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.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Luck Vs Faith: (Genesis 22:1-14)

During the recent economic downturn, a lot of folks have been cutting back on things you know, eating out less, delaying the purchase of a car, may be even trying to downsize their home, if anyone will buy it. Some people are wisely cutting back on using credit cards and are vacationing at a local park rather than heading to an exotic destination. What Americans don't seem to be cutting back on, however, is the dream of striking it rich and doing it the easy way - easy, that is, if you're lucky. Amid hard times, people are no longer going to the bank for financial advice. Instead, they're heading to the corner store to grab a bunch of lottery tickets. Some go for a weekend trip to the Casinos. A 2009 report by USA Today indicated that more than half the states with lotteries saw an increase in sales during the peek of the recession. In 2010, the total revenue from state lotteries was up by $1 billion from the previous year. On the other hand critics worry about the adverse effects of Casinos and other gambling places. Sen. James Eldridge, who opposed the recent Casino Bill in MA “said casinos will negatively affect smaller communities with higher public safety costs, environmental problems and traffic congestion. He was also worried about "families that might otherwise go to a restaurant or a museum or a show (but) will spend their discretionary money at a casino."

It seems that in desperate times, more people are indeed relying on Lady Luck to be their financial adviser. "Someday somebody is going to win, and I hope it is me," said Albert Atwood of Nashville, who spends $100 weekly playing the Pick 5 and Lotto Plus. "I imagine that I would be a heap better off if I saved this money, but everybody has dreams." Do your math if you could save $100 per week how much you would have saved by now?

Unfortunately, many these days are cashing in on the desperation of people to get rich. Indeed, some cottage industries have popped up around helping people increase their luck. Take for example, the Web site defines the term as "the ability to successfully attract good luck and turn bad luck into good luck over and over again." In a pragmatic society I wonder how many people really believe in luck? Interestingly many believe in lucky charms like “Lucky Squirrel scratcher” or the Lucky coin and try their luck out. I pity these people.

Long ago there was a distinguished couple named Abraham and Sarah; they had acquired great wealth and prestige. Though they had great wealth and had succeeded in the eyes of their contemporaries. Yet they were a desperate couple, they were childless, they dreamed of holding a son in their arms. In their desperation did they turn to lady luck or hold on to God who promised them a son? In the 21st Century honestly, can you really depend on luck to bail you out? I would like to briefly talk about luck vs faith and look at Abraham who may have been considered lucky by himself and others but in the end we will find out what made Abraham truly wealthy. First let’s talk about luck.


Luckology is really just another retread of a philosophy that's been around nearly as long as humanity. Ancient peoples assumed the world was a rather random place and that forces beyond their control gave them good or bad luck in arbitrary ways. Pantheistic religions believed the gods used fortune and misfortune to manipulate human lives; thus, it was best to please the gods who might give you fortune and avoid ticking off the ones who could give you a run of bad luck. In the Roman Pantheon, for example, a cult formed around the goddess Fortuna. Paying attention to the gods of fortune or luck, whether their altars are in a casino or at the counter of a convenience store, is what Wayne Oates calls a "secular religion."

Oates defines, luck in his book, Luck: A Secular Religion, as "confidence - that is, faith - in fate, in chance, in cleverness, in figuring out probabilities. ... All are focused upon the immediate time situation, upon the here and now. All are distinctly dependent upon human existence apart from any fellowship with or interdependence on the supernatural or the everlasting realities of life." Two weeks ago we talked about man made idols; luck is, as the old saying goes, "the idol of the idle." How can Christians be different from those who worship the idol of luck in the secular world? How did Abraham maintain his faith in a highly pluralistic World? Was Abraham lucky or was he a man of faith?


When we look at Abraham’s life one thing we can tell is that he was a very wealthy man. He was like the Bill Gates of his time. Abraham could have been one who certainly considered himself to be really lucky. He was called of God from a family who were making idols, given a unique blessing from God, that in him all the nations of the earth would be blessed.” Not only him but people around him also may have considered Abraham to be super lucky, so they said you are a “mighty prince” Or “prince of God” (Gen 23:6) Abraham’s Luckology would seem to have been working pretty well, especially given the fact that he was blessed with a child at age hundred, as Paul put it in Romans 4:19, he was “as good as dead” and his wife Sarah’s womb was dead too.” In spite of all that in the end this couple was blessed with a promised son.

Was he Lucky? We will see in the story God will teach Abraham, however that Luck had nothing to do with his prosperity or the birth of the promised son Isaac. What was behind all these blessings in Abraham’s life? We learn from the story that after some time God tested Abrham, he asked him to sacrifice his only promised son Isaac? How did that impact Abraham?


God tested Abraham and said to him, Abraham! And he said, Here I am.” And he said, “Take now your son, your only son whom you love, Isaac and go to the land of Moriah and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains which I tell you.” If God were to come to you and say, “I want you to give up your dream child, give away your dream car, or your dream job” how would you respond? Firstly, you may rebuke the devil thinking that it was not from God. Secondly, you might wonder how God could ever ask you to give up something that is very precious to you?

God’s unusual request could have shattered Abraham’s dream, but without any questions as we read in the text, “He rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him and Isaac his son; and went to the place which God told him. The story of Abraham and Isaac will always be an important one. It is similar to the love that God has shows in sacrificing His only Son for us. What made Abraham to respond in this amazing way? This story brings out two main component one is obedience, the other is faith without which God would not have blessed Abraham. Let’s look at Abraham’s unwavering faith.


Down through the centuries when it comes to faith people always refer to Abraham not because his name has the first two English alphabets but because of his unwavering faith. How did that faith work out in his life? In Hebrew 11th chapter we read the names of several heroes, in “The hall of faith” and Abraham’s name shows up in the hall of faith. What do we know about Abraham’s unwavering faith? By faith Abraham when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went even though he did not know where he was going.”(Heb 11:8).

For the modern mind this doesn’t make any sense, on the contrary this sounds rather absurd! In the narrative, on two occasions Abraham exhibited unwavering faith in God’s promise and his provision. In vs 5, “He said to his servants ‘Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there’. “We will worship and then we will come back to you.” Do you notice the word “we” twice in this verse? This tells me somehow Abraham was convinced that God would not take his only son away from him because if he did, then God would not be true to his promise. In vs 7-8, in reply to Isaac’s question, “where is the lamb?” Abraham said, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering son.” By that declaration Abraham exhibited his unwavering faith in a sovereign God who is able to provide.

Not knowing where we are going; sounds scary and irresponsible in the beginning but that is why it is called a journey of faith. The scriptures are clear that “we do not walk by sight but by faith.” God often won’t give us the entire blue print of our journey if He did then instead of following him we would follow the blue print. So in his mercy he reveals his plan bit by bit as we trust and follow him step by step. As you go forward in faith things become clearer to you.

For Wilma and I our whole life in missions and leaving India for the USA was a lot like, “not knowing where we were going.” Was it scary? Was it hard? Did we feel like quitting at times? You better believe it. When we first announced our plans saying that the Lord was leading us out of YWAM and India several tried to discourage us with questions, such as: Where will you stay in Boston? How will you take care of your family? Why are you giving up everything you’ve worked so hard for? What if you are not accepted by the seminary? What if your visas are rejected? How are you going to provide for your children’s education? And so on. Our standard answer had always been, we don’t have all the answers now but God will make it clear when the time comes.

Even today we don’t have all the answers but we have absolute confidence in God. We may not know what the future holds for us but we do know who holds our future and we trust Him. Abraham believed in the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness. It was not luck that made him the father of nations but his unwavering faith in God.

When we give our lives to Christ by faith we too become the heirs of Abraham. What can we learn from this man of faith? We can actually trust in the promises of God even in the adverse situations. We need to put our faith in the providence of God, not in luck. Faith in luck is a lonely faith, a fatalistic submission to chance. Faith in God's providence, however, is faith in a relationship with One who promises to supply what we need, when we need it, "according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19).

If luck is all about the individual pursuit of everything we think we want, then providence is about accepting the promise that God supplies everything we need - and not just for us, but for all God's people. While luck seeks to obtain, providence invites us to share. Luck buys lottery tickets. Faith is invested in a loving community. Abraham did not believe in luck, since we are the heirs of Abraham we must stop pursuing luck, instead pursue Jesus who is the author and finisher of our faith. Amen

Sunday, October 16, 2011


When we were young in years or young in faith we were able to believe almost anything we were told. Our parents, our teachers and our pastors were unimpeachable sources of truth and integrity. If any one of them said something, it must be true. For example, in Sunday school we were fascinated by the story of Jonah in the belly of a whale. No one questioned the authenticity of that story, right? But when we grew older in years and more "sophisticated" in thoughts, we learned to stop believing things simply because an authority figure told us it was true. Our own intelligence, skepticism and curiosity forced us to go out and make inquiries for ourselves. While this process results in the gradual development of a healthy, well-informed, personalized faith, for too many others, the entire concept of "believing" can eventually erode completely. Let me explain how the erosion sets in. Doubts about a real ark filled with smelly animals lead to ... Doubts about a real dry land crossing at the Red Sea, which lead to ...Doubts about the walls of Jericho falling down at the sound of trumpets, which lead to ...Doubts about God's active involvement in the life of Israel, which lead to ...Doubts about God's new covenant in the person of Jesus Christ, which lead to ...Doubts about the place of Jesus in history, which lead to ...Doubts about the relevance of the Bible itself in the microchip-paced world of the 21st century. If you continue in that before you realize you become cynical and skeptic, and may eventually give up your faith.

Paul warned the Jewish believers in Hebrews 3:12-19 about the Danger of an unbelieving heart. He reminded them of the History of their forefathers to teach them a lesson. How does this apply to us who are challenged to hold on to our faith in this highly skeptic world?


Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it, said the Great War time leader Sir, Winston Churchill. I wonder what must have inspired Churchill to say those famous words. Could it be that he must have read the passage from Hebrews 3rd chapter? In this passage we read the Apostle Paul pulling out a chapter from the History of Israel and warn his audience against the pitfalls of unbelief. In Vs 12, we read, “See to it (Take Care), brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.” Why was Paul warning them to take care? In order to find that out we must visit a bit of the history of the Israelites.

The Israelites finally set off on a Journey, to the Promised Land under the leadership of Moses. Initially things seemed to be going well for them. There was timely food and water to drink. But as the journey progressed they faced severe hardships to an extent they wondered in unbelief whether it was God who had led them out of Egypt? Their unbelieving heart began to pull them back to their old life of slavery. They thought that they were better off as slaves at least they had all kinds of good food to eat. That kind of attitude greatly displeased God.

Similarly in our journey of faith or for that matter when we decide to live for Christ initially things seem to go smoothly. When we think we are having a good time and have nothing to worry, and relax a bit, then all of a sudden without any warning trouble hits our life. The trouble could come in many forms it could be the loss of a job, financial insecurity, the diagnosis of cancer, a divorce in the family or the sudden death of a loved one or things just haven’t gone the way we thought they would. In such moments we feel like God is a million miles away from us. We begin to wonder whether “has God abandoned us”? Does he care what I am going through? Just like the Israelites we too can harden our heart in unbelief. Why is it important that we don’t harden our hearts in unbelief? According to Paul what is the real danger of unbelief?


If there is one thing that displeases God more than anything else it is unbelief. Why? Because it places God in a vulnerable, weak position and makes him a liar. The children of Israel over and over again provoked God to anger through their unbelief. What is unbelief? It is the state or quality of not believing; incredulity or skepticism especially in matters of doctrine or religious faith. Strong’s definition: lacking confidence in the performer, unfaithfulness, faithless.

In simple words, unbelief is, “doubting God’s willingness or ability to alter or change the circumstances one is in. Let’s suppose I say to you that God can provide you a Job, you can turn around and say really? That is unbelief, doubting God’s power to provide. When we do that we doubt the very words of Jesus who said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” (Mk 10: 27). God can do all things what man can not do.

Coming back to our passage Paul points out that God was angry with Israelites for forty years. What did make God so angry? In Numbers 14:11 we read the annoyance of God. “How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the miraculous signs I have performed among them? God was so annoyed with their continuous rebellion and unbelief so he declared, “as surely as I live, declares the Lord, I will do to you the very things I heard you say: In the desert your bodies will fall…Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua Son of Nun.(Numbers 14:28-30) As declared by the Lord only Joshua, Caleb and the children of the first original group that left Egypt entered the promised land and the rest perished in the desert. Paul noted in our text, “They were not able to enter because of unbelief.” (Vs 19)

Unbelief cuts us off from our relationship with God. Paul uses this analogy of cutting and grafting of the branches of a tree to explain the danger of unbelief. We learn this, again from the way God dealt with Jews. In Romans 11: 19-23, we read, “You will say then, branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” Quite right, they (Israelites) were broken off for their unbelief but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited but fear; for if God did not spare the natural branches (Israelites) neither will He spare you.

What powerful warning is in this scripture? It reminds us of the sad history of God’s chosen people. Not only the first generation that left Egypt but even until today many Jews continue to live in unbelief. On the other hand we Gentiles who were far from the promises of God have been brought near through our faith in Christ; we became the children of God and the heirs of Abraham. Therefore as the scripture warns us not to become arrogant towards those who do not believe now.

We are no different if after knowing the Word of God and seeing miracles we too move in rebellion and unbelief. The same judgment that came upon Israelites can come upon us as well. You might be wondering, is there any hope for us and for those who refuses to believe Christ as the Messiah? The good news is yes there is hope provided we continue to live by faith in Jesus Christ and not to live in our unbelief.

How could we keep our hearts from unbelief? Is it possible for individual Christians to maintain their faith all by themselves during times of adversity? Paul gives us a simple but straightforward formula to overcoming unbelief. In Vs 13 we read, “But encourage one another daily as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sins deceitfulness.” I recently watched the movie Harvest of fire in which a FBI agent comes alongside an Amish widow to find the culprit who burned her farm.

This movie graphically depicted what a loving Christian community ought to be in times of adversity. If it was not for the caring and support of the Amish community this widow wouldn’t have made it in life. The key here is encouragement in its many forms. What is encouragement? What are the effects of encouragement?


Have you ever found yourself so discouraged that you just couldn’t believe in yourself anymore? And have you ever found the lift that got you out of the pit of despair and discouragement? That lift is often the encouragement of a friend or parent who encouraged and believed in you. I got that lift from two professors in the seminary who believed in me and encouraged me when I was struggling with Hebrew and Greek, otherwise I wouldn’t have completed my studies. Let’s admit from time to time we all need a lift, so we wait for some one to come along side to encourage us and lift us out, but Paul is reminding us not to sit and wait for others to come to you but for you to take the first step to find some one that you might encourage in the process you will get the needed encouragement.

What does encouragement mean? Is it simply saying praise God, Halleliuah, all will go well with you? Or is it more than just saying words? From the Hebrew word we get the meaning of strength and support. It is a word frequently used to describe battle scenes, where often the discouraged troops receive a surge of energy by the support of additional troops. In Greek it is Parakaleo from which we get the world Parakletos (a name for the Holy Spirit) it means to come alongside or to aid someone. In both OT and NT encouragement means more than cheering people with encouraging words but it often required action or practical involvement.

What does Paul mean by “encourage one another daily? It means to look out for the practical needs of our brothers and sisters who perhaps are discouraged because of a certain difficulty. How can we encourage one another practically? There are a number of ways we can encourage one another. We must stop talking negative of each other because that can only dishearten. When we are spreading gossip or part of a juicy gossip we are not encouraging one another instead we are tearing one another apart whereby spreading dissension and division among the brethren. We can speak well of each other, go up to some one and complement their dress or how well they are looking.

Find the Sunday school teachers and appreciate them for teaching your children the ways of God. Or walk up to the worship team and tell them how blessed you were during worship. Or appreciate those who serve in the Church. Tell the pastor how God touched you by his sermon. Find someone who might be struggling financially and try to meet some of their immediate needs. These are only a few of the many ways we can encourage one another.

If only we all follow Paul’s instruction of encouraging one another we can become a loving, sharing and loving community. But when we withhold encouragement from one another then as Paul warned we might be hardened by sins deceitfulness. In Hebrew 10:25 Paul exhorts the believers to “encourage one another and all the more, as you see the day drawing near.” In closing: God is not pleased when we move in unbelief. Only by faith we can please God. Unbelief separates us from God and eventually makes us loose our God given destiny. The sure way to over come unbelief as individuals and as a community is by way of encouraging one another on a daily basis. May the Lord help us to step out and be that encouragement for some one who might need encouragement today? Amen.

Sunday, October 9, 2011


The 20th century brought us many remarkable technologies, including the automobile, the space shuttle, and, for better or worse, the Internet. But there were other inventions that were just plain stupid. Maybe that's unkind. Let's just say that they seemed like a good idea at the time. Consider, for example, in 1953, the Curved Barrel Machine Gun was introduced with a bang. This was an M3 sub machine gun with a curved barrel for shooting around corners. It's the perfect weapon if you're into blasting away without looking at what -- or whom -- you might hit. And then there are the Illuminated Tires, introduced by Goodyear for automobiles in 1961. They were made from a single piece of synthetic rubber and were brightly lit by bulbs mounted inside the wheel rim. They're just what you need if you prefer to study your road map while kneeling on the ground outside of your car at night.

James Bonsack invented the cigarette-making machine in 1881 that cigarette smoking became widespread. Since then cigarettes seem to have inspired several inventions. In 1955, someone came up with a holder that allows you to smoke an entire pack of cigarettes all at once. That same year, someone else designed a two-person holder so that you and your sweetie could both smoke the same cigarette. The year previously, Robert L. Stern, president of Zeus Corp., invented what he called the Rainy Day Cigarette Holder. It had an arm that suspended a tiny umbrella over the lit end of the cigarette to keep the raindrops from putting it out. Of course, now we know that cigarettes themselves were a bad invention. Speaking of things that seemed like good ideas at the time, what about the golden calf? Was it a bad invention or a good invention? In order to find out the answer let’s read (Exodus 32:1-14)


God had commissioned Moses to lead the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt. God's presence with them was amply confirmed by a pillar of cloud that led them by day and a pillar of fire that led them by night. But did the Israelites think that was enough? No. The first time Moses was out of the camp for several days to meet with God on a mountain, the people turned to Moses' brother Aaron and said, "Come make gods for us." The Hebrew word for the deity can be translated either "god" or "gods," depending on the context, and some translations render it singular and others plural. But the word that should have caught our attention here is one about which there's no question: “make.”

That tells us that the Israelites were looking for an invented god. What even more puzzling was that their leader Aaron didn’t rebuke them for their outlandish idea instead he gave into their unreasonable request. Talk about dumb inventions. Isn’t one of leadership’s responsibilities to point people in the right direction when they are going astray? All it takes one leader either to lead people in the right or wrong direction. Aaron gave into the pressure, asked them to bring him the golden ornaments, and then fashioned them into the shape of a calf. Then the people said, “These are your gods, O Israel who brought you up out of Egypt?

What a sad day it was, the day when people turned their backs on God who brought them out of Egypt? How could they even think of making a god for themselves, haven’t they seen many mighty wonders of the Living God.? How could they be so stupid and ungrateful? Are we being too harsh on the Israelites? Alan Kimber, Senior Minister at the United Methodist Church in Lodi, California, says that we should not fail "to take into account their need to fit into a new culture outside that of Egyptian slavery. Moreover, they are a people who are trying to discover who they are now that they are no longer slaves. At the turn of the last century in the United States with the influx of thousands of immigrants from many parts of Europe, the immigrants, to assimilate and adapt, focused on learning English and playing baseball. The need to belong is the mother of invention." Admittedly, we all have an inbuilt need to belong. What have we invented lately to meet that need to belong?


The first of the Ten Commandments reads, “I am the LORD your God who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other. You shall not make for yourself and idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them.” (Exodus 20:1)

Emphatically, God wanted the Israelites to know that it was He who had delivered them from their slavery and no other god. Therefore He wanted them to worship him alone. If we violate this commandment it doesn’t take long before we violate the rest of the commandments. Israelites wanted to invent a man made god. The invention of the Golden calf seemed like a good idea then but little did they realize that their very own invention caused God to become furiously angry with them. To an extent he wanted to wipe them from the face of the earth. This innocent invention however became a nightmare and haunted them throughout their lives.

Similarly, what have we invented that replaces God from the center of our lives? What are our modern day “golden calves” We may not have graven images in our homes however, We are burdened by household gods, no longer made of clay, but all promising to fulfill us. Our computer, our television, I-phone, our job, our wealth, our social status, along with the brands we wear and the cars we drive, the sports we play promise us contentment in the form of identity.

We worship these golden calves and we bow down to them. However innocent these household gods may look initially, in the end they make us forget the true and living God who has set us free from sin and saved us from eternal damnation.


The Israelites may have forgotten who God is but God has not forgotten who his people were. He told Moses to head down from the mountain to deal with it. The language God uses suggests that God is disowning his chosen ones, for he says to Moses, "Your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an Idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, “these are your gods O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” And God then says his wrath is so hot that he is going to "consume them" and start over, making a new nation from Moses' line (v.10).

The idea of making a new nation from his family line may have sounded tempting to Moses. But in the end Moses was more concerned about the name of God than making a name for himself. So he sought the favor of God by reminding him of the implications of his decision of destroying his people. Moses literally stood in the Gap between a corrupt generation and a righteous God who was bent on destroying them.

That is the position of an intercessor who is not concerned over his own reputation. If it was not for the intercession of my grand mother I wouldn’t be here today. Thank God for many intercessors who are faithfully standing in the gap for our nation so that the wrath of God might be turned away from us otherwise we would have been consumed long ago for turning our backs on God and crafting our own golden calves.

Have we forgotten who God is? After experiencing his power of deliverance have we quickly turned away from knowing and worshipping the true and living God? Are we turning to our golden calves to satisfy our needs or are we pressing on to know God is?


Well, how does that exchange between Moses and God help us in our quest to know God? On one level, it seems to present God as one who is as anger-driven and as changeable as we are. Perhaps what we are reading is simply how Moses characterized his meeting with God. But whatever the case, Moses is one who met with God on a level that few others have ever done, and what he recounts is that God, whose first inclination was to punish, ends up not sending his wrath down on Israel. Here we see God's grace got the best of God's justifiable anger. We are no different than the Israelites; we too are just as stiff necked and become corrupt just as they were. If it was not for the grace of God we all would have been consumed by now.


Grace is rightly defined as unmerited favor. It is the startling act of God working on behalf of the very ones who have violated his covenant and substituted gods of their own making for him. Grace can be understood by contrasting it to mercy, which is another divine attribute. Mercy is God's withholding punishment we deserve; grace is God's giving us blessings we don't deserve. In spite of all the modern day idols we have made for ourselves God continues to be patient and gracious towards us. When we have failed to live up to our promises to him, God still lives up to his promises to us. Yes, there's judgment. Yes, there's accountability. But there's also grace, however let’s not take his grace for granted. What are the golden calves you need to destroy today so that you might experience the full measure of Gods grace? Amen