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



Sunday, October 23, 2016


Love is Not Selfish
The Most Excellent Way- Part VII I Corinthians 13
           I remember in my elementary school, one particular teacher was hated by all students in the class, because she wanted children to learn how to share their things with others. So she employed a method. If anyone brought a candy to the class, she insisted that they should share with others or they should not bring it at all. When she saw someone eating without sharing, she would break it into ten pieces and give it others, of course she would give the biggest piece to the owner of the candy. In the end the whole class was very happy.
            You may call it a form of socialism, but that taught us a valuable lesson of the joy of sharing. I grew up in that kind of an environment where we have looked after each other’s needs, and shared things commonly. By and large you see this kind of sharing and caring attitude in the eastern and developing countries. I was rudely shocked when I joined Youth With A Mission, and when I saw my fellow western missionary, eating an entire scope of ice-cream, without blinking an eye and without offering to buy me a scoop as well! I thought to myself it was inhuman! How could he just eat like that without considering his brother in the Lord!
            That made me wonder, about the inconsideration, and selfish nature of people. Not to blame any one particular culture, we all have a certain selfish nature in us unless we were raised and taught differently. That is why it is so important we teach our children how to share their things with others, because there is true satisfaction and joy in sharing and caring for others. For the past several weeks we have been on a Journey to teach ourselves some valuable lessons. Our hope is that by practicing these lessons we would become better people and our church would become a safe haven, where there will be love, harmony and mutual respect for each other.
            In our series on the Most Excellent Way, so far we have looked at: Love is being patient, Love is kind, Loved does not envy, Love does not boast and Love is not arrogant and Love is not rude. Today we will learn about another negative we have to lay down i.e “not self-seeking” When the Apostle Paul wrote to the believers in Corinth about love is not self-seeking he was warning them about, “THE CRIPPLING IMPACT OF SELFISHNESS. Let’s see the context in which the Apostle Paul exhorted believers to have genuine concern for other’s needs.
            The apostle Paul wrote a letter to the Corinthian believers, prompted by a report received by one of the house group leaders. That report contained, how some were, boasting, impatient, proud of their sexual exploits, arrogant, divided, unkind, rude, obsessed with their own concerns and oblivious of other’s needs. As a responsible church planter, Paul wanted to straighten out those inconsistencies. He reminded them that before they came to know Christ they were living in a prideful world, but now they were redeemed so now they were to live differently. He showed them the most excellent way of living by saying, “Love is not selfish”
            Before we see the crippling impact of selfishness, let’s establish what selfishness is?  A selfish person is someone who is devoted to or caring only for oneself. Concerned primarily with one’s own interests, benefits, welfare etc, regardless of others. Selfishness is lacking consideration for others. Selfishness focuses on one’s own needs while ignoring other’s needs. Selfishness knows only three words: Me, Myself and Mine.” In other words, “It is all about me.”  
Whether we like it or not from time to time we come across those we call “selfish brats” Martin Luther King, Jr, this had to say about selfishness: “Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”

            The culture we are living in is becoming more and more selfish and self-centered. Selfishness is often one of the root causes for breakdown in relationships especially when it comes to divorce. One of the reasons why most couples divorce is, due to, “Irreconcilable Differences.” It is another way to say, “I am selfish, I only want to have my way and I cannot tolerate your point of view anymore.” That kind of attitude can truly damage relationships. Unfortunately, many marriages ended in divorce, families split due to selfishness.
            How does selfishness manifest? Selfishness comes in many ways. It may be through our work, our play our job, and through our possessions. Selfishness may be evident to many, or to some, or just a few. No matter how we see it, we all suffer from this common illness: selfishness. It is in the fiber of our fallen being. And our souls are desperate for it to be redeemed.
            When Paul was writing to the Corinthians, all of his teachings were in rebuttal to their propensity to insist on their own way. Therefore Paul’s exhorts them not to live in the same way as their culture, which was pagan, and immoral. He offered the Corinthians a new and liberating way of handling their self-absorbed, divisive habits. Paul writing to the believers in Rome, encouraged them to no longer be self-serving, but instead to love one another with sincerity.  Romans 12:10-11, “Let us have real warm affection for one another as between brothers, and a willingness to let the other man have the credit. Let us not allow slackness to spoil our work and let us keep the fires of the spirit burning, as we do our work for God.”

            Several scriptures in the Bible allude to the fact that selfishness is indeed crippling and the people of God must stay away from it, and cultivate Christ centeredness and others centeredness. Love is not selfish. Consider the following scriptures:
            We will see how a selfishness separated close relatives. “Lot looked around and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan toward Zoar was well watered, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east. The two men parted company.”Gen 13:10-11.
            Another story of how selfishness can breed contempt and make people disregard others. This story is found in I Samuel 25. Let me summarize: David was running away from Saul, moving through the Desert of Paran. There was a very wealthy man named Nabal, literally means, “Fool” It was during a festive time, David sends his mean to Nabal to seek from him some sheep, so that they can have a feast. Nabal refuses to give any sheep instead he hurls insults at David and his men. Listen to his words of contempt:
            “Who is this David? Who is this son of Jesse? Many servants are breaking away from their master these days. Why should I take my bread and water, and the meat I have slaughtered for my shearers, and give it to men coming from who knows where?” Can you hear the tone of sarcasm and lack of concern for others in Nabal? His response angered David and his men, if it was not the intervention of Nabal’s wise wife Abigal, Nabal would have been killed by David.
            After ten days the Lord strikes Nabal dead. When David heard, Nabal was dead, he said, “Praise be to the LORD, who has upheld my cause against Nabal for treating me with contempt. He has kept his servant from doing wrong and has brought Nabal’s wrong doing down on his head.” I Samuel.  This is another clear indication when people mistreat you with contempt and disrespect, don’t fret or take matters into your hands, instead take your case to God, and God knows how to deal with your adversaries and show you His favor, kindness and provision.

             Have you wondered what causes fights and quarrel among people? Do you know what promotes evil in the society? It is often the selfishness. The Apostle James shows the difference between worldly wisdom and the wisdom comes from God “Are there those among you who are truly wise and understanding? Then they should show it by living right and doing good things with a gentleness that comes from wisdom. But if you are selfish and have bitter jealousy in your hearts, do not brag. Your bragging is a lie that hides the truth. That kind of “wisdom” does not come from God but from the world. It is not spiritual; it is from the devil. Where jealousy and selfishness are, there will be confusion and every kind of evil.” James 3:13-14 (NCV)

            When it comes to dealing with selfishness, let’s head the advice the Apostle Paul gave to the Corinthian Church: Love is not selfish. Through his self-sacrificial living Paul showed them what a blessing it is to not to be self –seeking but seek the welfare of others. In the end through your giving of yourself to others many people can get saved. Paul overcame selfishness in his own life by serving others and taking care of their needs. So he could say, “When you do things, do not let selfishness or pride be your guide. Instead, be humble and give more honor to others than to yourselves. Do not be interested only in your own life, but be interested in the lives of others.” Philippians 2:3
            The Apostle Paul predicted, that would be the case in the last days. But he also exhorted that, Christ’s disciples should be different than the rest of the world in living lives of love and selflessness. 2 Timothy 3:1-6, “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men, will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant…. Avoid such men as these” Let’s dig a bit deeper this phrase: “Lovers of self.” In NIV it reads, “Lovers of themselves”
            What does, lovers of self, mean?  The Greek word used here is “Philautos” literally means loving himself. In reality it not the one who simply loves himself, but one who loves himself more than he ought to, involving self-conceit and selfishness.  A person who is characterized by an undue sparing of self and whose primary concern is that the things be easy and pleasant for himself or herself.”
            Keeping that definition in mind let’s head Paul’s exhortation to Timothy. When it comes to think of it, not only Timothy, but many in the Church History and even modern times who did not care about their lives when it comes to taking care of the needs of others and taking the gospel to the most dangerous places on earth. So that through their unselfishness and relentless love for others many have come into the kingdom of God. That is what it means when Paul said, Love is not selfish, it means if you love God and others then you are willing to let go of your own legitimate comforts so that others would come to experience the forgiving love of God.
            So dear friends, in a world where everybody is unto themselves, only care about their own needs and their family’s needs, how can we be unselfish and model Christ’s nature? On our own strength, we cannot, but by the grace of God and through the power of His Holy Spirit we can. As we are committed to walk the Most excellent way. I would like us to emulate a modern-day saint, Pope Francis, who has adopted this Most Excellent Way as a way of living.
            Pope Francis’ selfless, simple and humble living, challenges the many affluent and proud people around the world. Let me close with his quote: “We have observed that, in society and the world in which we live, selfishness has increased more than love for others, and that men of good will must work, each with his own strengths and expertise, to ensure that love for others increases until it is equal and possibly exceeds love for oneself.” Amen



Sunday, October 16, 2016


Love is Not Proud
The Most Excellent Way- Part V I Corinthians 13
            A story was told a few years ago about an actor who was playing the part of Christ in a “Passion Play. “As he carried the cross up the hill a bystander in the crowd began heckling him, & shouting insults. Finally, the actor had taken all of it he could take. So he threw down his cross, walked over to the bystander, & punched him.
            After the play was over, the director told him, "I know he was a pest, but I have to fire you. We just can't have you behaving this way while playing the part of Jesus." The actor begged, "Please give me one more chance. I can handle it if it happens again." So the director decided to give him another chance. The next day he was once again carrying his cross up the street. Sure enough, the heckler was back. You could tell that the actor was really trying to control himself, but it was about to get the best of him. He was clenching his fists & grinding his teeth.  Finally, he looked at the heckler & said, "I'll meet you after the resurrection!"[1]
            This illustrates, that the world places certain expectations on the behavior of Christians. We know, sometimes it is hard for those who profess to be Christians to behave like Christians should. We try to carry our crosses, but if someone crosses us, we tend to lose our composure & behave in much the same way the rest of the world behaves. We have been on a journey to discover how we could be the trend setters rather than the followers of a trend. How can we regain and walk by biblical morals in a culture that is drifting away from morality?
            In our series on the Most Excellent Way, so far we have looked at: Love is being patient, Love is kind, Loved does not envy, Love does not boast and Love is not arrogant. Today we will look at “THE ABUSIVE POWER OF RUDENESS” When the Apostle Paul wrote to the believers in Corinth about love not being rude, he was warning them about the abusive power of rudeness and how being rude to others can damage them and eventually destroy relationships. Let’s see the context in which the Apostle Paul exhorted believers not to be rude.

            The apostle Paul wrote a letter to the Corinthian believers, prompted by a report received by one of the house group leaders. That report contained, how some were, boasting, impatient, proud of their sexual exploits, arrogant, divided, unkind and even rude, or acting unbecomingly to others. As a responsible church planter, Paul addressed some of these problems initially through his writings. He reminded them of their past worldly way of living. They were not to boast about such living, instead as the redeemed now they were to live differently. He showed them the most excellent way of living by exhorting them not to be rude to one another.
            Before we delve deep into the abusive power of rudeness, let’s establish what rudeness is.  The dictionary defines rudeness as lacking in manners, discourtesy or inconsiderate behavior. Synonyms: Impoliteness, bad manners, incivility, disrespect, ungraciousness, boorishness, and crassness etc. A couple of quotes on rudeness: “Never respond to rudeness. When people are rude to you, they reveal who they are, not who you are. Don’t take it personally be silent.”
The twentieth century American social philosopher Eric Hoffer once said, “Rudeness is the weak man’s imitation of strength.” Steve Macchia, modifies this to read, “Rudeness is the self-protected and highly manipulative person’s projection of power.”

            Steve goes on to explain the basis of rudeness and its false projection in the world, and how we can show power differently. “Rudeness is based in the need to be in control, to be right, to be strong in what the world says strength looks like: power over others. To be powerful over another doesn’t necessarily mean strength, for strength as we have been unpacking in, the Most Excellent Way series can also be shown more effectively through kindness and humility.”
            How is rudeness conveyed? It is exhibited in various ways.  It can burst out through a foul mouth or crude and inappropriate speech.  Just like what millions of Americans were shocked to hear in an audio tape last week, where a presidential nominee made lewd comments and simply reduced them to “Locker room Banter.” Really? Undoubtedly, those comments were rude and disrespectful of women everywhere. Locker room talk that demeans and objectify women is never acceptable by any standards and anywhere.  We need to teach our boys and men to learn to respect all women and treat them with dignity.
            Rudeness can be expressed through inappropriate body gestures. It can be conveyed by inappropriately touching the opposite gender without their consent. It can be seen when people are rough with others and when they bully others. You can be rude to people when you ignore them, don’t respond to their questions, and bury yourself in your I-phone or books. Rudeness can overwhelm another by showing little concern or regard for that person’s personal property or space. It can disturb the mind, destroy the heart, or dismantle the morality of others. In essence a rudeness of personhood is abuse of power by seeking outright control and manipulation.
            One thing is consistently true about every rude person: they must set the agenda. They must be in control. When Paul is writing, “love is not rude,” he is saying, “love doesn’t abuse power, it doesn’t set the agenda and it doesn’t manipulate.”
            To the Corinthian believers Paul in essence saying, “I am calling to you to the most excellent way to lead and serve others, in Jesus’ name and it is all about love. This love is not rude, it is not obnoxious, nor irreverent. It does not control others. This love does not serve its own needs, and push its agenda on others. Oh how I wish the, American electorate and those who are running for the office listen to this message?

            Several scriptures in the Bible allude to the fact that through our words and actions we may be rude to others. We may be disrespectful and demean others, hence by all means we need to stop being rude. Consider the following: “Words satisfy the mind as much as fruit does the stomach; good talk is as gratifying as a good harvest. Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose.” Proverbs 18:19-21, (The Message)
            Psalm 140:1-3, “Rescue me, Lord, from evildoers; protect me from the violent, who devise evil plans in their hearts and stir up war every day. They make their tongues as sharp as a serpent’s; the poison of vipers is on their lips.” Selah, let’s pause and note what damage rudeness can do to people. Therefore we are encouraged to get rid of all forms of rudeness. Col 3:8, “But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.”
            Let me share a biblical story where rudeness showed its abusive power. This was the time when David along with his men fleeing Jerusalem because he was afraid of his son Absalom.  As King David approached Bahurim, a man named Shimei son of Gera began to throw stones at David and his men. Not only that he began to “curse David saying, “Get out, get out you murderer, you scoundrel” Do you think these are appropriate words that someone should use against a King?  David’s men were outraged naturally at those rude comments of Shimei.
            One of the indignant officer said to the king, why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over and cut off his head.” Talk about retaliation and vengeance towards the one who was rude to the king. David, did not react but responded in the opposite spirit. He said, “Leave him alone, let him curse, for the LORD has told him to. It may be that the LORD will look upon my misery and restore to me his covenant blessing instead of his curse today. So David and his men continued along the way, Shimei continued his insults and rude comments, cursing, throwing stones and showering David with dirt.” (I Samuel 16:5-13)
            This is a beautiful example of how we are to respond to rudeness. In a dog eat dog world, what David did was commendable and counter cultural. Kind David, took a higher road, he did not go down on the road of retaliation. When stones and dirt were thrown at him he kept his cool, and entrusted himself to the one who says, “Vengeance is Mine.”
            Romans 12:17:21 “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” What a powerful scripture, that can defuse the power of rudeness.
            If nothing else in the bible we follow but just this one scripture, I believe, we will indeed have a great nation that trusts and serves God alone. We will have a nation that honors and respects all human beings regardless of their race, background and ethnicity. This can only be possible, when we all cultivate the fruit of the Holy Spirit which is gentleness and develop the attitude of Jesus Christ, and continue to aspire to live the most excellent way.

            When it comes to dealing with rudeness, let’s not forget the fact that the Apostle Paul wrote to a divided Church in Corinth, and to each one of us today: Love is never rude.  In the world people may be rude to one another and abuse their power and become disrespectful of others, whereas in the church we are called to be people of grace and humility. When we practice love, we will become kinder people, because love simply has no place for rudeness.
            When people become rude to you unduly, hurl insults at you and call you by all names, and even mistreat you inappropriately, how are you to respond? Do you fight back and retaliate? That is the worldly way of reacting, but those who choose to live the most excellent way will respond like the King David responded in the OT, and Jesus the son of David in the N.T
            When it comes to responding to rudeness let’s have the attitude of Jesus: He was called all kinds of names, such as, glutton, drunkard, deceiver, people picked up stones to throw at him, he was humiliated, mocked, spat upon, slapped, pulled by his beard, in the end he was nailed to the cross. Jesus endured the worst kind of rudeness that no one has ever encountered since then, yet He did not retaliate.
Isaiah 53:7, “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.”, not only that, He prayed for his persecutors, saying, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”
            Dear friends in responding to rudeness, Jesus is our role model, and His way is the most excellent way for us to follow. In closing, “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Romans 12:2-3. Amen




Sunday, October 9, 2016

THE TIGHT GRIP OF ARROGANCE: The Most Excellent Way Series: V

Love is Not Proud I Corinthians 13
Evidence of an over inflated opinion of ourselves comes from the College Board that administers the Scholastic Aptitude Test, the SAT exam, which millions of high school students take each year. On that test there are a number of other questions besides the ones about math and English which the students are asked to answer. For instance, they are asked to evaluate their leadership ability. Recently in an exam, seventy percent of the students rated themselves as above average in leadership, and only two percent as below average. Sixty percent rated themselves as above average in athletics while only six percent said below. When they rated themselves as to how easy they were to get along with, 25 percent said they were in the top one percent, sixty percent said they were in the top ten percent, and absolutely no one said he was below average in being easy to get along with.
            Obviously high school students have a very high opinion of themselves; they have pride in themselves, at t times they appear to be rude to others. Now is this the kind of pride that says, "I have something to offer this world to make it a better place," or is it the kind of pride that says, "I’m better than you"? We hope its pride that offers to build a better world; otherwise, it is arrogance.”[1] Let’s not just blame the students saying, they are arrogant or proud, if we are not watchful, we too can be in the “TIGHT GRIP OF ARROGANCE.
            In our series on the Most Excellent Way, so far we have looked at: Love is being patient, Love is kind, Loved does not envy and Love does not boast. Today we will look at another aspect of what love does not do. Love is not proud or arrogant. For our study I am using the word arrogance, in order to show the difference between what the bible describes as pride and the pride we take in our achievements and accomplishments. According to scriptures pride or arrogance is much more evil and that is what makes us to stumble and fall. Let’s see the context in which the Apostle Paul exhorted believers not to be proud or arrogant.
            The apostle Paul wrote a letter to the Corinthian believers prompted by a report received by one of the house group leaders. That report contained, how people were bragging and boasting, tolerating sexual immorality and how divided they were. It also referred to some people who remained arrogant. As a responsible church planter, Paul addressed some of these problems initially through his letters and later on by visiting them in person.
            Let’s see the level of arrogance that was prevailing in the Corinthian church. I Corinth 4:6, “what is written, in order that no one of you might become arrogant (puffed up) in behalf of one against the other.” I Cor 4: 18-21, “Now some have become arrogant (puffed up), as though I were not coming to you. But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I shall find out not the words of those who are arrogant but their power.” For the kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power. What do you desire? Shall I come to you with a rod or with love and a spirit of gentleness? Here we see Paul’s rebuke of those who speak arrogantly and indiscriminately. Some were even asserting their rights “to say or do anything” without realizing that not everything is beneficial and constructive. Can you imagine, some rich people were even humiliating the poor, at the Lord’s Supper? Let’s look at the biblical view of arrogance.
            Arrogance or pride first found its place in the heart of the anointed cherub Lucifer who later on became Satan. Ezekiel 28: 17, “Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings.” After having been thrown down upon the earth, Satan used arrogance which was the main cause for his down fall to cause many stumble and fall. The scripture give us many such examples where God humbled arrogant people.
            For example, consider how arrogance of heart has brought down a sovereign king of the great empire Babylon. King Nebuchadnezzar built a huge golden image of himself and mandated everyone to bow down and worship his golden statue. Those who refused to worship were thrown into a fiery furnace. A year has passed after that decree. One day King Nebuchadnezzar looked at the great city of Babylon from his palace, and his heart began to be puffed up.
            “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty? While he was still speaking God punished him saying, “you will be driven away from your people and live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like the OX.  Daniel 4:28-32
            In the OT, the Hebrew word “Zadown” appears eleven times and has a range of meanings, including: pride, haughtiness, arrogance, insolence, rebelliousness. This kind of pride presumes to have more authority than is warranted. King Nebuchadnezzar presumed more authority than what had been given to him hence God humbled him.
                King Nebuchadnezzar’s story is a stark reminder as to what will happen to those whose hearts are filled with arrogance. Many people inadvertently take pride in their accomplishments and successes. They attribute success to their smartness, brilliance and strength.
            We see this playing out all the time, especially among athletes during the Olympics, celebrities, business people and among politicians. We seldom see them giving glory to God for their achievements. Well may be, it is too much to expect from people who do not know their God or do not have a personal relationship with him. But how about us, who are called by God and are saved by His grace? How are we to respond to our achievements and all our blessings? “Let’s not be deceived, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17
            Let’s pause and think of this scripture, is there anything you can honestly say is yours, or I accomplished by my own strength? Absolutely, there is nothing we have that is ours, unless it has been given to us from above. Therefore, let’s not be arrogant, and be like King David, who gave glory to God saying, “Not to us, Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.” Psalm 115:1-2
             I Corinthians 13: 4-5, “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant” (ESV). Let’s define the word arrogance. Arrogance is an insulting way of thinking or behavior that comes from believing that you are better, smarter, stronger, or more important than other people. It is an inward emotion that can easily offend others and carries with it an inflated ego, an attitude of superiority and condescending.
            Let’s admit, in the world a lot of people genuine think that being arrogant or projecting a superior persona is a sign of strength. They walk around demeaning and bullying others in order to satisfy their inflated ego. But how does God view arrogance? How does he deal with those who are arrogant? Is it OK for us to be arrogant?
            God takes it seriously when people are arrogant. Haughtiness numbers one in the list of the things that God hates (Proverbs 6:17) A haughty spirit or having haughty eyes means we look down upon others in a condescending way. God hates that kind of spirit. God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble. Whichever way you look at it, arrogance is not acceptable to God, besides pride goes before a fall. It is for our benefit we learn to deal with arrogance.
            Let’s admit that arrogance comes in all different shapes, sizes and forms and emerges out of a heart that’s subtly or overtly lured toward pride. Either intentionally or unintentionally we all can fall into the tight grip of arrogance. At times I see this propensity in my own heart, when I notice it I need to repent of it. How are we to loosen ourselves from the tight grip of arrogance? The only way we can break the grip of arrogance is by cultivating an attitude of humility.
            Unfortunately, in our country not many people like to hear this word humility. Being humble is not considered to be cool instead it is viewed as a weakness.  Yet when I read the scriptures, I find humility is something that we all must aspire for as it is the essence of what we are to be as Christians. Let me share a few suggestions that might help us.
            Firstly, consider others better than yourself. I know it is easier said than done. As we all have a bias thinking that we are better than others. But when we intentionally practice it by being respectful to others and paying attention to what they have to say, we might learn and grow in our understanding. Secondly, exercise restraint and discretion in our conversations. We read in James 1:19, “This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger;

            Thirdly, when we do not have something constructive to say it would be better to remain quiet as there is sin in multitude of words. Proverbs 10:19, “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.” Fourthly, If you are given to speaking arrogantly, ask God to cleanse your tongue and have him fill you with grace, then you may speak words that will be edifying and building others up rather than tearing them down.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.” Ephesians 4:29.
             Finally, let’s be reminded that there is no place for arrogance in the community of believers. If we want cultivate the most excellent way of living, grow in grace, and be free from the grip of arrogance, we need to look at Jesus who is our prime example, when it comes to understanding and growing in humility. “Though, he was in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage, rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
            And being found in appearance as a man he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death even death on a cross. Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth.(Philippians 2: 6-8) Amen



Sunday, October 2, 2016

IS BOASTING EVER ACCEPTABLE? The Most Excellent Way Series: IV

Love Does Not Boast I Corinthians 13:1-13

            A few years back the movie the Titanic came out. It was a box office smash. People seemed once again fascinated by this tragedy at sea. About 1,500 people lost their lives in this ship wreck tragedy. This great ship was said by the media to be: “Unsinkable” – even God himself could not sink her” said one paper of the day!  The Titanic was considered to be the best technological ship in the world. She boasted of being the fastest passenger liner in the sea. So how did she sink? An arrogant leadership ran her full steam 20.5 knots (24 miles per hour) through an iceberg filled sea, thinking that nothing could hurt her. They ignored warnings from other ships and continued at full speed.
             If you study why this ship sank 3 reasons surface quickly from the Movie and from History’s investigation: 1. Pride and arrogance – of the company leaders and the officers on board. 2. The attitude of discontentment had set into many involved with the ship. 3. The liner’s company wanted to boast of having one of the fastest luxury liners in the world. The company wanted to use this voyage to promote the ship of dreams.[1] In the end, that kind of boasting led to a watery grave for about 1500 people. It seems in the world of business, academia, sports and politics unless we boast or brag about our achievements, successes, ratings and poll numbers we cannot survive. But how about in the life of a believer and in Churches, is boasting ever acceptable? Does competition and boasting exist in churches?
            Whether we notice it or not, competition and boasting certainly exist in churches. And it resides in your heart and mine if we are honest enough to admit it. Whether we like it or not we are living and raising our children in a culture where boasting is very normal. But is it ever OK for Christians to boast? How can we live differently? What is the antidote for boasting? In our series on, “The Most Excellent Way” so far we looked at the following: Love is Patient, Love is Kind, and Love does not Envy. Today we will look at another aspect, of love, “LOVE DOES NOT BOAST” I Corinthians 13:4-5
            What do we know about the city of Corinth and the Church in Corinth? Corinth was an important cosmopolitan Greek city located about fifty miles west of Athens. It was one of the largest cities in the Roman Empire. Corinth was on a major trade route and had a thriving economy. Greeks, Romans, Jews, and a mixed multitude of sailors and merchants flocked to this crossroads. Corinth was known for its stylish architecture. The Corinthian church might have been a bragging Church. We get a glimpse of it’s bragging in the first few verses of I Corinthians Chapter 13: I can only imagine, whenever they got together for worship or for small group study one could hear subtle boasting : Some were boasting about their association with, Paul, Apollos, Peter and even Christ. Others were bragging about the spiritual gifts of speaking in tongues, prophecy, word of wisdom and word of knowledge, gifts of mercy, and even martyrdom. etc.
            This kind of bragging may have sounded normal to the one who was boasting but may have irritated the rest of the congregation to an extent, it was brought to the Apostle Paul. So he steps in addresses saying, you can brag all that you want, but if you do not have love you amount to nothing.” Then he affirms one of the functions of biblical love is that, “Love does not boast.”

            The dictionary definition of Boasting is “talking with excessive pride and self-satisfaction about one's achievements, possessions, or abilities. It is bragging or gloating over, or simply showing off.” We come across braggers everywhere! Some may not even realize they are bragging big time. An American missionary friend of mine who lived in India for a long time and now lives back in the US, has this to say on his culture and history blog about the highly competitive culture of America:Americans seem to have a need, perhaps out of a competitive and numbers oriented culture, to constantly make very sweeping statements about our nation and what it has achieved. Or what we have personally accomplished or the group we belong to.”
            Why do we feel the need to boast and brag? Where is it stemming from and is it wrong to brag? We may say well it is part of our culture, or that was how we have been raised. Partly it may be true, but in reality boasting is not only an American phenomenon, it is a universal problem and it is a spiritual problem. What does the Bible say about boasting and how we can avoid this boasting trap?
            Historically speaking, boasting goes way back into the Garden of Eden, when Eve reached out to the forbidden fruit and ate, because she wanted to gain wisdom and be like God. Subsequently, we have seen an insatiable quest to know, to gain wisdom and to be like God. For example, see the thought process of the survivors after the first universal flood. They wanted to build a city and a tower that reaches to the heavens. In other words they wanted to build the greatest city and the tallest tower ever. For what purpose? So that they can make a name for themselves. If that is not boasting, then what is? (Genesis 11:1-3)
             Even today, there are people who use superlatives such as (highest, largest, longest, tallest, best, brightest and biggest) inorder to boast about their achievements and successes. People may be overawed by your success, but God is least impressed by your boasting. Several scriptures suggest how God views boasting:  I Samuel 2:3-5 “Don’t dare talk pretentiously, not a word of boasting, ever! For God knows what’s going on. He takes the measure of everything that happens.” Prov 25:14, “Like billowing clouds that bring no rain is the person who talks big but never produces.”
            Some, loudly and proudly announce what they will do or predict what will happen in the future. Hear what the scripture says about such bragging. “Don’t brashly announce what you’re going to do tomorrow; you don’t know the first thing about tomorrow. Don’t call attention to yourself; let others do that for you.” Prov 27:1-2. Let’s admit, sooner than later we get tired of such blatant and boastful rhetoric of certain people. The bible calls them the ungodly.
            Kind David was tired of such people during his time who were arrogant, boastful and never gave God the glory. He used some harsh in his prayer. Psalm 12:2-4, “All the friends I depended on gone. Everyone talks in lie language; Lies slide off their oily lips. They doubletalk with forked tongues. Slice their lips off their faces! Pull the braggart tongues from their mouths! I’m tired of hearing, “We can talk anyone into anything!” Our lips manage the world.”
            When we read these scriptures our reaction would be one of, No way! Not me! Certainly boasting is not OK in the church and ministry, but it is necessary to boast and to compete in business, politics or sports. Let truth be told, these scriptures give us zero evidence that boasting should exist within the Christian community. Knowing these scriptures well, I believe the apostle Paul exhorted the Corinthian believers, if they were to express love toward one another and live in harmony they must not boast. He showed them the most excellent way.
            If we are honest with one another we struggle with a drive to be seen, heard, and recognized more than others, and when we are not we get hurt. When we gather on Sunday morning or around a small group bible study we all have a tendency to boast and let other people know that our views or opinions are better, hence they must listen to us. I used to have a friend, who always thought that he had the best advice and others had no option but to listen to his advice. If that is our attitude then it is very hard to build a loving community which is a part of our vision statement, where we respect, honor and accept each other for who they are not because of what they can bring into our community. What is the antidote of boasting?
            To deal with our habitual boasting we pay attention to where boasting is coming from. It does not come from the Lord, but from the father of lies who is in the world. I John 2:15-17 “Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity.
            The antidotes for boasting is cultivating humility the attitude of Christ and choosing Joy, which is the fruit of the Holy Spirit. When we genuinely rejoice for and with others, there will be no room for competition and striving. Imagine if instead of viewing each other with a critical spirit we chose to affirm and celebrate one another. Imagine if instead of manipulating others toward our own agenda we chose to complement one another. When we make such choices we will have a loving community where each one is affirmed and valued. Those who visit us on Sundays would love to come back and be part of such community.
            More on a practical level. The next time when we are in a group, or with our spouse, children or even a complete stranger, let’s resist the urge to boast or self-reference. When you feel like bragging or boasting in a conversation catch yourself and ask the Lord to give you strength to remain quiet and overcome boasting. Consider others better than yourself.
            In conversations, don’t always wait for others to ask you questions, you take the initiative and ask questions, show interest on others, pay attention to what they have to say instead of waiting for a chance to jump in and dominate the conversation. In group study or prayer time try to be short in your responses, and prayers. Give others a chance to speak by you remaining silent.
            There may be other creative ways to work on our habitual boasting and building a loving community.  As we choose to live the Most Excellent Way, let’s remember, Love Does Not Boast. The antidotes for boasting is cultivating humility and choosing Joy. Steve Macchai notes, in his book, “Choosing joy is an option for every believer, in spite of any and all of our life’s genuinely realistic circumstances.”
            Let me close with the words of prophet Habakkuk 3:17-19, these words are particularly helpful when we are going through real hardship, “Though the cherry trees don’t blossom and the strawberries don’t ripen, though the apples are worm-eaten and the wheat fields stunted, though the sheep pens are sheepless and the cattle barns empty, I’m singing joyful praise to God. I’m turning cartwheels of joy to my Savior God. Counting on God’s Rule to prevail, I take heart and gain strength. I run like a deer. I feel like I’m king of the mountain! Amen