Sunday, October 31, 2010

CHRISTIANS AND THE EVIL

A Haitian pastor illustrated to his congregation the need for total commitment to Christ. His parable: A certain man wanted to sell his house for $2,000. Another man wanted very badly to buy it, but because he was poor, he couldn't afford the full price. After much bargaining, the owner agreed to sell the house for half the original price with just one stipulation: He would retain ownership of one small nail protruding from just over the door. After several years, the original owner wanted the house back, but the new owner was unwilling to sell. So the first owner went out, found the carcass of a dead dog, and hung it from the single nail he still owned. Soon the house became unlivable, and the family was forced to sell the house to the owner of the nail.

The Haitian pastor's conclusion: "If we leave the Devil with even one small peg in our life, he will return to hang his rotting garbage on it, making it unfit for Christ's habitation."[1] This illustration may be sounding so dramatic, but there is a scriptural principle in there. Two 6 year olds struggled with the problem of the existence of the devil. One boy said, "Oh, there isn't any devil." The other, rather upset, said, "What do you mean, there isn't any devil? It talks about him all the way through the Bible!" the first replied, "Oh that's not true, you know. It's just like Santa Clause, the devil turns out to be your dad."[2]

We may pretend that he doesn’t exist but the truth of the matter is that the Devil exists, he is real and you can’t make fun of him. We must be informed, be aware and take a stand against his schemes. What warnings are found in the Bible concerning the Devil? What is the origin of the Devil or Satan? How active is Satan in the world today? What is the final destiny of the devil? How should Christians respond to pagan rituals? Let’s look at the origin of the Devil

I. THE ORGIN OF THE DEVIL

Think of the most grotesque and evil things people do to one another. Think of the 9/11 terrorist attacks where 2,976 innocent people were killed. In 2008 Mumbai attacks, nearly 200 people were killed and 300 were wounded. How about all the violence, crime, and wars, the killing of innocent babies, broken marriages and families, and other devastations in the world? Does this make you wonder who could be behind all this tragedy? Dean Sherman the author of Spiritual warfare writes, “We recoil in horror from these terrible things that men do to one another. For the most part, we are sheltered from the terror of these realities. But these things have all been spawned by our enemy. Satan is far worse than anything real or imagined.”[3]

Who created the Devil in the first place and has he always been bad? No one created the devil!! It is not even the Holly wood, but it certainly has added to the “fascination and fun” and popularized by a wide assortment of fictional characters—demons, monsters, vampires, werewolves, mummies, and psychopaths. Is it improving the American mind? But it sure is making someone a lot of money. Initially the Devil was one of the angels created by God. The Bible calls him “the morning star, son of the dawn” (Isaiah 14:12). He was the anointed chief cherub, blameless, perfect in beauty until wickedness was found in Him. (Ezekiel 28:14-15).

Satan wanted to exalt himself and be worshipped instead of him worshipping God. Since his fall he has deceived many and continues to deceive by making them believe lies about God, life, the world, heaven and hell. Without realizing many are becoming his victims. Satan intends to destroy our minds, bodies, character, reputation and our relationships through certain evil practices. The Bible warns us against his schemes and evil practices. What are those warnings?

II. WARNINGS AGAINST DEMONIC PRACTICES:

In his latest book Storm warning, Bill Graham notes the importance of heading the warnings by sharing what happened on that gruesome night where Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005. “Warnings had gone out. But instead of boarding up and escaping the city, there were those who actually prepared for a “Hurricane party” The wind was howling outside the posh Richelieu Apartments when Police Chief Jerry Peralta pulled up sometime after dark. Facing the beach less than 250 from the surf, the apartments were directly in the line of danger. A man with a drink in his hand came out on the second floor balcony and waved. Peralta yelled up, “You all need to clear out of here as quickly as you can,” The storm’s getting worse!” But as others joined the man on the balcony, they laughed at Peralta’s order to leave. “This is my land,” one of the yelled back. If you want me off, you’ll have to arrest me.” Peralta didn’t arrest anyone, nor could he persuade them to leave.

The officer wrote down the names of the next of kin of the twenty or so people who gathered there to party through the hurricane. They scoffed as he took their names and ignored. Finally the front wall of the storm came ashore, it was 10:15 P.M Raindrops hit with the force of bullets, and waves off the Gulf Coast crested between 22 to 28 feet high.

Reports later showed that the worst damage occurred in the little settlement where the party of twenty came to an end literally. Nothing was left of the three story apartment structure but the foundation; the only survivor was a five year old boy found clinging to a mattress the following day.”[4] What a tragic end of twenty lives simply because they deliberately ignored the warnings. In the same way if we ignore the biblical warnings against the demonic practices we may have to face the same tragic end.

The Biblical warnings against demonic practices

God forewarned the Israelites not to take on the abominable practices of the nations around them. Deut 18:10-13, “When you enter the land the God, your God, is giving you, don’t take on the abominable ways of life of the nations there. Don’t you dare sacrifice your son or daughter in the fire.

Don’t practice divination, sorcery, fortunetelling, witchery, casting spells, holding séances or channeling with the dead. People who do these things are an abomination to God. It’s because of just such abominable practices that God; your God, is driving these nations out before you. Be completely loyal to God, your God. These nations that you’re about to run out of the country consort with sorcerers and witches. But not you, God your God forbids it.” (The Message Bible)

Why was God so against his children consulting the mediums? Why should Christians avoid these abominable practices? Because God has distinguished us from the rest of the people, to be his very own and to live Holy lives because he is Holy.(Lev 20:26-27). By dabbling in the occult or traffic with mediums pollutes our souls (Lev 19:31 The Message) finally, when we consult a supernatural source for understanding we open up ourselves to the powers of darkness.

God wants us to consult him when we need understanding. He wants us to ask him for wisdom. On the contrary, according to Dean Sherman, “the growth and widespread acceptance of the occult has been increased in the recent decades.” You may say well I don’t get involved in that deep stuff just only the innocent stuff would I be affected by the Devil? Yes you may be. How do Christians protect their Children against evil influences? What should be our response towards Pagan practices such as Halloween, and other festivals?

III. CHRISTIAN RESPONSE TO PAGAN PRACTICES

Throughout the centuries Christians had to wrestle with the pagan practices and traditions seemed to infiltrate the Church. Every generation of Christians had to take a strong stand against such evil practices and our generation is no exception. In light of that what should be our response or stand against one such pagan practice Halloween? In a meeting I shared my concern with my fellow pastors and the response I got from them was “we simply ignore it” I wonder whether that is the right response? On the other hand one pastor friend of mine boldly put it on their church’s monthly bulletin “Happy Hallowen.” I am not here to criticize, and hurt any ones sentiments of practicing an age old custom by many not only here but around the world. I would like to share my concerns in the light of the scriptures and leave you to judge it for yourself.

The name “Halloween comes from the All Saints Day celebration of the early Christian Church, a day set aside for the solemn remembrance of the martyrs. All Hallows Eve, the evening before All Saints Day, began the time of remembrance. “All Hallows Eve” eventually became “Halloween” The pagan Samahin festival celebrated the final harvest, death and the onset of winter, for three days October 31st to November 2nd.

The Celts believed the curtain dividing the living and the dead lifted during Samahain to allow the spirits of the dead to walk among the living-ghosts haunting the earth. As the centuries passed, Samhain and All Hallows Eve mixed together. Halloween didn’t become an American holiday until the immigration of the working classes from the British Isles in the late 19th Century. The mischievous aspects of the holiday attracted the American young people. Younger generations borrowed or adapted many customs without reference to their pagan origins.

Hollywood and the consumer market makes this holiday even more appealing. Young people and kids in particular look forward with excitement to celebrate the darkest, spookiest holiday of the year. On an average of $41.77 per household is spent in decorations, costumes, candy, and greeting cards? Hallowen will bring in approximately $3.3 billion this year. Is that spending justified when the country is facing $13 trillion dollars debt?

Not to mention the dangers posed for the safety of our children and the environment. In recent years many children have been “tricked into partaking of deadly poisons and other harmful things that were placed in candies and treats that were distributed. One report suggests, “Roughly four times as many children aged 5-14 are killed while walking on Halloween evening compared with other evenings of the year, and falls are a leading cause of injuries among children on Halloween.”[5] Parents please take caution before you send your young ones into the streets for “Trick or Treat” by the way this practice has its direct roots in Samhain when people played tricks to earn food meant for wandering souls. In 19th century there was an Irish belief that fairies played pranks on Halloween?[6] When we hear these warnings what should we do?

How should Christians respond to respond to Halloween? Is it irresponsible for parents to let their children trick or treat? What about Christians who refuse any kind of celebration during the season are they narrow minded? As I read various articles on this subject matter and talk to several Christians I gather that some are wary of it’s pagan origins, others of its dark, devilish imagery, still others are concerned for the safety of their children. But other Christians choose to partake of the festivities, whether participating in school activities, neighborhood trick or treating, or a Halloween alternative at their Church. What ever decision you make this season like any other decision it is between you and God.

Paul gives us a few hints in making a wise choice. Romans 16: 19-20, “I want to you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” The message Bible reads, “I want you also to be smart, making sure every “good” thing is the real thing. Don’t be gullible in regard to smooth talking evil. Stay alert like this, and before you know it the God of peach will come down on Satan with both feet stomping him into the dirt.” There will come a day when God will completely destroy Satan and all his works and all those who follow him in the lake of fire.

We must take head of the warnings and become wise. The scriptures tell us that Christ has rescued us from the dominion (control) of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.(Col 1:13). We were once darkness, but now light in the world. We must walk as children of light.(Eph 5:8). We must take our stand against the Devil and his evil practices. We don’t need to be afraid to take such a stand because Greater is he that is in us than the one who is in the world.(I John 4:4)



[1] Dale A. Hays, Leadership, Vol X, #3 (Summer, 1989), p. 35.

[2] G. Lewis, Demon Possession, ed. J. Montgomery.

[3] Spiritual Warfare; Dean Sherman Page 35

[4] Storm Warning, Billy Graham Page 8,9

[5] http://pediatrics.about.com/cs/safetyfirstaid/a/halloween_safty.htm

[6] The Church in New York City, Children’s meeting lesson

Sunday, October 24, 2010

CHRIST: THE DIVINE HEALER( Life in Christ Series)

The recent health care reform bill has caused a lot of distress among the American people and raised much debate among the politicians, for example the pre existing condition exclusion clause. “Many Americans have health-related problems that insurance companies define as pre existing conditions. If you are applying for insurance, some health insurance companies may accept you conditionally by providing a pre-existing condition exclusion period.”[1] Under such circumstances health care either becomes unaffordable for many or those who really need of health care may be denied.

As the insurance costs are sky rocketing one would wish that he or she need not have to go to the hospital at all in the first place. On the other hand many are turning to alternative methods of healing including Christians. A new poll by the Princeton Religious Research Center shows that "Roughly half of all Americans say that they believe in extrasensory perception. 30% of Roman Catholics and 22% of Protestants believe in clairvoyance, while 48% of Roman Catholics and 44% of Protestants believe in psychic healing. ”[2] To its credit the Catholic Church issued a decree In March 2009, to halt the practice of Reiki by Catholics used in some Catholic retreat centers and hospitals. The decree reads "since Reiki therapy is not compatible with either Christian teaching or scientific evidence, it would be inappropriate for Catholic institutions, such as Catholic health care facilities and retreat centers, or persons representing the Church, such as Catholic chaplains, to promote or to provide support for Reiki therapy."

How far Christians have moved away from the truth? Instead of turning to God for healing, guidance and counsel; people are consulting psychics and mediums. Is it wrong to consulting Psychic mediums who claim to perform miracles for healing? If Reiki therapy is inappropriate then what alternative do we have for true physical and emotional healing? Does the Bible offer any answers to certain conditions that are beyond the scope of medical sciences? In this highly scientifically developed world can we still believe God for healing? What is the secret of staying healthy hence minimizing doctor’s visits?

I. HEALING SCRIPTURES IN THE BIBLE

From Exodus to Isaiah and Psalms to Proverbs the Bible is rich with verses about healing to the sick and comfort to the hurting. Here are a few of them:

A. God removes sickness: God sent an angel to prepare the way for the Israelites and guard them along the way to the Promised Land. He gave them certain instructions to follow. If they listened to Him and followed his instructions he promised to “Bless their food and water and he will take away sickness from among them, and none will miscarry or be barren in the land every one will live out a full span of life. In other words if we follow his commandments there will be no sudden or premature deaths, and experience good health in our lives. (Exodus 23: 25)

“You will be blessed more than any other people; none of your men or women will be childless nor any of your livestock with out young. The Lord will keep you from every disease.” Deut 7:14-15. The same promises that were made to Israelites should hold good for all of God’s Children. Right? But when we look at certain statistics in the US it is staggering. “The United States of America spends more on health care than any other industrial nation, yet it has the highest infant death rates and the lowest life expectancy.”[3]

In 2006 a widely distributed report from the group Save the Children, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, tied the United States with Malta and Slovakia for the second-worst infant-mortality rate among developed nations (at about six per 1,000 live births).”[4] According to the United Nations Life expectancy list (2005-2010) USA is ranked at 38 with a life expectancy rate of 75.6 for males and 80.8 for females. What conclusions can we draw from this? Whatever may be projections of the United Nations or any other group the Bible projects God as a loving God who loves to heal and bless his people.

B. God’s healing love: Our God is a loving God. He wants his people to live in relative comfort and health. He understands our sickness more than anyone else. Whenever we are sick and in distress and cry out to God, out of his enduring love for us he heals us and removes that distress. “Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He sent forth his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave.” Psalm 107:19-21 surely that must have been King David’s experience. “O Lord my God I cried to you for help, and you have healed me.” I can testify that there are numerous occasions when Wilma and I have cried out to God for healing God heard our prayers and he has healed me, my wife and my children.

These scriptures seem to indicate that God removes sickness and he loves to heal people then why don’t we experience that healing promised in the scriptures? Why some of us continue to struggle with sickness in spite of being prayed over? I don’t fully understand why, certain sicknesses come to us that are out of our control, some come as trails by the enemy but many others come because our disobedience to God. Our over all well being is determined by how well we are following God’s instructions found in the Bible. When we obey God’s law it is good for our bodies, for our families, for our Church, for our city and for our nation.

He said, "If you listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God, and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commandments and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases that I brought on the Egyptians; for I am the Lord who heals you." Exodus 15:26

“My son, pay attention to what I say; listen closely to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to a man’s whole body” Proverbs 4:20-22

“Don’t be wise in your own eyes, fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones” Prov 3:8 these scriptures do give us but scriptures do give us some insights on how one can receive healing and continue to remain healthy.

You might be saying well that sounds good; I will try to follow the commands of God next time, but now I am sick and I need help, what hope do I have? Once I visited a Catholic hospital where I saw certain sign boards along the way as I walked to the ward where my sister was admitted. This is how the signs were read: “The greatest Physician is on duty” I was a bit incredulous by looking at that sign, as went further I saw another sign that red “His name is Jesus” I was glad that they didn’t say that his name was “Pope John Paul” another sign read “walk ins are welcome” another sign read “The consultation Fee’s is FAITH” in big bold letters Let me introduce to you the divine physician who is on duty today in our service. His name is Jesus. You can come to him with whatever problem you may have; all you need is Faith.

II. CHRIST THE DIVINE HEALER(Luke chapter 8)

The best of the best doctors in the world and the psychic mediums can come no where near and heal people the way Christ the divine healer can do. Jesus during his time on earth performed many miracles, healed all kinds of sicknesses and delivered people from demonic oppressions; he even raised people from the dead. Dr. Luke one of Jesus’ disciples recorded twenty miracles out of them fifteen are healing miracles. As a doctor himself he observed those healing miracles with keen interest. By mentioning these healing miracles Dr. Luke projected Christ as the divine healer and the greatest physician who ever lived.

I would like to high light one such miracle found in Luke Chapter 8 to help us understand the power of Christ to heal any and every sickness. Jesus was on the way to heal the twelve year old daughter of a high ranking official in the society. It was an important mission for him. But along the way a socially isolated woman approaches him in search of healing. Would Jesus stop and heal this woman? By the way why was she socially isolated? First of all she was a woman, secondly she was rich, and thirdly she was having a problem of bleeding which made her unclean according to Lev 15:25, “When a woman has a discharge of blood for many days at a time other than her monthly period or has a discharge that continues beyond her period she will be unclean as long as she has the discharge.”

This woman must have been living in isolation on the fringes of society for twelve years because of the issue of blood. Although her physical condition was not contagious her ritual condition was, with the consequence that she had lived in humiliation and in the fear of her community these twelve years. We learn from the story she must have been a very rich lady that she could afford to see many doctors to get cured from her condition.

She had spent all the money she had, and visited all the doctors she could possibly visit, but of no use, instead of getting better her situation got worse. It looks like all the doctors had given up hope on her. Dr. Luke rightly put it, “No one could heal her” Let me pause here for a while; Are you suffering with something that is beyond the cure of doctors? May be a physical condition or an emotional condition? And are you distressed about it like the woman in the story? Is your situation getting worse instead of getting better? If you or your loved one is in that situation I have good news for you today. There is no situation beyond remedy.

In the midst of her desperation this woman must have remembered what she had heard about Jesus. So she said to her self, “if I only touch his cloak I will be healed,” (Mk 5:27) what a statement of faith. She took all the courage she had, over came the social and religious barriers came behind Jesus and touched his cloak. Why did she come behind Jesus? Why not from the front? Why did she want to be so secretive? In ancient Israel, “women were not allowed to testify in court trials. They could not go out in public, or talk to strangers. When outside of their homes, they were to be doubly veiled. "They had become second-class Jews, excluded from the worship and teaching of God, with status scarcely above that of slaves."[5]

The moment she touched the cloak immediately her bleeding stopped! She received her miracle. Realizing that power had gone out of him Jesus asked who touched him. This tells us that Jesus was carrying divine power to heal but also noticed when the power actually went out to heal. Peter replied Lord it is unfair to ask who touched you when the crowds are pressing against you. This tells us that the crowds were touching Jesus but were all the sick among them healed? Then why only this woman received healing? What was so special about her?

This woman exhibited unusual boldness and unequalled faith in the miracle working power of Christ, that’s what set her apart from the rest of the crowds. When finally Jesus pressed who touched him this woman could not hide it any longer, she came in front of Jesus trembling and humbly fell at his feet and narrated how instantly she was healed. Upon hearing that Jesus commended her saying, “Daughter your faith has healed you. Go in peace.” What do you mean “your faith has healed you” wasn’t she already healed when she touched the cloak? Yes she was indeed healed of her physical sickness but now Jesus pronounced her salvation she could have peace with God with herself and with others.

What a tender way of calling her daughter, it is only here we hear such address and nowhere else in all the recordings of Jesus. Can you imagine what must have gone through her mind, Me, he is calling me his daughter? She must have jumped for joy with that address. All these years she lived in seclusion, suffered with guilt and shame, now all of a sudden she was healed not only that, she was affirmed in her identity. By way of calling her daughter, Jesus has opened up a way for her to come back to God. Until that time she was nobody but now she belonged. This is not documented, but I wouldn’t be surprised that this woman may have become one of the followers of Jesus, just like the Mary of Magdalene from whom Jesus had cast out seven demons. What a powerful faith encounter.

Maybe you need a miracle today. You may be facing a situation that may be beyond your control. It may be physical, financial, relational or emotional. No sickness is too great and no problem is too big that Jesus can not heal and solve. Would you press in to touch Jesus today? He is here, he sees you and he knows your need and he is waiting for you to touch him you’re your faith.



[1] http://healthinsurance.about.com/od/healthinsurancebasics/a/preexisting_conditions_overview.htm

[2] Christianity Today, February 10, 1992.

[3] http://dissidentvoice.org/2009/11/inequality-the-root-source-of-sickness-in-america/

[4] http://www.slate.com/id/2161899/

[5] http://www.religioustolerance.org/cfe_bibl.htm

Sunday, October 10, 2010

U-HAVE A GIFT (Discovering your God-given Gift)

Have you ever wondered why you think and act the way you do? In the 1920s the psychologist Carl Jung’s type theory suggested that human behavior is not random but predictable and classifiable. According to this theory, everyone is born predisposed to certain personality preferences. What type you are says quite a bit about you -- your likes and dislikes, your likely career choices, your compatibility with others, and so on. It is easy to label co-workers or friends as lazy, crazy, or disorganized when their behavior does not match your expectations, but such name calling rarely helps us understand personality differences. They developed a 68 question test and identified sixteen personality types. This test will help people not only to know their personality type but also the others with whom they are working with. These findings helped the corporate world tremendously to help people relate well with others and work together so that they could achieve higher productivity.

How about the Church? Is there a need for us to understand each other in order to work together to build God’s Kingdom? It looks like the corporate world is ahead in their findings. However these findings are not new, when we carefully look at God’s word we see how intricately God created people. I read from the Amplified version of Psalm 139:13-16, “For you did form me my inward parts; you did knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will confess and praise You, for you are fearful and wonderful and for the awful wonder of my birth. Wonderful are your works, and that my inner self knows right well. My frame was not hidden from You when I was being formed in secret (and) intricately and curiously wrought(as if embroidered with various colors) in the depths of the earth( a region of darkness and mystery). Your eyes saw my unformed substance and in your book all the days (of my life) were written before ever they took shape, when as yet there was none of them.

What a magnificent expression of the design and development of the child in the womb? If God has so precisely planned for the development of your physical body which eventually subjected to disintegration, how much more has he planned your giftedness? This giftedness is called motivational gifts because they shape our personalities. Last week I barely touched on this subject, today we will look into: Does everyone have a motivational gift? If I have a gift why haven’t I known it? What blocks the flow of my motivational gift?

I.U-HAVE A GIFT
Does everyone have a motivational gift or it is only meant for a few selected people? Good news: everyone has a motivational gift! No one has been left out. U-have a gift. The following two scriptures highlight the fact that all humans have at least one gift some have more than one. Proverbs 22:6 reads, “Train up a child in the way he should go (and in keeping with his individual gift or bent) and when he is old he will not depart from it.

The original Hebrew included the insight that each child has a gift a motivational gift a bent. It is our job as parents to discover that gift or bent and train them up in their gift. (The Amplified Bible)
I Peter 4:10-11 reads, “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God….so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever Amen” This scripture tells us that each of us received a special gift, it doesn’t specifically tell us when we have received that gift, it is safe to conclude that these were given at the time of conception. We were not only given a gift but were commanded to employ it for His Glory.

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Roman believers that they were given grace gifts. Romans 12:6-8, “Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let each exercise them accordingly: If prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service in his serving, or he who teaches, in his teaching or he who exhorts in his exhortation; he who gives with liberality; he who leads with diligence; he who shows mercy with cheerfulness.” Romans 12:6-8. These two scriptures unmistakably tells us that each of us more or less have received a special gift so. If that is so than why haven’t I known what my motivational gift is?

II. IF I HAVE A GIFT WHY HAVEN’T I KNOWN IT?
Don and Katie Fortune the authors of “Discovering your God given Gift” helped hundreds of thousands of people around the world to discover their motivational gift for the first time. In their book they mentioned a few reasons why you may not know your motivational gift.
A. You were never taught about it.
This is probably the main reason for most people. It was certainly for Wilma and I. We were introduced to the teaching in Romans 12, twenty some thing years ago. Until then we knew nothing about the motivational gifts. Since then we have identified what our primary motivational gifts are and try to use them in building of the body of Christ. Unfortunately less than 10% of American churchgoers know motivational gifts even exist.

B. You have never received Jesus Christ as your personal Savior and Lord.
While every person is gifted by God whether he or she is a Christian or not, the receiving of Christ releases the motivational gifts in far greater measure and opens the way for the gifts to be used as God intended. Before a person becomes a born again Christian, his or her motivational gift will be functioning to some extent, but often in ways that are self-centered and self-serving.

Before Christ becomes central in our lives, we are central.

It is true in my life. From my childhood onwards I always enjoyed being in front of crowds of people entertaining them with my funny jokes, stories and impersonations. I used to draw attention to myself. It was all about me. But when I became a Christian God used the same gift of communication turned it into motivational speaking, by doing that he opened up more doors to preach and teach His word. Now with this gift I want to honor and serve him for the rest of my life. If you haven’t accepted Christ as your personal savior you may do that today by asking him to forgive your sins and inviting him to come into your heart and be the Lord of your life. You will see your giftedness take off in a new dimension like you have never seen it before.

C. YOU ARE NOT BEING FED SPIRITUALLY:
Just as newborn baby needs nourishment so the person who is “born again” needs spiritual sustenance in order to grow. Many people have been led to Christ but not given follow-up instructions or encouragement. Their ability to recognize their giftedness, like the rest of their spiritual progress is limited. Therefore it is extremely important for believers to regularly on a daily basis feed on the word of God. In Peter 2: 1-3, “Therefore rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.” We can not grow spiritually if we don’t read, study, meditate, rely, apply and act upon the word of God, the eternally enduring God’s word.
D. LACK OF PROPER TEACHING ON MOTIVATIONAL GIFTS.
Since the same word in English is used to translate the three different Greek words for “gift” in the New Testament, it has led some to suppose that all biblical teaching on gifts should be lumped together. You may have heard teaching that combines nine manifestation gifts in I Cor 12:10-17; and the five ministry gifts in Ephesians 4:11; the seven motivational gifts in Romans 12:6-8 and few others like, celibacy as well. The result? Confusion.

It is important to have clear teaching on motivational gifts so we identify, and use them for the glory of God. Even when we know about the gifts, however, and have singled out our own, we may not be flowing freely in them in our lives. What is blocking the flow? Let’s look at the hindrances that block the flow of motivational gifts.

III. OBSTACLES THAT BLOCK THE FLOW OF MOTIVATIONAL GIFTS:
A. You may have certain bondages that hinder the flow of your gifts.
Just as a clogged fuel pump block the flow of the gas in a car so the bondages in our lives may block the flow of our God given motivational gifts. Bondages generally results from negative childhood conditions. Unfortunately not every child is brought up in positive home atmosphere. Divorce, fighting parents, alcoholism, drug usage, occult practices, mental problems, abusive parents all these block the flow of the giftedness in a grown up individual. That’s why Paul urged the Roman believers not to conform any longer to the patterns of the world. The most common bondage that many of us struggle with is “Fear” By its very nature fear incapacitates and prevents us from developing in our gifts.
B. ANGER CAN BLOCK THE FLOW OF YOUR GIFT
Anger is our defensive mechanism to being abused, wounded or rejected. If it is not resolved it is either expressed, (as in rebellion, retaliation, resentment, hatred, violence and in some cases even murder) or suppressed (as in self-pity, self-hatred, depression and even suicide) In either way the person winds up in a prison of his own making. Jesus equates the harboring of anger (without cause) with murder (Matt 5:21-26). Anger is harmful to you and to those around you.
. Prov 22:24 , “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man do not associate with one easily angered or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared.” In other words If you are a quick tempered person, no one wants to be around you then you wonder why no body wants to be your friend. Three steps are necessary to dislodge the blockage of anger. 1. Release complete forgiveness of all who have angered us in any way, 2) Seeking God to deliver us from the bondage of anger. 3 Asking God to heal our emotional hurts.
C. TRYING TO BE SOME ONE OTHER THAN YOURSELF:
Have you tried walking in some body else’s shoes? It is rather uncomfortable and you won’t go far. In the same way trying to be like somebody else hinders your own individual giftedness. During my early years in ministry I tried to imitate the leader who mentored me. In the process I was not seeing my own style of leadership developing. It took me a long time to come out of my former leader’s shadow. There is nothing wrong in admiring certain leaders for their giftedness but trying to be like them is harmful in the long run. So stop trying to be some body that you are not. Operate in your giftedness rather than coveting someone else’s gift. This is what Paul meant when he said in Romans 12:3 “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.”

Thinking of ourselves more highly than others is like a soldier telling the commander in chief how to deploy to the troops or an ordinary citizen telling the president of the nation how to run the country or a congregant telling the pastor how he should lead the Church. It is not that these men or women in leadership do not need any advice from others but if we think we have much better ideas than they then we are overstepping our boundaries and are trying to live like some body else. That is arrogance.

D. SIN CAN BLOCK OR DISTORT THE WORKING OF YOUR GIFT:
Without a shadow of a doubt sin corrupts and pollutes every area of our lives and our motivational gifts are no exception. In fact, the degree to which we are able to use our gift is dependent upon the degree to which we are in the will of God. In other words the more we entertain sin in our lives, the more the function of our motivational gifts is polluted. Sin is missing the mark. All sins of omission and commission will hinder us from functioning to our fullest potential whereby disqualify us from reaching our final destiny. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw of everything that hinders, and sin that so easily entangles and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.. Heb 12:1
Let me summarize this teaching. We all are given a gift at the time of conception.

Understanding our unique gift and humbly employing that gift in the will of God will not only bring glory to God but becomes a source of happiness to us and a blessing to others. We need to get rid of the blockages that hinder the flow of our giftedness. I hope you have become curious by now. If you want to find out your gifts, make sure you won’t miss attending Ministry Leadership Development Course on Wednesday nights.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

CHURHCH: THE BODY OF CHRIST

At a meeting of the American Psychological Association, Jack Lipton, a psychologist at Union College, and R. Scott Builione, a graduate student at Columbia University, presented their findings on how members of the various sections of a 11 major symphony orchestra perceived each other. The percussionists were viewed as insensitive, unintelligent, and hard-of-hearing, yet fun-loving. String players were seen as arrogant, stuffy, and un-athletic. The orchestra members overwhelmingly chose "loud" as the primary adjective to describe the brass players. Woodwind players(flutes, Saxophone, Clarinet etc) seemed to be held in the highest esteem, described as quiet and meticulous, though a bit egotistical.

Interesting findings, to say the least! With such widely divergent personalities and perceptions, how could an orchestra ever come together to make such wonderful music? The answer is simple: regardless of how those musicians view each other, they subordinate their feelings and biases to the leadership of the conductor. Under his guidance, they play beautiful music. In the same way, if we respect one another, consider others better than yourself and come under the guidance of the conductor (the head) of the Church our Lord Jesus Christ.

The imagery of the Orchestra seems to convey the essence of what Church should be like and how its members ought to function. Just like in an Orchestra in the Church it is not about who is the loudest, or most visible, but it is all about preferring others, loving and serving one another. Does our Church reflect a well coordinated orchestra? Or a chaotic Rock Concert where everyone tries to dominate the other person?

We have been following a series called “Life in Christ” So far we looked at Christ being the son of God, the Savior and a servant King. The Apostle Paul gives a picture in Romans 12:1-13 of the Church being the body of Christ and the responsibilities of both the individual and corporate believers in the Church. The letter to Romans was written in AD 57. This particular passage can be divided into three parts. 1 The transformed Lives. 2. Church: The body of Christ. 3. Unity in diversity. Let me read Romans 12:1-13

I. THE TRANSFORMED LIVES.
Many people attend Church regularly week after week, month after month, pay their tithes and show up at community events, read their Bibles yet they never seem to be experiencing the power of transformation. Why? Simply showing up at Church every Sunday or listening to great sermons will not change you, then what will help? Paul highlights two ways how one can live transformed lives.
A. PERSONAL WORSHIP:
Paul began his letter saying “To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints.” That tells me that this letter is addressed to the believers in Rome and not to the unbelievers. If Paul were to write a letter today to our Church he probably would address us the same because all those who are saved are loved by God and called to be saints. In Chapter 12 vs 1 he says “I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” This scripture is loaded with deep meaning. Let me unfold it for you. The word urge has a range of meanings: “To beg, push for, appeal to, beseech (with a strong force), charge, implore, plead and drive etc.,” the word “urge” here is anything but a request or a good suggestion. It is a passionate appeal.

Why was Paul so passionately urging the believers? The last verse in Romans 11:36, gives us the reason, “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” In other words Paul is saying, because we all came from Jesus and through Jesus and to Jesus we belong, and to Him belongs all the Glory, so I beg you to offer your bodies (not to sin and idolatry as we were previously used to) as living not a dead sacrifice which is our reasonable or rational service of worship to God. In other words are we honoring God in our bodies? Or are we tearing down this body by indulging in sin? How are we releasing ourselves when we come to worship Him on a Sunday morning? What is a living sacrifice? In the OT people used to offer animal sacrifices, but now God doesn’t require animal sacrifices from us, then what does he require from us? Paul explains what a living sacrifice is in Hebrew 13:15-16, “Through Him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God that is the fruit of our lips that give thanks to His name. And do not neglect doing good and sharing for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”

What does this mean? It means when we sing praises to God during worship and give thanks to Him we are offering the fruit of our lips to Him but that is not enough along with that we show our devotion to God by doing good and sharing with others. In other words, worship is the fruit of our lips coupled with the work of our hands. The second way to live transformed lives is by making a personal resolution not to follow the demands of the culture.

B. PERSONAL RESOLVE:
Romans 12:2-3, “Don’t become so well adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” (The message Bible).

When Paul wrote this letter, the Church in Rome was fairly a new Church with a few Jewish believers living in a predominant pagan culture. The believers were told not to conform to the life style of the culture that was around them. Instead they were to be transformed and live as though they belonged to another world. Each individual personally have to make a resolution to live a transformed life no one can make that decision for you.

What does it mean to be transformed? The Greek word used here is metamorphoo from where we get the English word metamorphosis. What is metamorphosis? It is a biology term explains a profound change in form from one stage to the next in the life history of an organism, as from the caterpillar to the pupa and from the pupa to the adult butterfly. It can also be used to describe a complete change of form, structure appearance, character, circumstances, etc. In religious terms it means turn around, conversion, transformation, alteration, change, changeover, rebirth, or born again.

In 2 Cor 5:17, we read, “Therefore if anyone in Christ, he is a new creation, the Old has gone, the new has come.” What Paul meant here was metamorphosis, a complete make over. When we claim ourselves to be Christians then we are to live like Christians. Which means our behavior, thought and habit patterns, priorities; and lifestyle must reflect our Christian faith otherwise what the point in calling ourselves Christians is? In eastern cultures becoming a Christian is much more challenging. It means saying good buy to their old friends, burning their idols, in some cases even leaving their ungodly families. I know several friends were persecuted because they became Christians. But they withstood persecution. Because they realized what they found is much more worth than what they were giving up.

Unfortunately in the west we can hardly differentiate Christians from non Christians. We live compromised lives like anybody else; we pursue the same goals as others and have same priorities. One commentator said, “There is no greater weakness in the Christianity of our day than the fact that so many church members accept without question the dominant intellectual and social atmosphere of the age.” Those whose lives are transformed offer themselves in worship to God, get involved in acts of service and resolve not to live according to the demands of the culture. Are you living a transformed life? Let’s look at the Church being the body of Christ

II. CHURCH: THE BODY OF CHRIST:

When I ask you what is a Church? You may answer this question one or two ways: A church is a building where a group of Christians come to worship. Or a group of believers gather together for religious purposes. These are OK for quick answers, but when it comes to what a Church ought to be and do they won’t get us far. When people join a church they have certain preconceived ideas of what a Church should be like, or what a church should do for them. And for that matter what a Pastor should be like. When expectations are not met they become disgruntled with the Church and eventually leave that Church only to join another Church.

A few years ago during a New Year message my former Pastor spoke about his commitment to the Church. He listed the things he was committed to see happen in the Church. After mentioning several aspects such as a commitment to the un-compromised preaching of God’s Word. The pastor then said that he and his staff were also committed to disappoint the Church. I remember being a little baffled by that statement at the time. How could the Pastor say that he was committed to disappoint us? Now I realize how true that was. It is not that I or any pastor would desire to purposefully hurt or disappoint anyone. But the truth of the matter is no Church and no Pastor can meet all the needs and unrealistic expectations of all its members. Only in Christ alone can we find life and life in abundance.

Let’s ask the greatest church planter ever what he has to say about the role of the church and the role of its members. According to his definition the church is the body of Christ. He used the analogy of the human body to explain it. Romans 12: 4-5, “For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we who are many are one body in Christ and individual members of one another.” In other words, a Church is comprised of many individual believers from diverse backgrounds yet each of them are joined together (connected with one another) because they belong to one body that is the body of Christ.

Let’s take look at our Church how rich and diverse we are. We come from various ethnic, cultural, educational and socio economic backgrounds. When we understand that we are the visible body of Christ on earth a lot of misunderstandings and bickering will disappear, striving will cease, appreciation for the other members of the church will increase, disunity will have to make way to unity because just as the physical body can not function without the cooperation of the other parts of the body the same is true within the Church.

There is no place for lone rangers, in the body of Christ we need each other. We are not independent of each other but are interconnected in Christ. On one hand we are connected but on the other hand we are still individuals, so what is our responsibility as individuals in the body of Christ? The beauty we see in the body of Christ is the Unity in Diversity.

III. UNITY IN DIVERSITY:
Coming back to the analogy of the human body, we realize that each of our body parts is unique; all of them do not have the same function but has a specific purpose. No one part of the body is insignificant or useless. The hand, the eye, the mouth, the head, the heart the feet all belong to the same body. They can not exist on their own neither is the body complete without any one of them. When all these parts support and work in coordination with other parts then we have a healthy body otherwise we have a sick body. The same principles apply to the body of Christ. In order to explain our corporate purpose in the body of Christ Paul said, “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is teaching, let him teach, if it is encouraging, let him encourage, if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously, if it is leadership let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.”( Romans 12:6-8)

In this passage of scripture Paul mentioned SEVEN different types of gifts. They are given by God. I can not dwell on each gift here for the want of time, However this is what I would say about these gifts. For a Christian these gifts are not given for their own pleasure or to serve their own selfish ambitions but to serve God and serve one another in brotherly love so that the body of Christ may be built up. Amen