Sunday, June 21, 2009


In order to be relevant and attract more people, one church put up this ad. “Has the heaviness of your old fashioned church got you weighed down? Try us! We are the New and Improved Lite Church of the Valley. Studies have shown we have 24% fewer commitments than other churches. We guarantee to trim off guilt. We are the home of the 7.5% tithes. We promise 35 minute worship services, with 7 minute sermons. We have only 6 Commandments-- Your choice!! We use just 3 gospels in our contemporary New Testament *Good Sound Bites for Modern Human Beings*. We take the offering every other week, all major credit cards accepted, of course. Yes, the New and Improved Lite Church of the Valley could be just what you are looking for. We are everything you want in a church... and less!!

Unfortunately, inspite of all these efforts to attract people to church the recent surveys show a gradual decline of church attendance in the US. According to The national opinion research center 38%, The institute for social research shows 44%, The Barna research reports: In 1991, 49%(attended church) after 13 years in 2004, 43%. Another group puts America in 11th place when it comes to Church attendance with 44%. Nigeria tops the list with 89%. What is keeping so many people away from Church? If you ask some one who doesn’t go to church why? he/she may give the following reasons are: 1. Church is old fashioned and boring 2. Churchgoers are a bunch of hypocrites, 3. All they want is my money 4. I am too tired to go to church 5. I am too busy I have no time to waste.

These reasons may be valid. But should that stop you from attending the church? If there is any problem I believe it is not the problem with the church but it is with certain people in the church. I would like to highlight five reasons why you should get excited to become a member of the church and encourage others to come to church where they can experience God.
1. The Church will endure forever. 2The Church is a witnessing community 3.The Church is the body of Christ, 4. The church is God's family 5. The Church is a loving community. In Greek (ecclesia) church has a range of meanings: legal assembly, congregation, a meeting place for a group of Christians living in one place, the universal church to which all believers belong.

Jesus said to Peter in Matt 16:18 “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Before Christ returned to heaven he commanded his disciples saying, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them….and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. (Matthew 28:18-20). After fifty days, on the day of Pentecost we see the birth of the church, God sent the Holy Spirit on a multi-cultural, multi lingual gathering of believers in Jerusalem. Peter preached passionately 3000 people were saved and added to the church. Subsequently God kept adding numbers to the church on a daily basis.

Over the centuries many Emperors, Kings, Governors have tried to destroy the Church of God. But no one has succeeded so far and no one will, because God’s church will endure forever John Stott, a well known British Evangelical Leader who was listed in Time magazine among the 100 most influential people in the world has this to say about the Church: “The church lies at the very center of the eternal purpose of God. The church is God’s new community. For His purpose, conceived in a past eternity, being worked out in history, and to be perfected in a future eternity.” In other words Church has always been in the mind of God, it was not an after thought. The Church will remain forever throughout eternity. When you become a member of the Church you are becoming a part of that eternal Church of God.

A witness is a person who gives testimony for or against someone often in a law-court setting, where there is considerable concern for the truth of the testimony. In Greek we also get the meaning of a “Martyr” Jesus appeared to his disciples after he rose from the dead and said “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the ends o f the earth.”

The early apostles and other believers in Christ were a witnessing community. They boldly proclaimed what they had seen and heard from Christ to the rest of the world. Similarly today the believers are called to speak out boldly what God has done in their lives. That is the heart of God. We should not keep this good news to ourselves, but make all efforts possible to communicate the love of God to the people in our communities.

The major theme of the book of Ephesians is that the Church is the body of Christ. Paul uses the analogy of the body to describe how we all will fit together. We find a lot of similarities between the physical body and the body of Christ. I Corinthians 12:12 “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; they form one body. 1 Corinthians 12:27, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” These scriptures highlight that regardless of our cultural, ethnic, economic, and educational background we all are the members of the body of Christ. We need to recognize the fact that though we all are different, we need each other. We all are interconnected with each other in Christ. The church is the body of Christ and Jesus is the head of the Church.

As cohesion, cooperation and unity is essential for the functioning of our physical body the same applies to the body of Christ as well. We can not afford to say to another member of the church I don’t need you because you are different. Paul warns the Corinthians against this attitude, “But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of you; or again the head to the feet; I have no need of you. He goes on to explain there should be no division in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored all the members rejoice with it.” (I Cor 12: 20-26).

Paul calls the church God's household. The church is God's family made up of all those who have become his children through faith in Christ. Just like we can't choose our siblings in our families of birth, neither can we choose our brothers and sisters in the church. Selfish interests and spiritual darkness marked our lives before we were saved. But now that we have come into the light we are to mature, which includes a whole other way of relating than we may have been used to growing up in our families of birth.
In the church family there is no place for attitudes like: "Oh this guy has offended me I am not talking to him any more” or I just don't like so and so. Neither can we afford gossip in the disguise of: "Between you and me, don't let so and so be involved he has 'holier than thou attitudes'. When we talk like that we become breakers of God's family instead of builders, we destroy the unity of the spirit. Another aspect of God's family is that it is big and beautifully diverse. In his book the church is bigger than you think; Patrick Johnston explains how the church has been growing world wide.

My wife and I were missionaries with YWAM; YWAM has volunteers working from over100 countries. We saw the multi faceted splendor of God in the commitment and the diligence of Asians, the exuberance of Brazilians, the celebration of laughter of the Islanders, the leadership and innovation of the North Americans, the hospitality and mercy heart of the Dutch, the dignity of Africans, the adventurous Australians and the politeness of the British and so on. That is the big picture of God's colorful and diverse family. How wonderful and magnificent heaven would be when people from all languages, tribes and cultures come together to celebrate their salvation and worship Jesus. I am glad that belong to that wonder family of God. How about you? Do you belong to God's big family?

Our local congregation resembles in a small way that great BIG family of God. We come from various backgrounds yet we realize that we all are one in Christ and we all belong to the same BIG family of God.


Jesus said to his disciples” if you love me you will obey what I command.” (John 14:15). Answering the expert in the law Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and the greatest command and the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” Why do you think there is so much emphasis on love in the New Testament? As you start reading the NT you will discover love as the reoccurring theme for those who have been saved. It is because God is love, and who are the objects of his love? You got it right, it is people! God loves people, God is passionate about people! He has created people with a need to be loved. The heart of the Gospel is that Christ came and showed his love by laying down his life for a lost mankind hurting for love.
Love has to be fleshed out in the church, what I mean with that is that we become attentive to the needs, cares and sensitivities of others. Through your love, kindness, generosity, thoughtful and selfless actions you make the love of God clear to others that is what the Bible calls building others up. The more we learn to love in God's family the more lives will be healed and restored. God has designed the church to be a place of love. No one has ever seen God it says in John 4:12 “but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” In John 13:34 we read “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

Loving one another is not a good suggestion neither it is optional but it is a command from God.

Whatever may be the reasons why people don’t attend churches and do not want to become members, we have good enough reasons why we must belong to a church: The church will last forever, the church is a witnessing community, the church is the body of Christ, the church is God’s family, and the church is a loving community. What a privelege for us to belong to God's family and his loving community.

Sunday, June 14, 2009


Study SeriesII, Ephesians (1:3-5)

Did you ever hear of Edson Rogers, the son of a wealthy farmer in Virginia? This lad died of wounds in the tragic War between the States. During those hard days of fighting he had met Robert Sawyer. They became good friends, enduring much together. Bob was a poor orphan, but Ed came from a well-respected family. Near the end of the war Edson was mortally wounded. Realizing his life was fast ebbing away, he asked Bob to promise he would go to his parents' plantation and tell them of their wonderful friendship. But Bob said, "I am only a poor boy, they will not believe me, they will think I am an impostor." But Ed had thought it all through and had written a letter in a very shaky hand. He gave it to Bob to deliver. Their farewell was sad and sudden. A few months later the war was over, and Bob timidly made his way to the Rogers mansion. His clothes were shabby, which made things worse. But when he explained his visit and delivered the letter, all was changed. Later, when he started to leave, the father said, "Bob, you must not go. We want you here. Edson was our dearest treasure; he was everything to us. Won't you come to our home and be a son in his place?" What an invitation! A poor orphan boy suddenly becoming a son and heir, to be loved and honored in a home of luxury! How did it happen? It was Edson's name that made the difference.[1]
Paul while writing to the believers in Ephesus from a Roman prison in 60 A.D addressed them “Saints and Faithful.” It doesn’t mean that they can never make a mess but even when they do, God is faithful. When they confess their sin they can regain their position of being saints and faithful. But Paul did not stop there, he moved from how God looks at us to how he actually relates with us. Ephesians 1:3-5 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. Vs 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ in accordance with his pleasure and will.”
I. Unlimited Blessings:
Paul attributed all the spiritual blessings to God the father that was to remind the Ephesians that these spiritual blessings were not coming from their pagan gods as their fellow citizens tend to believe; instead they were coming from the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. “Praise be to the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” What does every spiritual blessing mean? Some people might think that “every spiritual blessing” refers only to theological or churchly things but that is because we have made a completely unbiblical distinction between the body and spirit hence we assume that spiritual blessings are not material.[2]
God not only gives spiritual blessings but also the material blessings. In James 1:17 we read “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” When we look at our life as a big circle of spiritual blessing inside of which is the smaller component of bodily gifts and material blessings, then the trials and hardships we go through begin to make sense.[3]
James has put this duel nature of life in the right perspective when he said, James 1:2-4 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking any thing.”
Arthur Ashe was a top ranked tennis player in the 1960s and 70s. Raised in the segregated South, he was the first African-American male tennis player to win a Grand Slam tournament. Arthur Ashe died of AIDS, which he contracted from a blood transfusion during heart surgery.For the question of why he has been beset by so much travail, "It's one of the great moral questions," said Ashe. "Why do bad things happen to good people? Because it's a matter of enduring them. Ashe could have become embittered and self-pitying in the face of his disease, but he maintained a grateful attitude. He explained, "If I asked, 'Why me?' about my troubles, I would have to ask, 'Why me?' about my blessings. Why my winning Wimbledon? Why my marrying a beautiful, gifted woman and having a wonderful child?"[4]
No matter whatever hardship you may be going through, God can bring something good out of that situation. Even in the shortage of money God can provide your needs. In the midst suffering and sorrow God can give you Joy. All we have, and all we will ever have come from Christ. As it is written in Acts 17:28 “For in him we live and move and have our being.” Next time when you are enjoying a delicious slice of pizza, having a laughter with your children, spending time with your spouse, looking at the beauty of God’s nature, sleeping in your comfortable bed, or taking a hot shower pause and think about God's good gifts in life.
When we seek to live in greater awareness of the true nature of things there are plenty of opportunities in our every day life to gratefully acknowledge God's blessings.
II. Unworthy, yet Adopted into God’s family:
Ephesians 1: 4-5 explains God’s adoption process. “Just as He chose us in him before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and blameless before Him in Love. He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.” Let me focus on a few key words:
Just as He chose us in him before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and blameless before Him in Love: In Matthew 22:14 we read "For many are called, but few are chosen.” In John 6:44, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.”
Those of us who are saved would not have been able to make that decision to follow Christ if it was not for the drawing power of God the father. I was born and raised in a Christian family yet for about seventeen years I lived as a liked. Thanks to my grand mother’s prayers, I could not resist the drawing power of God. So it is God who has chosen you and me out of this world in Christ so that we should be holy and blameless before him.
He predestined us in Christ Jesus. The doctrine of predestination has brought much confusion and division in the Body of Christ over the centuries. Some view that there is double predestination in which God has already designated some persons to be damned. One scholar notes “The main emphasis of the verb predestination is that God chooses beforehand(in our human understanding of time) and invites us to recognize God’s eternal desire that all would be saved, that all would come to the knowledge of the truth(1 Timothy 2:4)”[5] God foreordained that through Jesus all mankind can be saved. Does that mean all will be saved? No, only those who believed in Jesus would be saved in the end. What else God has foreordained? He foreordained that we should be adopted into his family.
He adopted us as sons through Jesus Christ. The word son here has more in-depth meaning, whether you are a woman or a man when you accepted the Lord Jesus as your Savior you were adopted as a son into God’s family. Let me further explain this adoption process.
Joyce Maguire quotes, “Adoption is not about finding children for families, it’s about finding families for children. That is exactly what God did for you and me longtime ago. We were lost in sin, living in abject poverty of soul. We were wandering aimlessly trying to make sense out of life but nothing seemed to satisfy and give the true love we were looking for. The harder we tried the more desperate we became. Our life was a hopeless mess. God stepped in and adopted us by paying a high price through the blood of his son. Now you and I have legally become his sons.
Following scriptures explain how God has adopted us into his family:
Galatians 3:26 “We become sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus
John 1:12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name,
I John 3:1, 2“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are.”

Galatians 4:4, 5, 7 “God sent forth his Son, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. Therefore you are no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.”
God, lovingly, longingly wants to adopt you as a son. It is not that God needs a son but you need a loving father and a family the family of God. All you need to do is to accept the invitation and by faith become his son. Then what comes after being a son? In Bible times sons carried a lot more responsibility in the family. It is still the same in many eastern countries. Similarly when we become sons through adoption we carry a responsibility. Our father’s business becomes part of our interests and the focus of our energies. These unlimited blessings and un conditional adoption into God’s family is made possible in Christ alone. God is delighted to pour out spiritual blessings on us and adopt us as his children.
How about you today? Have you responded to God’s invitation to become his son or daughter? If you have already, are you growing in the awareness of the privileges and responsibilities of your Sonship?

[1] By Roy Allan Anderson, Signs of the Times, July 1966 (Shared by Dale Galusha) Wit & Wisdom - July 27, 1998
[2] The Unnecessary Pastor, Marva Dawn, page 45
[3] The Unnecessary Pastor, Marva Dawn Page 45
[5] The Unnecessary Pastor, Marva Dawn page 48.

Sunday, June 7, 2009


Study series on the Book of Ephesians
Ephesians 1:1-14
Different people express themselves differently when they want to wish others well, some say “all the best” or "good luck'. Recently our president in his address to Muslims in Cairo evoked an Islamic way of blessing, “Salam wa lay-kum” "May Allah bless you and grant peace." In Judaism, a blessing (or berakhah) is recited at a specified moment during a prayer, ceremony or other activity, especially before and after partaking of food. The function of these blessings is to acknowledge God as the source of all blessing.[2] A berakhah typically starts with the words, "Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe. Christians would say the Lord bless you or simply bless you. We often hear the politicians say God Bless America. Certain gangs also use this word blessing. For example, Bloods (a street gang) initiation rite will involve getting blessed, a process by which an inductee is punched as hard as possible in the forehead. Certainly we don’t want that type of a blessing.
What does it mean "To be blessed"? It means 'to be favored by God'. Blessings therefore are directly associated with God and from God. To express a blessing, is like bestowing a wish on someone that he/she will experience the favor of God. In the Bible there are many blessings recorded. I would like to share several rich Spiritual blessings or Spiritual favors.” found in Ephesians 1:1-14. Rich theology is hidden in these fourteen verses. Let me unpack it verse by verse. The first two verses are Paul’s greetings coupled with God’s gracious gifts. Vs 3-6 describe God the father’s outpouring generosity. Vs 7-12 about the redemptive and unifying work of God’s son (Jesus), Vs 13-14, about the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer. In a sense in the first fourteen verses we see undoubtedly the beautiful working relationship between the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.
Background and the importance of the book of Ephesians:
Paul wrote the letter to the Church in Ephesus in 60 A.D while he was in prison at Rome. Ephesus was one of the most important cities in western Asia Minor (Now Turkey) Because of its strategic location Ephesus became a major trade route. It also boasted of its pagan practices. A temple was dedicated to the Roman goddess (Diana). Paul made Ephesus a center for Evangelism for about 3 years.
Unlike several other letters of Paul, Ephesians does not address any particular error or heresy. Scholars believe that this is a circular letter, intended for other churches in the region in addition to the one in Ephesus. All the books of the Bible are important particularly the book of Ephesians for several reasons. Firstly Paul had invested a lot in this church since it’s beginning he had left Priscilla and Aquila to take care of the church.(Acts 18:19). Secondly, The Holy Spirit was poured upon them when Paul prayed over the believers (Acts 19:7). Thirdly “God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick and their illnesses were cured and evil spirits left them. That brought fear to many Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor. (Acts 19). Fourthly Ephesus became the hub of Christianity in the province of Asia. Fifthly study of the book of Ephesians will help us to understand how to be a Church that loves God and is committed to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
It will also unfold the overall purpose of God for the church in the world. Finally it warns us not to repeat the same mistakes of the Ephesian believers. It started as a glorious Church, a lot was going for them but in the end they were warned by God to repent, because they had lost their first love. (Rev 2:1-7).
All the blessings mentioned in Ephesians 1:1-14 and much more comes from God to all those who believed in Christ. In other words these blessings or favors are reserved only for those who belong to Christ.
If you have not accepted Jesus as your personal savior, it is not too late you can confess your sins and accept the Lord today so that you too can enjoy these rich blessings.
I. Greetings and Gifts (Vs. 1-2)
Vs1-2 “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God to the saints, in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace and peace to you from God our father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul knew who he was, he asserted his right as an apostle, and also knew under whose authority he was writing this letter. This is the typical style of Paul’s letters; he asserts his right, establishes his spiritual authority and then addresses his recipients with a greeting. Here he addressed the Ephesian believers “saints and faithful.”
Lets’ ponder on these two words, “Saints and Faithful” What do these words mean? First, Saints. How many of us think of ourselves as saints? What would our church look like when we think we all are saints? Some how, we have a distorted view of saints. When we hear the word saint we tend to think that saint is someone in a stained glass window, wearing long archaic clothes and commemorated in liturgical prayers. (St. Benedict, St. Augustine, St. Francis etc). For modern minds a saint is an extraordinary person, extremely pious person or a hero. So for a normal un-heroic church person like you and me to call ourselves a saint is unthinkable. But precisely that’s what we are at least that’s what we are called to be.
Paul’s address of Ephesian believers’ saints was not determined by their saintly acts but was determined by the sacrificial act of Jesus Christ on the cross. Marva Dawn a best selling author and an adjunct professor of Spiritual theology at Regent College in Vancouver writes, “We became saints not by working harder, but totally by sheer, unadulterated gift. Absolutely all of our efforts are unnecessary.”[1] In other words none of our good works will enable us to earn that title saints but it is only by his sheer grace and mercy. We will discover the riches of his grace and mercy as we go deeper into our study but for now pause for a while, take a deep breath, if you are a child of God enjoy this privilege that you are a saint.
Peter further highlights the sainthood of all believers in I Peter 2:9 “But you are a chosen people a royal priesthood, a holy nation a people belonging to God.” For a child of God there should be a mark of difference. In the early church saints were peculiar people, they were a misunderstood lot. For example St. Francis of Assisi: He wwas born in Assisi in 1182 to Pietro and Picca Bernadone. Pietro was a cloth merchant and probably the richest man in Assisi. Francis heard a higher call from God. He was inspired by three scriptures in the Bible, The three verses were as follows: 1) If you would be perfect, go and sell all you have and give to the poor, and follow me; 2) Take nothing with you for the journey; and 3) If any man will follow me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.
Taking those scriptures without any interpretation left everything, took the vow of poverty, lived a life of chastity and charity and started a whole new movement called “Little brothers” which eventually became the catholic Franciscan order.
Paul addressed the Ephesians as saints to remind them that they were called to be set apart from the world. When we became a follower of Christ we became saints and as the truth of God's incredible gift of grace and love dawns more and more on us, do we desire to remain in sin and destructive lifestyles? No!
Picture a radiant bride, dressed in a magnificient white gown, being picked up in a horse drawn carriage and whisked away to her wedding ceremony. As her loving bridegroom awaits her arrival at the little country church, the bride suddenly orders the coachman to stop. She bolts from the coach and plunges headlong into thick, dark mud. This scene may seem ridiculous, but we who are Christ’s bride sometimes do much the same thing. Although we have been made holy and righteous by his sacrifice for us, if we take our focus of our heavenly bridegroom, we stray right back into the muck that he rescued us from before. This is not God's will at all! He calls us to intimate relationship with him to be holy just as he is holy. (1 Peter 1:16) As we grow in God we become more and more bowled over by His amazing love and our heartfelt response is to say: Lord, I want to bring all areas of my life under your control!
The second part of Paul’s address of the Ephesians Believers was, “Faithful” The Greek word pistos has a range of meanings such as: faithful, reliable, believer, believing, faithfully, sure, trustworthy. We assume that faithfulness means how well we are doing. Instead of again depending on our doing we need to rely upon His faithfulness because even when we are faithless he remains faithful. Just like holiness, faithfulness is also a gift from God. Without His help it is hard to maintain our faith. Only by fixing our eyes upon Jesus who is the author and the finisher of our faith can we remain faithful” (Hebrews 12:1). All our striving stops at Jesus.

How is it possible for us to maintain our saintliness and remain faithful? Second verse enables us to do that, “Grace and Peace to you from God our father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Marva Dawn says, “God’s unmerited favor and forgiveness, his gift that liberates us from our sin and his shalom that releases us from our guilt over it. What a wonder it is that we can be set free both from our fallenness and from how bad we feel about its results.”[2]

How do we define peace? Is it a feeling or fact? Peace is not always as described by the Yoga therapists. It is more than a feel good factor, the peace that Bible describes is beyond anything that we can explain, it is a fact. The Hebrew word for peace Shalom begins in reconciliation with God. Once we were the enemies of God through our sin, Jesus’ sacrificial death has satisfied the wrath of God and has reconciled us back to God hence we can experience peace that surpasses all understanding. Once we accept that fact we experience peace.

When we have peace with God, we can have peace with in ourselves and with one another. In other words outside of God we can not accomplish peace. Jesus said before he was crucified he said my peace I give to you not according to the world. In Jesus there is peace. Accepting Jesus as your personal savior is the beginning to experience God’s incredible rich blessings. That makes you Richer than you think.
[1] The Un Necessary Pastor: Marva Dawn & Eugene Peterson, Page 42.
[2] Un Necessary pastor, Page43