should say God is teaching me to love. I thought I was a matured, knowledgeable, everything-figured-out guy. I wasn’t even close. I forgot about grace, it was grace what saved me, not my smartness.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Traditions of men - Some random thoughts

A Story

This is a story one of the child care worker in a church where we attended service told my wife. This lady visited India on a mission trip once and met the person who was the overseer of their ministerial ventures in India, which included orphanages and hospitals in poverty stricken areas of Southern India.

He was born to a couple who practiced Hindu religion for so many years, probably for so many generations. His grand parents did ‘puja’ everyday, a Hindu religious ritual, where they typically put the statues or pictures of gods in a room, recite some prayers sitting in front of those gods, throw flowers, and incenses on them. At the end of the ceremony, they usually take rice and milk in different pots and offer it the gods. They keep the rice and milk in front of gods and leave from the room and lock the room down. The belief is, at night the gods would eat the rice and drink the milk, showing their satisfaction in their puja. If they didn’t eat, that means they were not happy and the ‘puja’ should be prolonged the next day.

After his grand parents, his parents continued the same.

As a boy he too was asked to participate in the ritual and witnessed with his own eyes that the next day both rice and milk are gone miraculously. But the whole thing, gods eating rice and drinking milk didn’t really resonate with his teenage mind. One day he decided to investigate. It wasn’t that easy to make such a decision knowing the belief system of the entire family for so many years. But his young mind, curiosity and courage won. He wanted to see the gods coming and eating and drinking the stuff kept for them. He did not sleep one night, waited impatiently in the dark to see gods coming. In the silence and darkness of that night, to his surprise he saw some rats coming out of some debris in the corner of the room, eating all the rice and drinking the milk! That was a real shock to his tender mind. He was depressed and disillusioned.

For so many years, he along with his parents, grand parents and probably so many of his other relatives believed a lie. Now, he even wished he didn't see the rats.

He could have faked the belief and cheated his family next day onwards by suppressing the truth, but he decided not to. The next day, he brought this to the attention of his family members expecting that they would realize it was foolish to think that the food was eaten by gods. But to his surprise, they got so angry at him. They blamed his unbelief, yelled at him, threatened him if he tells this to anyone, and tortured him tremendously. It was as if they wanted to believe the lie to gratify their spiritual needs. Eventually, the climax of the story came and he was expelled from his family.

I don’t know all the details in between, but ultimately he found Jesus. He eventually started some outreach programs, charity organizations in collaboration with some U.S ministries.

American Politics

Some times the American Politics puzzles me, particularly the recent democratic politics. Hilary and Obama opposed on foreign policies, health care, military, religion and pretty much on everything for so many months while they were independently campaigning for becoming the presidential nominee. There were debates proving each sides, throwing dirt on each other, negative commercials, gossiping, anger, cries and all that. Now all of a sudden, they both, sharing the same stage, declared they are on this campaign together and embraced each other. What surprises me most is that people seems to be okay with that. They think there is nothing wrong. Are they reluctant to face reality or is it too easy to believe a lie majority believes?


When I sin, sometimes I try to convince myself that it was an 'accidental' sin. People say they don't sin deliberately but I don't believe them. When I sin, I sin deliberately. But I still try to see if I can escape from the guilt by my own.

We all try to escape from truth once in a while, hesitating to face the reality. But truth is still truth, it is absolute. Not everything we believe about God is not true as well, even some of the good things. The fact that we believe in something for so many years, decades or centuries doesn't make it true.

I believed for so many years that God was pleased when people attended Mass. Then I believed that the people who spoke in tongues were more spiritual than the others. For few years I thought pastors were our 'spiritual authority'. I thought I was a dump and was rejected by God when I heard people claiming that they all experienced the 'power of God' in worship services and private prayers. I thought I had no testimony to share, like them.

Okay, now watch this video... (Wondering if it's gods or rats doing it...)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A story of fasting

During my days of earnest efforts to become a super spiritual person, effectively trying to please god, I picked up another tool to tap God to listen to me – Fasting. It reminds me of the hunger strikes people do to get the attention of the people in the authority. Hunger strikes usually put a lot of pressure on the authority, because there is a risk of media attention and also if the person dies (in case), that would be a huge blow to their political image. I thought God had a political image and tried to utilize His ego in a sentimental approach.

Also, Jesus fasted; apostles fasted (not sure if it was to get the attention of God).

Apart from the monthly church-wide fasting, I decided to fast on Wednesdays by my own. The entire day I wouldn’t eat any food, but pretty much survive with water and coffee/tea. The first Wednesday went really well. I felt hungry but didn’t give up and I was secretly happy that I climbed one more step on the ladder of taming my flesh. I thought the more I control the desires of my flesh, the more God would be pleased in me and would listen to my prayers. As weeks went by, I added yogurt and fruits to my diet on Wednesdays. There were some of my co-workers who would come and invite me for lunch without realizing it’s a Wednesday. Then I would tell them, ‘Don’t you guys know that today is Wednesday?’ Later on they stopped inviting me. There was this Greek restaurant where they sold Gyro Sandwiches which I craved all the time. Some Wednesdays these people would go there and before they leave from office they would discuss the menu. When I overhear their conversations about the menu items, I go mad, sitting in my cubicle, silently cursing those nonspiritual worldly pagans.

After few months, I added supper on Wednesdays. Which means, I don’t eat breakfast, eat only fruits and yogurt for lunch and then I eat supper at night like a pig. One other secret reason to start the fasting was to lose weight as well (Shhhh…..!). In effect, due to my Yo-Yo eating, I started gaining weight and the whole thing made me miserable. I felt as if I was in the middle of a dragon and the ocean. On one side all my co-workers know that I do fasting on Wednesdays and I was afraid of their ridicule if I gave up, the other side I am dying inside and pretty much craving all foods. By this time, God is already out of the picture. I even wondered who invented fasting in the first place. I started hating all the people who eat their lunch. I found a solution though – go under hiding during lunch break and get something from outside, eat in the car. That worked. Everybody thought I was fasting but at the same time I wasn’t hungry and miserable. I started loving my wife and kids more and my dislike towards my co-workers lessened and I felt relieved. But deep inside my heart I still questioned myself and god, why I have no strength to fast successfully.

Eventually I gave up my fasting game and started eating lunch like everybody. Overall, it wasn’t a pleasant experience and I have never fasted since then.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Habitualism - Part 2

My transition from Eastern Orthodox habits to Pentecostal habits was gradual and transparent. Within the Orthodox church itself, there was a group of youngsters who gathered every week where they prayed without printed books, sang songs, clapped their hands and studied Bible. As a nice guy from the Sunday school, they invited me to their meetings and I began to attend. There I learned to pray the evangelical prayer which started with ‘Dear Heavenly Father’ and ended with ‘In Jesus’ name, Amen’; I learned to clap my hands and sing and came to know there are other books in the Bible other than Psalms and Proverbs. Then eventually after coming to America, I started attending full-fledged evangelical churches.

This wasn’t the case with my wife. Up until our marriage, she attended only catholic churches, was rosary praying, mass attending, and a huge Mary devotee. When she worked in Newyork city, during the 2+ hours of commute in train and bus she used to do her rosary 50 to 100 times every day. After she came to live with me, the first Sunday I took her to the Assemblies of God church where I attended service every week. In the concert like, casual atmosphere, she felt like an alien, quite shocked to see the people singing out loud and dancing. She didn’t feel comfortable that there wasn’t any robe wearing priests, no burning candles, no statue of bleeding Jesus. And above all, the crowd was loud and lacking the church ‘discipline’. She could not gratify any of her Catholic habits and felt awful and out of place.

Ask her and she would tell how hard is to break some habits. Few Sundays we attended a catholic church just to make her comfortable, but eventually we stuck ourselves to the AG church. Within few weeks (or months – I can’t remember) she started picking up on the raising and clapping of hands and started learning the lyrics of some of the favorite songs of the worship leader of that church. Now she knows what to expect in an AG church and is pretty comfortable with the atmosphere. I remember after having our daughter, every Sunday we run to the church, usually late, put the car seat down in front of our seats, and without any warm up we will start singing with the crowd, raising our hands and sometimes crying when they sang ‘I will never know how much it cost’ lines.

We both were baptized as infants, but the pastor at the AG church convinced us the importance of adult baptism while giving us a Baptism class. In the class someone asked if Baptism was necessary for salvation and pastor said no, BUT… now you know the importance of Baptism and you have an opportunity to be baptized and if you still don’t do it, I am NOT sure… that you reach heaven. Well, that one statement was enough for us to make our decision to get baptized and we were baptized in water in few weeks. I don’t know if this is true in all AG churches but in that church they believed in progressive salvation. Step 1 – Sinners prayer or giving your hart to Jesus, step 2- Water Baptism, step 3 – Baptism in the Holy Spirit (talking in tongues). Now we are only upto the step number 2 and started feeling the pressure to perform step-3, which is an ultimate step, where according to them the Holy Spirit comes in FULL (I don’t know if that means He came only in half at the time of sinners prayer).

More than half of the congregation had a habit of speaking in tongues during the fast track and high pitch songs in their worship services; and now we both wanted the same. And also, tongues was necessary to be bold and start witnessing like Apostle Peter in Acts 2. We were told fasting was necessary to get the Baptism in the Spirit and there came a time where the entire church decided to fast for 3 days and we both fasted as well. No food at all for the entire 3 days. On the second night or third night, I can’t remember, I was almost feeling dizzy due to the fasting and we went to this special meeting designed for the people who are desiring the baptism in the spirit. Special drums were brought in and the songs started, and the already baptized people started speaking in tongues and at some point I too started yelling hallelujah at the top of my lungs (We were told that we have to lose our tongues to the spirit, shouldn’t use our brain, and repeat hallelujah loudly until we feel that our tongues are not capable to keep up). I did the exact same thing and I started speaking in tongues. After the meeting people lined up to congratulate me on my newly achieved blessing and I felt so good that day. My wife was happy for me but at the same time was disappointed that she didn’t get it. During that time, she went for so many such fasting prayers but still didn’t get it. She felt so unworthy and we thought there is something which is blocking it for her. There were so many people offered prayer for her that she would receive what her husband received, but she didn't.

I too prayed hard for her seeing her despair. She thought either God rejected her or her intelligence is coming in the way of the spirit. In almost all sermons pastor mentioned the necessity and importance of speaking in tongues and I remember my wife lived in disappointment for 2-3 years until she was revealed the truth of Gospel and God’s grace.

Back to the story, on the day I spoke in tongues I fell down and crawled on the floor for a while. From that day onwards I had no problem in falling down when someone laid their hands on my head, but the truth is that I wanted to fall down. After the sermons, while the organs playing, with all the lights dimmed down, pastor would invite the people to the front and lay his hands on their head and people would start falling down. The more people fell down the more anointed that day’s service was. We could tell by looking at the face of the people who were all going to fall. So, now I learned tongues and slain in the spirit. One thing that I noticed (at least in this church), for most people who spoke in tongues loudly they all started with one word ‘santhara’. That really puzzled me even at that time. There was a young lady in our church that every time she went to the front she fell down. It was as if she goes to the front just to fall down. I thought she didn’t feel comfortable if she didn’t fall down.

Over the years, my wife and I picked up so many of the Pentecostal habits, learned to follow the crowd and we couldn’t really think anything outside of it. It is amazing how our brain can get programmed into certain patterns. Such habits included evening prayer at home, praying before each meal, praying before each journey etc. We were told that when we pray we need to be specific, the more specific we are the soon the blessing would come. A friend of mine explained this to me with a story. In one of the churches he attended before, there was a need for more chairs in the sanctuary and pastor started praying for money to buy chairs. But nothing happened. He prayed for so many weeks and finally it occurred to him that he is not specific enough in his prayer and that day he prayed a specific prayer that how many chairs he need and what color he prefer and the style he needed (metal or plastic). The next day someone offered the exact same number of chairs he prayed for, the same color and style!

And I learned to pray specific prayers. I learned to shake hands with 'Praise the Lord'. I learned to say good bye and 'God bless you'. I learned so many Christian phrases.

There is so much more to say, but for now I am wrapping this up. I don't feel the need to conclude this post into a theological right and wrong package and tie up all the lose ends. I leave that to you all... I will share some of the other stories in the future posts.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Habitualism - Part 1

[A word on the title: Habitualism is not a word found in dictionary, but I use it to mean 'not by faith, but by habit'.]

Darrin Hufford's recent posts reminded me of the many spiritual habits people can develop over the years, and foolishly mistake them as God's manifestations or interventions or the way to be in peace with God.

As a boy, I started sinning at least in the 7th grade (as far as I can remember), which included lies, cheating in the exams, sneaking out of home to play with my buddies. No one had to tell me those were sins, I knew it but I still did it and enjoyed it. I remember controlling and manipulating some of the quiet guys in my class to achieve many of my short victories among some bullies. By the time, I was in 10th, the world of sins widened, which included looking at some yellow magazines some of my 'courageous' buddies brought in, changing marks in my exam answer sheets, changing report cards (which parents ought to sign), listening to and spreading gossips about some teachers.

That was the story in the school, but I have another story too. Every Sunday, without fail I attended Sunday school. My parents gave due importance to Sunday School (but not as important as my regular school academics). During that time, every year, the teachers of the Sunday school honored the students who attended the most classes. If I remember correctly, I won that prize all most all years except one or two. Sunday school teachers saw me as a nice guy with a lot of interest in spiritual matters. I enjoyed getting noticed and being special.

My parents prayed every night. One person read Bible, mostly a psalm and all of us prayed prayers from a printed book. My mom memorized most of the prayers and she liked the people who memorized them, and encouraged me to do the same. Every evening I prayed. Some days I read Bible.

When I moved out of home to do my Masters, I still continued this habit. I remember praying every evening and make the sign of cross before I sleep. If I am disturbed on anything (nearing exams, for example), I prayed the Lord's prayer and Hail Mary three times rather than just one time. Those days I make cross signs 3 times each, from my forehead to chest and to the shoulders, then individual little cross signs on my forehead and chest. Wow! I
felt so good and I fall into sleep under the enveloping peace. By the way, there were few days that I was so drunk that I couldn't pray (usually Fridays and Saturdays) and I used to feel guilty about it. So the next day I doubled my prayer. In my regular prayers, I prayed to God in general, Jesus, St.George (The saint my parents loved a lot), Mary, All Apostles (I didn't want to miss out any blessings from any of them), and few of the local saints (the names you probably wouldn't recognize).

Not even a single cell of my heart knew God. I have learned all Jesus stories, parables in Sunday School but none of it, in any way or fashion connected my heart to God. None. But I still followed all my religious practices - prayers, church attendance, confessions, burning candles, pouring oil in the oil lamp in front of the church etc. I attended the yearly confession (during the week of Easter) to the priest and attended church on all special occasions - Good Friday, easter, pass over, Christmas and the memorials of saints.

My parents also showed me few ultra spiritual things such as 'remembering' God when we come across a sign of cross or a church building. I have seen them making the sign of cross when they saw church building or cross. I made the sign of cross when I saw the church, then when I entered the church, then when the priest touches my head and when they throw smoke (incense) over my face. I had no clue why I was doing them and never felt the necessity to ask the reasons. My grandparents did it, my parents do it, my relatives do it, then, why not I? None of them questioned, why would I? Just do it. It is required.

It didn't matter whether I believed a lie, it didn't matter whether I had a relationship with God, only one thing mattered was to follow the crowd, do what they do. Don't even think about swimming upstream, just go with the flow.

I picked up so much of what was taught in the church as part of my life, in other words, habits. I have to say that when I did those I felt peace. When I doubled my prayers some days I felt double peace. When I didn't pray my prayers, when I didn't make the sign of cross, when I didn't attend church, I felt guilty. So, it's not hard to figure out why I did it. I do it so I feel good. What other reason do I need?

[to be continued...]

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Charismatism and the religion of Baal

Sorry if you got offended by the title. But, I would still encourage to read the below 2 posts by Darrin Hufford:

My favorite quote from these two posts is : God cannot be conjured up.

And as a bonus, another one:

No Apology.

God won't accept our apology for sins; doesn't matter whether we apologize 1 time or 100 times for the same sin; doesn't matter whether we apologize for all sins or only the sins we can remember.

Leaving one sin out will still make us unforgiven. And an unforgiven person can never be reconciled to God. Okay, I will make sure I will ask forgiveness for ALL my sins, but the question is how do you know what a 'sin' is in the first place? Bible says, whatever is not of faith is sin (Romans 14:23). Hmm... 'whatever is not of faith'?

That means, when I cook with out faith, it's a sin. When I drive without faith, it's a sin. If I breath without faith, that's a sin.

How about confessing and asking forgiveness in a general, include-all statement such as 'Oh God, forgive me for ALL my sins'? That covers all!

No, that won't work either...


Because, God requires BLOOD for sins. Thats is His standard. I didn't make that up, He said it : 'Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness'. Sorry!

Isn't that enough to atleast rethink the heresy that God's forgiveness is based on our confession?

Tragically, from the 'tradition of men', we somehow learned to apologize with our mouth and expect God to forgive our sins. Sin isn't such a simple thing. After all, it is the cause of (spiritual) death. Remember, the story of Adam?

There was someone who shed the blood. There was someone who stood in place for us. There was someone who took away the entire sins of the world, once for all. There was someone who said 'It's FINISHED'. There was someone who was introduced to us by John the baptist saying, 'behold, the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world'.

He can't extend a bit of forgiveness anymore when we ask Him, because He has already forgiven the world through the one time sacrifice of His own Son. He has provided forgiveness for the entire world at the cross, now it is up to us whether to receive it or reject it. Keep on asking for forgiveness is a sure sign of the rejection of the total forgiveness provided at the cross. That is not faith. Thats is 'trampling the Son of God under foot'. That is 'insulting the Spirit of grace'. That is 'treating the blood of the covenant as an unholy thing'. (Heb 10:26-31)

[Related post: Dismantle the confession booths]

Monday, July 7, 2008

but God has revealed it to us...

Until we understand the heart [love] of God, it is hard to love Him back. Externally obeying the commandments of God is not an evidence of our love for Him. Such usually is motivated by fear, insecurity or pride. Pharisees and Sadducee's obeyed the commandments of law externally, but Jesus had to call them 'white washed tombs'. I don't think I need to explain what is inside a tomb, though it looks good from outside.

When it comes to religion people focus so much on pleasing God by obeying His commandments, without realizing that the only thing what truly pleases God is our faith (Hebrews 11:6). Faith has to be motivated by love. If they [religious people] are honest enough, they ought to admit that they fail at the first commandment itself (Love God with all your heart). How can we love Him with all our heart if we don't know His heart [love] for us?

How do we know his heart in the first place? I think that [knowing His heart] is the foundation of our faith. His love has to be felt in our heart. Yes, We can listen to all preachers who proclaim the love and heart of God, but we still may not be able to understand and feel because according to the word, it has to be revealed. This is not to say that God wouldn't use some preachers/authors to get our attention. But, knowledge through revelation has lot of power, the power to think straight and understand the love God displayed on the cross. It takes more than memorizing John 3:16.

For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. - 1 Corinthians 2:11

So, it is the Spirit of God who reveals the thoughts (heart) of God to us.

"No eye has seen,
no ear has heard,
no mind has conceived
what God has prepared for those who love him"— but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit
. - 1 Corinthians 2:9

Apostle Paul studied the law for so many years from his teacher Gamaliel (a world-class teacher of the law), but later, after His encounter with Jesus, He said, no man taught Him the Gospel but God revealed it to Him. What ever man taught him for so many years became frivolous in a moment. It is such a revelation what made him, who was a hardcore legalist, to accept the 'foolishness of the message of cross'.

I did not receive it [Gospel] from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ. - Galatians 1:12

Later on, he prayed this prayer for us:

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. - Ephesians 1:17

Are we ready to trust God for revelations from His word? Trusting Him alone to understand the true meaning of His word?

[Note: This post was written primarily for me. I love reading the books written by men because such entertains my mind so easily. So, often times I keep postponing to get back to bible and trust God for revealing the true meaning of His Word. As a matter of fact I kind of read all other books as a substitute for trusting God for revelations from Bible. It's a mistake, I realize. When we trust God alone for revelations from Bible, it's so wonderful, usually accompanied with a lot of 'aha' moments, excitement and thrill. The difference is, we finding the hidden treasure versus someone telling us where/what the treasure is.]

Sunday, July 6, 2008

"One Anothering"

  • Love One Another - John 13:34
  • In honor prefer One Another - Romans 12:10
  • Edify One Another - Romans 14:19
  • Serve One Another - Galatians 5:13
  • Be kind to One Another - Ephesians 4:32
  • Encourage One Another Daily - Hebrews 3:13
  • Bear with One Another - Ephesians 4:2
  • Confess sins and pray for One Another - James 5:16
  • Stimulate One Another to love and good deeds - Hebrews 10:24
  • Admonish One Another - Romans 15:14
  • Bear One Another's burdens - Galatians 6:2
  • Forgive One Another - Ephesians 4:32
  • Comfort One Another - 1 Thessalonians 4:18
  • Submit to One Another - Ephesians 5:21
  • Be Hospitable to One Another - 1 Peter 4:9
  • Share with One Another - Acts 4:34-35
  • Teach One Another - Colossians 3:16
Source: Extracted from 'The Lasko Interview', page 155.

Thursday, July 3, 2008


Freedom! It is a thrilling but at the same time a scary concept. Are we truly truly free? I mean not the political or cultural freedom but the individual, identity driven, spiritual based, true freedom. The freedom to be who we REALLY are.

I can very well say that I am 'comparatively' free, comparing the bondage in religious system. But I still don't think I am truly truly free. I am free within certain limits. But still those 'limits' controls me to certain extent.

One example would be, dealing with some people based on their personality. I worry if I am being myself with certain people, I might disrespect them. So I deliberately wear a mask to 'respect' them. Here, I am acting within certain limitations and I truly don't know how to get over it.

Freedom is also progressive, so I think we are continually being free. I believe, the freedom Jesus offered was the freedom without conditions. It's not, you can be free, but...

But I still struggle!