Monthly Archives: February 2013
Recently one of my very good friends saw me reading something very intensely and asked me what I am reading. When I said that I am reading my Bible, she said very innocently, “Yeah, I have heard that it is a good read.” I could not help but smile at the way she said those words – a very innocent manner.
What she said is so right – reading the Bible does a world of good. But why do I read the Bible? Is it because I am a Christian? Is it because it is the right thing to do? Does my religion demand that I read? Or, probably I am just showing off to everyone else what a good Christian I am? Hey, that is actually a possibility .
While all the above reasons may be true, the one reason I read the Bible is – the same reason why I breathe, why I eat. To live a whole life. Does reading the Bible really make a change in your life? Isn’t it just a waste of time? Isn’t it just a collection of books that has nothing to do with science? Doesn’t it claim that the earth was created only 6000 years ago?
To be honest, I had all these questions. For long time, I never read the Bible. But then one conversation and a book that I read changed my life. Unfortunately today young students neither talk to their elders nor read much. Everything is found on internet. Google and Wikipedia are their sources. While I have nothing against Google and Wikipedia (I use them a lot, to be honest), but reading books, magazines and editorials broaden your horizons. And there is no substitute for experiences. So reading a lot and listening to others will really help you. Now, what are the two things that changed me?
Both actors started their careers around the same time and became superstars of Tamil film industry in 1950s. It is known then and now that when it comes to acting, Sivaji Ganesan is just incomparable. It is said that the great Marlon Brando once said, “He (Sivaji) can act like me, but I can’t act like him.” Even the diehard fans of MGR would accept this. But when we look at the political landscape of Tamilnadu, we see something else.
It has been 14 years since MGR passed away, but still his name has strong political pull in Tamilnadu. He was very successful in his political campaign, started his own party and till he passed away in 1987, he was undefeated. On the other hand, Sivaji had a pathetic political career. He was never able to win elections on his own and when he started his own party after MGR’s death, he was routed out of the political scenario in Tamilnadu.
Once I was talking with my family and found out that they all have utmost respect for Sivaji. While they admire MGR, when they have to choose one of them, they all invariably chose Sivaji. They also told me that whole Tamilnadu would do the same – admire MGR, but the respect Sivaji commanded was unparalleled. So, I asked them then how come MGR was more successful than Sivaji. They explained it by two songs – one from Sivaji’s movie and another from MGR’s movie. Here are the two songs.
To be honest, when I heard that explanation I laughed. I laughed hard. I also thought my family members and an entire generation of Tamil people are crazy. Just plain crazy. Because for a teenage boy, it did not make any sense. This was the explanation they gave.
The above songs were very popular songs. Both have similar themes. In both, the protoganist had lost everything and in both are singing in the same line – Okay, whatever is happening, let it happen. Both songs are fatalistic, what is going to happen is going to happen. But if you watch the videos carefully, you will something. Sivaji’s manner of singing is very realistic and it will make sure that you feel depressed at the end of it, telling us that it is fate that decides everything. If you watch MGR, you will see that he actually starts in a depressed state, but by the time the song ends, he would be jumping like a young boy, with great hopes for the future.
Not just this one song, almost all the movies MGR acted in, had a upbeat theme – good winning over evil, no matter what the odds are. For the record, in all the 300+ movies he acted in, MGR died in only two movies and both of them are historical movies where the protoganist actually died in real life. But Sivaji died in almost all his movies . Though Sivaji’s movies actually reflected what was happening in real life, MGR’s movies had an encouraging feel about it – there is always hope in MGR’s movies. This is the explanation my family gave me and needless to say, I had a hard time believing this. How could just the way you approach your life would affect everyone around you, how could that make you successful or failure?
But then something happened to me. I went into depression. Not just one day depression, slept well and woke up, hey, it’s gone kind of depression. I was depressed for 6 months. Had low self-esteem. Could not talk to anyone. Was pessimistic about everything in life. If someone talked with me for like 10 minutes, they would prefer killing themselves for I gave such an outlook about everything. Everything was doomed to fail. There is no hope in human life. This was what I truly believed.
So, like all the teenage boys in college, I started on the route to self-discovery. Reading quotes from everyone and everything. Philosophy was a big thing for me. God meant everything to me, it could be mother nature, just some energy that caused big bang to happen… everything. That’s when I came across a book. The Power of Positive Thinking by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale.
By then, I had already read over 10 self-help books. Believe in you; you can make it happen; if you think you can, then you can; nothing is impossible for human mind; you are who you are – I knew all these by heart by then. Still nothing. So when I picked up this book, I was a skeptic in my heart. But this book had a different approach than the other books I read so far. Dr. Peale talked more about what the Bible says about me. I was stunned to know that there are so many verses in the Bible that spoke positively about me. You may wonder, Patrick, is the Bible really talking about you? Where is your name? Of course, my name is not there. But when I read the psalmist feeling depressed, I saw myself in him. When I saw David forsaken by his own family, I understood his pain. When everything went wrong for Job and he ended up cursing the day of his birth, trust me, that became my prayer for a while – cursing the day I was born.
But soon something else happened in my life. Abraham was tested in his faith, but he emerged victorious. Joseph suffered a lot in his youth, but when he waited patiently for the LORD, he was exalted. David battled with depression, but emerged as one of the greatest leaders in the history of Israel. Job lost everything, but received double portions. Jeremiah lamented, but the LORD made him a prophet unto the world. The more I read the Bible, the more I realized that in all my sufferings and failures, I was not alone. There are people who have walked that path before me. And, even in the worst possible scenario, they did not lose their faith. Their eyes were fixed on just one thing – JESUS CHRIST. And there is a Name given to Jesus Christ in the Book of Revelation – “His Name is the Word of God” – Rev. 19:13 (NIV).
It was not easy. I battled with low self-esteem and depression for a very long time. But slowly the Word of the LORD liberated me from the chains of depression. From someone who thought everything was doomed to fail, I became a believer. The more I read the Bible, the more I realized how much Jesus has done for me and how much more HE is doing in my life. The more I read the Bible, I ‘tasted and saw how good the LORD is’ (Psa. 34:8). The more I read the Bible, the more I understand what love truly is. The more I meditate on His words, I learn what true humility means. The more time I spend reading the Bible, the more I hear His voice clearly. I am who I am because of His Word. That’s something I am not ashamed to confess. The Bible showed me that when I trust in the LORD with all my heart and humble myself in His presence, then HE will lead in paths of righteousness. In the moments of absolute darkness and loneliness, HE has promised ‘never to leave me nor to forsake me’ (Jos. 1:5, NIV) and so far, He has kept that promise.
There are times when I had left His presence. Times when I had made my bed in hell and still the LORD who loves me so much was there with me to save me. In numerous occassions, the LORD’s words have guided me in the way I should proceed. Yes, the Bible is a very practical guide for living. The more I read the Bible, the more positive my outlook has become. The more I meditate on the Word of God, I receive more grace and become stronger. Because the Word of God lives in me, every day is a happy and joyous day in my life.
Today I see young people seeking comfort in everything, trying to find ways so that they are not hurt. Yes, since their hearts are filled with so much crap, they are unable to feel the pain. But that is not a good thing.
I have seen a young fellow finding great wisdom in the quotes of Hitler. Really? Hitler? The guy who killed millions of innocent people and led the world to destruction? You find wisdom in his quotes…!!! That’s really wrong.
I have seen teenage boys finding courage in the deeds of a dacoit, Veerappan who terrorized three state governments for 20 years. He was a smuggler and a murderer. At age 17, he committed his first murder. He murdered around 170 people, killed more than 200 elephants and smuggled around 10,000 tonnes of sandalwood. And today, the youth find courage in him. Really? A murderer and a smuggler is your hero?
Remember what you fill your heart with is how your life is going to be. So, ask yourself – what is your source of comfort? What is your source of strength this day? Fill your heart with the Word of God and you will see the transformation in you. You will see a positive change in your outlook towards your life and the world. You will see that your presence gives hope to others. You will notice that people around you are going up in their lives, encouraged by your words. For out of the abundance of your heart, your mouth speaks. May your heart be filled abundantly by the gracious Word of our LORD. Amen.
Oh, by the way, the Bible does not tell this earth was created in 6000 years ago. It was a misinterpretaion by Christians who are overzealous in their defence of the Faith that does not need a defense .
HE (Jesus) must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less. – John 3:30 (NLT)
In the Gospel according to Matthew, Jesus Christ says that there is no one greater than John the Baptist, among those born of women. (Mat. 11:11) In the same Gospel, Jesus also proclaims that whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. (Mat. 23:12) If we consider these two verses together, we will realize that John the Baptist had humbled himself the most, because Jesus exalted him above everyone else. Yes, John the Baptist had only one goal in his mind: “HE (Jesus) must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” (John 3:30, NLT)
When the Bible first mentions Elijah, he starts right away with his mission.
Now, Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years unless I give the command.” (1 Kings. 17:1, NET)
It is clear from the later verses, that it was the LORD Himself who gave this power to Elijah. But in this verse, only once Elijah uses the Name of the LORD, but gives more prominence to himself – note the prominent “I” . Contrast this with how Moses approached Pharaoh.
Moses… went to Pharaoh and said, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says, “Let My people go, so that they may hold a festival in My honor in the wilderness.”” (Exodus 5:1, NLT)
The contrast is evident. Moses does not mention anything about how the LORD God has chosen him as the leader of His people. He does not talk about how the LORD has promised to do great things through Moses. All he talks about what the LORD wants. But Elijah was not talking about the LORD. He was talking about himself. He was talking about how powerful he is, but he did not mention who gave him that authority.
Why did pride come into a prophet like Elijah? Elijah was standing before Ahab, the worst king of Israel ever had. He and his wife were abominations in the eyes of the LORD and they were serving false gods. But Elijah was righteous by his deeds. He was not bowing before false gods. He was serving the true living God. See how he proclaims… “As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, WHOM I SERVE…”
Oh dear child of God, when you see other Christians who are not as faithful as you are, do you get angry? Do you look down at people who do not share our faith? Remember it is not our deeds, it is the by the grace of the LORD and the blood of our Savior Jesus Christ, we are saved. We stand as righteous not because of our deeds, so there is no place for pride in a Christian.
But the LORD did not forsake Elijah. The LORD understands us. We may not understand why we are behaving in certain ways, but the LORD knows our inner workings. And He is gracious. So comes an isolation for Elijah. The LORD teaches him humility. Dear child of God, are you feeling lonely? Don’t fret. The LORD is with you, teaching things that you did not know before, preparing you for great things. Don’t be anxious; don’t be upset about your loneliness. But, listen carefully. In that loneliness, there is something more valuable than gold. And when you have learned humility, and when you humble yourself before the LORD, HE will exalt you as He exalted Elijah before everyone’s eyes.
After learning humility from the LORD, Elijah is a different man now. And it is evident in the way he supplicates before the LORD at Mt. Carmel.
The prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant and have done all these things at Your command.” – 1 Kings. 18:36 (NIV).
What a turn around? From “it will not rain unless I give my command”, “LORD, I have done all these things at Your command.” What a transformation!!! Amen. Yes, dear child of God, the LORD wants to transform you like this, so that HE can use you for greater things that you cannot even fathom. But in all that remember one thing:
The LORD … gives grace to the humble. – Proverbs 3:34 (CAB)
The entire Bible can be separated into the history of two kinds of people: those who are humble and those who are proud. Those who receive the grace of the LORD and those who are opposed by the LORD Himself.
But humility is not something that is well understood. Often poverty, sufferings or a low standing in the society misunderstood as humility. There are poor people who have so much pride, more than Bill Gates would ever have. There are people who have suffered immensely, but the moment the cloud of suffering leaves them, they show their true colors – a heart filled with pride.
To understand humility better, we need to look at the Biblical characters that are exalted by the LORD in a different manner. We look at Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David and many other heroes in the Bible and we associate different reasons for why the LORD exalted them. Abraham with faith, Isaac with obedience, Jacob with perseverance, Joseph with purity, Moses with determination and David with worship. But beneath all these, there is one underlying quality in all these great people – HUMILITY.
The story of Elijah, the prophet who won mighty spiritual battles and who was taken into heaven in chariots of fire is given in the Bible for three reasons.
Reason.1: He is a man just like us. Often when we read the Holy Scriptures, we read with such awe and wonder about the heroes of the Bible, that we miss the entire point. Their stories are there to inspire us, to tell us that when we humble ourselves in the hands of the Almighty LORD as mere vessels, HE will use us in the mighty manner as He had used the heroes of the Bible. And, the Bible is very clear about how Elijah was just like you and me. “Elijah was a human being with a nature as we have (with feelings, affections, and a constitution like ours)”, says the Bible (James 5:17 AMP). Oh, dear child of God! Are you feeling unworthy? Do you resent your life? Are you battling with depression? Did you expect something and those expectations were burned to the ground? Elijah went through every single one of those emotions. Yes, the life of Elijah is there to edify our life, so that we emerge as victorious as Elijah did.
Reason.2: Just like us, Elijah had problems with humility and the LORD taught him humility. His story is there to tell us that though we may have problems with pride, when we surrender ourselves to the LORD completely, when we confess openly that we are having trouble with humility, that we are a little proud at certain areas in our life, the LORD is not going to abandon us. Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd, HE is gentle and humble in His heart. When He knows that His sheep has problems, He will take that sheep on His shoulders and carry it to the destination. All you need to do now is just give yourself completely to the LORD who cares for you, to Jesus Christ, your Savior. When you do that, Jesus Christ Himself will be your Teacher and will lead you in the ways of life everlasting. Amen.
Reason.3: Finally, the reason why Elijah’s life is mentioned in the Bible is to show us how the LORD exalts when someone humbles himself before God. The name “Elijah” is always associated with power and mightiness. And Elijah did not reach that place in one day. All he did was humble himself before the LORD and in His grace, the LORD exalted Elijah before the eyes of everyone. Oh dear child of God, are you despised now by your family and friends? Are you being mocked for your failures? Humble yourselves in the mighty hands of the LORD and He will exalt you in the proper time. (1 Peter 5:6)
Bible Verse: “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.” – 1 Peter 5:6 (TMB)
“Oh the LORD Almighty, God of Elijah, as I stand before You today, burdened by failures, shortcomings, depressions, bitterness and resentments, LORD, I humble myself. Without You, my life is meaningless and void. All I am asking for is Your grace alone, LORD, Your grace alone. In Your grace, remember me, Your bondservant. I ask You this in the Name of my Savior and Your only Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.”
When I got admitted to University of Pune for my MSc., my family was more scared than thrilled. There were two reasons. Just two years before that, religious riots that shook the entire India took place there. And the very next year, a devastating earth quake literally shook the place. And now I was going there. I wonder why my family was not that thrilled?
The night before I was scheduled to leave for Pune, I could not sleep at all. I am going to a place where they speak languages I have never heard of. My English was sketchy, at the best. I had no dressing sense whatsoever. My family had no money. Most of the time, my monthly pocket-money was Rs. 10. That was all I could get. And for the first time in my life, I was going to be at a place where I would be in minority – culturally, religiously and language wise. And I was leaving everything behind at home – all my friends, relatives, everyone. It was not easy. As I lay awake, questioning my LORD Jesus about His plan for me, there was a song going on in the old tape recorder I had. It was a song by Fr. S. J. Berchmans. It is a song about dedicating your life to the LORD our God Jesus Christ. In that, these three verses particularly spoke to me at that moment. These are the lyrics in Tamil.
What it means is, “Wherever You want me to go, LORD, I will go there and in Your Name, I will succeed.” I felt such a divine presence at that moment, and the peace of the LORD that transcends all human understanding went through my mind.
Today are you feeling down because you are in a place where you don’t want to be? Are you afraid of your future? Are you terrified because you are not sure what is in store for you? Dear child of God, I don’t know what my future holds, but I know Who holds my future. How about you? Do you know who is in charge of your future? Have you given your future in the hands of the LORD our God, Jesus Christ, completely so that you have nothing to worry any more?
But when I went to Pune, it was not a rosy road ahead for me. Initially all I could feel under my feet were the thorns that were in the roses. Today, I see students having trouble with their studies, facing problems in understanding the situation around them. I understand what they are undergoing. Because I went through something like that.
To begin with, I had language barrier. Only there I realized that my English, indeed, was horrible. Students from my state avoided me like a plague. Hey, I don’t blame them. I was an embarrassment during those days. No one wanted to be associated with me. One look at me, you would want to stay as far away as possible. I lived in a hostel where 40 of us were living and we had one toilet and one bathroom. Are you complaining about your living condition? Trust me, you are in a much better position than I was in. So, I had to wake up at 4 in the morning to use the toilet and the bath room. And, man, the water would be so cold and to take a bath at 4 in the morning in that water – it was terrible.
To make matters worse, I ran out of money. So my breakfast would be just a tea and two biscuits. Then I had to walk from Deccan Gymkhana to the University. Fortunately for lunch, I had already paid, so I had some food. But if it was a holiday, there went my lunch too. Evening, walk back again and I would have one more tea and two more biscuits – my supper.
Oh dear child of God, are you afraid of what is happening in your life? Are you scared because of financial trouble? Are you afraid because you have no one to turn to? In your eyes, do the circumstances look insurmountable? Don’t worry, don’t fret. There is a living God who cares about you. Jesus loves you more than you can fathom.
I was breaking down internally. Depression was setting in. But I kept remembering those three lines that God gave me that night before leaving. I kept singing those lines again and again. Then, came the final blow.
There was this student, a very nice student, a pleasant guy – except he had one small problem. He was (I don’t know if he is still) very fanatic about his Marathi roots and his religion. I have nothing against that. Hey, I am very particular about my roots and, yes, I am very passionate about my religious beliefs. He kept pulling my leg in front of the entire class. He would make fun of me all the time. Soon, I became afraid of going to the classes. And finally one day, he called me and asked me why do I believe in my LORD Jesus Christ. He reminded me of the fact that there were five of us Christians there in the first year then, but not one of us were top students. He also pointed out that, actually, that according to the merit list, I was the last student in the class. He laughed at me and said few things in his language that were funny, I guess, because everyone else laughed.
That evening it rained. I remember that vividly, because as I was taking my long journey back to the hostel, I was crying and I was thankful that it was raining as no one could see my tears. When I reached my room, I prayed that the LORD do something about what happened that day. I asked the LORD that one of the other four Christians should become toppers in the department and prove that the LORD I believe in lives. As I prayed, the LORD gave me this verse:
“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the Name of the LORD our God. They brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm.” – Psalms 20:7-8.
And, my life changed. Not immediately, I had to face many more problems. But slowly, the tide changed. Where I was made fun of, where I was laughed at, where people questioned me about my educational standing, where I prayed that the LORD make one of the other students to be the top students, in His eternal grace, the LORD Jesus Christ chose me to be His vessel. I became the topper and two years after, as we were waiting for our Farewell function to begin, the same student came to me. He held my hands and told: “Patrick, now I know that your God lives and that He is with you.”
I had nothing to trust in there. All I had was the Name of the LORD our God, Jesus Christ and the LORD made sure I stood upright among them. My people will not be ashamed, proclaims the LORD and HE did not let me be ashamed.
Are you facing many problems? Are people teasing you, laughing at you? Don’t you know what to do next? Are you afraid that you would be a loser, that you would be a laughing stock for everyone else? Oh, dear friend, trust in the Name of the LORD our God. Trust in the Name of Jesus Christ. HE will strengthen you, He will rise you up and you will stand firm by His strength.
I also have to mention four people who were like angels sent by God to me during that time. Kailas D. Gore, who gave me a shelter during those difficult times. Vaishali, my rakhi sister. It is impossible for me to explain how much Vaishali and her family mean to me or how much they have helped me. It is beyond words. Madhavi, the first South Indian who gave the first genuine smile, filled with kindness. And, Naren, who took me under his wings and stood for me. And of course, there were others too. But these were the ones who cared for me when no one did. Thank you very much and may the LORD bless you all abundantly.