MY NATION, MY PASSION! God's concern for the world in which we live cannot be over-emphasized. The Psalmist beautifully states, “The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Ps 24:1). God's love and care encompasses everything he created, not just mankind. Even the 'fall' has not affected his love and concern for the world (Jn.3:16). If God is still concerned about the world and everything in it, should we be indifferent? It is easy to condemn the world for its present evil and corrupted state, and keep ourselves aloof. It is even easier to become too otherworldly and wash our hands off, saying, “that the world is ultimately destined for God's wrath…so why bother about it!” Let us not forget that we have dual citizenship. As we wait for our heavenly home, we cannot simply ignore our earthly home. Here and now, God wants us to fulfill his will and purposes. Let our prayers be, “Our Father in heaven, reveal who you are. Set the world right; Do what's best as above, so below.” (Eugene Peterson’s The Message). We Christians in India must realize that God loves our nation. He cares for people who live here. All those who claim to love the Lord must love this nation where God has put us! Our patriotism should not be confined to cheering India to victory in sports. We should develop a passion for the welfare of this nation. Someone said, “If God needs to touch the world he needs our hands.” We must become God's instruments in changing our nation. Being a Christian means spontaneous active involvement in God's business. That's our broad calling. Praying for the ministers and bureaucrats, staying in touch with the happenings in our nation, responding to critical issues like corruption and poverty, leading by examples to others on morality, ethics, integrity, honesty and faithfulness are a few things which we could do for sure. Switching from passive mode to active mode will help our country experience changes in a big way. It is important to understand that God's plan of redemption includes redeeming our nation from its social, cultural and political evils, not just saving souls. The more we take our faith seriously; we can't stop but plunge into action, from prayer to participation in the life struggles of people around us. Jesus went about doing good. No custom of his day hindered his reach to the marginalized in the society - women, gentiles and sick. He was so moved by seeing the needy people. Our country is all about people and people with various needs - physical, mental and spiritual. Let our approaches be redemptive and holistic. May God bless our nation! John Jebaraj James. John serves with the UESI, based in Chennai. He is the editor of Campus Link magazine.. CONTACT DETA ILS SOULCONNECT # 7, Eden Rock Layout, Byrathi, Dodda Gubbi Post, Bangalore - 560077. Email: email@example.com Website: www.tafnet.in
Sam K John EDITORIAL TEAM Joseph Devadason Shibu K Mathew John Jebaraj James Ashwin Ramani Nalini Parmar
We are living in a world today that constantly tests our loyalty to Christ. Staying true to our Christian commitment is becoming more and more difficult because of the temptations surrounding us. Some are even tempted to turn back from their original commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ. In John 6:66-69 we see a controversy erupt over the teachings of Jesus which resulted in many people turning away from following Him. Their hearts were hardened and they could not come to terms with the teachings of Christ. The twelve disciples of Jesus were watching this incident. They certainly must have been saddened because of the majority of the crowd turning away from their Master. The people who turned away were far from being true disciples in character. It would have been an emotional moment for Peter to watch the crowd getting angry at Jesus and close their hearts to His teachings. At this point Jesus looked at the twelve and asked them the moving question, “Do you also want to go away?” (John 6:67). Because they were disturbed at the sight of people compromising, Jesus wanted to know whether they planned to do the same. Among all the disciples, the question hit Peter hard. For a moment Peter would have quickly run through his mind his decision to follow Christ. The pain of putting an end to this beautiful relationship would have cut through his heart. He could not conceive a life without Jesus even though it meant he didn't have to suffer in a grueling ministry and sacrifice the comforts of the world. Peter had an inner obligation to follow the Lord who loved him so much. He could not visualize a life without Jesus. He probably said these words with tears in his eyes, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68). These were not words merely intended to please Jesus. Peter simply could
Not think of going back to his old life and he was honest in expressing his feelings. The devil whispers in our ears to turn back from our faith because the going is tough. When we are going through the valley experiences in our Christian life we sometimes wonder whether it is worth all the efforts. Questions come in our mind as to whether we have chosen the right path. Do we have any other alternative other than following Christ? All we have to do is to think about our old life before coming to Christ. Void and emptiness filled our heart, sinful habits enslaved us, and we were squirming under feelings of guilt. Jesus picked us from the dust and brought meaning into our lives. He removed all our guilt and delivered us from the power of sin. He took all our mess and made something beautiful out of it. It would be so unreasonable to go back into that old mess again. Let us make a commitment in our heart no matter who leaves the faith, we will not leave; no matter who stumbles and fall, we will not turn back. The famous Christian chorus “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back” should be our battle cry. Jesus demands our loyalty and we cannot flinch from our commitment to Him. When we walk away from the loving arms of Jesus we will bring untold misery on our self. On the other hand our faithfulness to Christ even during difficult times will bring manifold blessings. The words of Peter should ring in our ears we have nowhere else to go except to Jesus. We have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back! Ashwin Ramani. Ashwin serves as a community pastor for the multi-ethnic ministry wing of the Centre Street Church, Calgary, Canada.
Epaphroditus was a gambler. Some believers in the early church were also gamblers. Interestingly, they were esteemed highly. Paul encouraged the Philippian church “to welcome him (Epaphroditus) in the Lord with great joy, and honor people like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ. He risked his life to make up for the help you yourselves could not give me.” Phil 2: 29-30 ESV The phrase “he almost died” in Greek literally means 'to lay down a stake, to gamble.' In the early church, there were committed groups of believers called as Parabolani or gamblers. They were willing to gamble their lives or risk their lives by undertaking the hazardous work of tending the sick and burying the dead in times of deadly diseases. The church esteemed them, as they were not gambling for money, but gambling their lives for the work of Christ and for others. We see countless gamblers throughout church history who gambled their lives for the work of Christ. In 1832, Adoniram Judson wrote to missionary candidates, "Remember, a large proportion of those who come out on a mission to the East die within five years after leaving their native land. Walk softly, therefore; death is narrowly watching your steps." Today we follow
Christ, read the bible and are smart professionals because of hundreds of missionaries who gambled their lives. Suffering, risk and death are part of a disciple's life. John Piper explains it well. “Suffering was not just a consequence of the Master's obedience and mission. It was the central strategy of His mission. It was the g r o u n d o f H i s accomplishment. Jesus calls us to join him on the Calvary road, to take up our cross, and to hate our lives in this world, and fall into the ground like a seed and die, that others might live.” Kingdom economics is different from the world. In the world, you win by gaining, but in His kingdom, you win by losing. Luke 9:24. Gamblers risk for greater gains. Jim Elliot who was one of the five who were martyred among Auca Indians said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain that which he cannot lose.” These gamblers were wise and not foolish, as they had set their minds on greater gains which would last forever. India needs gamblers. Even today, India has the highest number of unreached people groups. Twenty three percent of the world's unreached live in India. If world evangelization has to be
Least-reached Ethnic Groups 2,301
completed, India has to be reached with the Gospel.
Are we in the Last Days? Some 'end-time prophets' claim that our generation is in the last days. Are not the Tsunamis, the earth quakes, the bloodshed, the growing influence of the euro currency, barcodes on everything you buy, the signs of the end days? Recently, the Indian government rolled out an ambitious project of registering Indian citizens by collecting their biometric details. Now some say this will soon become the dreaded 'Mark of the Beast' clearly proving that we are indeed in the last days. Other Christians refuse to believe that the last days have actually come. "Well, earthquakes and natural disasters have been happening in every generation, from time immemorial," they say. To say the least, Christians are divided on this vital subject. Instead of taking sides with either of these two groups, I wish to just give our readers a Biblical perspective on the last days that will help you spiritually and motivate you. So let's begin our journey. We, living in this century, should remember that we live both in the best of times and the worst of times. Both good and bad happens. Hence, picking out only the bad, the harsh realities of life and seeing them as signs of the end is not wise. Yes, Tsunamis and earth quakes are frightening to say the least. But to call these tragic events 'the signs of the last days' is not helpful. You should just go the Internet and Google 'the last days.' And you will be amazed at countless predictions made in the past by innumerable Christians. Beginning from chicken pox to the recent swine flu, from the great London fire in the 18th century to the 9/11 terrorist attack, from the French revolution to the more recent Arab Spring revolution, almost anything has been thought of as signs heralding the end. Christians worldwide have taken those signs very seriously, only to get disappointed later. Firstly, the phrase 'End Times' is nowhere in the Bible. However, the Bible speaks of the 'Last days.' Now the two are clearly different. By the phrase 'end times' people mean the last year/s of history. For instance, the year 2000 (Y2K) was expected by many as the last year in human history. The Bible never subscribes to that sort of an idea. So if you go hunting in the Bible for clues about which year will be the last, you will be terribly confused or you will only join the great club fondly called 'the date setters.' Instead, if we focus on the 'Last days' that the Scriptures talk about, we will come closer to the truth. What does the Bible mean by the 'Last Days'? Many of the Old Testament prophets had prophesied about how God will end the present world and bring about a new world in the last days. In Acts 2, after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, Peter testified that the last days about which the prophet Joel prophesied has in fact come (2:17). This means that the last days began two thousand years ago! The same thought is conveyed in the epistles written by Peter, Paul, John and others - the last days not as
something that was yet to happen in the future but as something that has already begun (Heb. 1:2; 9.26; 1 Pet. 1.20; also see 2 Tim. 3:1, 1 Tim. 4:1, 2 Pet. 3.3). When Jesus appeared on the scene and brought with him the kingdom of God, the new order has already come. For the Apostles, the resurrection and exaltation of Jesus and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit informed them that the new creation has already come. In other words, the end has begun. Therefore, they gladly declared the final victory over death, sin and every other evil. Now, we must add another perspective to our knowledge of the last days. While the last days of history have already begun, we are also waiting for this evil age to get over (Gal.1.4). It is true that we now experience the comforting presence of God, His saving power and sustaining grace, and the amazing blessings of God's kingdom. Yet, we are still confronted by the effects of this present evil age. We fall sick, fail when we are tempted, and understand God only in part, and together with God's creation, we yearn for that complete deliverance from the struggles of this evil age. However, we have a sure hope since the last days have already come. Our Lord Jesus Christ has experienced the final resurrection. The Holy Spirit has already been given to us as a mark of our inheritance and hope. Let us not be anxious about the end of the last days for it will surely happen according to His will and time (Matt.24:36). It's only a matter of time before this world together with all its things pass away. Amen! Michael Thomasraj. Michael is a pastor-teacher and trainer based in Bangalore. He also hosts a Tamil TV show called “Veda Araichi Arangam.” Michaelthomasraj@gmail.com
Amy, a young Christian girl once traveled with her mother to a large city. They stopped at a hotel for lunch. While they were eating, the young girl noticed a poor little girl standing outside. Her face was dirty and her hair was untidy as she pressed her nose against the window. Her sad eyes were looking for some kind person who could offer her some food. Amy’s tender heart was so moved by this sight. When she was back to her home again, she wrote her a special promise. She gave it to God, since she couldn't deliver it to the poor child. When I grow up and have money, I know what I will do, I'll build a great big lovely place For little girls like you. Young Amy didn't know at that time, one day, God would send her all the way to India to fulfil that promise. Amy Carmichael found her lifelong vocation in India in caring for poor girls. In 1901, she founded a sanctuary in Dohnavur (Tamil Nadu) for little girls who were rescued from Devadasi system. In her own life time, she cared for more than one thousand girls who otherwise would have faced a bleak future. Indeed, Amy's heavenly father helped her fulfil the promise she made to the poor little girl!
The water of life in an Indian cup On a train journey, Sadhu Sundar Singh (1889 1929) observed, at a station, a Brahmin almost faint due to the intense summer heat. The station master ran to him with a cup of water but surprisingly he refused to drink it. Soon, another man brought water in the Brahmin's own brass cup. He drank it immediately and was revived. Struck by this, Sundar Singh learnt an important lesson. The water that was given in the first cup was no different than the water in the second. What was most decisive for the Brahmin was the cup in which it was administered. The Brahmin was happy to receive the water as long as it was from his cup. That water, Sundar Singh reflected, was like the gospel; in fact Sundar Singh called the gospel the 'water of life.â€™ For Indians to gladly receive the gospel and be made alive by it, this 'water of life' has to be given, not in a Western cup, but in an Indian cup, only then would they accept it and be transformed by it.
Sundar Singh went on to use and teach this theological and missiological principle: 'the water of life in an Indian cup.' Subsequently, Sundar Singh donned the ascetic's saffron robes and engaged in an itinerant preaching ministry, communicating to the people through simple and easy to understand parables drawn from everyday life. Reminiscent of an Indian sage and indeed, not too dissimilar from his Master Jesus himself, Sundar Singh's ministry proved to be rather appealing to his Indian audiences and attracted many to the Gospel. It was after the creative accomplishments of people like Sundar Singh and others from around the world that terms like Contextual Theology, Contextualisation, Indigenisation, Inculturation were coined. This was done to refer to such efforts that followers of Christ took to understand and communicate the gospel in a
manner that local people from around the world could really understand, appreciate and even adopt for themselves. Contextualisation, one may say, represents that colourful spectrum of activities that Christians have undertaken to speak the 'language' of the people they are ministering to so as to enable them to understand the gospel as easily as possible. The Scripture Advocates it Close study will reveal that contextualisation is not so much of a luxury that the church can entertain when it so desires, on the contrary it is to be seen as a theological necessity, even an imperative. There are two basic theological assumptions behind efforts of contextualisation. The first is that the gospel of Jesus Christ is for the entire world and it is not restricted to any one group of people. As we read in John 3:16 â€œGod so loved the world.â€? The God of the Bible is a God of all nations and a God who loves all the people in these nations. This was clearly revealed even to Noah and later to Abraham. The gospel therefore is meant for all people groups. A second assumption is that people from different cultural, ethnic, linguistic and other backgrounds think of faith in God, religion and the supernatural in differing ways. In order to enable these people grasp the depths of the gospel one will need to translate it into their heart, thought, ritual, cultural and spoken languages. Indeed Jesus Christ himself did not shout out the gospel from heaven using a cosmic megaphone. On the contrary he became flesh; he incarnated himself into the world. As a real human being he lived and worked with people, demonstrating to them through his life, actions and teachings what the kingdom of God was all about; what God sincerely desired for his creation. Jesus revealed God from within his particular Jewish context to his particular Jewish audience. This principle was followed by the early church as well as it spread
across the world. While Jewish Christians continued with some of their rituals and practices in their worship of God as revealed in Jesus Christ; Gentile Christians, after a struggle with some Judaizers, and strongly supported by Paul in that tussle, began to practice their Gentile Christianity that did not adhere, for example, to Jewish circumcision and dietary laws. They developed a contextual expression of the faith for their own unique contexts, which was rather attractive to their compatriots. We will also recognise that the Apostle Paul also adopted contextualised approaches to those he shared the gospel with. The incident found in Acts 17 is one significant case in point. The scriptures attest that the early church was a contextually sensitive church. They provide an example for us in the 21st century. In many parts of India Christianity is seen as a foreign religion that the white man brought from the west as he went around the world on his colonial and imperial campaigns. Christianity is seen in a very negative light and is perceived as something that robs us of our culture and way of life.
The Context Demands it Such an internal, scriptural and positive motivation for contextualisation is to be complemented with an external negative challenge that we face and need to respond to. In many parts of India Christianity is seen as a foreign religion that the white man brought from the west as he went around the world on his colonial and imperial campaigns. Christianity is seen in a very negative light and is perceived as something that robs us of our culture and way of life.
For many in India, to be a Christian is therefore to wash ones hands off Indian culture and tradition and to look to the west in matters of faith, food and fashion, to name just a few.
John Piper Speaks...
One way in which that is borne out was brought home to me recently when I learnt about the results of a survey that was done among nonChristians which enquired about obstacles hindering them from coming to church. Surprisingly their responses had little to do with theological reasons, that is who Jesus was and the nature of his claims. Rather they revolved around the cultural practices of the Christians in the church buildings, which for the most part were inherited from western missionaries. The fact that Christians wore shoes in the church; the way they disrespectfully left the Bible l y i n g o n t h e g ro u n d , western-oriented patterns, English music and songs used in the church, and so on and so forth were the reasons many did not feel comfortable with this kind of religion. For them even if as basic a practice as worship was so moulded by the west, then what hope is there for the rest of that religion? It spelt to me that for the most part, it is internal Christian practices and patterns that are more of a hindrance than the gospel of Jesus Christ itself. Expressions of Contextualisation Contextualisation has been expressed in anything from formal theology that employs local thought patterns and philosophies, to expressing worship by an adaptation of local music, rituals and concerns, to writing locally
meaningful songs in the vernacular, to creating art that reflects on the faith in the God of the Bible and the context of the artist, to establishing local churches that are of the soil in every way possible. For instance, an evangelist friend of mine uses Yesu Khatha to share Jesus Christ to those who do not know him. This friend sits on the floor, uses the traditional paraphernalia that a Sadhu would, sings bhajans in praise of Jesus that follow an Indian musical style, and dramatically narrates stories of Jesus' life. This contextually sensitive approach has secured for him a welcome into temples and other Hindu settings where he is able to share in a locally acceptable and non-threatening manner the life and person of Jesus Christ. Those who work at contextualisation seek to demonstrate that Jesus can be followed and worshiped just as sincerely as Indians following Indian ways of life. In so doing they have sought to remove as many obstacles that exist in the way of people coming to know, love and follow Jesus Christ. They have attempted to do what Sadhu Sundar Singh so eloquently said contextualisation was: to offer the water of life in an Indian cup. Contextualisation is an urgent challenge that we need to fervently pray about, wisely think through and collaboratively work at for the sake of the spread of the gospel in India. Paul Joshua Bhakiaraj. Paul is a member of the Tamil Brethren Assembly in Bangalore. He currently teaches at the South Asia Institute of Christian Studies . He was formerly the director of The Mylapore Institute for Indigenous Studies.
It is a well known fact that Hinduism recognises three paths to moksha, namely, the Karma marga, the Jnana marga and the Bhakti marga. Which path a person chooses is purely a matter of one's preference. Interestingly, even though all the three margas are considered valid paths to salvation, most Hindus follow the Bhakti way. So, we see the worship of hundreds of gods and goddesses all over India irrespective of caste, creed, sex, age, status, education, or level of enlightenment. Hindus believe that their devotion to deities, expressed in a myriad ways, will help them attain eternal spiritual bliss. Only a few choose the other two margas. The Karma marga is the path of selfless action or good works. In other words, a person who chooses
this path to salvation is expected to invest his or her life for the betterment of society and service of mankind. Whereas, the Jnana marga involves intellectual pursuit of spiritual realities. It requires years of mental concentration and systematic contemplative training (yoga) to gain a supra-intellectual insight into one's identity with God. Obviously, most Hindus choose Bhakti marga which is more convenient and less demanding than the other two paths. The Christian view of salvation is radically different from Hinduism. The Bible proclaims that salvation cannot be attained by any human margas. Instead, it is a gift from God (Eph.2:8-9) which is freely given to all those who believe in Jesus Christ (Jn.3:16-18, Acts 16:31). There cannot be any other opinion about this foundational evangelical truth! Nonetheless, I find a striking resemblance in the way most Hindus and Evangelical Christians practice their spirituality. Like majority Hindus, Evangelical Christians are strong adherents of the Bhakti tradition. Consider this - for most evangelicals today - spirituality is all about devotion to the Triune God which is expressed in many ways -
Early morning prayers, daily Bible reading, weekly Bible studies, Praise and Worship, Church attendance, regular tithing, so on and so forth. As long as someone is active in all these, such a person is considered truly spiritual. Bhakti is seen as the ultimate expression of one's spirituality and the surest way to please God! Undoubtedly, the Bible teaches the importance of loving God and showing our utmost devotion to Him (Deut.6:5, Rev.2:4). An on-going devotional relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ is not just imperative but indispensable (Jn.15:5-6). The vertical dimension of spirituality is the basis of authentic Christianity. Any activity that helps a Christian to build his or her devotion to God is praise worthy. Nevertheless, Christian Bhakti which is devoid of Karma and Jnana is lopsided. Unfortunately, many Christians today are so content with their devotional life. Concern for the practical side of Christianity is either nil or marginal. I'm afraid there are not many takers for the Karma marga kind of spirituality among Christians too. Conversely, the Bible places a high value on good works or actions. We are not saved by good Karma but we are saved for good Karma (Eph.2:10, Titus 2:1-3:15). James shows the futility of karma-less Bhakti, “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, 'Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,' but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (Jam.2:1420). According to James, true Bhakti always results in good karma (Jam.1:27). Social action and social service is not alien to Biblical Christianity. Rather, it is right at the centre of God's concern for the fallen world.
Throughout the Scripture, we see God reminding his people of this (Exo.23:6-8, Deut.15:7-8). In the book of Amos, God reveals his heart for the poor and his concern for those who are being mistreated unfairly in the world. The empty Bhakti of the Israelites was despised by the LORD and He refused to accept their burnt offerings and grain offerings (Amos 5:22). We live in a nation where poverty, social oppression and injustices are rampant.Can we turn a blind eye to people's needs and claim to be devoted to God? We cannot afford to remain merely as Bhaktas (devotees). As individuals and communities, we need to pray and act so that justice will roll on like a river and righteousness like a never failing stream in our nation (Amos 5:23). Bhakti without Jnana is blind spirituality. God never expects his children to blindly show their devotion and love to Him. Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Apostle Paul stressed the importance of Jnana more than anyone else in the Scripture. He taught the
Thessalonians to use their minds to test every teaching and hold on to the good (I Thess. 5:21). Likewise, whenever he prayed for the believers of various churches, prayer for knowledge and wisdom topped his list (Eph.1:16-18, Col.1:910). We live at a time when emotions are given prime space in religious life. On Sunday mornings, believers throng to those churches where emotions are kindled through powerful music and star cast preachers. While there, many attain Bhakti Paravasam (spiritually excited state) and return home saying, “Oh I had a blessed worship time today.” Sadly, Jnana has taken beat seat in many of our churches today. Time set apart for imparting knowledge from the Scripture has declined. And people are encouraged to blindly follow whatever the preachers/pastors say. In general, believers are not encouraged to use their minds to test the teachings like the Bereans. Perhaps, God's lament for today's Church would be, “My people are ruined for lack of knowledge.” (Hos.4:6). Jnana marga must not remain as the choice of a few selected Christians called the apologists. Every professing Christian must be a thinking Christian! We in India live amidst people of diverse religious beliefs. Faith claims and truth claims are plenty in our pluralistic society. In such a context, we have a great responsibility to make our faith reasonable to others (I Pet.3:15). We need to show to the world that Christian faith is not a leap in the dark! Finally, Christian spirituality is essentially holistic. It involves a person's emotions, will and intellect; soul, spirit and body; Bhakti, Karma and Jnana. Jesus epitomised this in his earthly life and ministry. He did not choose one entity over the other. He held Bhakti, Karma and Jnana in perfect spiritual unison. Jesus' Bhakti towards
God the father was nothing short of a love-saga (Jn.4:31, 6:36, 8:29, 14:30-31). And his Karma remains unmatched in history until this day (Lk.4:18, Acts 10:38, Jn.10:10), while His Jnana amazed even those who hated him (Matt.13:5355, Mk.6:2). May God give us the grace to go beyond mere Bhakti and emulate Jesus’ holism in all our spiritual pursuits! Sam K. John. Sam is an itinerant preacher and Bible teacher. He also edits SOULCONNECT.
Ramesh was a new Christian. Till recently he was a person from one of the ‘lower castes.’ He was told by the evangelist who shared the good news about salvation in Christ to him that once he became a believer every Christian would treat him as his or her brother. Ramesh was thrilled, after a lifetime of discrimination and oppression he was finally happy. He was now a child of God and he belonged to a community that treated everyone equally. His identity was derived from his relationship with Jesus Christ. The problem started the Sunday he went to a nearby church for the first time. “You cannot come to this place. This church is not for people like you,” said the angry old man. “But sir, I am a Christian,” said Ramesh, not understanding what the old man meant. “So what?” the old man asked with a sneering voice, “It doesn't change your caste, does it?” “What, what do you mean?” asked a brokenhearted Ramesh. “I thought that when I became a Christian I became a child of God. You and I are equal in God's sight!” “Never!” shouted the old man, “even your shadow is unclean to me! Get out and go to a church where people like you meet. But never come back here. This church is only for the high caste.” Ramesh ran out in shock and pain, his eyes blurred with tears as he stumbled away into the dusty lane. “It is a lie! Everything that the evangelist told me was lie! It was better if I had remained a non-Christian, at least there p e o p l e d o n ' t s ay t h a t I a m yo u r b r o t h e r a n d t h e n t r e a t m e l i ke a d o g. . .” Are you angry? Is your face a mirror of disbelief ? Are you saying, “This doesn't happen in the Indian Church?” Think again. The above story is a daily occurrence in the lives of people who come to Christ from ‘lower caste’ backgrounds all over India. The question is, “Can casteism and Christianity coexist?” The Bible is very clear about this Paul says, in Galatians 3: 28, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." In other words, in this context, there can be no discrimination on the basis of race (Jew or Greek). What is casteism but a form of racism or apartheid? We just have to look at the matrimonial column in Christian magazines to understand the enormity of the problem. "Christian bridegroom (particular caste) is looking for bride from the same caste." Churches congregate on the basis of caste, pastors and office bearers are selected and elected on the basis of caste, even communion in certain churches is administered on the basis of caste. What about you? And what about me? Do we secretly hold to this practice that is dehumanizing and discriminatory? Is caste identity more important than Christian identity? This is not an appeal to abandon cultural identity; it is to abandon the practice of casteism because it is contrary to everything that Christ stands for. Jaichand Sudershan. Jaichand is a pastor at the Bangalore Evangelical Free Church and is a freelance writer.
A REQUEST You are holding the fourth issue of SOULCONNECT. God has made this possible through the sacrificial involvement and financial contributions of a few mission-minded friends. We do not want this effort to go in vain. Can you spare a few minutes of your valuable time to send us your feedback about this magazine? Tell us what you liked and suggest us ways to improve. Email your comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Editor.
At a time when the theology of suffering and pain has taken back seat t h a n k s t o prosperity preachers and faith healers, John Piper's Filling up the Afflictions of Christ presents a thoroughly counter cultural and thought provoking thesis. This hard hitting book is the fifth one in the biography series titled “The swans are not silent,” by Piper. To start with, the writer points to the sufferings and death of Jesus Christ in bringing about Salvation to the world. Following this, he picks up the astounding statement of Paul in Col. 1:24 as the basis of his main argument. Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church. He interprets the verse as follows: “What is lacking in the afflictions of Christ is not that they are deficient in worth, as though they could not sufficiently cover the sins of all those who believe. What is 'lacking' is that the infinite value of Christ's afflictions is not known and trusted in the world…They must be carried by missionaries. And those missionaries 'complete' what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ by extending them to others.” According to Piper, afflictions are not merely the consequence of taking the gospel to the world but they are a strategic part of God's plan to reach the nations. This to me is a revolutionary thought! The central theme of the book is then illustrated from the lives of three great men from the annals of Christian history, namely, William Tyndale, John Paton and
Adoniram Judson. Tyndale had to undergo afflictions to make the Bible available for the common man in his language. Eventually he suffered the ultimate. He was burned alive, tied to a stake, and reportedly his last words were, “Lord, open the eyes of the King.” Tyndale's work set the spark for Reformation. Paton's biographical sketch is one of great courage and determination. A chain of islands called New Hebrides was Paton's mission field. Within the first year of his work among the cannibals, he lost his wife and child. Paton had to dig two graves by himself to bury them. Unfazed by the personal loss, Paton determined to stay back. Paton's afflictions for the sake of Christ did not go in vain. He lived up to the age of eighty two and saw the amazing transformation of cannibals to Christianity. The third story highlighted is that of Judson who was instrumental in taking the gospel to Burma. He endured great opposition. Through imprisonment, physical pain, bouts of depressions, loss of two wives and children, Judson survived the ordeal. He gave himself for Burma. Thanks to Judson, Burma today has a vibrant church with 3700 Baptist congregations and over six hundred thousand believers. Piper concludes the book with the challenge of the unreached people groups the final frontier (10/40 window). He says that many people groups will remain as unreached if there are not enough Christians to share in the afflictions of Christ like Tyndale, Paton and Judson. He writes, “Reaching the unreached, as Jesus commands, will be dangerous and costly. Some of us, and some of our children, will be killed.” In saying this, Piper is not just talking about dying again and again but the real possibility of martyrdom. Overall, I find the book a great mission-inspiration. Reviewed by Sam K. John
Well, that's how 'worry' is defined! 'Worry' and 'anxiety' cause a lot of suffering to people of all ages, in all walks of life. Worry may stem from a particular threat but anxiety is free-floating. When these conditions persist it can lead to a constant state of tension accompanied by sleep disturbances and inefficient functioning. As the persons become overly sensitive, it can even trigger off interpersonal conflicts and end up in nervous break-downs. HERE ARE SOME OF THE CAUSES Insecurity: A person may have gone through lots of negative criticism, as a result, even before doing something he/she looks for criticism and becomes anxious. Negative Self-talk: Because of the fear of rejection, the interpretation of the responses also becomes hay-wire. The anxious person says, “I don't know what's wrong with me. After sometime my friends will avoid me” instead of thinking, “Well, this is the third time Mr. X is hurrying past me. Is he really busy or is he upset over something I said. I should stop and ask him next time!” Conflicting Expectations: When young people face inconsistent people at home/school they are at a loss. One parent/teacher expects one thing and the other expects the opposite and this can confuse the child a lot and causes anxiety. Fear of Failure and Punishment: When a person is gripped by the possibility of failure, that can trigger anxiety and worry. Likewise, young people worry a lot about committing mistakes and subsequent punishments. WHAT DO WE DO? The human mind, very often, pictures God after the images of parents and parental figures. Hence the mind of an anxious person knows that God loves, forgives, is just and never leaves us helpless. But the seat of the emotions cannot take the leap of faith. As a result however much one prays, anxiety pops its head. Here are some suggestions: Try to do some introspection with the Spirit of God or with the help of an understanding friend. Forgive parents or parental figures who would have unintentionally caused anxiety long before adulthood and thus have contributed towards an anxious personality. Intentionally change the negative thought patterns through positive self-talk. Do personal Bible studies on the character of God and internalize the lessons you learn. If the image of God you have is not Biblical, change it. Take periodical breaks from your routine and learn to relax. Dr. Adalyn George. Adalyn is a retired professor of English, Women’s Christian College, Nagercoil.
any years ago, during my college days in me to be involved in “Christian” ministry (I came from a secular background). And I felt that God Delhi, I used to host a prayer meeting. wanted me to take academics seriously. It's difficult A few of us friends would gather to to explain just how each of these messages was basically read the Bible and pray for our needs. In conveyed. All I can say is that I asked and I began to that group a person (who shall remain nameless), receive. used to talk about how God was leading every moment of his life. This included everything from However, I was just not able to understand the full what he should eat, whom he should meet and implications of all that I was hearing. And so, after even what color t-shirt he should wear. That friend finishing my MA in Christianity, I left for a job as a of ours made the rest of us very uncomfortable. teacher in a Christian secondary school. I taught He used to dominate the prayer meeting with his journalism, photography and some religious stories, which became more and more extreme. studies. It was there that God spoke even more The last straw came when he told us that God clearly, with several signs, that He wanted me to apologized to him one day! His biblical proof ? The teach not just anything, but Christianity. Two KJV says in Jonah that “God repented.” At that instances in particular clarified the “call”: a phonepoint, I felt it was no longer appropriate for him to call from the Bible College continue in the prayer group where I finished my MA, to get and told him to stop coming. trained in theology to become a Sadly, the way I handled the “I noticed that while I'm still teacher. Plus, my soon-to-besituation was wrong. But that not sure if God had a plan wife shared her own leading experience left a deep for the mundane, I knew that was compatible with mine. impression. While I doubted that God's larger plan for It was all coming together. And that God had an intimate me was revealed in stages, in 2003, I joined SAIACS relationship with that friend of over several years. God was (Bangalore) as a faculty in mine, I felt in my gut that God shaping me not just to training program, knowing fully understand his call, but also actually did have an opinion for well that God called me to getting me ready so that I all of us, even to the point of academics, and even to could follow his call.” how we should live every aspect SAIACS, and to become a of our daily lives. Our main teacher of Christian studies. problem was, I felt, that we could not rightly discern what God's choices really When I finally agreed to this decision, I understood were... so mostly we either guessed or ignored God a little bit of what God's “calling” was. I noticed choices for most of our decisions. The question of that while I'm still not sure if God had a plan for the “calling” and “God's leading” became all the more mundane, I knew that God's larger plan for me was urgent. I needed to know what God's plan was for revealed in stages, over several years. God was me. shaping me not just to understand his call, but also getting me ready so that I could follow his call. I Several years later, when through a strange could go on about how God's enables us in our “coincidence” I landed in a Bible College for my journey, about how God's call makes sense with the MA, I was struck by a preacher who said, “If you way he is leading us in our earthly life. Finally I will want to know God's will, you need to pray every say this: God has a plan. Pray to Him, if you want to day that God will show it to you.” I really took that know it. Pray earnestly, daily even. And, if you are to heart and began to pray earnestly that God like me, through time He will make His will clear to would reveal His plan for me. Then something you... his good, pleasing and perfect will. happened. Over the course of my study, I began to see signs of God's leading. I felt that God wanted Nigel Ajay Kumar. Nigel currently teaches Theology at SAIACS, Bangalore. He is married and has one daughter.
SURENDER GNANAOLIVU V S Nair, a former RSS activist, is a Bible teacher and preacher today. He is passionate about training Christian leaders on how to face ministry challenges in hostile situations and developing new strategies for evangelism and mission through research in the context of persecution. He is also a member of the Fellowship of Indian Missiologists (FOIM). Specialized in Hindutva ideology and practices, he is widely used by Catholics and Protestants alike. He has a M.Th. from SAIACS Bangalore. He lives in Bangalore with his wife, Lakshmi, a graduate from UBS, Pune who served with the UESI Karnataka for seven years. They have two daughters, Archana (14) and Athulya (12). Can you share with us your experience of encountering Jesus? It was in 1992, while I was working in Gurgoan as a site in-charge of civil construction, I accepted the Lord Jesus as my personal Saviour. With my father’s unexpected demise (he was my visible god), I lost interest in life. I was completely depressed and wanted to end my life. At that time I seriously started to search for a divine power that could console and comfort me. When all other hopes were lost, I turned to a Bible that was gifted to me by somebody, and my eyes fell on Is.43:5 ‘’fear not: for I am with you.” This led me to Christ.
How did your family and friends respond to your conversion? My family members could not accept this change in me due to two reasons. Firstly, most of themwere highly religious. Some were very active RSS personnel. Secondly, they felt that it affected the social status of the family. Since my father was a state executive member of Nair Service Society (NSS), the change in my religious perspective had a negative impact on them. Most of them stopped having any contact with me and even today avoid me from important family functions. But I always approached them with Christ’s attitude, never gave them the idea that accepting Jesus would separate me from my family. Tell us about your ministry experiences. Four months after my encounter with Jesus, while I was doing my personal meditation on Isaiah 6, God convinced me for full time ministry (v.8) “Whom shall I send ,and who will go for us.” So I committed my life to serve Him and resigned my job in April 1992. After my Theological studies from UBS, Pune in 1999, I went to Mussorie in Uttarakand. I took charge as the Vice-Principal of Leadership Instruction and Training (LIT) and as the Associate Pastor of Happy Valley Fellowship. In 2001, we moved to Delhi-Haryana border as church planting pioneers among the Jat community. My wife, Lakshmi has been a great support in my ministry. What is your current passion in ministry? We conduct seminars on “facing ministry challenges” and modern Hinduism, training program for persecuted pastors, workshops to challenge Christian leaders to evaluate contemporary methods of evangelism and mission, and also pulpit ministry under ‘HIGH TOUCH.’ It is my vision to establish a centre exclusively for training the persecuted Christians and for research in order to develop contextually appropriate strategies to reach out to the people of other faith. Inhightouch@gmail.com
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high; Where knowledge is free; Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls; Where words come out from the depth of truth; Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection; Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit; Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake. Rabindranath Tagore
The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Savior God wants us to live. Apostle Paul
This is the fourth issue