So, I chose Christ. Now what?
How do I know that the Holy Spirit is actually indwelling me? Eight years ago – when I first believed – I didn’t feel anything. And I certainly do not feel anything right now. How can I be sure The Spirit of God is in ME?
I wish I had the time to go in full detail about what I’ve been reading lately. Two things have struck me the most.
First, in order to be saved, you must believe in the Lord Jesus. Even a mustard-seed-size faith can take you a long way. Second, all you have to do is A.S.K. Ask, and it will be given. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened. God is actually waiting for you to ask Him for the gift of the Holy Spirit.
You do not have to put yourself together to come to God. You do not have to clean up your mess in order for God to take you in. We have the idea that we have to get ourselves all cleaned up. But actually, we can ask our Father in Heaven to do it.
We can be bold enough to tell God, “YOU CLEAN ME”
When Faith intertwines life
I was reading the other day that one of the major evidences of the Holy Spirit working in your life is the pure fact that you actually feel broken about your own sin.
Worldly sorrow brings death. You can cry because things do not go the way you wanted them to go. That’s disappointment. But thorough the eyes of Scripture, that kind of sorrow only brings death to your life. There is, however, a kind of sorrow that is godly. Godly sorrow brings repentance, and that repentance brings salvation.
Repentance brings blessing. The issue here is not mourning over human circumstances. The real issue is mourning over your own sin. This brings to my mind the Sermon of the Mount, in which Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven”.
This means that when you are confronted with the reality of your own sin, you know that you are spiritually bankrupt. You look at your life and find nothing of value, nothing of worth, nothing to commend yourself to God. None of the things you do will give you the righteousness that God demands from you.
You can only beg for salvation.
‘Why are you crying!? I didn’t do anything to you’, I said.
My daughter came out from the corner where she was hiding. She told me, ‘I am crying because you scared me, Mommy’
You might think I have all the time in the world to write long posts. I do have time, but I also have a family. Most of you know my name, but many of you have never seen my face. I am a real person, with real problems. Every morning I argue with my two year-old because he refuses to go to the bathroom. I literally have to ask him for more than twenty minutes to go and pee, but he never goes.
I am one of those “weird” moms who believes in the power of spanking. Words are sweet and nice, but sometimes, my children really need a spat on their bottoms. I don’t physically abuse my children. We have been consistent on how the spanking is to be administered. We explain what rule was broken, and we spank. The child owns his action, and then apologizes. We forgive the child, we pray with the child, and we let go. Clean slate.
All the time? What a drag… No, not all the time. But in the years we have been parenting, we have done it vey consistently. But that morning, I didn’t even spank my son for his willful – in my face – disobedience. You might think he is only two years old, but he knows right from wrong. I know he knows. I can see it in his behavior and in his choices. The other day, he was able to control himself and did not hit the neighbor’s little girl. Sometimes, he even thinks he is smarter than me. He pretends to hide in order to kick his sister – as if I don’t have a clue of what’s going on.
So that morning, I didn’t even spank him. I just yelled at him. After an hour of trying to be the most patient mother in the world, I yelled. I know exactly why I scared my daughter. I know that I am able to focus all the energy from my most inner places, and get it out through my mouth. I knew why I had scared her.
I knew I had done something wrong, but after all, we were in a hurry. My son always has to fight this battle with me exactly when it is time for us to get his sister to school. I apologized, and I cried, but I had to keep it together. We were late for school. We got in the car, and on the way to school, I kept on holding back my tears. Even my driver asked me if everything was okay. I just looked at him and then I looked at my son. My driver knew what that meant. He knows my son.
When we came back from school, my son was watching some YouTube videos. It seems that watching shows and playing with my cellphone is all my children have been doing for the last three months. I had to write my journey down.
I wept on my bed for twenty minutes. My son came and gave me a hug. He told me not to cry, and he also asked me to put on some trains going fast for him on the computer. My last post was by far the longest one. This post will top it off. Can you picture my over-thinking brain during those weeping twenty long minutes?
Those twenty minutes, in short, summarize my year-long journey through Judaism, Islam and Christianity.
Welcome to my brain
As I laid down on my bed, I could only hear a condemning voice telling me I was a hypocrite. Here I was trying to proclaim a Good God, but that God was not even able to help me control myself. I was a hypocrite for telling my children they could have self-control, but all I did was yelling at them. I wasn’t leading them by example. I was the worst mother because I had probably marked my daughter’s life forever. She was afraid of me. A wrong choice of mine had had a bad effect on her.
I knew I had sinned against God, but also against my daughter. Specially against my first born. The day she was born, I promised her that I would teach her how to love God and how to honor God. I am her only God-figure when her dad is not around. Is this the image of God I want her to grow up with? A God who says He is patient and loving as long as you do what He wants you to do? I felt ashamed of my choices.
I couldn’t even say any words. I was weeping. Is this what praying in the Spirit meant? Is this what The New Testament means when it says the Spirit of God can pray for you when you have no idea what to pray for? Was the Holy Spirit interceding for me? I was groaning ἀλάλητος words. Words that cannot be expressed.
But after those words somehow made it to Heaven, I was able to purposely say, “God, save me. I cannot save myself. YOU save ME”.
And then God brought to my mind all the knowledge I have recollected for the last months. I had made my daughter cry. I had broken many commands. I remembered the story of that Gentile who wanted to become Jewish. A sage taught him all the Torah under two minutes. The sage said, “Don’t do to others what you don’t want them to do to you. The rest is commentary, now go and study”. That sounded familiar.
I was not kind. I was not gentle. I was not patient. I was not self-controlled. I was not compassionate towards her. I am focusing on my daughter. But what about my son? I have been so inconsiderate towards him lately. Granted, he can go to the bathroom, and he can wash his hands on his own. But lately, I have even been refusing to wash his hands.
I have argued with him – for I don’t know how long – about the fact that he has to wash his hands on his own. And you know what he has been telling me lately? He looks at my face, points his finger at me, and tells me, “YOU CLEAN ME”.
So what about all the other sins in my life? These are only against my daughter and my son. What about sins committed against God? Unbelief. Lack of interest on reading His Word. Believing in Him, but not believing HIM. And what about my husband? Disrespect overshadows all the other sins I have committed against him. I take him for granted, and I am not thankful for the things he does for us as a family. He called me out on those issues this evening. And he is right.
What about my parents? My neighbors? My friends?
You know, my daughter’s latest hobby is applying my nail polish. She thinks I look beautiful. My fingers, tough, are always coated with it. She applies my lipstick, too. I look like a clown – but she thinks I look beautiful. Are you really telling me that God will not accept my prayer because I am wearing nail polish? Are you seriously implying that God will not listen because I am wearing make up?
‘Hold on to your weeping’, God says. ‘Keep yourself together, and go do your wudu, first. Take off your nail polish. Wash your face. It is a sin if you offer prayer like that. I cannot receive your prayer when you are a mess. Your salah is not going to count. And please learn to talk to me in Arabic when you address me five times a day. But don’t feel bad, Woman, most native Arab-speakers are struggling to learn Quran Arabic. It is not like you are in any disadvantage to them whatsoever. Keep up the good work, Sweetheart, and strive hard‘.
I honor my Muslims. I honor all the Muslims that I don’t know yet. These are not mocking words. These are pure, honest thoughts that were running through my mind, while countless tears were running through my face. I respect your beliefs, my Muslims, but I made my precious daughter cry. If you would have seen her sweet little face – all scared.
How many good deeds will pay for this wrong? How many days of fasting are enough? How many meals should I give the poor for such a thing like this? Ten, twenty, thirty… Multiply that for every single sin I have ever committed in my life. I chose an abortion at age eighteen. I killed a baby. I chose to have sex with random people from a very young age. And those are only sins that people can see. What about my lust, my jealousy, my anger, my pride, my selfishness…
Well… God forgives. He just forgives.
God is the root of all the things that we consider good. Look at some of the names of Allah. As-Sabur (The Patient One), Al-‘Afuww (The Forgiver), Al-Hakim (The Perfectly Wise), Al-`Adl (The Just), Al-Ghaffar (The Forgiving), Ar-Rahim (The All-Merciful), Ar-Rahim (The All-Compassionate), Al-`Adl (The Just).
These are all terms that involve LOVE. If God is the Greatest God, He has to be the most patient. He has to be most loving, He has to be the most merciful, He has to be the more just of all. He has to be the fairest of all Judges. And the FAIREST of Judges always punishes sin. God cannot sweep sin under the carpet, and forgive JUST like that.
Mercy, by definition, is only exercised by the One who has the power to punish. You deserve to be punished by God, but if He is the MOST MERCIFUL, He can also forgive you. Forgiveness does not mean the absence of consequences. Sin has to be dealt with.
I know my sin has to be dealt with.
Dealing with sin
It is amazing to me how similar we all seem to be – Jews, Muslims and Christians – and at the same time we are so different. I remember one day I was having breakfast with my Muslims when Adam and Eve showed up at the conversation. My Muslim said they covered themselves with leafs. ‘Yes’, I said, ‘And God covered them with skin’.
Leaves. Skin. Leaves. Skin
The Quran narrative of The Fall portrays Adam and Eve covering themselves with leaves after realizing they were naked. The Torah narrates the same incident. Adam and Eve tried to cover themselves because they felt ashamed. Now they knew what sin was. The Torah teaches that God walked in the Garden of Eden with His children (Genesis 3:8). Adam and Eve had an intimate relationship with their Creator. But after they ate from the fruit, instead of running towards their Father, they wanted to hide.
Think about it. Nobody can see the face of God and live (Exodus 33:20). But Adam and Eve could. I dare say that it was because they were sinless. They were holy as God demands us to be holy (Leviticus 11:44). Even The New Testament (1 Peter 1:16) demands holiness based on The Torah.
Stay with me.
Adam and Eve had been created in God’s own image. That, by the way, only means that human beings have the potential to be creative, spiritual, intelligent, communicative, relational, moral, full of purposeful capacities… a little taste of what God is.
But once Adam and Eve exercised their free will – by choosing to disobey God – everything changed. God did not JUST forgive them. There were consequences. And somebody paid the price. Genesis 3:21 says that God made garments for them out of skin. This is what Quran probably means by garments. The purpose of this adornment was to cover their shame. Their sin – all together with their guilt – got transferred to an animal.
They needed to be covered. They had sinned against their Creator. In His infinite LOVE, God was absolutely MERCIFUL and He forgave them. In His infinite wisdom, God was also JUST, and the wrath of God was transferred from Adam and Eve to an animal who died in their place. Symbolically, the blood of that animal covered their shame – their sin.
Oh, Karla, again with the blood of Jesus…
This is not my own crazy Christian theology. This is an issue that rests at the very core of Judaism and Islam. As I see it, it is either my blood or the goat’s blood. So I vote for letting the goat die. Seriously.
You see, I was born a Mexican. I was born far away from the Middle East where all these things had been cooking for thousands of years. This Isaac vs Ishmael battle is really none of my business. I am a Gentile. But it so happens that I am going gaga over the God of Israel. And it seems that He loves me, too. So what do I need to do to get this relationship going?
The sacrifice and spilling of blood of an animal is an issue that was very close to the heart of Mohammad. And Muslims have to obey their prophet. This is Sunnah mu’akkadah – a confirmed Sunnah. If you have the means to do it, you should not ignore it.
Aqeeqah involves sacrificing a goat or lamb on behalf of a new-born child. It means giving thanks to Allah for His gift. This almost sounds like the consecration of the first-born. Every single first-born male belongs to YHWH. Circumcision is also a command from God to Abraham. Muslims practice it, too.
The Aqeeqa lamb has to have certain specifications, you know. It cannot be any lamb you find on the road. It has to be one year old, without any defects, its legs must not be broken- although it doesn’t really have to be that perfect. That goes against Leviticus 22 and the rules for acceptable sacrifices to be offered to God. But I hope you are able to see two things.
First, Mohammad hung out with the Jews. Big time. He was influenced by them. Second, if this kind of ritual made it into The Sunnah of Islam, I put my hands on fire that Mohammad knew that SACRIFICE WAS IMPORTANT. According to Mohammad, every boy is in pledge for his Aqeeqa, and you have to shave his head.
Mohammad was surrounded by people who understood the meaning of atonement by the shedding of blood. Mohammad understood it, too. If he did not, then why do Muslims recite what they recite over the sacrifice? Imagine a little boy called Ibrahim.
Oh Allah! This is Ibrahim’s aqeeqah. The aqeeqa’s blood instead of Ibrahim’s blood. The aqeeqa’s bone instead of Ibrahim’s bone. The aqeeqa’s skin instead of Ibrahims’ skin. Its hair instead of his hair. Oh, Allah! I make this an offering on Ibrahim’s behalf. I turn my attention exclusively towards He who created the skies, and the earth. l am not amongst the polytheists. Oh Allah! From You, and toward You. In the name of Allah. Allah is great.
At the core of Islamic belief, you have atonement by sacrifice. At the center of the Sunnah of Mohammad, Ibrahim’s father – acting as priest – is reconciling little Ibrahim’s with Allah. The shedding of the blood of that lamb is the means to do that.
This does not go against Quran 22:37, by the way. Of course the meat doesn’t reach Allah. Of course Allah does not need that blood. Instead, it is the action of TRUSTING that the blood of that sacrifice can COVER little Ibrahim’s sin, and make him right with God. Just like it was with Adam and Eve from the very beginning.
Sacrifice has always been God’s idea
Hold on to your butts, because I am just getting started.
My Jewish Friend
I can only recall the first time I told a Jew that I really liked the Old Testament. He said it was not OLD, and he looked so upset. That was so amateur of me. I wish he could read this. I wish I could tell him I have studied the Torah in depth. And I wish I could tell him that even though I will never master Hebrew – or be Jewish – I stand for Israel.
I will always stand for Israel.
I am not an ethnic Jew, and I will never be. Even if I dared telling him that I have circumcised my heart, that stuff wouldn’t fly with him. For him, the New Testament is rubbish. Jesus is not the Messiah, and for all I know, he doesn’t care about my Muslim-Christian dilemma. He has the promises of God, you know. He is, after all, Jewish. Of course I know that this attitude is not one of arrogance, but of one who still trusts in the promises of God given to Israel.
I don’t really know why all these hateful things are happening in the world. But I read the Book of Hosea, and I know that God is not done with Israel. No, sir. He loves them dearly. Israel might have been a whore in abandoning YHWH, but He is her rightful husband. So please, back off.
I will betroth you to me forever;
I will betroth you to Me with righteousness and justice,
with loving-kindness and with mercy.
I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness,
and you shall know the LORD
– Hosea 2:19-20
I have never seen an animal being slaughtered. My friend would tell me, that when bringing an offering to the Temple, the owner of the animal had to be present. He had to put his hands on the lamb’s head, and he had to rest his weight on it. In one sense, he connected with the animal – so it was like an extension of himself. To actually see that little lamb killed right in front of you was an unsettling thing. This little fluffy lamb might have been your pet, but now it was dead meat.
During the atonement, Life and Death were staring you in the face. God dwelled symbolically between the wings of the cherubim above the cover of the Ark of the Covenant. Inside the Ark were the tablets with the Law that God had given Moses. The Ark’s cover was called Atonement Cover or Mercy Seat. The blood of this little fluffy lamb had to be sprinkled on this cover.
The Ark was a picture of judgement. When God saw that atonement had been made, forgiveness could be given. If you wanted the punishment you really deserved, then you had to die. But if you wanted forgiveness, then you had to sacrifice this little lamb.
This could have been me. This animal is just like me – with a heart, hair, gall bladder. What is the difference – a soul?
It was a whole process, but at the end, the remaining meat was taken and could be eaten by the owner.
I am all ears. My Jewish friend is describing Aqeeqa to me. Muslims also eat the meat and share it with others.
I am sure my Jewish friend would tell me that Ibrahim’s Aqeeqa is a sweet symbolism, but it doesn’t really count as a real atonement. It will never cover little Ibrahim’s shame because sacrifices are not longer required under God’s Law. The Temple was destroyed around 70 A.D. (an event actually predicted by Jesus), so there is simply no place – acceptable to God – to offer the sacrifices anymore.
Sacrifices had to be offered every day – all day long. That was the job of the priests. Even in Jesus’ time, sacrifices were still going on. Jesus had nothing against these sacrifices. The problem – in Jesus’ judgement – was that the operation of the Temple had become robbery under the temple authorities. The sanctity of the Temple and its purpose had been lost. The problem were not the sacrifices themselves—they had been set up and ordained by God—the problem was with those who superintended the temple.
But now, my Jewish friend tells me that God does not care for blood sacrifices anymore.
After all, one of the offerings brought by a sinner was the korban minchah, which was made up of flour. We also find in the Torah that both incense and monetary donations served to atone for the people. It should be noted that nowhere in the Torah is it stated that atonement can be found only through sacrifice, never mind blood sacrifice.
The Jewish sages say that world stands on three pillars:
1. The Torah. One who reaches into the laws of sacrifices is considered as if he has actually offered a sacrifice. By studying the laws and their meanings, we achieve the atonement and closeness to God that a sacrifice accomplishes. This sounds like Islam – where God will judge you on the base of your intentions.
I find it appalling though, that this is coming from the Talmud – which is a commentary of the Oral Law (The Mishnah). Tradition usually seems to take precedence over the Scriptures for faith and practice. The Oral Law stands as high as the Written law and here is why. Jewish people relied on their Oral Tradition, so that the Ishmaelites should not fabricate it as they had done with the Written Torah, and say they were Israel.
The Ishmaelites probably meant the Christians. The Church had adopted the Hebrew Scriptures and they no longer were a possession of the Jews. Therefore, the Oral Law, safeguarded the distinctiveness of the Jewish people living in a Christian environment. The problem with the word Ishmaelites is that by the 7th Century Islam tried to unite them. The Jews refused, so Mohammad split from the Jewish Scriptures. The Corruption Conspiracy began.
2. Good works of service. Jewish people had replaced the sacrificial “service of God” with prayer – the service of the heart articulated in words. As such, the three daily prayers are in place of the daily “services” and sacrifices that were performed in the Temple. On Shabbat, they add the Musaf prayer, since an additional sacrifice was offered in the Temple every Shabbat. This also sounds Islamic. God lets you make up for the days you don’t fast, or for the times you don’t pray. You can make up for those by feeding the poor.
Never mind that you broke God’s commands, you know. But if I remember correctly, you disobeyed God and you died. It happened to Aaron’s sons when they offered sacrifices to the Lord in the way they were not supposed to. Interesting it is that now – for some strange reason – Jewish people are doing a very similar thing.
3. Charity. Giving charity – giving of oneself – is also considered to be a method of finding atonement. One who gives his hard-earned money to charity is, in a sense, truly giving of himself—sacrificing himself for the greater good. This might be the ultimate form of sacrifice, as he is really giving something of himself—money that could have been spent for his personal benefit and gain. Also Islamic.
So what? I pray, I give money, I do good works. Is that it? Is that all I have to do to please God? That sounds like a cheap god. I think that actually makes God small. They are making God adapt to them. Either God is not that HOLY, or God is a liar who made sin to be a big deal when in reality sin is not that important.
The Israelites tried to be so different from The Ishmaelites, but in their efforts, they ended up twisting everything they were supposed to be. Israel was supposed to be a blessing for ALL the nations. That is why – in my understanding of the Torah- God chose Israel. But now, brothers are tearing God apart – as if God belong to someone. People actually want a relationship with your God, you, guys.
Abraham was about to sacrifice Isaac. No. Abraham was about to sacrifice Ishmael. No. Isaac is the son of a promise. No. Ishmael is the rightful first born. No. Ishmael was the son of an Egyptian maid. No. The Jews corrupted the Hebrew Bible because it does not agree with Quran. Yes. Actually, the Christians also corrupted the Injil because Jesus never died. Yes. Basically – the Jews and the Christians and every other non-Muslim – is going to hell.
Really? Is this God? When is this going to stop?
A gentile’s heart
I don’t care for rewards. Seriously. The idea of having them for my good behavior is really nice. But I am a mother of two young children. I know what being a parent is. I might not be the best, but I am trying my best.
When I ask my children to do a chore and offer them a cookie as a reward, the inevitable happens. They give a crap about the chore, and they only focus on the reward. We have had endless arguments about the cookie that they were promised, and they don’t even want to fold the towels they were requested to fold. It was my mistake for offering them the reward in the first place.
So I changed my strategy. Obedience is expected. Always. I am good mom. My husband is a good dad. We are reasonable people. What we are asking of them is not impossible to achieve, you know. So when I ask them to fold the towels, I expect them to fold the towels. I really want to give them a cookie, but I have stopped mentioning the cookie.
Sometimes they obey, and they do get the cookie. Other times, they obey, but I force myself to stop giving them the cookie. I stop myself because I want to teach them a valuable lesson.
You obey God because you know God. Obedience should be motivated by how much you trust God and how much you love God. You don’t follow God because God promises you Heaven. You follow God, and obey God because He is worthy of all praise. You follow God because He is faithful to you even though time and again you are unfaithful to Him. Obedience comes by faith. You have to trust that God knows what He is doing. Wherever He leads, you say yes. And you remain humble.
If my children get the cookie, they are happy. But I want them to learn to be happy even if they don’t get it. I want them to learn contentment. I want them to realize that if the cookie comes, they should be joyful. But at the same time, I want them to be aware of the fact that if they get a cookie every time they obey, they might be tempted to believe that their own effort – their own work – was what got them the cookie in the first place. And that is not true.
This is how my husband and I parent. Call us crazy. At times, we see wonderful things God is doing in the heart of our children. Other times, I just want to jump out of the window and run towards the woods. Sometimes I just need a beer. And if this is too much for the Muslims, I am sorry. I guess I’ll go with the Jews who will probably say l’chaim – holding a cup of red wine in their hands.
This journey has been totally awesome. I am a weird human being because I honestly enjoyed learning all the things I have learned so far. I am not finished yet. I will continue to learn, but I need a break. I have come to a point where I know enough. And knowing enough demanded a decision to be made.
I am only a human being. I cannot even pretend I am going to learn Quran Arabic, and Hebrew, and Greek, and then I am going to study all these original texts to actually know what they say. If there is a person who is able to do that, he is probably an atheist. The reason I say that is because the world of religion is a mess. A big fat mess. Everybody holds on to their own traditions based on their own interpretation of the texts.
The Jews not only have the Written Torah, the Oral Torah, the Midrash, and The Talmud. To top it off they also have Rabbinic Law. Who do you think I am – an alien? I will never be able to read all that assuming I have the time. And the human interpretation of these sages can lead to so much mysticism that some Jews even find loopholes for reincarnation.
When I read about all the Jewish traditions I can’t stop thinking about Jesus’ condemning words towards them. Messiah or not, crucified or not, maybe Jesus had a point. Maybe Jesus knew what He was talking about. These Jewish leaders had added rule upon rule, rule upon rule, in order to stop people from breaking the actual rule. And by doing this, the Jewish leaders began elevating these human rules to the same level of the actual rules given by God.
The Muslims have Quran. They also have Tawheed. They have the Sunnah and Hadith. But it is also a mess. You see, Muslims say Islam is one – that Islam is unified – but the House of Islam is facing a crisis. Muslims also want to believe that the Quran has never been changed from eternity past, but that is simply not true. Muslims have to go back and study their own history, and their own traditions.
Muslims are killing each other over what true Islam is. You have the Sunni vs Shia disputes. Then you have the Ahmadiyyas who believe that the long-awaited Messiah already came. Some Muslims are leaving Islam left and right to become atheists. And the truth is that Muslims are blind to these issues within their own faith. Or they choose to ignore it.
I understand them wholeheartedly. It is difficult to question your own faith, especially if you have never done that before. DUH. But I think everybody should go back and objectively – as much as they can – analyze the reason why they believe what they believed in the first place. Why are you a Muslim? Why are you a Christian? Why are you a Jew? Is it because you were born in those families? Is it because your parents told you it was THE truth? Is it because your traditions are comfortable? Is it because only Christians go to Heaven? Is it because only Muslims go to heaven?
What is the evidence for your faith?
Why do you believe what you believe?
I will tell you why I am choosing Jesus.
I am not going to pretend Christianity has no tradition. And I don’t agree with the tradition of the Church. That’s why I am not Roman Catholic. I was Catholic because I was born into a Catholic family. But my family – in all honesty – still lives as if God didn’t exist. Nobody asked me if I wanted to belong to the Catholic Church. You see, in the eyes of the Catholic Church, I am an apostate. I have abandoned the True Faith.
And I am a proud apostate. Send me to hell right now if you wish. I don’t agree with many traditions of the Church. I read the New Testament, and I don’t see why I had to be baptized as a baby. Jesus was baptized when He was thirty! Why should I pray five Holy Marys and ten Lord’s Prayers for God to forgive me? Is God that cheap? Can I really trick Him that way? My rosary resembles – for that matter – the Islamic prayer beads.
For all I know, I should be worshipping Tlaloc, Huitzilopochtli, Chalchiuhtlicue, Chicomecoatl, Coyolxauhqui and who else not. I should be offering the heart of virgins as sacrifices to appease the gods of my people. That’s the history of my country. Those are my roots. These should be my gods. But I don’t want those gods. I really don’t.
So I am not going to pretend that the Council of Nicea is a conspiracy theory, or that the Reformation never happened. The Crusades will be forever a mole for my faith because it was a war fueled by greed – but fought in the name of my Lord Jesus Christ. And the history of The Church is ugly. And I am studying it. And the traditions are ugly. And the bishops and the popes do nasty things. I know that.
I am rejecting The Church – as an institution. I am rejecting Christianity – as a religion. Do you see now why I don’t like calling myself a Christian?
I am rejecting all tradition
I will only uphold Jesus’ name as high as He would allow me.
I cannot be led by traditions. I cannot trust anybody. I cannot trust Jewish Tradition or Islamic tradition or Christian tradition. I can only trust what I am able to see. I am a doubting Thomas. Show me what you’ve got. Show me the evidence you have. My faith has to be based on evidence that my God-given brain enables me to approve as valid.
And it is right there. Virtually, all New Testament scholars – including the atheists – agree that Jesus died by crucifixion. You have historical documents from Tacitus, Pliny, and Josephus – to name a few. You have thousands of manuscripts and all of them convey the same idea. The earliest “Christians” believed this Jesus to be God. They were martyred and persecuted for not submitting to the Greek gods or to Caesar.
The earliest Creeds were given to the apostle Paul by the actual people who saw these events happening. Paul only repeated these creeds, but he did not make them up. Sure, Paul also saw Jesus, but plenty of other people saw these things, too. My faith does not rest on the Bible. My faith rests on a guy predicting his own death. And if a guy is able to predict His own death, and then resurrect from the dead, I am with that guy!!
There’s an ocean of evidence for all these claims – both inside and outside the biblical records. I will focus on that once I come back to writing.
Paul did not make up “The Way”. Jesus did when He resurrected.
Read the whole New Testament. Now try to live it to the core. Why would a reasonable person would do such a stupid thing? Why would you make up a story in which you had nothing to benefit from? It is only humanly dumb to sacrifice yourself for the sake of others. It goes against all the rules of my own selfishness.
I am accountable for the things I know. And come judgment day, I know enough. Sure, I will continue to study, and I will continue to learn, but I am ready to face my Creator. I won’t rely on the sages, or the scholars or the Imams or the Shieks. I won’t rely on the priests or the pastors or the bishops or the Pope. I am not gonna follow what they teach.
I follow what I see. And I see SACRIFICE in Judaism, in Christianity and in Islam. And I know God never changes.
I, YHWH, do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you.
Traditions have made humans believe that they can change the heart of God. We do not have the Temple therefore God does not need a sacrifice anymore. As if God were saying, “Oh, goodness, the Temple was destroyed. I didn’t see this coming. I am so glad my people are so smart to find loopholes to make sacrifices not necessary anymore. After all, what do I know? I am so fortunate they can work things out on their own”.
Nope. I am not buying tradition.
If Jesus did not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it, why is it such a horrendous idea that Jesus might have actually been the Aqeeqa of the whole world? Why is it such a horrible thought that maybe God decided it was time to stop our efforts of trying to do everything our own way? Why would it be a sin to believe that God can love HIS children so much – the people He created – that He Himself can be the Aqeeqa?
Do you reject that because you are a Jew? Remain a Jew, but take the Aqeeqa. Are you a Muslim? Remain operating within your own Islamic upbringing, but receive the Aqeeqa of God. But I know that might be just wishful thinking. You know why I think it is so difficult for people to do that?
First, CULTURE. Depending on your culture, if you receive Jesus as your Aqeeqa things can get pretty rough. In Saudi Arabia, they will give you three days to reject it, and if you don’t, then they might kill you. If you are lucky to live outside Saudi Arabia, at least you won’t be killed, but your family might disown you. In Jerusalem, your family will take you to the Rabbis who will make you read the Torah until you admit that Yeshua is not the Messiah. And if you don’t, they will disown you, too. You become a nobody. Your family might shun you until the day they died. Culture wins – most of the time
Second, PRIDE. I think this is at the heart of every single temptation. This is how Satan operates. You really believe you can be good enough to earn you own way to God. You say you trust God, but then, why do you try so hard? Why do you worry so much about memorizing the Torah or the Quran to recite it. Why would reciting the whole Quran in Arabic will give you extra good deeds? And the funny thing is, PRIDE was even at the heart of the Temple.
You see, people will take the little lamb to the Temple, put the hands on their head, and have it killed by the priest. But still, the offerer of the sacrifice always had the CHOICE. The offerer could believe God when God said the blood would cover his sin OR the offerer could believe that the blood would never be enough. So the offerer just kept on trying harder, but never really trusted the sacrifice.
I choose to trust the sacrifice. I choose to believe that God never changes, and that SACRIFICE will always be the ONLY way that God has made available for man to make peace with Him. You can tell me sacrifices were not the only way, and that it was only for unintentional sins. Sure, there were many offerings and many holy days.
But the most important day for Israel – as a nation – was the Day of Atonement. Yom Kippur is still the most important day. On Yom Kippur, the priest would make atonement for himself, his own household and the whole nation of Israel. And the two goats were presented to YHWH. One goat was scapegoat that made it into the wilderness. The other goat was sacrificed as a sin offering. That goat paid for ALL the sins. The Hebrew כֹּל means all – the whole.
I fear God. I love God. I trust God.
I trust that Yom Kippur means so much more than only unintentional sins. Yom Kippur is all about coming clean. I am choosing to believe that Jesus is my Aqeeqa. Based in the evidence I have gathered this year, I am choosing to believe that God is the Daddy who Mr. Harari talks about.
I looked at my son – full of dirt – and something hit me. I am his Father. And part of being a parent is knowing what you child wants – and what he can and cannot do about it. It is understanding them in a way that few others can.
My son was saying, ‘You know I can’t stop playing in the dirt. I really try, but I’m too little to do it all by myself. But since you are my dad, you know that deep down, I really want to come with you. And if you love me, you are not gonna just stick to your rules and walk away. You are gonna do everything in your power to help me do what I know deep down is right. You clean me, Daddy, so that we can go together’.
This year in India, I have gathered enough evidence and enough faith – even if it’s tiny – to look up to heaven and say, “GOD, YOU CLEAN ME”
I hope my twenty minutes of weeping shared light into some people’s lives 🙂
But if serving YHWH seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve YHWH.