Sunday, December 25, 2011


What’s in a name? Do names carry certain meaning? We had no choice over the names that were given to us. Some of you like your names and others may wish that you had never gotten that name especially if your name is Jabez which means “pain.” I like my name Francis which means “a free man” In the days when the Bible was being written, the Israelites often chose names for their babies based on the child’s character or appearance, i.e., Esau (hairy) and Korah (bald). Some babies were named because of an incident at their birth or their names were based on some hope or prayer of the parent, as in Zechariah’s name (God has remembered), as in Samuel (God has heard). Sometimes babies received the name of an everyday object, like Tamar (palm tree), and Tabitha (gazelle). Parents often named their children by the time of day they were born. For example: Shaharaim (dawn), Hodesh (new moon). The condition of the mother also frequently inspired a name: Leah (exhausted) and Mahli (sick).[1]

Some were named to fulfill a certain purpose for example John the cousin of Jesus, he considered himself as the forerunner of Christ and his purpose was to bear witness of the light. When God wanted to fulfill his purpose of saving the world he sent his only son and named him Jesus. A boy named Jesus is the main reason for this season of Christmas.. Why did God choose to name his son Jesus? Do the titles and names of Jesus hold any significance or are they just like any other names? What are the meanings of those titles? Let us read the Christmas story to find out their true meaning and how that could affect our lives today. Matt 1:18-25. In this passage we read about two distinct names, one is Jesus and the other is Emmanuel. They explain the real reason why we celebrate Christmas. Let’s look at what these two names mean.

The naming of the child is an important part of the scripture before us. In fact two important names were given to the same person and they both help us to know about him. An angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and said that the child that Mary conceived was of the Holy Spirit and he was to name him Jesus. Why Jesus? What does the name Jesus mean?

Jesus was a common name. It was the Bob of the first century. We know of one other person in the New Testament itself named Jesus. He was a companion to the apostle Paul and is mentioned in Colossi ans 4:11 in a list of people sending greetings to the church at Colossae. And Josephus, the first-century Jewish historian, mentions no fewer than 20 different men named Jesus. The child whom God sent to be the Savior of the world was given a name common to the time and place. The name Jesus could be easily uttered by any common man of his time.

During Jesus’ time on earth some addressed him teacher but many called him simply “Jesus” Even little children could easily run to him, the poor were at ease in his presence, the sick were healed, the hungry were fed above all sinners were saved. Jesus was called the friend of sinners.

What does Jesus mean? It is from a Greek word Joshua meaning, “The Lord Saves” The angel who appears to Joseph alludes to that meaning when he says, “... you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” True to his name Jesus died so that we might live. In Romans 5:6-8 "For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7- For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8- But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." This child was given a name that would be a constant reminder of the saving grace of God. If Jesus means God will save his people, what does Emmanuel mean?


In Vs 22, we read, “ Now all this took place that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which translated means, God with us.”

After recording what the angel said to Joseph, the gospel writer Matthew referred to a prophecy in Isaiah 7:14 which was fulfilled in 8th century BC. In this context Isaiah was offering Judah’s king Ahaz a sign of encouragement and perhaps even of punishment; should he not act on faith. Ahaz was concerned with pressure being put on him by Rezin of Damascus and Pekah of Israel, so he wanted to appeal for help from Tiglath-pileser III of Assyria( II Kings 16:5-7). Isaiah directed Ahaz to trust in the Lord, not in a foreign king, and offered him a sign of God’s help. A woman was to conceive and bear a son, whom she would name Emmanuel, which means “God with us”. Unfortunately Ahaz did not head the advice of Isaiah and paid heavily.

Though this prophecy was meant for Ahaz, but it also carried a future fulfillment. But Matthew, looking at it through the lens of what he knew about Jesus, saw it also as prophecy. And thus he took the name given to that child born in Isaiah’s time, Emmanuel, and applied it symbolically to Jesus. And that name, Emmanuel, as Matthew hastens to tell us, means “God is with us.” Between his given name, Jesus, and his symbolic name, Emmanuel, this child to be born to Mary makes two important affirmations about God — that he saves us and that he is with us. As commentator Eugene Boring points outs in The New Interpreter’s Bible, “For Matthew, the story of Jesus is a way of talking about God.”) The name Jesus means, “The Lord Saves. What does he save us from? One way to understand it is to grasp that God created us to have connection, close association, communion with him. But due to our sin we have lost that connection. In other words we have become unfit to have communion with God.

Among the things that make us unfit are the sins of self-centeredness and rebellion, but when we turn to God, he makes it possible through Jesus for us to change, and become fit for communion with God. God is our salvation and Jesus is the way God provided for salvation to come to us. Salvation is a gift from God, you don’t have to earn it but just receive it by faith.

Jesus’ other symbolic name, Emmanuel, adds a further dimension to our understanding of God. “God is with us” is a message we need to hear today more than ever. Our world has layer upon layer of troubles and our own encounters with life are not all sweetness and light either. So the reality of God-being with us is critical. It is one thing to know that God saves us through Jesus but it is another thing to live with a realization that God is indeed with us.

Emmanuel, God with us! What an assuring name of God. Let’s ponder on it for a while. As we talk millions of North Koreans are mourning the death of their dear leader Kim Jong il who was in their eyes like a god. They are devastated not to have their leader with them, but would they ever understand that there is truly a God whose name is Emmanuel; God with us? Who will tell them of this wonderful good news? We must pray that somehow God will make this truth dawn upon them during this Christmas season.

Recently I lost my father. It is hard to believe that he is not with us this Christmas. When I heard of the news of my fathers’ death I felt for the first time in my life like an orphan. Both my parents have gone to be with the Lord. In my distress I turned to God’s word for comfort. He spoke to me through this scripture where Jesus said to his disciples before he departed from this world. God comforted me with these words of Jesus, John 14:18, “I will not leave you as orphans: I will come to you.” What assuring words; those were the exact words I needed to hear. That is the message of Christmas; God did not abandon this world; but so loved the world and sent his son Emmanuel God with us, so that the world might be saved through Him.

The scriptures give us wonderful promises of God’s nearness and his presence, to name a few: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”(Psalm 34:18). “God has said, Never will I leave you never will I forsake you.”(Heb 13:5) Jesus promised his frightened disciples saying, “And surely I am with you always; to the very end of the age. Matthew 28:20. Dear friends; no matter who is with you today or not; whatever you might be going through in your life be assured that Emmanuel; God is with you. He will never let you go.

The two names that were given to a boy named Jesus affirm two important truths about God: that he saves us and that he is with us. Not only is God everywhere present but more specifically He is with you where you are. I would like to close with these words of Paul in 2 Cor 9:15, “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift.” Amen

[1] Retrieved June 13, 2007.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A MODEL FOR CHURCH RESTORATION -III (Restoring Communion) 2 Chronicles 30

The First Sunday of each month we as a Church come together to celebrate communion, the Lord’s Supper. Together we take the elements of grape juice and bread. But did you every think how the grape juice got to replace the wine that was initially served at communion? Here is the story: Dentist Thomas Welch was the Communion Steward for the congregation of the First Methodist Church of Vineland, New Jersey, in 1869. During that summer, to his great dismay, the communion wine used by the church set one of his houseguests off on quite a binge. Determined to do something about this, he and his family spent the following September picking and pressing about forty pounds of grapes. In an attempt to repress the natural fermentation properties in the fruit, he heated the juice, pasteurizing it before sealing it in bottles. For the next few weeks he listened anxiously for the sounds of exploding bottles, but nothing happened. When Welch opened the containers, he found nothing but sweet, unfermented grape juice. Dubbed unfermented wine, this beverage was an instant hit. After introducing it to his own church, Dr. Welch began selling it to various other congregations and denominations. By 1890 Dr. Welch's Grape Juice had become a staple on communion tables, where for many congregations it remains so today.[1]

The true essence of communion is not so much about the wine, or grape juice and bread, as it is about the hope that is found in Christ our redeemer. In order to find out its true meaning, where it all started and to restore communion to its right place, we will look at the third restoration of King Hezekiah after restoring the temple and the temple worship in 2 Chron 30.


The Passover was the first of the three great festivals of the people of Israel. It referred to the sacrifice of a lamb in Egypt when the people of Israel were slaves. Remember, the night they were finally made free from their slavery they were to smear the blood of the lamb on their doorposts as a signal to God that He should “pass over” their houses when he destroyed all the first born of Egypt? (Ex 12:13) God commanded the Israelites, “Observe the month of Abib (first month) and celebrate the Passover of the LORD your God, because in the month of Abib he brought you out of Egypt by Night.” (Deu 16:1)

God instituted the celebration of the Passover in order to remind the people of Israel how He delivered them from their bondage of slavery in the land of Egypt. It is a time of rejoicing in their freedom by giving thanks as they sacrificed each year the sacrificial lamb. In our text we read King Hezekiah after he restored the temple and the worship in the temple restored the most important festival the Passover. How did he bring about that restoration?

Just to remind you until that point in history, the nation of Israel was widely divided. It was divided into two kingdoms: the northern kingdom was called Israel and the southern kingdom was called Judah. Hezekiah ascended to the throne of Judah after the death of his father King Ahaz. What have we learned about King Ahaz? He was a very bad king, he did detestable things to displease God. He built altars to false gods throughout Jerusalem and offered sacrifices on those altars. He shut the doors of the temple in Jerusalem, which means there were no sacrifices in the temple, no worship and definitely there were no celebrations of Passover and other feasts. No one knows for how long the doors were shut. Here comes Hezekiah, reopens the temple, consecrates it and restores the worship. Life in Judah became normal; and the glory days were back again. But one thing was lacking that was the celebration of the Passover festival.

II. RESTORATION OF PASSOVER: (2 Chronicles 30:1-27)

It must have been a long time since the Passover was celebrated in great numbers. Hezekiah wanted to invite all of Israel to come together and join the festivities. The couriers got busy; they went throughout all Israel and Judah with the invitation letters from the King and the princes. The content included, “O sons of Israel return to the LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, that He may return to those of you who escaped and are left from the Hand of the kings of Assyria.” (Vs 6). It was a call for repentance and restoration and a homecoming to God.

I was reminded of another call to attend a wedding feast from one of the parables that Jesus told in order to explain what the Kingdom of God looks like. Here is the parable: A king who threw a wedding banquet for his son. He sent out servants to call in all the invited guests. And they wouldn’t come. He sent out another round of servants, instructing them to tell the guests, “Look everything is on the table; the prime rib is ready for carving. Come to the feast. They only shrugged their shoulders and went off, one to weed his garden, another to work in his shop. The rest, with nothing better to do, beat up on the messengers and then killed them.”(Matt 22:1-5 (The Message) What a sad story of missed opportunity.

Today the King of the universe is sending his couriers throughout the earth calling people with the message of repentance and of restoration so that they can enjoy the heavenly banquet. But sadly, how many are hearing and responding to that call? In the Church we send out e-mail, make announcements to attend certain important meetings or church services. Even today many seem to have other priorities rather than entering in to all that God has.

Coming back to our text; did the whole of Israel respond to the King’s invitation? I wish I could say yes! Sadly, the answer is No!! Many refused; some even laughed at and scorned the one who carried the invitation.

Nevertheless some men of Asher, Manasseh, and Zebulun humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem.(Vs 11) That is how it works even today, God invites every one to come to him and worship Him. Many refuse, some laugh and scorn at the invitation at their own peril, but thank God there are others who humble themselves and accept the invitation and enjoy the eternal blessings.

What keeps you away from coming to God? Nothing can keep you away from God except your pride. Humility must precede access to God. Listen to what God says about humility; “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, and to revive the heart of the contrite.”(Isaiah 57:15) Many of us are not seeing breakthroughs in our lives simply because we are too proud to ask God to help us in our situation. God will let us struggle as long as we remain proud but when we humble ourselves and come to him with a contrite spirit then he will revive our hearts and come and dwell in our hearts.

We see another example of humility in the birth, life, and death of Christ. If Christ could humble himself even to the point of death on the cross, are we greater than Christ where we don’t see the need to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God?

In our text we read; all those who humbled themselves came together as a very large assembly and celebrated the Passover with great joy. It is recorded, that the King contributed thousands of animals for the sacrifice. There was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the days of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem. When the priests blessed the people, “their voice was heard and their prayer came to His holy dwelling place, to heaven. That indicates that God was pleased with the restoration of the Passover.

You may be wondering what significance does this event of thousands of years ago have for me today? Isn’t the Passover only meant for the Jewish community? Or does it have any connection with the communion in the Church? What is the significance of communion?


There is a direct connection, between the Passover and the Christian communion. We see rich symbolism and parallels in both. What is called the "Last Supper or the Lord’s supper" in Christianity was in fact the Passover Sedar. The meeting in the upper room was specifically to observe this appointed day observance. We see this account in Mar 14:13-16, “So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, God in the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. Say to the owner of the house he enters, “The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples? He will show you a large upper room, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there. The disciples went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.”

In Luke 22:14-20 we read the words of Jesus, “‘I have looked forward to this hour with deep longing, anxious to eat this Passover meal with you....’ Then He took a loaf of bread; and when He had thanked God for it, He broke it apart and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, given for you. Eat it in remembrance of me.“ After supper He gave them another glass of wine, saying, ‘This wine is the token of God’s new agreement to save you - an agreement sealed with the blood I shall pour out to purchase back your souls’” (Luke 22: 14-20 Living Bible Translation). By celebrating the Passover, Jesus followed the age old Jewish tradition. He also commanded his disciples to continue this tradition until he returns. How did the early Church establish and carry on this tradition? How did they call this tradition? What are the parallels between the Jewish Passover and the Christian communion?


In the early Church, worship consisted of both Word and Table. The Word proclaimed the saving deed of God in Jesus Christ, and the table was the response of thanksgiving (Eucharist is the Greek word for thanks). The New Testament uses four terms to describe worship at the table: Breaking of bread(Acts 2:42) The Lord’s Supper( I Cor 11:17-34), Communion( I Cor 10:16) The word communion means participation, and refers to the Thanksgiving God’s people give for the death and resurrection of Christ. Eucharist (John 6:11, I Cor 11:24)

What parallels do we see between the Passover and Communion? The Passover was instituted by God as a thanksgiving feast of his great redemption of his people from the bondage of slavery. The word redeem means, “to obtain release by means of payment” It was a reminder, so that parents would educate their children with its significance and meaning. It was a community event where much preparation is needed before they could participate. It was a yearly event where a sacrificial lamb was sacrificed symbolizing the first Passover before the exodus. It was a great time of celebration and rejoicing.

We see this parallelism in Christian Communion. Christ was offered himself as the sacrificial lamb once for all, not only for the Jewish community but for the whole world. By doing so he became our redeemer. By believing in the redemptive work of Christ we are set free from the slavery of sin. As the Jewish community needed to consecrate themselves before observing the Passover we too are required to examine our hearts before we partake in communion.(I Cor 11:28) Passover was a reminder, in the same way we need to remember to participate in communion. Finally, we need to educate our children regarding the importance and significance of communion. Each time when we come to the table to partake communion we are thanking God for his redemption and also celebrating our Jewish heritage. Amen.

[1] From Holston United Methodist Reporter, Vol. No. 31.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A MODEL FOR CHURCH RESTORATION -II (Restoring Worship) 2 Chronicles 29:20-30

Mark Matousek is an American memoirist, teacher, essayist, and journalist. He was raised in poverty. He was a child prodigy on a fast literary track. He seemed to have the world at his feet, and his feet were moving everywhere. Mark continued on this path and bought into the typical American linear track: He said of himself: “Like most stout-hearted American men, I was raised to play God, to pretend that I was omnipotent, to mastermind the world. Power was supposed to be my idea of Heaven; Triumph, the Lord I secretly worshiped.”

The only problem with this philosophy of life is that it works as long as you're winning. But nobody wins forever. And there came a time in Mark's life when disaster struck, death intruded, and the whole house of cards came tumbling down. He found himself asking religious questions.[1] Jim Wallis the founder and editor of Sojourners magazine notes, “We have forgotten we are God's people, and we have fallen into the worship of American gods. Now God's word to us is to return. Church historians may someday describe our period as the American captivity of the church. It is no less real than the Babylonian Captivity in the history of Israel. Trapped in our false worship, we no longer experience the freedom that is our birthright in Jesus Christ.[2]

Interestingly this call to return to God and the heart of worship has been going on for thousands of years. God has been calling his people to return to worship him alone not any and everything. Over the centuries many have tried and many are still trying today to restore worship to its rightful place in order to bring back true worship in the Church.

Two weeks ago we started a series of teaching called “Church Restoration.” We looked at a Model for Church restoration from 2 Chronicles 29-31. Last time we saw how King Hezekiah started a restoration process soon after assuming the throne. He first restored the Temple to its original state and then went on to restore the worship in the temple. We read about this process or restoring worship in 2 Chronicle 29: 20-30. (Read)

As someone who tends to resist the popular culturalization of life, I was drawn to [Marva Dawn's book “Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down: A Theology of Worship for the Turn-of-the-Century Culture]. Dawn points out the error of approaching church planning by how can we fill the pews the fastest. She reminds us that pop culture and its associated cults of celebrity, wealth and popularity are counter to the otherness of Christianity. She couches her arguments in the larger terms of the changes that have taken place in American culture -- changes she sees as distressing -- that ordinary people don't sing or play instruments any more, that there is increased consumerism, that people are increasingly taking part in amusements that are passive and that separate them from other humans. But Dawn also challenges traditionalists not to fossilize in their worship styles and points out that some change may be necessary.

What changes are we to make in the way we understand and do worship in our Church? Today, I will be looking at the preparations that King Hezekiah undertook in the process of restoring temple worship. I will also share about, what worship is, and who is the center of worship? Let’s begin by asking “What is worship?


This question can be answered in many ways. For some worship means singing songs of praise for half hour in the church during a Sunday service, or playing music instruments, lifting up, clapping, hands, kneeling down, falling prostrate, fasting, and dancing and so on.

Is that all or is there more to worship? The word worship comes from two Old English words meaning, “honor, worthiness and to create. Though we can not create God’s honor we devise ways to honor God and speak of his worthiness. Let’s see how the Jewish people understood worship in the OT. There were two verbs used to explain worship, one was frequented more than the other one. Let’s consider these verbs. Firstly, shachah means: to prostrate oneself, to bow oneself down, to fall down, to humbly beseech. It was used 170 times in the OT more specifically to bow down, to prostrate oneself as an act of respect before a superior being. We read in Exodus 20: 3-4, “You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them.”

What did God mean by this commandment? He did not want his children to bow before any object or false god or to make any one as superior or supreme. That place of supremacy in our lives and in the world only belongs to God. Worship is our heart attitude towards God. The second verb was “abad” occurs 290 times in the OT which means, to work, to labor, to serve, to work as a slave. We see this verb used in Gen 2:15, “Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.” It was used again by God when He told Moses to tell Pharoah, “Let my people Go so that they might serve me in the wilderness” Exodus 7:16. This verse states that God wants his people to serve him only and not anyone else

From these two verbs we gather that worship has two components one is an inward attitude and the other an outward action. Worship is when we respond to God’s call and show respect by bowing before him in our hearts but it doesn’t stop there it compels us to service like a bond slave. However, service to God is an exhilarating experience which does not seem like bondage at all instead it is a privilege and a delight to be able to serve the God of the universe.

I like the way Marva Dawn expressed her views on worship, “True worship arises because God calls us. As an echo, our worship directed to God is a gift in response to his gifts. As C. Welton Gaddy details, “Worship is a gift between lovers who keep on giving to each other.” We worship God not to get something from Him but to give back to God realizing that everything we ever have including our very lives come from Him in the first place. In our text we read, King Hezekiah after restoring God’s temple restored the order of worship in the temple. How did he do that? The text explains in detail the preparation that went into restoring worship.

II. PREPERATION FOR WORSHIP. (2 Chron 29: 20-25)

In the story we read that King Hezekiah rose early and assembled the princes (elders) of the city and went up to the house of the LORD. There he ordered the Levites and priests to sacrifice animals on the altar of God for the sins of the whole kingdom of Israel, the sins committed in the sanctuary and for the sins of his kingdom Judah. Why was this so significant? It was significant for two reasons if you remember his father offered sacrifices on false altars all over Jerusalem. On the contrary Hezekiah offered in the house of God on the altar of the God of Israel. Secondly, Hezekiah offered sacrifice not only for his sins but for the whole of Israel.

When we come to worship God on a Sunday service we too must prepare our hearts, make sure that we have repented of our known and unknown sins. Today we are not required to offer animal sacrifices for the forgiveness of our sins, however we are required to confess our sins and when we do that the blood of Christ the perfect sacrifice can wash away all our sins. Once our sins are forgiven and our hearts are made right then we can boldly enter God’s presence and offer our Worship to Him. Without such preparation of heart, our worship falls flat and becomes a bunch of empty words and actions.

Here are a few examples where God placed more importance on the heart attitude than the outward acts of worship. God rejected Cain’s offering, but accepted Abel’s because Cain had a hostile attitude towards God and his brother. (Gen 4) God exposes the deceptive and shallow worship of people in Isaiah 29:13, “The Lord says: These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” In the familiar story of how God rejected Saul as the king of Israel, listen to the words of Prophet Samuel, “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice.”(I Sam 15:22)

In the New Testament Jesus reemphasized the same when he said, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. (Matt 5:23). This shows us the urgency and importance of reconciliation.

What does this all mean for us today? It means a number of things. Firstly, these scriptures show us what God values most namely a reverent heart attitude. Secondly God hates hypocrisy and pharisaical attitude. Jesus sternly rebuked Pharisees and Sadducees for their hypocrisy. They said the right words and did the right things while having a hostile and rotten attitude towards people. Thirdly, God cares for right relationships that we are in right relationship with Him and with one another. Fourthly, If we have un reconciled relationships, it is our responsibility to make sure that we are reconciled with our fellow brothers and sisters in the body of Christ. We may come, lift up our hands, sing songs of praise, shout Halleluiah, and praise the Lord but when we are living in sin; with unrepentant heart our worship becomes shallow and displeasing to God. How can we say we love God on one hand and hate our brothers and sisters on the other hand? Let’s look at who is in the center of Worship.


We are living in a highly individualized, self centered society. To our astonishment we see certain people carrying an attitude as if they are the center of the universe. Is the Church exempt from such attitudes? I hope to think it is exempted but the reality is the opposite. If we are not careful similar attitude may be present in our Church and in our Worship Let me illustrate it by a video clip (Me Church).This clearly illustrates how we view Church and Worship. We think it is all about us? But is it so? We place ourselves in the center of attention while all along true worship belongs to God. In reply to the question, For whom is worship? Gaddy insists, “Worship is for God. Only! The chief aim of worship is to please God whether by adoration and praise, prayer and proclamation, confessions and offerings, thanksgivings and commitment, or by all of these actions combined.” The Point of worship is to recognize that “God alone matters.”[3]

In our text we see King Hezekiah, the singers, the Levites, priests and the whole assembly kept singing and blowing trumpets until the whole burnt offering was finished. At the end of it they all bowed down and worshipped God with songs of praises and of Joy. For them what mattered the most was God, they didn’t care about their positions, power or how long it took they wanted to honor God with their worship. It is a great model of worship we can follow.

How is our worship today? Who matters most in our worship? Are you coming to worship with an expectation of only receiving from God or with an attitude of offering to God? Is your worship self-centered or God centered? Are you a spectator during worship or an active participant, who worships God in Spirit and Truth? In closing, my prayer is that may we glorify God with our whole life and may our Sunday morning worship be a culmination of praise, thanksgiving and adoration. Amen.

[1] Mark Matousek, Knockin' on Heaven's Door, June 1992, page 44-46.

[2]Jim Wallis, The Call to Conversion (Harper SanFrancisco, 1992), 31.

[3] Marva J. Dawn, “Reaching Out without Dumbing Down, page 80.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A MODEL FOR CHURCH RESTORATION -II (Restoring God's Image in Man) 2 Chronicles 29:1-19

In 1972 an axe wielding maniac attacked the famous Michelangelo’s beautiful sculpture The Pieta in St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome. He smashed the nose and breaking the hand of Madonna.[1] In 1975 a Dutch schoolmaster claiming to be on a divine mission made several deep slashes in the world famous painting of Rembrandt called “The Night watch.” He was never tried but committed to a mental asylum, where he later committed suicide.[2] Two cherished works of art were severely damaged. But what did officials do? Throw them out and forget about them? Absolutely not! Using the best experts, who worked with the utmost care and precision, they made every effort to restore these treasures to their original form. It took four years to restore Rembrandt’s painting and The Pieta was also eventually restored. Similarly, you and I are the most precious and priceless creation of God. But the devil has vandalized the image of God in us through sin. God’s original purpose in creating us has been distorted. But God in his great love for us sent his son Jesus Christ to restore us back to Himself.

In recent years there has been a lot of talk about “Taking our country back” but what no one seems to be asking is back to where or back to what? Long ago there was a king named Hezekiah was disturbed by the sad state of the nation of Judah especially the temple or the house of worship. How disturbed are we by the decaying morals of our nation and the lukewarm state of churches in our time? As we know both, nations and churches are made up of people; if we want to see them restored then people must be restored first back to God’s design, order and purpose. We read A model of Church restoration in 2 Chronicles 29-31.


When we closely look into the history of the nation of Israel in the Old Testament we will discover a pattern. There were good as well as bad kings that ruled the nation at different times. Under a good king the nation thrived but under a bad king it went bankrupt. When another good king came into power he had to undo all the bad things the previous administration had done. Bad kings brought disgrace to God’s name through their idolatry therefore subjected the nation to God’s wrath and punishment. On the contrary good kings honored God’s name by walking righteously, in humility before God as a result God not only blessed them but the nation as well.

Some time during 735 B.C a king named Ahaz ruled Judah. He was a bad king. He did certain unspeakable things. He burned incense on the high places, on the hills and under every green tree (2 Chro 28:4). He made ungodly alliances with the nations that were prohibited by God. In addition to all these abominations he “closed the doors of the house of the LORD, and made altars for himself in every corner of Jerusalem. In other words he became a god in his own eyes. What Ahaz did indeed provoked God to anger and the wrath of the LORD was against Judah and Jerusalem. God made them an object of terror of horror.

Let me bring this into our context. Can you imagine what our country would look like, if all of a sudden the government has decided to shut down all the churches, synagogues, including house churches, and passed a bill that curbs our freedom to worship and practice our faith? Do you think that would provoke God to anger? Of course it would! In recent times we’ve become a target for terror of horror. Could it be that we have turned our backs on God, driven God out of our schools and public life and began to offer sacrifices to other gods? Whenever a nation turns its back against God; He may tolerate it for a while but not forever; He will certainly brings his wrath and vengeance upon that nation because he does not share his glory with others.

Coming back to our text; after Ahaz died, his son Hezekiah became king at age twenty five and ruled for twenty nine years. He did right in the sight of God. It was recorded that “after him there was none like him among all the kings of Judah, or among those who were before him.”(2 Kings 18: 5-6) What a contrast? What distinguished king Hezekiah from the other Kings? It is said, that “He trusted in the LORD the God of Israel, and he clung to the LORD and did not depart from following Him while keeping His commandments. We will be looking into five areas of restoration that King Hezekiah under took and how we can apply them to our personal as well as Church Restoration. The five areas are: The temple; the temple worship, the Passover, the tithes & offerings and the vision. Today our focus is on: “The Temple Restoration

I. TEMPLE RESTORATION: (2 Chro 29:1-19)

Before we look into temple restoration let me explain what restoration means. It means the act of restoring; renewal, revival or reestablishment. It means a return of something to a former, original, normal or unimpaired condition. So, temple restoration here means, rediscovering or reinstituting God’s original intent, design and purpose for that temple. What applies here for God’s temple also applies for the individual believers.

Keeping this in mind let’s look at the restoration that Hezekiah brought about in a time when the nations of Israel and Judah were in crisis. This is the election season, we often hear the presidential candidates rhetoric which goes somewhat like this, “from day one in the office I will repeal or reform the bill that was passed by the previous administration” But little do they know how hard it is to bring reforms about in the white house. Hezekiah, from the time he became the king undertook the restoration of the temple. If you remember; the last thing his father Ahaz did was to shut down the doors to the temple in Jerusalem. One of the first things Hezekiah did was to open the doors of the temple so that the restoration of the temple could begin.

Though he had opened the doors of the house of the LORD and repaired them, there was a problem, who could be bold enough to go into the temple and carry on the work of cleansing? If you remember only the priests and the Levites were eligible to perform various services in the temple. So Hezekiah called them and told them to consecrate themselves before they would go in and clean the temple. Accordingly the Levites took up the job, went in and cleansed every unclean thing that was found in the temple. They came back to King Hezekiah and said, “we have cleansed the whole house of the LORD, the altar of burnt offering with all of its utensils, and the table of show bread with all of its utensils.” It was a total cleansing which took sixteen days to bring the temple back to its original shape. In the end the temple was fully restored.

Hundreds of years later we see another type of cleansing in the temple in Jerusalem, this time it was Jesus who took up the job of cleansing. Do you remember how upset Jesus was when he saw men selling cattle, sheep, and doves and others sitting at tables exchanging money? Why was he so angry at them for selling? He was not angry at them because they were selling those items; but because they were selling them in the outer courts of the temple itself, the one place where Gentiles could come to pray. So he took a whip and drove all from the temple area, both cattle and sheep and scattered the coins of the money changers and over turned their tables and he said, “Get those out of here! How dare you turn my father’s house into a market?

What does Hezekiah’s restoring the temple and years later Jesus’ cleansing the temple in Jerusalem got to do with us today? I believe it’s got a lot to do with us. These two symbolic cleansing represent the much needed cleansing of individual believers as well as Churches at large. God wants to restore His divine image back to man order back to our churches. He wants to drive out every form of evil from our churches.

How is God cleansing the Church; which is his bride today? We read in I Cor 3:16, “Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are. Listen carefully, when Paul wrote, he was addressing the believers as the temple of the Holy Spirit and not the un-generated people. It is us who gave our lives to the LORD and accepted his forgiveness who are the temple of the Holy Spirit.

If you are a child of God but for some reason you are still continuing to live in sin before it is too late you must repent and ask God to forgive and cleanse you. The church of Jesus Christ is not a building but a community of believers. God is passionate about you as He was with his temple in Jerusalem. He doesn't want you to destroy yourself by indulging in sin. He wants to restore you and give you back the worth and dignity the enemy had stolen.

As the call went forth from king Hezekiah to the Levites to consecrate themselves, for the past three and half years I’ve been calling the people in this Church to come back to God and follow the basic teachings of Christianity. All my preaching and service reflects that call.

As King Hezekiah made a covenant in his heart to follow God and began to restore the temple, my prayer is that you too will open up your closed heart once again to the LORD by asking him to come into your heart to cleanse you. I sincerely believe, when we return to God in repentance and in humility God will restore his image back in us and the glory of God will fill not only our lives but this Church once again, and then truly this place will be called a house of prayer for all nations.

The world and our community is yet to see what a church full of restored, and transformed people can do by the power of the Holy Spirit that dwells in them. Let the power of God come in and change you from the inside out. Amen!

[1] Rome By Inc. Let's Go, Matthew W. Mahan, Vedran Lekic, Michael Squire, Elizabeth Thrall

Sunday, October 30, 2011

BOLD STEPS OF FAITH (Hebrews 11:1-7)

In an article entitled God Lite, theologian James R. Edwards traces how “The more we obey God, the more real God becomes to us and the greater our love grows. And the more we love God, the more we become like God. It is like a good marriage: People who love their spouses want to please them; and if they do not want to please their spouses, they can hardly talk of loving them. Edwards then shows the way in which obedience is not a penalty levied on faith. It is the strength of faith. The Bible absolutely will not separate faith and obedience, as though obedience were some kind of inheritance tax that God levies on the free gift of salvation. God cannot separate them and still offer salvation. There is something about love that is no longer love apart from obedience. Dietrich Bonhoeffer kept saying this in The Cost of Discipleship: 'Only those who obey can believe, and only those who believe can obey.[1]

It is true that God doesn’t separate “faith and obedience” A coin has two sides, in the same way obedience is the other side of faith. Both faith and obedience go hand in hand, one can not exist without the other. Last week we looked at two main components one is obedience and other is faith without which God would not have blessed Abraham. We focused a lot on Abraham’s unwavering faith in God and touched only a little on the other very important component of obedience. Today we will learn about what faith is not? What faith is? How can we grow faith and how faith demands obedience, and also look at a few examples where people took bold steps of faith and experienced rewards of their faith through obedience.

All the heroes of faith that we read about in Hebrews 11th chapter not only had faith but demonstrated their belief in God by taking bold steps of faith. They were commended and rewarded for their faith and obedience. Let’s look at Hebrews 11:1-7.


What is faith and how do we grow in it? Is faith squeezing your eyes shut and believing with everything in you that Santa Claus and the tooth fairy is real? I know I may be upsetting some by saying this but no matter how hard you believe Santa Claus will never be real. On the other hand God is real and he exists whether or not you believe in Him. His existence and power does not depend on how much faith we have. What is biblical faith and how do we understand it?

I deliberately said, “Biblical Faith” because people can have faith in any one and any thing, including their dogs but that won’t get them anywhere. It would be helpful to know what biblical faith is not in order to understand what it really is. Loren Cunningham the author of Daring to live on the edge explains, “The faith of the Bible is not wishful thinking, it’s not based on wanting your selfish desires so badly that you somehow get “faith” and get them. Neither is it some concentration of your mental or spiritual powers to get something you want.” It is not a blind leap of faith as Soren Kierkegaard popularized. If you do a blind jump you will fall and break your legs. It is not even “positive thinking, or altering your behavior” as some councilors suggest, though they may be helpful to overcome certain chronic patterns and conditions.


The Bible says faith is, “Being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”(Heb 11:1). Faith is the substance of what we hope for and the conviction of what we do not see. Buell Kazee the famous country singer turned pastor said, “Faith is not trusting God to get something; faith is trusting God when there seems to be nothing left. When everything is gone with no hope of restoration and when there is nothing on which to base your faith; then can you still trust God?[2] Biblical faith is taking God at his word. Believing that He will never fail us.

The biblical faith is completely letting ourselves go into the safest and the most powerful hands of God. Let me illustrate, “This morning, said the minister, I'm going to speak on the relationship between fact and faith. It is a fact that you are sitting here in the sanctuary. It is also a fact that I am standing here speaking. But it is faith that makes me believe that you might be listening to what I have to say. A man took his first plane ride, reluctantly. He didn't want to go at all, but was finally persuaded to try it. Fearful, he got in the plane. The pilot took off, circled the field and returned safely. Someone asked the uneasy rider, well, now that wasn't so bad, was it? How did you like it? The man replied, I'll tell you this much. I never did put my full weight down in that thing! Faith means putting our full weight down on God. Faith is not just believing that God exists. It is actually anchoring ourselves to that God.[3] God commends us for this faith.


Faith doesn’t depend on what you say are think but it depends on what God has to say. According to Romans 10:17, “Faith comes from hearing the message and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” Faith is based on what God has to say to you personally through His written word (logos). That is why it is so important that we take a daily dose of vitamin “F” which is faith by reading and meditating and waiting to hear what God is saying to us while making crucial decisions pertaining to important matters.

I can not tell how many times God spoke to me through his word when I was making crucial decisions. Long time ago, God spoke to me through Ecclesiastes 1: 18, “For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief” I took this as God’s spoken word for me. As a result after my graduation I joined YWAM and went on to serve God full time. What applies for one may not apply for another, each one must get their direction from the Lord.

God speaks to us personally, as a family and corporately as a Church. Whatever he says never contradicts his written word. If some one says, “God told me to divorce my wife and marry my secretary.” Obviously that is not from God because the scripture says, “God hates divorce” if he hates divorce then why would he encourage people to do it? When we take certain steps thinking that God spoke to us, without checking with the scripture, we can move in presumption which can not only hurts us but also those who love us and depend on us.


Biblical faith requires action on your part. It is not passive. The apostle James calls passivity a dead faith. In James 2:17, 21-22 we read, “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action is dead… Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together. Whenever we read words like, “hear” or “listen” especially when they are coming from God or his prophets or the apostles they always demanded action. In our text we read, by faith Able offered a better sacrifice, Enoch walked with God and Noah built an ark, these all are actions. Christ went to an extent saying the foolish will hear his word but never take any action but the wise will hear and act upon them. He encouraged his disciples and followers not just to be hearers but the doers of His word.

How does this workout practically? Loren Cunningham offers three simple principles to remember when we live by faith. They are: “Knowing, Obeying, and Trusting,” Let me explain, First of all before any thing we need to know what God wants us to do (based on His word).Secondly, we must obey whatever He shows us to do, and thirdly we trust Him to do what we can not do, in His way and in His time.” The whole chapter of Hebrew eleven is all about the ordinary men and women who coupled their faith with bold steps of action and they were commended not only for their faith but more so for their obedience to God’s revealed will.


The Bible has a lot of stories of those who took bold steps of faith. I would like to recall two familiar stories. One is of an army officer with an incurable decease and the other one is of a feeble and frightened army facing the impenetrable walls of their enemy’s city. Both these stories emphasize the importance of adding bold steps to our faith. Remember the story of the army officer named Naaman found in 2 Kings 5?

Naaman was the captain of the army of the king of Aram. He was a valiant warrior but he was a leper. Advised by a Jewish servant girl he goes to Elisha for healing. Elisha sends a message saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times and your flesh shall be restored to you and you shall be clean.” In a rage Naaman goes back to his country thinking that the rivers in his country were much better than the dirty Jordan river. This time the servants urged him to return to Samaria and obey the instructions of Elisha. So he comes back and dips himself one time, nothing happened, second time, third time and a sixth time nothing happened but when he dipped himself on the seventh time a great miracle happened, according to the word of Elisha, his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child and he was clean.

In the other story of the walls of Jericho, the Israelite army marched six days silently around the city and on the seventh day they marched seven times. Upon the command of Joshua they blew the trumpet and shouted, the powerful walls of Jericho came tumbling down as a pack of cards. What lessons can we learn from these stories? We are to swallow our human pride, and trust that God could make us well.

The principles in both these stories are that our faith must be active, and as we take the bold steps of faith and obey God’s instructions fully. He will do the impossible. How can we take bold steps of faith in a highly skeptic and pluralistic world? What does living by faith look like in a 9 to 5 world? May I give you a few practical suggestions which might help you to take bold steps in your journey of faith? Firstly, be absolutely convinced that God exists, that He is Almighty and he rewards those who earnestly seek Him. He knows the plans he has for you. His plans are for your welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.(Jeremiah 29:11),

Secondly, Be affirmed in the fact that he is a good and loving father and wants to give the best for his children. Does it mean that everything will always go well for us? Not necessarily! According to Romans 8:28, “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Be affirmed that God is for you and not against you. Thirdly, be continually encouraged in your faith, especially when things get tough and you feel like quitting. Be encouraged in the fact that you can rely on His promises, for no mater how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.”

Finally as you take bold steps in your journey of faith be committed to give him praise. “Though the cherry trees don't blossom and the strawberries don't ripen, Though the apples are worm-eaten and the wheat fields stunted, Though the sheep pens are sheepless and the cattle barns empty, I'm singing joyful praise to God. I'm turning cartwheels of joy to my Savior God. Counting on God's Rule to prevail, I take heart and gain strength. I run like a deer. I feel like I'm king of the mountain!(Habakkuk 3:17, The Message)

Remember, your father in heaven owns the cattle on a thousand hills and is able to take care of all your needs so without doubt and anxiety by faith boldly journey on! Amen

[1] Christianity Today, April 29, 1991, 30.

[2] Buell Kazee, Faith Is the Victory (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1983), 149.

[3] Hal Brady, 22 August 1993, Dallas, Texas.