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Safety or Authority?

Before we can accept salvation in Jesus, we need to accept his authority. If we cannot accept his authority, accepting his salvation means nothing.

Why do I say that?

Just look in the Bible. You’ll see that in his early years Jesus spent a lot of time helping his disciples understand his authority. The miracle in Cana where he turned water into wine. The miracle on the boat where he calmed the sea. The anger in which he turned the tables of the money changers in the temple, and with authority claiming they are polluting his Father’s house. With authority, he spoke in front of a grave and Lazarus who was dead for days, came out. Jesus told Pilate, with authority, about his kingdom from the above. On and on it goes.

Years ago when I started reading the Bible first, I came across this statement – “I am the way, truth and life. No one comes to the Father except through me”

I was stunned. I felt challenged. My faith was not in this Jesus, and it was not acceptable to me that he is the “only” whatever he claimed to be.

You know who else was challenged the same way when he heard that God the Father has given all authority under heaven and earth to his Son? Another of God’s created being, an angel, who we call Satan. Just so you know, the concept of Satan (or Devil) is not just  a biblical concept. Even in my previous faith he was referred to as “Saitan”. Now, we did not think much about him. But the concept was there. Even the concept of heaven and hell was there – it was called “swarg” and “narak”. And also the concept of “sin” and “righteous acts” – called as “paap” and “punya”. How interesting when I hear that Bible has these concepts, whereas most of other spirituality is much richer and “evolved” than this – and even read claims that such concepts are just not necessary and even missing from some of the great spiritual scriptures and teachings. It is not so. In any case, I digress.

But, for a good reason. All these concepts are pervasive across many major spiritual teachings – it is just that they are not emphasized much. And the Bible does. The whole case of biblical scripture rests on these concepts. Why are these aspects of spirituality considered irrelevant or overrated in these times?

I attribute the success of making them irrelevant or overrated, to Satan. Here’s how it goes – If you start taking these concepts seriously, you’ll want to be relieved from them. For example, you’ll not want to be called a “sinner”. You’ll not want to go to “hell” or even accept that hell exists. You’ll not want to be called the “son of the Devil”. And so you’ll want to be either “saved” from them or make them so irrelevant that they do not really matter. And it is promised that Jesus will take care of all these. At least that is what is being shared when the “gospel” is being shared. And so Satan has successfully made Jesus Christ the god of small things. He has not only done that, but on top of that he has made sure that it is what gets heard the most and preached the most. Let me explain.

The “gospel” that is usually shared is this – Because of the Sin of Adam, which was disobeying God and eating the fruit (by the way, the fruit is not apple) that Eve gave him, man lost the relationship with God. He lost the connection. And we all are born in the same sin nature as Adam. Hence we all have lost the connection – because we disobey in the same spirit as Adam did. Nothing different than Adam. So, even if we do not eat the fruit and disobey God, in God’s eyes we are in the same state as Adam was after he disobeyed. And hence our punishment for this is to be forever disconnected from God. To suffer death. Not only that, since God is righteous and will judge our lives on the last day, he will not see any righteousness in us. Hence he will throw us into hell. And now enters Jesus Christ. He took the same form as Adam did, but he remained obedient till the end. His obedience cost him his life, our judgment that God poured on him. And so, if I trust in Jesus Christ as my savior, God will receive me in Christ as “clean”. He will consider me to be clean from all sin, and I will be allowed into heaven. And I can be in the presence of God forever – and not be tormented in the fires of hell.

I call this the Gospel of Safety. What is wrong with preaching this gospel? A lot. Really a lot.

I am not saying it is not biblical. It is. But it is only “half” true. Sadly, it is the only thing that is shared as the complete “truth”. And even more sad is the fact that this is what being shared as the “gospel” 99% of the time – on TV channels, in street evangelism, in one-one-one relationships, in crusades, in scores of booklets and pamphlets that promise to show you the way to heaven, and on and on it goes.

It is scriptural that Jesus came as a substitute sacrifice, for our sins. It is true that he died on the cross and paid the price for “all” of humanity. It was a once and for all done deal for everyone. And it is also true that there is no entrance into heaven for sinners. One of my friends recently said – “sin is overrated”. And there is truth in that. Yes, it is overrated. And for a reason. Because it has been over preached. And Satan has been successful in connecting it with Jesus Christ, so well, such as no conversation that a follower of Christ has can begin without that or somehow come to the question of sin. If Satan can make sin irrelevant, he can make Jesus irrelevant. If Satan can overrate sin, he can overrate Jesus.

But the most important fact that comes before all this is that Jesus is The God. He has total authority over this universe. He is the ruler of our lives. He is The King. All creation is held in him. We live, because he lives.

And we do not have enough courage to proclaim his Gospel of Authority first, before we proclaim his Gospel of Safety. The reasons for not having the courage are these – it will cause divisions, severe relationships, and it will cost us everything we hold near and dear – including our life!

We want to start “safe” and then get to the more “dangerous” part. We start with giving our life to Jesus because he died for our sin, but I truly wonder if we ever accept his authority over our lives. And if we truly do, our lives will not be the same. Because Jesus said so. He said – “you need to die before you can have life”. You must be born again. And this is not just the “born again” that we have seen and heard for past hundreds and hundreds of years. It actually starts with “death”. Unless we die we cannot live. And we are told that we need to die to “self”. That is true but I am not sure if we truly understand what it means. More importantly, we need to die so that nothing, absolutely nothing, will have authority over our life. And when we die that kind of death, that’s when Jesus says, “now you can come under my authority with a life that I will give to you” – what a challenge Jesus throws at us!

I am glad nobody preached me the gospel of safety. I would have never understood the kind of authority Jesus wants to have in my life. I would have never understood what carrying my cross daily, as Jesus asks me to do, really meant.

Coming to Jesus Christ through the gospel of safety will do you no harm. It is not wrong to start preaching safety either. But is imperative that we come to terms with the Authority of Jesus Christ. Otherwise we will not be truly in Christ, so much so that God can pronounce us clean.

We know about the Great Commission that Jesus Christ gave – “go ye into the world and make disciples – baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit” – and scores of movements and missionaries have taken the gospel to the ends of the world in obedience to the great commission. And scores of lives have been “saved” because of that.

But have you noticed that just before those verses Jesus says this – “all authority has been given unto me, under heaven and on earth” and then the Lord Jesus Christ gives the great commission. Oh, how we have missed that in all these years! How we have lost the courage it takes to start with the authority of Christ and then come to his safety.

Don’t come to the cross of Jesus Christ, all broken and burdened by your sins – or even with your questions. Come to it with all the “authorities” that rule over you – your faith, your culture, your relationships, your pride, your sins, your career, your ambitions – and be willing to exchange it for the Authority of Jesus Christ over your life. And if you are not willing to do that – write off Jesus Christ from your spiritual pursuit. At least until you are willing, again.

And only then will you experience death and start a new life. And it will not turn all rosy overnight – Salvation in Christ is not just a one-time experience, it is a life-long journey (more on this in a subsequent post). We are continually being saved – so as to realize the authority of Jesus in our lives from time to time. My natural bent is to not accept his authority and resist it from time to time. But the more I understand the reality of his authority, the more closer my footsteps will be – to his.

Step by Step, help me Lord, to see who truly is the Lord in my life. And give me the courage to share your authority, first. This is my earnest prayer.

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Jesus in the Zoo?

Yes, the title seems childish. Well, it was inspired after a  book I was reading to my daughter few days ago. Here’s the general story from the book we read:

There is this nice family living on the countryside, on their own farm, nestled near a forest area. There are big, tall trees surrounding the farm, and it is quite a wild countryside. The family consists of a Grandpa, a Papa, a Mama and a small boy – maybe 8 or 9 years old. There are also some neighbors – around 10 families or so, living in close vicinity.

Grandpa and Papa go hunting each day, deep into the forest. One day, a Big Bear shows up and scares the Grandpa to death. Papa shoots the bear, and the Bear dies. Grandpa is scared, the Bear is dead, and Papa is sad that he had to shoot the bear. Sad.

Here comes the twist – the Bear that was shot is a Mama Bear. She has a small baby Bear, now orphaned.

Papa comes home and shares what happened with the family. They all decide to be more careful around the house. They also alert the neighbors. Everybody is watching out for Bears now.

After a couple of days a small baby Bear shows up at the boy’s window, while he is fast asleep. The boy wakes up due to some noise outside his window. Finds the baby Bear and brings him inside. The baby Bear sleeps nice and cozy with the boy. In the morning the boy wonders what to do. He finally decides to tell his Papa. After he tells them about the baby Bear they all get furious. But the boy pleads and begs, and agrees to do many chores in return of being allowed to keep the baby Bear. Papa finally agrees.

The boy grows with the baby Bear. They become the best of friends in the whole world. They spend lot of time playing, wandering in the forest and having fun!

The Bear has now grown almost 5-6 feet tall. He goes from house to house, and causes lot of headache to the neighbors. He eats their small chickens, he breaks their fences, he walks into their barns and messes everything up, and he even scares their horses. When the bear was small everybody enjoyed him. But now as the bear grew and started wreaking havoc in their lives, turning their comfortable lives upside down and causing lot of headache, neighbors kind of get upset with the family, the Bear and the boy. Even Grandpa gets upset because the Bear broke his horse cart one day.

So, Papa decides to have a chat with the boy about putting the Bear to sleep by shooting him. It will be dangerous to let the Bear go loose. The boy becomes very sad at the thought of killing his best friend. Instead he promises Papa to take the Bear far away and leave him in the wilderness. Papa agrees and the boy and the Bear go on a journey. After walking many hours they come near a rocky place. The boy says his last bye-bye and leaves the Bear. Both of them are in tears.

To the boy’s surprise, Bear shows up at his window the next morning! Now what to do? Papa has another chat with the boy. The boy convinces Papa to give him another chance. So off they walk again and now they come near a big wide ocean after walking for miles and miles. The boy gets teary eyed and says final bye-bye to the Bear and walks back home. In the bed, at night, the boy is still thinking about the Bear. What must he be doing now? What did he eat for dinner? After much thinking the boy gets tired and falls asleep.

Next morning, the Bear shows up at his window, again! The boy is very elated after seeing the bear but also sad. Papa talks to him again and gives one final chance.

This time, the boy takes the bear to another place far away from home. They say the final goodbye, give each other a big hug, and the boy comes back home. Next morning, the Bear is back home again!

Finally, Papa has one last conversation with the boy and persuades him to put the Bear to sleep. Papa wants the boy to shoot the bear. The boy becomes very sad at this – but has to obey Papa now. He was given too many chances.

Bear and the boy go into the woods. As the boy is about to pull the trigger the Bear runs away. The boy follows him and finds out that the Bear is about to enter into some sort of a big wooden cage. He runs with the Bear into the cage. As soon as they both enter the cage, the door automatically shuts down and they both get locked in. It was a trap!

They spend the whole afternoon in the cage. In the evening, a big truck shows up and stops near the cage. Few men jump from the truck and are happy to see the trapped bear. But soon, they also see the boy trapped and are really surprised!

The boy tells them about the Bear, that he is harmless and that he is good friends with him. The men believe the boy and take the bear out from the cage. The boy also tells them that his Papa wants him to kill the bear.

The Men talk amongst themselves and give him an idea. They were from the Zoo in the city and had setup the cage to capture some new animals. They suggest to the boy about taking the Bear to the Zoo. The boy thinks for some time and agrees. At least, his friend will not be dead and he can go see him whenever he wants to!

After a few weeks the boy makes a trip to the city to meet his Bear friend. The Bear quickly recognizes the boy, they both are happy to see each other. They enjoy many hours together and the Zoo administrators even let the boy enter the cage. It is a joyful day for both of them!

The story kind of had a good ending – the Bear did not die. But he was caged.

The other day, I was driving back from work. And this story popped up in my head. I asked, have I put my Jesus in a Zoo?

The day I decided to follow the Lord, I knew that it is going to be a bumpy ride. My walk with him in the early days will be fun but as years pass by, he is going to cause lot of problems in my life. He is going to mess my schedules up, he is going to pull me out of my comfort zones, he is going to break my fences, and on and on. And I will try hard to take him far away and leave him there. But he shows up at my window in the morning, every single time!

Finally, I want to get rid of him from my life, even though deep inside I still want him. Maybe, getting rid of him might be the only best option. But instead, the Zoo people show up and decide to take him. That proves to be very convenient!

I can go see him whenever I want and how much ever long I want. I can even get inside his cage and spend some time there!

The next question that I started pondering: Is my church going, like going to a Zoo to see Jesus?

Where is your Jesus? In the Zoo or in your Life, allowed to do whatever he wants with your Life?

Worth pondering, I guess.

Sin: Doing or Being

[Warning: This post starts with some disturbing content – be prepared]

In past 8-12 months, here’s what I came across while reading the news on my phone:

– A father killed all his children, his wife and then shot himself

– A 4 year old boy shot his mother dead because she bugged him for chores

– A father was arrested for sexually abusing his daughter and the state has taken custody of the baby that was born out of the relationship

– A man walked into a house, opened fire and killed 4 people

– Students opened fire at a university campus and then killed themselves

– It was concluded that a mother who had drowned her baby in the bath tub did not know what she was doing

– Some people burnt others alive because they changed their religion

– An entire family committed suicide, including kids 2/4/7 years of age because of financial crisis

– Farmers hanged themselves because of mounting debts and no crops

I have stopped reading the news.

God knows who we are at the core. He made us. He gave us the Law, as we read in the early chapters of the Bible. Some of it is famous, usually known as Ten Commandments, and there are many laws in addition to those commandments.

Why did God give these Laws?

Because he knows “what we are made of”. He knows our being. He wanted mankind to come to a better understanding of ourselves first, and then of God himself, through the laws. But what did mankind do instead?

We took the law and built a system of judging the doing and not understanding the being. And that is exactly what Jesus Christ was saying when he walked the earth. He was taking them back to the spirit of the law and not just stopping at the letter of the law. As he once said – “I know what is in man”. He knows who we are at the core.

And here was the reason why Jesus Christ was killed – he proclaimed this thought many times, “The law will not set you free from your being, but only judge your doing. You need to come to me to get your being fixed. Only I can do that. No one else has the power to do that”

From the list of news excerpts that I listed in the beginning, how do you wrap your mind around them and analyze them in absence of the being the way Jesus explained it?

Our human wisdom is swift to explain that people, like mentioned in the news list above, are not thinking right. Rene Descartes concluded “I think, therefore I am”. He started with an existential question and arrived at an existential answer. What he probably did not ponder is this “Why do I think what I think?” Surely that would have taken him on a different path – and may be he did go that route and found God – and then denied what he concluded.

I have asked this question many times to the Lord – “Why do I think what I think?” and the answer has always taught me more about who I really am and solidified why my search for God ended at Jesus Christ. He is the only one who tells me, without any doubt or hesitation, that he knows who I am and will fix my being – not my doing.

In my older religious background, there is a cycle of living and doing good and bad. The more good you do, the heavier your bag of “goods”. The more bad you do, the heavier your bag of “bads”. On the day of judgement at the end of each lifetime, your bags of good and bad will be weighed and based on the outcome it will be decided what you will become in the next lifetime. You could become an animal or a human being. Only when you become a human being, you have the most chance of doing “good”. And when your human life is being judged, you better be ready with your bag of goods being heavier than the bag of bads, otherwise you will be stuck in the cycle of rebirths and wait for another human birth. Now if your goods win – then you are set free from the cycle of re-birth. And there was a concept of heaven (swarg) and hell (narak) – but it was not clear if creatures were sent there or once they were set free they just roamed the cosmos.

When I was exposed to this teaching as an adult – there was no way I could have grasped this even at the age of 10 – I wondered what happened the very first time when I was in my first “birth” and it was my first opportunity to “think” and “do” something. And then in all subsequent opportunities in the same life. I must have done more bads than goods. Otherwise why would I be born as a human now. And if this is my first birth – then I better make sure my goods outweigh my bads.

Now you see what I grew up with – but I could never internalize this and could never agree that life is just this – trying to do good and avoid doing bad as much as I can.  And of course, fear of god was the motivator for doing good. But at the same time, I knew there is something in me that prohibits me from being my “best” all the time. I lusted, I had pride, I struggled with everything that a single man struggles with, and found that how much ever hard I work I will come short of my own genuine desire of being good. Why can I not be what I know I want to be – as pure and clean as a spring of living water?

When Adam chose to disobey God, His Creator the Father, it hurt the Father most because Adam had not chosen their relationship but the counsel of the wicked (whom we call satan or devil). Adam forgot his relationship with his Father – his being was marred forever. And Jesus restored the human being by his life. He lived in perfect harmony with the Father in Heaven. He gave his all to preserve that harmony. He never let his human being let the Father down – ever!

And so I had hope – that this Jesus will restore my being. He will show me why I think what I think. He will explain to me why I do what I don’t want to do and don’t do what I want to do.

And Jesus has been faithful so far. And he promises to be faithful, until I am ready for Him. He is not in the business of fixing my doing and making me a better christian. He is in the business of giving me blood transfusion and a heart transplant. And when he starts working – all I need to do is get out of his way and let him,  The Master Surgeon – who does not use anaesthesia, work on me.

Consider for a moment – Do you strive to be good? Do you want to be good? Do you want to be righteous in the eyes of God? Then stop praying to Jesus for making you a better person by forgiving your sinful doings. Ask him to work on your being. He is waiting to pick up the scalpel!

What do we want God to be?

We all settle for a god of some sort. For years, my god was what my mother had passed on to me – her god. My father’s god was his work. What is god, really?

I think we all have a god – for some it is as concrete as a stone and for some it is as invisible as air. I started with a stone – and ended up at a person. More on that a little later. But the question remains – What do we want god to be?

Growing up, I adopted my mother’s god and everything that came with it. When in school, I hardly had time to be involved with god in any fashion – sometimes weekend was the time for god. In short, god existed but was not something I gave time to and pondered upon. Years later, when going through college and struggling through various challenges, god became somewhat nearer – started giving slightly more time – but still it was a small fraction of my day to day life. When I started working, older god was soon displaced – work took that place. I was a workaholic – having recently graduated and recruited by a top software firm, I was devoted to work. I did not take even the weekends off . Once in a while I would remember my old god, visit the temple – may be think about god at nights, but just once in a while. This god was not demanding anything from me. I was having my way.

Then one day – relationship with a loved one was what I desired most. Someone who will understand me, will listen to me, will know who I am – and accept me that way. Years went by in search of such a person. Finally, I found her – but for the years when she was not there – the search became god for me.

When making money – and restoring financial peace in our family, I was constantly occupied with money matters. All I thought was money – and how to work hard and get rid of the financial burdens. I was not greedy – but was working hard to earn money and settle the issues. In those days, money became my god.

I had longed for a happy family – where everyone loved everyone. Instead, I had seen the worst – hatred, bitterness,  unforgiveness. There was love, no doubt, but was never noticeable. Circumstances and challenges of life always overshadowed love. Desire for love became my god in those years.

In between was the phase of denial – including the concept of god. I forgot love, forgot relationships and forgot even myself. No existence of god was necessary. The fact that there is no god – became god to me.

We go through life – knowingly or unknowgly – having different gods. Sometimes they are a source of encouragement sometimes a target of our frustration, sometimes rationalization of our common sense, and sometimes much more complicated, like intelligence.

The question was not answered on the night I found Jesus Christ. It’s been answered over past 8 years – after learning to walk with Him on a journey.

As I am learning about God in the person of Jesus Christ – discovering Him, it is becoming clear that God is not something I want to worship or adore or devote my life to. God is. And I have to come to terms with it.

Jesus Christ wanted to be my God. That is why he covered me with His blood – even before I was born.

And once I decided to follow, He started to unfold the mystery of God, in Him. He made it clear that I cannot have life outside of Him. It started becoming clear that I cannot experience God – I have to become one with Him. I have to know Him, as I am known to Him. And this was the most shocking revelation – He wants to Live through Me! The purpose of His resurrection became clear.

This meant, everything that was god to me needed to be crucified. I needed to vacate the rooms of my heart, so the Master of this  universe could live in them. I had to clean them thoroughly. I had to wash them. I had to make sure the place is perfect for Him. But I was incapable of doing so – a realization that followed after many attempts, even after believing in Him. For years, I struggled to stay clean – so God could live through me. And He kept telling me – you are not there yet. What?

Slowly He was revealing to me that I cannot become instantly clean for Him to live in – even though His blood was applied to me. Many aspects of my being needed to be crucified with Him.  I will have to face every ounce of me – He will bring it to my face. And finally, he will give me the power to face my self. And as I understand who I am – He will provide the courage needed to accept myself. The one god I had not faced was the god of self. And he gave me the courage to see that god – and have that crucified with Him. That day was the day of the beginning of His cleansing work.

How many of us have faced ourselves – and have come out clean? Have we seen the god of self?

In many ways, Jesus has been preparing me over the years. The day I received Him in my life and accepted his sacrifice was the day of the beginning of His revelation – and mine. He needed me to come to terms with myself – so  I could see Him better. I jumped on faith in Him – and He has been faithful while helping me see myself – a man of unclean thoughts, unclean desires, and unclean actions. Over the years he has worked on each area.  It has been and will be painful, no doubt.  But the hope of the day when He can say – “Yes, You are ready now my beloved Son” – keeps me going.

I am continually being saved. And it took me a while to grasp that. And it all started when I realized this – It is not what I want God to be. God is.

Just wait for His revelation. And when you see Him, humble yourself and He will be more than happy to start working on you.

Two or One

Back in 2001, when I started meeting with the followers of Jesus in the home based assembly, it must have been around 6 months or so that I started going on Sundays. I started enjoying the worship times, opening up my heart to the Lord in prayer, praising the Lord I loved, and appreciating His love for me. It turned out to be a time of great joy in my heart. I looked forward to Sunday meetings. During the week I went for the prayer meetings, whenever I could. Those were the times when I could pray with some other people – and we met at the same house.

Slowly I was also getting exposed to the so called “christian” aspects of the life that I was experiencing. Let me explain.

Special Language
First came some interesting change in the spoken language, that I was hearing from time to time in my conversations with other believers. The conversations and prayers would get sprinkled with various phrases, that seemed to be some sort of a standard. I started hearing words and phrases, like the following, commonly:

  1. Praise the Lord
  2. By the Grace of God
  3. Hallelujah
  4. Fellowship
  5. Will of the Lord
  6. If the Lord Wills
  7. In Christ

I started wondering, where are these phrases are coming from? To my un-christian ears, they were sounding different. Since I came from a Hindu background, and we never talked in such language before even when talking about our gods, this was something new. To those who are Christians for a long time, or have been born and brought up in a christian home these phrases may not sound unusual. But for me, they did.

I found almost all of them in the Bible.

And then came the questions –

  1. Do I need to use these phrases too?
  2. What do these phrases need to reflect?
  3. If I speak these phrases on Sunday, do I have the courage to speak them on other days when I am not among believers?
  4. Will other believers think differently about me if I do not use these phrases?
  5. Do I need to maintain two spoken languages now – one secular and one christian?

You might say, I am thinking too much about this. Well, I am sort of a person who thinks too much about everything. May be, that is the problem. But these were some honest and simple questions. They were forcing me to evaluate what I am learning in my christian life, especially having no such background.

Simply, I struggled to speak in these kind of phrases. So I decided I am not going to use them.

As I studied the Bible and started understanding the Lord more and more, I realized that it is not the words, but the heart that my Lord is interested in. There could be a time when I may just say these phrases, and get used to them, and not realize that my heart is actually not in the right state that relates with those words. It was extremely difficult for me to naturally utter any of these phrases or words easily in a snap, because I immediately started evaluating my heart and then it would be too late to say those words out loud.

I was not afraid of what others might think. So till to date, I avoid use of such phrases when my heart is not in the state where it reflects what I say. I decided not to learn another spoken language. And here was one of the many reasons that I came to base my decision on:

If I am in the company of people who are not followers of the Lord, which happens many times, will I say “Praise the Lord” if something worth praising the Lord happened? Most likely not. Then why should I say it when I am among believers? Another example – if I want to invite my friend who is not a follower of Jesus Christ, over to my house to chat or spend some time together, will I ask him “Do you want to have some time of fellowship this evening?”. Most likely not.

Is it encouraging to other believers to hear those phrases. May be, it is. But then the comfort could also delivered in conversations where one ends up praising the Lord, and not just using those specific terms.

I wanted to stick with the “one” spoken language I had learnt since my childhood and was comfortable speaking in at all the time, whether surrounded by believers or not, and I decided to stick with it. And then the rest, I left it to the Lord.

Now, I am not opposed to using these phrases – or even trying to pass judgement on those using it. It was something different for me – something additional to what I could say about my Lord – and having spent close to 8 years trying to walk with the Lord and not having to use these phrases, I have come to understand that I do not need some of them. There are some words, like Amen, that I do say and usually when ending a prayer. I have thought about that too. And I have said that word many times, without really meaning it. May be, its time for me to evaluate that too.

Daily Life

The second area in my life where I was faced with a similar “two” v/s “one” twist was my daily life. In my interactions with other believers and also in sermons and teachings, I was learning about the various dedicated times that people spent in their daily lives. Here are some examples:

  1. Quiet time
  2. Study time
  3. Prayer time
  4. Fellowship time
  5. Worship time

I really struggled against this. It was worst than the spoken language struggles. These “times” forced me to think – am I really working on spending time with the Lord?

I am of a nature where I cannot follow a routine. Routines become boring for me. All the years of my schooling, I did have specific times of study, but what I enjoyed the most was long unplanned hours of study times. My father tried to get me to follow a morning study routine for many years, with some serious discipline that involved heavy spanking, but it never worked.

I started reading the Bible and reading other related books, praying and meditating at random times. Sometimes, it started at 11pm in the night and ended at 3-4am in the morning. Sometimes, I went for days without studying the Bible – but continuing to meditate in my thoughts. I would read something and it would stay with me. I did enjoy the planned times of prayer every Tuesday with the group, but my personal prayer life was extremely random. It happened mostly at nights, or randomly during the day anytime I felt like praying.

Here is what I observed my “anti-habits” were emerging as:

  1. Read the Bible any time – the time does not matter
  2. Pray any time – whether I am driving, walking, taking a haircut, taking a bath or just lying on the bed
  3. Meditate any time – mostly during late nights

Fellowship is something I did not warm up to for many years. I liked spending time with most of my non-christian friends, who till this date are my closest friends. I used to visit families from the church, but the true fellowship was happening with my family and my old friends. It took some years for me, to enjoy fellowship with a few christian friends.

What I have come to understand is this – habits are important and they are beneficial. But they also come with a risk of routinizing the act. For me personally, routines kill the spirit of the act. And so I have stayed away from forming habits. Till this day, I do not have a set quiet time, not a set Bible study time and not a set prayer time. I meditate a lot on what I read – whether Biblical or related spiritual books. I constantly “converse” with the Lord – that is my prayer time. I think thoughts of praise, whenever they occur.

I have challenged myself to form habits – but it is like second nature to me. I have decided not to do it. And again, leaving it to the Lord. There is one thing I do want to do – find some time everyday – where I “talk” with my Lord. I know he “loves” it when I do that. The days when I have not done that, I know how the day turns out to be. It is like not talking to your spouse for a day. And I know how that affects my relationship with Uma. I do not want to experience that pain with my Lord. And so I try harder each day to “talk” with Him at least once. There are no special words, no special emotions – just straight talk.

I have been able to live and enjoy my walk with the Lord without forming a “habitual life” for a while – and still enjoying the Lord and growing in His understanding. May be, if I form some of these habits, they will benefit greatly. But is it about me and my habits or is it about my Lord? What habits did the Lord have?

I know the benefits and sometimes I sincerely wish I had some of the time based habits mentioned above. For now, I am continuing with my random life – and most likely the Lord is saying – “I am allowing that”. One thing I am confident and have a clear conscience about – I do not feel guilty about not having these time based habits. I love my Lord and I can give my Life to Him, if He asks me for it right this moment. I am willing to sacrifice anything He wants me to – even my random times with him if that is what the Lord convicts me of. And whenever I have not given Him priority, I have told that to Him, with the confidence that He will forgive me because He knows my heart. May be, that is what the Lord wants from me.

Conclusion

I know most of the new followers of the Lord face such simple dilemmas. And there is no right or wrong answer. There is joy in doing what brings joy to the Lord. And the Lord will constantly prompt us in those areas. We need to be mindful of what we have “actually” become when we follow the Lord. We have become a vessel that He is shaping. It may look like the same clay that the Lord is working with, but the task of shaping is His, not mine. My lump of life just spins on the wheel of His Life.

Jesus Christ and Church

In this post I am trying to look at how I came to understand what “Church” is – starting from early impressions to a later stage (still early years of my walk with Christ). And at each point I had to decide not to get distracted by what I was seeing and observing – but focusing more on more on the Person of Jesus Christ – meditating and understanding Him.

What Next?

After I decided to follow Jesus Christ, there came an obvious question – What Next?

In the bible there are numerous examples of people following Jesus and then all they did was spent time with him – or rather He spent time with them. They walked with him, traveled with him, ate with him, and at times even slept at places where he slept. I wanted to do that – but there was one problem – He was not physically there anymore!

Well, the next logical thing for me to do was to ask Uma, what they do. She shared about how they meet in a house 2-3 times a week. On Tuesday they meet to study the bible together – usually an elderly person from their group teaches something from the bible or they could be reading specific books in the bible – the bible is one book containing many books. They also meet on Thursday for prayer – as a group they pray for various people, events and such. And then they meet on Sunday’s as well. I decided to start with the Thursday prayer meetings.

The group meeting on Thursday had 5-8 people, couple of elderly people, some married couples and few youngsters. The first meeting was a unique experience. I had prayed before – alone. But never in a group. And that too for an hour! It felt great to pray for people’s needs, their problems, talking to God about various challenges, and also sitting quietly meditating when others prayed. I noticed, some took turns, without any planning or guidance and individuals were praying. Some did not pray – including me. I kept going to the Thursday meetings whenver I could – while studying and reading the bible on my own.

Few weeks later I decided to attend the Tuesday bible study. The house we were meeting in was a small one – with maximum capacity of say 20 people. On Tuesday, the group was slighly larger than on Thursday’s but not significantly – and usually Uma’s father and one other elderly person used to teach. I was enjoying the studies and the teaching. At the same time, lot of questions would crop up in my mind – and I would quietly take notes and then if and whenever it worked out – I would try to read the bible and attempt to find answers. I did not find any answers to my questions every time I studied. In some cases it used to take months and months.

In all this I was trying to answers one question all the time though – What does it mean to follow Jesus Christ?

Sunday Meeting

Then one day (probably after four to five months) I decided to attend the Sunday meeting. I have to confess – Sunday was my day of rest. It was the only day where I would sleep till 11am or even noon. Everything started in an extremely relaxed mood. Even taking a bath in the morning was “work” that was not required. I used to enjoy reading the Sunday newspaper – special edition with lots to read. When I was growing up, Sunday was a day of “playing” cricket all day long. We would have first of our many games start around 9am and go all the way till 4pm or so – most of the times without any lunch breaks!

So, getting up on a Sunday morning, early (by my standards) and taking a bath, and going somewhere and spending time with people – was a new thing for me.

The meeting on Sunday was different than the weekday meetings I had attended earlier. The overall mood was very quiet. The meeting start time was 9am – I was there by that time and people were still coming in an taking places. The house was well organized with rows of metal chairs on which two song books were kept – one of English songs and one of combined Marathi/Hindi songs. As people sat on the chair, they picked up the song books and kept with them. Men sat in a separate rows than women, the two camps were divided into two halves of the living room we were sitting in. I also observed that almost all women and some girls covered their heads, either with a long scarf or a white cloth. I had seen my mother cover her head whenever she was in a temple – so this was not something new – but it seemed odd.

After some initial singing, the time for Worship was announced. The songs were new – I had never heard them before. There was no music either – people were just singing.

This was new to me – what does worshiping Jesus mean?

Everyone was quiet, bowing down. Someone would stand up (just men) and then read some verse or a passage from the Bible and pray and say some amazing things about Jesus. Because I was studying the bible on my own, I was able to locate the books, chapters and verses. But there were times when I had to look at the table to contents often to find the book. Sometimes I would just skip finding it and listen to what was being read or spoken. Some men would just stand and offer up their prayers – praising Jesus for dying on the cross. Some would suggest a song and everyone would sing – do not remember if women suggested any songs – I think they did. This continued for forty five minutes or so. Then two men announced that they are going to break the bread and partake of the cup. So they broke a loaf of bread and passed it around. Some people were eating it and some were not. When the plate came to me, I did not know what to do, so I picked up a piece and ate it. Then they passed around the cup with grape juice in it. When it came to me, I took a sip and passed it on. Then there was a collection of money, in a small bag that was passed around. I did not put anything in it and passed it on. Then someone taught a message for another hour and the meeting was over. After the meeting, there were some snacks to share and a cup of tea for everyone. People came to me and were asking about my work, where I live, who I know from their group and how did I know about them and so on. These were mostly people I had not met with on the weekday meetings. I did see some of them who also came to weekday meetings.

I left that day with lot of questions. Why women did not pray? Why only men prayed? Why did women cover their head? Why breaking of bread and partaking of the cup took place? Where does the collected money go?

Next Sunday, I was told not to partake of the bread and the cup, since I was not yet baptized. I did not understand it, but I decided to obey. I skipped couple of Sundays, because I did not know why I could not partake of the bread and cup and did not understand the relevance of Baptism and decided to stay at home instead.

In parallel, I was studying my Bible. While reading the book of Acts, I saw verses about people meeting in homes and breaking of bread. Then I saw examples of people requesting to be baptized after believing in Jesus Christ as the Savior. I also read about baptism of the Lord in the book of John. Then one day, I came to a chapter in Romans that talked about identification of our death in baptism and as we come out of the water, we come to a new life in Christ. This explained some of the aspects of the meeting on Sunday. The night I decided to accept Jesus Christ as my Savior, I was convinced that I need to be baptized. So I called up the person in whose house we meet and told them that I want to be baptized tomorrow morning. He was a bit surprised. Nobody in their group had spoken to me about baptism, why take it and who takes it. So he decided to discuss that with me coming Sunday and asked me to wait till then. The next Sunday he and another elderly person spoke with me and wanted to know why I want to be baptized. I told him that I want to become a disciple of Jesus – and that is what I read in the bible – baptism is what people go through when they decide to follow him. And I want to commit myself to Him and so want to be baptized and thus recognize Him as Lord over my life. I believed it is an action that is necessary on my apart – so that I can break all my bondage to my old faith and life and start a new life in Jesus Christ. And so I was baptized after few months – there were some practical limitations in getting the tank filled with water since it was at some other location and had to be reserved for such occasions. I was not happy about it – because I wanted to get baptized immediately. I did not mind if it was done on a weekday or anywhere there was enough water for me to be immersed. But then I decided to obey the elderly people who advised me to wait till we reserved the tank.

There were some other people from other groups in the city that witnessed my baptism. My Father was there too, but he was neither a believer nor fully understood why I was doing this. Next Sunday I took part in the breaking of bread – and now with good understanding of why it was relevant for me. Not just because I was baptized – I was doing it in remembrance of my Savior and Lord as a reminder of His sacrifice for me.

Early Impressions

I really enjoyed the house based group I was part of. It was an informal setting and I got to know some people really well. There was no official membership or directory of people. There were no formalities, and even though there was some order to the meetings on Sundays, the whole environment of Worship on Sundays felt spiritual. I grew in appreciation of the one hour of worship where men sang, prayed and freely said amazing things about the Lord. Soon, I started standing up and praying and doing the same – poring my heart out as I shared my appreciation for Him. It was a free environment of Worship and Adoration of Jesus Christ the Lord. The issue of women not praying and covering of head was still lingering – but there were some answers given to me by pointing me to some chapters in the letters to Corinthians. Women not teaching was also a puzzle for me, but then I was directed to some passages that talked about women not teaching when men are around in a meeting. It was not that I fully understood and agreed with the views, but at least it was based on some references in the bible and not a general approach of suppressing spiritual liberty of women.

I decided to leave it there and move on to other matters of Faith in Christ. It was soon clear to me that whether or not I find convincing answers to such questions, it has nothing to do with my personal faith and relationship with Jesus Christ as a disciple. I need to focus on that first and let questions like these be answered over the coming years – there was no rush to resolve the matters then and there. May be, because I am a man, I could think this way. For a woman, it may mean something different.

In all the meetings, there was some emphasis on sharing our faith with our family, friends and those who we come in contact with. But there were no formal evangelism programs or activities that the group undertook. The focus for the group seemed sharing about Jesus Christ within the four walls of the house we gathered in and teaching the word of God to the believers who assembled there. There was much emphasis on prayer meetings and bible studies, even though the attendance to such meetings was poor as compared to Sunday meetings. There were some senior men in the group who were called Elders. They usually took the message on Sundays. But there were other men as well, who taught on Sundays. The teachers were usually 35 or above in age – and once in a while there were visitors from another city who took messages. An interpreter would translate the message in another language (Marathi or English) depending on the language in which the teacher was speaking. I also discovered that the kids in the group meet after the meeting is over, around noon time, and sing songs and some women coordinate those activities. This was called Sunday school, I learned. There was no separate Sunday school during the time of worship, may be due to space reasons, since we assembled in a small home, all the children sat with their parents for almost 3 hours – quietly!

As a new believer I found this home based gathering to be very comforting and giving me the space and time to grow in the knowledge of the word of God and Jesus. I discussed some of my views with people in the group. I continued to be quiet and tried to grasp what was being taught – but did not always accept any of what was taught on its own basis but studied the bible. There were times when I had understood a passage in a different way than what I gleaned from what people in the group understood as – but I did not contend or argue on it and kept it to myself. Over the years I have discovered that the Holy Spirit in me is my best teacher and I need to be a disciple of that Spirit and not just of the teachers around me. Lord does use and reveal truths through people, but that cannot replace my personal study and meditation with guidance from the Spirit.

At the end of almost one year – I had developed an understanding of what Church was – it was a group of people who assemble together, encourage each other, pray, sing, say some amazing things about Jesus Christ – and then keep doing that over and over again – week by week.

I had questions – but I left them where they were – and continued focusing on Christ my Lord – understanding Him and getting to Know Him. After all, I had decided to spend rest of my Life with Him – so might as well take time in discovering Him.

Jesus Christ or Christianity

In this post I am going to talk about my journey in coming to know Jesus Christ. It was also a journey of seeing Jesus apart from the religion that is Christianity. The religion of Christianity that the world knows about is predominantly Catholic – very much true about India too. The Protestant movement was not widespread and well-known in India when I was growing up. And the differences are probably not understood even now – mostly due to an extremely secular system that one grows up with. So when I refer to Christianity as a religion – it is mostly what I observed and grew up seeing around me (mostly Catholic). Most of the western missionaries do not understand that when you refer to being a “Christian” or “Christianity” it is mostly understood as the Catholic religion – church buildings, priests, fathers, nuns, mother mary, jesus christ, cross as the wooden symbol with jesus curcified on it and worshipped in churches and homes and sometimes bible as their religious book and so on. Church building is probably in the league of other religious temples and non-christian people might be going to their own religious temples as well as a church – thinking they are just coverinng all their grounds of various facets of god. It is seldom about devotion to the person of Jesus Christ.

One Door to Another
As I embarked on my first job at the age of 22 in July 1997, my family was still together without any logical explanation.

My mom had recovered from her physical problems – but with fewer organs than what she had before. My dad almost wanted to commit suicide given all that he had gone through. My younger brother flunked in 8th grade and we were all wondering what he is going to become when he grows up. I had gone through 4 years of undergraduate studies where all I did was study like a dog so that I could be ranked in the university and make my parents proud. I also went through a major heart break that rattled my world.

I was aware of the financial problems in our family, but was not aware that we have so many loans that it’s a miracle banks were not showing up at our door for money. My dad was juggling all this with a salary that was not even sufficient to pay 2 of the 4-5 monthly payments he had to make. Thankfully, my undergrad studies had not created any additional burden for him in those years as I was using a student loan.

I decided to work hard in my new job and wanted to restore “normalcy” to our family. With recommendations from my boss and friends at work, I consolidated all the loans and then over a period of three years paid everything off. My working hours for those 3 years were 10am-4am on weekdays, 9am-5pm on Saturdays and sometimes work on Sundays. I had not taken any significant vacation in almost 3 years.

Financial situation at home improved. There were no more loans. We were able to have dinner together. But there was one thing missing – love.

Our family had gone through such a struggling time that almost everyone had forgotten to enjoy each other as part of a comforting relation. In fact we had become bitter towards each other – blaming each other for the circumstances – and for me it was easy to ignore all and just focus on my work. My work became my life. My parents never had an enjoyable environment around them, beyond their first 2 years of the marriage since 1975. There was bitterness in the relationship between them due to health and financial issues. But it was my mom who did worked hard to make tomorrow a better day than today. She is a fighter. And I believe the fighting spirit I have, came from her. My Dad was always supportive of her efforts, although he was aware that she is either trying too hard or trying to be far too ambitious than what was possible with what he was earning.

Overall, relationships were watered with trying circumstances and everyone was trying to focus on everything else but each other – the fabric of our family was not only weakened – but rotten.

And here I am – 3 years down the line with no more financial problems – but still wondering what is it that is lacking in our family to make it a “happy” family. Something was missing.

I was still going to my god in all these years – Ganapati. I had to go. At the same time, god was not limited to Ganapati to me. I was aware that he is the object of my worship and my go-to-help idol, but I am receiving strength from the god who was beyond the idol.

I have to confess that I was not driven by a search for god – it was a complex picture of faith – but was working for me. But I was in search of the reason for why our family has no love in it. And so I started looking at other sources.

I started going to the Sri Ramakrishna Math (not math from arithmetic, but a place) – a sanctuary that was on my way to work. I had always wondered what goes in there. So I went one day – and met some of the disciples who work in that place. I purchased some books from their shop – and read them over few months. I was not a regular visitor but did go there once in a while. One day I was talking to a disciple and asked him some questions about how he came there and his family. He refused to answer the questions and said – “We who are disciples here have forsaken our families and all connections with our relatives and have set ourselves apart to serve in this place and study the scriptures that our Guru’s – Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda – have written for us.” I could see the disciples point in that he was on a spiritual journey that goes beyond the bindings of family life and he was able to set himself apart for that journey – and commit to it. He had sacrificed a lot to get where he was – and he was fine with it. Visiting the place on a regular basis and studying with them may transform me – but I could not see how my family would benefit from it. May be, if all of us in the family started going there, we might have changed. I stopped going from then on – I was looking to re-build my family and not forsake them. I was not ready for an individualistic spiritual journey and was not sure if my family will join me in it. The act of setting myself apart and also devoting my life to studying the scriptures of the Guru’s was not an attractive reason either – I lacked the understanding of the purpose of that action. Was it to discover god? Was it to become a better person? Was it to realize that there is god in me and I can become one with it?

Next was a person named J. Krishnamurthy. I do not recall how I got introduced – maybe I was browsing some books at an exhibition and picked one up, read it and bought it. His writings intrigued me. There was something immensely deep and philosophical in them. After reading a few of his writings, I started to understand that he does not believe in any religion or god. His focus was “self”. He wrote a lot of about that – and he wrote about relationships. How to analyze them, why they are the way they are and what is needed to make them better. Honestly, it was always difficult to understand what he is proposing for me to do. I was trying hard to understand what exactly I need to do to experience what he is saying. May be, I was not reading more of what he has written. The little I read of J. Krishnamurthy, I confess that I had to give up on going any deep with it. I gave up because the writings made me question everything – including myself – but leaving me confused on what the answers to these questions were. There were lot of questions already – I did not need any new ones – especially the ones that I did not have answers for. May be, I needed to change the way I looked at things – and people. May be, I needed to start with myself. May be I did not have the brains to grasp all that J. Krishnamurthy was saying and accept that it is not for my level of intellect and move on. I stopped reading J. Krishnamurthy’s writings. My faith in god was too strong to be shaken by his writings and my intellectual capacity was probably falling short of what was needed to agree with him.

The storm named Jesus Christ

In all this, there were a few bright spots – especially at work. I was working hard – and was getting rewarded with salary raises and more responsibility – making me busier. There were also some friendships at work that served the emotional needs I had.

There was one extremely bright spot that came on the horizon – Uma Joshi (I’m married to her now). She joined my company towards the end of 1999. We were introduced by a mutual friend and she was sitting in a nearby cubicle – we did not communicate for almost 6 months after the initial introduction. Later we became good friends, and soon she was the one I was confiding in – she was the listening ear I needed most. And she was patient.

A year later, one afternoon while we were coming back from a game of Badminton, Uma told me about Jesus Christ. I do not recall the exact context of our conversation – but it was something around joy and peace in life. Her statements were on following lines: that her joy is in Jesus. And she calls him the Lord of her life. And she kind of lived for him. The disciple whom I had met few years ago came to my mind. I was wondering if this is same as the Guru thing at the Ramakrishna Math.

And most importantly, I was perplexed about why she was telling about her faith in Jesus Christ to me? Why now?

I listened quietly and then we parted.

I remember not meeting Uma for a week after that. I was thinking on what she had said. I decided to purchase a Bible and so bought the Quest Study Bible, after browsing through various books in the shop. I decided to purchase that particular bible because it had questions and answers on the side margins. Uma had mentioned the bible, but not much about what to read and where to start. All she kept talking was about Jesus – Jesus this and Jesus that. And I wanted to find out who this Jesus is.

I started reading from the beginning – chapter one Genesis. My first reaction after reading the first chapter was like – you must be kidding me! This book was telling me that this entire world was created in 7 days – just by speaking some words. I knew this world was complex than what was described in the first chapter. I could see it all around me. How do I believe this book if the first chapter itself makes me keep it away – for overly simplifying things? And then there was all that I had studied in school about evolution and all – where we studied all the years that were needed to get where we are today. And this chapter ignored all of it and made it happen in 7 days.

There is one thing I decided to do differently than what I had done earlier. I wanted to question everything from the beginning – but then I realized I will never finish reading – I will not get answers and so it will defeat the purpose of reading this book – and so I decided to continue reading even if I had questions. Although I was in a similar boat now as I was when reading J. Krishnamurthy and giving up on reading his material anymore, I cannot explain fully why I decided to continue reading the bible, when I had decided to stop reading Krishnamurthy’s writings. If that reading left me with questions, the bible is doing it right in the first chapter itself.

I remember continuing to read further in Genesis and then reading about Adam and Eve and their sin of eating the fruit. That story also trumped me. They were punished for eating a fruit – that was not supposed to be eaten. But what was the big mistake in that? I kept reading. Then came the pages and pages of names of various people – he begot him and so on. It seemed like having no end – and so I flipped pages to find the chapter where the list of people ended.

Soon I read through the story of Noah – and that was another hard pill to swallow. One ark that will hold a large number of animals, including his family – with none of the animals becoming wild during their ride on waters for 40 days and 40 nights – with Noah having enough food on-board for the entire crew!

After few chapters, I read about the animal sacrifices – wondering how anybody loving and caring can ask for killing of innocent animals.

I stopped reading the Bible.

I met with Uma after a week. We did not talk about Jesus or the Bible and resumed our friendship as if nothing had changed. After few days, I asked more about her Father and Mother. She told me that her Dad had accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord after studying the Bible for almost 10 years, arguing with his friends and family. Uma came from a Brahman family – this is similar to being a Priestly family when one looks at the Jewish system. It must have been very difficult for her father to abandon his Brahman identity and become a Christian – but so I thought. She did tell me that most of her father’s relatives had kind of broken their ties with him when he decided to follow Jesus. And he never asked her to read the bible or ever took her to the place where he used to go every Sunday. It was almost like a secret personal relationship with Jesus.

This intrigued me.

The bible was on the book shelves and I would pick it up from time to time and flip the pages and read from anywhere. Soon I started reading the book of Psalms randomly. Whenever I read anything from the book of Psalms, it was immediately comforting. The struggles of the author were so similar to a lot of what I was going through and I learned that the author of the Psalm somehow got back to depending on or trusting in God. In fact, I used to read the Psalms randomly before I started going to work and it used to affect my day. I soon started emailing Uma what had read and sometimes she would respond.

One day, while flipping the pages of the bible, I came to the book called Book of John. I read first few verses and it was as if I was reading the book of Genesis from the beginning. Therein was the greatest concept that initially thought was a well planned story – the Word being personified and involved in creation of the world!

I remember coming back from work, and continued reading the book of John. The language of this book and the way it was presenting pieces of information about Jesus – it was more of a curiosity than anything else – because I was getting to read something about this person named Jesus Christ.

Soon the chapters became more and more challenging – with an increasing tempo of the exclusive claims Jesus was making. Things like he was born of a virgin, claims like he is from heaven, he performed miracles like healing blind people, feeding five thousand people from a few loaves of bread and fish and such. The hardest claim to come to terms with was that Jesus is THE way, truth and life.

Given my faith in god and my understanding that there are many gods – given my upbringing of tolerance to other gods – I found this exclusive claim by Jesus extremely arrogant. As if, unless you accept him, you have no access to god.

Which god was I talking to then when I was talking to the idol of Ganapati?

Slowly I also grasped the concept of God in three Persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I had seen this triune god concept in the stories I grew up with – with god being the creator, sustainer and the destroyer. But eventually it was becoming clear that God is becoming exclusive in the person of Jesus Christ. He seems to be the only person who is rightly related to God in the Father and the only way for me to be rightly related to God. His mediation was of utmost necessity – outside of him there was no relationship with God. This was extremely hard for me to accept.

But I continued reading while still struggling with this and other questions.

And then one night I read the chapters that depicted how He was crucified and how he was raised. I doubted his resurrection, not his death. How can someone be raised from dead? I had never heard any such thing before. It was impossible.

The description of his suffering and the way he was killed was something I could not grasp. I kept asking – Why was his death necessary? And why in this manner? I assumed there is really something so important to God that Jesus had to be sacrificed. And so the story of Abraham came to my mind – which I had read about in Genesis. It was about sacrificing his own Son – which was a test for Abraham. And I could see that even though God provided a replacement back then when Abraham was being tested – there was no replacement when he sacrificed his Son. I kept wondering what is it that caused God to not provide a replacement.

There must be something that God has either lost that needs to be re-claimed and so the sacrifice. And then it occurred to me. God revealed his nature and desire to replicate himself via the creation – especially through creation of the man and the woman. He wanted a people for himself – those who will love him and worship him with all their heart, mind and soul. And so he created the world. But then, this world became what he did not want. It forsook him. And it followed all other gods but not the one who created them. Maybe one of the reasons his people forsook him was because they had his spirit, but not his identity yet – they were created in his image – but they were not in him. And so God wants them back – but this time he wanted to recreate them. And the only way he can do that is by sacrificing his son – who will live a human life and experience the human life and die as a human being – but be raised as a glorified being. Through his death, he will make the human race that forsook God to die in his eyes (to be nullified of their abandoning of God) and he can look at a new people – those who are now being re-created in his son. Those who decide to follow his son – will enter the process of re-creation. So to start the re-creation of the people God knew will love him and worship him, he had to start with the Word again. And Jesus Christ was that Word. This is exactly what the book of John started with.

Then this meant – what do I do now? Do I follow Jesus Christ – which means I will become so occupied with him in my life – that everything else will becomes insignificant. And how was this different than the disciple I had found in the RamaKrishna Math?

Over next few months it became clear that it is not about me – it is about Jesus. God does not want me to become a good person – he is all concerned only about his Son Jesus Christ. It is him that God has loved. Even though it was hard for me to accept that I am not at the center of God’s desire – it became clear that Jesus Christ is. Which meant – I needed to be in Christ. Which meant I needed to accept that Jesus is the only way, the truth and the life? And I did. Because only in him I saw the love of God poured out for all humanity – but again – it was not about me – but about his Son.

Just to grasp this small concept of God’s love was so liberating – I decided to take the plunge even though I did not have all the answers. I took the leap of faith – which called for some great surgeries that I will be going through in next few years (now looking back) – but I was excited about following this new God. For the first time I had an understanding of God that went beyond who I was. And God became personal to me – in the person on Jesus Christ.

Most of the times our spiritual conquest (if there is a genuine desire) will lead to one of the three – become an atheist, contiue in our parents or family religion and traditions, or become self-focused and start finding the god within. Seldom it ends at a person. And in my case, it ended at a Person – that is Jesus Christ.

Then the next question came. When I follow Jesus, what happens to my religious identity and my day to day life? Well, the answer came soon. I had to completely devote to Jesus or to forsake this new found way. There is no middle ground. And so I decided to change my ways. I told my parents that I am going to follow Jesus – which meant abandoning my religious identity and take on a new identity – follower of Jesus Christ. I made it clear to them that I am not becoming a Christian or changing my religion. I am abandoning my religion and adopting a no-religion stance – just devoted to the person of Jesus Christ.

Here is why I did not want to be called or become a Christian – I was aware of the Christian religion that was a small inescapable percentage of the social fabric I grew up with. It was mostly the Catholic religion. (Over the years I learned that the Christian religion I was exposed to was more of the Catholic Religion and that Catholicism and just a Bible based faith are not the same). There were churches in our city and there were parts of the city where the Christians lived in pockets. I had seen small churches in our cities and even visited one in the US when I was on a business trip. I was exposed to Christian festivals like Christmas, Easter and Good Friday. I had seen some of the Christian people in a different part of the city and knew they dressed differently, especially the women. And I had noticed that most of the Christians worshiped statues of Mary and Jesus and also lighted candles in their homes and the churches. This was not what I was reading in the bible. There was no worshipping of a status or picture of Jesus or any special position given to Mary or even the burning of candles. And I was not going to change my name either – which was common when people became christians or got “converted”. I was not going to start visiting another building – called church – which in some ways was no different than going to a temple that I used to visit before.

But the kind of people I was exposed to via Uma and her bible study group were not the same christian people I was exposed to while growing up. They did not meet in any special building called Church but were meeting in a house. Over next one year as I visited them often on Sundays and other days of the week, I discovered that they do not worship Mary in any special way. They worshiped Jesus Christ and believed that he is the only true and living God. There were some different things I did notice about their gatherings (more about that in the future posts) – but those were peripheral aspects. Jesus Christ was the main thing.

So I was basically debating this question in my mind: Christianity or Jesus Christ?

And I went after Jesus Christ. I did not want another religion.