Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Be weak!

I think it's better to be weak than strong. The words such as 'dedicated', 'strong' and 'committed' may sound appealing, but I wonder if it can help us in any way in our christian walk.

It's hard for me to admit that I am not strong but weak (especially as a man!). I have figured out that, any person, doesn't matter how dedicated they are in their Christian walk, is prone to temptation, sin and all kinds of troubles in life.

Some of the things we do or think might surprise us. The things which we thought we would never do or think as a Christian. Sometimes we sit and wonder, how in the world so and so person could do such a terrible thing, not knowing that, we too, given the right circumstances, could do the very same thing. Most of the time, it's the mater of time and right circumstance.

Apostle Paul was probably the most well known Christian ever lived on the planet earth. God used him to write 14 New Testament Epistles. That to me, is a huge thing! The person who possessed unbelievable depth and insight into the things of God. God used him mightily to reach so many people including Jews and Gentiles all around the world.

Yet, he made a surprising statement when he wrote his letter to the people at Corinth: "If I boast, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses".

Did you expect such a statement from the most influential, well known, zealous Christian? I think it reveals a very fundamental principle of Christian living: what counts is not your strength, but your weakness.

Give up your dedication, give up your commitment, give up your strength, give up your stinking self-righteousness and embrace God's awesome grace just like apostle Paul did. He came to a conclusion that "His grace is sufficient for me".

What about you?

It is in your weakness, Christ's power would rest on you. So, stop boasting about the things you do, the things you give up for godliness, the sins you abstain from, the integrity you think you have. Your dedication will melt away in a matter of seconds, if you are given the right circumstance. The mask will fall off from your face when you would least expect that it would happen.

At that moment, don't be surprised at the thing you did/thought because God is not surprised anyways! He always knew that you couldn't keep it up. That is why He sent His only begotten Son to do it for you. That is why He sent His own Spirit to do it through you.

He says, "His power is made perfect in your weakness". Apostle encourages us to "delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties." Then, he went on to say this most astounding statement: "For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

A Christian's strength is in his weakness. If you are in a mess in your life, don't think it is unusual. It isn't! When you are tempted to do the things you have never imagined doing, don't be surprised. It is not unusual. When you fall flat on your face in the privacy of your room, know that you are weak and it's perfectly alright, because "his power is made perfect in your weakness". You are not going to live a perfect life in this world. So, don't even try. Just give up!

You WILL have troubles, you WILL have temptations, you WILL sin, you WILL get insulted, you WILL have hardships, persecutions and difficulties. If you would unrealistically expect anything contrary to this, you are buckling yourself up to face some deep disappointment, depression and disillusionment in your life.

Don't think troubles are unusual for a Christian. If you have it, you are perfectly normal. In fact, I would question a person's honesty if he claim that he has no troubles in his life and is always happy. The fact is, in the midst of all the mess you are in right now, the emotional or physical trauma you are going through, the secret sins you might be doing, the dirty desires in your heart, know this with full assurance: you are perfectly loved, accepted and eternally forgiven as a child of God. Take strength from that very fact and don't be afraid to be weak and vulnerable.

Again, when you are weak, then you are strong!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Be free...

"In all my years as a Christian, I have never heard anyone say, "I've had it! I am sick to death of the love and grace of God. I'm sick of other Christians loving and accepting me. I'm giving up this Christian life." No I've never heard that. But I couldn't count the number of Christians I've known who have given up because of being under law, who have been broken by the crushing burden of trying to be good enough to earn God's acceptance, who have been mangled by the competition, the judging, and the demands to conform to some group's standards. "We'll accept you if you look like, walk like, talk like, and act like us." And the implication is always, "And God will, too." So what are we to do?

Jesus Christ came to free us from the burden of the law by calling us to a life united with His. We are beloved, accepted children of God, who have been called to His "banquet table" to experience Jesus Christ living in and through us every day. Abundant life is not "pie-in-the-sky" or nebulous theory. It is real, and it is ours for the taking if we will only believe. Let's not settle for anything less. "

- Bob George (Classic Christianity)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

It wasn't oxygen!

"And the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being" - Genesis 2:7

What was it God breathed into Adam's nostrils? Have you ever wondered? Was it the 'air' we breath? Was it oxygen? Check this excerpt from 'In His Image' by Dr. Paul Brand:
When I heard that verse as a child, I imagined Adam lying on the ground, perfectly formed but not yet alive, with God leaning over him and performing a sort of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Now I picture that scene differently. I assume that Adam was already biologically alive - the other animals needed no special puff of oxygen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide to start them breathing, why should man? The breath of God now symbolizes for me a spiritual reality. I see Adam as alive, but possessing only an animal vitality. Then God breaths into him a new spirit, and infills him with His own image. Adam becomes a living soul, not just a living body. God's image is not an arrangement of skin cells or a physical shape, but rather an inbreathed spirit.
We know the rest of the story, that Adam sinned and lost what was inbreathed into him and became dead spiritually (the wages of sin is death). The Life of God went absent from him. He was no more bearing the image of God.

Fast forward to the New Testament, the last Adam (Jesus) came to earth to give us what we lost in the first Adam. Acting out of His unconditional love and grace, He resolved the cause of death - sin, once and for all and made the entire world capable of receiving the Life through simple faith.

Do we realize that it is the very Life raised Jesus from the dead is what raises us from the state of spiritual death, when we simply receive Him by faith?
  • "In him was life" - John 1:4
  • "For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it." - John 5:21
  • "Whoever believes in me has crossed over from death to life." - John 5:24
  • "For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." - John 6:33
  • "I am the bread of life." - John 6:35
  • "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you." - John 6:53
  • "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." - John 8:12
  • "I have come that they may have life" - John 10:10
  • "I am the resurrection and the life." - John 11:25
  • "I am the way and the truth and the life." - John 14:6
  • "By believing in the Son of God, you may have life in his name." - John 20:31
By faith, we receive the very inbreathed spirit (Life) what Adam had before the fall and we now become a living spiritual being. Alive to God! And now, God want us to give flesh to that spirit, to live out the image of God here on earth. We have His very own likeness! It's mind boggling!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The law is holy

When we make statements such as,

'Law is the ministry of death', - 2 Cor 3:7

'Those who are under the law are under a curse', - Galatians 3:10

'Law kills us' etc, Romans 7:10

some people get it as if we are saying the law itself is bad and unholy. They immediately put on the coat of defense and start quoting Scriptures such as,

the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good. - Romans 7:12

law is spiritual - Romans 7:14

This seems apparently contradicting and to make it even worse both those contrasting statements were made by Apostle Paul.

What can we conclude from this? Either Paul is contradicting himself or we are missing something.

Let's see if we can get this straight...

If law is holy, righteous and good, why would Paul spend so many pages of the Bible telling us that we, as believers should be totally free from the law?

Paul says, law cannot justify us (which many people agree) and he also says, law cannot help us to live a righteous life AFTER our justification (where many disagree).

Here are some verses clearly saying we are not to live by the law even after our salvation:

by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code. - Romans 7:6

Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law. - Galatians 3:25

(There are many other verses, but this is good for now)

So many honest, dedicated, well meaning Christians want to live a holy life and they earnestly try to follow the law. I admire their desire. But there is only one problem : they will burn out and fail and knowingly or unknowingly they are under a curse!

If the law is holy, good and righteous, why in the world the people who are trying to follow the holy, good and righteous law are under a curse?

Apostle Paul graciously answers this question (I love this guy).

He says, when the law said 'do not covet' (which is a holy, good and righteous command), the 'sin' in him, 'seized the opportunity' and 'produced every kind of covetous desire in me'

Was it a problem of the law? No!

Was it a problem of Apostle Paul himself? No!

What was the problem then? The 'sin' living in him.

This is the very reason he said,

the law gives sin its power. - 1 Cor. 15:56

Law empowers the sin in us. Law stirs up the sin in us. Is law bad? No! Are we (believers) bad? No! What is bad? The sin living in us.

When we look in the mirror, we see the dirt on our face. Is that a problem of the mirror? No. Is that a problem of our face? No. What is the problem? The dirt on our face.

Have you ever wondered why God introduced a 'New' covenant? Was the old covenant bad?

Absolutely not! Why would God make a bad covenant?

What then was the problem of the old covenant?

For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. But God found fault with the people - Heb 8:7-8

The problem was the people! They couldn't keep it. So even before laying the foundation of the earth, God in His awesome grace and mercy, designed a NEW covenant in which He said, "I will remember your sins no more" and to accomplish it, He sent His own Son to earth to take away our sins!

Folks, this is good news! It is mind blowing! You can only sit down and look at this God with an overflowing heart of gratitude.

Okay, now the question is, if the law can only do bad in a believer's life, how are we to live a righteous life? a self-controlled life? upright, godly life?

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It (grace, the unconditional love of God) teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age - Titus 2:11-12

We live by grace, guys! And it teaches us how to handle our freedom. It is the forgiveness of God what encourages me to forgive others. It is the love of God what motivates me to love others. It is my acceptance by God with all my weaknesses what enables me to accept others with all their weaknesses.

Let's soak ourselves in this great love and let's be careful not to give an opportunity to sin to 'seize' us by our neck, by putting ourselves under the law. Live in grace! Live in freedom!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Water Baptism

If you become a Christian through water baptism,

all those who take a shower are Christians...

And I become a Christian everyday (except those days I am just too lazy to take a shower)...

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Aquarium fishes

We had 4 fishes in our small kiddie aquarium and one of them died yesterday because Smita fed them too much and the food and their poop raised the mercury content in the water. So I had to do an emergency clean up yesterday so that we can keep the other three alive.

I think many Christians are like aquarium fishes - they look beautiful in the tank but you have to keep them alive by providing them a comfortable environment, right amount of food, clean water, clean filter, right temperature etc. They can't survive even a small change in the settings. They are very delicate.

Now, consider the fishes in the ocean. Their survivability is much higher because they are in the wild and they know how to cope with wilderness.

They are not in the tank.

In the tank, there is no much room for error because tank is very confined. A confined environment get contaminated soon.You over feed them or under feed them, they will die in both cases. You disrupt the nitrogen cycle in the tank, they will die.

You change the order, style or time of the service, many will leave. Because they immediately become uncomfortable. They need the cycle to be continued without disruption, they need to be fed with the right amount of food. You take the bottle out of their mouth and give them steak, they will die due to indigestion. Since they are not in the wild, they don't hunt for food themselves. So you appoint a feeder, usually a pastor. His job is very stressful because the lives of the inhabitants of the tank is now in his hands.

He keep giving them a pattern to follow and as long us they are in that comfort zone they are alive and would look great from outside. But don't jump into the tank deceived by their beauty. Its so hard to get out of the tank. The tank is usually in a temperature controlled living room. It's an artificial environment. It's not real. You can only entertain others showing your external beauty but you will never experience the wildness (natural state).

Fishes are not created for tanks!

As long as they are in the tank their life depends on the caretaker and the artificial environment.

Free them, then they will learn to live in the wild, in the freedom. They will swim in the depth and vastness of the ocean. They will develop immunity to fight problems, enemies. They will learn to discern. They will start using their own mind. They will dump the law of the tank and embrace the freedom of the grace. You don't need to spoon-feed the fishes which are in the wild. Because they are now living like their Creator intended them to live.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Christian living is...

...not about trying to achieve a certain standard, but it is living out the standard we already have.

however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained. - (Philippians 3:16, NASB)

Monday, March 2, 2009

A tough week!

The words "My tummy hurts" usually followed by a scream.

That was the one thing I heard over and over and over for the past 7-8 days at home. There were moments I felt numb, helpless and exhausted. Both Jessica (4½ yrs) and Jonathan (2½ yrs) were sick since last Sunday. Initially we thought it was a regular stomach flu. But as the pain and nausea didn't stop after 3 days, we knew that wasn't the case. Jessica was able to bear pain to a certain degree, but Jonathan was literally miserable.

Pediatrician initially suspected appendicitis and send us to E.R. They took a series of X-Rays and ruled out appendicitis. They thought it was constipation and gave him an enema. On top of the pain, he was nauseated and absolutely no eating but was drinking some if we would force, which kept his body hydrated. After long hours in E.R we came home but he continued being sick and was in terrible pain.

Back to Pediatrician's office.

They suggested another series of X-rays to see if it was intussusception of intestines. Took him to another hospital where they have specialized pediatric care. X-ray was an instant read and they confirmed right away that it wasn't intussusception.

Back to home...

He is still in pain. Can't even sleep for more than 30 minutes!

Then they suggested an abdominal ultra sound.

Back to Radiology department. (In the meantime, the Pediatrician suggested seeing a surgeon.)

He went under the camera and the radiologist found that lymph glands around his intestine were enlarged. A condition called mesenteric adenitis caused by some virus.

There is no medicine to fight the virus other than waiting to see it going away in its due time. Smita and I took turns carrying him. Smita cried with him. We tried giving enough attention to Jessica as well because she was also sick by the same virus but symptoms were milder. We didn't sleep much these days, didn't eat well and we both lost about 5-10 pounds in one week (which is a good thing!). But it was worth when we saw him smiling on Saturday first time since previous Sunday...

Lessons and some facts:

1. Well kids are a blessing, do not take them for granted.
2. Thank God for the medical insurance, doctors, hospitals, radiologists and nurses (an everyone in the chain).
3. Be amazed at the incredible complexity of the human body and do not miss the opportunity to know the creator of it.
4. Appreciate parents who have sick children. I salute you!
5. Slow down in life.
6. Can't emphasis enough the value of spending time with kids while they are well and playful.
7. Thank God for their smile.
8. Appreciate a peaceful good night sleep.

Thank you for those who prayed and called!