Shamar

Clearing up misconceptions about the Christian faith and defending it.


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Wrong timing?

The recent earthquake that shook Nepal left thousands dead and over 6000 injured. It’s a catastrophe that this little Himalayan kingdom must have never imagined it would have to face. Governments, organizations and individuals around the world have rallied around to help with rescue efforts, monetary mobilization and on-ground help in whatever way they can. It’s reassuring to see that the world is able to stop its bickering and set aside its myriad differences to help a country that has suddenly landed in deep trouble.

The Indian government and army are deeply involved in rescue efforts and I say that with no small degree of pride. I have always known Indians to be compassionate and, in a world that’s sliding deeper into chaos, they are by and large sensible and grounded.

Among the various bits of news related to Nepal is also the bit about Christian preachers trying to reach as many unsaved souls as possible under the cover of this catastrophe. Of course, this has been met with condemnation. At a time when people are forgetting political, ideological and even religious differences, how can these preachers and evangelists push their evangelizing and conversion agenda so brazenly? Some of my friends have called them shameless opportunists and vultures on Facebook.

If I were to adopt a secular or liberal lens, then yes, the actions of these men do seem heartless, in bad taste, agenda-driven and inhumane. However, if I were to look through the lens of Christianity, then I, at the very least, understand their actions.

Few religious systems are as focussed and driven by “life after death” as Christianity is.  Jews have no concrete knowledge of it and, in fact, could believe in reincarnation. Islam believes that based on your actions—obedience of the words given in the Quran—you will be assigned heaven or hell. Non-muslims may have to go through a purgatory of sorts before they can attain heaven. Catholics officially have the concept of purgatory. Hindus believe that the soul will keep returning to this life in various forms till one day it lives well enough to attain Nirvana from this cycle. Buddhism again is focussed on Nirvana. Spiritualists say that the basic soul essence remains forever. Those who have lived bad lives will go to lower realms and those who have lived exemplary lives will attain the Third Realm, a place of immense beauty. Every soul, however, has the capacity to slowly move from a lower to a higher realm.

Christianity alone believes that:

  • salvation can only be attained when one is alive.
  • salvation can only be attained through belief in the sacrifice of Christ’s life that He offered on the cross…no amount of good living alone will fetch it for you.
  • death is final and after death there is no activity, no change, no purgatory until the final judgement, where one is sent to heaven or hell.

Christians, therefore, place great importance on evangelizing to people and encouraging them to accept salvation while they are still alive, because after death, it is just too late. There is a sense of urgency that is brought on by this belief. In an earthquake-hit region that is still experiencing tremors and where human life hangs by a frail thread, they feel this urgency even more.

Before you criticise them, bear in mind that they gain nothing monetarily or politically out of it. In fact, most missionaries and evangelists live life in the edge of danger, with indigenous people of a land threatening, persecuting, attacking and sometimes, even killing them, as the case of Graham Staines demonstrates. These missionaries could have lived peaceful lives in their own comfortable and orderly Western societies. They are here, living perilously, as a result of obedience of the great commission.

Yeah, I think I understand the actions, behaviour and motivations of these evangelists. I am sure they are not unaware of the criticism their actions will elicit and the sharp increase in the danger to their own lives in the current circumstances, but they are doing it anyways. So, go easy on them.

Shalome.

For those who want to know more about afterlife as taught by various religious systems:

http://www.victorzammit.com/articles/religions3.html


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The Son of Man by Rabindranath Tagore

From His eternal seat Christ comes down to this earth, where, ages ago, in the bitter cup of death He poured his deathless life for those who came to the call and those who remained away.

He looks about Him, and sees the weapons of evil that wounded His own age.

The arrogant spikes and spears, the slim, sly knives, the scimitar in diplomatic sheath, crooked and cruel, are hissing and raining sparks as they are sharpened on monster wheels.

But the most fearful of them all, at the hands of the slaughterers, are those on which has been engraved His own name, that are fashioned from the texts of His own words fused in the fire of hatred and hammered by hypocritical greed.

He presses His hand upon His heart; He feels that the age-long moment of His death has not yet ended, that new nails, turned out in countless numbers by those who are learned in cunning craftsmanship, pierce Him in every joint.

They had hurt Him once, standing at the shadow of their temple; they are born anew in crowds.

From before their sacred altar they shout to the soldiers, ‘Strike!’

And the Son of Man in agony cries, ‘My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?’

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Rabindranath Tagore composed this poem on Christmas Day in 1939. He was hinting at the war-mongers of Europe.

And in it lies a simple truth. Every time Christians hurt the testimony of Christ through their lifestyles and actions, they cause Him the same pain and shame that He suffered at crucifixion at the hands of those He called His own. 

It applies to all false TV evangelists who speak proud and loud in the name of the Lord, but whose personal lives are messy with money fraud, false doctrines, heresy, false prophecies and immoral behavior.

It applies to church elders who are interested in wielding power through position, who do not regularly examine their own lives in humility,  and who prefer to pander to man-made traditions than accept the truth in the Word.

It applies to Word-Faith and Prosperity teachers who lay stress on giving money to receive blessings, thus downplaying the importance of obedience, repentance, loyalty and consecration in pleasing Yahowah and receiving His blessings.

It applies to the church, whose past has been mired in shameful things like Inquests, Crusades and greed.

It applies to missionaries, evangelists and Christian powers who use coercion and monetary inducements as a means to winning souls.

And it also applies to us, when we live lives that are a poor witness for our wonderful God.

As Hebrews 6: 6: says: If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.

All of these things give outsiders an opportunity to point fingers and say: Look at all these Christians and their behaviour! Is this what their religion teaches them?

There’s not a lot we can do about many of the above things apart from not following and not emulating their poor examples. But we can let the world see Christ’s goodness, righteousness and gentleness through us–our actions, words, decisions and attitudes. I am saying this to myself as much as to everyone else, because I am far from perfect. 

Shalome.

 


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What is Easter anyways?

Easter is around the corner. After a period of fasting during Lent, pious Christians look forward to celebrating Easter with bunnies, eggs and other delicious confectionery treats. Churches plan and organize Easter services and programs, preparing for weeks in advance for everything to go well. It is, after all, a celebration of the resurrection of Christ, His victory over death.

Unfortunately, no matter how good Christian intentions are, Easter is not Christian. The Christian celebration of Easter errs on two points.

1) The festival Easter has nothing to do with the resurrection of Christ.
2) The day the Church celebrates Easter is wrong.

Let us examine the two points a little more in detail.

1) That Easter is the celebration of the resurrection of Christ is wrong.

Many Christians are gradually becoming aware that Easter has ancient non-Christian origins. It was the feast of goddess Ashtoreth/Ishtar/Oestre–a celebration of fertility, a spring festival that celebrated the return of life to earth after a long winter period, perhaps even the return to life of Tammuz, the Babylonian deity. If you want to know more, you can find it here:

http://rcg.org/books/ttooe.html”>http://rcg.org/books/ttooe.html

It is easy to see how this can allegorically get linked with Resurrection, as it is the event of Christ coming back to life after three days in the grave. The plain truth, however, is that the festival Easter has nothing to do with Christ, pre-dates Him and is pagan at its core.

2) The day the Church celebrates Easter is wrong.

According to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, Christ was crucified on the Preparation Day of the Passover, that is the day before Passover. He rose back to life on the third day from then. As given in the Old Testament, Passover is celebrated on the 14th day of the first Jewish month Nissan, which falls in March or April. This year, Passover will be on the evening of 03 April, 2015.

Interestingly, the early Christians celebrated resurrection during the Passover week. Since the precise date changed every year, it led to confusion. The Council at Nicea decided to standardize one date to avoid all confusion. Here is an article to explain that in detail.

http://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/determining-easter-date.html

There is nothing ordinary about the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. He died as the Passover Lamb, fulfilling the important requirement of shedding blood to save lives. He was also our Lamb of Atonement fulfilling the requirement of shedding blood to forgive sins. His blood shed on the cross does both: it cleanses our sins and gives us eternal life. It was not an ordinary day and had taken place fulfilling many requirements and prophecies.

As for resurrection, Christ used Jonah to explain the three-day principle: Matthew Chapter 12: 40 (NKJV): For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. If He said three days and three nights, He meant three days and three nights. Period.

We tend to brush aside inconsistencies in the Bible as “must be something.” For years, I have known that the difference between a Friday and Sunday morning does not constitute 3 days. Rather than find out more or put in a query, I chose to hide under the “must be something” blanket. But God does not ask for blind faith and is open to your queries. He does not get angry when you do so, because He has nothing to be afraid of or hide. If anything, He wants you to understand. So seek and ask, only then will you find and receive.

The dates of crucifixion and resurrection have now become clearer as more Christians read and research various Jewish customs. Also, there is a growing number of Messianic Jews–Jews who accept Christ as their Saviour. They bring with them knowledge of Jewish customs and calculations, without which we found it difficult to understand a lot of things. Christ and his disciples were Jewish and wrote their accounts based on the Jewish ways of doing things.

I will put a post sometime about the specific references in the Gospels that explain the crucifixion and, hence, resurrection days. I will also share links that try to explain the whole matter in depth for those who are interested. There is still a lot to be learned, verified and understood before we have complete clarity, but at least we will not be blindly following something that was a man-made tradition.

3) Is this all such a big deal?

A lot of people may not consider this to be such a big deal. And maybe it isn’t for some. Then there is the matter of accuracy, and if we were to be accurate, then we should try to follow the right time of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. The most important reason, however, is the underlying significance of the days and the events–why things were done the way they were done and when they were done.

It’s not a simple matter so take your time and think about it.

Shalome

PS: I had said I would provide more information about the Passover-Crucifixion connection in terms of dates. You can read what I found here.


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The world we live in.

The topic trending hotly on Twitter falls under #RSSQuestionsTeresa. The entire country seems to be spouting its opinions on social media about what their particular view is on the matter of religious conversions under the guise of charity. A small faction of the people seems to be speaking up in support of the work done by Mother Teresa; many stand against her (at least that was the state when I last checked twitter this morning). Not surprisingly, the ones speaking out against her are mostly the increasingly passionate Hindus of India.

Ever since BJP came to power, outfits like RSS and VHP have come into their own, under what they see as the aegis of a pro-Hindutva government. There is nothing wrong with loving your religion—everyone should. There is nothing wrong in speaking out against the media’s lopsided approach against Hindus—the media has to be fair. There is nothing wrong with wanting to revive the glory that your religion has been robbed of due to invasions by external races. When the BJP came to power, every minority expected this revival.

What’s wrong is blending national identity with the Hindu identity for all. My identity is Christian Indian. I will never be Hindu Indian, simply because Hindu has religious connotations, and my religion is Christianity. I am proud of my religion, just as I am proud of my country and its heritage and history.

What’s also wrong is the concept of Ghar Wapasi. “It is flawed,” a Hindu friend of mine said on Facebook. I believe it’s flawed as well…just not the way he means it. If people perceive a threat and they decide to re-convert for the sake of safety, then it is as faulty as the use of monetary inducements that Christian missionaries are charged with. Conversion is something that has to happen at an intellectual level, then the spiritual level and finally at the emotional level. It applies for every person proselytizing across the world, irrespective of religion. Even conversion to atheism follows the same process.

And what’s wrong is the brutal disrespecting of other religions on social media, without sparing a thought that your friend’s list of 1500 people has friends from every religion and your words could hurt their sentiments. And this last one, perhaps, wounds the most. Personally, I have never spoken out on social media against any religion because I do not want to hurt my friends. But my Hindu friends—in their new-found voices—act derisively against Christianity on social media, and that hurts, I’ll admit it. I have to concede that they have every right to do so by way of freedom of speech and expression, but it still hurts.

All of this only reinforces my belief: Christians are my own people. As people of the Bible, our way is different. God has never encouraged us to indulge in fighting and violence or even rough speech. But standing firm in your faith in tough times and persecution…that seems to be the end-times leitmotif.

We need to get back to our own religion, our own Book to understand the world and the times we live in today. We need to read the Word to understand what is happening around us politically–both in India and globally. There has never been a better time to start.

Shalome.


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Why am I doing this?

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to enter a synagogue. I would like to state right at the start that I am absolutely pro-Israel. When I read the Old Testament, I am fascinated with the way God loved and chose the Israelis as His own special people. So, with this mindset firmly in place, one day, I got a chance to enter a synagogue. It was quite serendipitous, actually. My sister had wanted to meet the Rabbi, but since he was unavailable, the helpers asked us to go into the synagogue, if we wanted to. I believe they thought we were Jewish and we did not bother to correct them.

The inside of the synagogue was charming and as we entered, we fell into a reverent hush. This was the place God’s beloved race gathered to worship Him every Sabbath. I felt all the awe and seriousness that ought to go with that knowledge. I looked around at the pews, the altar, the old fashioned ornate chandeliers, the books, the furnishings. Blue, that was the colour of the walls. And then I thought: But as lovely as this is, I would never exchange being a Christian for this. It was a defining moment in my faith. In that one moment, all my priorities were set straight: I am Christian and I choose that over being anything else any day. No matter how amazing the Jews are as a race and what wondrous things are associated with them, it is Christians who honour Yahoshua Christ by believing in His sacrifice. Jews do not. And that’s how simple it all is.

In my heart there is a soft spot for Jews, but an even softer spot for Christians, who are my people. I am protective of them, I can’t explain why. That is the reason I have put this blog up: in order to encourage those I know and open the Word out to them, so the Bible stops being a mystery or a too-heavy read, but becomes transparent, revealing who God–Yahowah–is and what He talks about in the book. I can see how the world is changing around us and I can see the implications of events for Christians. Now, more than ever, we need to get back to God’s Word and understand what He has told us millenniums ago about the times we live in today.

I sincerely wish you benefit from it. Do read and stay beautifully strong in our Christ.

Shalome.