Saturday, October 11, 2014

Father Heart of God: Hosea 11:1-12

            Ken Druck in his book “The Secrets Men Keep” discusses six major secrets men have. At the top of the list is that "men secretly yearn for their father’s love and approval." The authors say: It may surprise us to know that the most powerful common denominator influencing men’s lives today is the relationship we had with our fathers.... Of the hundreds of men I have surveyed over the years, perhaps 90 percent admitted they still had strings leading back to their fathers. In other words, they are still looking to their fathers, even though their fathers may have been dead for years, for approval, acceptance, affection, and understanding.” 

Are the men only ones with a yearning for their father’s love and approval? In her book Like Father, Like Daughter, Suzanne Fields presents the results of her interviews with hundreds of women. The central thesis of her research was "Daddy hides, and we forever seek him, only occasionally flushing him out of his hiding places.”

These two authors seem to highlight an inherent need of both men and women for the love and approval of their fathers. This craving for the affirmation, affection, discipline, protection, leadership, and unconditional acceptance should primarily come from a dad, unfortunately for many it may not have been the case. Hence we grow up with resentment and are unfulfilled, yet we continue to seek to meet those needs.

The scriptures say that God is our Father, Let’s see how God expressed his father’s heart to a group of people who though wanted that love yet constantly turned away from the Father who loved them with an unconditional and everlasting love. Read Hosea 11:1-12

BACKGROUND: Hosea was the last prophet in Israel. He preached during the reign of Jeroboam II (793-753) B.C His mission was to call the nation of Israel to repent. Upon God’s command Hosea marries Gomer who was practicing harlotry. Just like Gomer was found unfaithful to Hosea, the children of Israel too were unfaithful to God. Hosea pursued his unfaithful wife with a love similar to the love with which God persuaded unfaithful Israel.

Though the nation of Israel was turning away from God; he loved them intensely. God’s father’s heart was broken by their constant backsliding. In spite of all that God’s love was enduring and He never gave up on them. The prophet Hosea so graphically illustrates God’s intense love, his broken heart and His endurance with the nation of Israel in this chapter.

Vs 1. “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.”  The first part of the verse indicates that God loved the nation of Israel from its infant stage. The words “my son” indicate an intimate father and son relationship that God wants to enjoy not only with Israel, but also with all those who believes in His son Jesus Christ. In John 1:12,Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”

Just like a Jewish father God expresses His intense love to the nation of Israel by teaching, providing, healing and caring for all their needs. Vs 3-4 “I led Ephraim. I rescued him from human bondage, But he never acknowledged my help, never admitted that I was the one pulling his wagon, that I lifted him, like a baby, to my cheek, that I bent down to feed him.”You may be wondering why five times the author had to mention I, well without any doubt God wanted Israel to know that it was indeed Him who had done the teaching, caring and healing all the way from Egypt until they reached the Promised Land.

The author uses down to earth terms and portrays a scene to express God’s fatherly love and concern for his people, such a scene would be familiar to any family. A father who is absorbed in coaxing and supporting the child’s first staggering steps. I am familiar with this kind of fatherly role. I remember how I used to enjoy helping my three daughters when they started to walk. I would hold them by their arms and walk with them. Pick them up and comfort them when they fell and hurt themselves. I also remember how I would carry them and coax them to eat.  Not to mention the hours that I stayed at their bedside when they were sick.

We thank God for our fathers and mothers who loved us otherwise most of us wouldn't be here today. I understand that some of us may not have had such loving parents as a result find it hard to relate to a loving heavenly father who loves us intensely and unconditionally. Would it be possible even after receiving love and affection from parents that some children turn their backs on their parents?  It happened to Israelites, and it could happen to us too. V 5-7 shows God’s broken heart over a nation that was backslidden.


In the passage we read, we see the hidden hand of God from the inception of the nation of Israel, until today yet many have failed to recognize God as their father. Over and over again they rebelled against Him, turned their backs on Him, they served false gods that are not gods but demons. Vs 5-7 depicts the broken heart of God over his obstinate children.

Vs 7 says, “My people are bent on turning from Me.” In the Message Bible it reads, “My people are hell-bent on leaving me. They pray to god Baal for help. He doesn’t lift a finger to help them.” Israel’s backsliding grieved God’s heart.  Malachi 3:7, “From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?”

Similarly, we too have taken God’s love for granted. Just because we do not see him with our physical eyes it doesn't mean he is not involved in our lives. God is the one who gave us birth and breath to live. He sends rain, and sunshine for man to cultivate the earth and live. He gives wisdom and skills to man so that through science and technology man can do wonders.

When we are sick he sends his word and heals us. Above all he sent his only son Jesus to redeem us from sin and death so that we can live with him forever in eternity. In spite of all these favors done to us isn't it shameful that mankind continues to reject God’s love? When God calls them to turn to Him, they ignore His call? How does God respond to this backsliding of the human heart? Does he give up on his people forever? No, our earthly parents may stop loving us but God our heavenly father never stop loving his children.

These verses bring forth the all compassionate, all loving father heart of God. In spite of Israel’s constant refusal and backsliding, God the father refuses to let them go. In Vs 8-9 “But how can I give up on you, Ephraim? How can I turn you loose, Israel? How can I leave you to be ruined like Admah, devastated like luckless Zeboim? I can’t bear to even think such thoughts.
My insides churn in protest. And so I’m not going to act on my anger. I’m not going to destroy Ephraim. And why? Because I am God and not a human. I’m The Holy One and I’m here—in your very midst
. In spite of all their stubbornness and rebellion the nation of Israel still exists today, it is because of this promise God made to them through the prophet Hosea.

Similarly, if only God moved in anger and executed His wrath upon us for all our rejection of Him and stubbornness, none of us would be here today. Then what is it that holds his wrath back from us? It is his enduring love, it is his compassion and it is his mercy. The entire Psalm of 136 talks about God’s enduring love.

No doubt His love endures forever; it doesn't mean that he is going to put up with us forever for our nonsense and mess that we have created for ourselves. There will come a day God’s patience will come to an end. That’s is then Jesus will come back to this world for the second time but this time not to save the world but judge the living and the dead. Most of us have known Jesus as the good shepherded, but we have not yet seen the other side of Him, for He is the roaring lion.

The Prophet Hosea rightly describes God’s wrath towards his obstinate children in Vs 10, “He will roar like a lion; Indeed He will roar; and His sons will come from the west. They will come trembling like birds from Egypt, and doves from the land of Assyria; and I will settle them in their houses declares the Lord.” This scripture has two meanings: One is God settling the Israelites in their home land after having been scattered all over the world, and the deeper meaning is God settling His people in their heavenly home when they return to him in humility and repentance. 

What can we learn from this passage? Firstly God is our father and He loves us intensely. Secondly his heart is broken when we turn our backs on Him. Thirdly instead of dealing with us as our sins deserve, He is patient with us and loves us with His enduring love. What should be our response to such a loving father? Where are you today in your heart? Are you in need of a touch from a loving heavenly father? He is pleased when his children say to him, father we are sorry for our rebellion, selfishness, disobedience, pride and independence, and we want to come back to you and follow you with all our hearts, please accept us back again. Amen



Tuesday, October 7, 2014

WHO IS IN CHARGE? (Luke 8:22-25)

A seagoing captain commanded a passenger ship that was sailing from Liverpool, England, to New York. His family was on board with him. One night when everyone was asleep, a squall unexpectedly swept over the waters and tossed the ship violently, awakening the passengers. They were all terribly afraid because of the storm. The captain's little 8-year-old girl was also awakened. 'What's the matter?" cried the frightened child. Her mother told her that a sudden storm had struck the ship. 'Is Father on deck?" she asked. 'Yes, Father's on deck," came the encouraging answer. Hearing this, the little girl snuggled back into her bed and in a few moments was sound asleep. The winds still blew and the waves still rolled, but her fears were calmed because her father was in charge, and she knew that her father could get her home safely.

We too face storms in life of all kinds and they rock our life’s boat to an extent we think it is going to crash how would we respond? Unlike the little girl in the story there were some mighty fishermen who grew up in the region of Galilee who were used to the rugged conditions on the sea yet when they faced a storm how did they respond? In order to find out their response and who is in charge let us turn to (Luke 8:22-25)

Vs 22 Now on one of those days Jesus and His disciples got into a boat, and He said to them “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.”  So they launched out.

Vs 23 But as they were sailing along He fell asleep; and a fierce gale of wind descended on the lake, and they began to be swamped and to be in danger. V24 They came to Jesus and woke Him up, saying, Master, Master, we are perishing! And He got up and rebuked the wind and the surging waves, and they stopped and it became calm. Vs 25 And he said to them, Where is your faith? They were fearful and amazed, saying to one another, who then is this, that He commands even the winds and the water and they obey Him?
A brief background from Luke 7th & 8th chapters: After completing his discourse Jesus went to Capernaum. There Jesus healed the servant of a centurion, and raised the widow’s son from the dead. He began to travel from one city and village on a preaching mission. The twelve disciples, the women who were healed of evil spirits and sicknesses and many others were following Jesus. He was becoming popular in the entire region of Galilee. In other words the gospel began to spread into the Gentile territory. On one of those days Jesus tells his disciples to get into the boat and he said to them: “let’s go over to the other side of the lake”

Jesus told his disciples “Let us go over to the other side of the Lake” this indicates that. He was not sending the disciples alone, but he was going with them as well. In other words Jesus was their traveling companion. How would you like to have Jesus as your traveling companion?  Several scriptures in the gospels show us that Jesus took his disciples with him on a number of occasions:
For a dinner at Matthews’s house (Matt 9:16; 26:20), on his many mission trips :( Mk 10:40)
When he performed miracles (raising the widow’s son, wedding at Cana, feeding the five thousand)

When he prayed in private: (Matt 26:36; Lk 9:18; John 6:3). He was going to prepare place for the disciples and will come back to them so that they can be with him. (John 14:3). Jesus promised to be with his disciples always even to the very end of the age (Matt 28:20)

Even today Jesus wants to be our traveling companion in this life’s Journey. He wants to be our guide and the leader at the same time. He wants to walk with us and talk with us. It doesn't mean that we will never face any troubles but it means that he will help us in our troubles. 


Before they embarked the journey Jesus did not click on to the weather forecast of Seven News for that day. The sky must have been clear and there were no threatening signs around.  He got his group together and said “Let’s Go” So Jesus along with his disciples sailed off to the other side of the Lake. It was towards the evening, the sun is setting, the sea breeze was refreshing, the waves were gently dancing to the continuous rhythm of the oars, and the boat was rocking like a cradle. It was a perfect situation for any one to doze off a bit.  After a hectic ministry schedule Jesus must have been quite tired so fell off to a deep sleep.

The boat was cruising along and the disciples too must have been relaxed. Finally they could get away from all those bustling crowds and get a breather. I wonder what may have been going through in the minds of the disciples, they may have been reflecting on their busy ministry itinerary with Jesus for the past so many days: Let’s step into the boat to hear what was going on, Peter, John and James were discussing about the prominent delegation of Jewish elders who came and requested Jesus to heal the servant of the centurion.

Soon after that, they had a heart wrenching experience of actually seeing a dead man coming alive at the gate of the city called Nain. The team treasurer Judas was upset with the act of this woman who wasted the expensive perfume just to wash Jesus’ feet!! He thought what a waste. And the other disciples may have gotten into a theological argument on what actually meant by the “Sower and the Seed parable.” As the boat kept sailing “All of a sudden without any warning, (Matt 8:24) “a fierce gale of wind descended on the lake and they began to be swamped and they were in danger.

When it comes to think of it these disciples were no ordinary men, they lived all their lives on the rugged sea catching fish, now they left everything and followed this man called Jesus. They were caught off guard. It must have dawned on them it was a life and death situation. They knew far too well that it was going to be a disaster so they rushed to Jesus and woke him up saying Master! Master!  We are perishing. Matt 8:24 “Lord save us we are going to drown” Mark records in Mk 4: 38 “Teacher don’t you care if we drown?”

When you  think that everything is going smoothly, you have nothing to worry, you are beginning to enjoy life and relax then all of a sudden a storm (northeaster) hits your life. Suddenly you may get a notice from your company saying your are contract is terminated, or diagnosed with cancer; your spouse gives up on you, or lose a loved one back home in India, In such moments we feel like our life is falling apart, no one cares about us, feel like God is silent and doesn't care for us any more just like the disciples did. Let’s look at who is in charge?


       As the frantic disciples came and woke up Jesus what did he do? He got up from the sleep and rebuked the wind and the surging waves and they stopped, and it became calm. The word rebuke carries certain power here in the passage. Jesus employed the same word when he set the man free in the synagogue who was possessed by an unclean spirit, (Luke 4:35), when he healed Peter’s mother-in law and when he cured many people of diseases and afflictions and evil spirits.

      Interestingly the OT sometimes portrays the powers of nature as demonic; what is of equal interest is that it also depicts Yahweh as Lord of the sea and his power over the sea as mastery of a monstrous, evil power. Hence as Jesus rebukes the storm he is acting as God acts, manifesting his authority over the powers of evil. Several scriptures in Psalms talk about God’s protection of his people in times of trouble :( Psalm 65:7; 69:2-3; 15-16; 74:13-14; 107:23-30)

      Psalm 107:28-31Then you called out to God in your desperate condition; he got you out in the nick of time. He quieted the wind down to a whisper, put a muzzle on all the big waves. And you were so glad when the storm died down, and he led you safely back to harbor.” (The Message)
With one rebuke Jesus brought order in disorder. He restored peace in panic. He made calm in chaos. He challenged disciple’s unbelief. Jesus established His absolute authority over nature and over human lives. He wanted the disciples to know that when He is with them no storm will overtake them. He wanted them to look at Him rather than looking at the wind and the waves. He wanted them to be at rest knowing that He is indeed the commander in chief and He is in charge.

    How do we respond to the storms in our lives that come unexpected and seem to drown us?  Are we like the disciples who even though had seen several miracles yet hardened their minds and doubt in the absolute power and authority of God? What is the storm you are facing today? God has a purpose in leading you into that storm. When you think your life boat is going to be crashed, that is the time you need to know Who!! is on the Deck, or who is having the commanding controls or who is in charge, then like that little girl in the story. If we only you keep your eyes on the one who has the power over the wind and the waves He will guide you safely through your storm. Anchor yourself to Jesus who is in charge of your life.  Amen.


September and October months are notorious for Yard Sales.  I quite like Yard Sales. There are 279 garage sales, yard sales, and estate sales in Massachusetts in the next 7 days. There are individual family, multi family, multi neighborhood and church yard sales just like the one we had last Saturday. One lady called me and said, “I am clearing up my basement, and I got so much stuff, I want to donate to your Church Yard Sale.” Thank you!! Let’s be honest, one of the reasons we organize Yard Sales is that we want to clean up our messy houses and basements right? No doubt we may get great deals in Yard Sales but more often “Yard Sales” are there for “Getting Rid of Mess.”
            As I was preparing for this week’s sermon I could not help but think of the spiritual mess that certain individuals and churches get into over a period of time. Thank God for these Yard sales; at least once a year our basements get cleaned, but how about the spiritual mess in our individual lives, families and our churches? When will that get cleaned? Who takes care of that?

Unfortunately, many of us have grown comfortable with spiritually messy lives. Year after year we live with it, never wanting to change or try to get rid of that mess. Since June this year we have been on a journey to discover where we are as a church. The results of the Natural Church Survey has revealed to us that we are not as healthy of a church as we thought we were. We are taking active measures to address the messy situations and to restore health.

This past week we have taken one such action to address an unhealthy and messy situation. When I think of getting rid of the mess in our church, I was reminded of a biblical church, which once was a healthy congregation in the region but over a period of time became messy. Let’s see how a young pastor went about Spiritual House Cleaning. I Timothy 1:1-10.

The two Epistles to Timothy and the one to Titus, commonly known as the Pastoral Epistles, belong to the period at the close of Paul’s life. What is the background to these letters? In Acts 18:24, we read, the church in Ephesus was founded by Apollos. Paul on his second missionary journey visited this fledgling congregation of twelve members and guided them to receive the Holy Spirit. (Acts 19) According to Acts 19:20, “So the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.” That shows how powerful the Ephesus church became.
Over a period of time Ephesus has become a mess. Surprisingly, sinners show up. Wonderful beginnings can end up in terrible catastrophes. This is the Ephesus to which Timothy is sent; not to enjoy a pastorate in a mega church but to clean up the mess. Could what happened to the Ephesus church happen to our church too? Most of us, no matter how wonderful a place we enter into, are going to find ourselves in the middle of a mess sooner or later. For the Christian faith is always lived out in the conditions of the world; try as we may, we cannot isolate our Christian lives from the world in which we make our living. This culture seeps into the church, let’s see how the Ephesus church became messy?

            We don’t know exactly what went wrong in the Ephesus Church. All we know is that certain men were teaching false doctrines that are contrary to the sound and healthy doctrine of the gospel of Jesus Christ and that was threatening to destroy the church. Apparently in this congregation there were “certain persons” who were obsessed with “religion” but resisted order and sound teaching. They were teaching and putting high value on myths, and endless genealogies which promote speculations (controversies) rather than God’s work which is by faith.”(Vs 4) Paul warns later in II Timothy 2:17, their teaching will spread like gangrene.

Timothy enters into a congregational mess with the mandate to straighten it out. Timothy inherited both the legacy (left by Paul) and the problems which others were responsible for (among whom were Hymenaeus and Alexander) later in the chapter in Vs20, Paul says that he handed them over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme. Let me bring this into our context. When I first became a pastor of ECCOA I too have inherited the legacy left by previous pastors as well as some problems for which others were responsible.

We are the sons of our culture and we are the sons of our homes. The culture we live in seeps into the church through the pores of our congregations. Whether we like it or not this is what we are faced with continuously. We are faced with a religion without commitment, a spirituality without content, aspiration and talk and longing, fulfillment and needs, but not much concern about God. All that matters is our selfishness and self-centeredness.

Hymenaeus, Alexander, types of people are found in every church. They are mere talkers, given into endless controversies. They engage in vain discussion over matters that have no eternal value, they haggle over words. Paul was concerned about the state of the Ephesus church, Out of that concern he gave a command to Timothy. We must recognize here Paul was not coming as an authoritarian, controlling, and commanding leader. Instead he was full of love, his heart was pure, his conscience was good and above all he was acting in sincere faith.

At times when I tried either to bring correction or biblical instruction in this church I was misunderstood and was judged. People called me all kinds of names when I acted in sincere faith and out of love. What was the command that Paul gave to Timothy?  Paul’s command was twofold, firstly he was to rebuke the false teachers not to teach such doctrines, secondly, to teach them healthy or sound teaching. I believe that I too have been given a charge from God which is to clean up the spiritual mess and to teach healthy and balanced teachings to this church.

The more I spend time with God the more I realize as your Pastor my mandate is not to fight against the popular culture outside of the church, rather fight this culture flooding into the Church. I am called to protect and preserve the purity of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Before we look into what sound teaching looks like, let’s look at the results of false teachings.

Paul mentions fourteen instances or ways of life, acts, and behaviors of people who adhere to and teach false teachings. They are: Law breakers, rebellious, sinful, ungodly, unholy, irreligious, killers of fathers or mothers, murderers, sexually immoral, practicing homosexuals, slave traders, liars, and adulterers.” When people believe and practice false teachings they reflect some or all of the above mentioned traits in their lives. False teaching is like gangrene, sooner than later it destroys the church.

Paul wanted Timothy to teach “healthy or sound teaching.” In fact in all three of Paul’s pastoral letters the overarching theme was healthy teaching.  Sometimes “teaching” is translated as “doctrine” and so we get the impression that orthodoxy is at issue. But this isn’t quite right. For Timothy is given a mandate to teach in a way that brings health to people. In 2 Timothy 4:1-3, we read Paul’s charge to Timothy, “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound teaching. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”
Words in Ephesus have gotten sick, the “godless chatter” is infecting the souls of people with disease. So as a teacher Timothy was responsible for speaking in such a way that people get healthy again. I started my preaching and teaching ministry at the age of 18. As a young preacher I always believed in balance and health. I avoided controversies and extreme teachings.
If you look at all the messages I preached over here you will notice balance. If you are looking to hear what your itching ears want you to hear you will be disappointed in this church. Because I am not here to tickle your ears or feed your fantasies, but I am here committed to bring nothing but the whole truth of the gospel. I am here to teach healthy and sound teaching.  What does sound teaching consist of?
Adhering to wrong teaching makes us sick. Our lives become messy, disorderly and uncontrolled. Whereas adhering to sound teaching our lives become healthy, wholesome, and fruitful. The only way to get rid of the mess in our lives and in our church is by subscribing to sound teaching. So what does sound teaching consist of? Sound teaching centers around God, His nature, character, His ways and his work and purpose for our lives.  Sound teaching emphasizes both on the fruit and gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Sound teaching of God’s word avoids all forms of extremes, and endless controversies. It builds faith and gives hope rather than inducing fear and paranoia. It calls for servant-hood and sacrifice instead of manipulation and control. It focuses on giving up rights rather than holding on to our rights. It calls for self-denial and picking up the cross rather than self-gratification and pleasure. It encourages character over competence, purity over power. It challenges us to make a difference in the society by being the salt and light in our communities. It teaches us to respect authority and pray for the government.  To love our wives and respect our husbands and raise our children in the fear of God. The list can go on. Sound teaching brings life at all levels while false teaching is deceptive and destructive.
No wonder why there is such attack by the enemy on those who teach sound teaching and the churches that practice sound teaching. We are living in end times where people do not value sound teaching rather are carried away by every wind of false teachings. I see this deviation from sound teaching in churches these days. In light of this my dear congregation let’s develop a taste for sound teaching. Let’s learn to discern the truth and discard controversies.
 It is about time we rise up and get to the work of spiritual house cleaning. It takes all of us working together. If you let me, I am committed to carry out my God given task of equipping you for works of service, so that in Christ we all may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Amen