Monthly Archives: August 2013

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Mahakavi K V Simon: A Debater Par Excellence

Mahakavi K V Simon (Poet Laureate; the highest rank given to a poet in India) was a towering apologist of the Christian faith in India. Born in 1883 in Kerala to Mr. Varghese (who had mastered Hindu Puranas) and Mrs. Kandama (who was a skilled poet), Simon grew up as a child with exceptional skills in poetry. Taught by his elder brother K V Cherian, Simon started writing poems by the age of 8. In 1885, Simon was born-again in a gospel meeting conducted by Tamil David. In 1886, he passed the examination in his native language, and became a teacher at the age of 13 in Marthoma School, Eduramala.

Mahakavi Simon was a scholar in Malayalam, Sanskrit, and Tamil. He also mastered English, Hindustani, Telugu, Kannada, Greek, Latin, Hebrew, and Syriac. In 1900, he married Ayroor Pandalapedika Rahelamma (later popularly called as Ayroor Amma).  They had one daughter. Mahakavi Simon was one of the prominent leaders of the Brethren movement in India and a founding leader of the Brethren movement in Kerala. He mentored an astounding number of disciples including Pandit M. M. John, Pastor K. E. Abraham (the founder of the India Pentecostal Church), Evangelist K. G. Kurien, Evangelist K. G. Thomas etc. Through his Mahakavya ‘Veda Viharam’ (a poetical rendering of Genesis), Mahakavi Simon has inspired many in the following generations to write poems and even Mahakavya in Indian Languages.

Mahakavi Dr. T. A Kurien who wrote Mahakavya in Hindi, ‘Yisu Charit Manas’ (Life of Jesus Christ, which according to Dr. Lakshminarayana Dhube, Professor at Sagar Hindi University is the first Hindi Mahakavya in 1000 years and first about the life of Jesus Christ), was inspired by Mahakavi K V Simon.

Apart from writing 300 songs/poems, Mahakavi Simon also wrote more than 30 books. A few of these works are in defence of the Gospel like ‘Satyaprakashini’, ‘Krushil Maricha Kristhu’ (Christ who died on the Cross), Prathiyukthi etc. ‘Satyaprakashini’ and ‘Krushil Maricha Kristhu’ are notes prepared from the rebuttals to the wild allegations raised by Gospel critics.

Mahakavi Simon was known for conducting numerous rebuttals and debates. In the 1920’s, Gospel critics such as Krishan Namboodri (who later became Swami Agamanda), Rishiram, and R. C. Das wrote and spoke against the Christian faith and opposed conversion. The entire Christian community in Travancore requested Mahakavi Simon to refute Krishan Namboodri and others.

Mahakavi Simon conducted a series of rebuttals. There were public rebuttals as well as books written refuting the baseless allegations of these Gospel critics. Mahakavi Simon not only refuted the allegations of these Gospel of critics but also exposed their double standards by extensively quoting from the Hindu scriptures. This can be seen in his apologetics book ‘Satyaprakashini’.

Similarly, Mahakavi Simon’s knowledge of his contemporary scholarship is also demonstrated in his book ‘Krushil Maricha Kristhu’ (Christ who Died on The Cross).  For example, regarding the allegation that Christ came to Kashmir, Mahakavi Simon wrote in ‘Christ Who Died on the Cross’:

In 1887, a Russian named Nicolas Notovitch went to Ladakh via Kashmir and spoke to the Buddhist priests there. Seven years later, he wrote a book in which he said that the chief priest had showed him an old manuscript and read it to him in which it is said that Jesus came to India when he was 12 and studied under the Jain, Buddhist and Hindu teachers. This book of Notovitch, which was published in French and English, caused much dispute among the followers and scholars of these religions. However, in the 1894 October issue of the magazine ‘The Nineteenth Century’, scholar Max Muller wrote that this was a trick by the Buddhist priests to please Notovitch (knowing that Notovitch held the same opinion).

Since Prof. Archibald Douglas of the Agra Government disagreed with Muller’s theory that the entire story was fabricated, he went to Ladakh in the summer. When he told the story of Notovitch to the priests at the monastery, they were extremely angry. He came to know that there is no such record anywhere in Tibet, let alone in the collection of the monastery. Prof Douglas published his travel report in the 1896 April issue of ‘The Nineteenth Century’. As a result, it is generally agreed that Notovitch is an unreliable adventurist. Even then, Hindus and Muslims hold on to the fraudulent statements of Notovitch. Since there are many such fraudulent records and false histories being circulated in India and Europe, records about the tomb in Kashmir is also not acceptable unless we verify it.

There is another example that we would like quote which strengthens our assumption. J. N. Farkar M.A., D Lit, a great religious student and scholar, having exceptional knowledge of Hinduism, in his book ‘Modern Religious Movements in India’ writes this: “There is a tomb at Kannayar Lane in Srinagar of Kashmir. It is not more than 200 years old. Neighbours say that it is the tomb of Yusuf. Certainly it is the tomb of a saint in Islam. It does not have any special story behind it (Page 141). (Translation ours).

All these rebuttals later culminated as a debate between Mahakavi Simon and Krishan Namboodri who presented a three hour case against the Christian faith. Then Mahakavi Simon gave a four hour rebuttal by presenting Biblical evidence and extensively quoting the Hindu scriptures in Sanskrit. It is said that the many Hindus enjoyed the rebuttal as Mahakavi Simon spoke fluent Sanskrit.

In the words of his disciple K. G. Thomas, ‘As Mahakavi Simon started speaking, it became a mighty wave and destroyed and washed away the mountain of criticism that Krishnan Namboodri built. This debate had helped to arrest the onslaught of Gospel critics against the Christian faith and edified and encouraged the Christian community’.

May God raise many more apologists in India in obedience to the Holy Scripture, in the Apostolic pattern and in the legacy of the cloud of witness such as Mahakavi Simon.

– Liny John

Harvest Times for Your Family June 2013/Volume 10 Issue 6

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Perfect Answers to Puzzling Questions

We come across a lot of questions every day. Right answers to the right questions are inevitable for us to take right decisions. Unfortunately very few people try to answer the most crucial questions in life which affect their destiny. The quest to know is as old as man. Many times people settle down to believe incoherent answers to most important questions of life. Let me present three crucial questions that demands coherent and consistent answers.

1) Who am I?

My dear friend, have you ever asked this question to yourself? We can come up with many answers such as I am a man/woman, I am a student, I am an Indian, I am a Hindu/Christian, I am an engineer/farmer, I am a Telugu/Marathi, etc. These answers are inadequate because they highlight only one particular aspect of your identity. In saying, ‘I am a human’, you distinguishing yourself from animals or birds. The reply “I am an Indian” explains nationality. Some of the answers will throw light in to your language, job, gender, religion but none of these answers are complete in themselves.  Hence we need to ask this question about our identity. It depends on who made us. It seems that every one is in search of their identity. Identity crisis is a universal phenomenon as the following poem suggests.

I AM a hastily written ending,

I AM a punch line with a bad taste

I AM an argument in reserve,

I AM the fact that theories hate

I AM the only thing not mentioned,

I AM the catch that ‘there must be’

I AM the robbery with violence,

I AM the one you would not see

I AM the bad dream that has to come true, I AM obscelence built in

I AM the door you cannot look behind; I AM as original as sin

I AM the problem that changes your plan, I AM the unexpected guest

I AM the confusion of philosophers; I AM the well known factor ‘X’

There are some who think that we are the product of random chance (evolutionist) and others who think that we are maya (an illusion). If we are the result of random change, how do we see design in the universe and if we are an illusion, who is asking these questions? In the Holy Bible, God explains that man is created in His image and likeness. Therefore, he is very valuable. Irrespective of their religion, cast, creed or race, God loves all human beings. You are someone created by God for a specific purpose.

The Holy Bible says that you were known by God of the universe even before you were born!  See Psalm 139:13-16

 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

This knowledge becomes the starting point for the next question.

 

2) Why am I here?

If we have been created with such care, there has to be a reason for our existence. All of us are put on this planet for a purpose. We are part of a big picture. But very few people discover their purpose in life. Most of us just exist and keep counting our days rather than making our days count.

Dr. Albert Einstein was once asked, “Why are we here?” He replied, “If the universe is an accident, we are accidents. But if there is meaning in the universe, there is meaning in us also.” And he added, “The more I study physics, the more I am drawn towards metaphysics.” Woodrow Wilson said: “I would rather fail in a cause that will ultimately succeed than succeed in a cause that would ultimately fail”.

If there is no substantial purpose of life all what we do will be futile as the poet says:

 

Into this world to eat and to sleep

And to know no reason why he was born

Save to consume the corn

Devour the cattle, flock and fish

And to leave behind an empty dish!

–     Anonymous

 

The Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy quipped “What is life for? To die? To wait for death till it comes? I fear that even more. Then I must live. But what for? In order to die? And I could not escape from that circle.” If there is no purpose in life, death is a winner and we live for no reason.

What is it that you live for? To have more money, a car, a job, position, power, electronic gadgets, health, beauty, entertainment, friendship, achievements etc? These goals are only momentary, will fade with time and be destroyed by death.

Instead, a wise king of old plainly put it:

‘Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man’. (Ecc. 12: 13)        

Our ultimate purpose is to live in relationship with the God of the universe.  Only God can determine the meaning in each individual’s life. Anything without God is futile. After much labor, pleasure and triumph, the same king also stated that one can achieve and possess everything without God, but will end up chasing the wind.

Seeking God and living in relationship with Him alone makes life worth living.  My friend, it’s important that you know where you stand in relation to God. I urge you to seek Him before life’s end. In fact, any discussion on the end of life/death leads directly into third question.

3) Where do we go from here?

George Bernard Shaw said: “Death is the ultimate statistic, one out of one die”. Death is sure but its timing is uncertain! Why do people die? The Bible says “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). We all die because all of us are sinners.

Rom. 3:10-12 “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.   All have turned away; they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”

If we make our conscience as the judge over our thoughts, words and actions, certainly it will condemn us as guilty. It is true that no human being can stand right before God. Bible says in Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”

As someone commented though we call sin by any other name we stand condemned before a Holy God. Look the poem which explains the same.

Man calls it an accident; God calls it an abomination.

Man calls it a blunder; God calls it a blindness.

Man calls it a defect; God calls it a disease.

Man calls it a chance; God calls it a choice.

Man calls it an error; God calls it an enmity.

Man calls it a fascination; God calls it a fatality.

Man calls it an infirmity; God calls it an iniquity

Man calls it a luxury; God calls it leprosy.

Man calls it liberty; God calls it lawlessness.

Man calls it a trifle; God calls it a tragedy

Man calls it a mistake; God calls it madness.

Man calls it weakness; God calls it willfulness.

 

Not only were we born as sinners but practice sin. And now more than ever, our society moves further and further away from God.

 

The poet Arthur Guiterman puts the situation humorously in ‘Our New Religion’

First dentistry was painless.
Then bicycles were chainless,
Carriages were horseless,
And many laws enforceless.

Next cookery was fireless,
Telegraphy was wireless,
Cigars were nicotineless,
And coffee caffeineless.

Soon oranges were seedless,
The putting green was weedless,
The college boy was hatless,
The proper diet fatless.

New motor roads are dustless,
The latest steel is rustless,
Our tennis courts are sodless,
Our new religion — godless.

Even though each of us will physically die, the essence of our being; our soul, is immortal and continues to live. The Bible says ‘It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment’ (Heb. 9:27).  As sinners from birth we have earned our wage of death; eternal separation from God and punishment in Hell. However, in the person of Jesus Christ we can have the hope of an eternal life.   He promised “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die”. (John 11:25-26). He is God who became man to take away the sin of humanity. He lived 2000 years ago, performed miracles to save others, and was crucified. The Bible says “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us”. (Romans 5:8). He bore our sins, became the sacrifice and paid the price. He died and was buried but on the third day he came back to life. And in Him and Him alone, do we have the possibility of heaven and eternity with God. The Bible clearly speaks about life after death; either with God or condemnation and punishment. The choice is ours.

At this point, you need to consider your identity, purpose and final destination. All these are issues that need answers to live a life of joy and satisfaction. Jesus invites you to find answers to these perplexing questions. He is the answer; the truth you seek and the way you should go.

Come and experience the new life that Jesus gives, accept him as your Savior and Lord. Admit that you are a sinner and believe that Jesus died in your place to save you.  Then, eternal life will become yours! Your destiny is depending upon your decision.

– Prof. Joy John 

Harvest Times for Your Family May 2013/Volume 10 Issue 5

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What Excellence means to a Christian

Watching Michael Chang’s victories in the 1989 French Open, and then listening to his victory speech is an emotional experience. Michael, who is a fine Christian, was then a 17 year old boy, and few thought he had a chance of defeating giants like Ivan Lendl and Stefan Edberg.  He thanked the Lord Jesus Christ in his victory speech, saying “Without Him I am nothing”. He battled cramps and inexperience, yet hung in there and gave his best because he felt an inner voice urging him to go on, and to think beyond winning or losing. To me this is a great example of excellence. In all things Christians are to pursue excellence, because God has given us the opportunity to do our very best in those things. Our goal should be to strive to do the best we can, even if others around us who are paid more, are willing to do less than their best. The result of this mindset is stunning, and can result in very special results. When we are in the presence of excellence it can be an emotional experience.

The Bible teaches us that excellence is a virtue and that we should practice it at all times, whether you work in a call centre talking to customers on the phone, or whether you work with Apple on a project to design the next iPhone. Whatever you do, the Apostle Paul tells us to do it all for the glory of God (I Corinthians 10:31).  This is probably not emphasized enough in Christian teaching today, and excellence is sometimes considered the poor second cousin of more well-known virtues like love, joy, forgiveness and service. Yet this is a teaching that touches every part of our day.

Despite all this we should not worship excellence as a virtue. This is because an inappropriate understanding of the meaning of excellence can lead to pride and even burnout. Sometimes the desire for excellence among Christians is not caused by a genuine love for God, but by a desire to exaggerate our own importance. The desire for excellence can sometimes result in pride, so it’s always important to check our motives. Is it really about God, or is it about you?

Burnout and stress can be another side effect of excellence. Persistent striving can be fatiguing, when we strive to excel to achieve our potential at work, or study. There comes a point where the desire to achieve unbeatable quality can cause stress in us, and also in those around us. I had a very successful boss who used to say that perfectionists cause stress in organizations. I have found this to be true. Many of us know what it feels to be overworked and fully understand how harmful this is to our health, our relationships, our professional abilities and to our spiritual lives. Work can become a punishing, depressing and often prayer-less existence. This is not the life that God has called us to live. The solution to this is to make sure that excellence is bounded by simplicity. You must focus on doing a few things and doing them exceptionally well. Focus exclusively on the areas where you truly feel called. Remember that the pursuit of excellence requires discernment, making difficult choices. We need to learn to choose between two good things, and then do that one good task 100 percent, instead of doing both tasks 60 percent.

Excellence is a process not a destination. It is not merely the goal getting a promotion, passing an exam or getting a good hike in your salary. If you understand excellence as a destination you run the risk of growing complacent when you reach your destination. It is better to think of excellence as a journey, a lifestyle. A final thought, God wants us to live excellent lives; and hold ourselves to the Bible’s standard of personal holiness. When you start fleeing from things which are immoral you will find that your life will change. You begin to see that God’s vision for the world is a lot bigger than your own little kingdom. You then look for opportunities to give to the hurting world around you, instead of expecting the world to give to you. In the words of Paul, you must learn to be excellent at what is good, and be innocent of evil.

— Jonathan Anchen
Harvest Times for Your Family April 2013/Volume 10 Issue 4

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