Sunday, May 31, 2009
When we see all the progress that has been made by human beings in the world from the Stone Age, Iron age, Bronze age, and now to the digital age and modern technology it appears to us that man is invincible and he can do any and every thing. In addition to that we are bombarded by the skeptics in media where God and Christians are down played on a daily basis. Under such circumstances it would be heard even for sincere Bible believing Christians to hold on to their faith and believe that God was and is and will be all powerful and there is nothing too difficult for Him. As a church like never before we need to reaffirm our faith in the one and the only one who challenges us saying “Is there anything too difficult for me.”?
Our story begins in Jeremiah 32 Chapter. At this time in the history of Judah, the army of the king of Babylon is surrounding Jerusalem. Jeremiah the prophet was imprisoned because he had prophesied that the city will be destroyed and Zedekiah king of Judah will be captured. While he was in the courtyard God told him to buy a piece of land that was to indicate that once again houses, fields and vineyards will be bought in Judah. After completing the transaction Jeremiah prayed a beautiful prayer ascribing greatness to God: Let me read a few verses from this prayer found in Jeremiah 32: 17-26 “ Ah sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you. O great and powerful God, whose name is the LORD Almighty, great are your purposes and mighty are your deeds,. You have performed miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt and have continued them to this day.”
Jeremiah was in the prison, inspite of his confinement when it came to focusing on God’s greatness he did not waver. He saw Him as the sovereign God who has absolute control over heaven and earth. When we face difficult situations and unsurmountable obstacles how is our perception of God? How do we respond when our prayers are not answered they way we would like? Do we still see God as Sovereign? Or do we fret and sulk in unbelief?
For most readers today the phrases “the LORD of hosts” and God of Hosts” have little meaning. NIV Bible renders them “The LORD Almighty” it actually means “He who is sovereign over all the hosts (powers) in heaven and on earth, especially over the armies of Israel. In the OT people have a healthy and respectful view of God. The Hebrew divine name YHWH, was translated as LORD with capital letters it actually means Sovereign LORD. They saw the marvelous acts of God and were overawed by the magnitude of God’s power.
God warned the people through Moses that they had to consecrate themselves and gather around Mount Sinai because he was going to appear to them. When the time came there was thunder and lightening with a thick cloud over the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, the smoke billowed up from it like smoke from furnace and the whole mountain trembled violently. Everyone in the camp trembled. (Exodus 19:19)
This was often the case whenever God appeared to people. What made people so afraid? Is there truly nothing too difficult for God? How do I know God is all powerful?
I.God’s amazing creating power:
The creation account in Genesis gives us a glimpse of the power of God. Everything was created simply by God’s command. God’s word brought everything into existence out of nothing. But when it came to man he did not say let there be man but He created man in his image. What an ingenious way God created human beings. Understanding, the intricacies of human bodies will throw light upon God’s ingenuity and creativity. A few facts of the human body:
1. The stomach’s digestive acids are strong enough to dissolve zinc. Fortunately for us, the cells in the stomach lining renew so quickly that the acids don’t have time to dissolve it.
2. The lungs contain over 300,000 million capillaries (tiny blood vessels). If they were laid end to end, they would stretch 2400km (1500 miles).
3. The focusing muscles of the eyes move around 100,000 times a day.
4. No two individuals have the same fingerprints. This is a known fact. But do you know that there is another one? No two individual have the same tongue prints.
5. The eyes receive approximately 90 percent of all our information, making us basically visual creatures.
When we look at these amazing facts of the human body we may say, so what? But David had a different response to the wonder of God’s creation.” Psalm 139:13-14 “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.”
II. God’s sustaining Power:
Since its creation God has been amazingly sustaining this vast universe and the earth. In Isaiah 42:5 “This is what God the LORD (Sovereign LORD) says he who created the heavens and stretched them out who spread out the earth and all that comes out of it who gives breath to its people and life to those who walk on it.” Scientists have discovered many facts about the world we are living in and there are many still remain a mystery. Have you wondered how this beautiful world we are living in is being sustained all these years? Who can explain how different seasons are formed?
Several scriptures indicate that God is sustaining this world by His power.
In Genesis 8:22 God promises, “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease. (ESV) 4 Psalm 104:20 “You make darkness, and it is night, when all the beasts of the forest creep about.”
Psalm 104:14; “You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth.”
Three thousand years ago Job silenced one of his skeptic friends by name Bildad who came to console him; instead of consoling he condemned Job. He explained God’s amazing power, in Job 26:5-8 “He spreads out the northern skies over empty space; he suspends the earth over nothing. He wraps up the waters in his clouds, yet the clouds do not burst under the weight” Job was trying to play God’s advocate here by explaining all what He could do but his understanding was limited.
God asked Job several questions related to nature, the earth and the animal world, (Job 38-42) after that encounter with God Job became speechless and all he could utter was, “I know that you can do all things, no plan of yours can be thwarted. You asked who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge? Surely I spoke of things I did not understand things too wonderful for me to know. You said, Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you and you shall answer me. My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”(Job 42:1-5)
Job’s encounter with God changed his total perception of who God really is. God is all what the Bible says he is and much more. When we have an encounter with God like Job did then we understand how little we know and how much more we don’t know and also how small we are and how great he is.
III. God’s unlimited Knowledge:
There is nothing in this world that surprises or amazes God, in other words there is nothing new under the sun, and God knows and sees everything. God’s spirit searches the depths of the human heart. David marveled at God’s all knowing and all seeing ability, Psalm 139: 1-6 “O LORD you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD. You hem me in behind and before you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me too lofty for me to attain.”
There are many methods to detect and punish those who violate rules and regulations but I wonder whether any one has developed a device to find out what is going on in the human heart? God knows what exactly is going on in your heart and my heart. He is familiar with my secret life as well as my public life. That should put some fear of God in us. Next time when we want to pull the next cigarette, or gulp down another round of bear or cheat on our spouses let’s be reminded that God is watching us. Like David says, where can we go from his Spirit?
IV.Is there anything too difficult for me?
God promised Abram that he would bless his descendents and eventually he will become the father of many nations. According to the promise God changed his name from Abram to Abraham. Twenty-four years had passed since that promise but there was still no sign of the promised child. He was getting older and his wife had well passed the age of childbearing. God sent his angels to convey a message that with in a year Sarah would give birth to a son. Sarah couldn’t believe her ears, she laughed and for that she was rebuked by God saying, “Is there any thing too hard for the LORD.”
Jeremiah acknowledged from the prison saying “Nothing is too hard for you.” In response to Jeremiah’s prayer God’s word came to Jeremiah saying “I am the LORD the God of all mankind. Is anything too difficult for me? Who can question God when he says is anything too difficult for me? During the ministry of Jesus he performed many miracles including raising people from the dead to prove that there is nothing too difficult for God. After his resurrection he had commissioned his disciples with these words, in Matt 28:18, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations.”
God who created the heaven and earth also created you and me. He has been sustaining the world since its creation. His all-encompassing knowledge knows no limits. He is challenging us this morning saying “Is there anything too difficult for me? You may be facing a situation, which is beyond your control. You may be seeing no way out. You could either fret or submit to the all-powerful God. Is anything too difficult for Him?
 NIV Bible
Thursday, May 21, 2009
When we hear and read about problems in the cities we can be overwhelmed. Then what are we to do? Are we to avoid and run away to safer places? Like the white flight where in the years after World War II, many white Americans began to move away from inner cities to newer suburban communities because they thought that suburban communities, with their new housing stock and open spaces, were more desirable places to live. How should Christians respond to the problems in the cities? What is God’s mandate for Christians living in the cities? In order to discover, we will look into a letter prophet Jeremiah wrote to the remnant of the Israeli exiles who were living in the cities of Babylon. (Jeremiah 29)
1. The context of the remnant of the exiles: (597 B.C)
Once a might nation, Israel now was reduced to a little country Judah, because its kings Jehoiachin and Zedekiah broke the covenant with God and caused the people to sin against God through their idolatry. As per the warning given by God through his prophet Jeremiah, Nebuchadnezzar a Babylonian king attacked Judah twice and conquered the city of Jerusalem. Babylonians razed the city of Jerusalem to the ground, burned the temple and took all the capable leaders, artists, craftsmen, priests and prophets into captivity only leaving the weak, and the old behind in Judah to take care of the Land.
There in that heathen city the Israelite captives began to despair. They grieved for their land, began to loose all hope and became depressed. They were receiving misleading messages from false prophets saying that with in two years the Lord will take them back to Jerusalem (Jeremiah 28:1-4). Believing that false message Israelites have settled for a mediocre lifestyle of transition and complacency. They were not integrating into the lifestyle of the city, they were not contributing to the welfare of the city, instead they set their heart on returning to Jerusalem.
The message of the letter contained mainly two things, firstly, the exile will not last for only two years but for seventy years. Secondly instead of looking to go back to Jerusalem, they have a job to do which is to seek the peace and prosperity of the city and to pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, they too will prosper.”(Jer 29:7). The exiles were, told to increase in number and not to decrease. They were to carry on the normal course of life such as planting gardens, building houses, getting married, giving their children just like the rest of the citizens of Babylon. This indicates that they are in for a long haul and it is about time that they get busy and do something for the Lord. What does this have to do with you and me the urban Christians and the Urban Church in the 21st century? .
II. Are we exiled or called?
Whether we notice it or not God’s invisible hand guides all our destiny. None of us are here by accident. You are here today, alive and living wherever you are living for a purpose. Paul explains the sovereignty of God in placing people throughout the earth, “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.”(Acts 17:26) It is God who determines our time and allocates set places for us to live.
Were the Israelites “exiled” or “sent” to Babylon? The Hebrew word actually contains both the meanings. When it is translated, it reads “I have caused you to be carried away captive” In other words God is saying to the Israelites, “you have been exiled to the city of Babylon or you have been sent to the city by me. The scriptures are clear under what circumstances Israelites were exiled, regardless of the circumstance it was God who caused that to happen.
You are present location where you are living is no coincidence; Why are you living in your city? Some of you may have been born here or some of you may have moved in for job purpose, or others may have moved in because of marriage, education, for medical purpose, a business or for ministry. Regardless of your circumstance as Robert C. Linthicum says in his book, “City of God, City of Satan” “You have been sent by God to this city, the Lord in his infinite wisdom needs you in this city. God needs the presence of his people in the city.” Whether you realize or not you are here by God for a purpose. What is that purpose?
Our family’s journey from India, via Holland to Malden, then to Quincy was no accident. We strongly believe it was God’s invisible hand has been guiding every step of our journey.
III. In the City and For the City:
The letter of Jeremiah was addressed to a whole range of people that Nebuchadnezzar had carried into exile the list includes: the priests, the prophets, the quean mother, the court officials, the craftsmen and the patricians. If I stop here you may take a deep sigh and say Oh good God was addressing only those in leadership therefore I am excluded. No way the list goes on to say “all the other people” so without exclusion this speaks to all of us who were sent by God into a city. I hope by now you are getting the hang of it, you are in the city without a doubt sent or called by God. Finally you come around and say OK I am in the city, what For?
The truth finally had dawned on the remnant of the captives. Unlike their expectations, they have to reconcile with the fact that they may not be returning to Jerusalem for another seventy years. But one thing must have been hard that was to accept what God was asking them to do, that was to “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which they were exiled and pray for its prosperity.” Try to put yourself in their shoes. How would you react for example let’s say you were forcefully taken to a far way city like Bhagdad, all your family members were killed, and your city was completely destroyed. Here you are in this heathen country, longing to return to your beloved homeland and God says for the next seventy years you got to stay there then I will rescue you. Not only that you have to work and pray for the peace and prosperity of that city. I am sure you might be outrageous with that whole idea.
When this letter was delivered to the captives, some may have responded and said no way I am going to pray for these wicked people, let alone work for their welfare. Yet others may have responded, wow I can finally settle down, plant gardens, build home and get married and have a normal life again. However hard it may have been for the exiles initially, they had no other choice but to work for the welfare of the city because they knew very well if they want to see prosperity they have to work and pray to the Lord for the peace and the prosperity of the city because their prosperity is linked with the prosperity of the city.
We can grumble and complain about the drugs and alcohol problems, gun violence, robberies, internet pornography, teen pregnancies, high divorce rates, homelessness, and so on for the rest of our lives, but that doesn’t change anything unless we as the Christian community rise up and get involved in the city through our prayer and hard work for the welfare of the city. Why are you in the city in which you find yourself? You are there as Jeremiah suggests, for one reason because God has called you to be there. So it would be wise for us to know the city we are living in. great city of Presidents a bit more: The population of Quincy where I live is roughly 90,000 out of which: African American 1,947, Asians 13,546 which includes (Asian Indians 1127, Chinese 9,184, Filipino: 517, Japanese: 146, Korean 241 Vietnamese 1679, Other Asian: 652) You may be living in the City, but are you for the City? What are the particle implications of Jeremiah’s letter?
IV. Seeking the peace and welfare of the City:
The word seek in Hebrew language is not a good suggestion or a good idea but it was a direct command from God like many other commandments. Whether we like it or not we have no choice but to obey. Regardless of your persuasion and background you are called and commanded by God to work for the peace and welfare of the city you are living.
Early Christians after the death of Christ subsequently from that point of onwards many have understood this command have sacrificed their lives for the welfare of the society. They were the imitators in the fields of health care and education, science and technology. It can be said that Christianity has produced more literate and educated people than any other movement in the history of mankind. For example, in America all but 3 of the first 126 colleges established in the United States were built in order to propagate the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Science has many Christian roots. Most of the early scientists were Christians (Copernicus, Galileo, Pascal, Isaac Newton, and others). These great scientists operated within a Christian frame work.”
I was impressed with a particular ministry namedNORTHEAST CHRISTIANS AT WORK “North East Christians at Work” They are dedicated to encourage Christians who are working in secular culture yet seeking to be Christ like in their everyday work lives. They have given awards in 2008 for most on fire business owner, manager, most helpful church, most helpful college, most helpful, most helpful media, and most helpful resource speaker/author and so on.”
We as Christians are called to be contributing in all spheres of society. We are called to influence that which influences the minds of people. There are seven areas that influences the society i.e (Arts, Business, Church, Dissemination of information, Education, Family, and Government) Whether you are a government job holder, or work in a private managed company, student, or stay at home mother, or self employed we all have a key role in contributing to the welfare of the cities where we are living. Never underestimate your obligation and positive influence you can bring upon wherever you are.
V. Peace and Prosperity through Prayer:
The exiles have realized that with one hand they have to work for the city but on the other hand they are to pray to God for the prosperity and peace of the city because ultimately it is God who will establish peace and brings prosperity. Work and Prayer goes hand in hand. When man works, many only works but when man prays God works. There is so much power released when we pray because we pray to a powerful God.
We can either complaint about every problem we read, see or hear about our cities or we can turn every problem into a prayer point and pray to God to do something about it. After all he has all the power to change things that you can not change. Psalmist David’s prayer in Psalm 122 for the city of Jerusalem gives us a glimpse on how to prayer for our cities. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. May those who love you be secure? May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels. For the sake of my brothers and friends I will say Peace be within you. For the sake of the house of the Lord our God I will seek your prosperity.”
Again here we see the combination of seeking and praying that will release peace and prosperity not only into our cities but also into our lives.
Recently a group of Christians, clergy and neighbors took a strong stand against a particular dance group that was seeking to rent a place in Billings Road in Quincy. They have prayed against it. After much discussion on this issue finally the city council has denied the permission on the basis of the potential damage this dance group could cause to the society. This is one example of praying for the welfare of the City. We can be praying for the schools, fire department, the police department, for the healthcare, the government, churches, families, so that there will be law and order and good governance, righteous businesses in our city as a result we will have peace and prosperity.
Let’s rise up and fulfill our obligation to seek the Shalom of the City.
NORTHEAST CHRISTIANS AT WORK
 Floyd McClung, Spirits of the City
Sunday, May 10, 2009
I. Why did God make mothers? 1. She's the only one who knows where the scotch tape is. 2. Mostly to clean the house. 3. To help us out of there when we were getting born.
II. How did God make mothers? 1. He used dirt, just like for the rest of us. 2. Magic plus super powers and a lot of stirring. 3. God made my Mum just the same like he made me. He just used bigger parts.
III. What ingredients are mothers made of? 1. God makes mothers out of clouds and angel hair and everything nice in the world and one dab of mean. 2. They had to get their start from men's bones. Then they mostly use string, I think.
IV. Why did God give you your mother and not some other mom? 1. We're related. 2. God knew she likes me a lot more than other people's mums like me.
V. What kind of little girl was your mum? 1. My Mom has always been my mom and none of that other stuff. 2. I don't know because I wasn't there, but my guess would be pretty bossy. 3. They say she used to be nice.
VI. Who's the boss at your house? 1. Mum doesn't want to be boss, but she has to because dad's such a goof ball. 2. Mum. You can tell by room inspection. She sees the stuff under the bed. 3. I guess Mom is, but only because she has a lot more to do than dad.
VII. What's the difference between mums & dads? 1. Mums work at work and work at home and dads just go to work at work. 2. Mums know how to talk to teachers without scaring them. 3. Dads are taller & stronger, but mums have all the real power because that's who you got to ask if you want to sleep over at your friend's. 4. Mums have magic; they make you feel better without medicine.
Second grade children have a pretty good perception on why God made mothers and what their role is and there is a lot of truth in what they have to say. But there is much more to be a mother than just changing thousands of diapers, cooking and cleaning the house. What does the Bible have to say about mothers for that matter, women in general? What is their God given role and responsibility? How should children treat their mothers? Let’s look at several scriptures to understand the role and the responsibility of a mother.
I. Childbearing the joy of motherhood:
We can learn from the Genesis account that Adam named his wife Eve because she would become the mother of all the living.”(Gen 3:20) The account of Genesis tells us that Eve became the first mother and subsequently there have been many mothers since then. It was God’s intention when he created man and woman that they would be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.(Gen 1:27) God’s intended order is that it would take both a man and a woman coming together to create life but it is the woman who brings forth life into the world. Sadly these days we try to change God’s intended order and purpose, no wonder why we get into all sorts of trouble. There are many biblical references that indicate this precious gift of childbearing:
The blessing of a brother over his sister Rebekah “Our sister may you increase to thousands upon thousands may your offspring possess the gates of their enemies” (Gen 24:59)
Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your sons will be like olive shoots around your table ( Ps 128:3)
Jacob replied to his brother Esau “these are the children God has graciously given your servant” (Gen 48:9)
Joseph proudly introduced his children to his father Jacob saying “They are the sons God has given me here.” (Gen 48:9)
When we read scriptures of this kind, I understand the fact that it may be painful for some who do not have biological children. I have a sister back home and several friends I know who have been married for years but have not had children. Why do some have children and some don't remain a mystery. I do know that regardless of whether one has children or not, one is equally valued and loved by God.
Motherhood is not always about bearing children. It doesn’t take much to become a mother these days but it takes everything of you to be the mother that God would want you to be. There are those who have never born a child and have been great mothers. A young Albanian girl at the age of twelve received a call from God, left her home town and went to reach out to the poor and the hurting in the streets of Calcutta India. She was never married and never had the joy of motherhood but yet she had become a mother to thousands people around the world. She was affectionately called Mother Teresa (August 26, 1910 – September 5, 1997),
II Mother’s Tender Loving Care: The sacrificial love of a mother for her child is unparalleled. A mother goes through a near death experience to bring forth a child into this world. After that she gives herself to feed, nurture, and to change countless diapers. She stays up at nights taking care of a restless child. She gives up her food so that her child can have something to eat. She would go to any length and do anything to protect her child. We know by observing nature, the female species are much more ferocious when it comes to protecting their offspring. Kate Samperi says, “A mother loves her children even when they least deserve to be loved.” Some biblical examples of a mother’s love.
Hagar loved her child so much she could not bear the thought of seeing her child dying in front of her very eyes she kept the boy near by and began to weep. The Lord answered her cry.(Gen 21.16) The mother of Moses, defied kings orders and hid the baby for three months. But when she could not keep him any longer she kept the baby in a basket and put it in the river. She placed her daughter to find out what would happen to the boy. In the end the Lord brought the baby back to the mother so that she could love and nurse that child.(Ex 2:4-8).
Hannah used to make a special robe each year and gave it to the little boy Samuel who was ministering in the temple.(I Sa 2:19) not to mention the mother in Solomon’s court out of compassion for her son said “please my Lord give her the living baby(I Ki 3:26). The Shunammite, woman who did not give up, though her child was dead; she traveled a long time to meet the prophet Elisha and pleaded him to come home to bring the child back to life. Her love and persuasion brought her son back to life from the dead.(2 Kings 4:18-34)
In the NT we have the examples of the Canaanite mother who cried out to Jesus to heal her demon possessed daughter.(Matt 15:21). Finally we have the mother of Jesus Mary who stood very close to the cross even when all the disciples had deserted Jesus except for one. (John 19:25).
Years ago, a young mother sold the farm and moved with her children to her native place, she was making her way across the hills of South Wales, carrying her tiny baby in her arms, when she was overtaken by a blinding blizzard. She never reached her destination and when the blizzard had subsided her body was found by searchers beneath a mound of snow. But they discovered that before her death, she had taken off all her outer clothing and wrapped it about her baby. When they unwrapped the child, to their great surprise and joy, they found he was alive and well. She had mounded her body over his and given her life for her child, proving the depths of her mother love. Because of that mothers great love years later that child, David Lloyd George, grown to manhood, became prime minister of Great Britain, and, without doubt, one of England’s greatest statesman. His mother was Elizabeth George (1828-1896) 
III. Mother the primary teacher: We can not underestimate the importance of a Mother when it comes to give life’s valuable lessons to a growing child. Thank God for our mothers they taught us what was wrong and what was right. They taught us many things such as, the tastes, colors, hygiene, how to relate with strangers, and if our mothers were a Christian than she taught us about God and how to have a relationship with him. In early childhood mother plays a key role in the overall development of a child but that doesn’t mean fathers have nothing to do in the formation of a Child.
In Indian culture and Hindu traditions mothers are revered a lot to an extent they are worshipped. Sai Baba is one of the most respected Hindu sages world wide, he has a lot of good things to say about mothers, “The mother's lap is the first school for every child. It is his first temple; mother is his foremost God. A Mother is every man's primary wealth. It is the duty of every person to recognize this truth. A mother herself should look after the children during the early years instead of placing the child in the custody and care of baby sitters and servants. She must enforce discipline over the children in personal cleanliness, in humility and hospitality, in good manners and acts of service. She must persuade the children by example and precept to revere elders and to allot some time both in the morning and evening for prayer and silent meditation.” They seem to have gotten some things right here, ironically in India on one hand they exalt the mother but on the other hand they abuse the girl child. I think we as Christians are called to set forth more Godly examples when it comes to motherhood and child raising.
Here are some parental guidance from the Bible: “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” Proverbs (22:6). God placed a huge responsibility on the shoulders of parents. God’s expectation of parents is that they were to “teach God’s commandments diligently to their children, they were to talk of them several times during the day.”(Duet 6:7) The wise King Solomon exhorts his son saying “Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.”(Prov 1:8-9)
The last chapter 31, in the book of proverbs was dedicated to highlight the characteristics of a noble woman. Among many other things the noble woman teaches her children, “O my son, O son of my womb O son of my vows do not spend your strength on women your vigor on those who ruin kings.”(Prov 31:2). Unfortunately there were also some not so good examples of mothers in the Bible. Rebekah, encouraged her son Jacob to lie to his father and cheat his brother.(Gen 27) The mother of King Ahaziah, her name was Athaliah, She had counseled her son to do wicked things.(Dt 23:3) Herodias for her own selfish reasons prompted her daughter to ask for the head of John the Baptist.(Matt 14:6)
We have learned in school that Thomas Alave Edison invented phonograph, the electric bulb and many other things. While we admire his greatness we fail to give recognition to who made him that grate. When he was a young lad his teacher sent him home with a note which said, 'Your child is dumb. We can't do anything for him.' Mrs. Edison wrote back, 'You do not understand my boy. I will teach him myself'. And she did,” the rest is history. "I ask you, who was greater, Thomas A. Edison or his mother?
On this mother’s day we honor and respect our mothers by showering them with gifts, and compliments, which is good. Mothers while you are being praised today I also would like you to ponder on these thoughts, what kind of a mother am I? Am I cherishing the joy of motherhood? Do I listen to popular opinion which downplays the role of mothers or do I indeed train my children in the way they should go? May the Lord bless all the mothers.
 James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited, Tyndale, 1972, p. 375.
Sunday, May 3, 2009
We all face stormy kinds of situations which make us feel frightened. Some are so fierce they rock our life’s boat to an extent we think we sure are going to sink. How could we not be afraid during such circumstances? How could we maintain peace when everything else around us seems to be collapsing? How can we move from Fear to Faith? Some rugged fishermen who grew up in the region of Galilee were one day caught up in a storm on the Sea of Galilee. How did they respond in that situation? What did they do to get help? Who helped them to reach the shore safely? What lessons can we learn from their story?
Let's look at (Luke 8:22-25) “Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s go over to the other side of the lake.” so they got into a boat and set out. As they sailed he fell asleep. A squall (windstorm) came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger. The disciples went and woke him, saying Master, Master, we’re going to drown. He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. Where is your faith? He asked his disciples.” In fear and amazement they asked one another, who is this? He commands even the winds and the water and they obey him.”
The Context: Initially Jesus limited his ministry around the region of Galilee. He traveled from one city to another city proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God. Jesus performed several miracles including healing the servant of a centurion, and raising the widow’s son from the dead. His twelve disciples accompanied Jesus on his preaching mission. This was the first time Jesus was leaving Galilee and heading toward the region of the Gerasenes which is on the other side of the lake. In a way he was stepping outside of the Jewish territory and entering into the territory largely inhabited by the Gentiles, as indicated by the large heard of swine later in the chapter. This narrative offers a few key lessons we can learn as we set off to serve God.
I. Jesus risked his life to save one lost soul.
Vs 22, One day Jesus said to his disciples “Let us go over to the other side of the Lake” this indicates the concern on the heart of Jesus that gospel must be preached not only in Galilee but every where else including the gentile territory. If we read vs (Lk 8: 26-39) we will understand that concern. What does going over to the other side of the lake mean to us today? For Wilma and me it meant to leave the comforts of our home and family and serve God in the mission field for twenty years. For some it may mean to go to Kenya, South Africa, India, or the Dominican Republic on a mission’s trip. For others it may mean to reach out to the homeless in Boston or be a witness in the work place, befriend a neighbor, volunteer in a homeless shelter or reach out to new immigrants. Each of us needs to find out from God what it means to us. In simple terms going to the other side of the lake means going out of our way and out of our comfort zone to reach people with the good news of the Gospel. It is just not enough to come to church Sunday after Sunday and sing songs of praise, but we are called to step out and be on a mission to seek and save the lost.
II. You are not alone in your Mission: “Let’s go over to the other side” also indicates that Jesus will go with us on our rescue and restore mission. How would you like the idea of having Jesus as your traveling companion in life and in mission?
I remember in 1986 it was my first international travel ever. I had never travelled in an airplane before. I was going to Philippines to attend a staff conference. I was sick like a dog in the plane, throwing up and was miserable. After reaching Philippines I was so sick I could not join the rest of the staff in the conference. I was left behind all alone, in a strange country, sick and tired, far away from home, could not even get up to go to the bath room. In the midst of all that I remember clearly that my heart was filled with peace and assurance knowing that Jesus was near me in that room. Subsequently in my many missions trips I have felt his accompanying presence. When we step out to reach people for Christ, let’s remember we will not be alone. Jesus has promised to be with us always even to the very end of the age (Matt 28:20)
III. Unannounced storms in life:
Before they embarked on the journey Jesus did not click on to the Fox News weather forecast. The sky must have been clear and there were no threatening signs of a storm. He got his boys together and said “Let’s Go boys” so they sailed off to the other side of the Lake. It was towards the evening, the sun is setting, the sea breeze was refreshing, the waves were gently lapping at the boat making it gently rock.
It was a perfect situation for any one to doze off a bit. After a hectic ministry schedule Jesus must have been quite tired so he fell off to a deep sleep on a cushion. The boat was cruising along and the disciples too must have been relaxed. Finally they could get away from the bustling crowds and get a breather. They must have been chatting away and recounting all the adventures of ministry. “All of a sudden without any warning, (Matt 8:24) “a fierce gale of wind descended on the lake and they began to be swamped and they were in real danger. When it comes to think of it these disciples were no ordinary men, they lived all their lives on the rugged sea catching fish, until they were called by Jesus to follow him, they left everything and followed him. Now their lives were in danger. They knew too well that it was going to be a disaster.
When we set off to do ministry, or for that matter when we decide to live for Christ initially things seem to go smoothly. When we think we are having a good time and have nothing to worry, and relax a bit, then all of a sudden without any warning a storm hits our life. This storm could come in many forms; it could be a loss of a job, loss of a house, a diagnosis of cancer, a divorce in the family, or the chronic sickness in the family, and the death of a loved one. In such moments we tend to think God is million’s of miles away from us? We begin to wonder whether God has abandoned us. Does he care what I am going through? Does he even care if I die? Just like the disciples we too can be frightened thinking that we are going to drown. What did the disciples do when they were frightened?
IV. Moving from Fear to Faith: I have good news to tell you, there is no problem to deep that God can not solve, no mountain too high that God can not move and no storm in life is too great that he can not calm. Every thing is possible to God. Jesus can redeem any situation. The frantic disciples realizing that they were going to drown they (made a 911 call) rushed to Jesus and woke him up saying Master! Master! We are perishing. Matt 8:24 “Lord save us we are going to drown” Mark records in Mk 4: 38 “Teacher don’t you care if we drown?”
How did Jesus respond to their call? Did he rebuke the disciples for disturbing his sleep? No instead he got up from the sleep and rebuked the wind and the surging waves and they stopped, and it became calm. The word rebuke carries certain intensity here in the passage. Jesus employed the same word when he set the man free in the synagogue who was possessed by an unclean spirit, (Luke 4:35), when he healed Peter’s mother-in law and when he cured many people of diseases and afflictions and evil spirits.
Commentator Matthew Henry, explains “Perhaps the devil, who is the prince of the power of the air, and who raiseth winds by the permission of God, had some suspicion, from some words which Christ might let fall, that he was coming over the lake now on purpose to cast that legion of devils out of the poor man on the other side, and therefore poured this storm upon the ship he was in, designing, if possible, to have sunk him and prevented that victory.”
Interestingly the OT sometimes portrays the powers of nature as demonic; but at the same time it also depicts Yahweh (God) as Lord of the sea and his power over the sea as mastery of a monstrous, evil power. Hence as Jesus rebukes the storm he is acting as God acts, manifesting his authority over the powers of evil. Psalm 107:28-31“Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. 29 He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. 30 They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven.
Satan can hurl storms at us and throw fiery darts to discourage us in our mission so that we quit and give up. From this story we can learn that when we are hit by life threatening situations we can run to Christ and cry out for help. With one rebuke Jesus is able to disarm the powers of darkness and bring order in a disorderly situation. He is able to restore peace. He is able to establish calmness in a chaotic condition.
Being a follower of Christ or even committing our lives to serve God doesn’t guarantee a trouble free life. God has not promised a rose Garden, neither did he promise sun shine all the time. We all face challenges, at times life threatening situations and quite frankly there will be times we are overwhelmed and disheartened. Even after seeing several miracles and receiving answers to our prayers, it is possible when a calamity threatens our security just like the disciples we too can be afraid. When struggles engulf us and threatens to drown our life boat let’s remember who is on the Deck.
What could help us to move from fear to faith? I offer the following suggestions: Firstly realize that Jesus was willing to go to any length and face any danger in order to save the lost, hence he left a model for us to follow. Secondly, be assured that he will not send you to a place where he will not go with you. Thirdly, don’t be alarmed by the unannounced storms in your life. Fourthly, remember and recognize that Jesus has the power to rebuke the enemy and set you free from any dangerous and life threatening situation and restore peace. Learning these truths can help us to move from Fear to Faith.