Showing posts with label God. Show all posts
Showing posts with label God. Show all posts

Friday, January 01, 2016

Ze List v4.0 | Manna for your soul

Yes, it's that time of the year when billions of people around the world, will transcend language, religious faith and borders, to celebrate the end of one year and celebrate the beginning of the next. 

And its time for Ze List.
The world has been changing and so has Ze List. This year, I look at all the ways we survived amidst all the chaos and I hope this serves as a mirror to ourselves and hopefully a way to correct our course for the year ahead.

Our Father..
We clutched at straws of faith for some peace and grace from our heavenly Father.
Since the dawn of time, we have been fighting. 
In the beginning, it was for sustenance and to survive. Today, we fight over perceived hurt and imagined supremacy. 
We fought, killed, plundered. All in His name. Its always a wonderful when we say we are fighting for God, because if someone dares question the supremacy of my God, that qualifies me to eliminate him. After all, nearly all of our religious texts allow us to take an eye for an eye. Do we need a better reason to kill?

Who art in Heaven
We reached out to the heavens, to planets nearby. Our space missions made mammoth strides and we sat back and marveled. It is said traveling, like astronomy, is a humbling activity. It broadens our perspective and makes us realize how puny and futile our thoughts and aspirations are. 
We don't have to search far and wide, because the Heaven of our Father isn't in outer space. It is within you, within each of us. 

Hallowed by Thy name.
Which brings me to why we wanted to kill.
Back in the Middle Ages, Christian armies of the West plundered and decimated populations that didn't share their faith. Ofcourse, they were just doing what was right.
Today, radical Muslims think their brand of Islam should prevail and everyone should be a Muslim. ISIS isn't doing anything that the West hasn't already done in the past. Yet we find this atrocious and alarming. Suddenly, everyone wants to brand Islam evil. Every Muslim is a terrorist and every Christian, the defender of humanity. When did it become evil to be ambitious. 

Thy Kingdom come..
False prophets and doctrines have always tried to predict the apocalypse. The prophets don't want you to read the portion of the Bible that tells us that He will return at a time of His choosing, and at a time when we are most distracted. Major TV networks like God TV have been prophesying the End Times since the last many years. Gullible viewers have been coerced to donate millions because we need to prepare Israel, God's chosen land, for His coming again. I don't have anything against Israel but what about the millions who live in squalid conditions right in our backyards? There are millions who go to bed hungry every single night. There are millions who will die a death that we can prevent within the next 365 days. 

Thy Will be done..
In the many lessons I've learned in the last decade or so, I've realized one truth - We must be obedient to His will, and patient to His purpose.
As sure as we are about the year that just passed, we can be sure that we will all have moments in the year ahead when our obedience and patience will be tested. 
We will have situations that will tempt us to do what we want instead of what He wants. We will have times when we question His purpose and refuse to wait on Him. Today, resolve yourself to be more obedient and patience than the year that just passed.

On earth as it is in heaven.
As creatures that come with an 'Use by' date, we must realize that we will all die a certain death. Not one of us will have immortal lives. Yet, there are people who have walked this earth, whose lives continue to inspire us. People whose lives changed the course of humanity, not by force but by pure inspiration.
So the question here is - What are you doing today that will guarantee you an immortal life? 

Give us this day our daily bread
Many of us are capable of meeting our primary needs of food, clothing and shelter. Yet, as we make our weekend trips to our places of worship, we will drive by people who are less fortunate than us. I find it strange that we are patient enough to sit through a 45 minute discourse on being charitable, compassionate and forgiving yet we can't seem to practice it in our lives everyday. You and I don't pray for our daily bread, but there are people who have been praying for theirs. Are we ready to answer their prayers?

And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us
'To err is human, to forgive is divine' is a phrase that gave birth to a more popular modern mutant - 'To err is human, to forgive is not mine'. 
We might chuckle at the humor of this, but there is more truth to this than we'd like to admit. 
Our species has turned in to one large village where we are just itching to fight with someone, anyone who dare bump into us in the wrong way. Many Western countries (and Russia) have been waging multi-billion dollar wars that sprouted out of nothingness and their perceived sense of hurt. 
The Americans and their allies have been fighting wars since the last decade and half and I'm amazed how futile all their technology has been in getting the job done. The Russians haven't seemed to learned any lessons here.
Is this a good time to remind them that we must learn to forgive more eagerly and earnestly today than to sign a truce to end a needless conflict tomorrow?

Lead us not into temptation
Billions got hooked to consumerism. We are tempted to buy things we don't need to impress people we don't care with money that we could have used for better causes. 
My parents come from a major city in the southern Indian State of Kerala, where until about a few years ago, people lived simple lives. Honest and laid-back lives. People didn't worry about credit cards and loans were something that only the under-privileged and the over-ambitious took. 
Today, people worry about not having that SUV if their neighbor already has a sedan. Families flock to over-sized glitzy malls to gawk at designer brands and gobble on food like they haven't eaten in ages. 
Back in Europe and the West, people and their governments have been slipping deeper into a debt that threatens to pull in anyone else who will lend an helping hand. 

But deliver us from evil
ISIS isn't the only evil of our times. ISIS is just the collective expression of millions of people who have suffered from oppressive Western governments. Governments that have discriminated and persecuted Muslims for years, because it was the easiest thing to do. 
Today, Western citizens depend on their governments to protect and deliver them from evil. If results are anything to go by, this is but a false sense of security. 
As Indians in India, we don't need to look beyond our shores to understand what discrimination is. Nearly every person living in India would have faced some form of discrimination in their lives and this is true no matter which country you are in. 
We prefer to be cloaked in a false sense of security, rather than in prayer.

For Thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory
In the last decade or so, millions of people have lost their homes and the livelihood and loved ones, because of wars, man-made conflicts, human disasters and natural calamities. Recent statistics show that there has been a 100% increase in the numbers of refugees, in the year 2015 alone. Governments refused to open their homes and their borders to this exodus of humanity. Countries that were built on immigrants didn't want anything to do with this human crisis. 
These are the same countries who will talk eloquently about compassion and charity. 

For ever and ever..
I don't know about the 'forever' part of my life. I don't know when I will be taken off the shelf because I reached my expiry date. Millions of people who will party to welcome the new year will not survive to party by the end of 2016. Our earth, on the other hand, will outlive and outlast every single one of us. How we treat our earth will reveal our true inner-self. 
Because we can't depend on governments to do our hard work. 
Because unlike us, our politicians won't have to live through the consequences of their decisions. 
Because earth is the only place we can survive on, let's make our stand here and now.

I hope you've all had a wonderful learning experience in the year that just passed and I pray that we all survive to read my post next year. 
Personally, and as always, I have a lot to thank God for this year. 
'Hold the Thought, Get the Point' successfully transitioned into a blog where I write posts on spirituality as opposed to social and political satire. 
While rankings slipped, I am finally glad that I am touching atleast some of you through my interpretation of words in the Bible and I hope to inspire you to touch someone else's life too - in your own unique way.


Sunday, November 01, 2015

Life's Greatest Secret Revealed | Manna for your Soul

Over the past couple of months, I've been meeting people from all faiths and one of the common questions I hear is 'What is the meaning of our life?', 'What is the purpose of our being on this planet?' 

In the Bible, the book of Psalms is perhaps one of the most evergreen prophetic verses in the old testament. Psalm 92 talks about being fruitful at every stage of your life. 
Psalms 92:12-14 tells us how God has a plan for your life and a way of using you*. 

You could be a Hindu, a Moslem, a Sikh or a Christian. No matter what we call Him, we are but clay in His hands. The true test of a believer is when you live your life as if it were your last. 

In the past, every time I was in a difficult situation, I'd curse God because I felt He was not protecting me from evil. Like a capricious child, I would fret and frown about why He abandoned me. My daily prayer time would be another opportunity to blame Him and justify myself and promises to be good and do good and offer more tithes. Sounds familiar right?
Over time, I realized that Gods sovereign rule will reign over our lives and He positions us exactly where we have to be at that point of time. 

The bedrock of Christianity is - Continuous spiritual growth and fruitfulness does not come automatically. But then again, if you look carefully this is the foundation of all religions too.

In John 12:24, we read about how to be fruitful we have to die to this world. Surprisingly this explains the fundamental beliefs of jihadis and religious fanatics. What this scripture actually means is to detach yourself from the tentacles of this world so that you can be truly spiritually fruitful. To be selfless, start with being less selfish. 

Social scientists have proven that each person has a direct influence on 20 different people. Over the past several years of blogging, I've made good friends with people from around the world. Anonymous people who share my views on several things. Now, I've never met these people, but the bond we share is no less strong. Today as I write exclusively on spirituality, I feel I am finally getting to do God's will in my life. But I was not always this way. 

It took years and months for me to get to this point where I could write about His word. 
Like bamboo that takes months and weeks to build roots and Palm trees that take 15-30 years to be productive, as a young believer I needed years of TLC from Him to get to where I am today. As a writer, this is how I serve Him. 

And the best part is - God promises us that whatever we do in His name will flourish. How powerful is that!

Verses 13-14 tells us that He is willing to use us anytime and anywhere. Looking back, I can now see how he has used me when I was going through painful separations from parents and loved ones, and I now realize that He put me through this so that I can now speak about it and comfort those who are going through pain in their lives. 

Author and christian minister Matthew Henry wrote 'The last days of saints are sometimes the best days and the last walk the best walk'. 

So why is He giving us all this? Surely, there could be something that He wants from us, right? Yes, there is. 
Like a parent who gives everything to their child but wants nothing but unabashed and unconditional love in return, God wants us to glorify him. That's all! In all that we do, He wishes that we glorify Him. 

Today, if you are wondering how He can use you where you are at this moment, consider this thought - Trees are not planted by accident and mountains are not an anomaly. You don't have to be a theologian. Like everything in nature on earth and in the little we know but cannot fathom and the vast universe of what we do not know, you are not an accident. Why?
Because if God could place us on a planet that was just the right place at the right galaxy on the right constellation on the right universe, then He surely has a massively grand plan for YOU*. 

God gives us the reason for lively praise for his goodness towards us and whether you are young child growing up or an old person into your sunset years, know that the best is yet to come when you let Him.

*But are you willing to let Him use you?

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Righteous! | Manna for your Soul

The way of the righteous person 
I don't know about you, but I feel everybody today think they are righteous. 
The papers are filled with news of people who are angry at other people and people who want to protest against something or someone they don't believe in. 

We are all guilty of succumbing to righteous anger every once in a while. 
But sometimes we go overboard. Way overboard and that's when it gets toxic.

So, what is that fine line? Thankfully, the Bible has just the advice we need. 
Psalm 1 talks about righteousness. 
Breaking down the verses in the Psalm, we'll see there are 3 laws.

First the Law of dissociation
The wise man will guard his path and will have stability, grace and prosperity.
Say kind words and be considerate. 
On the contrary, the evil will become empty, futile and forgotten in time. 

Lawrence Peter "Yogi" Berra, the famous American baseball player once said 'If you don't know where you are going, you won't know where you are when you get there'. True story!
Matthew keeps talking about the blessed man and about how the wise man will know how much of the world he needs in his life. 
Jesus has always preached and practiced how we must never allow ourselves to be of the world.
Because when you associate yourself with the ways of this world, your spiritual journey slows down. You'll realize you begin to walk with sinners, stand among the corrupt and sit with angry men.
Over the last couple of years, roasting celebrities in public have become vogue. Instead of talking good about people, our culture is  slowly turning into one where we want to talk bad about people and enjoy it.
Like how Eve did in the garden, calling ourselves Christians will not absolve us of our sins when we begin to compromise our values.
Like the story of the frog that gets cooked to death, what used to make us feel guilty about is now widely-accepted because we are now accustomed to declining moral and spiritual values. 

The second law within Psalm 1 is the Law of delight (Psalm 1:2-3)
A righteous person is someone who waits on the Lord.
They are spiritually grounded and know who they are. 
They know the Lords word and yes, they are prosperous in everything they do. 
Like the headlights of a vehicle that lights the darkened path ahead, the word of the Lord is a lamp to our feet.

In my years of struggle, I've prayed. Sometimes more earnestly than other times. But yes, I never stopped praying.
Over time, I've felt I was being pulled to Him like like the roots of a tree that reaches out to a water source (Jeremiah 17:8)

The third and final law is the Law of division (Psalm 1:4-6)
We may say Christ Christ and sing glorious hymns to Him and call ourselves everything holy, but those who have not acknowledged God in everything they think, say and do, from them the God will depart.
Matthew 7:23 says 'He will say - 'I never knew you. Depart from me'. Oh how shattering will that moment be! There won't be a greater sense of gloom, despair and hopelessness than when He tells me that I am not welcome in Heaven. 
But for the person who loves the laws of Christ (Joshua 1:8), getting to Heaven is just the beginning of everything joyous - Matt 25:33.

Its our choice. And that will have everything to do with how and where we will be on the judgement day.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Life Extraordinaire | Manna for your Soul

We all have jobs to do. Some like working for a steady salary at the end of the month, others like the possibility of making their own fortune and then there is a third set of people who love neither. 

One of the most endearing quotes I remember growing up was something my dad told me - 'Never ever shirk from work. Make hay while the sun shines, because a day will come when you won't have the strength to earn nor the will to starve'. 

In his 40 plus years as a researcher, he never took a day off. 

The Bible is replete with instances of apathetic, dodgy and freeloading scumbags that we are all familiar with. When we see someone with a congenital disease or illness, we are quick to dismiss him/her as reaping the wages of sin. Yet, we rarely see how afflicted we ourselves are. 

Today, I'd like to draw your attention to one particular story that has always caught my attention. 

In John 9: 6-7, we see Jesus had just finished telling his disciples, and anyone who'd hung about him that as long as He is here on earth, He is the Light of the World. 
Perhaps He said this just as a prelude to what He was going to do next. 
Jesus spits on the mud, makes a clay patch out of the spittle and places it on the eyes of a man who was born blind. 
He then asks the blind man to go to the pool of Siloam, wash his eyes and return. 
Easy peasy!

I can almost picture this scene. People around Jesus would have wondered why he had to make a clay when He could simply place His hands on the blind man and his sight would have been restored. Surely, Jesus did far greater miracles until then.

I can imagine how the people may have groaned at the fact that Jesus spat on the ground and made a clay and placed the spittle loaded clay on someone's eyes. 
I can also imagine how the people would have wondered why Jesus is asking a blind man to walk a certain distance to do something he could have done right there. Surely, the man would have had a pitcher of water close to him.

But through all of this, many theologians forget to honor the blind man's faith. 

This man has been blind all his life, and probably has been hearing a lot about the Man who can do miracles. So when Jesus was finally within earshot, he must be been visibly elated and waiting for 'the touch' that can cure him. Probably give him his eyesight in an instant. 
So I can only imagine how disappointed he would have been when Jesus asked him to go wash the clay off his eyes to see again. Nevertheless and unlike many other people in the Bible, the blind man did what he was asked to do. He never questioned, he never mocked Jesus nor asked for any proof of concept. 
He simply obeyed!

Much earlier, in John 2: 7-10, Jesus asked the servants of the house to fill 6 jars of 30 gallons each with water. The servants might have wondered why they were being asked to do something they already know they should do. This was part of their job description after all. Yet they still decided to obey Him. What followed is hailed as His first great miracle. There is also another reason why Jesus chose to start His ministry here - Throughout the Bible, water is symbolic of life. And He wants us to know that just as the very touch of Jesus converted water to the finest wine in the wedding at Cana, only He can turn  an ordinary life into a life extraordinaire. 

Everytime I faced a problem at work, I've taken inspiration from the Colossians 3:23

We are allergic to work. We have an inherent need to oppose the mundane and chase the elusive. We drag our feet when we are asked to do something normal. Maybe that's why our problems exist. We expect extraordinary solutions to ordinary problems. 

Obey wholeheartedly. Be patient to His purpose in your life, and He will fill it up to the brim. Even though you won't understand how you deserved it.

The glory is His. The privilege of being a part of His life is ours.

Monday, October 12, 2015

A brutal way to die | Manna for your Soul

This post is long due and delayed because of the amount of research that went into this. 

A couple of weeks ago, I polled people about 'the most brutal and violent ways to die' online. 
I got a deluge of responses and many were simply shocked that I would ask such a question online. Some were curious and others were quite scandalized that I would even think of something like this. 
Many thought I had way too much time in hand, but I still did get a lot of interesting answers. 

Many believed a person would die a violent death if he/she is slowly and painfully tortured until life gives up. I didn't think it would be violent to be slowly and meticulously tortured, because while the physical injuries can be shocking, the body's capabilities to withstand and tolerate pain gradually increases to a point where the victim is either completely numb from the effects or has lost sensation in that part of the body and no longer is dying a brutal and violent death. 
Others thought, being shot or decapitated was a gruesome way to die. I doubt this qualifies since the speed of a bullet piercing or an object slicing through the body is so fast that many times, the victim won't even feel pain and may get dizzy and die only because of excessive blood loss. 
Some even thought burning/lynching is a good way to die hard. I don't think burning is painful enough, because our body releases endorphins and morphine to combat the pain the moment the top layer of the skin is signed. In most cases, as in instances where people die trapped in buildings on fire, the victims faint because of smoke inhalation and are not conscious when their bodies are completely charred. 
Personally, after witnessing how my dad valiantly fought cancer, thought accidental irradiation and lifestyle diseases like cancer and the prolonged treatment of radiation was the worst way to die. But my dad only got exhausted after weeks of painful cycles of radiation and at the end, he was happy to leave. Radiation isn't the worst killer here either.
But then a Jewish reader gave me a very interesting answer. One that answered several questions I had in my mind. One that brought back images so gruesome that people rarely talk about it anymore. 
Crucifixion. It was a brutal combination of some of the most painful ways to die.

The name brings up images of Jesus and his last moments on the cross. 

First used among the Seleucids, Carthaginians, and Romans from about the 6th century BC to the 4th century AD, Crucifixion was invented by the Romans in 300 - 400 BC as punishment for the most serious of criminals. The upright wooden cross was the most common technique, and the time victims took to die would depend on how they were crucified.
Jesus was the last known person to be sentenced to die on the upright cross, and in the year 337 AD, Roman emperor Constantine abolished Crucifixion. 

But how did the Crucifixion kill? Historians and theologians have agreed that Crucifixion is and shall remain the most gruesome, brutal and painful way to die. A quick search online for how crucifixion kills will tell you that suffocation because of the inability to breathe when
the victim's arms are stretched and nailed to either sides, massive loss of blood because nails are driven into major veins/arteries, over-exposure ultimately leading to multiple organ failure. In most cases, death would come before endorphins kicked in and many times, soldiers would break off the legs of the victims so that they died faster. 
Remember this was after the victim was sentenced to a pre-determined number of whips/lashes, which always had barbed wire or nails at the ends. With flesh exposed and the skin peeled away, the body will be going through a cycle of pain, shock and numbness until he/she is finally (and fatally) nailed to the cross. Let's also remember the victim didn't have a valet service for their cross. They often had to trek with their own crosses to the top of a hill. The victim would be laid down on the cross, their arms stretched out and nails driven into their wrists (severing the arteries and fracturing the wrist bones), their feet stacked upon a pedestal and nailed and then hoisted to an upright position on the perch of the hill for the rest of the country to see. The victim is then left conscious until they suffer from multiple organ failure, because they cannot exhale or inhale with arms pulled out of the sockets and unable to lift their bodies because their legs are broken, the victim is brutally aware of the way his/her body 'shuts down' and gives up. (Source: How did crucifixion kill)
Sometimes, victims were given psychotropic drugs/alcohol to prolong and multiply the brutality the body will inflict on the mind. 

See, now this makes sense to me. As a Christian, I now have a renewed sense of awe (if you may call it) and reverence to the amount of suffering that Jesus put Himself through. Christians are told that Jesus died for our sins. Yes, He did. It truly was the most brutal way to go. It was the only way to atone for generations of sin. Like a ginormous sponge to soak up a trillion liters of water, God realized that crucifixion was the only way possible to 'buy out' all our sins. 

If you've seen 'Passion of the Christ' or any other equally realistic portrayal of the Passion, you'd have wondered why He was put through the brutal lashes, the need to justify Himself, the moments where He was mocked, the fury from the crowds, stand the scathing insults from high priests and finally the sense of loneliness that He went through. Like some atheists would have questioned, this is something I have wondered - why the Crucifixion. Because that was how it was at that time. Today, as we hear of justice being denied or delayed merely because the law chose to thread a path the media and public chose, I am pained. 
As millions solemnly commemorate the way a nation put one innocent Man to a death He didn't deserve,  do you feel a eerie sense of deja vu?

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Your friendly Navigator | Manna for your Soul

The Israelites were redeemed from slavery in the most epic way. 
When I read through the Exodus, I am astounded with the way God would soften and harden the hearts and minds of the Pharaoh until the moment they were let go. 
As a young child, I would ask myself why God would harden the heart of the people that He was trying to rescue His children from?
Then as I grew up, I understood why - If there is anything worth having, it is worth fighting for. God wanted His children to fight for their rightful place in His kingdom.

But the fight was not over yet.
The Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 long years. Even considering the time it took to travel the physical distance between Egypt and the promised land of Israel (about 400 kms), this was an inordinate delay. Why didn't they just ask for directions?

This is exactly how our lives are as well. When I am driving to new destinations, I program my destination on my GPS. Sometimes, I take a wrong/incorrect turn and the navigator lady politely 're-routes' and tell me how to go back to the correct path. When I fail to follow instructions, she simply 'finds a new route' and gives me the route to follow to get to my destination based on the road I am on at the moment. Unlike a real human navigator, she is never rude, she doesn't get frustrated and ask me why I didn't follow her instructions and she won't yell at me for taking a left turn when I was supposed to just go straight. Sometimes, I end up lost. That is when I realize I should have backtracked and followed the route I was supposed to take in the first place. Argh! The aggravation! 
After a couple of cross-country misadventures, I've now laid my trust on the friendly, polite voice from the GPS. Because I have realized the GPS doesn't lose anything if I don't follow instructions. The instructions are for my benefit. 

God is pretty much like this. 

He got us out of the slavery of sin centuries ago. He promised us the land of milk and honey. But we still haven't reached our destination! 

We tend to lose our way among the by-lanes and back-alleys of sin. We ignore the little voice that guides and plans our route to salvation and end up in a tangled web of our own making.

So who do you look to for direction?
Of all the stories, two of the most astounding stories of determination are in Mark 5:21-43.
We see the story of Jairus, a patron ruler of the Galilee synagogue, who is asking Jesus to come with him to heal his daughter who is very ill. Now, Jairus is probably one of the top 10 powerful people in the empire at that time. Someone very powerful and used to having people trip over themselves to serve him. He probably didn't even have to come personally to ask Jesus but could've sent his servants. Let's also remember that Jesus wasn't exactly the darling of the synagogue. But Jairus did the unexpected and came to Jesus himself, and asked him to come and heal his daughter. And this takes humility and tons of faith.
Midway through this story, Mark tells us about a lady with a serious illness. She probably had abnormal vaginal bleeding for many years that made her an outcast in the society. Having heard of the miracles Jesus has been performing, she follows him. 
She knows she is not worthy to have a conversation with Him. All she wants is to just touch any part of Him. 
The moment she touches His robe, she is healed! 
And Jesus realises that someone has touched Him (with faith), stops to recognize and validate her faith.
Later, Mark wraps up the chapter nicely by demonstrating how Jesus raises Jairus's daughter from the dead. Only because Jairus and his family believed.

This is a rare form of faith. Something that we don't seem to possess anymore. 
We are a very visual generation of people. 
We can't seem to focus on God if we don't have an idol or an object in front of us. 
We don't believe in miracles that we don't see. Seeing is believing, they tell us.

One of the remarkable thing about this chapter is how humbling life really is. 
Jairus and the Lady with the gynec problem are people from 2 ends of society. Jairus would have had legions of people at his command. And the lady was shunned by the world. Yet, disease and despair struck them both. By catering to both their needs, Jesus shows us how His Grace is enough and more for all the problems we might have.

He is moved by the Jairus's faith who requests (instead of taunting) Jesus to heal.
He marvels at the faith of the lady, who didn't want anything else, but to touch His garment. 
Having millions of followers thronging by Him, touching His robes would have been something millions of people would have done almost daily. But the Bible talks only about the Lady with the continual flow of blood, because she was the only person who touched Him with her faith. 
I can only imagine how word of this could have spread and how millions would have gathered just to touch His garment and be healed but returned disappointed.

Today, Christians around the world believe touching an idol in a church or dabbing some 'holy' oil is going to heal their sickness and rid their misfortune. Wrong.

Jesus is the ONLY way to redemption. He won't yell at you if you take the wrong turn. He just re-calculates your route so that you can return to Him. 
Now the choice is yours - Do you want to turn back and take the right road to Him or do you want to take the much longer, windier, uncertain route and end up getting lost?

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Trust me - Trust Him | Manna for your Soul

What are the 3 most important things you cherish in a relationship?
What are the 5 most important traits you look for in a person?
What are the 7 reasons you dislike someone in your life?
Chances are the common trait in your answers to the 3 questions above would have something to do with 'trust'. 

A couple of months ago, India or atleast the inflammable and socially-networked part of India erupted in self-righteous angst when a young lady posted a picture of a man who 'outraged her modesty' at a traffic stop. Her facebook post spewed enough venom to sedate a nation. And fall we did. Fast forward a week later, the truth leaked out. Jasleen Kaur did it for 15 minutes of fame. So while she can argue she did achieve her goal, I ask - 'At what cost?'
I doubt if someone will ever believe her again. In a nation where women have been given the rude end of a short stick for decades, an ill-thought stunt like this only spoils the fragrance for the rest of them. 
In doing this, she broke our trust in women, in our belief that women will use the law only in good faith. 

The Bible is replete with teachings of trust. So are most other books of religion.
Whilst some advocate you to 'finish off' a person who betrays your trust, the Bible tells us to be aware of the person who could break your trust and move on. Proverbs 14:5 & 26 tells us 'A faithful witness will not lie: but a false witness will utter lies... A true witness delivereth souls: but a deceitful witness speaketh lies.'
I'm sure you know of someone who fits the description of a false witness. A deceitful witness. 

Our parents tell us not to lie and we repeat the same when we are parents. Yet, popular culture has somehow made it look like 'white lies' are okay and sometimes necessary. 

Even when most religions admonish dishonesty, we love exaggeration and fluff. 
When was the last time someone betrayed your trust because of their lying tongue? 
How did you feel when you came to realize something about someone that wasn't exactly the truth?

Your little white lies are neither little nor white. Like an inverted pyramid, they grow into monstrosities of factual misrepresentations, gross fabrication and deliberate deception. In the end, you won't even remember what was the first little lie you told. But would it even matter?

Which brings me to what I want to talk about - Can we rebuild trust? 
A few years ago, when my ex broke my trust in her, I was shattered. As the deception unraveled, I realized she wasn't the person I knew. No matter how hard she tried after the revelations, I could never trust her again. 'Is this another lie?' was the thought that stayed in my mind.. 

'Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding' says Proverbs 3:5.
You must understand that people who lie frequently only do so because of their unbelief - in themselves and in God. 
We live in times when we are on auto-pilot most times. We know our emails will reach on time, we (think) know that we will wake up tomorrow and head to that meeting, do that chore, watch that movie, go to that trek, be on that date, get that job interview, get that hike and generally be the recipient of all things good in our lives. We believe technology and law of averages won't fail us. 
We panic the moment our lives go off the rail. And that is when we clutch to the straws of our religion.

I know a person who has been going through a lean patch in his life for a few years and he has been dabbling with every ritual there is. He has stopped eating meat (because he thinks vegetarianism is what will win the favor of the Gods), has begun wearing 'lucky' stones on his finger-rings, has tied 'raksha' threads/beads on his forearm and has fasted for over 60 consecutive days. This was months ago and he isn't any closer to 'good fortune' than he was 4 years ago. 
Aren't we all like this? We put our lives on cruise-control but the moment we fly off the smooth roads off the cliff in to the deep sea, we desperately look for God in all things. 

The Bible tells us 'It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.' People of little faith are convinced that this is why they must take refuge in rituals during difficult times. But the Lord also tells us to 'Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His presence continually!' 

So can we learn to trust again? Yes, if we learn to lean on Him and not on our wisdom.

Personally, I've learned more lessons in trust from my pets than I have from humans. 
For anyone who has had a pet dog will vouch, everytime I'd take my pup Snoopy down strange new roads which had a lot of strays, he would trust me to be the alpha dog. He knew I would never let anything bad happen to him. He would walk like he owns the road, because he trusted me. Larger strays would come barreling down him and he wouldn't as much as cower in fear. Because he knew I am bigger than any of the menacing dogs and that I will take care of him. 

We are much more precious to God than any pet can be to us. He walks with us. Most times, He lets us walk without a leash so that we can wander, sniff every scent and explore every sense. But when danger crowds us, we do need to trust that He is bigger than all our problems and their problems put together. 

We are the most precious children of the most powerful God. How can anything be more comforting than this?

Sunday, September 06, 2015

The God Of People You Hate | Manna for your Soul

'They will put you out of your places of worship; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service.
And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me.
But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them. And these things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you.

This is from the Bible, but this could've come from the Quran or the Bhagavad Gita and it would've made sense too. 
Like kids who can pick up quarrels on the most trivial things, grown-up people choose to fight over religion. It's a no-brainer.

While religious persecution isn't new, over the last few years, more people have been killed just because they were Muslims (or Christians) more brutally than every other cause of deaths put together. Most people don't know how bad this is because we aren't living in places like Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, or Somalia. 

A few weeks ago, I watched a radicalized Hindu lady ranting and raving against the Christians in India. She was blaming the 'foreigners' of coming and stealing jobs and opportunities in the land of Hindus. 
The news channel fed fat to the fire by publishing statistics of how the minority communities have been growing since the last decade. Yes, we reproduce too.
Back online, I did a little research on this lady. She was abandoned by her Hindu parents because she was an unnecessary girl child. Was brought up in a Christian orphanage, went to the missionary school and later a Christian college run by the nuns, until she could stand on her own feet. And I had this singular question - Did our backs hurt your knife? 

Many years ago, when Hindu hardliners burned Graham Staines and his 2 young sons to death in their car, his widowed wife forgave Dara Singh and wished he and the mob that killed the rest of her family would repent and be reformed. 

We are all very flammable people. When we rush to lynch a suspect, we need to pause and introspect. 
'So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves..'

Until a few decades ago, the term Mob Justice used to conjure images of the KKK lynching and dragging bodies of African-Americans. Later CNN fed us new images of ethnic cleansing in Africa. In the last 4 years, Indians have discovered the adrenalin rush of a unhealthy dose of mob justice.
Our journalists are public prosecutors, judge and jury. Instead of being unbiased, they regurgitate semi-digested chunks of verdicts into the eager mouths of arm-chair patriots and moral cops. 

Why should anyone suffer because who they worship or not is not someone/something you worship.
We can't afford to kill and we don't deserve to die. 
Which one among you, if your child is ill, won't rush him/her to the doctor in the middle of the night? 
A parent can't bear to see their child being weak, much less die. 
Why can't we extend the same courtesy and thought to someone else's child too?

The God of that man/woman/child you persecute is also the same God you will answer to. Get your act together. Now.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

One God, Much Love | Manna for your Soul

Do you have a lot of things that you are guilty about?
What is your biggest regret so far?
How would you define freedom?
What would make you absolutely happy?

Personally, I haven't exactly been a Christian Jesus would be proud of because there are a lot of things that I am guilty of and I regret. 
Sure, I was born to a Christian family and we did go to Sunday School and followed all the rituals and traditions of Christianity. 
But I never prayed! Infact the only time I remember praying any kind of prayer was 2 days before the final exams. 

Fast forward 20 odd years, I went through my first major relationship crisis. My ex decided to leave me for another man. A much more wealthier man. Our 2 year old relationship and my entire life lay in ruins. That was when I met a Saint and my Pastor. That day, when I walked out of the church, I told myself - 'I am going to let Christ drive from here onwards' and I instantly felt a relief like none other. 
What followed was many painful months of waiting and curing. 
I started praying. On my knees. At first it was difficult. When I would kneel down to pray, and random thoughts would distract my conversation with God. 
Gradually, I realized that it became easier. 

My dad used to pray for pregnant women and expectant mothers, refugees and prisoners and I'd always wondered why we need to pray for everyone else but yourself. It is only when I started praying, that I realized how wonderful it is to pray for a stranger first. He knows what I need, even before and in a much better way I can articulate in. 

Today, I have a fuller understanding of every good and bad thing that has happened to me. Everything that wasn't good was His way of disciplining a child He loved dearly. Everything good - His grace. 
I've been through much more since then, but I know I've been immensely blessed.

Which got me thinking - Why does He love me so much?
Why has He forgiven me for all my sins?
I would read about the events leading up to His crucifixion and I still couldn't understand why he was so upset and 'burdened'. At one point, he cried 'tears of blood'.... How? Why? 
As you go through all the pain and guilt, you begin to realize how much more He went through. We can barely tolerate the pain of one broken relationship, the guilt of disobedience, the burden of sin, the agony of rejection and the shame of our actions. We are quick to ask ourselves 'Why me?' and 'What did I do to deserve this?' fulling knowing the answer in the back of our minds. 

When He asked the same while on the cross, I instantly identified with Him.
Why did Jesus have to die for me? 
Why did He die for you? 
All He had to do was ask His Father to rescue Him and the Heavens would have sent legions of angels to fight for The Son. Wow! That would've have been an epic one-sided victory. 
But Jesus was obedient and allowed this to happen so that you and I can go through crushing pain and still come out smelling like daisies. 

Why did God have to send His only Son to soak up the sins of trillions of lifetimes? 
Because if we as earthly creatures can love our children so much to be ready to live and die for them, how much more our heavenly Father? 
Because Jesus was the only acceptable ransom that could pay for all our sins. 
Because if it wasn't for His sacrifice, no matter what we could do to numb the guilt within, the pain would have lingered. 

How would you define freedom? Today, people around the world are living an increasingly oppressed life. In the US, residents sacrifice their liberties for a life more privileged. And this is not too different from any other country around the world. 
In the Middle East, kings and sheikhs won't encourage dissent. 
In Asian countries like India, Pakistan or China, citizens are only as free as their politicians want them to be. In the southern Indian State of Tamil Nadu, citizens live in the shadow of their elected representatives. When Jayalalitha comes into power, buses are painted in the color of her political party's choice. Giant life-sized cutouts will adorn every conceivable street corner, cable TV companies will switch set-top boxes to one that patronizes her party and her government will reverse or undo every scheme of her predecessor. Any citizen suspected of badmouthing the chieftain-in-power will be disposed off swiftly and discreetly.
In 5 years when her government is toppled by the rival DMK, the entire exercise is repeated.

Christians around the world know who their real King is. But there aren't life-size cutouts. He won't give you freebies to follow Him. He won't force you to forget who or how you have been. He won't compel you to redecorate your house or your town. He won't tell you what you can do or cannot. He lets you make your choices and plan your actions. The consequences are yours to own. And no matter what, He will always love you. You don't need an appointment to meet your King.

What would make you happiest?
For some, more money makes them happy, others material luxuries. 
I started my career earning a paltry 80,000 per annum. While I wasn't discontent, I remember thinking how happy I could be if I earned Rs 2,00,000 per annum. But it didn't bring me any more joy than what 80k a year did. I earn several times that now, but I have learned to be content with more and less. 
Happiness is transient. Joy is permanent. 

Today, we have been divided by humans because someone figured out it is easier to rule over people who have been cut down to size than over humanity united. 
What religions have spared, politicians have destroyed. If revolutions like the Arab Spring is any indication, our world is ripe for redemption.

The Bible says 'Ask and you shall receive. Seek and you will find it. Knock and it will be opened'.
Your turn.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

I have a dream | Manna for your Soul

'I have a dream..' is probably one of the most famous phrases in World history.
Closer back home, more than 70 years ago, Gandhi had a dream too - He dreamed of an India that was free from colonial rule. An India that deserved to be independent then more than ever before.
And then on the midnight of 15th of August, 1947, we won the right to walk out with our heads held high. 
All this because of one man's dream for his nation.

Do you have a dream?
Have you got a goal that you are struggling to reach?
Philippians 3:12-14 gives us the 4 ingredients of a godly dream and I'll sum them up for you here.

Look beyond your present circumstances.
Years ago, when I lost my job in the middle of recession, I couldn't seem to get any calls for interviews. I did have my rainy-day savings that paid my rent and monthly expenses, but the fact that I wasn't getting any offers would bother me. It was then that I had the unique opportunity to raise charity for a lesser fortunate lady that I knew. She was critically ill and needed a lot of money for her hospital stay and treatment. I had the time and the church connections that helped me raise nearly Rs 50,000 for her in one month. 
Think of all the Gods purpose and things you can do despite of what your present circumstances are. I wonder if I would've been able to raise this money had I not been unemployed. 

Need to forget your past mistakes.
Paul, one of the greatest disciples outside of the 12, was once upon a time Christianity's most gruesome oppressor. After the Damascus road experience, he moved from his past mistakes. I can't imagine how guilty he would have felt. But once he accepted God, he quickly discovered how Jesus can forgive you truly and wholly.
Would you stay in a prison when you are guilty and when the President pardons you?
Would you want to stay guilty with your sins when Jesus died for you, because the pardon that our father gives us is good for all eternity.

Forget our past successes.
Don't rest of your past glories. Sure, you have done great and wonderful things in your past, but none of that matters for God. Christianity is a humbling experience. The Bible encourages you to stop living in your laurels and to reach out to those who need the encouragement to take a step higher.
Forgetting what lies behind and reaching for the goal that lies ahead.
Look ahead to the finish lines. Don't look sideways lest you lose sight of your goal. 
Stay focused on the finish line.
Live life expectantly.

The bottomline is - As long as our eyes are fixed on Him, God wants to do the impossible in our lives.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Hypocrites Central | Manna for your Soul

Today, as I walk out of a popular church at Hebbal (Bangalore), I see hordes of fervent and holy Christians pile onto the highway. Each of them desperately trying to get the hell out of there, most of them cutting into lanes of oncoming traffic neither wanting nor waiting for a turn to converge. A short distance away, many of the cars are caught by the cops for speeding. Chances are - they will all bribe their way out of this minor inconvenience. 

Christians have a holier-than-thou attitude about people around them. We have the loveliest churches, the most heavenly choir voices, the most delicious cakes, the most delirious wines and the most bigoted notions about spirituality. In theory, we hate all sins, but we will still break the law without a second thought. We are not programmed to practice anything we believe in. 

Christianity has become fashionable. Celebrities and common folk love to wear the crucifix without knowing the enormous sacrifice it signifies. 

See, this is what bothers me - Hypocrisy. 
Attending the Sunday mass will not magically pull the dirt out of your heart. 
Reciting and repeating the prayer that your pastor tells you will not absolve you of your sins. 
Taking the holy communion will not make you sin-proof, if you are going to repeat the same sins tomorrow.
Singing praises and clapping hands in rhythm will not lull God into a sleep so that your life is charmed. 
He does not need any part of your worldly money. He has riches you and I cannot even begin to wrap our heads around, so if you think you are getting a 'get out of jail free' card by dropping a Rs 1000 note into the offertory bag, you might as well quit now.

Popular fiction and movies have made the phrase - 'Show the other cheek' - very famous. While most Christians take this literally, what God wants us to do is - when someone has wronged you, don't harbor hatred and become vengeful. Be kind. Forgive. Because He forgave us first. Fully.

So what does He want?
  • He wants that we (whether you are a Christian or not) to live a life that is as blameless as can be. 
  • Be humble. Don't swear and plot to teach a lesson against that driver that cuts into your lane. 
  • He wants you to respect your earthly masters - at work and elsewhere. 
  • He wants you to obey the law of the land. Don't speed. Don't cut lanes. Don't bribe/sweet-talk your way out of a traffic ticket. 
  • Say sorry even when it isn't your mistake because Christ loved you first. Unconditionally. 
  • Be faithful and honest to that surly boss at work, because the Bible says so, several times. 
  • Give generously. Not to wealthy churches and millionaire preachers. Give of your money, time and talents to those who can't give anything back to you.
  • Do good, not because you expect good to happen to you, but because you sincerely want to. I see fellow Christians who sit through the sermon and then come out and talk badly about someone else, and with frowns on their faces. 40 seconds before the offertory bag reaches them, they've already calculated how much they want to give. 
Every Sunday morning, we sit/stand through 30 minutes of joyous singing and 45 minutes of sermons almost dying to get out. We may be physically present at the church, but our minds are wandering like little children left alone in a park of swings. We are taking a mental poll of who's there, and what they are wearing. We are making the grocery list in our minds, calculating and recalculating the expenses for the week ahead and thinking about our careers, love-life (if you are single), our cars (hoping no one scratches/dents it), our fuel mileage and expenses, our mortgages, our loans, our salaries, our wardrobes, our makeup, our wish-lists, our travel plans, our holidays, our bosses, our colleagues and the list of things is endless. Our mind meanders through everything else occasionally 'checking-in' to the sermon to nod our heads so that we appear to be holy, and then stepping back out to everything else that is more important. A quick glance at the clock and you realize your mind has been on cruise control for the last 40 minutes. 'Just 5 more minutes', we think. 'Oh, after this I want to go to that biriyani place..' (mentally drooling). 
'All rise for Closing prayer and Benediction' and we are relieved we finished yet another drab ritual and can't wait to get along with our lives.

Christianity needs an overhaul. We need to step back and take a long and deep look at how we've lost the plot. 
Fortunately, the Bible has all the answers for this. 
The only question is - Are we ready yet?!

Sunday, August 02, 2015

FaultFinders Anonymous | Manna for your Soul

I am a writer. 
Yes, that's what defines me. I find writing therapeutic. People who aren't passionate about writing won't understand this
Some people don't share my views and that's fine. I get readers from around the world, and if they don't enjoy my posts they just move on. Or they used to. 
See, I have a real problem with trolls. Complete strangers write utterly mean and disrespectful things about me, or my posts and views. Now, these are the same people who wouldn't dare cross your paths in real-life. The internet is gradually being over-run by faultfinders who seem eager to fight you. Virtually

Proverbs 26: 1-12 gives me the perfect solution to combat these pests - 'Do not answer a fool according to his (her) folly, lest you also be like him (her)...' 
And unless you don't have an online presence, I'm sure you would've faced trolls too. Most people engage them, and this escalates into a full-blown war of words online. Mind you, this wasn't how it was until a few years ago. 

And its not because there is a generation gap. These are the same people who were brought up by respectful parents and were tolerant and respectful online and off when they started using the internet.
And then they discovered the rush they get when they leave a scathing remark designed to provoke. 
Suddenly, I find people more ready and willing to fire and engage. 

Recently a friend and an accomplished writer himself found himself in the midst of being pulled into a war of words. The lady (an American writer herself) was pointing out a typo in an article he wrote and she could have stopped at pointing out the errata. He apologized. But no. She wasn't done yet and said - '.. and you may want to get all your articles proof-read by a native English speaker. Because it is not easy to trust a writer with typos.' Bang! And the ball was back in his court. And this lady had 5 typos/grammatical/factual errors in the Summary of her LinkedIn page.
He could've have fought back but I advised him to thank her for the suggestion and move on, since there is so much at stake here when we engage people who are pressured to find fault in us. Both online and offline. 

When we fight a person online, he/she has the time and luxury of buying time to plan, design and build a comeback. In the meanwhile, trolls bask in the glory of playing to a gallery of (sometimes mute) spectators. But this is not a 2 player game anymore. People may take sides or introduce their fresh perspective into the game. Applause!
Now, this is not what will happen in real-life. 99% of the trolls you find online won't be ready to indulge in lengthy venomous ideological/philosophical debate in person. Not if you are Donald Trump.

While I used to engage trolls online, I no longer do. They are entitled to their views and I mine. I respect the fact that they take the time to read (even though it becomes evident that they didn't read all the way through to the end) and comment. I don't have the time or the vicious fang to pass the venom back. In the beginning it used to bother me that I am not engaging them 'in a befitting manner'. It no longer does. Over time, I've realized this is the best way to deal with trolls and faultfinders  - Leave the game. 

The Bible says 'Nothing you eat can defile your soul. But what comes out of you is what defiles you.'. I've realized the wisdom of these words. 
We take a lot of care to make sure what we eat is right, but not a lot of us are careful of what we say or write online. We have become walking talking fire-breathing dragons, willing to scorch the next person we don't agree with. We need a whole host of rights, but don't think anyone else does. We have evolved into living creatures with an over-sized sense of entitlement - of money, of respect, of opportunities, of space, of individuality, of everything the world has to offer.

Have you trolled someone online today? Stop! 
Have you been trolled by someone today? Resist the temptation and move on. 
Because when we fight back, we expose the chink in our armor. And you wouldn't want the world to see that, would you?

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