Sunday, March 27, 2011


About 350 years ago a shipload of travelers landed on the coast of New England. The first year they established a town site. The next year they elected a town government. The third year the town government planned to build a road five miles westward into the wilderness. In the fourth year the people tried to impeach their town government because they thought it was a waste of public funds to build a road five miles westward into a wilderness. Who needed to go there anyway? What has changed? Here were people who had the vision to see three thousand miles across an ocean and overcome great hardships to get there. But in just a few years they were not able to see even five miles out of town. They had lost their pioneering vision. With a clear vision of what we can become in Christ, no ocean of difficulty is too great. Without it, we rarely move beyond our current boundaries.[1] What a tragedy that might be?

This happened to the early pioneers, could this happen to any one of us? I believe this illustration is a reflection of the church in America in general, but could this reflect our church too? We can start with a great vision but down the road if we don’t maintain it, like the early pioneers, we too can loose our primary vision. We can forget the very reason why we exist as a church. The Bible says, in Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no vision (a mental sight, a dream, a revelation) the people are unrestrained (become unruly, undisciplined) In Proverbs the sense is to let something slip through the fingers by ignoring an opportunity. When there is no vision as the scripture suggests we become unruly (every one does their own thing) become undisciplined (lethargic, apathetic) as a result we let go of many opportunities we could have seized and shared the Gospel. Let’s not underestimate what God has in mind for this Church.

Therefore it is important to remember the dream or the vision we have for our Church. Let’s remind ourselves once again why we exist as a church? Where are we going from here? What does it take to get there?


Ask yourself this question; why do you come to church each Sunday? What is the reason our church exist? We can come up with all sorts of reasons why, but I believe as the scriptures suggest the primary reason why we exist as a church is to carry out God’s mandate and to see his vision come true. What is God’s mandate and his vision? We find it in the very words of Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20, “Then Jesus came to them and said, all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” The reason why we exist is to make disciples of all nations (ethnic) groups and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commanded us to obey, so that in return they go out and do the same that is how his mandate is carried out. And the cycle goes on.

What is God’s vision? His vision is the vivid mental picture found in Rev 7:9, “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.” Just imagine what a glorious panoramic picture that would be to see people from all over the world standing before the white throne of God. That picture is still in the making and the fulfillment of it depends on you and me doing our job. Are you surprised when I say we have a job to do? Jesus completed his job. Listen to what he said just before he was crucified in John 17: 4, “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.”

In the beginning of the chapter he says, “Father the time has come.” I believe that the time has come now for us to get busy in our father’s business. Saving souls is a family business. No one is exempted. All of his children have a role to play in bringing souls into His Kingdom. I believe this will move us forward and prevent us from getting entangled with trivial matters that has no eternal significance.


What is God’s vision for our Church? When I first became the pastor here at ECCOA in 2008 August I had a vision of seeing 200 people from diverse ethnic backgrounds worshipping the Lord in this church in the next five years. Now is that too big of a vision that God can’t fulfill? Mark Batterson the author of Wild Goose Chase, writes, “You need a dream that is destined to fail without divine intervention because it will force you to get on your knees and seek God.” Michelangelo said, “The greater danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it; but that it is too low and we reach it.” So let’s aim high and dream big. It is great to have a full church but more importantly a healthy church. More than the numbers I am concerned with the qualitative growth keeping that in mind I’ve been praying, preaching, motivating and equipping our church members. That vision for both qualitative and quantitative growth energizes me and gives me a reason to get up every day.

I want us to get excited with the possibility of future growth. I want us to picture in our minds what our church will look like with 200 people? What if all of a sudden 100 families from diverse ethnic backgrounds and languages started attending our Church, can we handle that growth? What would that do to our worship service, our children’s church? Do we then need more Sunday school workers, youth workers, musicians and ushers? How about our communion each month? How chaotic our fellowship times would be? But don’t worry all that is good.

That kind of growth can be overwhelming to some, it can definitely pose challenges and can cause some inconvenience to us, so what? It is worth dreaming, praying and working towards growth because isn’t God all about growth, increase, vitality and multiplication? When I read certain passages in the Bible I can not but think that God wants us to grow and multiply. This is what He said to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.” What started as 70/75 families in Egypt became exceedingly numerous (Exodus 1:7). God told the exiles in Babylon not to decrease in number but to increase in number. (Jeremiah 29:6) These scriptures and many more tell me that God is interested in numbers, when it comes to think of it one whole book in the Bible is called “Numbers” God hasn’t changed his mind since then, he still wants all of us both individually and corporately as a church to be fruitful and increase in number and have more influence for His Glory. So let’s not sweat the small stuff, let’s make room in our hearts for others, let’s make room for people in our Church, let’s be Kingdom minded.

For those of you who may not know what our church’s vision is and for those who may have forgotten it let me refresh once again. Early on in our ministry here a group of us got together and had a dream session. Out of which a vision was born. OUR VISION is “To build a community that loves God and seeks to share the message of the gospel with all ethnic groups in Quincy and beyond.” I believe that this vision will continue to propel us forward as a church for a long time because it is the heart of God that none should perish but every one should come to repentance. What does it take to realize this God given dream? It takes more than one person to build a community isn’t it? So what resources do we have? We have people with values and a mission. Our values are our strengths and our mission is the steps we take to walk towards our goal of building a community.


Our church is currently involved in, Adult Sunday school, Children’s Church, Women’s Ministry, Men’s ministry, Youth group, Prayer ministry, Alpha course, and Nursing home visitation. In addition to all of these ministries we need to pray in more cutting edge ministries and workers to join us in order to be relevant in reaching our communities for Christ. Our vision may look impressive on the paper but none of this will be accomplished without faith, prayer, cooperation, humility and active participation of us all. Amen?!

[1] Lynn Anderson; Sermon Illustration

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Judson W. Van DeVenter (1855-1939) was raised in a Christian home. At age 17, he accepted Jesus as his Savior. He graduated university and was employed successfully as a teacher and administrator of high school art, besides that he was very involved in the music ministry of his church. Eventually he found himself torn between his successful teaching career and his desire to be a part of an evangelistic team. This inner struggle lasted for almost five years. In 1896, while conducting the music of a church event he finally surrendered his desires completely to God -- He made the decision to become a full-time evangelist. As he submitted completely to the will of his Lord, a famous Hymn was born in his heart “All to Jesus I surrender all to him I freely give” After his personal surrender God used Judson mightily.

In the 80’s as a young Christian I remember singing this song passionately, but now a days we seldom sing that Hymn in our worship, even when we sing it, if we are truly honest with ourselves we might want to sing “I surrender some but not all” But there are certain people who don’t want to surrender anything, just like the strong man of Libya Moammar Gadhafi who is defiantly yet desperately holding on to power while Libya is slipping away. I wonder why he can’t just simply let go of his power and yield to the demands of the people.

When it comes to think of it many of us are afraid to let go isn’t it? None of us want to be in a position where we don’t have power and control over our situation, surroundings and our very lives. Let’s face it, loosing power and control is a frightening thing. But in spite of all that God is calling his children to live a life of complete surrender and trust in Him or in other words letting go of our control. What does letting go mean? Why do we have to let go? What are we to let go? What does the Bible say about letting go? And what are the benefits of letting go?


The phrase "do it yourself" came into common usage in the 1950s in reference to home improvement projects which people might choose to complete independently. It was a good thing for a nation and the world recovering from the impact of the Second World War. That DIY motto no doubt has encouraged entrepreneurship, brought forth human ingenuity along with it the height individualism. In the process we have come to believe that “man is invincible” if only he puts his mind to it he can do any thing. In other words this mind set says, “I can do it by myself and I don’t need anyone’s help, certainly not God’s help. It is a wrong mind set. Can you really live without the outside help? While I am aware that man can fix many things I also realize that he can’t fix everything. Those who are fighting addiction can attest to this, that they need help. If that is the case how foolish for Charlie Sheen the actor turned cocaine, crack addict to think that he can fix his own addiction problem. Can he really? Only the time will tell.

Like Charlie Sheen many are fighting to fix their own problems and clear the mess they have created, often by the poor choices they made in life. It is OK to try but in the long run certain problems or addictions don’t go away by just trying hard. We need divine intervention. Enough is enough, I can’t do this anymore on my own, I am letting it go into the hands of God. What does letting go into the hands of God mean? It means to yield ourselves, to give up, submit, abandon, relinquish, entrust or surrender our whole life in to the powerful hands of God.

I know this may sound scary and highly threatening for many. But the truth is when I let go of my life into the hands of God I will have no regrets. Contrary to the world the scriptures tell us, only in loosing we gain, in letting go we find, in giving we receive, in dying we live and in forgiving we will be forgiven. Andrew Murray the 19th century South African teacher and pastor rightly said, “God is ready to assume full responsibility for the life wholly yielded to Him.”


Surrender, give up, let go, die to your self, relinquish, submit are not necessarily the words we get excited to hear; why because there is certain cost associated with those words. However they are very essential for a Christian. The essence of these words cut through the pages of the Bible. Let me share a few biblical scriptures where God is calling us to Let Go.(LG)

When King Asa was surrounded by a vast army he called to the LORD and said, 2 Chronicle 14:11 "LORD, there is no one like you to help the powerless against the mighty. Help us, O LORD our God, for we rely on you,.. O LORD, you are our God; do not let man prevail against you." What a powerful scripture of reliance upon God.

God pronounced a curse on those who seek for help outside of him. Isaiah 31:1 “Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, who rely on horses, who trust in the multitude of their chariots and in the great strength of their horsemen, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel, or seek help from the LORD.” This scripture warns us against depending on the military or human intelligence so heavily.

No matter who we are we all have one thing in common that is suffering. When hardship hits us we try to fix it ourselves if we can, or seek help either from the church, friends or government. But some hardships are beyond any human intervention. God allows them for a reason. The apostle Paul explains the reason why in 2 Cor 1: 8 “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.”

Some of you might be going through hardship that is beyond you. Remember that God may be trying to get your attention so that he can teach you how not to rely upon your strength and how you can let go of that particular hardship into God’s hands. When we go through troubles we have a choice.

We can either carry the world on our shoulders, like the Atlas did or we can say, 'I give up, Lord; here's my life. I let go of myself into your hands.” You can either run your own world or let God run your world. The difference is huge. The difference is huge. Let me assure you that God’s hands not only can carry your personal world but also the whole world. Why is it so important that we need to let go of our lives? Jesus modeled a life of letting go and commanded that we should do the same. Let’s read this in Luke 9:23- “Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.” It is paradoxal isn’t it? If letting go is so important; what are we to let go off?


The scriptures suggest that we are to completely surrender our lives to God and follow Him whole heartedly. But practically what does that look like. I suggest that we let go of the following things. Firstly, we have to let go of our past.. You can’t take back your past; whatever is done can not be undone. But you certainly don’t have to live with the consequences of your past for ever. The other day I watched a brilliant movie, “Homeless to Harvard”. Based on a true story. Liz Murray was born in the Bronx, New York, to poor and drug-addicted parents who would later each contract HIV. She became homeless just after she turned 15, when her mother died of AIDS, and her father moved to a homeless shelter. But her story did not end up in a homeless shelter she went on to graduate from Harvard University.

Here is a story of some one who did not let her terrible past dictate her future. We may never know whether Liz Murray ever turned her life over to God. But if you let God come into your life, he can heal your past hurts and give you a fresh start. You can have a bright future.

Secondly, we have to let go of our need for vengeance or retaliation. The scripture tells us not to seek for vengeance. Lev 19: 18, “You shall not take vengeance nor bear grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD.” Why God doesn’t want us take vengeance? When we do that we are stepping into His territory, God says, “Vengeance is Mine, and retribution, in due time their foot will slip.” Due 32:35.

But some of us can hold onto bitterness, resentment for a long time always looking for ways to get even. The longer you are vengeful and unforgiving the longer you will be miserable. In the end it will only hurt you. Therefore it is about time you let go of those who have hurt you into the hands of God. Thirdly we need to let go of fears of all kinds. There are over three hundred scriptures where God says to his people, “FEAR NOT”. When God is for us who can be against us? God can put all our fears to rest.

Lastly, we need to let go the cares and concerns of both our present and the future. If you look at the unfolding world events the world is anything but a safe place to live. If you think we are safe just because we live in America we are mistaken. Calamity could hit any one at any time. In a matter of seconds our lives can slip away. This became amply clear when I saw the worst earth quake in the history and a 23 feet high Tsunami ravaging Japan, killing and injuring hundreds of people. How about our future? It is definitely not in our hands. We don’t know what tomorrow may hold, but we know who holds our tomorrow. Jesus said, don’t worry about tomorrow. We are encouraged to cast all our anxiety on Him. In closing; A life that is fully committed to God; has nothing to fear; nothing to worry; and nothing to regret. Amen.

Sunday, March 6, 2011


Have you ever asked these Million dollar questions: Who am I? Where did I come from? What is my purpose on earth? What is my destiny? Before we answer any of these questions first of all we must answer the basic question, who am I? This has to do with our Identity. What is identity? Psychologists most commonly use the term "identity" to describe personal identity, or the idiosyncratic things that make a person unique. A psychological identity relates to self-image (a person's mental model of him or herself), self-esteem, and individuality. An important part of identity in psychology is gender identity, as this dictates to a significant degree how an individual views him or herself both as a person and in relation to other people, ideas and nature.[1] It is the condition of being oneself and not another.

Let me share a story of a seventeen year old male high school senior student whose life was affected by the way he saw himself. “My first year of high school was a particularly bad time. I am adopted and I spent a lot of time thinking and feeling confused about who I was and that I didn’t belong to my family. In my junior year, I spent more time out of class than in class and my grades reflected this. At one point that year, I left home for a month and went to stay at a friend’s place. I remember around this time my attitude was really negative, and I seemed not to care about anything at all. All of this came as a bit of a shock to my parents, and they contacted the school counselor. All of this just confirmed to me that I was “mixed up” and not particularly nice to be around.[2] Erik Erikson a famous Psychologist described this “mixed up” the Identity crisis. This identity crisis could occur during teenage years in which people struggle between feelings of identity versus role confusion.[3]

Another fifteen year teenager reflects her story, "I am three months pregnant. This could ruin my whole life. I have made all plans for the future and now they are down the drain. I do not have anybody to talk to about my problem."[4] Can you imagine the role confusion this teenager must have gone through? These are only two examples of those who are struggling with mixed up identities and confused roles, but there are many who might be hurting, confused and seeking for help. This is where parents, pastors, and church can help them discover their true identity.

Do only teens go through this identity crisis? No! Though according to Erikson it mostly applied to the period of transition in the teenage years when kids begin to define what they will do as adults, and what their values are. It is now thought that an identity crisis may occur at any time of life, or to any body especially in periods of great transition.”[5] Transition or change causing us to feel shaken to the core, can come in many forms. It can be the loss of a family member or the loss of friendship, failure in exams, loss of a role one once held, or the loss of a dream; it can be the abuse of a parent, or a leader or, a betrayal of a friend etc.

Regardless of whether you are young or old, male or female all of us one day must go through losses in life and when we do go through it hurts so badly isn’t? I know what it is to experience a few of these losses in my life and it’s never easy. Why does it hurt so badly? Could it be that our security which was wrapped in our identity is threatened? How can we handle when our core identity is threatened? In the very familiar passage of scripture Matt 4:1-10 we read about Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness. There we see how the enemy challenged Jesus’ Identity by tempting him with three traps and they outline the three false identities or masks that Satan offers each one of us. They also show us the choices we too must make to remain faithful to our God given unique life and identity. Let’s look at these three false identity traps.


Peter Scazzero in his book Emotionally Healthy spirituality calls these traps: Performance, Popularity and Possession. The first trap is the performance trap. Remember, when Jesus came out of the waters after being baptized by John the Baptist the heavens were opened a voice came from heaven saying, “This is my son whom I Love, with him I am well pleased.” In other words, “you are good, you are loveable and I am happy with you. Here Jesus just received the greatest affirmation even before he performed any miracles. Immediately after that he had to face Satan who tried his best to undermine that very position. Matt 4:2-4, “After fasting forty days and forty nights he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the son of God; tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus had apparently done nothing for thirty years. He had not yet begun his ministry. He seemed like a looser.

What did Jesus contribute to the society up to that point? Our culture asks the same question. What have you achieved? How have you demonstrated your usefulness? What do you do? As if our self worth depends on what we do more than who we are. When his identity was challenged thankfully Jesus didn’t fall for the performance trap, by turning stones into bread instead he reminded Satan and subsequently mankind where to look for provision.

We live in a high performance and achievement oriented society. The media and the world lifts high performers and achievers to the skies. There are many who at a very young age reach unusual stardom and celebrity status like the teen idols Miley Cyrus and Justin Beiber (whose hair was sold for $40,688)We know it’s for charity but $40,688 for a box of teenage boy’s hair? But who cares about their temper tantrums and bad behavior as long as they are bringing in big bucks? The crazy thing about the media is that once these so called STARS are not performing well it throws them out and runs after someone else who performs better.

But that is not how God deals with us. He is especially tender and gracious to us when we are hurting and performing at our lowest level. God comes to us when we are in the pit and lifts us up and gives us another chance to experience his love and healing. Psalm 147: 3, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 34:18, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” There were numerous examples of people who have experienced God’s power of healing and acceptance.

God took the first step towards Adam who sinned against him, he lifted Joseph from a dungeon, he met Moses in the desert at the burning bush, and he encouraged depressed Elijah. Jesus restored Peter who denied him three times. When I am spiritually, emotionally, and physically down, I become the prime recipient of God’s grace and his unconditional love. I can overcome the trap of performance when I realize that my acceptance and my identity doesn’t depend on my performance but on my position in Christ. Who am I? I am God’s child.


The devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. If you are the Son of God; he said, “throw your self down” and misquoted Psalm 91:11, 12 saying, “He will command his angels concerning you and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone”

Satan knew who Jesus was, so did Jesus himself but the people didn’t so he offered Jesus a short cut, one jump from the top of the temple would catapult him to the Hall of fame. Oh boy that must have been really tempting. Can you imagine how spectacular that sight must have been? The angels! Carrying Jesus in their hands! Slowly lowering him in the midst of the Jewish worshippers! What a great way to start a public ministry, isn’t it? Instead of taking the easy way out Jesus chose the hardest path of crucifixion.

Satan uses the same trap of popularity and tempts millions, the sad part is that many are falling into that trap. Are you one of those who are obsessed with popularity? If you are, watch out my friend, you can be the next victim to the devil. Being popular may earn you lot’s of money, friends and a great fan club but doesn’t necessarily make you happy. If only we see the lives of so called popular people we will understand the myth of popularity.


The devil took Jesus to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. All this I will give you, he said if you will bow down and worship me. The enemy uses the possession trap to make people believe that their true worth depends on what they possess. It is a lie from the enemy. Pete Scazzero explains that our self view or perception of our self is largely impacted by the culture around us.” Our culture measures our success or our worth by what we own. Marketers now spend over 15 billion dollars each year seducing children and adolescents to believe they have to have certain toys, clothes, IPods, CDs etc. Their very identities depend on it. As adults we measure ourselves through comparisons: Who has the most money? The most beautiful body? The most comfortable life? Who has the most attentive, handsome boyfriend or husband? The best looking girl or wife?”[6] If you try to derive your worth by what you possess you will be disappointed because none of these can give you true identity.


None of us are immune to these temptations. Satan sets all these three traps of Performance, Possession, and Popularity even in the path of the godliest person. How can we overcome these traps and discover our true God given identity. God’s word has all the answers. I would like to suggest four practical steps found in I Peter 5:8-9, 1. Be self controlled, 2 Be Alert, 3. Resist 4. Stand firm in the faith.

Firstly, Be self controlled. With the help of God we need to learn to control our appetites, passions and desires. We just can not get our lives go out of control. Secondly we are to be Alert. The enemy prowls around like a roaring lion looking for some one to devour. He likes to attack you and me when we least expect him especially when we are weak. The enemy doesn’t believe in taking a day off, therefore be vigilant and guard all your ways. Thirdly, resist him. James 4:7, “Submit yourselves then to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Many of us feel defeated in our fight against the devil because we try to resist him without first submitting to God. When you live your life without submission to God you lack power.

It is one thing to put your faith in Christ for salvation but it is another thing to turn your whole life, every part, your hurts, your hopes, your dreams everything over to God. We call this surrender; there is nothing more freeing than living a surrendered life. Fourthly, we need to stand firm in our faith in God and what God’s word says who you are. From God comes our identity

In closing ask yourself the question: What defines me? Who am I, what makes me special? To define yourself as a child of God immensely loved by God, to find your personal worth in your Abba father who says of you, “you are my son/daughter, whom I love and with you I am well pleased, apart from anything you do or have is revolutionary. Our culture, family of origin, friends, possessions, or success can not give you true identity but only Christ can give you true identity. In Him you are complete. Amen






[6] Peter Scazzero, “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, Page 76