Monthly Archives: December 2015
As I wrote earlier, the more I read the Bible, the more I realize how vile I am and how I need Jesus Christ more and more. But there is something that is more amazing than ever.
That Jesus Christ considers me as a friend.
I remember asking one of my friends from my college days once about how I was during those days. He was not one of my friends, he was my best friend. He simply answered, “You were quite hard to deal with.” I was hurt severely as I did not expect my best friend to say that about me.
But what he said was true. I was and to some extent, I am still quite hard to deal with. But that is the outward part of me. What about the innermost part of me? If he thought I was quite hard to deal with when he saw only the outward part of myself, what he would think if he had known how vile I am.
Somewhere I read, “a friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.” And knowing what I know about my self and its sinful nature, I don’t think anyone would be friends with me – except Jesus Christ, the Word Incarnate, the Son of God, Immanuel.
Jesus, the One without sin. And my self, filled with sin. Yet He chose to call me His friend. And He chose to lay down His life for me.
Yes, I understand that He has to shed His blood for my salvation. But He did it because He considers me as His friend. More amazing than I thought.
The more I realized how vile I am, the more I realize how much I need Jesus Christ, my Saviour. I always knew that Jesus Christ had to die for my sins. I always repented for my outward actions, my thoughts and my words.
But never repented for who I am. Even when I start to repent, the monstrosity that I am, sort of strikes me with fear. How much my self rebels against the Word of God is something that I had no idea before. And suddenly the fear of being rejected by God loomed in my mind.
It is then I realized how much I need Jesus Christ in my life. How much I need His suffering at Calvary and His death in Cross. And the Redemption He bought by His own blood. Suddenly, it becomes clearer how much I need Jesus Christ and His Sacrifice on the Cross.
As the end of the year is approaching, I am trying to catch up with my Bible reading. But instead of making me feel better, the more I read the Word of God, the Holy Spirit is making me realize how vile my thoughts and how reprehensible my words and deeds are in the light of the Holy Scriptures.
I thought I had the measure of sin in me. Did not realize how wrong I was all these days. But reading the Bible has made me realize to what extent sin is deeply rooted in me and how extensive is its spread in everything I do.
I have read Romans 7:24 many times and to be honest, I had never understood the full import of the meaning of that verse. Even now, I don’t think I can tell with confidence that I know what the apostle is talking about. Probably I have scratched the surface of that verse and oh man, it is scary and disgusting. I don’t know if the LORD is going to take me deeper and deeper into my heart to make me realize how horrible it is deep down there.
All I realize is that for once, when I read Romans 7:24, I can truly say along with the great apostle, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”
I am writing two blogs back to back on celebrating Christmas. Because the Sunday service this week had confused me so much. And I am venting out my confusions on this blog. Thank You, LORD, for this outlet .
This week, our Pastor asked us a question: Why do you want to celebrate the Birth of Christ? We thought hard and answered very “spiritually” deep answers. Because Jesus came to save us. Because Jesus saved the world from the clutches of sin. Because Jesus left the presence of His Father and our Father, His God and our God, to be with us. We went on and on like this. At the end of all our “wise” and “very insightful” answers, the Pastor said that we all had answered in a very generalized manner and none of our answers are correct. We were stumped.
Then the Pastor asked, what change the birth of Christ has brought in us – that must be dealt first to celebrate Christmas. If someone wants to celebrate Christmas, this is the question he or she needs to answer first. What kind of impact the birth of Christ has on me? How my nature has changed? Is my old man of sin dead completely? If not, I should not think of celebrating Christmas. This is what he said in a nutshell, except this went on for nearly 45 minutes.
Now, what confuses me is, everywhere, the church celebrates the birthday of its pastor, the same pastor. But never once, he had asked us: why are you celebrating my birthday? What kind of impact my birth has on you? How has your nature changed because of my birth?
Also, every year, our church celebrates many birthdays, especially of young kids. Their parents arrange for huge parties, where it is our pastor who leads the celebrations. But never once, he asked the kids’ parents, why are you celebrating the birth of your child? How did the birth of your child change you?
So, why is that we celebrate our birthdays without asking such “insightful” questions, but when it comes to celebrating “the good news of great joy which will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10), the birth of our Saviour, we have to ask so many questions?
Why can’t we just celebrate it? Why can’t we just rejoice without asking too many questions? Why can’t we partake in the praises of the Heavenly Hosts and those shepherds without asking all these questions? Why can’t we just be filled with joy that the Son of God decided to be with us, instead of always focussing on our deeds? Christmas is not about us. It is about the great grace by which the Son of God chose to become Son of Man. It is about Jesus Christ. Let us rejoice.
I grew up in Catholic Church. Many thought (including myself) that I would become a Catholic priest and be a defender of papacy. But one day, the LORD Who chose me when I was in my mother’s womb, met me in His grace. And it took me many years for me to accept that I had followed tradition over the Word of God.
Naturally, “once bitten, twice shy”, I have been wary of teachings that are not in the Bible or teachings that use the Bible only when it helps them. And here comes my confusion about Christmas. Actually, not about Christmas, but about certain pastors talking about Christmas.
I know that Jesus was not born on December 25th. I also know that neither the Bible or the early church celebrated Christmas. Yet, I don’t mind celebrating Christmas on December 25th, because it is just a date where we remember the Birth of our LORD. If someone does not want to celebrate Christmas, that is fine with me. If someone thinks it is wrong, that is also okay with me.
But I have a problem with an attitude that Elijah pointed out eloquently: how long will you falter between two opinions? (1 Kings 18:21). Because it is causing me real headache over last few weeks with certain preachers saying things as if those words are divinely inspired.
They make it clear that celebrating Christmas is un-Biblical. We should not be celebrating Christmas, not waste money on dresses and feasts, they are categorical about that. Then, they tell how we should celebrate a “meaningful” Christmas. This is where my first point of confusion comes.
If celebrating Christmas is un-Biblical, does it become Biblical when we add the adjective “meaningful” before Christmas? If I celebrate Christmas and if someone wants it to be meaningful, I understand. But when you categorically deny that celebrating Christmas is so wrong, how can you justify a “meaningful Christmas”?
Also what confuses me is that the same preachers ask us to prepare for the New Year celebrations. And that stuns me, because if I remember correctly, and I may be totally wrong here, the Bible never asks us to celebrate the New Year. Neither the Old Testament, nor Jesus Christ, our Lord or the Apostles and the early Christians had celebrated the New Year. But, for these preachers, New Year celebrations are so Biblical and God-appointed. When I question them about this apparent contradiction, their answer is: that the saints of the church have been doing this for generation. In other words, it is tradition.
So, why is celebrating Christmas, based on tradition is a sin, but celebrating New Year, based on tradition again, is holy? I am confused. Very confused.
During the Chennai rains, something bothered many Christians. Madras has probably some of the biggest churches in India and the near silence of those churches during this season of hardship was, to say the least, baffling. Especially because the churches are getting ready to celebrate the “Season of Joy”.
Especially one church is very active in Social Network, using Twitter and Facebook to spread news about its activities. However, the church is also notorious for not being involved even in the matters of its own church members. Because as they say, their job is to spread the Word and nothing else.
But, I thought, this time, it is different. It is a disaster in an unprecedented scale. It is declared a national disaster with nearly 10 million people affected directly. As I followed their Twitter and Facebook accounts, I saw something so cold, it gave me shivers.
The rain and the flood were mentioned only twice in their account. The first one was on December 1st, when they had a record rain which broke the highest rain fall the city had ever had well over a century ago. In that, it was mentioned that the Tuesday service is cancelled because of the rain. That’s all. The worst part was there were some “Christian” souls who felt very disappointed that the service was cancelled as they were planning to catch the service online – when an entire city is flooded, they were disappointed for not able to watching a sermon, sitting in the comforts of their homes abroad. Welcome to this new form of idolatry.
The next mention was on December 5th, Saturday night.
There was no mention of the victims of the flood. Because most of its members live in those affected areas and are affected directly. But their response is… we are here to preach the WORD.
Hmmmm, then I opened the Bible and saw something very contrasting. I saw Matthew 9:36. Where it says Jesus Christ had compassion on seeing the multitude. Compassion. Sad that those who call themselves as Christians do not follow the example set by our Lord and Saviour. We may do many things for Christ, but if we do not have love, we are nothing (1 Cor. 13:2).
The whole world is having trouble with ISIS, terrorism and separation of Muslims from terrorism. For me, life was much simpler when I was growing up. My town, Vandavasi, has both Hindus and Muslims in equal percentage. Christians are the minorities in our town, yet we never felt like minorities. I mean, we are never treated like one. During my school days, I had friends from every religion, every caste and every background. Except, at that age, I never knew that we are supposed to be different from each other.
Then the 1990s happened. Suddenly religion and caste became a big thing in determining who your friends are. Even if they are your friends, “trusting them” is different. To be honest, it never bothered me, for some reason, religion and caste had no effect on me. I believe in Jesus Christ and I believe in the humanity He created.
And I have some wonderful friends from other religions and I have some wonderful memories too. So, when people started using the word “terrorism” as a synonym for “being Muslim”, I was very bothered. The Muslims I knew hated terrorism as much I do.
Once I ended up antagonising an entire church, because one of the believers said, “Though Abdul Kalam (former President and probably the most respected Indian of our generation) is a Muslim, he is loyal to our country” and I disagreed with his statement strongly. It meant as if a Muslim being loyal to India is an exceptional thing.
I have many Muslim friends and I have taught many Muslim students. Sometimes I am asked by others – do you know if they are loyal to our country? My answer is – why should I? Why should someone be asked to prove his loyalty to his country just because he belongs to a different religion or caste?
So, when Madras, our state capital was flooded for the last few weeks, my heart was filled with joy to hear that many Muslim brothers are helping many people who are stranded, and what I heard from some of those who were helped was – they got the best help from their Muslim brethren.
Whether it was food or dress or any other help, the best was given by their Muslim brothers and without any fanfare or selfies or any sort of advertisements to their generosity. In the shadows. Behind the curtains. Their compassion to the suffering human beings is such a beautiful thing in this world torn apart by terrorism and ISIS.
And I am hearing the same people who were critical of Muslims, uttering admiring words about the generosity of their Muslim “brothers”.
I had read in few Christian magazines where the pastor or the evangelist claiming that they are just in their thirties or forties, while they are actually much older than that. What they mean is how many years have passed since they have been saved.
It made me think as it was on December 7th, 23 years ago, Jesus Christ met me on my way to destruction and saved me. So, I thought I would say proudly that I am 23 years old.
Then I thought about all the mistakes I have made, all the sins I have committed, the times when I left my LORD and wandered around, the times I ignored His counsels, the times when I tried to outsmart Him and everything… suddenly I realized three things.
- It may be 23 years since the LORD met me and saved me, but I am still a babe who needs his diapers to avoid soiling himself.
- I am ashamed to realize that after 23 years, I am still there, where I started. But more importantly,
- I am amazed to realize that after 23 years, Jesus Christ is still here, holding my hands, waiting patiently for me to take my steps in the Way.
For His mercies endures forever and ever. And no matter what baby steps I have to take, I know that my LORD is holding my hands and I will keep moving to attain the goal for which He took hold of me 23 years ago.
Please pray for Chennai (still Madras for me), the state capital of Tamilnadu, my state. In all these years, I have never seen anything like this. No one is prepared for a deluge like this. And though thousands are saved, there are millions more marooned. And there are still thousands of children, handicapped people and visually challenged people waiting for help. Families are waiting for potable water, food and shelter. Please, please, pray.