Sunday, April 24, 2011


As much as Good Friday makes us sad that much more Easter brings inexpressible joy to our hearts. The Crucifixion and the Resurrection of Jesus are two central pillars of Christian faith and the only hope for the world. If you remove these two core beliefs there will be no Christianity. Since, the first day of Christ’s resurrection, Satan tried his best to distort this amazing truth and is still trying to discredit it. In the midst of age old controversies and skeptics who rejects the resurrection of Jesus Christ what evidence do we have? Is it the empty tomb or the transformed lives? For all of the mystery of the empty tomb, it was the presence of Christ with the disciples that proved the resurrection to be a historical reality. The same is true today. We do not point to a hole in the side of a garden wall as proof that Jesus rose from the dead. Rather, we point to those who were transformed by His presence both then and now.

The Apostle Paul was one of those transformed ones, what did he have to say about the resurrection of Chris? “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.”(I Cor 15:14) The truth of the matter is that Christ was indeed raised from the dead. In John 20:20 we read, “As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord!” Nelson’s Annual Preacher’s Sourcebook suggests that this verse serves as the perfect “vision” test for the believer. The Christian who “sees life clearly, is the one who sees life in light of the Resurrection of Christ” will live a life overflowing with joy. When we “see” life in light of the resurrection, all else pales in comparison; we can face all circumstances. The Resurrection Sunday is a day of inexpressible Joy.

Let’s look at the lives of those whose lives were transformed and hearts were filled with that inexpressible Joy when they saw the risen Lord. We read this incident in John 20:1-29, (Read) this passage can be divided into three sections. 1. A deeper look (John 20:1-9), 2. An earnest look (John 20:10-18) 3. Jesus’ appearance (John 20:19-23),

I. A DEEPER LOOK: (John 20:1-9)

It was the first day of the week; while it was still dark Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw the stone was rolled away from the tomb. She assumed that some one must have taken the body of Jesus away so she ran and told Simon Peter and John the disciple whom Jesus loved the most. They both ran to the tomb. John out ran Peter and came to the tomb but didn’t go inside; he only stooped and saw the linen, where as Peter jumped right in and beheld the linen wrappings. The word beheld is much deeper then just seeing; it means to gaze from a spectator to look with interest and for a purpose usually indicating the careful observation of details. When Peter had a deeper look he saw a few more details than his counter part did. He saw the face cloth, rolled up.

These two disciples represent two types of Christians. John represents shallow and hesitant followers. They have no desire to know God better and follow him closely, for some reason they remain on the outside. They may come to Church regularly but never really get involved with the ministry of the Church. What hinders them from having a deeper walk with God? It could be the fear of man; they are afraid of what others may think of them if they follow Christ. Or it could be the fear of letting go of certain sinful habits that became their security. On the other hand Peter represents those who are not just satisfied by fringe benefits instead they want all of God, they are not afraid to take risks for God. They get their hands dirty when it comes to serving God and others. They dig deeper into God’s word, in order to know him more.

II. AN EARNEST LOOK:(John 20:10-18)

Mary Magdalene refused to leave the tomb; she was determined to find out what happened to the body of Jesus so she stood outside the tomb weeping. She was one of those faithful followers of Jesus while He was still alive. Do you remember that Jesus drove seven demons out of her once? You might also remember the woman who poured the most expensive alabaster oil on Jesus’ feet and wiped them with her tears, many scholars think that it was the same Mary Magdalene. What did Jesus say of her? “Her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much. At the tomb Jesus appeared to her and said, “Woman why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking? She thought it was the gardener, Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid him and I will take him away. That shows how earnestly she loved Jesus. Finally Jesus called her Mary she turned and said Teacher. After that encounter with Jesus she returned to the dispels and said “I have seen the Lord.”

Mary represents an indebted person whose many sins were forgiven therefore he or she loves Jesus more than any one else, putting many of us who think we have it all together to shame. He never turns away anyone who earnestly seeks him. One of such earnest followers of our time was Keith Green. At age 15 the first time he ran away from home. He looked for musical adventure and spiritual truth. Keith had a Jewish background, but he grew up reading the New Testament. His journey led him to drugs, eastern mysticism, and free-love. When Keith was 19 he met a fellow seeker/musician named Melody. They were married a year later -- but his spiritual quest continued. Then when he had nearly given up hope, Keith found the truth he was looking for. When he found the truth he proudly said “I am a Jewish Christian” He was 21 and he never looked back.

The radical commitment Keith preached was also a desire of his own heart. He said, “Loving Him is to be our cause. He can take care of a lot of other causes without us, but He can’t make us love Him with all our heart. That’s the work we must do... Anything else is an imitation.”[1]

When I gave my life to the Lord Jesus Christ at age 17 though I was not as radical as Keith was, I gave Him my all, my rights and my future to follow Him. I never had any regrets in following my savior until today and I hope to continue to follow him the rest of my life. Jesus is looking for earnest followers. He is not happy with lukewarm Christians. Are you an earnest follower of Jesus Christ or are you a casual follower?

III. JESUS’ APPEARANCE: (John 20:19-23)

On the same evening Jesus made a surprise visit to a group of fearful disciples. They were afraid of the Jews so they hid themselves in a room with doors tightly shut. Jesus came straight into their midst. How was that possible while the doors were closed? Well by now Jesus was having a glorified body which can pass through closed doors. The first words he uttered to those petrified disciples “Peace be with You.” He went one step further and showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Men have pursued joy in every avenue imaginable. Some have successfully found it while others have not. Perhaps it would be easier to describe where joy cannot be found: Not in Unbelief -- Voltaire was an infidel of the most pronounced type. He wrote: "I wish I had never been born."
Not in Pleasure -- Lord Byron lived a life of pleasure if anyone did. He wrote: "The worm, the canker, and grief are mine alone."
Not in Money -- Jay Gould, the American millionaire, had plenty of that. When dying, he said: "I suppose I am the most miserable man on earth."
Not in Position and Fame -- Lord Beaconsfield enjoyed more than his share of both. He wrote: "Youth is a mistake; manhood a struggle; old age a regret."
Not in Military Glory -- Alexander the Great conquered the known world in his day. Having done so, he wept in his tent, before he said, "There are no more worlds to conquer." Where then is real joy found? -- The answer is simple, in Christ alone.

The dejected disciples when they saw the risen Lord they were filled with Joy. We all know life can be hard and overwhelming at times isn’t it? When we face such situations we wonder whether God has abandoned us. Have you felt that way before? I’ve been in such situations several times. All I needed then was a word from the Lord and he graciously had spoken what I needed over and over again. No matter what tough situation you might be going through, Jesus can walk right into it and say to you “Peace be with you.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ secures for us new birth and the hope that we too will be resurrected one day to put on a glorified body just as he did. The Good News of the gospel is that you can completely put your trust in Christ whose death has made you right with God. Even if the whole world turns an accusing finger at you saying that you don’t match up, God is for you and not against you. On this Easter Sunday morning though you have not seen Him you love him and even though you do not see him now you believe in him and are filled with inexpressible and glorious joy for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. Amen


Sunday, April 17, 2011


In Church history and Christian tradition certain days are remembered and celebrated. One of such days is Palm Sunday celebrated by many Christians around the world Palm Sunday, often referred to as "Passion Sunday," marks the beginning of Holy Week, it is the week before his death and resurrection which concludes on Easter Sunday.

The celebration of Palm Sunday originated in the Jerusalem Church, around the late fourth century. The early Palm Sunday ceremony consisted of prayers, hymns, and sermons recited by the clergy while the people walked through the city to various holy sites, children carried palm and olive branches. They would return to the church where they would hold evening services. In the simplest of terms, Palm Sunday is an occasion for reflecting on the final week of Jesus' life. It is a time for Christians to prepare their hearts for the agony of His Passion and the joy of His Resurrection.

During his earthly ministry Jesus travelled to and from Jerusalem several times; but one trip was more special than any other trips. This was fondly referred to as “The triumphal entry” Why was it so different? What was the significance? What do Palms represent on Palm Sunday? What is the significance of Palm Sunday in modern times? In order to understand its importance and significance let’s read Zech 9:9; Mt 21:1-11.

I. BIBLICAL HISTORY: (Zech 9:9, Mt 21:1-11)

Throughout the biblical history; God’s chosen nation Israel time and again was oppressed by heathen kings and rulers. Each time they cried out for help God raised up either a righteous king, judge or a ruler to redeem his people from their bondage. The prophet Zechariah prophesied that God will not only be the king over Israel but also over the nations of the earth. We read in Zech 9:9, “Rejoice greatly O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph (victory) O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold your king is coming to you, your king He is Just and endowed with salvation, Humble and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” In a way Zechariah was prophesying about the future messiah, King Jesus.

After 500 years this prophesy was fulfilled. During that time the Roman Empire was ruling the world. The Jews were subjects of the Roman Empire. They were anxiously looking for a messiah to come and over throw the Roman power and establish his kingdom. While they waited for the messiah they made frequent visits to the temple in Jerusalem especially during the appointed festivals. This was the Passover time; Jews from all over the world came to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast. Jesus along with his disciples also went to Jerusalem.

On his way, Jesus performed many miracles including the outstanding miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead. This news must have spread like wild fire throughout the region. On the next day; John writes, “the great multitude who had come to the feast when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took the branches of the palm trees and went out to meet Him.” (John 12:12-13) Naturally; who wouldn’t want to miss seeing this great miracle worker. The crowds came to Jesus but the Pharisees came to see the crowds. They said to one another, “You see that you are not doing good; look the world has gone after Him.”(John 12:19) Did they really go after him? Or was it the simple fanfare which would soon wane and turn into hatred? Let me introduce several symbols and characters in Matthew 21:1-11: A humble donkey, Palm & Olive branches, the curious crowds, shouting children, disgruntled Pharisees, and the disbelieving disciples.


The sight of Jesus entering Jerusalem riding on a donkey was significant. Jesus couldn’t have picked any other moment to make this spectacular entry. The city of Jerusalem was bustling with crowds because of the Passover feast. As Jesus entered through the gates, the crowds went out of their way, some took off their cloaks (outer garments), and some cut Palm branches from the trees and laid them on the road. The young, the old and little children began to shout joyfully, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David. Hosanna in the Highest” What does Hosanna mean? It is a Hebrew expression meaning “Help or Save” which became an exclamation of praise. It was celebration all over.

What caused such jubilation among the crowds when they saw Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey? They were jubilant perhaps because they thought that finally the tyranny of the Roman Empire would be broken; we are free at last. So the celebrations began.

What could we make of Jesus’ entry on a donkey? Why did Jesus use a donkey instead of using a more traditional horse? What do the clothes and the Palm branches symbolize? Scholars have noted three significant points regarding the donkey:

A) The donkey was a traditional mount for kings, rulers and prophets in the ancient Near East; Jesus was therefore making an implicit claim to be the king of his people.

B) The image of a King on a donkey approaching Jerusalem was consistently understood to signify the arrival of the messianic King.

C) In the Old Testament horses were associated with war and human pride, the donkey may have presented the image of peaceful humility. By riding on a donkey Jesus was making a statement regarding the nature of his kingship and kingdom. In fact he was ushering in another kind of Kingdom where Love and Peace reigns.

What is the significance of the Palm Branches? The branches of the date palm appear in the symbolism of Greek, Roman and Jewish cultures[1] Palm branches were associated with the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles(Lev 23:40) Palms were a longstanding sign of victory in the Greek world. John 12:13, records the crowds waved palm branches and shouted “O Lord Save us.” The Palm branches not only represented their immediate victory over their enemies but also the ultimate victory over sin and death.

In Rev 7:9 we read “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. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hand. And they cried out in a loud voice “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb.” Jesus will reign as king forever and ever. The ultimate victory for God and his people is when Satan is completely banned and thrown into the fiery lake forever. We looked at two symbols the donkey and the palm branches now we will focus our attention to the curious crowds, the disgruntled Pharisees and disbelieving disciples.

III. CURIOUS CROWDS: Throughout his ministry wherever Jesus went even under normal circumstances crowds followed him. Jesus was never impressed by crowds following him because he knew their hearts so he wouldn’t entrust himself to anyone easily.

On one occasion Jesus fed over five thousand people with bread and fish. Seeing that the crowds may have thought well if Jesus is around then there will be plenty of food so they wanted to take him by force and make Him king. But Jesus had decided to shut down the “all you can eat buffet.” He was not handing out any more free samples. He said to the crowds, “I tell you the truth; you are looking for me, not because you saw the miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.”(John 6:26) Did the crowd really want to follow Jesus or did they want free food? This time was no different the crowds came not because they wanted to follow Him but they were curious to see Jesus because he had performed a sign of rising Lazarus from the dead. In the same way even today some of us only want our physical needs met; or receive a miraculous healing but can never make Him Lord of our lives. I hope you are not one of them?


While the crowds and every one else was rejoicing with Jesus’ triumphant entry the Pharisees, Sadducees and the teachers of the Law were not a happy bunch. What was their problem? When the crowds saw him as their possible Messiah how did these so called experts of the law miss the point? The gospel writers indicate a few reasons why they denied Jesus as the Messiah: “they feared Jesus because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching” (Mk 1:18), they were indignant with the shouting of “Hosanna to the Son of David” by the children in the temple courts. (Mt 21:15) They were afraid that every one will believe in Jesus and the Romans will come and take away the temple and the nation. (John 11:47) Above all, their hearts were hardened and they were blind to the truth (John 12:39). This still happens some people are satisfied with mere tradition they fail to see the need for Jesus to come into their lives as Savior. Though they may see all the evidence of Jesus being God yet refuse to accept that fact because of their pride. Let’s look at the disbelieving disciples.


During Jesus’ time unbelief was so prevalent among Jews. Let me illustrate, in John 12:37-43, “Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence they still would not believe in him.” It is understandable if the crowds had a hard time in believing because they wouldn’t know any better but how about his own disciples, who had lived with him and seen him perform many miracles, did they have a hard time to believe? You bet they did! To an extent one day Jesus rebuked them saying, “O unbelieving generation how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you.” When Christ rode on the donkey into the streets of Jerusalem many had hard time believe that Christ was indeed the messiah. The crowds, including some of his disciples have concluded that he was a prophet while the rest in Jerusalem said “who is this”?

One of the curses of modernity is affluence and pragmatism. Reason is exalted and faith in God is skeptically frowned on or outright ridiculed. Sadly many Christians even after seeing miracles of provision and healings instead of believing in Christ they would say who is this?

Palm Sunday is significant for many reasons. Firstly it points us towards the Servant King who said “I came to serve not to be served and offer my life as ransom for many.” Mk10:45. Secondly it calls us to examine where our loyalties lie and who we serve. Thirdly it gives us an opportunity to reflect on the journey of Jesus leading up to the Cross.

Which of these characters in the story you mighty identify yourself with? Are you like the crowd who were jubilant and shouted Hosanna, Hosanna but a few days latter shouted Crucify, Crucify? Or are you like the disgruntled and indignant Pharisees who had hardened their hearts and could not accept Jesus as the messiah? Or are you like the city (people) of Jerusalem who outwardly welcomed Jesus but inwardly rejected him, and did not recognize the visitation of the Lord,? Or are you like the disciples though they were with him all the time yet they did not fully believe him until he rose from the dead. (John 2:22)

What a blessed vantage point we have today, we know the rest of the story. How in complete obedience Jesus went to the cross and endured scorn and opposition from sinful men. How he was buried and rose victoriously from the dead on the third day. And yet and yet we too battle with hardened and at times unbelieving hearts. I would encourage you at the beginning of this special Passion Week to follow closely and worship the King with reverence and awe. I hope you will be here on Good Friday at noon time as we reflect together with believers from other churches on our King Jesus’ suffering, agony and death on the Cross. AMEN

[1] Archaeological Study Bible (NIV) Page 2056

Sunday, April 3, 2011


I received a disturbing e-mail from MA Catholic Conference calling on pastors and Christian parents to take action against an aggressive Sex-Education agenda aimed at Pre-kindergarten through 12th grade public school students. The proponents of LGBT rights and Planned Parenthood are heavily promoting it. Health Curriculum Framework does contain some very good educational topics but it also contains very dangerous topics which aim at indoctrinating Pre-kindergarten level children to the different sexual orientations. By the time a student reaches the junior high or high school grade levels this indoctrination will have significantly shaped the young teen's attitude towards accepting an unbiblical worldview of human sexuality. Do we really want this for our children? Will this truly benefit our nation?

When I read this e-mail I wondered how things have changed since “the prayer and mandatory Bible reading is removed from public schools in 1963. The USA that once used to be a Christian nation doesn’t look like it any more. Many are lamenting these days saying; “the moral values of the western world and here in the USA have been lost” What used to be normal is not considered normal any more. Right is considered wrong and wrong is considered right. We are indeed living in a strange and rapidly changing world. Change can be frightening.

Is change overwhelming you? How are we to understand change? What should be our response to change? How can we preserve Godly values? In a 1985 popular movie “Back to the future”, where the hero Marty McFly travels through a time machine into the future and then back into the past to avert impending disasters in the present. We don’t have a time machine to travel back into the past but we do have God’s time tested word to help us understand the past, present and the future. It also helps us not to be overwhelmed and how to stand our ground as Christians, because we belong to an unchanging God in a changing world.


When we look at nature and read history one thing becomes clear is that change is inevitable, imminent, and necessary, at times can be frightening. Life goes through lot of changes isn’t it? If change is unavoidable, necessary and happens sooner than you expect then how should we respond to change? What is the biblical basis for change?

We can attribute many factors to change. Some are very natural but others are supernatural. The world is shaken up by the recent double tragedy in one of the most developed countries in the world. The recent Tsunami graphically showed us how forceful and powerful water can be. Water a source of life, now became a force of destruction washing away entire villages, and tearing down strong buildings. We can give all kinds of scientific, geological, and astrological explanations to what caused that Tsunami, but where is God in all this? Is God involved in the affairs of the world and in the lives of individuals? Is God involved in our Church?

The scriptures tell us that God is the creator and the ruler of the universe. He is absolutely sovereign and in control of the world. Nothing happens without his knowledge. Dan 2:21 “It is He (God) who changes the times and the epochs. He removes kings and establishes kings. He gives wisdom to wise men; and knowledge to men of understanding.” God sees from the beginning to the end and He knows what he is doing in the world.

God not only changes times and the period of times but also changes lives. We see this working out in the biblical history. Acts 17:26, “He made from one every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation that they should seek God if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.” These scriptures tell me that God is involved not only in causing change but also but controlling it with the view of changing man.


The world in general and the western world in particular hold a drastically different perception of life than it did a few decades, let alone a century ago. Morris, the author of the High Impact church notes, “The predominant underlying influence of modern Western culture today is secularism, a philosophy the relegates religion and morality to the private sphere. Only facts and influences derived from the here and now are considered valid.”[1]

While on one hand secularism and skepticism seem to threaten the very core beliefs of the Christian faith, on the other hand the influx of immigrants provides an opportunity and poses a challenge to the Church in America. How are we to deal with these rising trends? How are we to be different in the way we run church and in the way we communicate the gospel in a post modern society? I realize that there are no easy answers but I do know one thing that we can not afford to run church the same old way as we have always done it. We need a fresh approach to leadership and innovative and creative ideas to do ministry.

The Church at large in the Western world has been grappling how to cope with changing trends. Many traditional churches have declined and died, others are thriving, and some are at a plateau. Church growth experts say that the longer a church is at a plateau, the more difficult it is to revitalize it. We have seen the Lord adding to our numbers and starting to revitalize us. We are at a crucial time as a church, do we rejoice with what God is doing or do we resist and remain where we are? Even the church in Jerusalem had to wrestle with this. They had seen tremendous growth initially, but along the way they got stagnated. Among other things they made two significant changes, they changed their leadership structure and they changed their target audience to include Gentiles. In the same way we too need to change the way we view leadership and the way we do ministry in order for us to continue as a vital and growing church.


I’ve been long enough in Christian ministry to observe different styles of leadership. Some were good and others were stifling. Who does the most of the work in any church? In the old model, “the pastor, his wife and one or two individuals run the whole show while the rest watch.” Let me illustrate; there are four main bones in every organization or Church. The wish-bones: Wishing somebody would do something about the problem. The jaw-bones: Doing all the talking but very little else. The knuckle-bones: Those who knock everything. The back-bones: Those who carry the brunt of the load and do most of the work in the end they are burnt out.

Is that the model that we were used to? If so, is that in need of change, if we are to see growth and manage growth in our church? Absolutely! Here is how the Jerusalem church worked out a leadership change. We read about in Acts chapter six. Peter and the apostles were involved in running the ministry as well as the logistics of the early church. Any decision was always deferred to the apostles. As the church grew so were the problems. The apostles realized that they had to make some changes in the leadership structure. They chose seven men who were full of the Holy Spirit and Wisdom and handed over the responsibility of running a huge food pantry. This illustrates that the ministry of the church doesn’t depend on one or a few but on many people as they are selected and appointed by God. Some of us tend to think that we would rather do it ourselves than to delegate responsibility to others. If that is our attitude in the long run it will not be good for and for the Church.

Throughout our ministry Wilma and I have tried to invest in people and here we are no different. We realized that it takes more than one person to build a Church. From the time I became your pastor; I tried investing in others by giving them various ministry opportunities. I let several of our church members to preach from the pulpit, and lead prayer.

Wilma has started what we call focus groups for women so that more women can be involved in ministry. We released and empowered people in their gifting for example the Alpha group or the Freed Up finances, the Worship team, Prayer team; Audio ministry; Sunday school for adults and children, Hospitality, The youth group, Men’s ministry and Hospital visitation. Why do we do that? Because we believe it is un biblical for one man or woman to do all by themselves. We need one another. How do we respond when others are given opportunities and are released in their gifting? Do we rejoice and support them to become successful in their ministry or do we sulk, resent it and try to make their job as difficult as possible? Not only we need to change how we view leadership but also need innovative approach for ministry.


Times have changed; what worked twenty years ago may not work today when it comes to reaching the post Christian society? We need new ministry models. When I see great numbers of people attending both the AA groups in our church I can’t help but wonder what is it that they are doing differently that attracts so many? Aren’t we supposed to be having the truth on our side? Isn’t Jesus sufficient for all the problems in life? Then why aren’t people running to church to listen to the life giving words of Jesus? What is hindering us from attracting non Christians to our Church? I don’t have answers to these questions. I believe this is where we need the mind of Christ to help us think outside of the box. He knows what the best way to reach people is.

Let’s not be afraid to do things we have never done before as a church. Some of us listening to this message may need to have a paradigm shift when it comes to leadership and how we do ministry. Are we willing to let go of our old ways and take risks? Or we just satisfied with status quo and stay where we are today? In closing as Willam Carey said, let’s “Expect great things from God and attempt great things for God. May the Lord help us all. Amen.

[1] Linus J. Morris, The High Impact Church page 30