Monday, January 26, 2009

One gospel for New Yorkers, another one for New Guineans

Imagine preaching the same 'prosperity gospel' preached in New york, to the people living in the villages of New Guinea!

To the people who are living in the falling apart hay huts...

Imagine telling them that God would bless them with Cadillac's, Lexus's, computers, iPhones or jobs in big corporations if they only knew how to 'claim' God's blessings. Or if they had enough 'faith'! Lets say, God blessed them with Cadillac's, where would they drive those? Do they have roads? Are they more concerned about luxury cars and homes than food to survive? I think it is safe to assume that most of them would be pretty happy if they had enough food to eat and a place to lay their head at night.

Is the message of Gospel geographic-specific? Would it be different based on what country/region you live in? Is it era-specific, that its relevant today but wasn't relevant 2000 years ago?

I thought the message of gospel, which was true 2000 years ago is still the same today and forever for ALL humanity all over world.

Well, only if it's preached for what it is...

Did Jesus have one message for New yorkers and another one for New Guineans?

I think this is where we would need to make a come back to the core fundamental truth of the Bible and see what truly the message of Gospel is, and learn to keep the 'majors' as majors and 'minors' as minors in the Bible.

One of the famous passages written by Apostle Paul goes like this,

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith." - Romans 1:16-17

So, the gospel is about God's gift of righteousness given to us through Christ Jesus! It is about Jesus doing something we could never do. It is, 'God reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them'. It is about Christ providing forgiveness for the entire humanity(Africans, Americans, Asians, Europeans) through His death and was raised from dead so that He can give the same LIFE which resurrected Him, to us, which is eternal LIFE. It is about restoring what we lost in Adam - spiritual life.

Now, that is a good news for anyone - poor, sick, rich, homeless, New Yorker, New Guinean, white, black, brown, yellow, green! It was a good news 2000 years ago, still a good news in 2009 and it will be a good news until the second coming of Christ. It won't change and it cannot be changed!

Imagine telling a sick, malnutritioned African kid that he is sick because he is not 'claiming' what God has for him. Imagine telling a born-handicapped person that he is handicapped because he has no enough faith to claim healing. Imagine telling a mute person that since he is not speaking in tongues, he is less spiritual.

It looks like we turned spirituality into a mechanism for our physical and material well-being here on earth. Seemingly becoming more and more selfish. And we try to sell a 'puppet jesus' who would satisfy our greedy consumerism! And we think we are better than others since we have more 'stuff' and a stuff-providing god.

What is Jesus has to offer me? a trouble-free life? healing? prosperity? an emotional gratification? a short-term entertainment?

What is the fellowship with other believers going to offer me? sense of community? security of a friends circle?

What is the Church has to offer me?

What is the pastor has to offer me?

It's all about ME! I love ME!

When there are troubles in our life, what is the one question which frequently comes to our mind?

"Why ME?"

Where is that question coming from? It is coming from the deep reality that we think we are better than others! When someone else had an accident/sickness/job loss, we didn't ask "why she?" or "why he?" Did we? We just sympathized with them and prayed for them. But when the same thing happens to us, we ask loud : "Why me" or "Why my wife/husband/kids?"

I would ask another question in return : Why NOT?

Who is not prone to sickness or accident or job loss? Since I am a Christian (and a better one), I shouldn't lose my job? If, so all the people who had lost their jobs are somehow 'bad'? I should always get that promotions I wanted? And I should always own a big house in the subdivision? nice car? nice vacation? and I should be perfectly healthy all the time? (One thing that I still don't understand, that if I am supposed to be perfectly healthy always, I shouldn't die even if I am 150 years old!)

Where in the Bible Jesus/Apostles promised a trouble-free life? I can't see it!

When I think that I am living in perfect health and harmony and I am entitled for such blessing because I am a Christian/believer, what I am unknowingly proclaiming is that the believers who are less fortunate (who has no car, no enough food, no home, no medical insurance, no vacation, no enough money, no job, no doctor) are somehow inferior to me; there by, I believe God has partiality!

Why would we believe that Christians should be sickness-free and poverty-free when it is a mere fact that there are genuine believers who are sick and poor?

It is also a fact that there are unbelievers who are much more healthier and wealthier than many Christians. How do we explain that? When I get nice weather, the 'sinner' next door is also getting the same nice weather, how dare!

Folks, when did Jesus become a god of wealthy? (This is not to say that He is just the God of poor). I am saying, he is God of every single believer all around in the world, regardless of whether he/she is poor, wealthy, sick, well, white, black, brown, yellow, American, Canadian, Chinese, homeowner, homeless, CEO, clerk, nanny, prisoner, landscaper, jobless or handicapped.

Jesus did not die only for the people who live in developed countries on earth, he also died for those in the slum villages of Africa and India. And it is absolutely possible that a person can be a child of God while still living in a poor village where there are no hospitals, transportation or a sense of (physical) security.

He/She can still be totally content, joyful, and in total peace!

for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. - Apostle Paul (Phil 4:11-13)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Find out if you are a legalist...

1. Have you ever felt pressured to hide your sin/s?

2. Do you act differently among believers and unbelievers?

3. Do you feel pressured to convert others into your beliefs?

4. Do you feel bad when you skip church on Sundays?

5. Do you have a perfectionist spirit?

6. Do you hate homosexuals?

7. Do you boast about your religion?

8. Do you feel guilty when you can't keep up your daily 'time with God'?

9. Have you ever got into a fight with your spouse/kids on Sunday morning for they being late for church?

10. Have you ever worried about the 'bad' things people may say during your funeral?

11. Do you think more about your church/ministry than God Himself?

12. Do you have a liking towards the preaching from the OT over the preaching from the NT?

13. Do you think that if you don't tithe, you may lose your favor with God?

14. Do you put pressure on your spouse/kids to keep/make things perfect all the time?

15. Do you feel pressured to convict others about why you believe what you believe?

16. Do you have a different face in church and home?

17. Have you ever felt guilty for not taking a particular ministry at church?

18. Do you have an accountability partner?

19. Have you ever thought that you can tame your fleshly desires and make God more happy?

20. Do you attend seminars like where they teach 'Christian principles'?

21. Have you ever felt pressured to save your pastor's face?

22. Though others think that you are very righteous and posses high moral values, have you ever wondered why you feel dirty inside?

23. Do you tell others that your religion is doing wonders in your life while in reality it's making you miserable?

24. Do you search Scriptures for do's and don'ts?

25. Are you easily angered when some one talk bad about your pastor/church/denomination/religion?

26. Do you teach your kids '10 commandments' and tell them that God get angry if they break one of them?

27. Do you feel any insecurity when you break one of your own do's or don'ts?

28. Do you think more about hell and demons than heaven and God?

29. Do you try hard to be 'good' to others?

30. Do you boast about your charities?

31. Do you believe that your church is the only true church?

32. Have you tried to memorize the sermon on the mount and other Scriptures which has either a 'do' or a 'don't'?

33. Do you believe that the salvation can be lost?

34. Do you always look for creative ways to hide your shortcomings from others?

35. Do you spend more time trying to clean up others from their sins than telling them about God's love?

36. Are you a believer that you have to keep confessing your sins to God in order to keep you forgiven?

37. Do you like Scriptures like 1 John 1:9 than Scriptures like Heb 10:10?

38. Do you believe that salvation itself is by grace, but sanctification is by 'works' (obedience to the law)?

39. When you visit a Christian book store, do you look for 'how to' books?

40. Do others think that you are good enough, but you feel deep inside that you are falling short?

41. Do you recite/ponder/quote verses like 'work out your salvation with fear and trembling' than other verses like 'I will never leave you nor forsake you'?

42. Do you particularly search for Scriptures which sound as if God's love is conditional?

43. Do you act as if you love sinners, but literally hate them?

44. Do you believe you will go 'out of fellowship' with God if you sin or don't do enough of the spiritual routines such as prayer, bible study, church attendance or 'quiet time with God'?

45. When you talk about list of sins, do you always talk about 'big' ones like adultery and ignore 'small' ones like selfishness, greediness, self-centeredness, pride, envy etc?

46. Have you ever felt that the more you put yourself under more strict laws/rules/principles, the more you are tempted to sin and preoccupied with sinful thoughts? But you still try to make it more stricter?

47. No matter how much you do the 'right' things and abstain from the 'wrong' things, do you still feel it isn't good enough?

48. Do you try to get a LIFE from the scriptures?

49. Do you participate in 'prayer chains' or 'fasting chains' and feel proud about it?

50. Do you show off your spirituality/religiosity?

51. Do you use prayer, fasting, worship, discipline, ministry, tithing, charity, obedience, righteous living etc as tools to please God and earn His favor?

52. Are you motivated/driven by fear rather than love when it comes to your religion/spirituality/relationships?

53. Do you tend to control/manipulate others, especially using fear-tactics?

54. Do you seek/desire after leadership positions at your church? Do you feel that you 'deserve' some positions?

55. Do you feel tempted to correct every false doctrines in the world? Do you spend more time telling others how their religion is wrong?

56. Do you feel proud when your pastor/leader publicly praise your ministerial works?

57. Do you seek to gain more (biblical) knowledge to attract attention of others?

58. Do you feel insecured if your belief/s is challenged and do you frantically look for scriptures to (somehow) defend your belief?

If you answered 'Yes' for at least one of these, you have legalistic traits; if you answered 'Yes' for more than one, you are a 'mild' legalist and the scale goes up to a hardcore Pharisee as the number of 'Yes''s goes up...

I just realized, on a 1 to 10 scale, I come somewhere in the middle :)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Grace isn’t flashy, but it’s ‘weird’

Sometimes I think this thing about grace cannot be captured through writing blogs or books. It can't be contained in any digital, electronic or physical form. Because there is nothing to be 'seen'. We can't make a movie about grace or God's love. If we try to do so, we will do injustice to the depth of His love. There is nothing 'flashy' about this. We can't add a 'mega' to it and make it to the headlines. His kingdom is unseen; there aren’t big buildings and flashy people. It’s about ordinary people living in a relationship with Jesus.

Jesus was the same. He chose ‘Bethlehem’ to be born. A barn was Mary's 'labor and recovery' room and a manger was Jesus's comfy crib. Mary herself was an ordinary woman. Jesus was extraordinary by being ordinary, He chose everything ordinary or even below ordinary. That's true about His love. If it was today, the mainstream media wouldn't probably notice. Who would care what is happening in a tiny town in a tiny country? There might be some local news papers making fun of the 'carpenter-turned-spiritual-guru' who was born out of wed-lock and of his ‘weird’ set of disciples.

He didn't build mega churches and wasn't the most influential evangelical Christian. The entire nation didn’t admire Him. He was a regular guy – mostly homeless, hungry, thirsty and ultimately was killed like a criminal. His message wasn’t about material prosperity. It wasn’t about finding happiness in the ‘stuff’ of this world. He didn’t mail out letters seeking ‘partners’ for His ministry. His message wasn’t about how to make the best out of this world. He said, we are in the world but not of the world. He said he came with a sword to make divisions. Do you think today’s politically correct crowd would accept someone who says he is here to make divisions?

I can tell you from my experience, grace does make divisions. It is true.

Jesus wasn’t necessarily eloquent and didn’t posses much charisma. He talked straight. He was blunt. He was not politically correct. He didn’t give the expected answers for their questions. I doubt he was even good looking despite the fact that some of the movies and pictures portray Him as handsome and attractive.

Why is the people who has accepted the grace of God, a minority? And probably going to be a minority always? Because grace isn’t flashy! Grace is about love and it’s about RECEIVING love, it isn’t about earning or achieving, thus it goes against the grain of the religion of ‘self improvement’. It is about humility. It’s about laying down our pride of self-righteousness and accepting the GIFT of righteousness. It is not about ’10 spiritual things you can do to improve the quality of your life’. It isn’t about ‘christ-centered yoga’ to improve your devotional life. It isn’t about ’21 Christian principles for a prosperous life’. Instead, it is about REST. It is about being contented in ALL the circumstances.

Does this world know, what is it being contented in all circumstances? This world would call a person who is not working his butt off, a fool or lazy. This is true in religion as well. If you aren’t a ‘hardworking’ minister, you are probably not eligible to be a minister. Who would hire you if you don’t have a thick resume?

I have stopped looking for a big group of people with whom I can validate my faith because I am convinced that I would be part of a minority as long as I live under grace. I can’t make grace enough flashy to attract people to this message.

I can tell only the truth.

Grace is not going to fix all your problems in this world. Grace is not going to make you rich. Grace is not going to heal you from all your sicknesses. Grace is not going to make you famous. Grace is not going to make you happy all the time. Grace is not going to make you achieve sinless perfection. Throw all those unrealistic expectations out of the window and come to Jesus empty handed and here is the thing: your deep longing to be loved and accepted will be met in Him. Guaranteed! And for eternity He will never leave you nor forsake you. You will be perfectly loved as you are right now, right here without making any behavior changes or self improvements. You will be safe in His hands.

Isn't it 'weird' that someone accepting and loving us perfectly and unconditionally with all our of shortcomings, weaknesses and pettiness?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

I can't love!

I find it so difficult to love certain type of people - the people who are selfish, self-righteous, and those who do double talk. It’s funny that I am not free from any of these yet I find it hard to love others when I see them executing these characteristics. I know, who is NOT selfish? Who is not broken? But I keep forgetting it. We can all come together in our brokenness. I need Jesus in the same way the most selfish person on earth needs Him. I am no different. I did nothing differently to gain His acceptance in the first place. But I still struggle to accept others.

I do believe that God loves me unconditionally, but struggle to believe that God love others also unconditionally. Which means, I fail to see God’s love for what it is. Otherwise, why wouldn’t I love people no matter how they are?

Within me, I have no ability to love. If at all there are any traits of love in me, it’s Him. I am learning this lesson and it’s hard. I am sitting here and trying to generate love towards the people I hate. God is love, but Bino is not love. He loves people, not me. When He loves people through me, it appears as though I am loving, but it’s Him.

I believe any love or act of love which isn’t from God is not love at all. I get frustrated when I can’t love. And I think it’s better not to show love than faking it up. It deceives both parties.

I want to love but sometimes I can't and the resolution I am reaching at is that this occurs when I live outside the truth. Because the truth is that the personification of perfect love lives in me and as I learn to live according to this truth I would be able to exhibit love, even to the difficult people. But it seems too far now.

Friday, January 2, 2009

My spiritual evolution

Born to religious parents

Traditionally religious

Looking for something exciting

Growing a rebellious spirit against established orthodoxy

Experimenting with Protestantism/Charismaticism

Seeking answers - Apologetics

Being proud of being a protestant



Religion returns

Roller coaster spirituality


Being exposed to the 'finality of the cross' and the 'reality of the resurrection'


Threats, pressure and more confusion

Stepping out the boat

Unlearning begins

Walking few steady steps, slipping

Holding onto Jesus's hands, hanging on to grace

Law threatens and seduces

Religion tries to inject insecurity

Embracing grace (By His grace!)

Walking by faith

Faith, freedom, mess, growth...

More mess, more growth, more freedom...

Jesus, Thank You!