Sunday, December 21, 2008


In the introduction of a book titled “Fatherless America” David Blankenhorn writes, “The United States is becoming an increasingly fatherless society. A generation ago, an American child could reasonably expect to grow up with his or her father. Today an American child can reasonably expect not to. This astonishing fact is reflected in many statistics, but here are the two most important. Tonight, about 40 percent of American children will go to sleep in homes in which their fathers do not live. Before they reach the age of eighteen, more than half of our nation’s children are likely to spend at least a significant portion of their childhood living apart from their fathers.”

What is causing this fatherlessness? Historically it was paternal death. By the time they turned fifteen, about 15 percent of All-American Children born in 1870 had experienced the death of their fathers. Today, the principal cause of fatherlessness is paternal choice, fathers abandoning their children or abdicating their role as fathers. Whatever may be the cause for the absence of fathers it is the children who suffer and eventually the society faces the consequences.

In 740 B.C the nation of Israel was facing fatherlessness. Many men were killed in the war as a result many women became widows. Male population was drastically reduced to a ratio of seven women to one man (Isaiah 3:6, 4:1-2). There was a great demand for fathers who can provide protection, leadership and covering to families. Because of the scarcity of men there was no proper leadership hence there was no direction and sense of purpose for the remnant of Israel. The situation looked chaotic and hopeless, into that context God sent Isaiah with a message to assure them that the messiah will come and he will be called “The everlasting father or Father forever and prince of peace." (Isaiah 9:6-7).

I. God the Everlasting Father:

Among many other characteristics of God, the father heart of God stands out so vividly throughout the scriptures. God is the everlasting father or Father forever. Unfortunately due to the fatherlessness problem we are facing in our society our picture of God being the father is tainted. When we think of God as our father we tend to look at him through our human fathers. There are only a few who had been fortunate enough to have loving fathers in their lives but for many the father figure was never there in the first place, even if he was there he may have been busy, uncaring, unloving, harsh, or even abusive and violent.


A young man was to be sentenced to a correctional prison operated by the state. The judge had known him from childhood, for he was well acquainted with his father--a famous legal scholar and the author of an exhaustive study entitled, "The Law of Trusts." "Do you remember your father?" asked the magistrate. "I remember him well, your honor," came the reply. Then trying to probe the offender's conscience, the judge said, "As you are about to be sentenced and as you think of your wonderful dad, what do you remember most clearly about him?" There was a pause. Then the judge received an answer he had not expected. "I remember when I went to him for advice. He looked up at me from the book he was writing and said, 'Run along, boy; I'm busy!' When I went to him for companionship, he turned me away, saying "Run along, son; this book must be finished!' Your honor, you remember him as a great lawyer. I remember him as a lost friend." The magistrate muttered to himself, "Alas! Finished the book, but lost the boy!"

We see how important fathers are to growing children that is not to say that fathers or parents are no longer an integral part once children reach adult hood. Parents remain an important part of our lives as long as they live. Regardless of how old we are when we loose our earthly parents there often is a profound sense of loss and insecurity in the children they leave behind. My wife got the message that her 85 year old father had died when we were in India and she had just given birth to our youngest daughter. My wife wrestled with feelings of abandonment and what she describes as the loss of a ceiling over her head. As my wife always does she took refuge in the Lord and the Lord deeply comforted her with the words of Psalm 121

“The Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore”

II. God carries us in his arms as a father would carry his children:

Israelites had seen the mighty deliverance of God. They have seen how God led them in the desert for 40 years providing all their needs. In spite of all that instead of following God wholeheartedly they rebelled against God. Moses reminded a bunch of unwilling and rebellious people saying “ Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them. The LORD your God who is going before, you will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, and in the desert. There you saw how the LORD your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.” (Deut 1:29-31)

"The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. He will drive out your enemy before you.”(Deut 33:27)

"Yet it is I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them in My arms; But they did not know that I healed them."(Hosea 11:3)

Another beautiful example of God carrying us in his arms is found in Isaiah 40:11 “ He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” When we read these scriptures we can not help but think that our God is a gentle, caring and loving father in whose tender arms we can find comfort for our souls.


Against his family's wishes a young Quaker boy from Pennsylvania left home to enlist in the Union Army during the Civil War. Much time passed and the family heard nothing from the young man. One night, the boy's father had a dream that his son had been wounded in battle and was calling to him. The next day, he hitched his wagon and went off in search of the army.

He found his son's regiment encamped in Maryland engaged in battle at Antietam Creek. He found his son's commander and asked of his whereabouts. The boy could not be found and the officer explained that there were many wounded in the heavy fighting earlier in the day who still lay on the battlefield that night. (History records that 23,000 men were killed, wounded, or captured on that day) He gave the father permission to go out in the darkness and search for his son.

Walking among the corpses and horribly wounded men by lamplight, he called out, “Jonathan Smythe, your father is looking for you.” He would walk a little further and call out again, “Jonathan Smythe, your father is looking for you.” One wounded man sat up and said, “Sir, I wish that you were my father.” Then he heard a faint voice strain with the words “Father, I am over here.” The Quaker gentleman rushed to his son and the boy said, “Father, I knew you would come.” He took the boy in his arms, gave attention to his wounds and carefully carried him from the battlefield and nursed him back to health.

Just like the father in the story, God never gives up on his children. The powerful message of this story is that, God is searching for his children who are broken, battered and bruised by their sinful choices. God would go to anylength to save you. When he comes near to you calling out your name all you need to say is “Father I am over here” he will come and pick you up and nurse you back to health.

"For he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal." (Job 5:18)

"I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will guide him and restore comfort to him." (Isaiah 57:18)

"'Nevertheless, I will bring health and healing to it; I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security.” (Jer 33:6)

No matter how deeply you are wounded and hurting God is able to heal and make you whole.

IV. God is disappointed when we don’t call him our father:

Scriptures tell us that God was passionately in love with his people. He was possessive of the nation of Israel. He even said Israel was his firstborn son. He delivered the children of Israel from the bondage of Egypt. He led them through the wilderness. He provided food and water for 40 years and brought them to the land of Canaan, a land flowing with milk and honey. After all he did for Israel he had only one expectation that they would call him Father and follow him. But unfortunately the Israelites disappointed God by turning away from him and did not acknowledge him as their Father.

God was disappointed with the rebellion of Israel and said “how gladly would I treat you like sons and give you a desirable land the most beautiful inheritance of any nation. I thought you would call me “Father” and not turn away from following me.” (Jeremiah 3: 19)

When my daughter Joanna was 3 or 4 years old, she used to wear a T-Shirt with pride and glee. On that T-shirt a picture of me holding her in my arms and on top of it was written “My Daddy is the Strongest” Perhaps in her eyes at that time I was like Goliath, may be not any more. Is it not wonderful to know that the Almighty God is going to be our everlasting father provided if we let him be? Whether you have never known a happy relationship with your father or whether you have very good memories of your father but he is no longer alive. The good news of Christmas is that God has come to us to lead into a lasting relationship with him that lifts our life to what it was created to be. God is the Everlasting Father.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


In December 1903, after many attempts, the Wright brothers were successful in getting their "flying machine" off the ground. Thrilled, they telegraphed this message to their sister Katherine: "We have actually flown 120 feet. Will be home for Christmas." Katherine hurried to the editor of the local newspaper and showed him the message. He glanced at it and said, "How nice. The boys will be home for Christmas." He totally missed the big news--man had flown! (Daily Bread, December 23, 1991.)

Medford carolers jingle their way to world record.

On Nov 30th 2004, 3,837 people gathered at 5 High St. Medford MA and sang carols continuously for 32 minutes. It broke the record of 1,175 people singing for 28 minutes in Cambridge, Ontario, in December 2003. They sang, Jingle Bells, Rudolph the red nose rain deer, winter wonderland but they conveniently avoided singing any Christian Christmas Carols such as Joy to the world, Hark the herald angels sing, silent night etc.

In the first illustration the local editor totally missed the big news, which was “Man had flown for the first time ever in the history.” In the second one in the quest of getting into the Guinness book of world record the Medford crowd conveniently pushed Christ away from the Carols, the one who is the real reason for this season.

Unfortunately that has been the case with many, either they totally miss out on the greatest news or deliberately remove Christ from Christmas. Remembering what was said of the coming Messiah by the prophet Isaiah thousands of years ago will help us to bring back Christ into Christmas and will also add more meaning to our Christmas celebrations.

Prophecies Concerning the Messiah’s Arrival: Various prophets foretold the birth of Christ. These prophecies gave people hope against hope. They gave them certain signs to look for. They also gave them confidence to wait expectantly, longingly for the arrival of the Messiah.

The Prophet Isaiah prophesied this prophecy during (740-686 B.C.) During that time the nation of Israel rebelled against God through their idolatry. They were worshiping idols other than worshiping the real God Jehovah. Isaiah not only prophesied the upcoming judgement, the imminent exile but also a hope of restoration. Isaiah 9: 6-7 “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father; Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.”

Over the centuries the words of this prophecy must have brought great relief to the Jewish people in their time of distress and despair. According to the prophecy now they could look forward with confidence that one-day all their troubles will be over. The messiah will come and deliver them from the tyranny of Rome and establish his kingdom on earth. This prophecy contains four major truths or characteristics of God in it: 1. Wonderful Counselor, 2 Mighty God, 3. Everlasting Father, 4. Prince of Peace. Let’s take a close look at each of these Characteristics.

I. Wonderful Counselor:

During the time of this prophecy the house of Israel had forgotten how Moses, their other leaders and kings used to inquire of God for His counsel and direction. Instead they began to consult mediums, and spiritists. They were consulting the dead on behalf of the living. (Is 8:19)

These mediums, spiritists and the false prophets were misleading people. This was an abomination to God. He gave a strong warning to Isaiah not to follow their ways of Israelites. Interestingly in the prophecy we just read the first character of God mentioned here was “Wonderful Counselor” indicating that God did not want his children to consult any other mediums besides him. Because He is the only one who could give them the right advice.

As a fulfillment of that promise Jesus came into this world as a helpless baby. From his very childhood onwards Jesus exhibited extraordinary wisdom. As a 12-year boy he argued with the teachers and the experts of the law in the temple courts. Every one who heard him was amazed at his understanding and answers. (Lk 2:27). The crowds marveled at his teaching because he taught as one who had authority.(Matt 7:28) Seeing the extraordinary miracle of healing the crowds were astonished and said, "Could this be the Son of David?” (Mat 12:23).

The religious establishment of his time could not stand his wisdom they were provoked in their hearts by his authoritative teachings and claims and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?”(Matt 13:54). Towards the end of his ministry to his disheartened and troubled disciples Jesus promised to send them another Counselor to be with them forever. (John 14:15) That was the Holy Spirit.

Just like in the days of Isaiah today there are several self-made people who claim to have supernatural powers, words of wisdom and knowledge. In the late 1960s streams of Hinduism came to the United States. The term "guru," or spiritual teacher, became a household word. Many gurus came from India to America in these years. Among the first to arrive was the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who became the guru of the Beatles and started the Students International Meditation Society (SIMS) in 1965. He was the first to popularize a discipline of meditation he called Transcendental Meditation. Some people are ready to cough up $ 700 for a twenty minutes consultation, to find out their future. Unfortunately not many people turn to Jesus the wonderful Counselor.

II. Mighty God:

When the Israelites heard the words Mighty God could this have brought back some distant memories of how their forefathers had seen the mighty miracles from a mighty God and how they were delivered from their 400 years of bondage in Egypt by the mighty hand of God?(Ex 6:1). Moses reminded the Israelites after they reached the Promised Land, “ The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh the King of Egypt.”

Our minds can not comprehend the power of God let alone trying to explain it. After his successful mission to the moon in 1969 Neil Armstrong commented, “It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn't feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.” Isaiah encouraged the people of Judah not to be afraid but to look up and see the Sovereign God coming with power. (Isaiah 40:9-10).

Job inspite of his miserable and painful condition speaks of the Greatness of God. Listen to what Job had to say, “He spreads out the northern skies over empty space he suspends the earth over nothing. By his breath the skies became fair; his hand pierced the gliding serpent. And these are but the outer fringe of his works; how faint the whisper we hear of him.(Job 26:7-14)

In the book of Proverbs we are challenged with these questions. (Pro 30:4) Who has gone up to heaven and come down? Who has gathered up the wind in the hollow of his hands? Who has wrapped up the waters in his cloak? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and the name of his son? Tell me if you know? We can get a glimpse of heaven in Rev 19-11-15.

What are you afraid off? Is global tourism frightening you? Are you worried about your Job situation? Are you discouraged or struggling with addiction? Is there strife in the family? Is your debt increasing? No matter what your circumstances are today take courage, take a moment to look up from your desperate situation and “See the Mighty hand of God coming to your rescue so that you will experience his provision and deliverance.

God is all-powerful. His power has no limits. In other words there is nothing in this world he can not do. All things are possible with God. God is able to turn your situation other way around. He is able to set you free so that you can experience abundant life. He is able to put all the broken pieces together and heal your broken heart. We serve a mighty God! We can unapologetically celebrate Christmas. He is the reason for the season! Come let us adore Him during this season!

Sunday, December 7, 2008


In recent years the celebration of Christmas came under severe attack from many sections. Any direct mention of the term "Christmas" or its religious aspects were being increasingly censored, avoided, or discouraged by a number of advertisers, retailers, government (prominently schools), and other public and secular organizations. "Christmas" is replaced with more generic terminology such as "holiday(s)", or "winter” “holiday tree" (replacing "Christmas tree"), "winter break" (replacing "Christmas break"), and "holiday season" (replacing "Christmas season"). In 2005, the city of Boston at their annual tree decoration ceremony changed the name of the Christmas tree to holiday tree.

Surrounded by these crisis situations and controversies, the true meaning and the message of Christmas is getting lost. For many kids Christmas means gifts, candy, decorations and Santa Claus. For many adults the December month means frantic activity, stress, and the painful realization that their lives are not as happy and fulfilled as the ads suggest. In our busyness to celebrate Christmas, are we forgetting to pause and reflect on the origin and the message of Christmas? The earliest church traditions called Advent, and several prophecies concerning the birth of Christ will give us the right perspective on Christmas.

I. Advent a time of waiting and preparing:

A night security guard on duty eagerly and yet times grudgingly watches his every waking hour of the night for the first rays of dawn to appear. A first time pregnant mother patiently and longingly waits for nine months for the arrival of her first baby. A mother hen sits and covers her eggs with her wings for 20 to 21 days for the baby chicks to arrive. As surely as dawn comes after night, a baby is born in due time and the hen’s eggs are hatched.

On a thanksgiving day we had a frustrating time, my wife thought she had done all the turkey preparations according to the book. Our guest arrived and the thermometer hadn’t popped up yet. We waited and checked, waited and checked and the thing wouldn’t pop. Finally almost three hours later when we were ready to eat regardless of whether the thermometer had popped up or not, Wilma opened the oven and lo and behold the thermometer had finally popped. Can you imagine the appetite we had developed by then? The simple reality with these thermometers is that unless the temperature in the turkey’s inner breast reaches 180 degrees it will not budge because it is not yet the right time.

During Christmas season there is anticipation in the air: Businesses are gearing up to kick of their best holiday season sales, there are gifts to buy! and decorate the Christimas tree and so on. Life gets rather busy during this time but Is there an anticipation in us for the imminent return of our Savior? This is part of what the Church’s tradition of Advent is all about.

Before we look forward for the second arrival of our Messiah we need to understand his first arrival. Where did it all begin? How did this all come about? What was it like to wait for the Messiah’s first arrival?

Background to Advent:

The early Church started the beautiful tradition of Advent, even now many main line churches follow this tradition. It is important to understand the church traditions so that we know our Christian heritage and our Judeo Christian roots. Advent was instituted by our Church fathers in the fifth century. It was a five-week preparation before Christmas. The name Advent comes from the Latin word Adventus, which signifies a coming.

The original themes of Advent were focused on the Second Coming of Jesus. Gradually advent also came to mean commemorating the first coming of Christ into the world as a helpless baby. In one sense Advent is a time to prepare ourselves to celebrate the birth of the messiah which took place over two thousand years ago and also a time to look with anticipation for his second coming. According to the liturgical church calendar advent begins on November 30th and will continue for the next five Sundays leading up to December 25th Christmas.

Mankind’s hopeful expectation of the Messiah (Savior, Redeemer).

The first reference to a Savior, Redeemer was made way back in the Garden of Eden. After confronting Adam & Eve for their sin, God pronounced his judgement beginning with the serpent. This is what God said to the serpent, “Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring (seed) (In Hebrew "Zera") and hers; He will crush your head and you will strike his heel. The word Zera, Seed is singular not plural, indicating that the entire line of descendants from our first parents is being treated as one unit.

This word seed is flexible enough to mean either Christ as one person who represents the entire human race or mankind in general. This was the first recorded announcement of the Gospel. It became more clear as time went on. God reminds us of the messiah again in the covenant that he made with Abraham. The LORD appeared to Abram and said, to your offspring/Descendents/seed (Zera) Same word Zera was used and again it was singular. As the time progressed the announcement of the arrival of the Messiah became more specific.

God promises to David saying, "When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant (seed, Zera, Singular) after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom.” (2 Samuel 7:12 NAS)

In the following scriptures the word seed, Zera was singular.

“He gives great deliverance to His king, And shows lovingkindness to His anointed, To David and his descendants (seed, Zera,) forever.” (Psalm 18:50)

"I will establish your seed (Zera) forever, And build up your throne to all generations."(Psalm 89:4)

"So I will establish his descendants forever.."(Psalm 89:29.)

"His descendants shall endure forever, And his throne as the sun before Me. Finally that seed was realized in Jesus Christ. Romans 16:20 And the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.”(Psalm 89:36)

What was pronounced as a judgement also contained a promise of the future Messiah who was the seed of the woman, the descendent of Abraham, the seed of David, the Lord Jesus Christ our messiah.

Prophecies Concerning the Messiah’s Arrival:

One of the most familiar prophecies, which many of us may have memorized during our Sunday school times, is found in Isaiah 9: 6-7 “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father; Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever."

The Prophet Isaiah prophesied this prophecy during (740-686 B.C.) During that time the nation of Israel rebelled against God through their idolatry. They were worshiping idols other than worshiping the real God Jehovah. God said to Isaiah “Go and tell this people: keep on listening but do not perceive; keep on looking, but do not understand. Render the hearts of this people insensitive, their ears dull, and their eyes dim.” (Isaiah 6:9-11).

Isaiah not only prophesied the upcoming judgement, the imminent exile but also a hope of restoration. Isaiah said when the remnant returns to Jerusalem, “then a shoot will spring forth from the stem of Jesse, and the branch from his roots will bear fruit, and the Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him.”(Isaiah 11:1-2). Isaiah sees a time when God will not only restore his people after judgement, but he will rise up a king from the line of Judah who will rule in righteousness.

The nation of Israel, inspite of repeated warnings kept hardening their hearts and eventually was led into exile. Though God executed judgement because he was a righteous God he also promised them hope and restoration. When we ignore the warnings from God and continue to live in deliberate sin we will be given into bondage to sin.

Now wait a minute, what did that prophecy say? What were the Names of God there? Let’s pause a minute and just reflect on the first one: Wonderful Counselor. Is that true? Yes it is true God is the wonderful Counselor! Does that mean I can open up to Him about my chaotic life and harried heart? Yes, God is rich in mercy to all who call on Him. He is indeed the Wonderful Counselor. You can talk it all over with Him. He won’t time you and cut you off after 50 minutes like most other counselors. Make sure this advent season is not just filled with frantic activity; take time to consult the Wonderful Counselor.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Our Daily Bread, February 20, 1994 carried, “Thankfulness seems to be a lost art today. Warren Wiersby was told about a ministerial student in Evanston, Illinois, who was part of a life-saving squad. In 1860, a ship went aground on the shore of Lake Michigan near Evanston, and Edward Spencer waded again and again into the frigid waters to rescue 17 passengers. In the process, his health was permanently damaged. Some years later at his funeral, it was noted that not one of the people he rescued ever thanked him.”

During this thanksgiving season it is good for us to be reminded of the original intention and purpose of Thanksgiving Day. The first American Thanksgiving didn't occur in 1621 when a group of Pilgrims shared a feast with a group of friendly Indians. It took place in Virginia more than 11 years earlier, and it wasn't a feast. The winter of 1610 at Jamestown had reduced a group of 409 settlers to 60. The survivors prayed for help, without knowing when or how it might come. When help arrived, in the form of a ship filled with food and supplies from England, a prayer meeting was held to give thanks to God. That was the first recorded Thanksgiving.

William Bradford the then governor of Plymouth colony, on November 29th 1623 called all the Pilgrims to give thanks to God for His goodness. “To All the Pilgrims: Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, beans, squashes, and garden vegetables, and has made the forests to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams. He has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease. He has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience. Now, I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all the Pilgrims, with your wives and little ones, do gather at the meeting house, on the hill the Pilgrim Rock, there to listen to the pastor, and render thanksgiving to the Almighty God for all His blessings."

George Washington in 1779, proclaimed, “This day to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness!"

Abraham Lincoln in October 3, 1863 said, “It has seemed to me fit and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father Who dwelleth in the heavens.

Transition: Unfortunately, what began as a tradition to pray and thank God and remember all of His blessings, greatly lost its intended meaning and purpose. As some continue this tradition of coming together as families to thank God, for many it has reduced in meaning to just being Turkeyday. In the light of Thanksgiving let us see what the bible has to say about thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving is one of the commandments of God:

Thanksgiving is one among many other commands God gave to the people of Israel. The first seven Chapters in the book of Leviticus talk about the five main offerings that God required of His people. 1. The sin offering, 2.Guilt offering, 3. Burnt offering, 4. Fellowship offering. 5. Grain offering. The sequence explains part of the spiritual significance in the sacrificial system in Israel.(Numbers 7:16,17). Once the individual’s sin is dealt by sin offering the worshiper commits himself/herself completely to the Lord through the burnt offering, then the fellowship between God and the worshiper is established through the fellowship offering or the grain offering. The fellowship offering, is a voluntary act of worship; thanksgiving and fellowship (often included a community meal). The OT people knew the importance and the purpose of thanksgiving. So when they came together to worship God they brought these offerings. Leviticus 7th chapter deals with how to offer the fellowship offering:

Leviticus 7:11-14: There were specific regulations to be followed in terms of what items to bring, how they were to be presented to God and how they were to be treated after the offering. The fellowship offering is an expression of thankfulness. In the OT thank offerings were given in gratitude for:

Deliverance from sickness:

Psalm 116:16-17 “O Lord, truly I am your servant; you have freed me from my chains. I will sacrifice a thank offering to you.

For Deliverance from Trouble:

Psalm 107: 19, 21, 22 “Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble and he saved them from their distress. Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men. Let them sacrifice thank offerings and tell of his works with songs of Joy.”

Deliverance from death:

Psalm 56:12 “ I am under vows to you, O God; I will present my thank offerings to you. For you have delivered me from death.

Philippians 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

1 Timothy 2:1 “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone.”

Transition: What does this mean for us today? We give prayer requests to ask God to give us success in our jobs, business, to grant good grades, heal our sickness. When God answers our requests we come before God bringing our offerings as an expression of gratitude for what he has done.

II. Don’t forget to give thanks for all we receive from God.

Deut 8:7-10 The Lord told Israelites that he was going to bring them into a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing forth in valleys and hills; 8 a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey; 9 a land where you shall eat food without scarcity, in which you shall not lack anything; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. 10 “When you have eaten and are satisfied, you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you.

The Bible teaches us that “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17) Every thing we own today including our very breath comes from God. He is the giver of all good things. Lamentations 3:38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come?

Illustration: In his book FOLK PSALMS OF FAITH, Ray Stedman tells of an experience H.A. Ironside had in a crowded restaurant. Just as Ironside was about to begin his meal, a man approached and asked if he could join him. Ironside invited him to have a seat. Then, as was his custom, Ironside bowed his head in prayer. When he opened his eyes, the other man asked, "Do you have a headache?" Ironside replied, "No, I don't." The other man asked, "Well, is there something wrong with your food?" Ironside replied, "No, I was simply thanking God as I always do before I eat."

The man said, "Oh, you're one of those, are you? Well, I want you to know I never give thanks. I earn my money by the sweat of my brow and I don't have to give thanks to anybody when I eat. I just start right in!"

Ironside said, "Yes, you're just like my dog. That's what he does too!"

Ray Stedman, Folk Psalms of Faith.

Transition: This illustration explains the prevailing attitude of many in our society. Many people think that they earn money by the sweat of their brow. But often they don’t realize that it is God who gives them knowledge and strength to work. We teach our children to be grateful for everything they receive from God, especially at the meal table, never to eat with out thanking God first.

III. Be grateful for what we have and stop grumbling for what we don’t have.

We have a tendency to grumble and complain for the things that we don’t have and others seem to have. The Israelites in the desert complained and grumbled that they didn’t have the good things that they used to enjoy while they were slaves in Egypt. Paul exhorts young Timothy about the “Get rich trap” In 1st Timothy 6:6-10 “6 But godliness actually is a means of great gain, when accompanied by contentment. 7 For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. 8 And if we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. 9 But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith, and pierced themselves with many a pang.

We read in the book of Proverbs “ Two things I ask of you, O Lord; don’t refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches; but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise I may have too much and disown you, and say “Who is the Lord or I may become poor and steal and so dishonor the name of my God.” During these economic hardships it is wise to pray the prayer our Lord taught us. “Give us this day our daily bread.”

Illustration: Slide show:

Transition: I know this slide show is rather heavy this is not meant to make us feel guilty for having much more than people in some other parts of the world but it is to open our eyes to see how much others are having to put up with on a daily basis. In comparison to their struggles we are blessed with so many comforts but how grateful and appreciative are we?

Ex: Bhopal DTS example.

IV. In everything give thanks for this is the will of God.

In a sermon at Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles, Gary Wilburn said: "In 1636, amid the darkness of the Thirty Years' War, a German pastor, Martin Rinkart, is said to have buried five thousand of his parishioners in one year, and average of fifteen a day. His parish was ravaged by war, death, and economic disaster. In the heart of that darkness, with the cries of fear outside his window, he sat down and wrote this table grace for his children: 'Now thank we all our God / With heart and hands and voices;/ Who wondrous things had done,/ In whom His world rejoices. /Who, from our mother's arms,/Hath led us on our way/ With countless gifts of love/ And still is ours today. Here was a man who knew how to give thanks to God in spite of adversity.

Conclusion: Let’s make a list of all what you are thankful to God for. We will join David in saying “Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. 2 Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.” Psalm 103:1-2

Sunday, November 16, 2008


Luke 15:1-7

Introduction: Have you ever met anyone whose love is so great that they would pay any price, make any sacrifice, undergo any hardship, to bring the Gospel of Christ to as many people as possible? William Carey was like that. As a young man in England in the late 1780s, he was obsessed with the conviction that the church must take God's Word to every nation. At this time most Protestants were not active in missionary activity. Carey, had a lot of obstacles to over come in accomplishing his mission: Lack of formal training, he was a cobbler (shoe repairer), rejected by the board, faced indifference from colleagues, lost his three small children in India, his wife Dorothy progressively lost her sanity, slow results, did not see a single convert for seven years, he had to over come cultural barriers, the list goes on. Was it worth, all Carey had to go through? Yes it was. Inspite of all odds Carey went after the “Treasures in Darkness” As a result of William Carey’s search, the Bible was translated in 34 Asian languages, started the still influential Serampore College; began churches and established 19 mission stations; formed 100 rural schools encouraging the education of girls; started the Horticultural Society of India; served as a professor at Fort William College, Calcutta; began the weekly publication "THE FRIEND OF INDIA," (continued today as "THE STATESMAN"); printed the first Indian newspaper; introduced the concept of the savings bank to assist poor farmers. His fight against the burning of widows ("SATI" ) helped lead to its ban in 1829.

Transition: William Carey knew deep down in his heart without a shadow of doubt that “There were “Treasures in the Darkness” God would go to any length and send any one so that many would be saved. The mission committee of William Carey grumbled when he proposed that they should consider sending him to save the heathen, similarly a group of people grumbled when Jesus was hanging around sinners. We find this story in Luke 15:1-7. Throughout the ministry of Jesus, wherever he went sinners were attracted to him and that kind of irked the religious establishment.

I. Jesus was and is a friend of Sinners:

Vs 1-2 “Tax gatherers (collectors of Roman taxes for profit) sinners (Irreligious or non practicing Jews) were coming near him to listen to Him.” Sinners were comfortable to hang around Jesus where as the Pharisees and Scribes were uncomfortable, they began to grumble among themselves saying “This man receives sinners and eats with them” At one occasion they could not keep this to themselves so they asked his disciples saying “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners? On hearing Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick… “for I have not come to call the righteous but sinners.” (Matt 9:10-12) More than a simple association, in the NT times and even today eating with some one indicates a certain friendship. By way of eating with sinners Jesus was communicating that he was a friend of sinners.

Illustration: Nicky Cruz was only 3-1/2 years old when his heart turned to stone. As one of 18 children born to witchcraft-practicing parents from Puerto Rico, bloodshed and mayhem were common occurrences in his life. He suffered severe physical and mental abuse at their hands, at one time being declared the "Son of Satan" by his mother while she was in a spiritual trance.
By age 16 he became a member of the notorious Brooklyn street gang known as the Mau Maus (named after a bloodthirsty African tribe). Within six months he became their president. Cruz fearlessly ruled the streets as warlord of one of the gangs most dreaded by rivals and police. As Cruz' reputation grew, so did his haunting nightmares. Arrested countless times, a court-ordered psychiatrist pronounced Nicky's fate as "headed to prison, the electric chair, and hell."

No authority figure could reach Cruz - until he met a skinny street-preacher named David Wilkerson. He saw the treasure in the darkness. He disarmed Nicky - showing him something he'd never known before: Relentless love. His interest in the young thug was persistent. Nicky beat him up, spit on him and, on one occasion, seriously threatened his life, yet the love of God remained - stronger than any adversary Nicky had ever encountered.

Finally, Wilkerson's presentation of the gospel message and the love of Jesus melted the thick walls of his heart. Nicky received the forgiveness, love and new life that can only come through Jesus. Since then, he has dedicated that life to helping others find the same freedom.

This story is a classical example of some one who saw the treasures in darkness and went all the way to seek and search that treasure. Now Nicky Cruz is running after, “the treasures in darkness.”

II. Jesus is the Chief Shepherded who came to seek and save the lost sheep.

Shepherding is one of the oldest professions, beginning some 6,000 years ago in Asia Minor. Many Biblical heroes were shepherds, among them the Old Testament prophet Amos, who was a shepherd in the rugged area around Tekoa, as well as the patriarchs Abraham and Jacob, the twelve tribes, the prophet Moses, and King David. In the New Testament angels announced the birth of Jesus to shepherds.
The theme of sheep and shephereds was not new to the people of Israel. By telling this parable Jesus was establishing himself as the Chief shephered described in Ezekiel 34:11-12, 16 “For thus says the Lord God, Behold I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. As a shepherd cares for his herd in the day when he is among his scattered sheep, so I wil care for My sheep and will deliver them from all the places to which they were scattered… Vs 16 “I will seek the lost, bring back the scattered, bind up the broken and strengthen the sick.” Jesus was also exposing the lack of concern and the narrow mindedness of Pharasees and scribeswho were supposed to be the shephereds/leaders over Israel. Ezekiel 34:1-6 “Son of man prophesy against the shephereds of Isreal. “Woe to the shepherds of Israel why? Because they have been feeding themselves; living in comfort, not having concern for the sick, did not bind up the wounded, They failed in their shephereding as a result people (sheep) were scattered. Finally they did not go out to search or seek for them.

Vs3 Then Jesus told them this parable: Suppose one of you has a “hundred” sheep and loses one of them. Does he not “leave the ninety-nine” in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? At face level when we read the parable we may think that the shephered in the parable is rather greedy and uncaring. Why does he have to go after the one sheep? Was he not satisfied with 99 sheep? Or we wonder why did he leave the 99 in the open field un attended, what if they were attacked by wolves? We can have all kinds of questions, but by knowing the nature of a shephered and sheep we can better understand this parable.

“Shepherds not only had to watch over their sheep by day and by night; they also had to protect them from wolves and lions who preyed upon them, and from dangerous terrain and storms. Shepherds often had large flocks, sometimes numbering in the hundreds or thousands. It was common to inspect and count the sheep at the end of the day. You can imagine the surprise and grief of the shepherd who discovers that one of his sheep is missing! Does he wait until the next day to go looking for it? Or does he ask a neighboring shepherd if he might has seen the stray sheep? No, he goes immediately in search of this lost sheep. Delay for even one night could mean disaster leading to death. Sheep by nature are very social creatures. An isolated sheep can quickly become bewildered, disoriented, and even neurotic. Easy prey for wolves and lions!

In the parable we read “the shephered was persistent” He did not stop his search until he found the lost sheep” Frantic search of a shephered. And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Jeanne Kun in her book “Treasures uncovered: The parables of Jesus” explains,“The shepherd doesn’t give up his search until he finds the stray that he knows cannot find its way back to the flock without his help. Then he lifts the sheep to his shoulders—an endearing image of closeness and affection—and carries it safely home. The fact is that no one is excluded from God’s search. No one is beyond the reaches of his love and mercy. The lost is found, the straying safe again, the sinner saved. Indeed, Jesus himself is the shepherd who cares for us and restores us to friendship with God (John 10:11-18).”

Three major characters we see in this passage: One we see Jesus as a caring, loving and persistent shephered who went after one lost soul. We see this further confirmed by his very words when he said “I am the good shephered” (John 10:11-18) “the son of man came to seek and save that which was lost” (Matt 18:11). Secondly we see the pharasees and scribes as the uncaring, selfish and narrow minded rules who were upset because many sinners were hanging around Jesus. Thirdly, we see a lost, wondering sheep which was prone to be attacked, and could not have come back to the flock on its own with out the help of the shephered. We all can identify with that lost sheep. In fact the Bible says “All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way.”(Isaiah 53: 6) In the state of our lostness there is no way we can ever get back to God, knowing that fully well God sent Jesus who was afflicted for our sins and died for us on the cross. By dying on the cross Jesus made a way for us to get back to God and enjoy a peaceful and loving relationship with Him once again.

Conclusion: In this story we learn that God loves sinners. Have you been wondering of, have you felt lost and confused? If you feel that way the good shephered is reaching out to you, he wants to gather you back in His arms. Some of us have been a bit like those Pharisees and Scribes lacking compassion, and care for the broken, and those who are struggling with sin. There are others who needs toshare the same concern of Jesus and go out there into the world and search for the “Treasures in the Darkness.” Remember the joy of the shepered and the community of his friends who celebrated when the lost sheep was found. Similarly there will be overwhelming joy in heaven and in the house of God when sinners are brought back home.