Sunday, June 22, 2014

WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES CHURCH ATTENDANCE MAKE?:(Signs of a Healthy Church) Hebrew 10:19-25

  If you've worked in any organization especially a corporate one; either you may have sent or have received at least one meeting request that was labeled as “mandatory” or “required.” When you get a meeting invitation like that, you think attendance is required and not optional, it is compulsory, a must right?  But even then it is ultimately up to you whether to follow through or not, though not attending may have consequences.

      How about when it comes to attending Church, is it mandatory? Considering the attitudes of many people today it would be easy to conclude church attendance is optional or perhaps only for those who are fanatical. While filling the Natural Church Development Survey I had to answer the average attendance of our church. Has our church attendance increased over the years? If anything it has only decreased over the past two years. We average about 40 people on a good Sunday. While we can give many reasons for the drop in attendance, for me declining attendance is one sure sign of an unhealthy church. You may wonder why the Pastor is all of a sudden concerned about numbers. Well numbers do matter for our church. Early this year we could not conduct a business meeting because we did not have a quorum.

     What difference does church attendance make? What does the Bible say about Church attendance? What are the benefits of attending Church regularly? While there can be several benefits I would like to highlight five benefits of attending Church regularly from Hebrew 10:19-25. 1. Church is where we meet God. 2. Church is a community. 3. Church is a place of restoration. 4. Church strengthens our faith 5. Church is a place of encouragement.

In Greek (ekklesia) church has a range of meanings: legal assembly, congregation, and assembly of the Israelite, the Christian church or a church meeting as a group of Christians living in one place, the church universal to which all believers belong, the Church of God or Christ. In the O.T Church was known as the tabernacle, tent of meeting, the solemn assembly and when Solomon built a temple in Jerusalem that became a place where God’s presence literally dwelt among His people.

In Matt 16:18 “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” After his death on the cross and his resurrection he commanded the eleven disciples and said “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20).

Building on that theme Paul reminds the Hebrew believers saying, “Therefore brethren we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus… and since we have a great high priest over the house of God, Let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith…(Hebrew 10:19-22a) Christ made us possible to come into the house of God which is also called the Church. When we come to church with full confidence of faith we will meet God. As he promised He will show up in Church by His Spirit and meets us at the point of our need. These blood washed, redeemed and faithful ones form a community, and that community of believers are called to be the light and the salt in the community where they are placed.
One of the clearest findings to emerge from research into happiness is that we are social beings. Undoubtedly we all admit that we need other people in order to be well and thrive. We feel better just being around other people. And we need close relationships in order to be happy. I realized this when my family went on a weekend camping trip, I just did not quite know what to do with myself.  Now I realize there is a difference here between those of us who are extroverts and those who are introverts.  Those of us who are extroverts will quickly suffer when we have to spend time by ourselves because extroverts are wired to recharge by spending time with people.  While those of us who are introverts may be quite happy to spend extended periods of time all by ourselves and are actually refreshed by it.

Regardless whether we are extroverts or introverts we all need people in our lives.  This goes back to the Garden of Eden. We tend to think the first human being must have been perfectly happy and satisfied because he had an intimate relationship with God, right? No sin; no heartache; everything was perfect he was filled with God’s love; yet the word God uses to describe him as “alone” And God says that this aloneness is not good.

Community is what we are created for. It is God’s desire for our life. Our vision at ECCOA is to build a diverse community that is committed to seeing lives transformed by the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  What kind of community we want our Church to be?  We want our Church to be a loving and caring community. Listen to what one of the all-time great evangelist from New England D.L Moody had to say about church attendance.  "Church attendance is as vital to a disciple as a transfusion of rich, healthy blood to a sick man."

In the New York Times (Sunday Review) an Anthropologist T.M. Luhrmann highlights several benefits of attending a Church, “ONE of the most striking scientific discoveries about religion in recent years is that going to church weekly is good for you. Religious attendance — at least, religiosity — boosts the immune system and decreases blood pressure. It may add as much as two to three years to your life.” Social support is no doubt part of the story. At the evangelical churches I’ve studied as an anthropologist, people really did seem to look out for one another. Healthy behavior is no doubt another part. Certainly many churchgoers struggle with behaviors they would like to change, but on average, regular church attendees drink less, smoke less, use fewer recreational drugs and are less sexually promiscuous than others.  Church is not only a community that we need but also it is a place of restoration.


We live in a fallen world. The world we see has not always been like this; at one point everything was good, beautiful and perfect until Adam sinned against God as a result we see a lot of sickness, pain and brokenness. Men are harassed, depressed, and lost. What God meant for good the enemy has destroyed it? But God didn't want us to remain in our fallen, sinful and messy state so He sent His only son to restore us back to God’s original image and give us back our decency and dignity.

Let me explain what restoration means. It means the act of restoring; renewal, revival or reestablishment. It means a return of something to a former, original, normal or unimpaired condition. Paul writes to the Hebrews that as we draw near to God with a sincere heart, in full assurance of faith God will cleanse us from our evil conscience and bodies by the sprinkling of pure water which is the word of God. Preaching of God’s word is essential in a church service through that God brings conviction, correction, challenge, change and direction. That is why it is so important that you attend Church regularly unless you are sick, or simply out travelling, because that is where you experience cleansing and restoration. In church we are not only restored but our faith is challenged, tested and strengthened.

Hebrew 10:23-24, "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds.” These words were written to people who were close to losing their faith in Christ. Look closely at these verses. Notice that church attendance has to do with holding fast to our hope without wavering, stimulating one another to love and good deeds because God is faithful.

In the end times it is possible to lose our faith and let our love grow cold. If we try to live out our Christianity all by ourselves without going to church it is absolutely impossible to do so. There are many things out there that can make us depressed, discouraged and loose our faith. But being part of a Church that preaches and teaches the right doctrine not only can we keep our faith but we can actually make it grow. I have seen this over and over, those who forsake the church waver in their faith. They are not stimulated in their faith. They are neither stirred to do good works nor stir others to love and good deeds. What makes us unwavering in our faith? First of all it is our God who is faithful but it is also the encouragement of other faithful believers.

Vs 25, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another- and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” When Paul wrote this letter to the Hebrews some of them were habitually forsaking the meetings of the church.  In other words some of them are becoming regularly irregular in attending the Church. So he came right to the point. He told them not to forsake the assembly.  It is one thing to come to Church on a regular basis and it is another thing to encourage one another on a regular basis. 

       We all need encouragement, don’t we? We know encouragement can go a long way. Let’s be intentional and seek ways to encourage others instead of hurting them through our criticism and harsh remarks. People in general are hurting and we don’t want to add more hurt to them. A church should be a place where we build one another up and encourage one another. How can we encourage others? By being there for people when they need us, caring for those who are struggling financially, emotionally, and with sickness, being kind toward the strangers, being hospitable, and not to speak evil of others, by speaking words of affirmation, love and acceptance. Paul tops it all saying, we do all this, all the more as we see the Day Approaching.”

        In the light of current happenings in the world and how several things are pointing towards Christ’s imminent return, it is absolutely necessary that we stay connected to a local church where Christ is honored. In closing why is it important that we attend church? Church attendance does make a difference not only in the life of an individual believer but also to the larger church body and to the community where that church is located.

        We attend Church not because it is mandated, because it is essential for our growth. Church is where we meet God. It is a community that we need. It is a place of restoration. It strengthens our faith. It is a place of encouragement. If you are not yet a member of a local church I strongly encourage you to become one. The benefits of becoming a member outweigh the problems.  For those of us who are members of our Church, I want to encourage you with these words, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another- and all the more as we see the Day Approaching.” May the Lord help us to attend church regularly, because church attendance does make a difference!  Amen

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


Revelation 5: 1-14

Revelation 5:1-10: The book with seven seals: The exalted majesty of God in chapter 4 leads to the exaltation of the Lamb, also at “the center of the throne” (5:6) and also celebrated in worship (5:8-14).  The unity of God and the Lamb is obviously a major emphasis of these two chapters. It is clear that God and the lamb are one. (John 10:30, “I and the Father are one.)”  In the opening scene the reader has the feeling that imminent events will usher in the final events of history and the consummation of God’s plan.  The scene is filled with emotions when no one was available to open the seals of the scroll.
After the vision of the throne in heaven, John sees the one who sits on the throne with a book written on both sides inside and that book was sealed up with seven seals. The phrase “I saw” occurs four times in this chapter (5:1, 2, 6, and 11). It is divided into separate scenes.


Vs 1, “Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals.” First half of the scripture summarizes chapter 4. The one seated on the throne is the King of kings, the exalted Lord of universe, the one who alone is worthy of worship. God is on his throne and holds a double-sided scroll in the palm of his right hand, which symbolizes power and authority. Here the scroll is ‘on’ rather than ‘in’ the hand of God, thus picturing it lying on God’s open palm.
Osborne, notes “scroll” was made of strips of papyrus laid end to end and glued together to form a lengthy strip that could be rolled into a scroll. This was the most popular type of writing material for three millennia, from Egypt in in Egypt in 3000 B.C. to Roman times.”

There are several possibilities for the identification of this doubly inscribed, sealed document: 1.The lamb’s book of life. Though it is the major theme of the book of revelation in this context we don’t have any pointers to believe so. The scrolls here and in 10:1-11 introduce the plan God has for the future 2. The OT, especially the Torah, with its blessings and cursing stipulating to the covenant laws. 3. The last will and testament containing the inheritance of the saints and sealed with seven seals. 4. A divorce bill, folded and signed on the other side. 5. The doubly inscribed contract deed, sealed with seven seals and with a description of the contents written on the back. 6. A heavenly book containing God’s redemptive plan and the future history of 

God’s creation. The combination of fifth and sixth views best fits the data.
The scroll was sealed with seven seals, which points to completeness, focusing on the fullness of the divine plan. The secrecy of the sealed document parallels with the secrecy of the OT scrolls: Isaiah 29:11, Dan 8:26, Ezekiel 2:9-10. We are not very clear exactly what was written in the scroll. But as we read the scriptures we can conclude that it contains the destiny of mankind both redemption and judgment. It is written both sides suggests that nothing regarding the destiny of mankind is omitted. God has included every detail, every aspect, every minute part of history- past, present and future. In chapter six we see the unfolding of these seals.


John sees a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll.”?  There was a crisis in heaven: “no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. That, must have depressed John so he wept and wept because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or look inside.

At that moment of crisis Jesus is introduced in the throne room. No one appears worthy to open the sealed scroll that is in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne.” This should be a word of encouragement to all believers. Jesus will always appear in the crisis of life. At times he appears as a lamb and other times as a lion depending on the need of the moment.

Vs.5, “Then one of the elders said to me, do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.” It is interesting to note the announcement of the angel, which says “But no one in heaven, or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll.” Osborn explains this threefold division, “the three-tiered universe is common in Scripture (Ex 20:14, 11; Job 11:8-9) and probably refers to the whole of the created order rather than to three specific kinds of being or spatially to three spheres of life.” “Open the scroll” is mentioned three times in this short passage indicates that the contents in the scroll must be of extreme importance.” We can gather this from 4:1 where 

John heard a voice saying “come up here and I will show you what must take place after this.”
The phrase “Lion of Judah” was taken from Genesis 49: 8-10, where Judah is chosen over his brothers to be the “ruler” and the one whom his brothers would praise. The greater fulfillment of these prophecies are in “son” of Judah- Jesus Christ.  The root of David is from Isaiah 11:1,10 which links Jesus Christ to the ideal king. It is interpreted messianically in Romans 15:12, “And again Isaiah says, “the Root of Jesse will spring up, on who will arise to rule the nations the Gentiles will hope in him..” The Lion of Judah and the Root of David is one and the same, referring to Jesus Christ. Jesus is able to take the scroll and open it because he “has triumphed.” Where was he triumphed? At the cross where he manifested as both strength (Lion) and humility (Lamb)


The Lamb appears on the scene: After being comforted by one of the elders John looks up behold he sees a lamb looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne. This picture is contrary to what was described by the angel about the “Lion of Judah” one could expect to see a furious Lion is rearing to open the scroll but in reality it was not a Lion but a Lamb standing in the center of the throne. Though this lamb was looking as if it had been slain but yet was commanding the respect of the four living creatures and the elders. He came and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. A lamb with lions heart.

There has been a considerable debate regarding the meaning of the lamb image. Carrez (1999:5-7) says that the Lamb is the central figure of the book, determining the plot action from the celestial liturgy of chapters 4-5 to the unity of God and the Lamb on the throne in Chapter 22. Barker (1995:501-4 ) sees the Lamb identified as the paschal lamb of Isa 53:7. (Swete,R.Charles) sees the conquering ram(Ford, Kiddle), the Passover lamb (Schussler Fiorenza, Roloff), or the atoning lamb and someone else sees the Lamb primarily as servant.

The image of the lamb is important in the OT and apocalyptic. In Vs 6 the reason the Lamb is described, “slaughtered” is perhaps to combine both the images of a Passover lamb and the suffering servant. These two images represent Christ as the Passover lamb of Exodus and the Suffering Servant lamb of Isaiah.  John refers to Jesus as a “lamb” 28 times in Revelation and twice in his gospel.  Paul refers to Christ as “our Passover lamb.” (I Cor 5:7) and Peter refers to Him as a “lamb” without blemish or defect.” (I Pet 1:19)
The moment he took the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before and they worshiped the Lamb singing a new song. Osborn notes, “The song is composed of three parts: the acclamation of the worthiness of the Lamb, the salvific work of the Lamb, and the effect for the followers of the Lamb.”

Vs 11-14: Angels exalt the Lamb:

13 And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, "To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever."  14 And the four living creatures kept saying, "Amen." And the elders fell down and worshiped. In this vision John sees the exalted Lamb who was being worshiped the four living creatures, the elders and thousands upon thousands of angels. This is a glorious picture where the whole creation bows before the lamb that was on the throne, and worships him for ever and ever.

It is heartening to note the words of Osborne “The worship of the Lamb in chapter 5 parallels that of God in chapter 4. Christians are guilty of the syndrome “Your Jesus is too small.” We have made Jesus our “big brother” and “friend” to such an extent that we have lost the sense that he is also our sovereign Lord. We must recapture the realization the he too is our God and worthy of worship at the deeper level. Like Yahweh, he deserves our praise and gratitude for his sovereignty and for the great victory won at the cross.”

Sunday, June 15, 2014

WHAT CAUSES A CHURCH DIE? Revelation 3:1-6

Two weeks ago 30 members of our Church filled out a survey form developed by Natural Church Development. It was a diagnostic tool to help diagnose the health of our Church. As I was filling it out I was struck with the reality that we are not as healthy and vibrant as I thought we were. I am sure several of you may have felt the same way. We will be sending the survey to the NCD for their objective assessment of our Church in regards what our strengths and weaknesses are. I commend all those who participated in the survey; perhaps for the first time you paused and were able to take a look at where we are as a Church.  I think it was the right step we took in the right direction but it is only the first step.

As I was thinking a lot about health, and how to improve the quality of life in our Church someone gave me a book titled, “Autopsy of a Deceased Church.” He told me I have specially ordered it for you!! That title gripped my interest; and I began to read it and the things I found are fascinating.  The author actually went around as a Church growth consultant and conducted what he calls a “Church Autopsy” on 14 Churches. He came away with similar patterns that existed in all those churched before they died.

Do churches actually die? This may sound contrary to what Jesus said to Peter in Matt 16:14, “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” Indeed the universal Church with a capital “C” will never die. But churches have and are dying.  One record suggests that as many as 100,000 churches in America are showing signs of decline toward death.  

Praise God! They are only showing signs of slow decline but inching towards certain death, does that concern you? What makes a church die? In order to find out what causes a church die, we will look at a first century Church in the book of Revelation and see if there are any warning signs that could lead our church to an eventual death. Let’s Read Revelation 3: 1-6

Sardis was one of the most glorious cities in Asia, located thirty to forty miles southeast of Thyatira. Warren Buffet of that time, lived there. Sardis was the first to mint gold and silver coins. In A.D 17 a terrible earth quake devastated Sardis and was rebuilt after extensive aid from Emperor Augustus. To express their appreciation the citizens of Sardis created a coin with his likeness and inscribed it “Caesarean Sardis.” The people of Sardis had a special interest in death and immortality, and much of their religious life was nature worship focusing on the fertility cycle and bringing life out of death. The church in Sardis looked alive but in reality it was dying.

Vs 1a “To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.

As in every letter, the names of Christ cited here are critical to Sardis. Jesus holds the “seven spirits” a likely reference to the sevenfold Holy Spirit in Isaiah 11:2 “And the Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him, The spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. Where is the seventh spirit? In some ancient Hebrew Bible adds a seventh virtue, godliness.  In the book of Revelation number seven appears several times in the first chapter alone it occurs eleven times describing, the fullness of God’s spirit, angels/messengers of the churches and Churches in general.

The word seven indicates “completeness.” So when Jesus is cited here as the one who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars we can read this as Christ having  the fullness of the Holy Spirit, and His work is complete and adequate in the community.

Vs 1b “I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.”  This is one place in the seven letters where the normal formula for what they were doing right (“I know your deeds.”) actually details their weakness. Christ had a strong reproof for Sardis. Hypocrisy and decay in religion are the sins charged against this church. This church had gained a great reputation; it had a name as a flourishing church. We do not read of any unhappy divisions among themselves. Everything appeared well; as to what falls under the observation of men. On the contrary this church was not really what it was reputed to be. There was a form of godliness, outwardly but not the power, a reputation of being alive, but no signs of life.

How does Sardis reflect the modern day Church in the west even more so in the USA? In some ways Sardis fits the criteria of what happens to people in the end times. I Timothy 3:1-5, “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.”
Sardis represents an individual believer, a family, a society, a church, a marriage, a business and a nation that appears to be lively on the outside but dying morally and in every way on the inside. Sadly, we see many of the end time qualities mentioned in Timothy are being reflected in our homes, society and in our churches. 
For example; we all can boast about what a great inheritance we have as Americans. We talk about the great legacy of the founding fathers. We say our nation was founded on Christian principles, but I wonder what would the founders think or say when they see some of the atrocities that are happening in our country today. Isn’t it sad to see, in what supposed to be the richest, perhaps the greatest country on earth, where so many innocent lives of children are being lost due to gun violence? I am saddened in my heart when I read that there have been 74 school shootings since the Sandy hook Newtown tragedy. In other words, since the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School there have been an average of 1.37 school shootings for each school week.”[1] Hardly a regular school week passes by without a violent incident in the USA.

I wonder how many lives have to be lost before we do something about it.  I believe reports like this should serve as a wake up call to everyone.  In fact Jesus sends a wakeup call; then to the church in Sardis and today to all those who appear to be alive but in reality are either dead are slowly dying. Are we paying attention to that wake up call?

Vs 2, “Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God.” Coming back to the church in Sardis, the church is not fully dead; but whatever little life was left among them was expiring rapidly; a certain erosion was taking place, and they were at the brink of death and near extension as a church unless they did something radically and quickly. They needed to act to preserve what still remained in them.

It is important to take note of how Christ reveals himself and relates to each Church, for that matter to each believer varies.  To Sardis he reveled Himself as the one who holds the seven spirits of God and seven stars (churches) in his hand. Here we see Sardis almost dead and about to be plucked by the roots, yet Christ comes to her still holding her in his hand along with the life giving Spirit. What does this say about a church or an individual believer? Barton notes, “As long as there is a bit of life left there is hope for renewal and revival. He does not abandon His church event at the brink of death. He still extends life to all those who will receive it.”[2]
Christ’s rebuke to the church in Sardis was to “Wake Up.” In scriptures whenever you see these words, “Wake Up.” we must pay attention, because they are reminders of the upcoming judgment of God upon the sleeping believers. Romans 13:11-12, “And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.”

I am convinced that similar rebuke is coming upon the believers in New England. It is time to from our sleep. Let’s look at our church in light of the Church in Sardis. Are we any different? Or are we just like them appearing to be alive but in reality experiencing a slow but certain death? When it comes to think of it we are no way different to Sardis. We fail to live up to the revelation we have already received. We do not engage in evangelizing the community we live in. We do not grow up. We act immaturely towards fellow believers within our own congregation. We appear alive on the outside in reality we are dying from the inside. What would Christ say about us, if He is to analyze our Church today?  Is it time for us to wake up?

In the “Autopsy of a Deceased Church Thom S. Rainer mentions several reasons why churches die: Slow Erosion, where vibrant ministries that once existed decline. Prayer lives of the members decline. The outward focus of the church declines. Connection with one another in the Church and with the community declines. People become self -centered than Christ centered and others centered. It is all about “Me, Myself, and I. My music style, my desired length and order of worship services, my activities and programs the list goes on.  The love for God grows cold. Great commission becomes great omission.”

I might add, harboring bitterness, lack of forgiveness, divisions, unresolved conflicts, gossip, undermining spiritual authority, turnover of pastors, and migration of church members. These are some of the reasons why Churches die. But it does not have to be that way. When church members care enough to identify the signs that are causing slow death and develop strategies to reverse the declining trends, they can actually prevent their church from dying. What can we learn from this letter to the church in Sardis? When we live in a secular world it is easy to get caught in the culture of the Beast and lose sight of Christ and our purpose as a church.

The challenge however for all of us is that we continue to live in the awareness that one day we must give an account to God for all we have done. When Christ warns us, we heed the warning and repent of our sinful ways and be committed to do the things that pleases God, then together with his help we can actually see our church turnaround from a dying church to a healthy, vibrant and multiplying Church. So our prayer is, God open my eyes that I might see my church as you see it. Let me see where change needs to take place, even if it is painful to me. And use me, I pray to be an instrument of that change whatever the cost. Amen

[2] Douglas B. Burton, “A Glimpse at the Back of the Bible.” Page, 38

Sunday, June 8, 2014



Acts 1:8 & 2:1-4
Tim Kelley a meteorologist from NECN reports, “It seems like New England is getting a lot of thunderstorms, with heavy rain and hail lately. Many rainbows too! We can thank a seemingly endless cool pool aloft, known as an upper level low in the world of weather jargon. And there is no end in sight. June 1st is also the beginning of Hurricane season. We may have a tropical system moving out of the Caribbean Sea, into our deepening eastern trough at the same time. That will be interesting.”[1] Let’s take these reports with a pinch of salt.

Meteorologists get excited about predicting especially bad weather they hype up the public by pressing a panic button. Some times they are accurate and other times they are wrong just like on my daughter’s graduation party. Their prediction was that there was going to be a down pour of rain, we were even given a canopy in anticipation but in the end there was no rain.
I am not a meteorologist, but as a pastor I cannot help but to think about another kind of down pour predicted around 900 BC. That prediction was fulfilled up to the dot when a group of on the day of Pentecost. I call it the Holy Spirit down Pour. What was the purpose of that down pour, and how did that affect the early recipients? What effect does it have on the Church in the 21st century? Let’s take a look at some of the events that led to the down pour of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. Let’s read Acts 1: 8 & 2:1-4

As we recollect the story. After Jesus rose from the dead He spent about 40 days teaching His disciples about the Kingdom of God. One day He gathered them together and commanded them not to leave from Jerusalem but wait for what the Father had promised. He said, “for John baptized you with water but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” He went on to say, Vs 8, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

According to the command a group of 120 disciples including Mary the mother of Jesus met in the upper house earnestly seeking and praying for the promised gift of Jesus. The scripture says; “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.  And they saw what seemed to be tongues as of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues (ethnic languages) as the Spirit enabled them.” (Acts 2:1-4)
The Apostle Peter who cowardly denied Christ three times before Christ was crucified, but when he was drenched in the down pour he became as bold as a lion and reminded the crowd about the prophecy of Joel. As a result 3000 people got saved that day. Billy Graham in his book “the Holy Spirit” notes, “In a real sense, the Day of Pentecost in the NT on which the Holy Spirit came was “a day of first fruits” the beginning of God’s harvest in this world, to be completed when Christ comes again. Pentecost in the NT marked the commencement of the present age of the Holy Spirit”[2]  God now is reaching out to the world through His Holy Spirit.

If we follow Church History from the day of Pentecost until today the world wide Church has seen several down pours of the Holy Spirit’s rain. New England also has seen such great moves of the Holy Spirit.  I would like to high light two such down pours. It was during (1703-1758) known as the first great awakening where Jonathan Edwards describes one such move of the Holy Spirit. “Many young people appeared to be overcome with greatness of divine things and many others at the same time were overcome with distress about their sinful state.

The whole room was full of nothing but outcries. It was common to see outcries, fainting, convulsions, with distress and joy at the same time. The second was the Cane ridge revival meeting in Kentucky in 1801. It was a large camp meeting that was held from August 6 to August 12, 1801. It has been described as the largest and most famous camp meeting of the Second Great Awakening, mostly led by Presbyterian preachers. Peter Cartwright a prominent revivalist reported, “People shook and lips quivered as many fell to the ground with shrieks and shouts. Sinners with a convulsive jerking all over, which they could not by any possibility, avoid and the more they resisted the more they jerked.”

An atheist, free thinker named James B. Finley who attended Cane ridge revival in 1801 noted, “The noise was like the roar of the Niagara. The vast sea of human beings seemed to be agitated as if by a storm… some of the people were, singing, others praying, some crying for mercy, while others were shouting loudly. While witnessing these scenes a peculiar sensation, such I had never felt before came over me. My heart beat rapidly, my knees trembled, my lip quivered, and I felt as though I must fall to the ground. At one time I saw at least 500 people swept down as if a battery of a 1000 guns had been opened upon them and then immediately followed shrieks and shouts that rent the very heavens. I fled for the woods and wished I had stayed at home.”[3]

What incredible stories of the down pour of the Holy Spirit upon a group of people? I was fortunate to be part of such a dynamic outpouring of the Holy Spirit in 1990. I was in a huge conference hall filled with several YWAM staff and leaders from all over the world. A simple, unassuming man of God from the Netherlands was ministering in that place. He made an invitation for people to come forward and then invited the Holy Spirit to come and fill the people. As we were waiting quietly, patiently in full anticipation all of a sudden there was laughter in a corner of the room which became contagious, people began to laugh uncontrollably. I was in the middle of a row where three people to my right were uncontrollably crying and sobbing and the people to my left were filled with joy and laughing hilariously. Soon I too was swept over in the ocean of joy. I will never forget that experience which changed my view on the power of the Holy Spirit. My life was radically changed forever after that experience.

No matter however the manifestations might look like, I noticed two things happening when there is a down pour of the Holy Spirit. First, there will be heavy conviction of sin and conversion of sinners. Secondly, believer’s faith and their love for God and his word increase. I know hearing these stories what some of you might be thinking. This business of the Holy Spirit’s baptism is nothing but just emotionalism and a bunch of gimmicks and tricks to seek attention. Not for me, I am a decent person, and I don’t want to make a fool of myself. You are not alone, I too once thought that way as I was raised in a Lutheran Church where this kind of thinking was predominant. We mocked the Pentecostals saying they were crazy, over the top, holy rollers. But when I saw myself was zapped by the power my thinking was changed.

Norman P Grubb a well-known evangelical Christian missionary to Africa.  A decorated war hero in World War I, though never spoke in tongues; he was full of the Holy Spirit; wrote, ‘The first Pentecost, forty days after Christ’s ascension an event He had told His disciples to await as “the promise of the Father” and taking the form of their “receiving power after the Holy Spirit has come upon you- came with electric effect on those waiting 120. Outwardly it was a rushing mighty wind and cloven tongues as of fire, and inwardly and upsurge of the Spirit which caused them to speak in other languages. Although not in such a dramatic form as that first Pentecost, many thousands of Christians today bear witness to a like experience usually accompanied by the speaking in other tongues and resulting in a radical change of life and a new enthusiasm for Christ by its recipients.”

Those of us who have been long enough in Christian circles can attest to the powerful down pour of the Holy Spirit in the 60s to 90s. Many of us were filled with the Holy Spirit. We are still seeing such mighty moves of the Holy Spirit in Asia, and Africa, but by large we are not seeing such moves in the American Church even more so in New England? Why I wonder!

Has God changed His mind? Has He become the respecter of persons or certain times in History?  Or is there anything to do with us, individual believers?  Who once tasted the love of God but not lost their first love? Have we become so callused in our hearts that we don’t desire or feel the move of the Holy Spirit? Have we become lukewarm in our faith?  Are we appearing to be lively but spiritually dead on the inside? I believe if there is anything hinders the move of God it is our skepticism and unbelief.
My bible tells me that our God never changes; He is the same yesterday, today and forever. The same prophecy of Joel in 900 B.C which says, “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions” applies to our generation as well. Jesus himself promised that our heavenly father will give the Holy Spirit to all those who ask Him.

The Holy Spirit down pour that began on the day of Pentecost is still drenching people all over the world. From heaven Jesus still exercises lordship over us, though physically not being with us. The key is to follow Jesus’ commandment. You may ask why I need this rain of fire. Whether you are a new believer or a seasoned saint, we all need this rain of fire in order to live a fruit bearing and impactful Christian life.
On this Pentecost day do you want your life to be radically changed? Do you want to experience the power of God? All you need to do is to ask for it, seek it, and patiently wait for it and by faith receive it. My prayer is that no one in our Church will miss out on this incredible gift of God. So what are you waiting for? Come on now, and be drenched in the rain of the Holy Spirit. Please Lord send us the rain of the Holy Spirit today. Amen

[2] Billy Graham, “The Holy Spirit” page 24

Sunday, June 1, 2014


(Letter to the Church in Thyatira)
Revelation 2:18-29

In our day to day transactions and interactions, may it be in the work place, business, and home or in general with the society at times we run into people who are arrogant, intimidating, proud, manipulative, controlling and narcissistic. We wonder what is making them to think or behave a certain way. All of us one time or the other may have behaved that way and hurt others in the processes or were hurt by those who behaved nastily towards us. Unfortunately we find such people in the Church as well.  How do we understand such behavior? What do we call the spirit behind such behavior?

For the past several weeks we have been studying the seven letters; written to seven ancient churches in the book of Revelation. The last letter we studied was the letter to the Church in Pergamum where Christ warned the Church about false prophets. Today we look into the letter written to the Church in Thyatira where Christ had sternly dealt with a self-proclaimed prophetess named Jezebel. We will also look into how Christians today could come under the influence of the spirit of Jezebel and how do we deal with it. Let’s read Revelation 2:18-29

It was the least important of the seven cities, Thyatira was a commercial town situated on the Lycus River forty miles southeast of Pergamum on the Road to Sardis.  Until the first century B.C it had little peace, but when the Pax Romana finally arrived, Thyaitara was well situated on trade routes to take advantage of commercial and manufacturing opportunities.
Each craftsperson (merchants, tanners, potters, bakers, wool and linen workers) was part of a “guild” (a medieval association of craftsmen or merchants, often having considerable power.)  In those days guilds were part of the civic life; centers of social, commerce, and religious life.” In Acts 16:12-15, we find Lydia, a seller of purple who came from the city of Thyatira who must have been part of a guild and possibly a patron of the church at Philippi.  If she could prevail upon Paul it only to show how powerful Lydia was. It looks like the women in Thyatira were pretty powerful.
Keeping that background, let’s study the letter. This is the longest letter and is unique in that it was addressed to two separate groups in the Church of Thyatira. Vs 18“To the angel of the church in Thyatira write: These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze. How was Christ described in this verse?

The letter began with similar address like the rest of the letters, to the elder/pastor/ Bishop of the Church in Thyatira.  The difference however was that Jesus for the first time and the only time mentioned as “the Son of God” Why here only Christ was mentioned as the Son of God?  The reason most likely that Jesus wants to establish here that it was him not Apollo, who is the true “Son of God” The title “Son of God” talks about the majesty and the divinity of Christ, which is an important message to this weak and struggling Church.
John refers to His eyes as being like “blazing fire” and feet are like polished bronze” What do these two figures of speech mean? The blazing eyes and the polished bronze represent two very important roles that Christ was asserting:  the role of a Judge and a Warrior.
In the ancient world there was a fiery-eyed deity who heaps judgment on his enemies.  Polished bronze refers to one of the major guilds of the town. The polished bronze was a purer and more refined type of brass manufactured by the local guild for the military at Thyatira. The local patron god Apollo was often pictured there as a warrior god riding a horse and wielding a double-bladed battle-ax. Christ’s legs here were referred to “the polished bronze” that was to emphasize the fact that Christ was and is the true warrior.
Christ by way of asserting these roles, communicates to the Church that the exalted Christ was not only aware of every aspect of the situation, but also the judgment is imminent. Today while many members of the church may be fooled by clever arguments and theologies of false prophets but Christ sees through every one, and the raging fire of his judgment will soon sweep them away. His divine power is soon going to topple the power of any man made military and the power of so called gods who are controlling people. The church worldwide is going to witness Christ’s divine power in the very near future. Jesus had some good things to say about the Church in Thyatira.

I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first. It is interesting to note that two churches with serious problems (Ephesus, and Thyatira) also have the most extensive list of good works. Thyatira was commended for four things: love, faith, service and perseverance. Unlike the church at Ephesus which had fallen from a great height in forsaking her first love; Christ commended them for doing more than they did at first. It looks like the Church was excelling in service, perseverance within an environment of an ever increasing love and faith. But then what was the problem?

20 “Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols.” Why was Christ upset with the church for tolerating the woman Jezebel? Was He against women, even more so powerful women? No, not at all!   There is absolutely nothing wrong with women and the powerful ones. History has seen many women in general and some powerful women doing great things for God and will continue to do so. But this particular woman was operating in the Spirit of Jezebel, and the believers have been putting up with her without confronting the spirit. Christ refers her to “that woman Jezebel” who through her teachings was misleading the believers into sexual immorality and into idolatry.

This teaching was contrary to what the early apostles taught the gentile believers. They were told, to “avoid what has been sacrificed to idols, tasting blood, eating the meat of whatever has been strangled and sexual immorality. Keep yourselves clear of these things and you will make good progress.” Acts 15:29. Now you know why Christ was upset with the Church. The leaders of the Thyatira allowed the spirit of Jezebel to manifest without dealing with it. How then should we deal with the spirit of Jezebel?

In order for us to fully grasp what this woman was doing in the Church of Thyatira and how the Spirit of Jezebel is affecting our Churches today we need to look at another Jezebel in the OT.Jezebel was the daughter of the king of Sidonians who later became the wife of King Ahab the king of Israel in the OT.( I Kings 16, 21) This marriage not only brought downfall to King Ahab but to the nation of Israel. Just to take you back into OT history; Sidon was the son of Canaan, Canaan was the son of Ham and Ham was the son of Noah who saw the nakedness of his father whereby was cursed. Later on when Israelites finally entered the land, God gave certain strict warnings to them in regards how to deal with their enemies.

Deut 7: 1-5, “When the Lord your God brings you into the land  you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations the Hittites Girgashites, Amorites, Cananites…you must destroy them totally…make no treaty with them…Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters for your sons… or they will turn your sons away from following me to serve other gods…” This scripture tells us in addition to all the evil King Ahab did, this marriage to Jezebel proved to be more detestable in the eyes of God.

Jezebel was so evil that she comes to symbolize all revengeful, malicious, immoral and cruel women throughout history. Jezebel seduced her husband to introduce the worship of Baal and to set up Asherah poles where people committed idolatry and acts of immorality which angered God more than anything else.  I Kings (16:32-33). She killed the prophets of God. She opposed Elijah and threatened to kill him. She took matters into her own hands and had the innocent Naboth killed.( I Kings 21) In the end faced a horrible death in the hands of Jehu.

As an avid reader of Jewish history Jesus understood the power of the influence of Jezebel. He saw how that same spirit was destroying the Church in Thyatira and how it can destroy the 21st centuries if it was not identified and properly dealt with.  Jesus was and is concerned that we know and how to deal with this spirit of Jezebel?  How does the spirit of Jezebel manifest today?

Here are a few pointers: By reading the scriptures we understand that the spirit of Jezebel manifest itself in six ways: manipulation, deception, intimidation, pride, fear and control. When we come across anyone who is behaving in the above mentioned manner it is possible that this person may be influenced by the spirit of Jezebel.

The spirit of Jezebel could operate through both men and women who do not live under the Lordship of Jesus. We come across people in our Churches who come under the influence of the spirit of Jezebel. They manipulate others to get their selfish way, they move in pride thinking that they know better than the pastor. They intimidate and induce fear among people. They mislead the believers through their false teachings. They take matters into their own hands. Through their deceptive and controlling way undermine and oppose the leadership and if the leadership doesn't give in, they even threaten to kill them.

Next time when we encounter someone with the spirit of Jezebel we must not tolerate them; but deal with them. How do we deal with the spirit of Jezebel? Remember that we are not fighting against flesh and blood but against the powers and the principalities and the forces in the high places? Just like with any other evil spirit we deal with the spirit of Jezebel by putting on the full armor of God.  By standing firm in the Lord and taking up the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God against the manipulative and controlling spirit.  When we are dealing with it we cannot afford to move in pride. James 4:7, “Be humble then before God. But resist the devil and you’ll find he’ll run away from you.”

After doing the spiritual warfare in prayer if we still do not see a change in that person who is operating in the spirit of Jezebel for the sake of the welfare of the believers in the Church the leadership may have to take the necessary step of putting that person out of the fellowship.

The message we take away from this letter is that we serve the risen Lord who conquered sin and death. We are not to be intimidated by the spirit of Jezebel. We are not to tolerate it; we are to engage in spiritual warfare by calling on the name of Christ. After having done all that when necessary we are to take a firm stand against the person effected by it. When that happens, then only cane we see our church becoming a safer place where people from all nations gather around the throne and worship God in Spirit and Truth. There will be love and harmony in our families and with one another. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the Churches. Amen