Sunday, December 4, 2016


Farewell Speech, 12/04/2016
            I very well remember how I felt as an emerging ministry leader in YWAM in 1992, when my long-time mentor and leader announced that, their family was going to leave to another city. My first reaction was, how could you just leave us like orphans and move on to another city! A deep sense of fear and uncertainty overwhelmed my heart and rest of the staff members. Several questions flood through my mind, such as, how am I going to survive? What is going to happen to the ministry? How can we keep the community together? Etc.
           Initially I thought I could not make it another day in without my mentor, leader and spiritual father. During that tough transition, I learned some valuable lessons of trusting God, and not relying upon my own feelings and emotions. God gave me grace and strength to continue in ministry for the next thirteen years. As a base director, I led the ministry to the next level.
          The truth of the matter is whenever there is a transition in leadership, it is natural that individuals, and families that are part of a community or a Church go through a sense of uncertainty. Whether we like it or not transition and change happens all the time. They are never easy at the moment things can get rough at times, however when we don’t give up on God, ourselves and one another, together with we will become stronger people of faith.
         After having the joy of serving ECCOA for eight years, our family will be moving to Sharon to carry on our next assignment that God has entrusted to us. That opens up questions like, what is going to happen to ECCOA? How are we going to keep everything together? This morning I want to share with you some principles from the Apostle Paul’s farewell speech to the Church in Thessalonica. The title for my farewell speech, What Keeps a Church Together?
I Thessalonians 5:12-28.

     In recent months, there has been a hue and cry among the American Public that, the International community no longer respects the leadership of our country. We have lost our respect hence credibility. But the real question we must ask ourselves is do we respect our own leaders? Do children respect their parents, students their teachers, workers their bosses and the congregation their pastors and other elders in the church? Unlike in other parts of the world, my fellow clergy here agree with me that in the western world, respect for pastors is more and more on the decline, especially among the protestant churches.

     Though we recognize God is ultimately the ruler of all, yet he established government, and the rule of law by which everything is governed. The Biblical History tells us, that he raised up leaders, prophets, judges, rulers, governors and kings who carried out his divine purposes on the earth. God expects us that we obey our leaders, because all authority is established by God. We are to respect them even though we may not agree with them on everything.

    Coming back to our text, Paul wanted to make sure that the leadership or the elders especially those who work hard and admonish the congregation were to be respected and held in high esteem. When it comes to Church governance and order God has established fivefold offices and they are: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers. To equip his people for works of service so that the body of Christ 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” (Ephesians 4:11-13).

    According to this scripture the work of a pastor is to equip the congregation to become all that God wanted them to be. Pastor and the elders are our leaders in the church, so they are to be respected. Paul while writing to Jewish converts urges them to have confidence in their leaders. “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you. Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way.” Hebrews 13:17-18

If you have ever been in a leadership position you would understand how hard of a task it is to lead, especially those who always appose and are unwilling to be led. Leadership can be a lonely place, where pressures, challenges and burdens abound. Unfortunately, some people in churches make it as their mission to give a hard time to pastors and elders.
My desire for you is that you too would respect, support, and encourage and pray for your elders and your next pastor, whoever they may be. Do not antagonize and make their task more difficult than it already is. Do not oppose them for the sake of opposing them without a valid reason. Doing so is not good for you. Disrespect of leadership, tears the very fabric of a church where is respect keeps a church together. More on a practical way, please support, and encourage James, and Arlene as they are carrying the bulk of the load during this transition. Cover the rest of the board members also in your prayers.
            The spiritual health and numerical growth of any church depends a lot on how well the individual believers in that church take care of themselves, emotionally, spiritually and physically. When you come to church on Sunday mornings, and listen to your pastor preach you will only get broad strokes of or a partial revelation of a spiritual truth. If you want to grow in your spiritual walk with God, you need to go back home and do your own independent study. The Holy Spirit will lead you into all the truth and equip you to do every good work.

           This sounds so basic and simple, and yet many of us have hard time cultivating spiritual disciplines. The apostle Paul laid out several spiritual disciplines and encouraged the Thessalonians to cultivate and grow in those disciplines such as: Esteeming hard work; encouragement; living in peace with one another; being patient with everyone; not to pay back evil with evil but pay back with good; to be joyful always; to pray continually; to give thanks in all circumstances. Can you imagine what kind of a church ECCOA will be when every individual believer not only practice these disciplines, but also teach others to do the same?

            My hope for ECCOA is that, you would cultivate these essential spiritual disciplines and continue to grow in them. That you would not quench the Holy Spirit and treat prophecies with no contempt. You will test every spirit to find out whether they are from God. You will recognize false teachings as you will study the truth of God’s word. You will keep short accounts with each other, and not to hold on to bitterness but forgive one another as Christ forgave you and loves you with an everlasting love. As you desire the gifts of the Holy Spirit, may you also eagerly seek for the fruit of the Holy Spirit. All these things will make you a fruit bearing and productive Christian and keep the ministry of ECCOA together.

      While preparing for my farewell speech, I read the farewell speeches of some leaders in the Bible, namely Moses, Joshua, Jesus and Paul. In their farewell speeches, they exhorted their followers to believe in God, obey God and live a God centered life. For example, Joshua an ardent and earnest follower of God, in his farewell speech exhorted the leaders with these words. Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness…But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…But as for me and my household we will serve the LORD.” Joshua 24:14-15
      My journey with God began at age 18, as a young Christian I wanted to serve God only all the days of my life. Now after several years of following Christ, as Joshua said I will reiterate my decision one more time, “But as for me and my household we will serve the LORD.” Everything in life, begins with God, continues in God, sustained by God and ends with God. In his famous speech on the hill in Athens, this is what the Apostle Paul reminded the council of Areopagus, “For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.” Acts 17:28. Let’s be assured that all we have comes from God. Let’s live in the center of God’s will. 

      There is no greater honor and privilege on this side of heavens than serving our living God. Nothing can be compared with the Joy of serving our King, Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. My prayer for each of you is that, at the end of the day you too would join Joshua and me, in saying, “But as for me and my household we will serve the LORD.” During this Christmas season, let’s come together and celebrate the Lord.
      What does practically mean to live God centered lives?  It means recognizing, acknowledging and honoring God in all matters of our lives. It means aligning ourselves to the standards of God’s word and not other way around. It means, seeking God and His Kingdom first. It means saying to God not my will but let your will be done and much more.

        In closing, on behalf of me and my family want to thank you for letting us share our lives with you all. It has been a journey of learning. I want to leave you with this encouragement that you will continue to be faithful in serving God no matter where you are. My prayer for all of us is that, our gracious Lord who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it. May the Lord bless us, keep us safe and let his face shine upon us. May we become fruitful, and productive as we endeavor to serve our Lord and build His Kingdom here in Quincy, and in Sharon even unto the ends of the earth. Amen

Monday, November 28, 2016


Love always protects
The Most Excellent Way- Part X I Corinthians 13

During World War II, a US marine was separated from his unit on a Pacific island. The fighting had been intense, and in the smoke and the crossfire he had lost touch with his comrades. Alone in the jungle, he could hear enemy soldiers coming in his direction. Scrambling for cover, he found his way up a high ridge to several small caves in the rock. Quickly he crawled inside one of the caves. Although safe for the moment, he realized that once the enemy soldiers looking for him swept up the ridge, they would quickly search all the caves and he would be killed.
            As he waited, he prayed, "Lord, if it be your will, please protect me. Whatever your will though, I love you and trust you. Amen." After praying, he lay quietly listening to the enemy begin to draw close. He thought, "Well, I guess the Lord isn’t going to help me out of this one." Then he saw a spider begin to build a web over the front of his cave. As he watched, listening to the enemy searching for him all the while, the spider layered strand after strand of web across the opening of the cave. “Hah, he thought. “What I need is a brick wall and what the Lord has sent me is a spider web. God does have a sense of humor."
            As the enemy drew closer he watched from the darkness of his hideout and could see them searching one cave after another. As they came to his, he got ready to make his last stand. To his amazement, however, after glancing in the direction of his cave, they moved on. Suddenly, he realized that with the spider web over the entrance, his cave looked as if no one had entered for quite a while. "Lord, forgive me," prayed the young man. "I had forgotten that in you a spider’s web is stronger than a brick wall."
            We all face times of great trouble. When we do, it is so easy to forget the victories that God would work in our lives, sometimes in the most surprising ways. As the great leader, Nehemiah, reminded the people of Israel when they faced the task of rebuilding Jerusalem, "In God we will have success!" (Nehemiah 2:20). What would you do when fear grips your heart?
            Whatever may be happening in your life, remember with God, a mere spider’s web can become a strong wall of protection. God knows how to protect his children. In our series of messages on “the Most Excellent Way,” today we will look at another aspect of what love does the best, Love always protects. Let me unpack this very timely and crucial aspect of love.

            On the morning of Wednesday November 9, millions of people both here in the USA and around the world woke up to the new reality of Trump’s presidency. There is a sense of elation and vindication among some and a deep sense of distrust and fear of uncertainty among others. It appears to me that many people are genuinely afraid of their safety and the safety of their loved ones. When fear grips a heart where would they turn? They look to a strong leader who could protect them from their enemies and alleviate their financial pressures. But honestly speaking could any human leader or administration be able to provide such absolute security?  
            Writing to the Corinthians the Apostle Paul exhibited a protective attitude toward the Church. His primary role was to protect the gospel of Jesus Christ, to preserve the work that had been growing in the city and become a powerful witness for Christ in a pagan society.
Yet he realizes his human inadequacies when it comes to protecting the bride of Christ, the Church from the evil one so he leads them to the one and only one who loves them with a never ending love. Paul writes letters to provide an alternative to fear, to build their faith and confidence in God, so that they can go on living even in the midst of adversity. Here are a few excerpts: He showed the Corinthians how God will not abandon them when they face calamity and how he can bring beauty from ashes, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” 2 Corinthians 4:7-10
             He urged the Thessalonians to pray to God for his protection from the evil one. “And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people, for not everyone has faith. But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.” 2 Thess 3:2-3
He encouraged the Ephesians to put on the full armor of God so that they can stand the trial, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” Ephesians 6: 10-11
             He warned the Romans to stay away from divisive and antagonistic people, and also he comforted them with these words, “Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I rejoice because of you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.” Romans 16:19-20
            These are just a few incidents where the Apostle Paul was drawing the attention of the believers in those churches to look to God for His protection. Coming back to our text, where Paul says, “Love always protects.” At times we wonder whether that is really true. Some may ask us if God is love and there to protect me, why then did he let this calamity happen to me? Why didn’t he step in when I needed him the most? I feel abandoned, unprotected hence unloved. These questions are legitimate to ask and God won’t be offended when we do ask Him.
            If some of you feel betrayed and unloved by God, I don’t have easy answers for you, however I would say this though. Without a shadow of doubt, I believe, all the promises of God are Yeah and Amen in Christ. 2Cor 1:20. Yes He can, and will be able to protect us from any known and unknown dangers, if even he will not God is absolutely trustworthy. We also need to remind ourselves that we live in a fallen world where people have free will, to do good or evil to others. Sometimes the innocent become victims of the evil choices of others. For example, the recent shootings in Sen Bernardino where 14 innocent people were killed and 22 were injured. Or the infamous Marathon Bombing.
            Where is God’s protection in such horrible moments one might ask? In moments like that God’s protection may come in the form of peace, comfort, and healing. Or at times it may be through his tender, loving reassuring words of love which give us courage to face adversity. When we look at Paul what gave him assurance to go on living for Christ in spite of all the hardships, was God’s assuring love. In the end he did not become a victim to his fears but a victor. So he could say these words with confidence to the Corinthians and to all those who might be struggling with one kind of fear or the other.
            “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:35-39.
            This scripture reminds us that no matter what happens to us nothing in this whole universe will be able to separate us from his love. I believe that the Holy Spirit has inspired Paul to write these words so that we feel protected and extend protection to others. Jesus said to his disciples, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34. Loving one another is not an option but a command.
            When we put feet to our words of love for God and for one another, by seeing our good works people will come to know that we are the followers of Christ. How can we practically do that? Firstly, our expression of love must begin among those who are closest to us. It starts with loving our spouses, or children (if you have any) so much that we don’t talk about them disrespectfully in front of others.
            Secondly, since we live in a Christian community, we are commanded to love one another. It is best expressed when: we look after each other’s needs not just in words but through actions. When we protect each other instead of attacking and devouring one another. We cover each other’s back so to say. We stand up for each other instead of opposing one another. We respect, honor and are kind, and forgive those who offend us. When someone is attacking and accusing the pastor or one of the elders for no reason, we speak up for them and defend them instead of joining with the accuser and the attacker. .
            Perhaps this message has brought some of your worst fears to the surface. The present political and economic condition is not making you feel any safer. You are afraid of the uncertain and the unknown future. I have good news for you. God loves you immensely. He is inviting you to come to Him and find rest to your troubled soul. Confess all your fears to Him. When you confess them to the lord, the peace that surpasses all understanding fills your heart.
            Begin your day by entrusting your cares and concerns to the Lord through prayer and reading of His word. The Bible is full of scriptures that address all kinds of fear. Here is one: “But now, this is what the Lord says he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Isaiah 43:1-2. This scripture tells us that we are fully covered, and protected by God.
Let me close with Aaronic high priestly Benediction:The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” Amen

Sunday, November 27, 2016


The Most Excellent Way- Part XII I Corinthians 13

            In our Most Excellent Way series today we will talk about two very important aspects of Love: Love always Perseveres and Never fails. The Greek word used here for love is Agape. It is the unselfish and unconditional love of God towards man. That kind of love from God always perseveres and never fails, which is contrary to other human forms of love. 
The apostle Paul confronts the Corinthian church for not living faithfully in Christ-honoring ways and in accordance to the gospel they are called to proclaim.  They had fallen away from many of the standards they were taught to follow, and instead allowed the culture to dominate their worldview. Paul was redirecting the Church to a more steady and steadfast nature of God’s love. Paul was willing to go any length in order to bring the church back to its intended focus: Loving God and serving others with gladness and singleness of heart.
If the Apostle Paul were to walk through our churches he would quickly notice how far we have drifted away from God’s original intended purposes. He would probably weep by looking at our shallow relationships, internal squabbles, divisions and our lack of love for God, and for one another especially those who are different from us. Tony Campolo an American socialist, author and pastor aptly describes the true nature of Christianity in the USA, “If we were to set out to establish a religion in polar opposition to the Beatitudes Jesus taught, it would look strikingly similar to the pop Christianity that has taken over the airways of North America.”[1]
We are living in an age, where Christians are perceived as people who are intolerant, bible bashing and those who hate gays. Frankly speaking we ourselves become our great enemies of the gospel due to our perceived hypocrisy by others, outside the walls of our churches. As contemporary author Brennan Manning says, “The greatest cause of atheism is, Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, then walk out the door and deny him with their life style. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”[2]  Coming back to our text, “Love always perseveres and never fails. Let’s unpack these two aspects of God’s love.

            The tenacious love of God toward his people is relentless. In spite of the continual rejection by people, God remains steadfastly committed, and willing to save, whenever people recognize him and seek his forgiveness. God loved the nation of Israel with steadfast love, yet time and again they turned their back on Him and followed false gods of other nations. But God did not give up on them, he kept loving them. The prophet Jeremiah lamented over a people who were stiff necked, as he recounted God’s great love for them.
Here is Jeremiah’s lamentation: I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore, I will wait for him.” (Lamentations 3:19-24). In this passage, we see how God was going after a people who couldn’t care less.
Here is another scripture that gives us a visible picture of God’s persevering love. “I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me.
To a nation that did not call on my name, I said, ‘Here am I, here am I. “All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations a people who continually provoke me to my very face.” Isaiah 65:1-3
These two passages high light how God as a faithful father goes after his lost children with his relentless love. Randy Alcorn, in his book If God is Good, shared this story of a faithful father: “In 1988, an Armenian earthquake killed forty-five thousand.  In the chaos one man made his way to his son’s school, only to find nothing but rubble.  Other parents stumbled around dazed and weeping, calling out their children’s names.  But this father ran to the back corner of the building where his son’s classroom once was, and began digging. To everyone else, it seemed hopeless.  How could his son have survived?  But this father had promised he would always be there for his boy, so he heaved rocks and dug, calling for his son by name: “Armand!”
Well-meaning parents and bystanders tried to pull him out of the rubble.  “It’s too late!”  “They’re dead!”  “There’s nothing you can do!”  The fire chief tried to pull him away saying, “Fires and explosions are happening everywhere.  You’re in danger.  Go home!”  Finally, the police came and said, “You’re in shock.  You’re endangering others.  Go home.  We’ll handle it!” But the man continued to dig, hour after hour—eight hours, then twelve, twenty-four, thirty-six hours.  Finally, in the thirty-eighth hour of digging—a day and a half after everyone told him to give up hope—he called his son’s name again, pulled back a big rock, and heard his son’s voice. “Armand!” the father screamed. From under the rocks came the words, “Dad?  I told them!  I told the other kids that if you were still alive, you’d save me!”
The father helped his son and thirteen other children climb out of the rubble.  When the building had collapsed, the children survived in a tent like pocket.  The father lovingly carried his son home to his mother.  When the townspeople praised Armand’s father for saving the children, he simply explained, “I promised my son, ‘No matter what, I’ll be there for you!”  [3]
God is more faithful than even this very human father.  We often bring the house down upon ourselves… but even then, He seeks to clear the rubble. Thank God, for he never gives up on you. He has a plan for you and is faithful to carry it out in your life. What would be our response to God’s relentless love? We accept his love first into our lives and then we week to model His faithfulness. We will say to our spouse, kids and to our neighbors… “No matter what, I’ll be there for you!” Can you imagine what our world would look like if we can emulate this nature of God’s faithfulness and his relentless love to others? God’s love not only always perseveres but it never fails.
The apostle Paul uttered these words, “God’s love never fails.” Let’s see the context of these words. The Corinthian believers were boasting about their gifts of prophecy, word of knowledge and speaking of tongues. Paul told them that one day these three temporary gifts will cease to exist when, the perfection comes. Here he was referring to the second coming of Christ. Paul was gently leading them to regain their focus on something that will never fade away or never cease to exist that is God’s love. The Greek word translated, “fails” in the NIV is actually related to a verb, “to fall” The idea is that God’s love will not fall or falter; it is constant forever.
As God says through the words of Jeremiah, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving kindness” (Jeremiah 31:3) In Hebrews 13:5, God assures us, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” The amazing truth is that, “nothing at all can separate us from God’s eternal love.” How are we to respond God’s love that always perseveres and never fails? How can we practically show God’s never failing love to others?
Steve Macciah notes, “If we are ever to live with outstretched arms of love, we must first repent of our failure to do so many times over. This has been the way of the past, it’s certainly our present experience, and undoubtedly, we’ll need to repent in the future.  We’ve all had opportunities to love without fail, and we’ve been blown it countless times. Is this your moment to confess such blatant errors, turn away from such attitudes and actions, and consider a new way of living more redemptively?”
During this holiday season; let’s pause and regain our focus back. God’s purpose for us on this earth as his children is that we will become the dispensers of God’s mercy. We will become the ambassadors of God’s persevering and never failing love.  In Shane Claiborne’s words, we need to become a “Church of extremists for grace.” What does that mean practically? It means loving all people regardless of their race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation. It means learning how to listen and understand people who might be different from you. It means making room for refugees, welcoming the homeless, seeking justice for the oppressed, and speaking out on behalf of the voiceless. It means, practically helping the poor and the needy.
In closing, we became the recipients of God’s persevering and never failing love when we have accepted Christ. It was not that we loved God but He first loved us.  Therefore, in turn we will go out and spread this amazing love of God freely to everyone we come in contact with. Though we conclude the series on the Most Excellent way, the journey of love will continue.
As we go out to spread the good news, let’s remember what we have learned about the Most Excellent way: Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it doesn’t boast, it is not arrogant, it is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs, it does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, and always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
May the words from Isaiah 61, continually remind us of our true purpose in life. “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair…” Amen


[1] Shane Claiborne, “Irresistible Revolution” page 269
[2] Shane Claiborne, “Irresistible Revolution” page 270
[3] (If God is Good, pp. 89-90.)

Sunday, November 20, 2016


(The opposite of entitlement is thankfulness)
            Mitt Romney was recorded in a private conversation during his bid for the presidency: “…. there are 47 percent…who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That’s an entitlement. (and they believe) the government should give it to them.”
            The political pundits would say this speech may have ended Mitt Romney’s path presidency. He mildly put at 47 percent of people being entitled, however the truth of the matter is that we have a whole generation of people who feel they are entitled. Entitlement is when people feel the world owes them something without having to do anything to earn it.
            The dictionary definition of entitlement: The fact of having a right to something. The amount to which a person has a right. The belief that one inherently deserves certain privileges or special treatments. What privileges or special treatments do any one of us really deserve? From a biblical perspective, entitlement is “when I get the false impression that I deserve more than I really deserve which is a cross.” Given our sinful nature, if it was not for Jesus the only thing we deserve is hell.
            Recently, Wilma and I attended a Deeper Life Conference, where the speaker; Mark Buchanan asked the attendees a couple of questions. What’s the natural default of your heart? Where does it go when it is at rest? Is it fear, disappointment, resentment or joy, gratitude and astonishment?  For Mark the number one thing that he struggles with is a sense of entitlement. What might be your number one struggle?
            I think if we are really honest with ourselves it wouldn’t take much time before we admit, yes we too might be struggling with entitlement. This is not a phenomenon of certain section of people, but it affects all of us. How did this trap of entitlement come about in our generation? How does the Bible view entitlement? What is the opposite of entitlement? How can we create an entitlement free culture?
            When we argue about which generation is more entitled, the current one blames the previous one. It is true that the present generation reaps the fruit either good or bad of the generation that has gone before. In the case of entailment many blame the “Baby Boomers,(1943-1960) for creating a generation of entitlement, why?
            For example, before World War II the great depression swept the entire globe, leaving many unemployed and desperate.  According to Tim Smith,  the pastor of First United Methodist Church, “ Entitlement started in earnest after WW II when the United States experienced unprecedented economic growth and the Baby Boomers experienced the highest standard of living of any generation in human history.
            The entire consumer market focused on them because of the numbers of their generation, catering to their every need and wants. Boomers then passed on to their children the promise of “The American Dream” that every American will get to have a good life, a job they enjoy, a generous paycheck, affordable housing and transportation and a secure retirement and an expectation that their standard of living would be the same or better than their parent’s, not taking into account that it took decades of hard work to attain that.[1] In one-way the baby boomers failed to set up an example of contentment.
            Many, who were born in the sixties and thereafter, grew up not knowing what hardship is all about, but with a sense of privilege, and entitlement.  They lack a sense of gratitude and contentment. It is all about their needs and wants. Let me make a statement here before we look deep into this subject. All entitlements are not bad, some are absolutely necessary for human survival. For example, all children are entitled to have a mother and a father especially during their early and formative years.
            All of us have unalienable human rights for food, clothing, shelter, freedom, security and to live productive, healthy, and happy lives. If you are working in a job you are entitled to receive a compensation or salary. It is very biblical. The scripture says, Those who work deserve their pay!” I Timothy 5:18.
            I am not against these types of entitlements. The entitlement I am concerned about is that when someone feels that they deserve a much better treatment because they belong to a certain, race, ethnicity, class, religion or strata of society. Or even worse is that when they think that every one owes it to them, and they don’t have to do anything to earn it.  That is bad entitlement, that’s more dangerous than anything else.
            How does this entitlement manifest itself? It manifests in a very subtle way. Some parents genuinely think that they owe it to their children so they give into any and every whim and fancy of their children. Knowing that weakness children complain, demand, and manipulate, if that doesn’t work they throw a temper tantrum to get what they want. Once they get what they want from their parents, they expect the same kind of treatment from everyone else around them.  Soon we will have a spoiled brat among us. Wilma and I have raised our daughters not always giving them what they wanted. We did not play to their every tune. We did not let them manipulate us.
            We corrected them, disciplined them and set boundaries where necessary. The scriptures give us some clear instructions on how to raise our children. Proverbs 22:6, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” Proverbs 13:20-24, “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.”
            Parenting is an awesome responsibility that God has given to us. It is the duty of every parent to raise their children in the ways of God. We are living in a society where we are becoming more and more child centered. When we never discipline our children, and give everything they ask, we are doing a disservice to them. We are raising children who think that they are entitled to every thing.
            A clear example of this failure of parenting is, “Ethan Couch” who is infamously called as, “the Afluenza Teeen”  I would call him “An entitled Brat” Ethan’s parents never corrected or disciplined him, instead gave everything he wanted all the time.  As a result he was raised to believe that he could do anything and get away and never feel any remorse for doing so. The parents failure to start him off on the right way, and his entitled behavior resulted in the loss of four innocent lives forever and one can never speak or move, and not to mention the grief stricken families.
            Just imagine what devastation one entitled and unruly kid has caused. Because of his un-curtailed behavior four families will not have their loved ones with them during this thanksgiving season. They won’t be there to celebrate Christmas. This kind of entitlement is far more dangerous to our society.  Are we raising an entitled generation?

            Entitlement is not a new phenomenon we see it play out in biblical times as well. Let me introduce a group of people who thought they deserved better treatment. This was the time when Joshua was allotting the land to the tribes of Israel. One of the sons of Joseph, Manasseh was given only one lot as their inheritance. They thought they were too numerous, and that to they were the sons of Joseph who once was the prime minister of Egypt; hence they were to be treated with favor. What a sense of entightelement?
            They went up to Joshua complaining, why you gave us only one allotment since we were numerous and were blessed by God.   “If you are so numerous, Joshua answered, and “if the hill country of Ephraim is too small for you, go up into the forest and clear land for yourselves there in the land of Perizzites and Rephaites.” The Manassehites were unwilling to do the hard work of clearing the land, instead they came back to Joshua with another excuse. “The hill country is not enough for us, and all the Canaanites who live in the plain have chariots fitted with iron..”
            Joshua said to them, “you are numerous and very powerful. You will have not only one allotment, but the forested hill country as well. Clear it, and its farthest limits will be yours; though the Canaanites have chariots fitted with iron and though they are strong, you can drive them out.” Joshua 17: 14-18. This story tells us that not only in our generation but ages past as well, there are always those groups of people or individuals who feel they are entitled for better things and better service. They want everything to be presented to them on a golden platter without having to do the hard work.
            After hearing this sermon, you may be beginning to see the areas where you felt entitled. Where you felt you deserved better than others. During this thanksgiving season, how can we deal with our sense of faulty entitlement, and cultivate contentment?

            Let’s face it; if we are honest with ourselves, at times we feel we deserve much better things in life. We walk around with an attitude of entitlement. The most powerful antidote for entitlement is radical gratitude.  Considering all of life as a gift and living in constant recognition of the many givens. Waking up to a new day.  A roof over your head. Light switches in every room.  Water running from your taps.  Food on the table.  Relationships.  The ability to make choices, go places. A warm shower.  Laying down your head on a pillow in peace at night, these and many more we take for granted. And the sin loving and sin exalting world we live in does not encourage us to recognize this, is that we once were desperately lost and doomed to eternal punishment and separation from God but He saved us, cleaned us up and made us His treasured possession. Therefore thankfulness is fitting for us in every circumstance.
            In closing, dear friends let me remind you of the words of Paul to the Colossian believers. “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” Amen


Sunday, November 6, 2016


The Most Excellent Way- Part XI I Corinthians 13
            In his book,“What’s So Amazing About Grace,” Phillip Yancey tells the story of Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway grew up in a very devout evangelical family, and yet there he never experienced the grace of Christ. He lived a life of no morals that most of us would call "dissolute"… but there was no father, no parent waiting for him and he sank into the mire of a graceless depression. A short story he wrote perhaps reveals the grace that he hoped for. It is the story of a Spanish father who decided to reconcile with his son who had run away to Madrid.
            The father, in a moment of remorse, takes out this ad in El Libro, a newspaper. "Paco, meet me at Hotel Montana, Noon, Tuesday… All is forgiven… Papa." When the father arrived at the square in hopes of meeting his son, he found eight hundred Pacoes waiting to be reunited with their father. Was Paco such a popular name? Or is a father's forgiveness the salve for every soul? This story expresses one of the most powerful aspects of God’s love which is forgiveness. When God forgives, he forgets and he doesn’t keep a record of our wrongs anymore.
            In our series called, “the Most Excellent Way,” we have learned so far that, Love is being patient, Love is kind, Love does not envy, Love does not boast, Love is not arrogant, Love is not rude and Love is not selfish, Love is not easily angered. Today we will look at other aspects of Love: Forgiveness, rejection of evil and rejoicing with the truth.
            The apostle Paul was writing to the believers who were living in a depraved culture without standards and morals. Paul’s appeal to them was, not to imitate the customs of the sinful society they were living in, instead model holy way of living by forgiving one another, rejecting evil and rejoicing with the truth. Let’s unpack these three crucial aspects of love further and see how they impact our lives in a society that is turning more and more ungodly.

            Let’s admit that when it comes to admitting our own wrong doings we seemed to struggle with short term memory, but when it comes to pointing other’s wrongs we seemed to have endless memory, at times with very specific details. The presidential elections is a clear example where the media, and the experts dig up the incidents of the candidates that happened several years ago. Is this an act of love? Or an act of making the opponent look bad. Where do they find such information? Apparently, they kept either written or video recordings of such events.
            If that is how the world operates, Paul is showing us Christians how to operate differently. A few years ago I was counseling a couple, where the husband wanted to show me the angry behavior of his wife which he proudly video recorded for me to believe that he was innocent. Is that an act of love? Where is trust and forgiveness in that kind of relationship?
            There was a disciple named Peter, who once asked Jesus, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times? Jesus answered I tell you not seven times, but seventy times seven.” Matthew 18:21-22. Of course, Jesus did not mean 490 times, but rather he was saying do not keep a record of how many times you forgive someone.
            Some of us here may be are in the habit of keeping a record of the wrongs of others. You are unable to let go of them and forgive your offenders. If you are one of those then you need to hear the message of Paul, love keeps no record of wrongs. Can you imagine if only God kept a record of our wrong doings, how many volumes may have been filled up by now?  
            If only God has to deal with us based on all the sins we have committed against him and one another none of us would stand a chance. But what keeps us in right standing with God? His nature of forgiveness. “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
            If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” I John 1:7-9. This scripture tells us that God not only forgives our sins but also makes us clean. In the same way, we the forgiven sinners are to be merciful and forgiving towards those who might sin against us and do away with any record keeping.
             Paul writing to the Ephesians encourages them to practice Christ like forgiveness towards one another. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. So, next time when you are tempted to pull up a record of wrong doings of a brother or sister in the Lord against you, remember love keeps no record of wrongs.

            When Paul said, love does not delight in evil to the Corinthians what might have been going on in his mind? Were there actually some people within the Church delighting in evil, or taking pleasure in doing or endorsing evil acts? As you study closely, you will find so much evil right within the Corinthian church. For one, there was a man having an incestuous relationship with his father’s wife. Others were involved in sexual immorality, acts of homosexuality, cheating, adultery, greed, idolatry and drunkenness. When all that was going on, it looked like the leadership in the church was not condemning instead they were delighting in such evil.
            Our society is no different than the Corinthian society. Evil is widespread. We seem to praise the wicked and condemn the righteous. We value strong and competent people regardless of their moral and ethical failures.  We condone sin and frown upon right and healthy living.
Many of us during the week are called to work in an environment where there is no fear of God. We hear profanity, see frivolity, and come across people who simply delight in evil. In the midst of such environment do we also go with the flow and delight in evil or live a righteous life?
            Regardless however great our society may be, with all its wickedness one day it is doomed to perish, and along with it all those who practice wickedness. If that is the case how then can we save people from that eternal destruction? There is only one way, by pointing them to the truth of the gospel. When people know the Truth, they can be set free and be saved.
            We have an example in Lot who lived in Sodom and Gomorrah the two most corrupt and evil cities in the world. Yet Lot did not compromise, but lived a righteous life. “if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard) if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment.” 2 Peter 2:6-9.

            In a highly skeptic and pluralistic world for anyone to say that, “The truth always sets us free,” is rather scandalous. Such a bold statement begs us this question “What is Truth?”  Over 2000 years ago, a Roman governor asked a man who was condemned to be executed
“What is Truth? The irony was that the man who claimed himself to be the truth was standing right in front of the governor, yet he did not know that truth is not a concept but is a person named Jesus. There are many people who are seeking truth, yet when they come face to face with the truth they have a hard time believing it and even much harder time accepting it.
Yet there are many others who have had an encounter with the truth and were saved. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.” John 14:6.
            Paul wrote to the Thessalonian believers, that they were to be thankful for this great gift of salvation “But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as first fruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.”  2 Thess 2:13. Our faith in the truth has saved us and the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit goes on throughout our lives unless we resist the work of the Holy Spirit. Those of us who have been saved by grace let’s continue to rejoice with the truth.
Let us remember, while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. When we called upon his name Christ forgave our many sins and made us righteous in Him. As Christ forgave our sins we too are called to forgive those who have offended us and not to keep a record of their wrong doings. Though we live in a wicked society, we are neither to practice nor to delight in evil, but to pray for our friends, and neighbors and live a righteous life as best as possible.
            Finally, we are called to rejoice with the truth, because the truth always sets us free from our bondages. I want to close with these words of Peter to the believers who were being persecuted for their faith. I Peter 5:10-11, “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen 

Sunday, October 30, 2016


Love is Not Easily Angered
The Most Excellent Way- Part VIII I Corinthians 13
I remember way back during my college days, one day my mother had asked me to call my sister to do some chores in the house. I went out and said to my sister, “Mum is calling you,” and my sister coolly ignored me in front of her friend. I got so angry at her response, my older brother pride got hurt by the way my sister paid no attention what I had to say. I lost control of my temper and punched right on her nose. Soon after I did that, I felt so ashamed of myself, but I also recognized the destructive power of my anger. I realized then, if I don’t deal with my anger problem right away, I may become an angry person and hurt others, so that day made a decision not to hit another person, especially when I am angry.
            That lead me to another problem, instead of expressing my anger appropriately I began to suppress it. Later I found out that too was not good for me, so I began to ask God to deliver me from anger outbursts.  I praise God by the help of God I began to control my anger and learning to express it appropriately. It is not to say that I never became angry since then, but one thing is for sure, I have not hit anyone out of anger. I can honestly say that I am in control of my anger.
            That is my story of anger. What is your story? I am sure each of us have a story to tell. When it comes to dealing with anger, we are not alone people have been struggling since the beginning. Anger is resident in all of our troubled hearts. It rises to the surface and gets expressed more times than we care to admit. So how are we to deal with this resident evil? How can we deal with the destructive power of unbridled anger? In our series called, “the Most Excellent Way,” we have learned so far that, Love is being patient, Love is kind, Loved does not envy, Love does not boast, Love is not arrogant, Love is not rude and Love is not selfish.
            Today we will learn about another aspect of what love is not, i.e, “Love is not easily angered.” When the Apostle Paul wrote to the believers in Corinth about love is not easily angered he was warning them about, “THE DESTRUCTIVE POWER OF UNBRIDLED ANGER.”  Anger in and of itself is not bad, but the unbridled anger is destructive. Let’s see the context in which the Apostle Paul exhorted believers not to become easily angered.
            The apostle Paul wrote a letter to the Corinthian believers, to address certain worldly behaviors hurting the church and hindering the cause of Christ in Corinth. He reminded them that before they came to know Christ they were living in a prideful world, but now they were redeemed so they were to live differently. Paul himself stood as an example of someone whose life was radically transformed as he came in contact with the power of the love of God. Therefore speaking from experience, he introduced them to the most excellent way.
            The most excellent way is the way of Christ and it is the way of love. Paul showed them what love is, what love is not and then goes on to explain how they can shed some of the negative aspects that seemed to be crippling the Church. He told them if they truly want to live a life of love then they need to control their anger because true love is not easily angered. By saying he was not suggesting that they should never get angry, but not to be easily angered. In other words, “they were to learn to take control of their unbridled anger.
Let’s examine this emotion of anger that can easily get out of control. How can we define anger? Anger is a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure or hostility.  It is a strong feeling of being upset or annoyed because of something wrong or bad happened: the feeling that makes someone want to hurt other people, or to shout, etc what does the bible say about anger?

            Where do we see anger manifest first? Anger was one of the many consequences of man’s rebellion against God. Anger was the root cause of the first murder in the Garden of Eden. It was the time for bringing offerings to God. Two brothers, Cain and Able brought their offerings. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. That made Cain “Very Angry” and his face was down cast.” Then the LORD said to Cain “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you but you “must rule over it.” In NASB it reads, “you must master it.”
            The Hebrew word, Mashal used here has several meanings: “to rule, to reign, to govern, to rule over, to have dominion, and to manage.” Instead of taking control over his anger, Cain let anger take control of him, which resulted in killing of his own brother. With that incident Cain lost favor from God for the rest of his life, and remained a wanderer. (Genesis 4: 2-8). Since that time anger has become man’s number one enemy to deal with. Coming back to our text, let’s see how this destructive power of unbridled anger has caused havoc in Corinthian Church. Quotes:
            Unbridled anger is often the root cause for hatred and violence among people. When anger is left uncontrolled it can ultimately lead to vitriolic hatred. Paul rightfully singles out anger as one of the opposites of love. He strongly recommends that Christians must overcome anger because “Love is not easily angered? Paul knew what he was talking about. He struggled with it. Formerly, he was known as Saul. In his un-regenerated life he was a passionate Jew. He entertained thoughts of inciting violence towards anyone who opposed his view especially the new band of Jesus-followers. He wanted to teach them a lesson by putting them in jail.
            In Acts 9:1-2, we read of angry Saul, “Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any one who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.” But all that was changed, when he had a divine encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus. God changed an angry person into a broken and humble person. The persecutor now was willing to be persecuted for Christ. Paul obviously have seen anger manifested in the divisions, quarrels and jealousy and how anger was destroying relationships among the members.
            The believers in Corinth were living in a culture that was bent on destroying any sign of godliness among them. Instead of influencing the culture they were letting the culture influence them in the way they related with one another. Therefore he appealed to them to agree with one another. Initially he couldn’t address them as people who live by the Spirit but as people who were still worldly, mere infants in Christ. (I Corinthians 1:10-12; 3:3).
            Is our culture today any different than the one the Corinthian believers were called to tackle? No, the culture we are living in is no different than theirs. The present electoral mood in the country is one of anger. It appears to me a majority of people are simply angry at everything and everybody. In a culture that is bent on destroying spiritual morality, civility, and setting up people one against the other, what hope do we have?  As Christians, how can we be different and positively influence our culture? What solutions the scriptures and practical wisdom offer when it comes to dealing and possibly controlling this unbridled anger?

            When it comes to dealing with our own anger, we always find someone to blame instead of taking responsibility. Or we justify saying this is how I have been raised, I can’t help.
            It runs deep in our family or as some Irish would say, I ‘am Irish! When we find ourselves angry, let’s not blame others or our culture for our anger problem, instead let’s pay attention to the power advice of the Apostle Paul on how best to deal with anger. “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil
            Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:26-32. This is the best scriptural teaching we can find on dealing with anger. Please read it at home, meditate on it, apply it and repent of your sin of anger and you will see victory over anger.
            More on a practical level. If you are given to anger outbursts, acknowledge that it is a serious problem and that it is destructive. Pause and think where is this anger coming from? How did your parents process anger? Intentionally, and momentarily move away from a situation or a person who is making you angry. Give space to yourself. Try to calm down. Find a confidant, a friend, a brother or sister in the Lord, talk with them and ask them to hold you accountable and support you as you work through this unbridled anger.
             In closing, we all struggle with anger more than we care to admit. The scriptures encourage us not to manage, but repent and get rid of our anger by all means possible. The only way we can have victory over this poisonous and self-destructive emotion, is by crying out to God for his mercy and forgiveness. Then asking the Holy Spirit to develop in us the fruit of the Spirit called “gentleness” the opposite of anger. Then only we will be free from this destructive power of unbridled anger, and continue to walk and live on the most excellent way. Amen