Sunday, December 19, 2010


What do we tend to get occupied with most during the Christmas season? If you turn on to the TV or tune the radio every one is enticing us to buy cool gifts even Christian stations are not exempt from this over commercialization. They advice us to buy gifts to impress others and use money you don’t have. To make matters worse some magazines like “The real simple magazine” offer costly advice in regards to buying gifts. I was shocked to see how expensive some items are in what is supposed to be a real simple magazine. One hand bag costs, $999. I wonder who wants such an expensive, outlandish hand bag? Honestly with that kind of money we can do a whole lot more sensible things. So don’t fall for all what you see, hear or read in the ads, use your God given commonsense. The right gift is not necessarily the most expensive, glamorous or the coolest gift. A right gift is something that would meet a particular need or a want. For example giving a thick leather jacket or a woolen sweater to some one living in Africa or India won’t meet their need, right?

What is the greatest gift of all times? The greatest gift must meet the greatest need. Some one said, “If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator; If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist; If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist; If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer; But our greatest need was forgiveness so God sent us a Savior. Christmas is not all about the material gifts but it’s about forgiveness, it’s about peace and joy. A recent Christmas card I received contained three profound truths: “A Light to follow, A savior to Love and a King to worship.” I believe these are the three indescribable gifts of Christmas. During this Christmas season let’s pause and reflect on these precious gifts.

I. A LIGHT TO FOLLOW: (Mat 4:16, Isaiah 9:1,2)

In Isaiah, 9:1,2 we read, “But there will be no darkness for those who were in trouble. Earlier he did bring the lands of Zebulun and Naphtali into disrepute, but the time is coming when he’ll make that whole area glorious the road along the Sea, the country past Jordan, international Galilee. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. For those who lived in a land of deep shadows light! sunbursts of light!”

The prophet Isaiah prophesied these words around 690 BC. What does the prophecy actually mean, when it says, “the people living in darkness have seen a great light? Was the prophet referring to John the Baptist who came as a witness to the light? Or Thomas Edison who after many years invented the light bulb? No! neither! He was referring to the true Light of the world Jesus Christ, God’s gift to humanity.

Many scriptures in the New Testament refer to Christ being the light of the world. On the eighth day of his birth in the temple a man called Simeon who had been waiting for the arrival of Messiah, upon taking the boy Jesus into his arms and said, “For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” In John 1:4, we read “In him (Christ) was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” Listen to the very words of Jesus: John 8:12 “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." This scripture provides an opportunity for every one to walk in the light, in other words you don’t have to keep living in sin, but the reality is that many love darkness instead of light because their actions are evil.(John 3:19)

Jesus was, is and continues to be the Light of the world sent by God to deliver people who are living in darkness. In other words to set people free from their sin, but it is up to us wanting to be set free from sin. How does sin enter our bodies? In most cases sin enters through our eyes, by what we see. Numerous examples in the Bible indicate the fact that people fell into sin by what they saw before they actually committed it. Gen 3:6 “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.” Genesis 37:4 “When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.” They were Jealous of Joseph and their jealousy has blinded their sound judgment. King David has commit adultery with Bathsheba, because he lacked control over his eyes.

Is there a direct correlation between what we see and what we do and how it affects our bodies? In Luke 11:34-35, “Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are good (pure, and content), your whole body also is full of light. But when they are bad (greedy, lustful, and spiteful,) your body also is full of darkness. See to that the light within you is not darkness.” In other words, keep your eyes open, your lamp burning, so you don’t get musty and murky.

Who else can dispel the darkness of our soul other than the one who said at the creation “let light shine out of darkness”? The same God makes his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge o f the glory of God in the face of Christ.(2 Cor 4:6) Once we receive this gift of light how can we continue to live in the Light.? By keeping our lives according to God’s word because his word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path then we won’t stumble and fall. That is why reading, understanding and living by God’s word is so important. Scripture tells us that the unfolding of God’s words gives us light.

During this Christmas season my prayer is that we will say, “The LORD is my light and my salvation whom shall I fear. The LORD is the stronghold of my life (Ps 27:1). Let’s unpack the second gift: A savior to love.

II. A SAVIOR TO LOVE: (Luke 1: 39-46 Matt 1:18-21)

Just imagine for 400 years; No visions! No revelation, and No angelic visitations from God? In other words God was silent; the heavens were shut. The whole earth and God’s chosen people Israel were desperately waiting for the arrival of the messiah. All of a sudden the heavens were buzzing with activity again. On the earth some extraordinary things began to happen. Who would have thought that Elizabeth in her old age would give birth to a Child? Or a teenage girl Mary would become pregnant without human intervention? What logical explanation can we give to such supernatural events other than to say is there anything impossible with God?

Mary, upon receiving God’s orders went to see her aunt Elizabeth and greeted her. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting something amazing has happened. Just imagine how it must have felt for these two mothers carrying two unusual babies in their wombs. The baby in Elizabeth’s womb leaped for Joy. An unborn baby, jumping for Joy have you ever heard that before? In some mysterious way the Holy Spirit produced this remarkable response. Elizabeth and Mary both recognized that the child in Mary’s womb is no ordinary child but indeed the savior of the world. Mary could not control her Joy so she began to sing, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.” In the hustle and bustle of Christmas, busy buying gifts it is so easy to become weary and sullen and forget to enjoy the pure beauty of this season. When was the last time you were filled with unspeakable Joy by what has God done in your life and began to sing songs of Joy?

When the fullness of time came both the mothers delivered their boys and named them as they were instructed. Elizabeth named her boy John later came to be known as John the Baptist and Mary named her child Yeshua, or Jesus which means the LORD will save his people from their sins. While all this was going on an angel appeared to a group of shepherded who were tending their sheep at night, and said, “I bring you good news of great joy, which will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you. He is the Christ the Lord. Suddenly a great company of angels appeared praising God saying, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” Don’t we all need that heavenly peace?

The first night of Christmas was any thing but a silent night as we are used to singing “Silent Night, Holy Night” There was jubilation and celebration because the savior of the world was born. The shepherds must have been thrilled to hear the angelic choir so they hurried to go and see the savior. In any nativity drama the scene of the shepherds and angels sends the audience into laughter and joy. I can tell it by experience because I acted as a shepherd on several Church Christmas celebrations. Oh how I grieve today because by and large we have lost that innocence and eagerness of the shepherds. We became so technically advanced but spiritually impoverished, nothing seems to spark the joy of Christmas any more.

The Bible tells us that God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. God loved the world he gave his Son so that the world might be saved and Christ loved us so much, while we were still sinners He died for us on the cross so that you and I might have eternal life. In return what does God expect from us? Nothing much, only two things, one is that we love him with all our heart and with all our soul and with all your mind and loving our neighbors as we love ourselves. We have no problems in loving God, but loving our neighbors? That is a tough call.

My life has been profoundly impacted when I received God’s free gift of salvation. I love him today because he first loved me. You may receive all kinds of gifts during this Christmas but nothing can make you as happy as much as the gift of Salvation does. Let’s unpack the third gift.

III. A KING TO WORSHIP: (Mat 2:1-11)

In the Christmas nativity drama one of the most glittering and glamorous scenes is when the wise men enter with gifts in their hands. All of a sudden there is a royal touch added to the story. The scripture calls them Magi means wise men, probably they were astrologers, doctors perhaps from Persia or southern Arabia, both of which are east of Palestine. They came to Jerusalem and asked where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship Him. If the wise men traveled a great distance to worship Jesus, How are we to worship Christ our savior, the light of the world and the King of Kings? They offered gifts as a way of worship to Jesus. What do these gifts signify? The gold represents that Jesus is the King, the frankincense represents Christ’s priestly role and myrrh represents his ultimate sacrifice upon the Cross.

The wise men offered gifts to Jesus not to one another, what could we bring to Jesus this morning? Is he expecting any material gifts from us? No! Frankly in my opinion Satan has succeeded in distracting and confusing the masses about Christmas with fables about Santa and unbridled materialism. In all our preoccupation with gifts, decorations, parties and food we end up stressed and harassed. It takes discernment and wisdom for us to be able to know when enough is enough. We don’t want our children to get the wrong notion that happiness is store bought. We want to make sure that Jesus is at the very center of all our celebration. What can we learn from the wise men? Jesus Christ is the King of Kings and he deserves our Worship.

In Psalm 95:3-6, “For the LORD I s the great God, the great King above all gods…. Come, let us bow down in worship let us kneel before the LORD our maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture the flock under his care.” On the first Christmas day God gave three great gifts to the world. A Light to follow, a savior to Love and a King to worship. These same three gifts can be yours today. All you need to do is to unpack these three indescribable gifts and receive them by faith. Only when you receive these gifts, your Christmas will be truly meaningful and you can bring a smile to others by your gifts, again not by the material ones.

I would like to suggest a few gifts that you can give to your family, friends and neighbors during this Christmas season. Most of them don’t cost you a world. Mend a quarrel, dismiss suspicion, stop spreading gossip, and tell someone, "I love you." Give something away--anonymously. Forgive someone who has treated you wrong. Turn away wrath with a soft answer. Visit someone in a nursing home. Apologize if you were wrong. Be especially kind to someone with whom you work. Encourage someone who is discouraged. Give as God gave to you in Christ, without obligation, or announcement, or reservation, or hypocrisy. Again you can’t give what you yourselves haven’t yet received. May the Lord help you to receive Jesus as your light, as your savior and as your King. Amen

Monday, December 6, 2010

REBUILDING A HEALTHY CHURCH- PART I( Lessons from the book of Nehemiah)

It was around this time in 2007, uncertainty and anxiety were looming large in our family. Uncertainty because we didn’t know where we were going to go once I completed my seminary studies, anxiety because we didn’t know how we were going to make it in life and possibly rebuild a ministry as we gave up everything that was familiar, we left family and friends behind and made a move half way across the world to Boston. You wouldn’t understand what anxiety you go through under such circumstances unless you have made a midlife career decision as our family made.

In the midst of all that uncertainty we had a silver lining. We applied for various pastoral positions in different parts of the USA including Quincy. My wife wrote in her journal on 11/30 2007, “Praying for the options that have come up this week, EGC, Kendal Miami, and ECCOA Quincy. Regarding a multicultural ministry! Francis senses that the Quincy opening may be from the Lord” The profile of ECCOA looked good and promising on the website. But little did we know what we were getting into! That was the beginning of our prayer for Quincy and ECCOA. Fast forward three years, our prayers for our Church and different individuals have never been more intensified.

As we are approaching the end of the first decade of the new millennium I began to ask God what would be his purpose for me, my family and for our Church, in the next ten years. I believe that what we have seen or experienced in our lives so far is nothing in comparison to what God has in store for us in the new decade. The future glory of our church will be far greater than the former glory. We are going to see the hand of God moving mightily upon this Church.
In my seeking I was reminded of the call of God which came to me several years ago from Isaiah 58:12 “Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.”

I sense my purpose is to repair, rebuild and restore the ancient ruins and age old foundations of the Church. I began ask God what are they? The Lord showed me that it is the Church in the post Christian society whose foundations are in ruins. After living here for five years I am convinced more than ever that the core foundations of the Church at large are in ruins. It calls for a response from us. It calls for repairs, rebuilding and restoring. So I searched for a biblical model where God used an individual and a group of people to repair, rebuild and restore ancient ruins.

My search led me to the Book of Nehemiah. Out of my study I’ve learned several principles which will help us in “Rebuilding a Healthy Church.” Did I say rebuilding a Healthy Church? Does it mean the current Church is unhealthy? Hasn’t Christ laid the foundations for a healthy church when he died and rose again? Then how come the Church is not as healthy as it should be?
It’s about time that we get serious with the job of demolishing unhealthy, faulty foundations that we have built our lives on and rebuild healthy and God honoring foundations.

We all know how important for us to be healthy. We do anything to be healthy, because we know when we are healthy we can accomplish more, the same applies to a Church. If the Church is healthy, what do I mean by that is if the people in the pews are healthy then the Church is healthy then it will have a positive influence on our community? Don’t we all want to see a Church that honors God and respects all? I’d like to be a part of that Church. When I say Church I am not referring to a building or a particular denomination but I am referring to the redeemed people. It’s you and I, who have been washed by the blood of the lamb, and gather here every Sunday to worship the living God and claim ourselves to be Christians. It’s not the building that needs repairs but it us who need to be repaired, rebuilt and restored based on his Word then the glory of God will once again shine through our lives which will attract others to Christ.

For a few weeks I will be talking on a series called, “Rebuilding a Healthy Church” Some of the things I will be sharing straight from my heart that may prick your conscience but bear with me. Let the Holy Spirit deal with us in ways that are appropriate. The principles we will discover during our study will help us rebuild our lives and others. My hope is that you will be honest with yourselves before God and none of you would sit in a position and think I don’t need any change, and I have arrived, instead you pray, God purge me, purify me, restore me and use me for your glory. Isn’t it easy to find faults in others than to admit our own mistakes? God is committed to change us from glory to glory. But the challenge is are we willing to be changed?

What God expects from us is maturity and growth. In Ephesians 4:12-13, we read, “So that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”(Ephesians 4:12-13) The Fullness of Christ! That is our Goal! We are not going to settle for any thing less. Let’s begin our study of the book of Nehemiah.


A bit of background information will help us place the incidents of Nehemiah in the right context. After the death of Solomon his Kingdom fell apart into two rival states, Israel and Judah with two capitals Samaria and Jerusalem. During 627 B.C the southern prophet Jeremiah prophesied the fall of the city of Jerusalem, the exile of Jews to Babylon and their return. In Jeremiah 52:12 we read the destruction of Jerusalem, “The temple, the royal palace, all the houses and every important building was burnt down. The walls of Jerusalem were broken down and many were taken into exile to Babylon. Initially they thought it will last only for two years.
But nearly after 70 years around 520 B.C, Cyrus the king of Persia decreed that the remnant who survived the exile should return to Jerusalem and rebuild the house of the Lord.
Under the leadership of Ezra 42,360 Jews (Neh 7:66) returned to Jerusalem and rebuilt the temple, but the walls of the city still remained in ruins. One hundred years after the first return Nehemiah shows up on the scene to repair, rebuild and restore the walls of Jerusalem.

We don’t know much about Nehemiah except he was the son of Hacaliah. Nehemiah means “Jehovah comforts” Isn’t it amazing that God sent Nehemiah to comfort a nation that has endured war and devastation and in a terrible crisis? When all that was going on where was Nehemiah? He was in the citadel of Susa, a winter residence of Persian Kings. Unlike today in those days there was no CNN or Fox News etc to break the devastating news; it has to be spread through word of mouth.

One day Hananiah the brother of Nehemiah and some other men from Judah came to visit Nehemiah. He questioned them about the welfare of the Jews who survived the exile and he also wanted to know what happened to Jerusalem. The men said, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.”(Neh 1:3) The Holy city! The city of their ancestors in ruins, and the gates were burned with fire? This is horrible news and a frightening thought for a Jew. It is unthinkable. The nation of was in a crisis!

Let me bring this story into our context. Are we facing a crisis today? The first decade in the new millennium has unfolded several crisis situations in the USA and the rest of the world. To name a few, the 9/11 twin tower attacks in 2001, the anthrax attack in 2003, the Afghanistan and Iraq war, General motors Bankruptcy, the Hurricane Katrina, BC Oil Spill, the current financial meltdown, house fore closures, Job losses and the raising unemployment.

Undoubtedly these crisis situations affect every one. But there is one crisis that comes even closer to home as Christians, that is the Crisis in the Church. The Church in the USA by and large is loosing its impact it once used to have on the nation. The core biblical foundations are in ruins. There is diminishing interest in God and the Church among the general population. This trend worries a lot of Christian leaders. Pastors are concerned about the spiritual and emotional health of their flock.

David T. Olson the author of Turning Church Crisis into a Spiritual Revolution gives a few signs of decay in the American Church: 1. The percentage of the population attending church on any given weekend has declined from 20.4 percent in 1990 to 17.0 percent in 2007. 2. Protestant churches between 100 and 300 in attendance are declining by 2% per year. 3. Lack of new church planting initiatives: to keep up with population growth, 2,900 more churches need to be started every year. 4. The growth rate of evangelical mainline and Catholic churches has been declining throughout this decade.

The painful truth however is that for most churches in America, ministry is more difficult today than it was 10 years ago. My pastor friends have said this and I too say the same with a little bit of experience that I had over the past two years. It is becoming more and more difficult to do ministry here. As I talk to my friends and read various reports I am concerned by the state of the Church in the USA. I began to ask myself why it is so difficult to minister in supposedly a Christian nation. What is contributing to the decay? How can we truly measure the success of the Church? Is it by its numerical growth or by its health? What are the symptoms of a sick Church? What are the signs of a healthy Church? What must we do to rebuild a healthy Church?

I realize that there are no easy answers to these questions, but if we want the Church to become vibrant and have an impact in this nation we must wrestle with these questions. That’s what we will be addressing as we embark on this journey of Rebuilding a healthy Church. When Nehemiah heard about the great trouble and disgrace that his fellow Jews were in, it disturbed him deeply, he sat down and wept. For some days he mourned and fasted and prayed to God out of which the LORD brought forth a plan of repairing, rebuilding and restoring. Nehemiah had to deal with the broken walls of Jerusalem. What are we to deal with, is it our broken lives, broken families and broken Churches? When we see and hear about the decay in the Church at large and our own Church, our personal lives and families, what should be our response? The answer to that question I believe lies in rebuilding a Healthy Church. Amen!