Monday, 29 December 2014

#21DC - The 21 Day Challenge

Almost 2015! I hope you are as excited as I am! I can't wait to see what God has in store, for me personally, for loved ones, for our nation and the world as a whole.
Am I a little worried? Of course I am! The spiritual and moral health of our society is diminishing by the minute, but as Christians, you and I have a responsibility and that is why I refuse to relax or let my anxiety nullify me.

Ultimately, mankind needs God - without Him, our morality is subjective, our eternity is insecure and selfishness abounds where love should reign. I want to see a revival in Britain, spiritually, morally and socially; and in Tim Timmons' words, that 'revival's got to start with me' - hence I have decided to take Landon Schott's '21 Day Challenge' (#21DC)

#21DC is a 21 day Daniel fast, from the 5th to the 25th of January. It is a 'personal challenge' designed to equip us to start the new year right - eyes fixed on Jesus, heart set on worship, determined to pursue His purpose and plan.
Why is this important? I'll let Oswald Chambers answer that...
We tend to use prayer as a last resort, but God wants it to be our first line of defence. We pray when there's nothing else we can do, but God wants us to pray before we do anything at all. 
 Prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work
A 21DC app has been designed for both iPhones and Androids (it's free, so no excuses!). It has a daily reading plan that'll allow us to complete the New Testament in 21 days, easy to follow Daniel Fast recipes and food guidelines, and a chat-room allowing us to connect with others taking the challenge, around the world.

Read. Fast. Pray.
That's what #21DC is all about!

I want to draw closer to God, taking our relationship to the next level. I want my flickering flame to flare up and consume me, so that I love God to the extent that others see it and want Him too. I want to be a woman after God's own heart, unashamed and unafraid, so that His Spirit works in and through me.

My dear brother and sister in Christ, do you share my passion for a spiritual revival, in ourselves and across our nation?
Let's take this challenge together and see God move in and through us in 2015. Remember, a revival has got to start with us!

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Finding my Worth - Five Loaves and Two Fish

When I saw the above picture on my Facebook timeline, I knew it was time to write this post.

Until recently, I was a slave to insecurities. At each stage of my life I was insecure about stutter, my body image, my face, my teeth, everything! I felt unlovable. If I was speaking to anyone, chances are I'd think that they didn't like me. I built a wall around myself that I seldom let people penetrate; I'd almost always treat people professionally and never initiate friendships unless I was absolutely certain, because I feared rejection. Truth is, I still do a lot of that now, but the difference is I am breaking free of what has become a part of me.

I was told I sounded like a crow. I was told I was fat. I was told I looked like a man. I was told things that I do not wish to repeat. No matter how hurt I really was, I made sure that I would not let the person in question know that I was - if I was to deal with my 'imperfections', I was not going to do it for them! That attitude seems great at first glance, but the hurt I pretended to brush off was being bottled up inside me; I didn't have the courage to deal with it.
The overload of hurt eventually strangled my confidence and fear triumphed over me. Not only did I believe I was unlovable, I now started believing that God would never be able to use me. My delusions impaired me from living out my God-given calling!

At the Open Doors Youth Advocate Training, God spoke to one of the leaders about my insecurities. The truth she prayed over me broke me to tears. She told me I was treasured, that I was loved, that I was fearfully an wonderfully made, that God is faithful and will complete what He has promised...nothing new; I knew that, but when did I forget?

I forgot it the moment I stopped bringing my cares to the Cross. I forgot it the moment I made man's opinion greater than God's.

'For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance but the LORD looks on the heart.' - 1 Samuel 16:7

For a Christian, who has tasted the goodness of God, this memory loss generally happens at the peak of our spiritual life, when we subconsciously turn the focus away from God! When God uses us, it is often a challenge to remain grounded. Who doesn't love compliments! It is wrong however to live for it. If you live to please a human being, whether it be a random stranger or your 'point of attraction', you'll sadly find that you are not only idolising them, but that you can never quite meet their mark. There's always going to be something they'd like to change about you, because we are all imperfect, every single one of us. We are imperfect people serving a perfect God, and that makes all the difference! In 1 Corinthians 10:31, Paul reminds us that whatever we do, we ought to 'do it all for the glory of the Lord'. The moment we shift the spotlight from Jesus to ourselves, we become vulnerable to judgement, dissatisfaction and hurt...and the cycle continues. Here's a powerful spoken word that hits the nail far better than I ever could...

If you question your usefulness to God, remember that it is often not the greatest and glamorous that God uses, but the lowliest - because it is 'in our weakness' that His 'strength is made whole'.
Samson, the strongest man of his time, won Israel a great victory, not when he was at his peak, but when he had no eyes and was chained up! It was the Spirit of God with him that made the difference.
When Jesus fed 5000 men (and their wives and children), He didn't use a banquet, but 5 loaves and 2 fish from a little boy. The boy could've considered his little packed lunch insignificant (much like we consider ourselves) and kept it to himself - the question is not whether or not God can use us (He obviously can), it is whether or not we are willing to give Him the imperfect, insufficient little that we have! His Spirit can equip us to shake the world, IF we let Him. The Bible is full of unqualified people accomplishing much for God because they stepped out in faith, in complete surrender and trust - are you ready to do the same?

My lovely reader, I want you to know that you are gorgeous. You are loved. You are treasured. You are unique, and crafted specifically for the adventures God has in store for you. There is a God who loves you immensely, He takes great pleasure in you. He died for the very imperfections that are holding you back, so that by His death you can be free from judgement and condemnation. He has 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.' He made you worthy, so stop listening to the lies of this world - does their opinion matter in light of your Creator's? I re-discovered my worth in Christ, and I invite you to do the same!

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red

When I heard that the poppy-filled moat at the Tower of London was soon to be dismantled, I had to abandon the coursework and rush to get a glimpse of it...and I did not regret it!
The dry moat surrounding the Tower of London, is home to 888,426 ceramic poppies, each symbolising the life of a brave serviceman killed in the First World War for Britain and Commonwealth. It is a poignant and powerful reminder of life, and in this post I am going to discuss some themes that emanated from my musings as I gazed at the vast 'Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red'.

Risk Taking

As I (unintentionally) eavesdropped into the conversations around me, I heard many marvel at this aspect of the display - the poppies appear to pour out of a window in a tower, to cover the moat; it almost resembled blood being poured out! It was stunning.
It reminded me of the safe haven of home and country (depicted by the tower) these brave men left, just to be exposed to the harsh conditions of the battlefield (represented here by the expanse of poppies on the moat that braved the rain, sun and snow - if it snowed!). It reminds me of the bridge in Hillsong's Oceans,

'Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters, wherever You will call me.
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander,
where my faith will be made stronger, in the presence of my Saviour'

Risk takers are history makers. Take Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King .Jr, Martin Luther and many persecuted Christians around the globe...they all take risks, some small some great, but each one vital to the legacy they left behind. Comfortable service is a non-existent concept! In our service to God, He wants us to step out in faith, because our spiritual risks, are not really 'risks' - He is on our side and in control.

Brevity of Life

This is a theme that resonates through all aspects of the display. The temporary nature of the poppies, reflects the brevity of life; regardless of whether they were exposed or remained in the safety of the tower, they can be it is with every life, it has to end. I noticed that the poppy stems varied in length, perhaps to symbolise the varied ages of the fallen, reminding me of how death does not discriminate by age.
When life is so short, it doubly matters how we spend it. As a Christian I believe I need to justify how I've used every second of my life. I can choose to step out in faith and let God do outrageous things through me, or remain in the comfort of my apathy, locking up the gifts He has given me.

'On every grave stone, between the birth and the death dates there is a dash. That dash is your life - what are you going to do with it?'

The Future Hope

Now to my favourite aspect of the display! As you walk around the moat, you see the poppies extend into the sky - I imagine this to be the souls of the fallen seeking peace at last!
The Christian life is an exciting challenge - the challenge however is not to 'earn' the favour of God, but to BEIEVE in the favour and power we have already received through the blood of Jesus. The power we have access to through His Spirit in us, is able to accomplish 'immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine'(Ephesians 3:20)
How often do we doubt, despite knowing it? How often do we let our natural get in the way of God's supernatural?
It also parallels beautifully with afterlife....but is the afterlife really going to be as rosy as we make it out to be? For a saved Christian, the answer is a resounding 'YES!' We are redeemed or made right with God, through the life and death of Jesus. A righteous, loving and just God cannot overlook our lawlessness, no matter how trivial. It was His love that moved Him to live a human life and die in our place, so that on His account, we could walk free.
Finally, this depiction reminds me that no matter how tough my Christian journey gets, with personal struggles, ridicules or opposition, God is in control, He shall be glorified and ultimately, I get to be with Him in a kingdom where 'there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain'(Revelation 21:4) Isn't that worth it all?

'So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.' - 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Isn't art wonderful! It speaks to each one of us individually, in a way that the artist never intended it to!
The display has been extended till the end of November, and if you haven't already I urge you to lose yourselves in it.
Musings apart, the patriot in me was most gratified! The brave servicemen and women who have lost their lives at war for our country, and those who continue to risk theirs, deserve our respect. Lest we forget the price they paid for the freedom we enjoy!

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Why we need a bit of persecution

I've become a Youth Advocate for Open Doors, an organisation that supports persecuted Christians around the globe. I had the opportunity to spend a weekend with other like-minded Christians, to make us more aware of the struggles faced, and how we can be the voice for our many silenced brothers and sisters in Christ.

The weekend challenged my prayer life for my persecuted family. For much of my Christian life, I viewed this duty as a calling 'someone out there' had, but I was convicted about my responsibility towards the persecuted church. 1 Corinthians 12 reminded me that the church is not my local Christian family with whom I commune, but the global body of believers - we are all part of one family, one body, hence 'if one part suffers, every part suffers with it.'

The conviction did not stop there! I was led to question my ardour and faithfulness in my walk with God, and the apathy I found myself in, shamed me. I know I am not alone, Western Christianity itself has been stunted by this; we are too complacent, too apathetic, too comfortable, and as a result our churches are diluted by counterfeits! This is why I believe we need a bit of persecution.

Persecution renews our appreciation for Christian fellowship

One night during the weekend, we had an opportunity to meet in a field like the secret church. What started off with excited laughs, was soon taken over by fear and sympathy. We worshiped in silence, braved the chilly temperature to read God's Word and pray together. Our discomfort seemed insignificant to the potential torture our brothers and sisters faced for just meeting together. We feared rowdy guys and insects (well I did!), an unjustifiable fear compared to that of being caught, tortured or even killed for believing in Jesus Christ - yet, my persecuted family remains fearless!

According to various surveys published, although more than 50% of the British population claims to be Christian, less than 25% identify themselves as 'churchgoers'. Sad! Fellowship is a fundamental part of Christian life, needed to encourage, instruct and support us.

Hebrews 10:25 - Let us not neglect meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near.

When those who can potentially die for meeting together are able to do so, how much more should we! Too tired? Too busy? Too bad! No excuses!

Persecution refines and waters the church

Like fire is to a metal, persecution is to the church. It purifies us by burning off the contaminants to make us glow brighter than we ever could. Persecution has the power to repel the counterfeits until we are left with one passionate body.

If you take time to read the touching accounts of persecuted Christians, you see that the presence of the Holy Spirit was often most tangible during the tough times. When we are persecuted or on fire for God, we depend on Him - we are teachable and shaped by the Spirit to walk like Jesus and see the Word through His eyes. You see, metals are heated to be moulded.

We take freedom for granted, seldom remembering the price many paid for it. This attitude has damaged the church. Christianity is increasingly a cultural thing 'we do', rather than a personal thing 'we are', thus unattractive. Hea Woo, the North Korean lady imprisoned for her belief in the Lord, managed to start a revival in one of North Korea's labour camps. How? Her radical (Note: not 'radicalism' or 'fundamentalism') faith that drove her to help her fellow prisoners despite her own physical pain. Heat causes metals to expand and glow, likewise persecution exposes our passionate love for our Saviour, so passionate that it is irresistible! This is the Christianity I long to see in Britain!

There is a lot we can learn from our persecuted family. Their passionate, fearless lives must challenge us, as well us move us to uphold them in prayer and action.

Matthew 5:10 - Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Persecution is not a recent problem, since the time of the apostles Christians have been tortured, murdered and ridiculed for their faith, but as Tertullian wrote, 'the blood of martyrs' has proved to be 'the seed of the church'. Nevertheless, I cannot imagine my right to express my belief in Jesus being stripped from me. Persecution is an injustice hence I will never wish for it; what I wish for however, is the rebirth of a radical Christianity in the West - full of passionate belief, pursuing holiness and putting faith and love in action. If that is what we looked like, who would want to look away?

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Yet Another Reason to Love the DNA!

(I know I record my spiritual journey on this blog, but God made genes, and I love genes, so I say this counts!)

I've had one of the most exciting weeks at university...not only because we extracted DNA from yeast, or discovered the marvellous intricacies of embryogenesis, but because I met Sonic Hedgehog! Yup, that's right...didn't know it was real either but apparently it's a big deal!
Note: Not the REAL thing!

Sonic Hedgehog is a gene, one of many in the hedgehog family of genes - its cousins include Desert Hedgehog, Indian Hedgehog and Tiggywinkle Hedgehog! Why the weird name? The protein product of this gene supposedly resembles the spiky little Sonic the Hedgehog! Stranger yet, I found that a verse in Isaiah talks about Hedgehogs: (Isa14:23) '...make it a possession of the hedgehog...' Totally out of context, but just thought it makes this post slightly spiritual! Just slightly?

This amused me so much that I decided to dedicate A LOT of time to research other funky genes - to my absolute delight, I found gazillions! While I wish I could share them all with you, time constraints have forced me to be satisfied with my 'top ten'...with one down, brace yourselves for the rest!

Swiss Cheese - A gene first discovered in fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) These regulate how glial cells are wrapped around neurons; in mutants however, they strangle them to death, producing a characteristic holed pattern that is similar to (you guessed it!) SWISS CHEESE!

Superman and Kryptonite - These plant genes (found in Arabidopsis thaliana) control the formation of a boundary between the carpel and stamen. It gets better, like the fictional Superman, the real Superman is suppressed by Kryptonite! I know what you are thinking! Just admit it - Genetics is COOL!

Genghis Khan - This post is beginning to feel like a joke! This bad guy does not go around conquering lands but resorts to a humbler role of regulating actin polymerisation, by coding for a serine/threonine protein kinase. I have no idea as to why this fruit fly gene carries the name of a great Mongolian emperor...may be something to do with destruction and phosphorylation?

Bubble Bath - Another plant gene! Mutants fill their cells up with many small vesicles, hence the name! Isn't that cute!

Ken and Barbie - I promise I am not joking! These are found in male and female fruit flies respectively. These are alleles of a gene responsible for sexual development.

Tin Man - This is by far one of the wittiest gene names ever! It is a homeobox gene in fruit flies (YAY for fruit fly geneticists everywhere!), responsible for the differentiation and proliferation of cardiac progenitor cells. Genes are often named according to their mutants, hence the Tin Man mutants lack a heart! Clever stuff!

Biblical genes (I told you this post was spiritual!) - The Sarah gene is involved in oocyte meiosis, courtship and ovulation in female fruit flies. A logical parallel to Sarah's miraculous conception in the Bible. I have heard that there are some others like Lot and Methuselah, but I haven't had the opportunity to authenticate those!

Finally, my favourite! One-Eyed Pinhead - If you know me well, you are familiar with the term 'Fish Head'; an insult(mostly aimed at myself) I sparingly use with love! By sounding so similar, One-Eyed Pinhead has made its way into my see, I love challenging conventional insults with these rather imaginative ones! Anyway, this zygotic zebrafish (Danio rerio) gene results in endodermal defects and more, when mutated. It is responsible for cell adhesion and movement. The name...well, that's probably the mutant...a pointy head with a single eye?

Sadly, I'll have to end there folks to get on with some much needed sleep! I hope you've enjoyed reading this as much as I've enjoyed researching and typing away! Seriously're probably wishing you studied the DNA now right?

Monday, 15 September 2014

Why I trust in Jesus

Having been a Christian for over four years, this feels like an overdue post! I have something that is too good not to share, so here goes my attempt in trying to convince or remind you of how awesome Jesus is!

Jesus is Unique

There are 12 major religions, and many minor religions - with so many to choose from, why Christ?

The answer to all of that is the fact that God is everything He ought to be and says He is. The God we worship is the God who created us and the moral and physical laws that govern us. So it makes sense that His nature radiates these laws. What I have found with many of the world's revered is that they are not always moral - when they give in to their lust, greed and anger, how can they expect us not to? God however is the epitome of purity, love, justice and righteousness - so it is fair that He demands us to reflect that. The reasons are numerous but I'll end with the one that caught my attention - you see, no one else speaks of a god who chose to come down to earth in order to die and set us free from the bondage of sin.

God is perfect. Habakkuk 1:13 reminds us of the fact that God is 'too pure' to 'approve evil' or tolerate wickedness. Hence heaven ought to be a place free of sin; 'nothing impure will ever enter [New Jerusalem]' (Revelation 21:27). We're all law breakers, it doesn't make sense for God to weigh up the good and bad...even if He does, the bad isn't going to vanish. Saying God will forgive us is theologically half baked - God is a righteous judge, your sin cannot be overlooked. That is why He came, in the body of Jesus, He lived a perfect life, died an unjust death and rose again beating death. He paid our ransom, so that on His account we can go free - so the saying goes, 'Religion says do, Jesus says done!'

Moreover, our faith and hope rest on one truth: Jesus rising from the dead. It is a truth that has never been, and can never be, disproven. It is the only thing (apart from the transforming work of the Holy Spirit of course) that validates all that we believe.
1 Corinthians 15:14 & 17 - And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith...and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.
As Jesus rose from the dead, we know that everything else that He said must also be true.

Jesus Defies Logic

Read the following verses carefully...

Isaiah 29:14 - I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.
1 Corinthians 1:18 - For the message of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

1 Corinthians 2:7 - ...God's wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.

1 Corinthians 2:14 - The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.

Apart from exposing my love for Paul's letter to the Corinthians, these verses highlight something very important. The Gospel is inclusive yet exclusive - it is open to all, but it is elucidated by the Holy Spirit! That's the reason why the good news about Jesus being our Lord and Saviour doesn't make sense to everyone.

Friend, if it doesn't make sense to you, I urge you to sincerely ask the Holy Spirit (even if you do not believe in the 'unseen') to reveal this mystery to you as it concerns your eternal destiny.
I know it sounds like folklore, but how can our incompetent brains fathom the God who stretches far above and beyond the science and logic we treasure, (after all, science and logic are also part of His creation) until He intervenes?

I have deliberately failed to address scientific perspectives as this post will end up being too long for anyone's liking...I shall tackle that at a different time! Nevertheless, let me just say that science does not and cannot disprove God or anything pertaining to Him or His nature; God is not bound by the laws He has established.

Jesus is the Only Way

People believe in what they do, whether it be someone of a particular faith, no faith or multiple faiths, because they feel that they are right in believing it and rejecting all other possibilities.

Going back to the above one has ever claimed to be 'THE way, THE truth and THE life' except Jesus. What an outrageous claim! If Jesus did rise from the dead validating all that He has said, then this too is a statement we cannot shy away from. If there was any other way through which we could be saved, Christ's sacrifice becomes unnecessary and meaningless! There cannot be many truths, when one of these 'truths' claims to be the ONLY TRUTH!

Albert Einstein (who is not a Christian) had this to say about Jesus, 'As a child I received instruction both in the Bible and in the Talmud. I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene. No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life.' Although Einstein recognised the difference in this 'myth', I am not aware of whether he chose to do something about how he felt. Like Pilate during Jesus' trial, and Mr Einstein, many acknowledge Jesus' splendour and are filled with awe, but very few choose to unravel this captivating Jesus. 'You will seek me and find me, when you search for me with all your heart' (Jeremiah 29:13)

Let me conclude with C.S. Lewis' beautiful expansion on this point from his book, Mere Christianity: 'I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic - on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg - or else he would be the devil of hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.'

So friend, if you haven't already, why not check Jesus out for yourself?

Friday, 5 September 2014

Rent A Friend

It wasn't until recently that I heard about a paid service available for 'lonely folk', allowing them to 'Rent A Friend' to guide them in a foreign town, to watch a movie, to have dinner with...seriously, except the first reason, all others just saddened me.

Did you know that 800000 people in England experience loneliness? Majority falling prey to depression, which is the most common mental health disorder in the UK?
Did you know that it is mainly the over 50s, divorcees and widows who feel lonely? Women being more vulnerable than men?
Did you know that the number of people falling into this category is steeply increasing? That it is no longer a problem associated with a particular age-group or gender?
I didn't!

Loneliness is a neglected problem in our society - scientifically, socially and spiritually.
  • 'Campaign to End Loneliness' equates the detriment in a lonely person's health to that of someone who smokes 15 cigarettes a day! Loneliness often leads to depression which, as we are reminded time and again by various celebrities, can lead to death - both suicidal and natural.
  • We are social beings. Sadly we are made socially deficient by virtual reality. *GENERALISATION ALERT* People speak of times when neighbours sat in their gardens or front yards and spoke to each we even know our neighbours, let alone anything about them? Even in my lifetime I enjoyed staying out till late to play badminton and tag with the kids in my neighbourhood...where have the kids gone? We're developing a future full of couch potatoes! Where isolation is conceived, loneliness is birthed. According to Darwin's theory of Natural Selection and evolutionary history, the human race was so successful because they were social and the development of languages allowed greater levels of interaction. By preventing ourselves and others from intimacy, aren't we devolving? This problem therefore weakens the infrastructure of our society, to our peril.
  • I remember reading about the discovery of an elderly female Homo erectus skeleton - she is belived to have died of hypervitaminosis A. They say that the only reason she survived long enough was because she was cared for by those in that ancient civilization - I hope we in the West have not grown out of it! In the East I know for a fact that families actively care for their elderly, but I seldom see it here.
  • Loneliness makes us spiritually vulnerable to sin. Loneliness often results in idleness, and we all know that 'an idle man's brain is the devil's workshop'. We escape accountability, hence it is so easy to slip into and be bound by secret sins like pornography - not only to keep you occupied but to give you the false sense of security and fulfilment as you crave some sort of intimacy. Loneliness is the path that leads to the bog of sinfulness.
While some are oblivious to this, others hesitate to care. Talk about monetary or one-off measures for the 'greater good' and you will have people flooding your door, but loneliness is one that very few want to tackle as it demands something of far greater worth - time - the thing we never seem to have enough of!
Why care? Jesus cared and still cares!
We, as Christians, are called to love like Jesus and care for the hurting - yes that means investing time and even money but think of all the time we literally waste! As I type away, I am reminded of how much I fall short of this calling! There are many who say that the world is falling apart; as salt and light however, we are to show people how to super-glue it back together.
There is a lot we can do. If you don't know where to start...
  • Start with a smile or a simple 'Good morning!', especially to the elderly
  • Get volunteering or campaigning for the government to better address this issue - you can check out 'Campaign to End Loneliness' for more information.
Like tiny drops of water joining to make a mighty ocean, let us challenge each other to make a conscious effort in our little corner of the world to be a friend to the lonely!

Sunday, 24 August 2014

That Fear Though!

It is no secret that I strongly believe in the freedom of belief and expression of faith; religious persecution is an issue that breaks my heart, and reading reports on what is happening to Christians and other ethnic minorities in Iraq is distressing to say the least. Recently, I wanted to join many others to publically pray and petition the Prime Minister to help these fleeing, persecuted minorities. My family shares my view, and my parents were very supportive of my plans...until the day in question!

They feared extremists showing up at the rally, and requested me to stay behind as they cared for my safety. I am disappointed but not frustrated, after all their care is genuine and their worry understandable - but it did remind of something I recently heard, about 'fear' being the greatest hurdle in the life of a Christian. How true!

The only other thing I'd argue affects our progress is 'apathy', but fear does affect us all in one way or another at some point. Take evangelism - a saved soul is characterised by the desire to evangelise, but at times the fear of rejection or ill public perception nullifies us. Likewise, fighting for worthwhile causes - we fear being perceived as activists (I don't really know what's wrong with non-violent activism to be honest!) or being opposed or confronted in an unamicable manner.
The truth in all this, is that we ultimately fear MAN - that sounds terrible doesn't it? We ignore the root cause - our fellow man, his rejection, his disapproval, his reaction - and blame everything else to justify our fearfulness and continue wallowing in it. Wise King Solomon had something to say about this too, in Proverbs 29:25 he writes, 'Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.' #WORD

However, fear is not a bad is after all the 'fear of the LORD' that is the 'beginning of wisdom'. The focus of our fear is what defines how we will be affected. Fearing God or other forms of authority, pushes us towards our destiny because it stems from love and respect. The 'fear of man' however stems from our desire to be accepted, loved and gain the approval of society. BIG difference!

We are to be fearless, not foolish, in our calling! Sadly we are like pendulums - most often we are stuck in the middle, comfortable in our apathy but when we get that push, we fluctuate between over-readiness, and stubborn reluctance. If you stick to what you are called to do and seek the discernment of the Holy Spirit, what could possibly go wrong?

If and when you are called into those dark alleyways, remember that He who called you, will not leave you. What is the worst that can happen? Being killed. Do you think my breath will be allowed to leave my body without His permission...of course not! If His plan is to end my life in that manner on a particular day, tell me, who can change that? No matter where I hide, it will happen! Besides, death isn't a grim and fearful prospect for a Christian - I yearn for that glorious day, where I will see my Saviour face to face, where I will know all that I believed and hoped for. Yes death is painful, but for a Christian whose eternity is secure in Christ, it is not the end...there is something magnificent awaiting us across the Jordon. More reason to descend into the battlefield, fearless!

I believe 'fear' is something we can all relate to; during those times focus not on what is in front of you, but on the God who is sovereign over it all. ' all things God works for the good of those who love Him...' 'The LORD is [your] helper, what can a mere man do to [you]?'

I hope I have encouraged you to 'go hard' for God, but if not I'm sure Chris Tomlin, Francesca Battistelli and Moriah Peters will drive the point home! We have the God of angel armies on our side - so why fear?


Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Church History - Montanists

I developed a recent interest in church history, no that's a lie - I've always been interested in it but this summer I decided to do something about it. I do agree with George Santayana that, 'Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.' One of my church leaders lent me 'Church History - A Crash Course for the Curious' by Christopher Catherwood. I am only a couple of chapters in, but I have already learnt a lot - about evangelicalism, various denominations that have risen and died through the ages, and how the church has stood the test of time. It's a great book that I highly recommend to all you 'curious' folk! One of the early, and now extinct denominations that caught my attention was Montanism, so I decided to dig a little deeper.
There are not that many sources around that have documented the practices, doctrines and the demise of this community. Moreover, there seems to have been sects within the Montanist church confined to various localities, and these sects had varied doctrines, again details that are not well documented. I am going to share my findings - but if you would like to correct or add anything, you are most welcome.

The Montanist Church was founded by Montanus - a young Christian convert who is said to have been a priest of Apollo or Cybele - in 2nd century AD. It started in Phrygia, Asia Minor, hence it's followers were also referred to by the names, 'Cataphrygian' or 'Phrygian' which literally means 'out of Phrygia'. Montanus travelled with two female assistants, Prisca and Maximilla - they preached their doctrines and were known for their ecstatic prophecies. It was a sect that placed a lot of emphasis on the Trinity, fidelity during persecution and esteemed chastity, penance and spontaneous reliance on the Holy Spirit.

They were protestants of sorts, as they believed in salvation through Jesus Christ and consecutive repentance. Their doctrines focus primarily on John 14 and 16, chapters that document the power of the Holy Spirit and the gifts that we can obtain as a result.
John 14:12 - whoever believes in Me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things
John 16:14 - He [Spirit of Truth] will glorify me [Jesus].
They preached that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are bestowed through grace and not 'deeds' of righteousness or spiritual superiority; and also that the Spirit provided prophecies to both men and women alike.
Moreover, they propagated a belief in 'The Four Ages'
  1. NATURAL AGE - innate understanding of God, through personal revelation and nature. This was the period before the Law i.e. Noah, Adam .etc.
  2. LEGAL AGE OF THE FATHER - This age is the age of the Law. From Moses until the period of Jesus, covering all the prophets.
  3. GOSPEL AGE OF CHRIST - This is the New Testament period pertaining to the life and ministry of Jesus.
  4. REVELATION AGE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT - They believed that this period, after Christ, was established by Montanists and that it supersedes the age of Christ - WHAT? Supersede? I thought the Spirit was meant to 'glorify Jesus' - moreover, their primary form of teaching is by revelation and NOT via Scripture...sounds a bit dodgy to me!
Montanist meetings are said to have a period of TERROR - I am not quite sure what that meant or constituted. This was followed by a period of QUIET and PASSIVITY IN MIND, where they empty their minds completely to be taken over by the 'spirit' - I am a bit weary about this, hence I have not capitalised it. The 'spirit-filled' state is known as the ECSTATIC STATE, where members of the congregation prophesy in first person, out of the control of one's own will. This varied from the prophecies in the Bible which are characterised by calmness and free will, but this difference was justified as a 'new, higher order' - but weirdly, this was exactly how Montanus is said to have prophesied as a priest of Apollo or Cybele!
In addition to all this, they were pre-millennial - they believed that Jesus' second coming would happen before 1000 AD. They were also quartodeciman - celebrated Easter according to the Hebrew calendar - who wore make-up (Note - make-up was a sign of harlotry) , paid preachers and believed to posses the authority and power to forgive sins.

According to my research, which involves mainly Catholic and Reformed sources, these were the beliefs of the majority, but like I said before the doctrines changed between localities. For example, the famous historian Tertullian, is said to have converted into Montanism, although he remained on records, a Catholic. He wrote that the Holy Spirit did not supersede Jesus but only 'affirmed ambiguities in the Bible', not introducing new doctrines. His teachings resulted in Tertullianism which spread to the West. No matter where it spread, all forms are known to have met their demise by 6th century AD. What caused this sudden decline in a movement that captivated many?

Looking at what they preached and practised, it is clear to see why many had a problem with them - it was not so much that they were exercising the gifts of the Spirit or prophesying, it was more so the manner in which they did it. Can the Spirit of God result in violent or 'ecstatic states'? I don't know, but I see no examples in Scripture! Just because they exercise these gifts, which some believe stopped with the Apostles (I am not here to debate that, although I do believe that they continued), they're wrongly linked to modern day Charismatics or Pentecostals! Just, no! There must surely be demonic spirits that counteract the Spirit of God - how do you discern the two, if you rely on spontaneous revelation, without affirming it with the Word of the Lord? Jesus Himself did not come to overthrow the words of the Father but to clarify them. The deal breaker for me however, was looking at the actual prophecies, as we are asked to 'test the Spirit' - and guess what, they had numerous that did not come to pass. Their prophecies were very 'end-time' oriented (e.g. One of their prophecies stated that Christ would return to New Jerusalem, which will be located in Pepuza or Tymion; they apparently also gave a date - this obviously never happened, and we see their followers declining from this point on) Jesus said He'd come like a thief! Never believe anyone who tells you otherwise, but be ever prepared!

I know that there is a wealth of knowledge out there on Montanism, that I am ignorant to, but with what I have at hand, I certainly see this as a heresy. What scares me though is how much truth it actually holds - much truth that totally loses it's value because of the odd lies and misconceptions that decorate it. These people appeared to be on fire for God, moved and used by the 'spirit', but that was all a lie - doesn't that scare you? The thought that a demonic spirit can imitate the Holy Spirit? There is a spiritual world out there, believe it or not! It reminds me of Matthew 7:15, where Jesus says that false prophets, referred to as wolves, come 'dressed in sheep's clothing' - the false doctrines always contain elements of truth to ease you into it. This calls for us to be vigilant, not only towards attacks of sin that can mar our walks with God but also towards what we're feeding ourselves with. A deluded mind is worse and often harder to correct than an unbelieving one.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

The Forbidden Fruit and its 'High Life' Counterpart

Someone once told me, 'Rules! They're there to be broken!' - Obviously, it's out of context and not very good advice, but why do we all love a bit of rebellion? Why is the forbidden fruit so appealing? It is 'forbidden' for a reason right?

First of all, let us establish what the infamous 'forbidden fruit' is all about.
Most definitions I've browsed seem to refer to an 'indulgence or pleasure that is considered illegal or immoral'. I bet really dodgy things come to mind at the sound of that statement, but that is not all! Why is something illegal, because it is out of the bounds of what the law allows. Why is something immoral, because it does not conform to the standards of morality established. Basically, the 'forbidden fruit' is anything we wish to do or actually do that we are not supposed to do, because of boundaries established by an authority that governs us. Ultimately this authority is God, but we also have earthly masters like parents, teachers, government, bosses .etc. It's a phrase that can be traced as far back as Genesis 2 - in light of this, the internet definition Wikipedia offers is a bit limiting! It can be stretched to include anything from greed rooted in money, addictions of various kinds, lust and sexual immorality...boy the list could go on forever!

I'm as allured to the forbidden fruit as everyone else...note that I say 'fruit', I do not encourage insulting the apples that I dearly love! The most rebellious thing I've done? Well I'd rather not reveal that but I don't mind sharing the one I am least guilty about. A couple of years ago, I remember applauding myself for being an absolute gangster, just because I joined my friends in hiding on a terminated bus as it drove on to some random place...childish, I know!

So, why is it that we only yearn to do something when we're discouraged to do it? It almost seems as though the existence of rules is to be blamed for rebellion. Or so I am told, especially by those demanding we legalise various recreational drugs!
That is obviously wrong! Legalising something, only reduces illegal acquisition, it does not exterminate substance abuse, which is what these drugs are primarily used for. Besides, do you actually think people will stop black market sales? Of course not! Take cigarettes for example: the legal age for smoking and purchasing cigarettes in the UK is 18 (or 16 depending on where you reside), but I spot numerous kids having a puff because they 'know people' who are prepared to share a cigarette with them. The answer to such social issues is awareness and discipline.

'...if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, "You shall not covet."' - Romans 7:7

Rules are essential in order to guide a wayward conscience. Let's be honest, we tend to act on impulse more than on our conscience - but rules stop us, as impulsive actions most often lead to trouble. Rules appear to control us, but the lack of rules only results in chaos. Even nature functions by a set of laws, which when disrupted, results in some rather uncomfortable consequences. We're not necessarily crazy about rules because they restrict us.

The 'forbidden fruit' tempts the inner dictator in us all. Tell me, who doesn't enjoy control and power! The problem however, is that it makes false promises - much like politicians grappling for support. It promises temporary fulfilment but blinds our eyes to the consequences ahead. The control they appear to give, leads to pride and discontentment. Above all, it is a fallacy! You are not in control...ever! God is.
Let's analyse our great grandmother Eve! She fell for the lies of the 'forbidden fruit' because:
  1. She had a distorted view of God and His laws - Genesis 3 records the first sin, which was surprisingly not disobedience, but lying. Eve exaggerated God's laws, making Him out to be controlling and mean; a doorway to disaster! The moment we fail to see God as our loving Father and Saviour, we stop acknowledging His goodness and His genuine best interests in the laws He puts forth. Obviously, that then leads to rebellion as you see Him more as an oppressive dictator.
  2. She failed to appreciate what she already had - Genesis 2:9 mentions that Eden was filled with 'all kinds of trees...pleasing to the eye and good for food' When I read this, I often wonder about how stupid it was for Eve to leave all those fruits and run after the one thing, ONE THING, that she wasn't supposed to. You'd think she would've been content with the rest! Yup, I can talk, I would've probably done the same...and NOT because I am a woman, but because of greed, ingratitude and the inclination to rebel that all of us are born with, regardless of gender.
  3. She sought control - Eve was not interested in eating the fruit until the serpent slyly says she can be 'like God'. Ah what an appeal! A totally false one too! Eve just couldn't resist an opportunity to be in control, in charge of everything, that thirst for power - it's easy to see the reason behind her downfall. The forbidden fruit promises us so much, it seems too good to be true...that's because it is! When you actually take time to consider these lies, you realise that what they promise is actually far less magnificent in reality.
  4. She did not trust God - Let's face it, if Eve had trusted God when He said, 'you will surely die' she would not have given a second thought to the word of that serpent. Perhaps it was pride within her that brought forth the distrust - pride in her own judgements rather than God's. Can't we all relate to such guilt?
This 'forbidden fruit' concept is portrayed beautifully in Dominic Balli's song, American Dream: '...they sold me the American Dream for a small fee, the price of my life and my own dreams...I was never told that the high life would demand my soul such a high price...' Feel free to listen to it:
Yes the forbidden fruit, or in contemporary terms, 'the high life' seems glamorous, but that's far from the truth. It may promise some joy, peace, comfort or what not, but it can never last unless it is rooted in Christ. God alone adheres to His promises, a faithfulness evident throughout Scripture - He promises us 'peace that surpasses all understanding', 'joy unspeakable' and He asks us to 'cast all our cares on [Him]'. Tell me, what more could you need! Like Tim Howard would say, 'Everything else is a bonus.'

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Saturday, 19 July 2014

An Emotional Facade

Darrin Patrick (a church planter) once said, 'We fear our emotions more than a receding hairline. We don't need to cut off our emotions or let them control us. We don't need to turn into John Wayne or the blubbering guys who cry at everything. Our emotions can move us to love others and fight for the good. They can help our relationships rather than harm them. They can help us become true men and good men rather than men who are laughed at or feared.'
Amen to that! How many of us can relate?

It is so easy to take 'Be joyful always' to a whole new level, and suppress every other emotion we are designed to feel, in order to deceive others and ourselves that we are 'good Christians' - whatever that means!

Since the day I became a Christian, it has been my desire to be more like Christ. Wrongly I believed it to be a mono-emotional journey where one was expected to be happy at all times. Except for joy and the occasional sadness, I was a stranger to every other emotion. Don't get me wrong, I felt them alright, but I was incapable of discerning them! I'd often translate what I thought to be negative emotions, to guilt - I feared feeling them, I was guilty for allowing myself to feel them, let alone express them. I struggled to believe that 'there was now no condemnation for those who are in Christ.' I did not want to feel those emotions or let others know that I did...I guess you could say that I was in a state of emotional denial.

My denial was so great that I eventually became incompetent to discern my emotions. Be it anger, jealousy, frustration...I honestly knew not what I felt, all I knew was that it made 'my tummy feel weird'. I found it tiring, irritating and lonesome!

Gratefully one of my bestfriends, Mina, opened my eyes to my folly. Her words of wisdom were too good for me not to share...
She rightly pointed out that I was 'scared to admit that [I] had feelings like jealousy...because [I thought] it'll make [me] a bad person...and so [I supressed] them' She went on to reassure me that I was only human, hence I was 'allowed' to feel them and that bottling it up or running away from them, only makes things worse. I'm just going to go ahead and quote her because I loved the way she put it...
'These feelings don't make you weak or anything' but 'of course you don't act hastily on them but just admitting that you feel like that lets you understand yourself more'

How true! How liberating!

Be honest, first with yourself and then with others. I'm not encouraging you to moan, now that's bad! Christian fellowship is vital in order to uphold and encourage us physically, emotionally and spiritually. How can we be encouraged if we mask the struggles we face?

These emotions aren't from the devil! Truth is that even God felt many of these...
Jesus wept; He angered at the desecration of the Temple of God; one of God's name is El-Kanno - referring to His jealous nature when it comes to our relationship with Him...these emotions are natural but how we act on them define whether or not they're negative.
Ephesians 4:26 tells us, 'In your anger do not sin' - you see, anger isn't the sin, it is what we do because of it.
For example, human trafficking is an issue close to my heart - it makes me sad and angry. I could either use that to kill all the traffickers on the face of the earth (impossible task!) or I could campaign and raise awareness for the safety and better treatment of women and children. The likes of Martin Luther King .Jr and Nelson Mandela made history not because they ran away from their anger, frustration and grievances, but because they channelled such into positive actions.

In Mina's words, 'It's not what we feel but how we act on our feelings that makes us'
Let go of that façade! You never know, you might even leave a mark on history!

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

The Six Goals Brazil Scored

I don't know about you but I found the Brazil vs. Germany game last night VERY PAINFUL! India and football...well that's a joke, so I became a Brazilian once England lost...I did my research, became a dedicated fan, no it's fair to say I was crying with those painted faces on TV at every goal that tricked Julio Cesar's brilliance! Eventually my screaming throat dried up, my sighs were so heavy that they deflated my lungs and my fist no longer had the energy to punch the air around me...that was when I pondered on the loss, the tears and the guilt filled shame that seemed to penetrate into my living room. That's when it occurred to me! You know what, Brazil might have lost 1-7 to Germany, but they sure scored those defining six goals elsewhere...

GOAL 1 - Don't play the blame game
Brazil's team spirit is one to admire and applaud, however I felt this draining by the minute during their final match. Whether it be Julio Cesar's inefficiency against the Germans, or Neymar's misses against the Colombians, they never point fingers, just comfort. Even when Marcelo made that own-goal blunder against Croatia, it was evident his mates were reassuring him and not rebuking him, however his regret was too much to appease!
Oh finally, let me not forget Luiz Felipe Scolari proving to us that they would blame none but themselves.

GOAL 2 - Never forget those who were instrumental in your progress.
Silva and Neymar were no doubt instrumental in Brazil's progress (everyone else was too), it was truly tragic that they both were to be out during this crucial match. Neymar couldn't because of his injury, but his presence gave his team morale to press on! Despite the absence, I loved how Julio Cesar and David Luiz held his shirt during their National Anthem.
Moreover, on social media, they are all very vocal in expressing their gratitude to all their supporters, and primarily to God. True humility, true love, true gratitude.

GOAL 3 - When the world says, 'it is over', prove them wrong!
90 minutes gone and Brazil was down 0-7 against Germany, just when it seemed pointless to even add another minute to the game, Oscar stunned us all with a goal! Yes it was hailed the 'most pointless goal' but I do not doubt the fact that 1-7 is slightly better than 0-7 - losing is painful enough but leaving empty handed would've been excruciating. I guess we can all learn from Oscar to never give up, even when the odds are against us. Keep trying!

GOAL 4 - Never consider yourself better than others.
It is quite sad that many exalt Neymar and put every other player down - truth is that even Neymar doesn't see it that way (Don't believe me? Check his social media outlets!). It is a fact that there are star players in every team, but football isn't about gaining individual glory, it is about team effort. The Brazilians lift each other up, believe in each other and never try to make it a one man show! Every player scores for his team's glory!

GOAL 5 - Comfort the hurting
I am no football expert, I only watch the World Cup! So I guess it finally makes sense as to why I am not assessing the technicalities of this match! However, I need not be an expert to acknowledge how these players care for each other. Although goals are their priority on the field, more important are their fellow players! When Neymar fell face down, Marcelo first, later David Luiz, retired to his side until the doctors came - they weren't going to leave him alone and crying in pain to run after a petty goal!

GOAL 6 - In all things, give thanks.
I LOVE BRAZIL for various reasons, utmost of which is their unashamed expression of faith - from Kaka to David Luiz, before and after every match, after every goal scored, these players do not fail to point to the source of their strength, God. Before the match last night, the commentators on BBC 1 were analysing David Luiz's capacity to lead a team - I have to say that I was very disappointed in the way Alan Hansen dismissed Luiz's expression of faith! In our society you'd think 'open-minded' people would be more accommodative...apparently not!
What astonished me however was not Hansen's comment, but what followed Brazil's tragic loss. Others, including Luiz Gustavo, joined David Luiz on his knees - a picture that baffled many, made them an object of further ridicule, but to every Christian watching, I hope it was as special as it was to me. It is one thing to give thanks when you win, but doing the same when you know the humiliation that awaits you is admirable. They followed Paul's advice to 'give thanks in all circumstances'. By doing so they acknowledge God's sovereignty and the fact that He is glorified not only in our victories but also in our failures!
I bet He was smiling down on them!

So, what went wrong?
Perhaps their lack of confidence and psychological deficiency due to the absence of two of their important players. Perhaps the doubts and increasing despair as crowds departed the stadium. Perhaps the nerves and desperation...truth is, I don't know!

I'm not going to lie, the melancholy I felt was heartwrenching but it did shame me! Often, we get too involved and forget that football (or anything else for that matter) is just a game; it's not something to lose our happiness over or start a riot over! With that in mind, let me declare with a smile that Brazil may have lost their home World Cup, but they certainly won my heart!

(Shout out to my cousin, Ramya, for suggesting I write about this painful event!)

Sunday, 29 June 2014

What is True Feminism?

Feminism is an ubiquitous term, that is mindlessly used in our society that seeks to embrace change and promote equality at every turn. While it has achieved much for women, from voting to equal opportunities, this breeze is becoming a hurricane, that is set to destroy the very people it started off benefiting.

Does anyone know what 'Feminism' means anymore? I think not!

It was a movement that began to stop the marginalisation and objectification of women in society - although wages could be fairer and career prospects, wider, marginalisation is an issue that is being dealt with, but not so with objectification.

A Rihanna poster in Ireland, that was
forcefully fed some modesty
I have come across articles citing various distorted definitions of feminism - they feature celebrities who are often commended for their efforts in promoting feminism...and what exactly are they referring to, when they say 'efforts'? Explicit album covers, photo shoots, performances, name it!
Have I missed something? We were trying to stop the perception of women as sex-objects, were we not?
How on earth do you except a man to respect a woman when she readily sacrifices her self-respect and dignity! We cannot walk around scantily dressed and demand fair treatment; all we will get is reality slapping us across the face to remind us that the human brain is wired to lust. Society will only change when you allow it to, and I do not see how this practise benefits our movement. Lewdness is by no means a medium for feminist expression.

While rummaging for a satisfying model of feminism, a character from an Indian epic - Mahabharata - came to mind. Draupadi is said to be the most beautiful woman in the world, but circumstances obliged her to marry the Pandavas - five brothers who are said to walk in righteousness. You might, like the society of her time, label her a prostitute and wonder about the righteousness behind this polygamy, but she is nevertheless portrayed as the epitome of purity. I know it is dodgy and I am not here to address that. I want you to see why she was considered so pure.
Scenes from 'Mahabharat' that airs on Star Plus
  • Panchali (what she is otherwise known as) was pious. She remembered her gods, not only during her adversities, but also during prosperity. 
  • As the story unfolds, her husbands lose authority over her after a game of dice. She is hailed a prostitute, insulted for her polygamy and pressured to compromise herself with the princes of the court. She did not let them disrobe her, let alone touch her.
  • Draupadi sought justice - yes that meant killing (much wrong with that, I know!) but her motives were just; especially because she is said to have had the power to burn the court in an instant.
  • Finally, she was also a woman of integrity - showing mercy, impartiality and love.
What I'm trying to highlight is that, Draupadi had everything going against her, however she made society change its prejudices about her. Through modesty she held on to her self-respect and dignity. The very mouths that accused her of prostitution, later acknowledged her for who she truly was.
I believe she was a true feminist - she did not let society undermine or alienate her, nevertheless she respected male authority over her (i.e. her husbands). Boy, how we lack this balance!
Ha, by skim-reading this I know I have failed to do justice to this fantastic Indian epic, so I suggest you read or watch it if you can!

It might come as a shock to you that I am actually quite indifferent to feminism, however I strongly believe in fair treatment and the social acceptance of women. I write this because I do not want my generation to mindlessly turn feminism into something it never intended to be.
Finally, let me remind you that our identity as women, is not defined by how much flesh we flash, far from it! It is defined by the ransom that was paid by the blood of a sinless Saviour.
I hope you see it.

Friday, 20 June 2014

A Man Like Joseph

Joseph is one of my favourite Biblical characters. His life, from start to finish, has much wisdom to impart into our Christian journeys - but I have never seen it in the light that C. B. Martin presents it in, in is book 'GENUINE - Becoming a Real Teenager'.

Joseph the Dreamer

I believe that God places dreams and aspirations in the hearts of His children - obviously I recommend you pray and test it before accepting anything your mind conjures up! However, Joseph's life is a testament to the fact that 'dreams alone never lead to success'.
These dreams, are often ambiguous...they point somewhere, but that could be anywhere! They give a gist of the future but no clear plan for the present, or vice-versa. They're often frustrating but always motivating.
This is not just true for Joseph, take Abraham, Noah, Peter, the list goes on...
Dreams are a bit like faith and hope, action invigorates them. This action involves submission and discipline, and as Martin points out, discipline in three areas: service, self-control and suffering.

Joseph the Learner

Dreams require training before they can be implemented.
It took Leonardo da Vinci at least 12 years to finish the Mona Lisa.
It took around 2000 years to complete the Great Wall of China.
It took around 22 years to build the Taj Mahal...and it took God 13 years to make Joseph the great leader he was destined to be. Of course God can make a leader out of any Tom, Dick or Harry in the blink of an eye, but that's no good to anyone! Masterpieces take ages, and the journey is part of the reason as to why we stop and admire them.

Joseph was one pampered boy - spying on his brothers, arrogantly boasting about his dreams and showing off the colourful coats tailored for him by dad! How annoying! Thank goodness God worked on him before letting him anywhere near a position of power.
We are destined for greatness...whatever God intends 'greatness' to be, hence we too undergo the same disciplining as good old Joe:
  1. Discipline of Service: Joseph had to have his pride broken and his arrogance stunted. Service teaches humility, which brings with it respect, diligence and obedience. Martin depicts this beautifully, 'God had to literally strip Joseph of his flashy coat and clothe him with a slave's tunic so that Joseph might learn to be 'clothed with humility'. Can you relate? I sure can!
  2. Discipline of Self-Control: Temptation is an inevitable reality; sexual temptation in particular is inescapable in the 21st century, it is also debilitating. It starts in your head, and before you know it, your body gives in. The Bible is clear by word and example that a man cannot be entrusted with greater things if he cannot be entrusted with the body he is given. 'Greatness' requires self-control...Samson lost his greatness when he lost his self control and gave in to the lust of his flesh. Yes this is a hard one but remember, God does not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear. Like Joseph, acknowledge your weakness (in his case, Potiphar's wife), consciously avoid it and if need be, RUN AWAY!
  3. Discipline of Suffering: You'd think that was enough discipline, but God intended Joseph to experience suffering - in prison, because of a false accusation. Suffering can be a defining period in our walk with God. A period that can either make us or break us. Suffering teaches us patience, it sharpens our faith by teaching us to increasingly trust in God and His word, even when the future looks bleak.
Discipline rids us of importance, impurity and impatience. It isn't a cosy ride but the end is worth it!

Joseph the Leader

Joseph brought Egypt through a severe famine and draught; he was also instrumental in helping his family survive. When life seems unfair and people cause you harm, let Joseph's life reiterate the truth that God can use everything to accomplish His good and perfect will.
Joseph would never be the man he was if it weren't for the experiences he endured. God has a plan for your life and mine, but before he can use us, we've got to let Him teach us - whatever that may involve! You see, a dream without discipline becomes a nightmare.

There's much more to this average Joe after all! Now go, turn your dreams into realities!

Friday, 13 June 2014

Sharing Grandpa's Gems of Wisdom

I recently came across Brandon Heath's new single, it's a tribute to his grandpa, Paul Brown Petty. As I listened, it was clear that Brandon wanted to be like his grandpa; he was not only proud of him but missed the values that he held. Paul Brown Petty was a lot like my grandpa - they didn't just have their military past in common, but their 'can-do' attitudes and love for God. With Father's day around the corner, this seems like an appropriate time to ponder on and share what I love about my grandpa, and some of the values I hope we don't lose with his generation.


My grandpa served in the Indian Army with his four brothers, from 1955 to 1971 (some served in the Indian Air Force) - my great-grandfather was awarded a national award for sending all his sons to National Service. Hence, it's safe to say that patriotism runs in my blood. Patriotism applies to where you are from, but it also applies to where you reside - it is national loyalty not national superiority, and it is something my generation lacks greatly.
I am not proposing we worship our countries, flags or leaders - all I propose is that we respect them. A nation can only ever move forward if it is united; unity means feeling one and we can only feel one with those around when we embrace patriotism - forget race, forget size, forget ability, we are diverse but the country we share unites us. This patriotism awakens during the Olympics, Football World Cups and during national events like the Queen's Jubilee or the Royal Wedding - it seriously moves me to tears and I long to see more of it.

What are the perks?
Patriotism promotes a sense of belonging. When one feels a sense of belonging, they begin to respect authority, laws, and public property. The public would use their votes or ensure they cease complaining and start acting. I'm not sure if I am over-reacting but it bothers me to see flags being worn as slippers or underwear; in my opinion, it just reveals a lack of respect. Vandalism of public property can also be reduced greatly. It truly baffles and appals me to see bins set on fire or bus stops cracked...for fun!

In India, every child knows the National Anthem, I've been away for many years but I still remember it, likewise in many other countries around the world. We were taught it in school and were expected to sing it every morning during assemblies. I love Downton Abbey; it paints a contrasting picture of the Britain we see today. Patriotism and many good values (take the good forward, leave the bad behind) of the past seem to have dried up after the wars; they have 'changed everything'. How many teens can name the National Anthem, let alone sing it? Schools and the government must do more to promote this national loyalty we lack - this generation is the future of Britain - patriotism induces a sense of responsibility when it comes to national affairs. It's not the government's problem, it is our problem - I can't help using a cliché here, but we're all in this together! That is legit and we need to acknowledge it.

Don' replace it, fix it!
I'm sure you've seen this image on social media, but have you taken some time to ponder on the truth behind it?
My grandparents have been married for 50 years. Obviously every marriage has its ups and downs, but I've seen my grandparents live their marriage out in a way that is so special. I am no expert on this hence I'll give you grandpa's two tips for a successful marriage:
  1. 'You need two hands to clap' - meaning, you need two people to cause an argument, so as soon as you see the dawn of one, zip it!
  2. Prayer - 'a family that prays together, stays together'. 
This fixing rule applies to all areas of life, not just relationships. I was recently watching some talks given by relatives during my grandpa's 80th - many referred to his 'can-do' attitude and how he walks into a house and immediately fixes everything that's broken. I have to say that I do fear this ability of his at times, as he ends up fixing something I was hoping to replace with something more trendy!

Keep Learning

My grandpa is 80, but he would never let that stop him from being up-to-date with the latest developments in science and technology. Be it listening to an impatient grandchild or meticulously analysing the instruction manual, he is prepared to do anything to acquire the knowledge he wishes to. From practical knowledge on hunting or making fires to more contemporary insight on using social media .etc. his prowess is learning.
We live in a world that is rich in culture, history and technology, there is seriously no excuse to stop learning!

There is a lot more that I believe we're losing from his respecting elders or even having a sense of community...but this post is lengthy as it is!
My grandfather is special, and so is yours. Spending time with him has allowed me to share these little gems of truth with you, and I urge you to do the same. They have some exciting tales to tell, make sure you treasure them and pass it on! There's much to learn from these brave men who were momentous in creating the world we now cherish.
To every father, grandfather and great-grandfather out there - Happy Father's Day!

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Maleficent - Is 'True Love' an attainable reality or just another heart-breaking fallacy?

Yesterday I had the joy of watching 'Maleficent' with one of my besties. Oh, before I proceed, please stop reading this if you intend on saving yourself from spoilers!
In my opinion, 'Maleficent' is yet another Disney classic; it retells 'Sleeping Beauty' from the villain's perspective. Maleficent is played by the flawless beauty, Angelina Jolie - who is striking in appearance and performance throughout the film. We get a glimpse of this supposedly evil fairy's past, exploring the reasons that led to the darkening of her previously pure heart and the resulting irrevocable, ruthless spell on an innocent baby Princess Aurora (played by the angelic Elle Fanning). It is a tale of many themes, all pertaining to the human nature. One such theme was 'True Love'.

I was honestly surprised! Throughout the years, Disney has fed many little girls the concept of 'True Love', implying that they ought to portray themselves as damsels in distress in hope that their Prince Charming would come riding on a white horse, to carry them away into the sunset to a land of happily-ever-afters. This film is different. It promises no such thing, in fact the characters mention at least twice that, 'There is no such thing as True Love' - a statement that is filled with despair, hurt and just sadness. That made me wonder if there really was such a thing, or are we just fooling ourselves...

BEWARE - here's where I might spoil a bit of the film for you! Maleficent casts a spell on the little princess that she'll prick her finger on a spindle needle and 'fall into a sleep like death', which can only be awoken by the 'True Love's Kiss'. The catch however, is that Maleficent and King Stefan - who were past lovers separated by betrayal fuelled by material greed - knew there was no such thing. However, as Maleficent watches Aurora grow and mature, she cares for and loves the girl - she regrets her impulsive spell and tries vigorously to revoke it, but to no avail. As the young princess lay helplessly asleep, not even awoken by a prince's kiss, I looked around, as I do, and saw that almost everyone around me was as shocked as I was. A remorseful Maleficent then speaks to Aurora through her tears, promising her the utmost care and kisses her forehead...and, yes you guessed it, the Sleeping Beauty wakes up!

Intrigued, I reflected on this twist on my journey home. The reason why it was initially portrayed that 'True Love' was non-existent was because the human heart - tainted by greed, lust, self-importance and hatred - is incompetent to express such a delicate, pure and sacred entity; the movie refers to this as the 'great evil in the world', and rightly so. Careful assessment would reveal that the human nature is only to blame for every war that has ever marred history. From wise Solomon to persevering Paul, we repeatedly hear warnings to guard our hearts, and not be led by the desires of the flesh, why so? Our hearts, whether we want to admit it or not, are storehouses of everything sinful, with even the most charitable deed corrupted by a hint of selfishness. Many spend their lifetime searching for love, success or something that completes them, satisfies their inmost being but fall disappointed time and again because what they acquire is often incomplete.

As Aurora opens her eyes, Maleficent's servant Diaval exclaims that there is in fact something called 'True Love' - a scene where I could not help but reflect theologically! Maleficent, was Aurora's fairy godmother - the bond between them reminded me of our relationship with God. Apart from vengeance driven by hurt, the evil fairy had a pure heart, but God is the epitome of purity, holiness and all goodness.  The love that resonated from this pure heart was the much coveted 'True Love'; it was powerful enough to break the spell - how much purer, how much truer, the love that flows from the throne of God! God's 'True Love' is the truest of all, it led Him to the Cross and thus has the power to break the spell of sin that binds our hearts and human nature. What a beautiful but unintentional parallel! C.S. Lewis depicts this with great brevity, 'It would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak...we are far too easily pleased with lesser things than Him'

I believe 'True Love' is a reality, but a reality that we are incompetent to express. Only God has the power, purity and credibility to express it and faithfully persist in it; we shall be disappointed if we pursue it elsewhere. Take heart however, for those who trust in Him are empowered by Him to express a fraction of this magical love as long as we live on this side of Heaven.
I hope I've given you some food for thought, and watch 'Maleficent' for yourselves to ponder further on related themes. Who knew a children's movie could be so philosophical!