Friday, August 29, 2008

Law & Grace (Re-post)

Under Law Man Says
Under Grace Christ Says
Look at what I'm doing for you!Look at what I did for you!
Look at how I went to church. Look at how I went to Calvary.
Look at how I was raised in my denomination.
Look at how I was raised from dead.
Look at how I gave my money.Look at how I gave My life.
Look at how I confessed my sins.Look at how I took away your sins.
Look at how I stood against sin.Look at how I died for your sins.
Look at how I judged the lost world.Look at how I saved the lost world.
Look at how I marched against evil-doers.Look at how I suffered for evil-doers.
Look at how I bowed down to you.Look at how I became one of you.
Look at how I healed the sick.Look at how I raised the dead.
Look at how I spoke in tongues.
Look at how I spoke in love.
Look at how successful my life was.
Look at how successful My death was.

Source: Classic Christianity Conference Manual

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Christian romantic tale and porn

There was something Darrin Hufford said in his book 'God’s honest truth', it goes something like this:

What porn does to a man’s mind is same as what a romantic novel does to a woman’s heart.

Romance and porn are not real. They are fantasies people like to believe for a short period of time for their mental/emotional/physical gratification. They know it's not real, but they like to believe it is real for a moment, because it feels good. defines 'romance' like this:

1. a novel or other prose narrative depicting heroic or marvelous deeds, pageantry, romantic exploits, etc., usually in a historical or imaginary setting.
2. the colorful world, life, or conditions depicted in such tales.
3. a medieval narrative, originally one in verse and in some Romance dialect, treating of heroic, fantastic, or supernatural events, often in the form of allegory.
4. a baseless, made-up story, usually full of exaggeration or fanciful invention.
5. a romantic spirit, sentiment, emotion, or desire.
6. romantic character or quality.
7. a romantic affair or experience; a love affair.

In both cases, whether it is porn or romantic novel/movie, when people dare to expect the fantasy to be real, in almost all cases, all we can expect is frustration, disillusionment and depression. Which can eventually destroy relationships.

When a woman approaches her marriage relationship expecting her man to be like the hero in the romantic novels she has read, she is most likely to be disappointed. That is true about a man who expects his woman to be like the girl in the porn.

I am saying all these not to shed light into the dark sides of the unreal expectations people hold on their relationships, but I am trying to link this to something I call 'Christian porn' or Christian romantic tale'.

The promises we proclaim from the sales pitch of pulpit about the advantages of being a Christian are mind blowing. The promises of sinless life, happiness, wellness, prosperity, and a worry-free life. Such promises are like the words I highlighted in the definition of romance: imaginary, colorful, heroic, fantastic, supernatural, baseless, made-up, full of exaggeration and fanciful. It is unrealistic, false and it is simply a lie.

Some of the promises people make to attract people to Christ:
  • You can achieve a state of sinless perfection
  • You will prosper in everything - finance, career, possessions, business
  • You will be free of all sicknesses, even if you fall sick, God will heal you miraculously
  • All your relationship problems will be solved
  • You can do everything through Christ (If you look at the context of this verse you will see a totally different meaning from how it is being used today)
  • You will have a perfect marriage
  • Your lust problem will be solved
  • You will be free of all addictions, and will be free from temptations
  • You will be in a state of continuous 'nirvana'
  • You will be transferred to a supernatural realm where you will float like the white clouds
  • You will not die
  • You will never be lonely
  • You will not lose your loved ones
The list goes on and on. I am not saying none of these are not possible by God, but that is NOT usually the case. Also, there aren't any such promises in the Bible. So, why don't we tell them the truth?

I doubt if there ever lived a Christian legend greater than Apostle Paul. Interestingly enough, while he was tirelessly proclaiming the Gospel, he pretty moved from one prison to another. It doesn't look like a perfect life to me. He suffered from sickness but God said, 'I won't heal your sickness'. He was troubled, distressed, felt the 'sentence of death', were under great pressure beyond his ability to endure (Read 2 Corinthians 1).

Why would he share these depressing things to us? Can't he tell something positive, encouraging, motivating and promising? (The things we like to hear)

This is what he says: 'We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia'

He chose to tell the truth. He didn't try to give us a nice, little package of false promises like many do today. He spoke truth in love. His point was, in the midst of all these problems, he is able to rejoice because he has a hope which is beyond the shortcoming of this world. Folks, we have trouble in this world, to think the contrary is to deceive ourselves.

Christian romantic tales may sound good to our itching ears, but it is not true.

A story made headlines recently about a mega motivational preacher's wife who had a fight with a flight attendant and was being sued. It surprised me to learn that the entire dispute started due to some water spill on the hand-rest of her seat in the flight. She was eventually deplaned and was fined by FAA. I wonder why she failed to apply her husband's well-received spiritual 'principles'? I, myself have heard him preach about 'always putting a smile on our face'. Why did she fail to apply that principle when she saw the spill on her seat?

Why are we giving people unrealistic expectations? Why don't we tell them that each one of us are capable of doing ANY sin under the sun, given the right circumstances? Which includes even murder and rape. Isn't that the very reason why we need Jesus? Isn't it our brokenness what keep us connected to Christ? If not, why would Paul say 'I will rejoice in my weakness'? Why would Paul receive the scandalous response of God, 'My grace is sufficient for you'? Why would Jesus say, 'you will have trouble in this world'? Wasn't Christ's mission to give us hope beyond this world?

I will close with this verse:

For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.- 2 Timothy 4:3-5

Friday, August 22, 2008

What are people searching for (on the net)?

Using Google Analytics, it's kind of fun to find out the 'keywords/phrases' people use on search engines, which lead them to our blogs. Right from the beginning, since I started using this tool, to my surprise, there is one phrase which always landed on the top of the list consistently. It is: 'what god says about me'. It's all because I wrote a post titled 'what god says about me' in June, 2007 and that's the post where I get the most number of hits from search engines (The post has only Bible verses and intended for believers to know who they really are in Christ).

Isn't that interesting that people wants to know what God says about them? Though I don't know if the people who search are believers or unbelievers, but I thought it's interesting. People seems to be concerned about spiritual things that they are really seeking, searching and curious to know what God really think of them. On the net, the freedom of being anonymous gives people a chance to seek truth. I think it is like, people think God is hiding under 'google' and ready to give His opinions on them the moment they type it in! There were times in my life where I wanted to type in 'God, do you really love me?'.

But, I truly believe, internet is one of the crucial media where people can freely do some spiritual experiments. Some of it's plus points are - easiness, global availability, anytime availability, level of anonymity etc

For your entertainment, the below is the list of keywords/phrases used by people who visited my blog for a period of one month, with the most number of hits starting from the top:

what god says about me
branch of vine
branch of the vine
darin hufford blog
legalism for kids
one-anothering: a communal gospel
what god says to me
"approval addiction" part1
bob george" critic classic christianity
"fear of god" "eugene peterson"
"frank friedman" "the shack"
"god with us" + "self righteousness"
"paul anderson-walsh" cult
"wet my bed"
a w tozer " what is a christian" wierd
approval addict verses
baal religion
bible says nothing can seperate christ love from us
blogs "steve mcvey" "bob george"
brennan manning evangelism
can i separate myself from the love of christ,
can separate me from the love of christ",
children+lesson "separate us from the love of christ"
christian blog approval addiction
darin hufford the god's honest truth
do everything through christ
ephesians 7:8 tozer lavish
fear of god
fear of pee
forum "approval addiction"
gifts with i can do all things through christ
god says about me
grace life fellowship live feed + frank freedman
growing in grace ministries jeff vanvonderen
how to help legalistic children
i am the vine poster
i can do all things thru him
i'll let nothing separate me from the love of christ
is charismatism sin
is paul anderson walsh a phony
is steve mcvey genuine or fake
legalism facts kids
nothing can come between us and the love of christ
nothing can separate me from the love of christ, song
nothing can separate us from the love of christ
nothing can separate us from the love of christ paul
parable of the vine and the branches coloring sheet
paul anderson walsh grace youtube
picture vine and branch
post charismatism?
quotes from "messy spirituality"
relationship with christ
spurgeon on new covenant
teaching kids the vine and branches
the christan church + the religon of baal
the religion of baal
the shack bob george
the vine and the branch
tozer on religious ritual and traditions
tree vine branch
universalism mike williams
vine and branch
vine branch philosophy
what can separate us from the love of christ
what god says about us
what god says me
what shall separate us from the love of christ luther
wild at heart eldredge blogspot
william c young wastefulness of grace
william paul young testimony

Church talk

I really don't have any encouraging words today. Over the last few days, I am kind of in the valley side of my spiritual energy. It isn't that any of my beliefs were challenged or anything like that but I am just saddened by the fact that the enormous number of people rejecting the plain truth of Gospel. It isn't the doctrinal differences I am talking about, but the heart and spirit of the core message of Gospel.

All I hear the most is nothing but the "church talk".

In the midst all the "church talk", it's interesting to see that how we skip over the "head". Apart from "head", there is no "body". People brainstorm: How can we save the church? How can we re-form it? How can we change it? How can we grow it? How can we serve it? How can we re-charge it? How can we revive it?

But, the body functions NOT within and of itself but it functions solely with a proper, dynamic attachment to the Head. The church today is like a chicken with head cut off. It makes a lot of motions and noises, but in reality it's dying. Is it enough to treat the symptoms by getting more people to serve, dedicate and commit? I think, when individual members get into the right connection to the head, through the wonder of TRUTH, the church would naturally become more vibrant, pulsing and free.

It's like a change to a society, which is possible only through changing individuals (one person at a time), so as with church, which is nothing but people. We talk about the 'body of Christ', but really, what value body has if it's not glued to it's head to receive LIFE? After all, Isn't church to be an expression of Life? Not the headless-chicken kind of life, but the real, authentic, hearty life.

We keep talking about serving, service and charity but honestly, I think, we can give only what we receive. Life of a branch is about receiving, everything else is quite natural.

Anyways, I am just wondering, in the midst of all the plans, programs, visions, ideas, techniques, funds, debates, busyness, denominations, theologies, doctrines, principles, are we missing the obvious? The simplicity and purity of Christ's wonderful, unchanging Gospel?

I am talking about the basics...

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

I am a bundle of paradoxes

There’s a touch of vanity in even the holiest of men and women. They see no reason to deny it. And they know that reality bites back if it isn’t respected. When I get honest, I admit that I am a bundle of paradoxes. I believe and I doubt, I hope and I get discouraged, I love and I hate, I feel bad about feeling good, I feel guilty about not feeling guilty. I am trusting and suspicious. I am honest and still play games. Aristotle said I am a rational animal; I say I am an angel with an incredible capacity for beer. To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark. In admitting my shadow side, I learn who I am and what God’s grace means. As Thomas Merton put it, “A saint is not someone who is good but who experiences the goodness of God.” The gospel of grace nullifies our adulation of televangelists, charismatic superstars, and local church heroes. It obliterates the two-class citizenship theory operative in many American churches. For grace proclaims the awesome truth that all is gift. All that is good is ours, not by right, but by the sheer bounty of a gracious God. - Brennan Manning

Friday, August 15, 2008

Evolutionists, televangelists and legalists

There are three categories of people I can’t associate myself with:

• The people who believe they were evolved from monkeys
• The televangelists who seek money
• The self-righteous (legalists)

That’s not the full list but these three comes on top. To be honest, I dream of a world without them. These people make me angry. I know I know I am not responding the right way, but I can’t help it. I just think they are foolish, doesn't matter how much skills, education and knowledge they possess.


There was a time in my life when the teacher at my school showed me a series of pictures explaining how a monkey slowly transformed into a hairless, tailless creature and eventually became a full man (It’s interesting to note that the tail is fully gone today but the hair part not fully 'evolved' yet!). Those pictures showed only males. I am not sure about the women though, I think the assumption is women were evolved from female monkeys and men came from the male monkeys. But anyways, the next Sunday I would go to the Sunday school and there the teacher narrated a totally different story, that we were created by God out of mud. But the interesting thing is, though these two concepts were totally contradicting, I kind of believed both the accounts. I think I was dull and brainless. It seems like there was an unwritten rule that whatever comes from a 'printed media' is believable and unquestionable, especially those comes with the support of so called ‘science’.

About 5 years ago, I read a book called ‘Fearfully and wonderfully made’, written by Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancey. In the book the authors try to portrait a wonderful picture of the complexity and creativity found in human bodies. They went into the interesting details of four different components of human body: cells, bones, skin and motion. Dr. Brand was a missionary doctor, working among leprosy patients in the parts of India. In the book, the facts that were most fascinating to me were about the cells and the skin. The book also have the analogies between the biological and spiritual body, but that part I cared only less.

It was one of my sick days and I was alone at home. I had flu and could hardly sit up or stand. So I brought a comforter to the living room, spread it over, put two pillows on one end, lied down comfortably and started reading this book. When I came to a portion where it says how our body responds to a simple touch on our skin, it kind of blew me away. The 'touch' is such a simple, common thing to us but the things happening behind the scenes are just incredible. The number of cells (probably millions) involved in the action, and how they concentrate to the area where something touched our skin, the message it sends to the brain, brain responds and then we feel the ‘touch’. Feeling a simple touch on our skin itself is a way too complicated process, though it doesn’t appear that way. Dr. Brand worked among leprosy patients and one of the major symptoms of leprosy is that the patients lose their sensitivity to touch and their ability to feel pain on parts of their body. Apparently, even if you stick a knife to such parts of their body, they wouldn't feel the pain! No wonder these patients eventually lose parts of their body. The authors did an incredible job explaining how 'pain' itself is a gift of God - they call it gift of pain.

Not to mention the complexity of our eyes, brain and other organs. There were moments where I couldn’t get off the goose-bumps I was getting from all these. At times I had to get up, stand on my feet and raise my hands to praise the incomprehensible creativity of God. I was filled with awe and wonder. The interesting thing is that the book didn’t particularly talked about the love of God or any such sentimental sides, but still I couldn’t stop praising Him seeing how wonderfully he has created us. The book didn’t even argue against evolution or any of that thing, but on that day I completely, without a tiny bit of doubt, ruled out the foolishness of evolution and it never bothered me ever again. Today I call such 'sciences' foolishness because Bible does so: The fool says in his heart, "There is no God." - Psalm 14:1


Some of the televangelists make me laugh today, and some of them make me want to throw my remote control onto the TV screen and yell. I am talking about the sow-and-reap and Word of Faith breeds. I used to watch a lot of TBN during the days after I became a born-again Christian. I thought Paul Crouch was doing an incredible job through his ministry, reaching millions all around the world. But for some reason, the asking for money (sowing a seed), selling of miracle spring water and hand-kerchiefs etc didn't really resonate well with me. Also, I didn't like the fact the women who came on the screen wore at least 6 layers of make-up and some heavy jewelry and that kind of stuff. I thought something wasn't right.

During that time I used to listen the 'Bible answer man' broadcast on the radio. One of Hank Hanegraaff's books intrigued me and I went ahead and bought it. The book is called 'Christianity in Crisis', which was an end-product of Hank and his ministry's study and research into the secrets of some televangelists, exposing their faulty teachings. To be honest, that book really impacted me. That was the first time I was introduced to some Christian heresy and it made me depressed. As a person coming from a Orthodox background, I thought all born-agianers' were super nice and they believed and taught only biblical truth. I even wanted to give up Christianity when I came to know some of the so called famous Christian evangelists, their teachings, and the way they bend Bible, God and Jesus for their own financial gain. [BTW, I am not a big fan of Hank (based on where I am today in my understanding of God's grace and love) , but that one book really helped me to re-think religion]. I stopped watching all that crap on TBN. Today, if I am in a comedy mood or something, I do watch sometimes, and when I sense the feeling of depression by listening to them, I would change the channel to CNN and watch Larry King live or something like that.


So that book 'Christianity in crisis' really gave me a kick-start of my journey out of the junkyard of religion. It was that time that I listened only to Christian radio and Christian music, ate only Christian sandwiches and drove Christian cars. One day I was on my way back to home from work and I heard a tail of 'People to People' broadcast on the christian radio station I was listening to, where this guy called Bob George speaking arrogantly against a caller who claimed that we are still under the obligations of the law, cutting the conversation out, talking against the Holy Law of God, asking people to quit church, and that kind of thing. At first, I was offended and wondered why this guy was still on the radio, that too on a Christian radio! Anyways, the next few days, I heard bits and pieces of his broadcast, and something in it hooked me up with it and I eventually changed my work time so that I could catch the entire 30 minutes broadcast on my way back home.

It could be my frustration towards religion what attracted me to that broadcast, the religion wasn't really working for me. I knew something was wrong but didn't know how to spell it out. You know, they keep preaching about the fruits of Holy Spirit and I even memorized those verses, but honestly, I had none of those fruits in my life. Anyways, I ended up buying Bob George's book called 'Classic Christianity'. I eagerly started reading it from the first page where he starts with a story in which he was crying in his car one day since there wasn't any joy in his life although he was so busy in his ministry. I was shocked and I thought to myself it was my own story. I used to cry in my minivan on my way to work, crying out to God to fill me with His peace and joy (especially on Mondays). I worked for God tirelessly on Sunday, but Monday I was empty, tired and dry.

That book shook my world. The first time I heard the words such as legalism, mixing of law and grace etc. It also introduced to me the truths of finished work of Christ, finality of the cross, total forgiveness in Christ, unconditional love of God, Grace of God, our identity in Christ and it simply started replacing the many errors I had subscribed to for so many years.

And today, I can hardly stand legalism and it's proponents...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Fear, pee and homeopathy.

I used to wet my bed up until I was in 12th grade! I lived in a small countryside home surrounded by thick woods, it was as if living in the forest and there wasn't any bathrooms in side the home. So if I want to pee at night, I first need to grab the flash light from under my bed, go up to the main front door, open the door without waking up anybody else, step out into the thick darkness, walk about 100 ft to the bathroom which was detached and isolated from home. At night that bathroom looked like a ghost house. Because of the trees, the nights looked so thick and dark, to add to the effect there were so many crickets and other small creatures such as frogs etc made a lot of noise.

It wasn't uncommon at all to encounter poisonous snakes around the yard. [The home is in the middle of about 50 acres of land cultivating various trees/plants (cashew, coco, mango, papaya, banana, pineapple, coconut, coffee etc) and paddy fields]. We always used flash lights to go out at night, if not, we would possibly step on a snake. My Dad used to keep a big bamboo stick to kill the snakes [Sometimes he used the same stick on me and my brother as well, not to kill us but to discipline us]. He killed a minimum of 2-3 snakes every month. Sometimes the snakes even come inside the home and once I remember one of them got into my parent's bed, fortunately it didn't bite them. I used to see my Dad as a 'hero' because he wasn't scared of snakes at all. Some of our neighbors used to come and get him to kill snakes they find in their chicken houses. He wouldn't let me or my brother go near him as he try to kill the snake. Once he kill them he would call us to take a closer look at the dead snake. Most of them belonged to the cobra family. They weren't very big in size but highly poisonous.

As a kid, whenever I wanted to pee at night, I used to wake my Dad up and he used to accompany me to go out. I was scared of darkness, snakes, ghosts and all kind of night crawlers. I didn't believe in ghosts, but I was scared of them! By the time I was in high school I felt bad about waking my Dad each time I wanted to pee, but at the same time I was so scared to go out in the dark by myself, so I peed in my bed! It wasn't that I peed while asleep, but I peed knowingly!

My parents thought it was a 'disease'(obviously I didn't tell them that I was deliberately doing it). My Dad started looking for treating my 'illness' and found out there is some effective medicine for this in homeopathy. (There wasn't any website called He found a doctor (who is specialized in treating bed-wetting) 30 kilometers away from home and took me to consult him. I still remember my Dad's embarrassed face as he explained my 'problem' to the doctor, but the doctor didn't seem to bother much about the fact that I am in 12th grade and still wetting my bed. He prescribed medicine for 2 weeks and then I had to visit him every two weeks to give an update and collect the next course of medicine. Homeopathic medicines weren't available in pharmacies, the doctors themselves sold it in their clinics. I used to take two buses to go to that doctor every two weeks for many months. [The only 'vehicle' we owned was a bicycle, so we relied on public transportation to go to places. To catch a bus itself I had to travel 2-3 kilometers on my bike]

I can't remember when exactly I got over my fear of going out in the dark. It was around that time we built a new home (next to the old no-bathroom-inside-home) and there were two bathrooms inside. It was a big relief! When we built that new home we put a thick layer of pebbles around our home for two reasons: 1. it looked good. 2. it would scare the snakes away. When the snakes crawl onto the pebbles it makes noise and that scares them.

You might be wondering what am I getting at with all these. Well, honestly, nothing much! I tried to find a 'spiritual application' for this story but I really couldn't, so I thought I would just share this. The only one thing I can think of is the 'power' of fear. Fear made me to wet by bed deliberately. Fear didn't let me think outside of my own 'solutions', it literally paralyzed me. I am pretty sure if I took courage to explain to my parents what was really happening, it could have saved a lot of frustration, time, money and efforts. Look what fear can do...

What would you do (WWYD)?

I like to raise a question. Imagine you have a very successful ministry (or church), which you have built up over the many years by tirelessly working for it with all your energy. You have gained a huge population of ‘followers’ through your books, websites, sermons, blogs, radio and television ministries. You literally have a cutting edge theology, doctrines, principles, worldviews and biblical frameworks. You have used some great sounding illustrations to explain your positions on theological matters and you believe with all your heart what you teach/preach/write is faultless. From the financial contributions of your ‘partners’, listeners and followers you built a world-class head quarters in one of the metro cities in U.S. You even have international coverage, and gained access to some of the highly unreachable areas around the world. You make a good living out of your ministry; your spouse resigned from his/her job and joined you to help you out in the work of the Lord. You have many of your relatives in the ministry’s payroll. There are multitudes out there sending money to your ministry accounts every month by partnering with you as ‘members’. Let’s say your ministry is now 5, 10 or 20 years old and you slowly began to understand the theology you embraced for years is not really standing against the scrutiny of the truth of the New Testament. Your understanding is challenged and shaken by some of the things God started to reveal to you from His Word (It all started from the darkest moment of your life where you wondered why some of your principles didn't really work in real life). You are in utter confusion, but God is not stopping there, he is continually, without apology, challenging your heart. You really started feeling the ‘double-edged sword’ going deep into your soul, God is removing the veil over your eyes, things becoming clearer and clearer every day in a fresh perspective. You are even wondering how you missed the obvious. You struggled with God and His Word, but can’t win, finally reaching a point where you either ignore the truths mindlessly and continue with the work of the ministry as if nothing happened OR you admit everything you have ever learned/taught was utterly wrong and make a 180 degree turn. You are standing on fire that without tearing off major parts of the Bible (Pauline Epistles, for example) you can't win.

What would you do?

On one side shame, ego, money, fame, people, buildings, books, CDs and on the other side truth...

I am not particularly asking YOU to answer the question but I was just thinking out loud what would people do in such situations. Can someone knowingly teach error? Can someone teach some 'principles' which don't even work in their own life, again and again? How much people can illogically double talk? How strong the 'tradition' can become, over the truth?

Friday, August 8, 2008

Some thoughts on blogging...

"Dance like nobody's watching, love like you've never been hurt.
Sing like nobody's listening, live like it's heaven on earth." -- Mark Twain

I have heard this quote years ago but didn't know who wrote it, so I decided to google it today to find who the author is. According to Wikipedia, Mark Twain was an American humorist, satirist, lecturer and writer. But anyways, I am going to apologize to him and make a little modification to his above quote:

"Dance like nobody's watching, love like you've never been hurt.
Sing like nobody's listening, live like it's heaven on earth. Write like nobody is reading"

We, humans have an inherent desire to express ourselves and we do it by talking, speaking, writing and thinking. And it looks like Christians have a lot more to express due to the fact that their true humanity has been restored by the work of Christ. If we don't express, who will?

But I shy away from expressing myself naked (on an emotional level) when I know people are watching (reading). In other words, I would express myself better in a personal journal which I know for sure nobody (not even my wife!) is going to read (ever!). Why? I don't want my negatives to be known and noticed. But at the same time I like to read the honest, raw, expressing, shameless, outspoken writings. Only then I can relate to my own struggles.

A quote from Anne Lamot on writing:

"The very first thing I tell my new students on the first day of the workshop is that good writing is about telling the truth"

If we can't tell the truth, it is better not to write. It is when a Christian comes and tells me that he struggles with atheism (at times), I can relate.

Bird by bird...

When I have a lot of things to say, I feel overwhelmed, and it kind of makes me immobilized unless I break it into little pieces and take piece by piece.

Another excerpt from Anne:

"Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at that time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he'd had three months to write. [It] was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother's shoulder, and said, 'Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.'"

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Do you have a 'Testimony'?

It was a December 31st, when the church conducted a special evening service to welcome the New Year. At the beginning of the service, pastor gave an opportunity to all the families to share their testimony about how God blessed them that year. The idea was, one person would represent one family and share the testimony of that family. As it proceeded in a random order, I am sitting there and listening to all the testimonies people share. All of them were about how God blessed them that year financially, physically and materially. People shared how they were healed of sickness, how God blessed them with a new home, new job etc. I started feeling nervous as I was realizing that I do not have a testimony like them, so I pushed my wife to do the sharing for our family but she hesitated.

It was the year God started showing me the truth of His grace and love, so on a spiritual level, I had a big testimony but I wasn’t sure if that is what was expected from me to share. Not even a single person in the entire congregation shared anything as how God blessed them spiritually, such as showing them some truth from His word, the blessing of being in a relationship with Christ etc. Finally the microphone came to me and all I could say was ‘this year God taught me a lot of things form His word and I am excited about what He is going to do in the coming year’. Needless to say, it didn’t make any applause; it didn’t make any ‘amens’. It was as if, who cares what God showed me from Bible? Do I have anything dramatic? Any supernatural healing? Any financial miracles? Any victory over sins? Any special anointing?

Though I didn’t have anything supernatural, I had good health, I had enough money, my family was in good shape and for all these I am always thankful, but I was more excited about something God was doing deep in my heart. He was showing me something that is so valuable than any materialistic things of the world. He was revealing the truth of His Gospel. He was teaching me that the Gospel is more than the changes it brings in our life such as good moral living, material blessings and good health.

Once I watched a testimony of a murderer on youtube. He murdered a husband and wife and went to jail. While in the jail, He got saved. His testimony was about an hour long and if you put that testimony into one sentence it would be something like this: ‘Before my salvation, I was this bad. Now, since I am saved, I am this good’. After listening to the testimony, I wished I was a murderer once. I wished I had a powerful testimony like him. I thought to myself, my testimony wasn’t worth sharing because it lacks dramatic, supernatural events which are required to move people’s heart. It is the criminals who get the chance to share their testimonies wherever they go. By the way, I have no doubt about the changes it brought to his life, but is that the point of gospel?

It is amazing that how people believe in a gospel of change. They all want to know how gospel changed our outward behavior and it is as if they believe that is the purpose of the gospel. And I agree that, it certainly is part of it, but is that the whole point? To me, gospel is more than how it helped me to stop drinking and smoking, more than what it does to my behavior. Gospel goes beneath the skin, it heals the root issue, more than the symptoms. It gives us a brand new identity in Christ. Like Joel said in his post, it is a gospel of exchange, not just a change.

Materialism has crept into the church. I think a majority of people goes to church not just for spiritual reasons, but for physical/material reason. How’s it going to help my kids to have proper discipline? How’s it going to help me to behave? How’s it going to give me a sense of security as being part of a community? How’s the sermons motivate me to live a morally right life? How's it going to teach me to control my finances? What blessing it can provide me on my health?
Isn’t that the reason churches conduct ‘marriage seminars’, ‘financial seminars’, ‘parents seminars’, 'leadership seminars', 'health and fitness seminars' etc? Everything they do is driven by externalism. They see themselves as a physical commodity and all they are concerned about is how nicely they can present it to the world. So when they come across a person who is ‘successful’ in his ministry, in his family life and in his finances or business, they immediately invite him to share his testimony or his secrets of success and probably don't even care how his relationship with Christ is. The message it conveys is, if you are not doing well in your education, money, leadership, health, career or relationships, you are not spiritual enough. After all, who cares about your relationship with Christ?

My testimony would probably go like this: 'Once I was so tired of trying to generate my own righteousness, but now God showed me how I can receive it as a gift. He made me a partaker of His divine nature and everything I will ever need comes with that'. It is as simple as that. Is it dramatic? Yes, but all the drama happened in my heart, not necessarily in my finances, health or earthly relationships. It isn't colorful enough to get any attention. This is not to say that, with the salvation, I now escaped from the problems of this world. I will have problems, but beyond all the problems I have hope and that hope is not based on my anything; it solely is based on Jesus and the relationship I have with Him.

Spiritual Dog Show

When I sit in the pew and watch a bunch of highly spiritual men sitting in the pulpit and the super spiritual among them spit out stuff like how accurately they can jump through the hoop, my feeling is like watching a dog show. As an unskilled, untrained dog, I too want to jump like them. It forces me to build my own high expectations on myself. I would run to the dog-school and eat highly nutritious dog-food and if possible find a dog-trainer. Quite sadly, it wouldn't take a long time to see me lying in the corner, tired and depressed.

God says we are spiritual beings more than physical beings, so He cares about our spirit more than anything else. He operates from a spiritual realm and He want us to see the things from His perspective. Unfortunately today's churches don't teach us this. Bible says, 'in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last'. When did it become a mere behavior modification system? When did it become about prosperity and bodily healing? When did it become a 'different gospel'?

Monday, August 4, 2008


Okay, My week-end wasn't that good (I lost some sleep on something). My theology was challenged!
I am still confused. Everything started from listening to one of the podcasts over at Free believers network. Here is the link to the podcast: What about sin?. Listen to it, if you would like. (I agreed to everything they said except one thing which really confused me) Here is my confusion:

I have always thought in my mind that Christ's sacrifice was to satisfy God (His anger on sin). And so it is called propitiation. From that, I get a picture of a perfectly just and rightfully angry God who couldn't leave sins unpunished, so He chose His own son to pour His wrath on.

But the verse which confuses me is this:

"Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; 6with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. - Heb 10:5-6 (quote from Psalms)

Does this mean that God did not require or desire a sacrifice, but Christ's blood was offered to Devil? Bible also says, 'Christ offered himself as a ransom'; ransom to whom? Could this mean that Devil possessed the ownership of humanity (due to sin) and Christ offered His own blood to Satan in order to purchase us back from Him?

Sorry If I am not making sense. Though I believe in the unconditional love of God (in the light of gospel), back in my mind, I had a picture of a wrathful God. It came from Old Testament (sin offering, blood shedding, killings etc). I had always thought that God desired all those, but the picture Darrin gives is that God didn't require it but He was stopping the sin/devil. Darrin used (in the podcast) the illustration of a bear(sin) coming to attack us, Christ giving himself to the bear so that it won't attack us. He referred to the Narnia movie in His comments as well where the lion (Christ figure) gave Himself to the witch (represents Satan?).

Any thoughts? If I put my question into one statement, It would look something like this: Was the sacrifice of Jesus (or the sin offering in OT) to satisfy God's wrath?

Friday, August 1, 2008

Real Vs. Counterfeit

I want to share some of my thoughts which are triggered by some comments over at Jordy’s blog and also by reading Darrin Hufford's God’s honest truth.

We buy fat removed, chemically processed, pasteurized, homogenized milk from super markets. We buy ‘I can’t believe its butter’, synthetic butter, and we like its taste. We don’t even know how the real, unprocessed milk is like, do we? I think there are people who don’t even know that milk comes from cows, they think milk comes from super markets. We are so accustomed to the synthetic stuff over the years that we became immune to it [I recently read some where that they use the molecular formula of plastic to make some of the synthetic food produces. In other words, if we go to the molecular level of some food we eat, we will find plastic!]. Most likely we wouldn’t like the real milk and the real butter anymore, even if it's available. We don’t like the milk without chemicals, juice without additives, we like it to be with preservatives added from antibiotic and hormone-treated cows and pesticide treated fruits. My parents own cows and when I went to India last year, they gave me real milk (not chemically processed, just boiled) and honestly I didn’t like it. I almost threw-up.

We have never seen and tasted real love and real kindness. Life in this world, over the years of our lifetime, made us believe that the counterfeit love and kindness is what it is like. We all believe that ‘there is no free lunch’. If someone really shows us true kindness, we immediately become nervous. Our thoughts would be ‘what is he expecting from me’ or ‘how I am going to pay this back’. We don’t like to receive and it is true that in almost all cases the word ‘free’ comes with strings attached.

A few years ago, we received a big check (more than what we expected) for our tax returns, my wife and I immediately thought, ‘How much should we give back to God?’. We believed God blessed us with that money and He expects something in return. When a family invites us for dinner, our immediate thought is, when are we going to invite then in return. We love the word ‘free’ but when the rubber meets the road, we become nervous and insecure.

Why is it a struggle for us to receive unconditional love, unconditional kindness and unconditional mercy from God?

• It’s too good to be true
• We have learned all our life everything in this world comes with conditions
• The word ‘unconditional’ makes us nervous and insecure
• We are prideful and not ready to agree that we are in need of real love and real kindness.
• God's love lacks complexity
• We are so used to the imitations, and we don’t really know what the real thing looks like

God blesses us with home, car, children, money, job, new skills, grace, salvation but with the ‘fair-trade’ mentality we think God expect us to serve Him back with those. We see Him as a smart salesman who first gives us something free only to earn our business so he can accomplish big things from us later. Isn't that the reason we hear people say, 'God blessed me with so and so that I should serve Him now'?

It is so hard for us to believe that God blesses us because He blesses us. We are His children. He gives us because He gives to His children. He loves us because He loves His children. There are no strings attached. People spend their time figuring out should they give 10% of their gross income or net income to God. What it tells me is that God lets them have a job and earn salary so He gets His tithe. It is such a distorted view of His love and blessings. A whole branch of theology has emerged from this perversion: if you sow your seed you will reap; if you are not ready to sow, don't expect anything from God! This really grieves my heart...

As soon as we figure out we are saved, what is our next thought? How can we serve Him back! Where is that thought coming from? We didn’t believe in His unconditional love in the first place. We didn’t believe that He saved us because He saved us. We thought He saved us so He can get us to serve Him, as though He need our service. Isn’t that a picture of a self-seeking God? [By the way, as we understand His unconditional love and grace for us, we will naturally tell and share our blessings with others, but that is not a 'service'. To see it as a service would be like an apple serving it's tree]

I used to put 'In His Service' at the end of my email signatures (it's funny that I do it only when I write email to believers!). It is as if I am an employee of God. God didn't create a bunch of employees to work for Him, He created a bunch of kids to be in an authentic relationship with Him.

People say that they are 'committed' to serve God. What an illogical statement is that? First of all, we cannot serve God and He doesn't need our service. Secondly, when we say 'committed', doesn't it mean that we didn't really want to do it but because of my 'commitment' I am doing it. In other words, I am so good that I commit myself to serve Him. It is like telling 'I am committed to my wife', which means I really want to cheat but I am refraining myself from it because I am 'good' and 'committed'.

It's an exaggeration. The relationship between a husband and wife has to be based on love and it has to be naturally authentic. I don't think God intended the marriage to be a 'sacrifice'. But we exaggerate it as supernatural by telling others that we are 'committed', thereby removing the authenticity of marriage relationship. I have heard people bragging that they have a 'successful' marriage of 20, 30 or 50 years because of their 'commitment' and 'sacrifice'. If I am a teenager and listening to them, this is what I would be thinking in my mind: They consider it 'successful' because it was supposed to fail. They didn't live together all these years naturally (that they wanted to) but, because of their commitment and sacrifice, they simply chose not to divorce but to tolerate each other. Isn't that the reason they said 'it wasn't easy but we hung in there'?

As a teenager I already made up my mind after hearing it: marriage is not easy and all marriages are supposed to fail and there is only a rare chance that one will 'succeed'. No wonder we have divorce rates sky-rocketing!

We hear people say, "Use me, Lord", "We will be careful to give you all the glory". God wasn't planning to "use" me when He saved me, for heaven's sake! Can you imagine, my son or daughter coming and telling me to "use" him or her? It certainly doesn't sound like love to me. I can't imagine God is self-seeking glory from everything we do or everything we have. He is not seeking glory from the food we eat, the money He gave us, the home He blessed us with. He gives to us because He loves us and when He gives, He gives freely. It's like I giving toys and cloths to my kids. What would I think if they run around and tell everybody that 'they are careful to give all the glory to their Dad'? I gave them because they are my children, we have a relationship, I want them to enjoy the stuff they received and I do not expect anything in return.

What is love like? the real love, not the counterfeit. Is it a fare-trade? Or is it UNCONDITIONAL? Is it self-seeking? Or is it selfless?

Bible says, God's love is like this (which sounds like the real stuff):

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

We struggle to simply receive this love because we are unimaginably prideful, arrogant, ego-centered and ignorant. We don't like to receive it, we like to earn it. Are we ready to simply receive this love without feeling obligated that we should do something in return which defies the logic that love is NOT self-seeking?

I think we all need to learn the act of receiving, not earning or giving. We have no problem to earn or to give, but we cringe to receive. God only wants the people who cannot repay Him. The thought that we can repay Him in itself is an oxymoron.

Matthew quoted Charles Spurgeon in his comments:
"perhaps it's hard to receive salvation because it's so easy."

I agree. God's love is unimaginably easy, simple, pure, genuine, real and agape. We can only receive it. And once it is in our life, be ready to be in awe and wonder because it is so ridiculously unbelievable, but at the same time, so very real...

"My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it." - Brennan Manning