Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Story God's Hand Was on Me All Along

Actress Nagma
POPULAR actress Nagma opened up about her faith and mission in her life for the first time to the media in an exclusive interview with The Christian Messenger.Christian Messenger, an online Christian newspaper founding Editor Robin Sam interviewed her early this year. The followings are excerpts from the interview: founding editor Robin Sam spoke to her for close to five hours in an exhaustive interview concerning her faith, the recent issue over her testimony at Nalumavadi in Tamil Nadu, the rising violence against Christians, her personal life and plans for the future. Excerpts:When did you come to realize the saving power of Jesus Christ?I was born on Christmas to a Muslim mother and a Hindu father. I went to a convent school from childhood. I was exposed to Christianity from a young age.
I went to Mount Mary Convent School in Bandra, Mumbai. There, Mass was a routine feature. I always thought I am very special to God because I was born on Dec 25th - perhaps because the world celebrated the day.Even though I was not a believer then, I still enjoyed a constant companionship and relationship with Jesus Christ but never really mentioned this as it would have seemed odd then. A bit later in life, I came across a book called ‘Conversations with God.’ That confirmed to me that the power that was speaking to me all along was God Himself. Now when I look back, I feel that God’s hand was strongly upon me all along even though I hadn’t realized it then.
As God is just and fair, He has given us a free will to decide and make our choices whether good or bad because of His mercy and compassion.There was a time in my life when things were going on really well. Yet, there was this big vacuum. There was no all-encompassing peace though life was busy and my job competitive. It went on like this for several years. After 15 years of my career, I started feeling the futility of it all and began asking myself questions like ‘Why am I here?’, ‘What’s God’s plan for me in my life?’ and ‘What’s the purpose of my existence?’ I asked myself these questions when I was doing really well in life just like how King David felt even when he had everything going his way. Since I was spiritually inclined I read a lot of books in that genre. I also started practicing meditation. I was teaching Art of Living for nearly 12 years. But Jesus continued to intrigue me. Since one of my aunties was a Christian, I kept urging her to tell me more about Christ.

In the year 2000, in one such discussion, I said my salvation prayer.Like it took the Israelites 40 years to reach the promised land that should have been covered in just 11 days I took nearly about five years to submit completely to the will of God. Just like Jonah, I was going on my own trip.But in 2006, I became ill. I had a viral fever that the doctors weren’t able to diagnose. I had high temperature and was hospitalized. That’s when a Punjabi guy in my fraternity who was married to a Christian woman visited me and gave a CD. It contained a sermon titled ‘Freedom from fear’ by Brother Johnson, an evangelist in Goa. For the next six months I kept listening to the CD. Like the Bible says: ‘Faith comes from hearing and hearing by the Word of God.’ After six months, I told myself: ‘Now, I want to read the Word.’ I began with the New Testament. I told God: ‘I am going to read your Word. Help me and be my teacher.’While reading the New Testament, I realized the importance of baptism and also of joining a church. Therefore, I immediately joined Pastor Shekhar Kalyanpur’s New Life Fellowship in Juhu, Mumbai. I took baptism on Jan 4. Since 2007 was a year of rest I decided to take a break from films and continued my Bible study fervently.'My church nourishes me spiritually'Any particular reason for choosing the New Life Fellowship?I don’t think these things happen by selection. One has to be led by the Holy Spirit in these matters.
I think all churches are part of the body of Christ. Principally, you should be attached to a church. As believers we are all one in the body of Christ as long as we diligently follow and obey the commands of God and discipline ourselves in the Word which is the foundation.

You were saying that you started with the New Testament. Did you understand all that you read?I prayed to God for the revelation of the Word and He Himself has been my rabbi (teacher). Holy Spirit has been the guiding force in my life. My church has been instrumental in nourishing, supporting and providing for me spiritually. As the Word says (‘Draw near to me and I shall draw near to you’), the closer you get to God, the greater is His love to you. Now, I am part of the cell group of the church and when the occasion arises I also minister to the congregation.

What aspect of the Sunday Service do you handle at the New Life Fellowship?Whenever I am asked to share the Word or my testimony, I do it. Occasionally, I minister in the Hindi church. I am part of the choir, too. People have been inviting me from all over the world to come over and share how God has touched me and how the Word of God has brought about a change in my life. Isn’t this principally the duty of all believers according to the Word of God as it is said in Mathew 28:19-20? I am happy to share the Word of God as it has brought absolute joy in my life and it is the most overwhelming factor too.You have tried many other faiths earlier. One of your parents is a Muslim and the other a Hindu….Since I come from a secular background, I had the privilege of experiencing and gaining knowledge of all faiths.
I have come to believe that God is an almighty God; one God who has made the heaven, the earth, the sun, moon and the mankind. And to save us, He sent His only begotten Son to grant us the free gift of salvation in turn freeing us from all our iniquities and sins of the past and renewing us in His likeness. He is truly an amazing God. Like Jesus says in Luke 20:25: “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.” At the end of it all, I have come to understand that each one us belongs to God no matter what background we come from. We are all God’s children and He loves us dearly. If only we understand that it is not about religion but about His commands and the obedience to God.'Persecution is part of Christian life'How much time in a day do you set apart for reading the Bible, worshipping God and praying? I pray at all times.

At times for hours together I lock myself in my room and I seek God. I pray anywhere and everywhere. Since the past two years I have considerably cut down on my work just to seek the face of God, wait upon Him and to know His will in my life.

Someone in the BJP had threatened to send you a lawyer’s notice over your testimony at Bro. Mohan C Lazarus’ meeting in Nalumavadi, Tamil Nadu. How do you react to these criticisms?Persecution is part and parcel of a Christian’s life. And it is said if there’s no persecution then you need to check your walk. So, I think I am on the right track. Didn’t Jesus say “If the world hates you, you know that it hated me before it hated you”? (John 15:18-27). No matter what, God’s Word says I have to continue doing what He asks me to. So, shall I. (Ephesians 6:10-18)

How did you get invited at Bro.Mohan C Lazarus’ meeting?I get invitations to share my testimony from various places. I was in Kochi for the Reinhard Bonnke meeting. Bro. Lazarus happened to see me there. Thereafter, on one occasion he mentioned to me about people in his ministry praying for me and that they would like to hear my testimony. That’s how Nalumavadi happened.

How do you decide on accepting invitations to share your testimony?When I get an invitation from someone, I pray about it. Then, I reflect on how I feel about it within me. If there’s peace about that it, then I definitely accept the invitation.

Has there been any opposition to your accepting Christ as your savior from your family?Not at all. In fact, they have been very supportive. As I said earlier, I am from a secular family and happen to gain knowledge of different faiths. Now that I am a believer, they are supportive of this fact.

What was Jyothika’s reaction to your accepting Christ?All of them including my sisters think it’s a phase I am going through and I will get out of it soon. They think I am on my own trip (laughs). In due time, they will come to realize that this is the Way, the Truth and Life.

Have you started sharing your testimony with your close family members? And, are you interceding for anyone’s salvation?I don’t need to share my testimony with them as they are a part of me and they understand what’s happening in my life. Nevertheless, I pray for them that they will be touched by God as I had been. I appreciate them for their support in letting me do what I am doing and allowing me to share my testimony around the world. I believe the whole family can be saved through a single person’s salvation. ‘Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.’ (Hebrews 11:1) Therefore, I consider them to be saved and thank God for it.‘No political or religious agenda here’Several Christian leaders in Chennai and all over the country are praying for you. Do you have any specific prayer requests that should be made known to them through our media?I would ask them to continually pray for the spirit of boldness to come on me as it came upon the apostles on the day of the Pentecost so that I can continue to be able to testify among nations for His glory.

These are perilous times to be a Christian. Aren’t you afraid to be a witness of Jesus Christ in India considering the persecution happening here?If we think in the flesh, then, of course, we will be very afraid. But if we think in the Spirit, then God will give us the strength. I believe in the verse that the One who is in us is greater than the one in the world. If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31). The Bible also says God will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able. (1 Corinthians 10:13) The agenda here is neither political nor religious. It’s about the love of the Father for His children and what He has in store for them – His promises as in the Bible. It’s about His agape (unconditional) love. Christianity is not a religion it is a walk with God. It’s Christ-likeness showing you the way to battle evils and enter victoriously into God’s kingdom. In this hour of need, we need to remember that every hair on our head is numbered and nothing will happen to us without the Lord’s knowledge. (Mathew 10:30)

Attacks against Christians have really intensified. What do you attribute this surge in anti-Christian violence to?No form of injustice and violence should be encouraged by mankind at all. Violence has nothing to do with religion. At the same time, there’s a lot of wisdom that needs to be used while spreading the good news. We just need to stick to what is mentioned in the Bible without hurting others’ sentiments or criticizing other people’s faith. All we need to show them is God’s love as God’s foremost command says to love one another. The power in the Word of God is so much that it never turns back empty and void. (Isaiah 55:11). It is not for us to forcibly coerce others; it’s solely the Lord’s prerogative to touch the people. We as evangelists are merely instruments, vessels or His carriers. And the moment they are touched, their lives will change. And that is a supernatural process.

Do you think forced conversions or conversions by offering emoluments happen in India?I have heard of such stories but I cannot comment on that as I don’t know if it happens for a fact. All I can say is that conversion is not a ritual as it sounds to be. It is a decision to follow God and His ways. And I think all religions speak of certain common things: Do not kill; love one another; honor your parents; do not commit adultery; do not steal among others. God is one and He is the ultimate creator who created mankind. For instance, a father can name his son but a son can never name his father. Similarly, God the creator tells us the way in which we need to walk; let us not follow our own ways. And God’s ways are simple. God says in Psalm 32:8 “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go: I will guide you with my eye.” Also in Isaiah 48:17, He says: “I am the LORD your God you teaches you to profit, who leads you by the way you should go.

How do you balance cinema with Christian living?God is kind and His mercies are new with each passing day. I pray that He gives me the wisdom and understanding to handle both the responsibilities in the best possible way pleasing in His own eyes. Even Jesus had to obey His parents to grow in stature and wisdom. (Luke 2:52) I believe that when God is with you, He empowers you with much more strength and power than what you can do. (Acts 10:38). If we are His followers, we have to grow each day in wisdom and understanding as well just as the way Jesus grew up and God enriched Him.'Future? I am praying and waiting on the Lord'Going forward, do you have any plans of setting up your own ministry?As of now, I am praying and waiting upon the Lord. I think that’s entirely the calling of God. Setting up a ministry is a position of authority. It all depends on God’s leading. I am not sure but it could be anything like producing value-based films, a new business venture or simply sharing my testimony and good news. People have been touched and encouraged through my sharing. I pray for the supernatural as far as all these things are concerned and the guidance of the Holy Spirit to lead me into God’s plan for my life.

Are you contemplating marriage?Marriages are made in heaven. If there’s a man that God has chosen for me, then marriage shall happen. But the important thing is, he has to be a believer, a man who has God as his priority and who believes in God’s command stated in Ephesians 5:25.
What are the other qualities that you look for in your man?I’d want him to have the love of God in his heart first and foremost. I would want him to be a family guy – totally in love with his one wife and proper in his walk with God. (Ephesians 5:28-29)

You have been reading the Bible all these years. Tell us, who’s your favorite Biblical character?I have a couple of them who have influenced my life in a great way. But King David stands out among them all. I like the way he conveyed his thoughts and emotions to God. I would like to worship like him, love God the way he did. The mighty man faced problems in his family and had to run away from his own son. He never took victory for granted. Every time he had to go for another battle, he took counsel from God. He sinned and failed like most of us, but then he had to pay heavily for it, too. He repented for his sins and got in line with God. That’s why he was called the man after God’s own heart. He understood that devotion and worship is the ultimate in any believer’s life. At the end of it all, he understood what it means to put trust in God. (Psalm 73: 23-28).

There is a lot one can draw from Esther’s character as well. When her uncle told her that she had to rise up to the occasion that she was called for, she did that. If I have to be some character one in God’s plan, then I have to raise up to that. Otherwise, God will raise someone else in my place but I would have missed the opportunity to be God’s instrument. For who knows God is preparing me for such a time as this (Esther 4:14)Secondly, before Esther went up to the king, she went through a preparation period. I think this is my preparation period for taking on the world and before presenting myself to God. I like Joseph who waited patiently through trials and tribulations for God to take him from one level to another. That speaks volumes about his character. And lastly, Job. Against all dire circumstances, he never cursed or reproached God. Even in adverse circumstances, he sought the favor of God by always upholding His name. The Bible is full of such characters.

Do you have any message for our readers?Love one another and love the Lord God with all your heart and mind and soul. And blessings to all along with all-surpassing peace that the Lord our Father has granted us. Keep me in your prayers, too