Sunday, August 30, 2009


There is a little fable in which a woman goes into the town square and sees a store sign that reads "God's Fruit Stand." "Thank goodness," she says to herself. "It's about time they began selling some decent produce in the square." She enters the store and says, "I would like a divine banana, a divine cantaloupe, and some divine strawberries and peaches." God, (who was behind the counter) says, "I'm very sorry my dear woman, I only sell seeds."

This story illustrates that if you want to have a divine fruit you need to sow a divine seed. The outcome of the fruit depends on the SEED. Some times the seed may be good but if it is not planted in the right soil it will not bear fruit. During his ministry on earth Jesus told stories or parables to communicate powerful truths to his followers. On one of those occasions Jesus shared the parable of the Sower and the SEED (Luke 8:4-15) The Parable:

A farmer went to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed some of it fell on the road; it was trampled down and the birds ate it. Other seed fell in the gravel; it sprouted, but withered because it didn’t have good roots. Other seed fell in the weeds; the weeds grew with it and strangled it. Other seed fell in rich earth and produced a bumper crop.” Are you listening to this? “Really listening? (Message Bible)

In eastern practices the seed was sometimes sown first and the field plowed afterwards. Roads and pathways went directly through many fields and the traffic made much of the surface too hard for seed to take root in. You may be asking what these four different soils represent. What is the seed? What does this have to do with me today? In the parable the seed is the word of God and the grounds represent four types of people1. I would call them, 1. The Skeptics 2. The Enthusiasts 3. The Compromisers 4. The Implementers.

I. THE SKEPTICS: “As the former sowed some fell on the road, it was tramped down and the birds ate it up” The way side people are mainly the skeptics, the unbelievers, they hear the gospel preached over and over again but they never respond to it because the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts so that they won’t believe and be saved.

Have you wondered why inspite of many wonderful Christian TV channels preaching the gospel, churches doing the evangelistic outreaches so many still remain un-touched by the Gospel? Even some of those who regularly attend church, and listen to inspiring messages every Sunday could also remain unchanged. Why? Because there truly is satanic opposition. Our enemy doesn’t want people to come to know the “Truth”, if they come to know the truth they can no longer be under his control, they will be free indeed.

Paul writing to Corinthians exposes the strategy of the Devil 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” The message of the gospel can be stolen by Satan if we let him. Paul writing to Ephesians reminds them who they were coming against, “Ephesians 6:12, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Even today we are up against a strong enemy but we have some one who is greater and stronger than our enemy.

The seed that fell in the gravel sprouted quickly but because it didn’t have deep roots it withered as quickly it came up. This year we have tried our hand at some gardening and learned a few lessons in the process. One thing we learned that in order for plants to survive and bear fruit their roots must go deep into the ground. If they are shallow they will wither and die quickly. We see this in the Christian life too, some people whom I call the Enthusiasts, they respond with great enthusiasm but their excitement doesn’t last long. When they encounter trouble or tough times they quickly “throw in the towel” and quit walking with God.

There are some who respond to the gospel with great enthusiasm but never go deeper in their understanding of who God is and what his will is for their lives. Initial enthusiasm is great, but that is not an end in itself we should learn to go deeper with God. That is why discipleship is so important. This is how Jesus put it just before he returned to heaven in Matthew 28:18, 19 “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.

Let’s suppose you were enlisted in the army, it may be a great feeling initially but if you never attend the nine week intense Basic Combat Training (BCT) where you are not only trained in skills but also in character by learning the core values of the Army such as receiving orders, loyalty and the importance of teamwork, duty, respect, selfless service, honor and Integrity, you will never come out to be a proud soldier of the United States Army.

We can not keep on surfing on the waves of enthusiasm, and excitement forever, sooner or later they will crash. When the rubber hits the road what makes us stand strong is not our enthusiasm but our discipleship, which is our personal commitment to obedience. The crowds followed Jesus because they were excited about his miracles and message but when he turned to them and explained the cost of discipleship by saying “unless you pick up your cross daily and follow me you are not my disciple,” every one left except the twelve.

These twelve Disciples stayed back because they were willing to go deep with Christ. They were the ones who in the end went and turned the world upside down through their message.


Other seed fell in the weeds; (In other translations it reads thorns, but I think in this part of the world we can relate better to weeds) the weeds grew with it and strangled it. This spring we learned that before you plant seeds you remove the weeds, till the ground and then plant the seeds. After a while we have noticed along with the good plants there were weeds also growing with them. From time to time we had to remove the weeds otherwise the plants wouldn’t have grown and borne fruit.

The seed that fell in the weeds represent another group which I call “The Compromisers. These people hear the truth, they respond to it and they seem to be growing in it but along the way some things happen and they begin to compromise with the truth. They let other things (weeds) come in between them and God. What are these weeds? It is important to take note of this, what are the 3 things that could easily cause anyone of us to stagnate in our Christian growth? In the NIV it says it crystal clear; the word is choked by life’s, worries, riches, and pleasures.
Is it wrong to worry about life? Is it wrong to become rich and enjoy pleasures? Most Christians nowadays would be quick to say No!! There is nothing wrong with enjoying the good life. Over the years I have come to observe a difference though in the life and the fruit of Christians who want to have it all and those who are willing to deny themselves certain legitimate riches or pleasures for the sake of the Kingdom. The world pushes us towards self advancement; where as Jesus calls us to a life of self denial and sacrifice.

Moses grew up in the palace, he could enjoy every thing to his hearts content if he wanted to, but when God called him to follow him on the narrow way, Hebrews 11:25 “He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.” Instead of choosing the pleasures of this world that will choke our faith we need to learn to come to God because he has made known to us the path of life, he will us with joy in his presence with eternal pleasures at his right hand (Psalm 16:11).

IV. THE IMPLEMENTORS: Other seed fell in rich earth and produced a bumper crop.” During this spring we have planted Tomatoes plants and flower plants. We watered them every day and now it is harvest time. However simple we enjoy these tangible fruits of the earth, it is very satisfying to pick and enjoy produce from ones own garden.

The seed that fell in the rich earth represents people I call, “The Implementers” They hear the truth, receive it, retain it and implement it under severe trials and testing’s hence they produce fruit. In other words they not only hear the word but they act upon it. Similarly, the more we apply the truth the more growth we will experience. It is not so important how much you know but how much you practice.

In the Bible the word “hear” is often associated with obedience, and action. In the NT several times Jesus emphasized the correlation between hearing and obeying. We all are familiar with the Sunday school story of “The wise and foolish builders” the main point in this story is not whether you should build your house on the sand or on the rock but it is about hearing and obeying. Matthew 7:24 "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man…Matthew 7:26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man.

These days we have information over load. We attend church regularly and hear great sermons, or tune into Christian TV/radio listen to the best preachers, and enjoy the best worship team, by doing all that we acquire a lot of information about life and God. But ironically how much of it do we really apply in our lives. Marva Dawn explains why so many people while they receive so much information apply either little or none of it in their daily lives. I quote “The problem with the media revolution that bothers me most is what Neil Postman calls the “Low information-action Ratio” (note the acronym) Television offers its viewers enormous amounts of data about which they cannot do a thing; consequently it trains them to receive and discard information without acting on it. Television makes us L.I.A.R.s because we do not what we could with the truths we learn. We watch news reports about poverty, but we don’t lessen our consumption in order to give more away to feed the hungry and to build economic possibilities for others. We learn about war and crime but we contribute to violence ourselves because we don’t have enough time to listen to our children.”

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if only we obey 1% of what we hear from God, our lives and Church will be radically transformed? The only way we can bear fruit is not by hearing the word but by obeying it. Why bearing fruit is is so important? It is so important because God is looking for fruit in our lives. Read John 15:1-8. What kind of fruit that God is looking for? Galatians 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

Each of us can fall into either one of the four categories. Some may be skeptics. They listen to the word again and again but never believe it. Some may be Enthusiasts, they hear the word, get excited about it, and keep moving from one experience to another but never take time to go deeper with God. Some may be compromisers, they hear the word but let the worries of this life, pursuit of riches and pleasures keep you them from maturing. Some are implementers, They hear the word, receive it, cherish it and act on and have started to bear fruit and there is much more to come. Which one of the four are you today? I hope to be in the forth category where I am growing in bearing fruit much fruit for God. May God help us to bear fruit for Him.


Sunday, August 16, 2009


We all go from time to time through certain experiences that crush us physically, emotionally, spiritually and our faith in God is severely tested. Recently I read the testimony of William J. Stuntz a professor at Harvard Law School. Here is the excerpt: “While driving home from a family vacation his car got a flat tire. When he started to change it something nasty happened at the base of his back ever since his lower back and the top of his right leg have hurt. Inspite of psychotherapy and thousands of pills his back and leg hurts every waking moment. When his family moved to accept a job at Harvard Law School his family began to fall apart one of his children suffered a life threatening disease and his marriage fell apart. In February 2008 another bad news struck him: Doctors found a large tumor in his colon, a month later films turned up tumors in both of his lungs. He had two cancer surgeries and six months of intensive chemotherapy. He continues to have that back pain and lives with the thought that probably cancer might kill him with in the next two years. He is fifty years old.[1]

Your situation might be different than this Harvard professors’ but the truth of the matter is that these situations or maybe worse can happen to any one of us. When that happens to us we are devastated, crushed in our spirit all our strength is drained, we become depressed and begin to wonder, thinking that God is millions of miles far away from us. We wonder where is God when life hurts like that? Does God know how we feel, does He care? Why do some suffer while others seem to have an easy ride? Is God anywhere near? There are no easy answers to any of these agonizing questions. However we can find some answers from the scriptures. Here are a few: Isaiah 57: 14-19; Isaiah 61:1-3, John 10:10; Luke 4:16-21

Isaiah 57:14-19 “And it will be said: "Build up, build up, and prepare the road! Remove the obstacles out of the way of my people." 15 For this is what the high and lofty One says-- he who lives forever, whose name is holy: "I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite. 16 I will not accuse forever, nor will I always be angry, for then the spirit of man would grow faint before me-- the breath of man that I have created. 17 I was enraged by his sinful greed; I punished him, and hid my face in anger, yet he kept on in his willful ways. 18 I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will guide him and restore comfort to him, 19 creating praise on the lips of the mourners in Israel. Peace, peace, to those far and near," says the LORD. "And I will heal them."

At times God is angry with us because of our disobedience and sin but he doesn’t always remain angry forever. When we acknowledge our sin and cry out to him for help he is there to heal, guide and restore comfort to us. On the contrary they enemy is there to steal, kill and destroy. John 10:10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

Isaiah further amplifies the heart of God in Isaiah 61:1-3 “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 2 to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, 3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion-- to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor. This was also a prophecy concerning the messiah.

One of the first things that Jesus did after he came through temptation successfully was that he established his mission or purpose. Luke 4:16-21 “He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. You might be feeling crushed in your spirit, or feeling depressed due to a chronic illness, financially strapped due to a job loss, feeling disillusioned over a family situation, or you may feel like you are in a prison and unable to get out because of certain addictions. Whatever may be your situation you can be set free, experience joy, gladness, receive healing and find hope and strength for the future. Satan’s mission is to steel your health, kill your joy and destroy your life and your loved ones but where as Christ came to give you life and life in abundance. This abundant life is for you.
[1] Christianity Today Magazine, August 2009

Sunday, August 9, 2009


David McCullough in his book Mornings On Horseback tells this story about young Teddy Roosevelt (Theodore Roosevelt was the 26th President of the United States): Mittie (his mother) had found he was so afraid of the Madison Square Church that he refused to set foot inside if alone. He was terrified, she discovered, of something called the "zeal." It was crouched in the dark corners of the church ready to jump at him, he said. When she asked what zeal might be, he said he was not sure, but thought it was probably a large animal like an alligator or a dragon. He had heard the minister read about it from the Bible. Using a concordance, she read him those passages containing the word ZEAL until suddenly, very excited, he told her to stop. The line was from the Book of John, 2:17: "And his disciples remembered that it was written, 'The ZEAL of thine house hath eaten me up.”

This illustrates the legitimate fear of a young man who thought God would eat him up if he came to Church because of lack of explanation of the scripture, but one way I think it was good he had such fear of God. We must tremble before the Lord because He is indeed an awesome God but at the same time we don’t have to stay away from him, we can feel safe in his presence because He is also a good and loving God. Unfortunately many take his loving-kindness for granted and do not exhibit any fear of God at all. They live as though God does not exist. God is replaced with self; he is mocked by the media, ridiculed by the skeptics and reduced God to a benevolent being who will suit our fancy. Roosevelt said, “A thorough Knowledge of the Bible is worth more than a college education.” Let’s look at what the Bible has to say about the fear of the Lord. What is the fear of the Lord? Why should I fear God and what are the rewards of the fear of God?

I. What is the fear of the Lord?

The word fear first appeared in the garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve sinned against God they were afraid to meet him. They ran away and hid from God. Have you ever done something that you should not have done and been afraid of getting caught? It is a frightening thought to be caught in the act of wrong doing. When you do the right thing there is nothing to be afraid of. But there are people who do some of the most gruesome things yet are not afraid of anything, what makes them not to be afraid? In the Old Testament those who have sinned against God, the wicked people were terrified of God whenever He showed up. They ran away from the presence of God. That kind of fear was generated because of the judgment and the impending punishment that was due to them because of their sin.

A modern man may feel he has emancipated himself because he is no longer afraid of a hell of fire after he dies. But modern men have other fears. They are afraid of bacteria that my invade their bodies to produce illness. They are afraid of losing their jobs, of being dependent in their old age, afraid of war, afraid of failure, afraid of death. To add the fear of the Lord to these and many other fears that haunt men today seems to add to a list of fears that is already too long. Perhaps if we feared God more we would fear everything else less.

What is the fear of the Lord? It is often translated as “Reverence for the Lord.” Reverence is showing awe and regard for the power of God. It is realizing that we are created beings and not the creator and the sustainer of the universe. It is recognizing that we are dependent on God. To revere also means to regard with the deepest respect, and esteem.
Revere suggests awe coupled with profound honor. So to fear the Lord is to have deep respect for God, because of that I try my best to honor him by the choices I make in my life. I do certain things that please God and avoid certain things that are displeasing to God.

II. Why should I fear God?

In the Old Testament people were afraid of God because they had seen his mighty acts. When God appeared on mount Sinai, smoke came up from it like smoke from a furnace, the whole mountain trembled violently and the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder and when the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke they trembled with fear.” (Exodus 19:18-20:19) Who wouldn’t be afraid when God shows up in a spectacular way? “Moses said to people, do not be afraid. God has come to test you so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.”(Exodus 20:20). Why should I fear God? The fear of the Lord keeps me from sinning. When I fear God I am making a commitment to live according to the revealed word of God. Like the Psalmist I would say, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”(Psalms 119:11). Only by having the fear of God we can avoid sin. Just by listening to someone’s speech we can usually figure out quite quick whether this person fears the Lord or is just wise in his or her own eyes. Gossip, sarcasm, complaining, a critical tongue, lavish and irresponsible spending, are a few evidences of a lack of the fear of God. Our conduct towards the opposite sex is an indicator of how much we fear God.

Most of us are familiar with God’s attributes such as his loving-kindness, mercy, compassion, grace, forgiveness and so on but we often overlook the fact that He is a holy God, and a jealous God (Joshua 24:19). His wrath can consume all his enemies (Psalm 59:13).His anger can destroy us (Deut 6:15). When we don’t recognize the awesomeness of God we become arrogant, flippant in our devotion to God and careless of our conduct thinking that we can just get by with any and every thing. We are wrong!

Over 4000 years ago Abraham lived among the people who thought the same way; they were evil and did not honor the Lord. This is what Abraham said about that place, “There is surely no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me.”(Gen 20:11). Fear of God here has the sense of reverential trust in God that includes commitment to his revealed will (word). In that land there was no regard for God’s laws every one lived as they pleased. Our days are no different to the days of Abraham. Many just ignore the fact that God exists and they keep on living lives that are contradictory to God’s revealed word. Let’s not be fooled, we will reap what we sow. The writer of the Hebrews warns us by saying that “it is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:31). “That you have come to God the judge of all men. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”(Heb 12:23, 28) No matter who you are one day we all will have to give an account of our lives to a righteous judge who judges without any partiality.

The realization that one day I have to stand before the righteous judge and give an account of my life brought me to my knees. My many sins were so visible before my eyes. I so desperately wanted to escape the wrath of God. I realized that the only way to escape the wrath of God was to confess my sins to him and accept Jesus as my personal savior and receive his forgiveness. After having done that I have decided to live a life that is pleasing to God to the best of my ability.

It has been a learning curve for Wilma and me to work with an organization that taught and whose leaders modeled the fear of the Lord. Floyd McClung who used to be the Executive Director for YWAM tells how the Lord taught him a lesson in the fear of the Lord vs the fear of man. Floyd was the leader of the discipleship community of the Ark in Amsterdam those days.
Floyd loved drinking ice cold milk from the fridge but living in a community there are rules and restrictions on the consumption of community foods. He writes in his book about one night after every one had gone to bed he went down into the kitchen and opened the fridge, right there in front of him was a glass of milk. He knew that glass was not meant for him because he had already had his ration of milk. Yet because of his love for milk he started rationalizing saying to himself: well I am the leader I work the hardest, I can make decisions, I am in charge here I want this milk. So he gulped down the glass of milk. The next morning in the staff prayer meeting as he was trying to listen to God’s voice he was convicted of the sin of stealing. He was very uncomfortable he wrestled with the thought of having to confess this to the community after all he was the leader; he struggled with the fear of men, what will people say? Yet when he humbled himself and confessed how he had violated the rules the staff respected his humility and honesty.

At times the fear of the Lord will teach us to make amends for sin or to go back to a person and set things right where we need to. Where as the fear of man will prove to be a snare.

III. The rewards of the fear of the Lord:

The Bible is full of rewards to those who fear God. When we fear God we choose to do the right thing and avoid what is wrong, this is called wisdom we become wise by fearing the Lord because the Fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom (Proverbs 1:7). When we fear God we hate evil therefore we can live a long life in security (Pro 14:26, 10:27).With so much emphasis on education in order to get ahead in life we should be careful not to confuse wisdom with knowledge. From God’s point of view the professor steeped in knowledge with multiple degrees may completely lack wisdom while an uneducated person who seeks to know and obey God may be a truly wise man.

This is basically what the wisest man who ever lived concluded in all his searching for meaning this was the bottom line: Ecclesiastes 12:5 “Fear God and keep his commandments for this is the whole duty of man.

The Fear of the Lord makes the Lord delight in us (Psalm 147:11). The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life turning a man from the snares of death (Pro 14:27). During his farewell speech the prophet Samuel addressed the Israelites with these words, “If you fear the Lord and serve and obey him and do not rebel against his commandments, and if both you and the king who reigns over you follow the Lord your God- good. But if you do not obey the Lord, and if you rebel against his commands, his hand will be against you, as it was against your fathers.”(I Sam 12:14)

What can we learn from these scriptures? We can either become the people of his delight or people of his wrath. We can either inherit his blessings or curses. We can either live a long life with security or face an untimely death. We can either experience his prosperity or inflict upon ourselves all sorts of troubles. We can either have God as our friend or our enemy. It all hinges on whether or not we fear the Lord, whether we respect Him.

IV. How can we grow in the fear of the Lord?

In the Psalms and Proverbs we find many exhortations to fear the Lord. I encourage you to do your own personal study on this very vital topic. Psalm 34 vs11 gives us a loving invitation to become a student in the school of the fear of the Lord. Come my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. Proverbs 1:29 indicates that we can choose to fear the Lord, and increase in our knowledge of God. It is a wise choice to pursue the fear of the Lord through the diligent study and application of His Word.

All of us have the privilege to wholeheartedly pursue the fear of the Lord. None of us has reached perfection yet but neither should anyone of us settle for sloppiness in our walk with God. The fear of the Lord is a conscious choice to line up our lives with the will of God and do away with any patterns that are displeasing to the Lord as revealed in his word. Let us join David in humbling ourselves and asking God to teach us his way. Give me an undivided heart that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86:11)