Sunday, September 23, 2012

THE KINGDOM SERIES - I


THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD

In an earlier century, there lay a large boulder in the middle of the roadway. Traveler after traveler walked past the boulder, veering off the side of the road to get around it. All the while, they were shaking their head and muttering, "Can you believe that? Someone should get that big thing out of the way. What an inconvenience! "Finally, a man came along and, seeing the boulder, took a branch from a tree and pried the boulder enough to get it rolling and rolled it off to the side of the road.

Lying underneath the rock, he found a small bag with a note. The man picked up the note and read it. It read as follows: "Thank you for being a true servant of the kingdom. Many have passed this way and complained because of the state of the problem and spoken of what ought to be done. But you have taken the responsibility upon yourself to serve the kingdom instead. You are the type of citizen we need more of in this kingdom. Please accept this bag of gold that traveler after traveler have walked by simply because they didn’t care enough about the kingdom to serve."[1]

I wonder what "bags of gold" we’re missing each day, simply because we don’t bother to get involved in serving our heavenly kingdom. When I gave my life to Jesus in the 80’s I realized that I belonged to the Kingdom of God. In those days it was a major theme in the Christian world. But unfortunately in the 21st century many Christians don’t even know there is something called the Kingdom of God, let alone getting involved in Kingdom service.  For the next few weeks we will look into this all too important, yet largely over looked subject the Kingdom of God. Today we are going to learn about why a Christian should know about the Kingdom of God and how this would impact their day to day living.

When I talk about the Kingdom of God I am not talking the movie called “the Kingdom of Heaven” produced in 2005 but I am talking about the Kingdom of God found in all four gospels and in the Apostle Paul’s letters. It is a foundational concept in the Abrahamic religionsJudaismChristianity and Islam. What is the significance of the kingdom of God? Five reasons, why the Kingdom of God is significant?

I.                   OT PROHETS PROPHESIED ABOUT THE KINGDOM OF GOD
Kings and Kingdoms were well known to the Old Testament people. When God called Abraham from among the heathen nations his intention was to form a Kingdom for Himself through the offspring of Abraham. Rightly, so Abraham was called, “A mighty prince” literally meaning “prince of God.”(Gen 23:6) We know the rest of the story, Abraham had two sons namely Ishmael and Isaac. Ishmael became the father of 12 princes but the covenant of God was established through Isaac. Later on Isaac became the father of Jacob out of whom came the twelve tribes of Israel. At one point Israel was one huge united Kingdom.
The greatest king who ever lived in Israel was King David. Several OT prophets predicted that one day God will establish His Kingdom on earth through the offspring of David. In 722 B.C the prophet Isaiah prophesied, Isaiah 9:6-7, “For a child has born for us the gift of a son for us! He’ll take over the running of the world. His names will be: Amazing Counselor, Strong God, Eternal Father, Prince of Wholeness. His ruling authority will grow, and there’ll be no limits to the wholeness he brings. He’ll rule from historic David throne over that promised kingdom. He’ll put that kingdom on a firm footing and keep it going, with fair dealing and right living beginning now and lasting always. (The Message).

This scripture is predicting that one day all nations, including the sovereign and the so called rouge nations, as a matter of fact, the whole earth will come under the rule of Christ. The second reason of significance is Jesus’ birth.

II.                JESUS USHERED IN THE KINGDOM OF GOD

Hundreds of years later after Isaiah’s first prophecy we began to see its fulfillment. Do you recall the Carols we sing during Christmas season, what are they all about? They were the announcements of the angles about the birth of the Savior of the world. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.” Luke (2:9-12 The Message).We know that the baby was not an ordinary baby.

The wise men from the east came to worship him. This is what they said to the King Herod, “Where can we find and pay homage to the newborn King of the Jews? We observed a star in the eastern sky that signaled his birth. We’re on pilgrimage to worship him.” (Mat 2:2). Think of the gifts they presented to the baby Jesus. They were not toys or kids cloths but of great value and significance. One of them was gold; again gold represents the royalty and the kingship of Jesus.
III. IT WAS THE MISSION OF JESUS
The little boy Jesus matured, growing up in both body and spirit; blessed by both God and people. At age 30 he was baptized by his cousin John. Immediately after that he was led by the Spirit to be tempted in the wilderness for 40 days. After victoriously overcoming Satan’s temptation at age 30 Jesus preached his first message saying, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near.” (Matt 4:17)

Throughout his life time on numerous occasions Jesus preached to the crowds and taught his disciples about the kingdom of God which were recorded by all four gospel writers. The phrase, “the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven occurs over 26 times in the gospels. Not only during his life time; even after he rose from the dead Jesus spent over a period of 40 days before he ascended to heaven teaching the principles of the kingdom of God to his disciples.(Acts 1:3) If the kingdom of God placed such high priority for Jesus don’t you think it should also be our number one priority? Why else is the kingdom of God significant?

IV.              SEEKING THE KINDOM OF GOD RELEASES BLESSINGS
When we talk about the kingdom of God we have a notion to anticipate a futuristic kingdom that one day will be established at the culmination of the world. Yes that will happen sooner than. we expect; but do we only have wait until such time? No! we can experience all the blessings of the kingdom of God right here while we are still alive. Matthew 6:33 tells us “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” This is one of the most misquoted scriptures in the Bible.

I heard preachers used this scripture and mislead many people. They would say if you seek God’s kingdom first God will give you whatever you want. That is not simply true. The text is simply promising food, clothing and water to those who seek God’s kingdom first. In other words your basic needs will be taken care and anything else is a bonus from God.

Elsewhere Jesus answered Peter who was concerned about what he was going to get since he had left everything to follow Christ. “Jesus replied, Yes, you have followed me. In the recreation of the world, when the Son of Man will rule gloriously, you who have followed me will also rule, starting with the twelve tribes of Israel. And not only you, but all who sacrifices home, family, fields- whatever- because of me will get it all back a hundred times over, not mention the considerable bonus of eternal life.”(Mat 19:28-29)

These scriptures tell us that seeking the kingdom of God first yields heavenly rewards as well as earthly blessings. It doesn’t mean you become super rich as many wealth and health gospel preachers suggest. I know many who are sincere kingdom seekers are poor by earthly standards but they are super rich in faith, relationships, generosity, in helping others and loving and serving the unlovable and marginalized. What does it mean to seek God’s kingdom and his righteousness first? It means keeping God’s priorities first in our lives. It means living out the kingdom principles found in scriptures to the best of our ability. It means making a commitment to live lives that are pleasing to God. It means fearing God and voiding evil.

I can share many examples of God’s blessings both spiritual and material over my three decades of seeking God’s kingdom. I have seen both abundant provision and need and lack. When it comes to providing for his children God seems to have a sense of humor. At times He can overwhelm you with unexpected ways and undeserved blessings. He can throw in your lap a free trip to the Disneyland or a vacation on Cape Cod, a free car, a free Air Ticket a overseas trip, a new house, or a job. God knows how to take good care of the citizens of his Kingdom

For me the last and perhaps the most exiting reason of significance of the kingdom of God is that it is our heavenly destination. If you are a follower of Christ, that’s where you are going to live forever.
V.  KINGDOM OF GOD IS OUR HEAVENLY DESTINATION
Sadly, many people today are busy in pursuing earthly happiness thinking that here on earth they are going to live forever. The truth of the matter is that we are not permanent residence here on earth. They have no clue about the wonderful life that is yet to come.
           
Let me Illustrate, “The man who is about to sail for Australia or New Zealand as a settler, is naturally anxious to know something about his future home, its climate, its employments, its inhabitants, its ways, its customs. All these are subjects of deep interest to him. You are leaving the land your nativity; you are going to spend the rest of your life in a new hemisphere. It would be strange indeed if you did not desire information about new abode.
Now surely, if we hope to dwell for ever in that “better country, even a heavenly one,” we ought to seek all the knowledge we can get about it. Before we go to our eternal home we should try to become acquainted with it.” These are the words of J.C. Ryle in his book on Heaven.[2]

This explains the significance of knowing about the kingdom of God. Jesus before he was taken up to heaven said to his disciples, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you; I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:1-3)

Jesus is taking over two thousand years to prepare a place for you in heaven. There is place for every body, but does that mean everyone will automatically get there? No! Only those who believes in the one who said I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.(John 14:6) If you don’t know the way to your heavenly destination; you can find it today by accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior by repenting of your sins, then by faith you too will become a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven. Amen

Sunday, September 16, 2012

DOING IT THE RIGHT WAY!





When genuine Church going Christians hear a compelling presentation on the need to evangelize the world they come under conviction and undue guilt. Is it because they don’t want to share their faith with others? Not necessarily! It is often they don’t know what to share, some though they know what to share they don’t know how to do it the right way. Have you ever struggled with how to share your faith with your friend, family member or a colleague at work? If you did, you are not alone I too have struggled before and at times I still struggle when it comes to sharing my faith with others in a culture that is far removed from any normal human interactions or connections.

For tech savvy people one ministry has introduced a cool app called “Shareyourfaithapp” which is supposed to help share your faith with your friends or colleagues who might be open. It does look like a helpful tool. There is no scarcity of resources such as TV, radio, internet, movies to spread the good news, and we spend millions of dollars on local and foreign missions yet why aren’t we seeing people getting saved in great numbers?

Have you wondered about what is the proven of sharing the Gospel?  In the midst of many methods what is the right way to do the gospel? If you ask any Church growth expert they would tell you that most effective way to preach the gospel is person to person. The statistics tell us that most people in the world came to faith in Christ because some one took time and either invited them to a church or told them about Jesus. This form of sharing the faith is called “Personal Evangelism” Life Way Research did a study and asked how many times they have personally invited an un-churched person to attend a church service or some other program at your Church this his how people have responded:
§                       48% of church attendees responded, “Zero.”
§                       33% percent of people say they’ve personally invited someone one or two times.
§                       19% say they’ve done so on three or more occasions in the last six months.[1]

Even if personal invitations are the most effective form of increasing visitors to a church nearly half of the people surveyed never invited an un-churched person. The scriptures tell us that our Lord often reached out to the individuals and they in turn went out and reached others. One such example is found in John 4:1-42. I would like to share three key principles on how to share our faith and do it the right way.

I. CONNECT WITH PEOPLE (John 4:1-4)

We are living in a socially disconnected world. In spite of all the sophistication and development many are living in isolation.  People are looking for someone to talk to or connect with, yet they are afraid of making those connections partly because of the fear of rejection and insecurity. In the story we see how Jesus connected with a woman who was living in isolation and rejection from the society. In Vs 4-5 we read, “Now he had to go through Samria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph.”
Why did Jesus have to go through Samaria? Technically, it was not a necessity at all, and culturally, it was not customary to do so. If you will look at a map, you will see that Samaria lies between Galilee on the north and Judea to the south. The shortest distance between points is obviously a straight line, which would mean passing through Samaria to get from Judea to Galilee. But because of the animosity between the Samaritans and Jews, scrupulous Jews chose to avoid passing through Samaria by traveling around it to the east.” Jesus chose a path that was avoided by many for convenient reasons because he wanted to teach his Jewish disciples, an important lesson that God loves all people and He doesn’t want any one of them to perish.

Jesus overcame several barriers in order to connect with the Samaritan woman. What barriers do you need to overcome so that you can connect with your neighbors, friends, collogues and family members? Unless we tell people the good news how will they ever come to know the love of Christ? Therefore, let’s make every effort to connect with people.  After connecting with people how do we proceed further with them in sharing the gospel? The natural way to build bridges is by establishing a common interest.

II. EASTABLISHING A COMMON INTEREST (John 4:7-9)
In the story we read, Jesus being tired of his journey comes to Jacob’s well and sat by it. It was about noon time. His disciples were out to buy food. A Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “will you give me a drink?” that one question opened up a whole range of conversation. The woman came to draw water and Jesus was thirsty he needed water to satisfy his thirst. They both found a common interest to talk about and that was water.

Similarly when you meet strangers look for a common interest and see how that will develop into a conversation. Recently I met a Cambodian translator in a court room where I went to translate for a client. We talked a bit about translation and about our professions and our beliefs. He was a Buddhist. After explaining my understanding of Buddhism and asked him certain questions pertaining to Buddhism, he sheepishly admitted that he doesn’t know much about his own religion. Then I asked him whether he had ever been to a Church; he said he went to a Catholic church; then he asked me to explain him the concept of “Trinity” that led me to talk freely about God; Jesus and the Holy Spirit. At the end of the conversation he said; “No one ever explained to me the way you have explained; it makes a lot of sense.” Now this man may not have become the follower of Christ after our conversation but he heard the clear gospel.

In the story we see how cleverly Jesus led the conversation from merely talking about physical water to living water. He made his presentation not only relevant but also appealing to the woman. He didn’t reveal who he was but let her know that he could give her the living water. The woman must have thought it was a cool thing to drink the “living water.” Not only that she must have surprised by the offer, that Jesus could actually give her the living water.” In her life she was approached by many men and they all wanted to get something from her but here this man; Jesus was different instead of getting he wanted to give her something of eternal value.

What we can learn from this conversation is that; we need to make our gospel presentation exciting and relevant to people that we are meeting with. Don’t give the whole truth all at once instead lead them step by step.
We need to let people talk, ask questions, give answers to their questions and you ask questions to slowly turn their focus from the mundane things to the things that really matter. After establishing the common interest what comes next?

III. DON’T CONVICT PEOPLE (Vs 15-18)
In our presentation of the gospel let’s be careful on one thing that we are not too quick to convict people. Jesus never said that we must go and convict people instead he said go and preach the gospel. Our job is simply to present the truth and leave people to make up their mind whether to believe or not to believe. Conviction of a sinner is the work of God precisely is the work of the Holy Spirit. In John 16:8, “When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment.” So let’s do what we are called to do and let the Holy Spirit do what He only can do.

I met several Christians in their zealousness to preach the gospel they adopt unwise methods and crude approaches as a result they further alienate people from God than drawing them closer to Him. They bash people with a gospel of truth than a gospel of grace and love.

I was at a train platform with my wife going to the Hay market; all of a sudden we heard a thundering voice of a street evangelist with a card board sign hanging around his neck warning people that they would go to hell if they didn’t believe in Christ. Though I admired his courage at the same time felt a bit ashamed hearing the sarcastic comments of the fellow travelers. Latter on we saw him again in the market; same approach, shouting at every body saying, “If you don’t believe in Christ you will go to hell.” I went up to him to appreciate him for what he was doing; I got my share of bashing from him. When he heard that I was a minister he turned at me and preached a sermon on why I should not ware shorts and how those who are frivolous will go to hell.
These zealots, unwise self proclaimed evangelists do more harm than good to Christianity. They preach a message of fear and hate. No doubt they are presenting the facts but they fail to extend grace and mercy. A friend of mine tells me that; “Christianity is a good religion but gets a bad press because of the way Christians package it and promote it.” Jesus Christ was always kind, considerate, gentle and gracious with sinners but took a whip at the Pharisees and the Hypocrites. Jesus was full of grace and truth.

In the story Jesus was more gracious to the Samaritan woman than the Pharisees, scribes and the fellow town people. He never once rebuked her she was doing; as we know she was a commercial sex worker instead made her realize what she was doing was wrong by using her own words to convict her. In the end she realized that Jesus was just more than a mere man but was a prophet.  After a bit of theological discussion Jesus revealed that he was the Messiah. Upon that revelation the woman ran into town and said to the people, “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did, Could this be the Christ. The whole town came; and urged Jesus to stay two more days. Now Jesus got an opportunity to preach to the whole Samaritan village.

At the end of the day many had believed in Jesus and said, “We know that this man really is the Savior of the world.” What powerful principles we learn in this story. First God wants us to leave our comfort zone and connect with people because they matter to him.
Secondly, the best way to lead people to believe in truth is by establishing a common interest. Thirdly, we are called to convey the facts of the gospel through love and grace and the Holy Spirit will do the job of conviction. May the Lord help all of us to be a power witnesses in His hand that we might preach a gospel of grace, love and of hope. Amen











Monday, September 10, 2012

THE POWER OF PRAYER




A clergyman from New York, during a call on President Lincoln at the White House, said: "I have not come to ask any favors of you, Mr. President; I have only come to say that the loyal people of the North are sustaining you and will continue to do so. We are giving you all that we have, the lives of our sons as well as our confidence and our prayers. You must know that no boy’s father or mother ever kneels in prayer these days without asking God to give you strength and wisdom."

His eyes brimming with tears, Mr. Lincoln replied: "But for those prayers, I should have faltered and perhaps failed long ago. Tell every father and mother you know to keep on praying, and I will keep on fighting, for I know God is on our side."

As the clergyman started to leave the room, Mr. Lincoln held him by the hands and said: "I suppose I may consider this as sort of a pastoral call?" "Yes," replied the clergyman.
"Out in our country," replied Lincoln, "when a minister makes a pastoral call, it was always the custom for the folks to ask him to lead in prayer, and I should like to ask you to pray with me today. Pray that I may have the strength and the wisdom." The two men knelt side by side, and the clergyman offered the most fervent plea to Almighty God that ever fell from his lips. As they arose, the President clasped his visitor’s hand and remarked in a satisfied sort of way: "I feel better."[1]
I don’t know how many times “I felt better” in my life after getting up either from a personal or corporate prayer time! There is something powerful that happens whenever we come into the closet of prayer, and get hold of the almighty God. Let me talk about the power of prayer.

In the 21st century we are confronted with skepticism and godlessness as it was predicted in 2 Tim 3: 1-4, “There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves…treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure than lovers of God.  While skeptics deliberately deny the very existence of God some politicians deliberate on whether or not to include the words “God and Jerusalem” in their political agenda. The truth of the matter is that can we really exist by excluding God from our day to day life? That’s what Abraham Lincoln realized many years ago and he aptly sought God’s intervention in his life and in his presidency.

Where are the politicians who actively seek God to fix the enormous problems our country is facing today? Where are the moms and dads who are not only crying out to God for their own children’s salvation but that of the emerging generation? Would God only act on behalf of a few people? Or all people? God is ready to intervene in any situation and on any ones behalf as long as they acknowledge Him to be powerful and seek his favor.

What does the word prayer actually mean? Biblical writers used several verbs for prayer throughout the New Testament. One is Aiteo which means "to want something, to ask." It means the seeking by the inferior from the superior, by a beggar from a giver, by the child from the parent.
Within that context Jesus uttered these words to his disciples. “On that day you will ask in my name.... (John 16:26). In Matt 7:7-8 "Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”

An even stronger verb is “erotao”, which means to ask or beg. This word was used by the Greek visitors who told Philip, “‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus' " (John 12:21). In other words “Sir we beg you please show us Jesus.” Paul used the same word when he prayed about his own thorn in the flesh. "Three times I appealed (begged) to the Lord about this..." (2Corinthians 12:8).

Another moving verb for prayer is the Greek word “krazo” literally means "to cry" and conveys the idea of crying for help. The Apostle Paul uses this word" And by him we cry 'Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s Children.” (Romans 8:15, 16). Let this truth deeply sink into you. You are the son and the daughter of the most powerful God in the universe for whom absolutely nothing is impossible. What confidence that should give us; to come boldly into the presence of our loving heavenly Father and tell him all our desires and difficulties; struggles and challenges, fears and failures. As a popular song suggests, “give them all to Jesus. Shattered dreams wounded hearts broken toys. Give them all, give them all give them all to Jesus. And He will turn your sorrow into joy.

Let me share two biblical and one real life story where God’s children implored the father in prayer and have seen the power of God at work in their lives.
I.                   WHEN SURROUNDED BY TROUBLE PRAY TO GOD.( 2 Kings 6:8-23)
The story of Elisha and his servant Gehazi is a fascinating story. It is a war time story packed with action and excitement. King Aram was at war with Israel. All his secret plans were being revealed to the king of Israel by the Prophet Elisha which annoyed the Arameans to no end. The king sent an entire army to capture this single prophet of God. A strong army with horses and chariots came and surrounded the city where Elisha was residing at night.

The next day when the servant got up he had the shock of his life seeing this vast army. So he ran to the prophet saying “Alas! My master! What shall we do? He said, “Don’t worry about it” there are more on our side than on their side.” Elisha knew that there was greater strength in the unseen reality of the hosts of heaven than in the visible reality of the Aramean forces. Then Elisha prayed, Vs 16 “O God, open his eyes and let him see. The eyes of the young man were opened and he saw. A Wonder!

The whole mountain side was full of horses and chariots of fire surrounding Elisha.” (The Message Bible) In other words God opened the eyes of his servant to see the protecting power of the heavenly hosts gathered around Elisha. Little boys, even grown up men would get a kick out of the idea of flames pouring out of the chariots and huge horses snorting and rearing to go. They would perhaps also enjoy the way how Elisha tricked the enemy by asking God to strike them with blindness. But what is more fascinating for me here is to see the absolute trust and faith Elisha had in the incredible power of God. He expected God to do great things. He expected those great accomplishments to bring glory to the Lord almighty.

Have we perhaps forgotten the mighty power of the one we serve? Have we become timid about asking God anything out of the ordinary? Let me share a true story of a little boy who trusted God to do the impossible.  This little boy was suffering from leukemia. His parents lived in the outback of Australia and he had never seen snow. They planned a holiday with another family near one of the few mountains that ever received snow. They were all in a cabin on the mountain. They were really disappointed to arrive without any snow in sight. Just before bed time the little boy ran out with his toy dump truck and said to his mother, “I am going to leave this outside tonight as I have asked God to fill it with snow for tomorrow morning”

All the adults were filled with dismay and we were trying to think of some way to prepare him for disappointment in the morning. Probably God smiled at their lack of trust in him because the next morning our little friend ran straight to the back door and returned with his truck filled with snow. He was not surprised at all and the adults had tears in their eyes and marveled at the mighty power of God.”[2]  In Job 38: 22 we read, “God stores snow and hail in storehouses.”

II.WHEN PERSECUTED FOR YOUR FAITH PRAY TO GOD. (Acts 12:1-17)
Another story of a congregation earnestly rallied together in prayer for the release of their leader from a prison. This happened in the early church in the first century. The gospel was spreading like wildfire in the region of Judea.  King Herod arrested some who belonged to the Church including the main leader Peter. Peter was kept in prison until Passover. He was chained to two soldiers and there was heavy security all around the prison.

What was the congregation doing? They were praying earnestly for the release of Peter. The scriptures tell us, that night, suddenly and angel of the Lord appeared and the cell was filled with bright light. Peter’s chains fell of. The angel lead Peter out of the prison passing through the first and second guards and when they came to the iron gate leading to the city, it opened for them by itself. When this was all happening Peter thought he was perhaps watching a vision, but when the reality struck him he realized that God had sent an angel and set him free from his imprisonment.

What a powerful story? This encourages us when persecuted and put in prison for our faith we must not panic and loose hope instead pray to God who is powerful to deliver us. This reminds us to intensify our prayers for the release of the Iranian Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani; who has been in prison in Iran for the past three years for the sake of His faith. God not only sets the real prisoners free from jail but he also sets captives free, those who are bound by Satan through sin. Satan imprisons those who knowingly and unknowingly follow him. However the scriptures tell us that Christ came to set us free. If indeed the Son sets you free you are free indeed.

Here is another 21st, century story where a whole Church has earnestly prayed for their pastor’s daughter’s chains to be broken and for her home coming. This was the story of the daughter of a Pastor of a mega church in New York. John Cymbala says, “Our oldest daughter, Chrissy, had been a model child growing up. But around age sixteen she started to stray.

Chrissy not only drew away from us but from God and eventually left our home.” While all that was going on Pastor Cymballa kept preaching, leading the church but was agonizing before God for their daughter to come back home.
In one of the Tuesday prayer meetings the whole congregation rallied around the pastor and the family and earnestly began to cry to the Lord for Chrissy’s home coming. Thirty two hours later on a Thursday morning, while the pastor was shaving; his wife told him to go down Chrissy was waiting to see him. He wiped off the shaving foam and headed down the stairs. In his own words, “My heart was pounding. As I came around the corner, I saw my daughter on the kitchen floor, rocking on her hands and knees, sobbing. Cautiously I spoke her name: Chrissy? She grabbed my pant leg and began pouring out her anguish.  Daddy, Daddy I’ve sinned against God. I’ve sinned against myself. I’ve sinned against you and Mommy please forgive me…Then she said, Daddy who was praying for me on Tuesday night…she continued, “in the middle of the night, God woke me and showed me I was heading toward this abyss. There was no bottom to it- it scared me to death. I was so frightened. I realized how hard I’ve been, how wrong, how rebellious. She asked again.. Daddy who was praying for me on Tuesday Night? We know the answer! [3] The Church has prevailed in prayer.

The two biblical stories and the story of Chrissy are real stories that demonstrate the power of prayer. What trouble are you facing today? Fear not! Cry out to the Lord! He wants you to call on Him. “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you and you will Honor me. Psalm 50: 15.  Therefore let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Heb 4:16)Amen.



[1] (From a sermon by George Bannister, Praying For America, 7/1/2010)

[3] Jim Cymbala, “Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, pages 59-66

Sunday, September 2, 2012

AIMING FOR EXCELLENCE




It is the time of year again; kids and their parents are gearing up for yet another hectic school year with mixed emotions. Parents may be relieved that summer vacation has finally ended so that they can get their kids out of their hair where as some kids may be dreading to go back to school. While some kids are eager to get on with further education and can hardly wait again to get back onto the “honor’s list,” some might carry a “who cares” kind of an attitude and yet others might be quitting in their hearts before they even began, thinking what is the point in all of this hard work; why should I study in the first place?

Does it really matter whether you study or not and get a good education? Well if you ask any sensible person they would tell you the benefits of getting a degree and the draw backs of not getting one. From my personal experience I can tell you that getting a higher education will be beneficial in the long run. Not only will you get a better paying job but also if you are a committed Christian God can place you in a place of greater influence.

Does God care about education?  What does the Bible say about learning? Does God expect excellence from his children? What examples of excellence do we find in the Bible? How about those who are not highly educated can they be still used by God? To begin with let’s look at the word “excellence.” It means the fact or state of excelling, superiority, eminence, to surpass others, to be superior in some area or other, and to do something extremely well. For example, Michelangelo the Italian Renaissance sculptor, painter, architect, who exerted an unparalleled influence on the development of Western art. He was considered the greatest living artist in his lifetime, and ever since then he has been held to be one of the greatest artists of all time.[1] His work can not be compared with any others.

But there is some one who is Par excellence! which means “beyond comparison” that is God Himself who challenges us with these words, “To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal? says the Holy One. (Isaiah 40:25) Our God is beyond all comparison and comprehension, since we belong to Him he expects his children to aim for excellence. Let me share three biblical stories of those who aimed for excellence.

The first story is about Moses. What comes to your mind when you think of Moses? Do you see him as an old man who was reluctant to obey God’s orders and gave lame excuses saying, “I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servenat? I am slow of speech and tongue.”(Ex 4:10) But was he really dumb? No! He was anything but dumb, the scriptures tell us from his birth onwards he was an extraordinary person.

In Acts 7:22, we read, “Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action.” I am sure all that education later on helped him to lead nearly half a million people from a land of slavery to a land flowing with milk and honey. How about Joseph a young Hebrew slave who excelled in his character more than his brothers, rose in ranks of responsibility both in a palace and a prison and eventually became one of the top most officials of Egypt.
Then there was King Solomon who asked for wisdom more than earthly riches. He was one of the wisest kings that ever lived in Israel. He was a scholar, biologist, zoologist, poet and a philosopher. He spoke 3,000 proverbs and wrote1005 songs. In 2 Chro 9:22-23 we read, “King Solomon was greater in riches and wisdom than all the other kings of the earth. All the kings of the earth sought audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom God had put in his heart.”

In the book of Proverbs Solomon gives sound advice on learning. Listen to his advice. “I give you sound learning, so do not forsake my teaching when I was a boy in my father’s house still tender, and an only child of my mother, he taught me and said, Lay hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands and you will live. Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or swerve from them. Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. Wisdom is supreme therefore get wisdom.”(Prov 4: 2-5)

The interesting insight here is that learning flows from connectedness. God has designed for some of the most significant learning to take place in the earliest years of a child.  The time you spend playing, talking, walking, feeding or reading with your child is not wasted.  It is an opportunity to teach and build a love of learning in your child.   We have entered a new era of high definition digital world; though there are many benefits to this, as Christian parents we also have to be aware of the hidden dangers in these developments. As parents we don’t want to be so virtually engrossed that we neglect the emotional need for real life connectedness in our children.  Also we want to be wise as parents to set boundaries for the amount of screen time or texting time we allow our children to engage in. 

The third story is about four Hebrew boys who excelled beyond their contemporaries in a God forsaken country. I am talking about Daniel and three of his friends. This story is found in Daniel chapter one. The king of Babylon invaded Judah and took some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility, young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed(educated), quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. They were to learn the language and literature of the Babylonians and to be trained for three years. In other words they were to go to school in Babylon.

That was not a problem for them any way because they were smart and have the aptitude to learn, but the real problem was the food, they were required to eat the meat that was not fit according to their ceremonial laws. What did they do? Did they simply comply? No! Daniel, perhaps the wisest and the oldest of the four resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine. God rewarded that resolve by granting him favor with the chief official. Upon Daniel’s request they were only given vegetables and water to drink for ten days. When the time came for the official to test them; all the four young men looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. It is interesting to note that, “to these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.”(vs 17)

Now it was graduation time; what do you think? Did Daniel and his friends graduate after those three years of intense learning? You better believe it, they not only graduated but they did it with flying colors. When King Nebuchadnezzar talked with them, he found none equal to them; so they entered the king’s service. This is a true story of excellence and success.
There are three principles here that are applicable for all of us, especially for all those who are pursuing an education or a carrier. Firstly, like these Hebrew boys we belong to a royal family. The blood line of our King Jesus runs through our vines. The Bible says, we, are “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God.” Don’t you ever forget to whom you belong! You don’t belong to the devil. You belong to the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. In other words you are princes and princesses. Therefore don’t embarrass your royal heritage by stooping down to the enemy’s schemes and pressures, just like prince Harry who recently brought such disgrace to the British royal family by going all naked in Los Vegas. We are made of better stuff than that.

Secondly, don’t compromise when you are forced by circumstances and situations that pressure you to act or react contrary to what you were taught from the Bible by your parents and at Sunday school or youth group. Don’t give into peer pressure to throw away your values and don’t give up your faith. Thirdly remember that God has a purpose for you in letting you go through all the learning and training at school. He wants you to enter into His service, whatever shape or form that may take. Who knows one day you may become the next president of the USA or some other powerful person of influence. Can you imagine what godly influence those four God fearing Hebrew boys may have brought in Babylon?

It is always a good to have righteous people in places of influence and power. God would use them for His purpose. When I was in India there was a Christian police officer named Mr. Sen. He was a sincere, hardworking and a man of integrity. In 2004 he became the District General of Police for an entire state of South India. Whenever he came to our Church on Sundays two rows were kept vacant for his security guards, some of them were Hindus and Muslims. They had no other option but to sit through the entire service listening to the worship songs and the message. It is ironic the way God chooses to make his name known in the world. Therefore dear friends don’t despise education, don’t quit, and work hard at it in the end it will you will have no regrets.

Lastly, we read that Jesus grew in wisdom, and stature, and in favor with God and men. At age twelve he could take on the intellectuals of his day in a debate. Jesus had a perfectly balanced approach to life and learning. He excelled in all four dimensions of life such as spiritual, physical, and intellectual and social. What this tells us is that life is not only about education, or only about spirituality, we also need to learn in the area of right relationships and that of course starts with our families which will help us build other good relationships later on. 

Also we need to take care of our bodies, it is OK to play sports and have some fun. Listening to these highly intellectual and over achieving examples, those of us who are perhaps neither intellectual nor highly educated may wonder; saying, is there a place for me in this highly competitive world? Can God use me for his service? Of course there is a place for you in the world and God’s Kingdom. He longs to use you as much as any one else whose hearts are totally committed to Him. Think about the disciples, they were unschooled fishermen but when they followed Jesus leaving everything behind they became a power house. They shook the earth by the power of the gospel.

In Acts 17:6, “These who have turned the world upside down have come here too.” In another incident this was what the Pharisees and the teachers of the law have said of them. “Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus.” Acts 4:13, (New American Standard Bible)

Let me close, with these thoughts. The God we serve is a God of excellence. He is beyond comparison. His desire for his children is that we too will walk in a path of excellence. Whatever we do we must do as if we are doing it unto the Lord. He wants us to be the head not the tail. Don’t settle for the second best but aim for excellence. Whether you are a high school, or college student, or a single mom, a hardworking individual, highly educated or uneducated, single, unmarried, married or divorced, it doesn’t really matter God has a plan for your life. His plan is to prosper you and give you hope and a bright future.

Proverbs 13:20 suggests, “He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.” So let’s choose our friends carefully. If you really want to become wise, then walk with Jesus daily in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge! Amen.


    


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Hamburger Vs Fruit of the Holy Spirit


For many in America daily breakfast happens on the run on their way to work, for others it happens at home at the kitchen table. It is a matter of making choices between an endless variety of cereals, breads, pastries, or maybe plain oats. If you are to choose between a BIG Mac and a platter of fruit in the morning which one would you choose?  As early as 1871-1884, “Hamburg Beefsteak” was on the “Breakfast and Supper Menu” of the Clipper Restaurant in San Fernando. It cost 10 cents. In our breakfast, my wife makes sure and insists that we eat some fruit every day. I wonder why anyone would choose a hamburger instead of fruit.
The following incident may throw some light on why people like to eat certain bad foods to their detriment  In Feb 2012 the Heart Attack Grill in downtown Las Vegas lived up to its name Saturday night, when a customer dining on a "triple bypass burger" suffered an apparent heart attack. The restaurant is known for not holding back on its menu. Signs around the business glorify bad eating habits and the menu includes items like Flatliner Fries, and Butterfat Milkshakes. One meal, the "Quadruple Bypass Burger," contains 8,000 calories. The staff at the Heart Attack Grill willingly glorifies bad health. If you weigh over 350 pounds, you eat for free.”[1]  It looks like we have a preference for bad food because; as we've so often observed, bad food seems to taste better than good food. A Hamburger, McDonald’s creation tastes good but is bad for our health. On the other hand fruit is God’s gift to mankind and it not only tastes good but is essential for a healthy life style.   
Thankfully our nation has come a long way in recent years.  There is a lot more awareness about healthy choices. The food habits of many are taking a turn for the better.

At a whole other level, we see a presentation of lifestyle choices for Christians in Galatians 5th chapter. The Apostle Paul points out two ways of living and their consequences The first option is to live according to the flesh or sinful nature. What would that look like? The Message Bible renders it so poignantly, it is “repetitive, loveless, cheap sex, a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never satisfied wants; a brutal temper(anger), an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and controllable addictions.” (Gal 5:19-21).
The second option however is a spirit filled life. What would that look like?  According to the Message Bible, “But what happens when we live God’s way. He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people.  We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.” What the author of the Message Bible Eugene Peterson is talking about here, is nothing but what is familiarly known as the Fruit of the Holy Spirit in Gal 5:22.
Paul opens up Galatians 5th chapter with these words, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” This verse refers to all those who are born again, in other words the ones Christ has set free from the bondage or the slavery to Sin. Paul urges the believers again in Vs 13, “You my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature.”
When we give our lives over to Christ we have been made free to choose either to continue to live according to the sinful nature or the spirit filled nature. The choice we make determines the lifestyle and our destiny. Paul clearly shows the difference between these two lifestyles in Gal 5:16-18 “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit you are not under law.”
By urging the believers to live by the Spirit and not to gratify the desires of the flesh in a sense Paul is saying to them to say, "no thanks" to these "works" of the flesh, despite their great appeal to our fleshly palates. Let's be real here, we may very well abstain from sexual immorality and sorthos of addictions but how about hot temper or anger?

Let’s talk about anger. As we know anger is a very powerful emotion that can stem from feelings of frustration, hurt, annoyance, or disappointment. It is a normal human emotion that can range from slight irritation to strong rage. We need to know how to properly channel this powerful emotion. When we suppress anger as one report suggests, “Suppressed anger can be an underlying cause of anxiety and depression. Anger that is not appropriately expressed can disrupt relationships, affect thinking and behavior patterns, and create a variety of physical problems. Chronic (long-term) anger has been linked to health issues such as high blood pressure, heart problems, headaches, skin disorders, and digestive problems. In addition, anger can be linked to problems such as crime, emotional and physical abuse, and other violent behavior.”[2]

How can we overcome the devastating effects of anger? It is only possible by cultivating the fruit of the Spirit. Coming back to our food analogy, the fruit of the Spirit is a slow food, not fast food; good food, not bad food. In other words it is never going to be a hamburger.

A hamburger is an entree that is cooked, wrapped and rushed to a ravenous customer in a matter of minutes. And even if it were, it is not the fast prep time we're concerned with here, but the nutrition value and eating time. On the other hand the fruit of the Spirit is a lifestyle that takes time to cultivate and develop. We'll need to cultivate and nurture spiritual gifts such as generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. These fruits won't sprout up quickly, and they won't be ripe and ready overnight. In fact, converting to a fruit-full lifestyle takes a life time of discipline and obedience to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

For example; part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit is “Patience” We live in a fast-paced world. We drive fast cars. We eat fast food. We live in the fast lane. We want it now. This is an oft-repeated, clich├ęd set of sentences. However, this is the truth. Most of us know what we want and we wish we could have it ‘yesterday.’ In order to be successful in the work place we need to be patient because we often deal with less than perfect people, machines and ideal situations. They often don’t do what they supposed to do. If you are impatient you get frustrated; tempted to curse, or blow your top and in the end give up rather quickly. Loosing your patience perhaps is not a very good thing. That is why some one said, “Patience is the mother of all virtues”

What is patience? Patience does not entail just waiting. It doesn’t mean resigning to our fate. It means bearing with difficulty and troubles while doing so taking the necessary steps to do the next right thing, or waiting with a good attitude.  The scriptures show us why we need patience and how we can develop this all too important virtue.
Prov 15:18, “A hot tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel.” In the Message Bible it reads, “Hot tempers start fights; a calm and cool spirit keeps the peace.”
Romans 12:12, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”
Eph: 4:2, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”

Here is a sure path that helps us develop patience.  Prov 19:11 “A man’s wisdom gives him patience.” How do we become wise? Pro 9:10, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” What is the fear of the Lord? To fear the LORD is to hate evil.” Another way God develops patience in us by letting us go through suffering and difficult situations. James 1:2-4, “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well developed, not deficient in any way.”
We realize that developing patience for that matter any good habits can be a slow process at times but in the end it yields great profits in our lives. Are you on a “Hamburger, fast food” diet, or on the slow food/good food diet? Selecting the slow food, fruit option, allows us, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to gain control over our lives. We do not have to be victims of our schedules, no matter how harried and driven we feel. We are in control of deciding how fast we have to go in life. Remember what Paul said to the Galatians: "For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery" (v. 1). 
 In closing, the art of Christian living is choosing a "slow-faith" rather than a "fast-faith" approach to living. This living requires a community. Christianity is based on a shared Communion meal and life together in the body of Christ - not on fast-faith pit stops and individualistic approaches to the Christian life. It is within the community that Paul challenges us to become "slaves to one another" through love, resisting the temptation to use our Christian freedom "as an opportunity for self-indulgence" (v. 13). It's like the Italian theologian said: Fast food lacks "the community aspect of sharing." God is calling us to make a lifestyle change. It starts by giving up the “Hamburger life style” and cultivating the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Amen  

Sunday, July 1, 2012

UNITED WE STAND



Let me read one of Aesop’s Greek fables; In the forest, there lived four oxen. They were very good friends and always went together to graze in the fields. However, every time they went, a hungry lion tried to attack them. The lion longed for their meat. But they withstood his attack by fighting him as a team. They attacked him with their horns and the lion fled to another forest. One day, the four oxen fought among themselves. They started going to the forest separately.

When the lion returned, he saw that the group was divided. He planned to take advantage of this situation. Finding the first ox grazing in the fields alone, he crept from behind and ate him up. The next day, he attacked the second ox and killed it too. This way he killed the third and the fourth ox too. Had the four oxen stayed together, they wouldn’t have lost their lives. Moral Lesson: "United we live, divided we will be killed.”[1] From where came the popular phrase, "United we stand, divided we fall". This phrase has been used in mottos, from nations and states to songs. You may be familiar with a popular song "United We Stand" written by Tony Hiller and Peter Simmons and was first recorded in 1970 by The Brotherhood of Man.

I was very familiar with this phrase growing up in India. We were told how our early fathers, the freedom fighters stood united and faced the then mighty British Empire. It was our unity that brought us independence. The basic concept however is that unless people are united, it is easy to destroy them. Is there a biblical basis for this concept of unity? What is the power of Unity? What breaks unity? If unity is imperative for any nation, society and church’s survival how then can we achieve such unity? Let’s begin with the biblical base of unity.

I. THE BIBLICAL BASIS OF UNITY:

Repeatedly, throughout the Bible we see the concept of unity and the call for unity. We see this concept of unity played out in the beginning of creation itself. When God created the world He just called things to come into existence all by Himself by His shear power and command. When all he said was let there be light, there was light. But when it came to creating the master piece of all of his creation He did not do it independently. He consulted with the other two persons in the Godhead namely the Son and the Holy Spirit.. He said, “Let us make man in our Image, in our likeness and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the creatures that move along the ground.” Gen1:26

The creation account of man tells us two things. Firstly, God was, is and always lives in unity and His desire for us is that we too would live in unity. Secondly, it is not to one man or woman God gave the responsibility to rule or to take care of the world, but to all mankind. It is a collective responsibility. Each of us has a role to play in the welfare of the world. The survival of the planet earth depends on our unity and collaborative effort. How do we define unity? Unity is the state or quality of being one; oneness, mutual agreement, and harmony. Let’s talk about the power of unity.


II. THE POWER OF UNITY:
We can learn great lessons of unity and its power simply by observing the nature. For example a single snow flake that looks beautiful and innocent. If it remains on its own it can easily fly away or quickly melt away. On it’s own it does no harm and poses no threat to any one does it?  But when it unites with other snow flakes, they gain more strength and power. Those of us who live in New England know the power of the accumulation of “snow flakes” They have the power to work havoc and bring a whole administration to halt.

If that is the power of the united snow flakes can you imagine the power generated when people are united? Even God takes note of this power. Remember the first ever human construction of a tower in Gen 11th Chapter? This is a classical example of the power of unity. At some point in time after the flood the whole world had one language and a common speech. As men moved eastward they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. They said to each other, “Come let us” make bricks… Come let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” In these couple of verses we hear the words “Come let us” twice; where did they get that concept of unity?  There is power in the words such as “Let Us” more than you realize than words like, “Let me” or “I can or I will”

Their united effort caught God’s attention, so he took a tour from heaven to see this impressive human construction. The Lord knew the power of unity so He said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth.”

Unfortunately the unity that was displayed in Genesis 11 in the long run was not good for the people who were building a tower and most certainly it was not in line with God’s global purposes. Therefore He attacked their unity (of wrong reasons) by confusing a key ingredient that fosters unity “common language.” Not only does God know the power of unity but also the intent of the devil. Satan works overtime to destroy the unity among believers in the body of Christ. He creates division through gossip and misunderstanding. He breaks down the communication among us. Instead of fighting the devil we end up fighting each other.

Wait a minute! Let’s not be too quick to blame the devil for the disunity in the Church. Could our own actions are lack of them cause disunity in any way. What do you think are the unity breakers? In Philippians 2:1-3, we read what breaks the unity among the believers. “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.”
Let’s take this scripture apart for a moment. Paul explains to the believers what contributes to Christian unity in the church as well as what breaks that unity. Firstly, unity in the church flows from individuals being united with Christ.
This personal union is a basic reality of salvation. Secondly, to be in Christ is to be saved. Thirdly, from our close relationship with Christ the savior flows: love, comfort, encouragement, tenderness and compassion. When we fail to operate in those qualities we will be moving towards disunity.
Fourthly, selfish ambition and conceit are the mortal enemies of unity and harmony in the Church. In Gal 5:20 “selfish ambition” is listed among the acts of the sinful nature. Fifthly, the only thing that protects unity is humility which is the source of Christian unity.
According to Paul a humble person consider others better than himself. It does not mean that he sees everyone else is more superior or talented, but through Christian love he sees others as worthy of respect and preferential treatment. In my years of ministry I have noticed how some thriving ministers fell, ministries closed and churches split because of pride and selfishness. Sadly whenever that happens it hurts ever body even more so the name of Jesus Christ is blasphemed. Therefore let’s beware of the unity breakers.
We read that the early believers were often together in prayer.  Just as humility, prayer is one of the basics of unity.  When we as Gods children get to know our Heavenly Father better, if we grow more and more aware that the One for whom nothing, absolutely nothing is too difficult waits to hear what the Evangelical Church of Atlantic unitedly wants to ask of Him and believe Him for. I believe we will see God do great things in and through this Church.  Friends, I believe if we collectively take a stand in prayer against the destruction the enemy is working in our society, if we put our differences aside and fervently call on God for intervention we will see God’s work and deliverance in unprecedented ways in our days. How can we foster such unity that the Bible describes? The scripture gives us several principles in achieving that unity.

III. BIBLICAL PRINCIPLES FOR UNITY:
During his ministry on earth Jesus had to put up with a bunch of selfish and power mongering disciples. He knew very well that discrepancies and disagreements would erupt among his disciples once he had departed from the earth so he earnestly prayed for them. In John 17:17, Jesus prayed that the father would sanctify the disciples by the truth before he would make them one. The first principle in achieving Biblical unity is to have the mind of Christ. As Christ prayed to the father that his disciples would be brought to complete unity (John 17:23), let’s also cry out to God to bring our church to complete unity.

Secondly, we recognize that God is the master builder and we all are hired workers.  Paul recognized that he and the apostles were servants of Christ and each were assigned specific tasks to perform. Similarly we too must humbly recognize that we are hired workers by God to work in his vineyard. We are his servants called out to do his work. When we are faithful in serving the master in our assigned tasks one day God will reward us according to our labor.

Thirdly we recognize and respect one another. Finally, Coordination, Communication and Cohesion are other essentials principles in achieving and maintaining biblical unity. Unity is far more important to the life of the Church than the individual strengths of its leaders. The Lord has called all of us to be a part of this awesome work of building His Kingdom.

The growth of our Church depends on all of us praying and working together in unity. We desperately need unity at all cost. Therefore as far as it lies in us let’s work towards building and maintaining unity. When we are committed to just do that, God has promised to pour down his blessings on all of us. In closing let me urge you as the Apostle Paul urged the believers in Ephesus.
“As a prisoner for the Lord, then I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit just as you were called to one hope when you were called, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.” Eph 4:1-6 Amen