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.