Monday, August 31, 2009

Shame masquerading as humility

I am currently reading John Eldredge's "Waking the dead". (A great book, by the way). In it, John made a statement which goes something like this, "Most of the 'christian humility' we see today is nothing but shame masquerading as humility".

Somehow, we are just not ready to accept our goodness, the gift we received from God. The shame created by sin, is still impacting our self-image. I think our biggest fear is that, we think if we unleash our goodness, we may become prideful. So to combat pride, we find a way to tie ourselves at the foot of shame. We call it humility and then we act 'humble'. Talk about bondage!

Saint Iraneus's famous quote "The glory of God is man fully alive", in my opinion, is very biblical. After all, Jesus came to give us Life. "I have come that you may have Life", "I am the way, the truth and the Life". It glorifies God when we receive that life and become fully alive. It also glorifies God, when we fearlessly live that life to the full potential. That is not pride. It's living a life which reflects the glory of God. It is living just like who we truly are - "partakers of the divine nature".

Friday, August 28, 2009

Some thoughts on prayer.

These are some of my current thoughts on prayer (Some might find it very radical but this where I currently stand. There is no claim that these are accurate but I am open for disagreements/opinions):

I do not believe prayer changes things. I don't believe in phrases like 'earnest prayer', 'pray hard' etc. I do not believe there is any magic in prayer. I also do not believe that one person's prayer is more effective than the other person. I don't believe in 'prayer chains'. I don't believe in those websites where you can post prayer requests. I don't believe in requesting prayer anonymously. I don't believe in praying for the nation, politicians etc. I don't believe in those toll free numbers (e.g: 1-800-PRAYER) where you can call and ask the phone attender to pray for something. I don't believe in 'unspoken' prayer requests, where you don't actually know what the request is but asked to pray blindly.

I don't believe group prayer has more strength than individual prayer. I don't believe pastor's prayer has more effect than the congregant's prayer. I don't believe in those books about 'How to pray?'. I don't believe in 'prayer warriors'. I don't believe the elders prayer is more effective than the youngsters. I don't believe that the people who pray more are more spiritual. I don't believe in praying in tongues.

I have heard people saying "It's my prayer what brought him/her to Christ". I don't believe it. I have heard people saying "It's because of our earnest fasting and prayer that he/she is healed.". Again, I do not believe that. I don't believe that prayer is more effective when we quote Scriptures. I don't believe that the various problems in life (sickness, finance problems, job loss, sins, relationship problems etc) are due to a lack of good prayer life.

I don't believe in religiously praying before each meal, travel etc. I don't believe that the evening 'family prayer' is what keeps a family from falling apart. I do not believe God answers all prayers. I do not believe that God is obligated to answer our prayers. I do not believe the prayer prayed in a church setting is more effective than the prayer done at home, car or coffee shop.

I don't believe in parents doing a "prayer-show" with the intention to get their kids to be more spiritual like them.

I don't believe in promising people that "I will pray for you" every time when he/she shares some burden with me, unless there is a genuine desire in my heart to do that. I do not believe in praying for forgiveness every time I sin. I don't believe in praying out of guilt.

These are the few things I believe about prayer:

The only reason I pray is because I have a desire to talk to my Heavenly Father.
When I pray, regardless of what I am praying for, my attitude always has to be, "Lord, if it's your will...".
I don't muster up prayer just for the sake of praying.
The most hart-felt prayers are not necessarily found in my mouth, rather they are in my heart.
I pray enthusiastically when the Lord himself puts a desire in my heart to pray.
I believe in the sovereignty of God and believe that He is always in control regardless of whether people pray or not.
Prayer (talking to God), in my mind, has to be a natural result of being in a relationship with Him.
When it comes to prayer (or anything else), motivation behind it matters the most.
If you believe in His unconditional love and awesome grace, you will find yourself thanking Him more, than asking Him to do things.

Lastly and more importantly,

Regardless of whether my prayer was answered the way I want it or not, I am still at peace and in total contentment because I know the fact that my Father is in total control of my life and there is nothing which can separate me from His love.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

"Who told you that you were naked?"

What made the humanity to become so self-centered? When God created Adam and Eve, they weren't self-centered. They were God-centered. They walked naked in the garden. They didn't care the fact that they were naked. The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame (Genesis 2:25). Look at the animals. All of them are naked.

[This is one thing the evolutionists can't answer. When did humanity start wearing cloths to hide their genitals? What was the origin of the thing called shame? Monkeys don't wear cloths. All of a sudden when the monkey became a human, he started going for shopping at Macy's?]

Adam and Eve bore the glorious image of God when they were created. God created man in his own image. He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. They were blinded (in a good way) by the glorious harmony they had with God. They not only felt free, but they were truly free. God gave them total freedom, including the freedom to choose evil. (If freedom didn't include freedom to sin, it isn't real freedom.)

They chose to eat from the wrong tree, lost their god-centeredness and gained self-centeredness. They weren't created to posess a knowledge of good and evil, yet they chose to have it. Bible says, "then the eyes of both of them were opened". Ha! All of a sudden, they are looking at themselves. Now they are seeing everything through that newly opened set of eyes. It says, they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves and then they hid.

When God came looking for them, He found them hiding out of shame and asks this question, "Who told you that you were naked?". Which implies that the only third person there, which is God himself, not seeing them as naked. They became sin-conscious. Their god-consciousness died.

The good news is, the Second Adam (Christ) restored it for you an me. He cleansed our conscience (Heb 9:14). He don't expect you to feel shame today. He don't want you to hide from Him. He don't want you to sew your own filthy rags (obedience to the law, self effort, good works etc) today.

If you are in Christ and still going to God begging for forgiveness, thinking that you are rejected by Him when you sin, he is going to ask you this question: "Who told you that you were naked?". It is the law what tells you that you are naked (not worthy, sinful etc). It is the knowledge of good and evil (law) that makes you self-centered. Law only condemns! Law has no place in a Christian's life. (Gal 3:23-25) So, dump the knowledge of good and evil (which you were never meant to have) and eat from the Tree of Life. There is freedom, because there is no condemnation!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Religious Pragmatism

I read this quote somewhere:

'A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.'

While I don't necessarily agree to this (at least not in all the cases), I would probably agree to a slightly modified version of it:

A great many people think they are "proving" when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.

Once my Mom told me, if you want you can prove that there isn't any God, using Bible verses. She is not a philosopher and I am pretty sure she heard it from someone else. But there is some truth in it.

Often times people go into the mode of 'proving' AFTER making up their mind. They confront others in an effort to make them buy their ideas while using Bible as a means. "Bible says so...", so I believe. A good example would be, today's churches using verses from the book of Malachi to establish the practice of tithing.

They search Scriptures after making up their minds. They find verses which support what they want to believe. It is like writing the story of the movie after fixing the actors.

This is exactly the mindset behind the religious pragmatism. They think truth is whatever works. If I get results it has to be good. Tithing works, it gives results, so it should be good. The next step is simple: find verses supporting it. "Law" works, it gives immediate results, so it should be good, then follow the simple step of finding the verses. Universalism sounds good, lets find verses supporting it!

To quote AW Tozer on this, he says it like this:

...Preoccupation with appearances and a corresponding neglect of the out-of-sight root of the true spiritual life are prophetic signs which go unheeded. Immediate "results" are all that matter, quick proofs of present success without a thought of next week or next year. Religious pragmatism is running wild among the orthodox. Truth is whatever works. If it gets results it is good. There is but one test for the religious leader: success. Everything is forgiven him except failure...

The sad part is, the results (success) achieved through these practices are merely external. It gratifies only feelings, emotions, insecurities, appearances and our superstitious fears. It isn't good for setting people free, instead it puts them into much bondage. It encourages people to fake.

Ask a Catholic, he would say he 'feel' good when he attend a Mass. So it should be good and spiritual. The thing is everything that feels good is not spiritual. Even, not all good things are spiritual. Everything that 'works' isn't spiritual either. Anything to be called as spiritual, it has to be based on some absolute, unmoving TRUTH. Such absolute truth is not of this world because this world and the people in it are not absolute and unmoving. What works today may not work tomorrow. Everything changes - culture, moral standards, ethics, climate, economy, technology, theology, religion and pretty much everything.

Churches have found a lot of things 'working' and made it into traditions - altar calls, tithing, pastoral authority, organizational structure, pew and pulpit system and all that.

God's grace is a contradiction to 'practical theology'. Grace isn't practical in human terms. It is the impracticality what makes it grace. If it was practical, why call it grace? This is where I have problem when people say God's grace enables them to obey the law. What an oxymoronic statement! You might feel good when you think you are obeying the law. But pls. don't mix grace with your stupidity. Grace is grace! You cannot comprehend it with your dumb mind. You can live in it if you have the mind of Christ.

Yes, it is a fact that our puny brain cannot understand God's grace. I think it is a good thing, because grace was never meant to be understood with our head. Grace is against everything our head want to believe. Our head is so very practical. Grace is totally contrary to any human logic.

It's a heart thing. It's a God thing.

And it comes to our heart through REVELATION. Our heart can accept an impractical/illogical thing only through revelation, not through education. So lets lean on God so that He will reveal this thing called grace, and once you have it, you can pretty much live the rest of your life in total amazement, with an overflowing heart of gratitude towards God. That is what Christian life is all about. It defiles human intelligence.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Leadership in church

Few months ago, I met a pastor at a birthday party. As we opened a conversation, he asked me where I go to church to. It surprised him when I said I do not attend any church on a regular basis. He was intrigued to know the reason and I shared a little bit of background (not much, because it's hard to explain everything in few minutes and sometimes I don't even know where to begin!). One of the thing I highlighted was that my skepticism and distaste over the practice of leadership in today's churches. I said, I do not believe I have to submit myself under any earthly spiritual authority.

It didn't strike a chord with him.

He took me to a corner and lectured me for the next 90 minutes or so, explaining the different 'levels' of 'anointing'. Interestingly, he did not use any New Testament Scriptures. Instead, he went to OT, took the example of David, explained to me how God anointed David in 3 different levels (the third one was the kingly anointing).

His point was, pastors are generally at the third level of anointing, so its good to be submissive to them. Because they are like Kings.

Of course, I was looking for a way to escape all throughout this conversation. To be quite honest, I felt very weary to even spend my energy explaining him why I do not necessarily agree with his view. It was also an astonishment to see how people develop doctrines from OT stories.

What are your thoughts on the issue of leadership in church today? Do you think pastors have some special anointing? What about the hierarchy in leadership? Do you believe in the 'calling'? Do you believe in any form of leadership at all? Pls. share your thoughts...

Monday, August 3, 2009

Trusting others

I want to learn to trust people. I was raised in a home where I was taught to be always 'cautious' about others, and the surroundings. A pattern has been developed in my brain that I shouldn't trust anyone by default. My default setting is mistrust and skepticism. It goes beyond people to ideas, philosophies, theologies etc.

This is part of the reason I would ignore the broken cars on the freeway. I know they might need help but I can't trust them.

Mostly I pay no attention to the authors/preachers unless I know them in person or someone whom I trust recommend them. I find it hard to take risk there. I always get uncomfortable when my kids, out of their innocence, attempt to talk to strangers. What if they have an intention to harm my kids?

I know wisdom and a spirit of discernment plays a good role in judging others and their intentions. But I find it hard to balance myself. Deep in my heart, I want to trust people and I want to love people, even strangers regardless of how they look, what they wear etc.

Do you struggle with this issue? Do you trust people first and then love them Or do you love them first and then grow your trust in them? Is fear the cause of mistrust? Shouldn't we fearlessly trust people with a willingness in our heart to face the consequences if we were wrong in judging them as trustworthy?