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The Grandness of God's Work
(Due to the visual additions it may be better to watch this sermon video than to listen to the podcast.) 1. The Grandness of God’s Work in Creation Psalm 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. a. The Beauty (of God’s creation) b. The Detail (of God's creation) c. The Smallness (of God’s creation) d. The Largeness (of God’s creation) Psalm 8:3-4 When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, 4 what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? Genesis 1:27-28 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Heb 1:3. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. 2. The Grandness of God’s Work in Redemption Eph 1:4-10 In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. 3. The Application in Life and Ministry a. ____________ 1 Cor 3:5-8 5 What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose… b. ____________ c. _____________ d. _____________ 1 Cor 9:26-27 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. e. _____________ Phil 3:8, 10 I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death. Jer 31:34 No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. Reflection/Discussion 1. Which of the blessings did you need to hear the most? 2. What changes will you make in your life and ministry knowing that God is doing almost all the work of Creation and Redemption. 3. How has your knowledge of God increased in the last one month? What steps will you take to increase in the knowledge of God. Photo by Gautier Salles on Unsplash
The Empty Space - A Sermon on Waiting
1 Kings 17-19 1. The Reality of Waiting. 1 Kings 17:1-6 Luke 12:36. like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. 2. The Uncertainty of Waiting. 1 Kings 17:7-24 3. The Promise in Waiting. 1 Kings 18:41-46 Hab 2:3 For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay. God’s will is God’s will only in God’s time. 4. Lessons In Waiting. 1 Kings 19:1-8 a. Trust It is ironical that a believer trusts God to take them to heaven but struggles with trusting God to get them through earth. There is strength within the sorrow
There is beauty in our tears
And You meet us in our mourning
With a love that casts out fear
You are working in our waiting
You're sanctifying us
When beyond our understanding
You're teaching us to trust
– Michael W Smith, Sovereign over us, 2014 b. Preparation Not only does God have to build up certain areas to make us useful for the calling but he also has to break down certain areas that would be detrimental for the calling. 5. The Purpose of Waiting. 1 Kings 19:8-15 Reflection/Discussion 1. During your past/current waiting periods, how has God been working on Trust and Preparation? 2. If encountering God is the main purpose of waiting, how does that change your attitude and decisions during the current/next waiting period? Photo by Nirmal Rajendharkumar on Unsplash
Sleep in Heavenly Peace - A Sermon on Rest
John 7:37-38 37 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” Something's wrong, shut the light, heavy thoughts tonight
And they aren't of Snow White
Dreams of war, dreams of liars, dreams of dragons' fire
And of things that will bite.
Sleep with one eye open
Gripping your pillow tight
Enter Sandman, Metallica, The Black Album, 1991 1. Intermittent Physical Rest a. Multiple Layers of Physical Rest. b. Getting Physical Rest Time management: We are doing what is necessary, but we are not managing our time well. Necessary Activity: We are doing what is unnecessary and cannot manage our time well. 2. Continuous Non-Physical Rest a. Non-physical restlessness “You don’t show the monster too many times because you’ll get used to him and you never want to get used to him. …The best screening room in the world is … your brain. So, it’s learning to tap into the human brain to show just so much. Let the brain do a lot of the work. That’s where you start to tap into people’s anxieties.” - Ridley Scott b. Getting Non-Physical Rest Matt 11:28-30 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Mark 4:37-38 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. Continuous non-physical rest is found in an ongoing fellowship with the eternal God. Reflection/Discussion 1. What physical and non-physical burdens are you carrying? 1 Peter 5:7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Matt 11:28-30 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” 2. What is preventing you from having an intimate fellowship with Jesus 3. What concrete steps will you take to get intermittent physical rest. • Time management • Unnecessary activities Photo by Hamza Bounaim on Unsplash
Burdens and Freedom
A Sermon on Forgiveness Psalm 51 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.
5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. 10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. 15 Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise. 1. The Burden of Being Unforgiven a. Perception of the Offendee. b. Reality of the Offendee. Psalm 51:4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; Psalm 51:3… For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Where is that knocking coming from? What’s happening to me, that I’m frightened of every noise? Whose hands are these? Will all great Neptune’s oceans wash this blood clean from my hand?
No, instead my hands will stain the seas scarlet, turning the green waters red.
- William Shakespeare. Macbeth 2. The Burden of Repeated Sin a. We sin because we are _________ to sin Psalm 51:5. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. b. We sin because it is _________ to sin Romans 7: 5, 7-8 5 For when we were in the realm of the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death. 7 What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead. c. We sin because we _________ to sin Heb 11:25 He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. Romans 7:24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Psalm 51:10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 3. The Burden of Forgiveness Matthew 18:32-35 32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. 35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” O Lord, remember not only the men and woman of good will, but also those of ill will. But do not remember all of the suffering they have inflicted upon us: Instead remember the fruits we have borne because of this suffering, our fellowship, our loyalty to one another, our humility, our courage, our generosity, the greatness of heart that has grown from this trouble. When our persecutors come to be judged by you, let all of these fruits that we have borne be their forgiveness. 4. The Freedom of Forgiveness Psalm 51:11-12. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me Psalm 51:14-15 14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, you who are God my Savior, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. 15 Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise. Luke 7:44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” Forgiveness restores a relationship at a great personal cost to the one forgiving. Reflection/Discussion List of names to forgive, including yourself Which burden do you struggle with the most? What steps will you take to correct it? Picture: Photo by Adli Wahid on Unsplash
Why Doesn't God Answer My Prayer?
I was recently asked a question: "Recently a person we know died of Covid, leaving behind a young family. I have no answer for that heartbreak. Jesus healed people instantly. We seem not to have that power. What are we missing here?" Why doesn't God answer my prayer? This is a very hard question. Behind the question is desperation, sleeplessness, hopelessness, emptiness, grief, even anger. If God is loving why does it seem like he doesnt hear me. If God is our Father, why do I suffer? Jesus healed a lot of people. Whoever he wanted to heal, was healed. Yet, he did not heal everyone in Israel. He did not heal every blind person and every demon possessed person. He did not heal every sick person he encountered. In his hometown, “he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith”. (Matthew 13:58). There were sick people in Nazareth, but they were not healed. The broader question is: Why is it that the prayer of Jesus gets answered and our prayer (to heal) does not get answered sometimes? A couple of points: 1. Does it have to do with power? Is it possible that Jesus had more power and therefore he performed more miracles? If that is so it can mean that we can never perform the level of miracles that Jesus did. But this is not true. Jesus himself said that his disciples would do more miracles than he did. Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father - John 14:12 This is because the same Spirit in Jesus that performs miracles has also been given to us to perform those miracles. (When Jesus went back to the Father, the Spirit came down and lives with us.) 2. Maybe it has to do with the reasons for unanswered prayer. There are numerous reasons for unanswered prayer: Sin - Isa 59:2; Disobedience - Zec 7:13; Selfishness - Jas 4:3; Injustice - Isa 1:15-17; Lack of faith - Jas 1:6-7 etc etc. Jesus obviously did not have any of these issues. 3. But the main reason I think for the difference in the prayer of Jesus and our own prayer is regarding the issue of God’s will. When Jesus prayed (or did anything for that matter), everything was according to the will of God. There was never a time when Jesus prayed for healing or commanded healing that was outside of the will of God. Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. John 5:19 When Jesus performed a miracle or prayed for a miracle, it happened since it was the will of God. Since we are NOT completely in tune with God, some of our prayers are not according to the will of God. Our prayers that are according to the will of God get answered. Our prayers that are outside of the will of God don’t get answered. The best example that ties all this together is the prayer of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. This was the one time that Jesus, because of the spiritual consequences, asked if the cup of separation can be removed from Him. Yet, he asked for God’s will. His human mind preferred another way. But God’s will was that Jesus should die on a cross for the sake of humanity. His prayer “not my will, but yours be done” (Matthew 26:39) shows the pattern we should follow in prayer. Since we don’t know if the request we make is God’s will or not, this should be the prayer we make. Additionally, God’s will in this situation shows us His immense Love for us. Like Paul said, He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Romans 8:32 The reason why He doesn’t answer our prayer is not that He cannot. (He is Omnipotent) The reason why He doesn’t answer our prayer is not that He doesn't love us. (His scars are proof of his love) The reason why He doesn’t answer our prayer is because it is not His Will. Ultimately the faith we have during prayer is NOT that our prayer will get answered in the affirmative. Our faith rests on the God who is omnipotent and loving. Because we know that he is Omnipotent, we know that he is able to answer any prayer that we pray. Because we know that he is loving, we know that he wants the best for us. Final thought If the Father did not fulfill the prayer of his only begotten Son when he was dying, God is not obligated to answer even one prayer of ours. ANY prayer of ours that he answers is a bonus. Thankfully, He answered the most important prayer we could make - prayer for salvation, so that we can avoid his wrath and go to heaven. References: Unanswered prayer - Martin H. Manser, Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies (London: Martin Manser, 2009) Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash
I love renovations. It shows growth, progress, and improvement from the current state. Since there is always room for growth, it also shows that the present is not yet as good as it could be. Yet, the final result of renovation is always preceded by the mess during the renovation. The process is uncomfortable, inconvenient, and sometimes unexpected. The bigger the renovation project, the more extensive and prolonged the mess will be. The mess is imperative for any renovation to be done. There is no growth or betterment without short-term difficulty and sacrifice. The mess is partially reflective of the intended goal of the renovation. With a competent craftsman, then, the bigger the mess, the more comprehensive the renovation, and the better the final outcome will be. One of the biggest renovation projects in recent times was that undertaken by Georges-Eugène Haussmann, the prefect of Sienne. He was chosen by Emperor Napoléon III to perform the task of renovating Paris. In the mid-1800s, Paris was in a decrepit state. the French social reformer Victor Considerant wrote: "Paris is an immense workshop of putrefaction, where misery, pestilence and sickness work in concert, where sunlight and air rarely penetrate. Paris is a terrible place where plants shrivel and perish, and where, of seven small infants, four die during the course of the year." Into this sordid scene, Haussmann stepped in. He started from the base up - renovating the dense labyrinth of pipes, sewers, and tunnels under the streets. His direct work was from 1853 to 1870, but the renovation continued till 1927. The transformations to Paris improved the quality of life in the capital. Disease epidemics ceased, traffic circulation improved and new buildings were better-built and more functional than their predecessors. The beauty of Paris today can be directly attributed to the vision and work of Baron Haussmann. 2020 has been an unexpected and difficult project with no end in sight. Some events that happened in 2020: Protests in Hong Kong against China attract 1 million people State of emergency declared in Victoria, Australia due to the bushfires that killed 500 million animals. A U.S. drone strike at Baghdad International Airport kills Iranian general Qasem Soleimani leading to widespread demonstrations and the accidental downing of a Ukrainian plane killing all 176 on board. Iran launches two missiles against American interests in Iraq. ISIS raises its head again and kills 89 Nigerian soldiers The Libyan civil war continues with Turkey sending troops to Libya The Yemeni civil war continues with more than 110 dead Price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia results in dangerous low prices of crude oil. The Kivu Ebola epidemic continues in Congo - it has killed more than 2200 people. Flash floods in Somalia displace more than 1 million people A cyclone hits India and Bangladesh displacing 4 million people with loss of $13 billion. Protests caused by the killing of George Floyd break out across hundreds of cities in the US and around the world. Riots result in widespread damage. Palestine terminates all agreements with Israel and the US. 20,000 tons of oil leaks into the Ambarnaya River in Siberia near the Arctic circle endangering natural animal and plant life. An explosion in Beirut, Lebanon kills 220 people, injures thousands, leaves 300,000 people homeless, and causes damage estimated at $10–15 billion. The Japanese carrierWakashio, breaks in half spilling 1,000 tonnes of oil into the ocean, becoming the largest environmental disaster in the history of Mauritius. Deadly clashes erupt in Nagorno-Karabakh between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces. Iran's top nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, is assassinated near Tehran. A virus from a seemingly remote place in China spreads across the world leaving devastation in its wake. The stock market crashes, unemployment and evictions soar.
Almost the entire world is in various stages of (repeat) lock-downs.
All public events, including music, sports and religious gatherings are banned, including the Olympic Games in Japan.
Number of people infected with Covid-19: 80 million (and counting)
Number of people that died from Covid-19: 1.7 million (and counting) Humanly, 2020 has been one of the worst years in recent memory. The renovation mess is painfully real. However, since the Master Craftsman is infinitely powerful, good and trustworthy, I cannot wait to see the end result of this corporate and personal renovation. Additionally, since post-renovation is better than pre-renovation, when this project is completed, I look forward to the next one. Anush A John Photo by Scott Blake on Unsplash Photo by Alexander on Unsplash
The Youngest Servant - Humility and Service
A Sermon on Humility and Service Who is the greatest? Luke 22:24-26 A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. 25 And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26 But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. 1. The Grasp for Power 25 And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. All for freedom and for pleasure
Nothing ever lasts forever
Everybody wants to rule the world
Tears for Fears, Everybody wants to rule the world, 1986 Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. We say that people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better-looking than others. If everyone else became equally rich, or clever, or good-looking there would be nothing to be proud about. It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone.
CS Lewis, Mere Christianity, "Pride" 2. The Gift of Person Luke 22:25-26 And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26 But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. 1 Peter 5:6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. I think it’s noteworthy that the Almighty didn’t act high and mighty. The Holy One wasn’t holier-than-thou. The One who knew it all wasn’t a know-it-all. The One who made the stars didn’t keep his head in them. The One who owns all the stuff of earth never strutted it.
… His purpose was not to show off but to show up. He went to great pains to be as human as the guy down the street. He didn’t need to study, but still went to the synagogue. He had no need for income, but still worked in the workshop. He had known the fellowship of angels and heard the harps of heaven, yet still went to parties thrown by tax collectors. And upon his shoulders rested the challenge of redeeming creation, but he still took time to walk ninety miles from Jericho to Cana to go to a wedding.
They called him a blasphemer, but they never called him a braggart. They accused him of heresy, but never arrogance. He was branded as a radical, but never called unapproachable.
Max Lucado, When God Whispers your Name Luke 22:26 But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. 1 Pet 5:2 Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve. 1 Cor 9:19-23 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. ….. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 3. Examples Phil 2:5-8 5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Luke 7:36 When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. … 44 Then (Jesus) turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. Photo by Danique Ter on Unsplash
The Forgotten Family
A Sermon on Church How can the Church be like a family? 1. Common Goal Psalm 34:3 Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together. Isaiah 43:7 everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” Romans 11:36 For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. 2. Individual Responsibility Acts 6: 1-4 In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3 Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” 3. Rules and Freedom 4. Irrational Love and Permanent Disagreements Matthew 22: 37-39 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Well, how exactly do I love myself? Now that I come to think of it, I have not exactly got a feeling of fondness or affection for myself, and I do not even always enjoy my own society. …
Do I think well of myself, think myself a nice chap? Well, I am afraid I sometimes do (and those are, no doubt, my worst moments) but that is not why I love myself. In fact, it is the other way round: my self-love makes me think myself nice, but thinking myself nice is not why I love myself.
… In my most clear- sighted moments not only do I not think myself a nice man, but I know that I am a very nasty one. I can look at some of the things I have done with horror and loathing.
However much I might dislike my own cowardice or conceit or greed, I went on loving myself. There had never been the slightest difficulty about it. In fact, the very reason why I hated the things (I did) was that I loved the man. Just because I loved myself, I was sorry to find that I was the sort of man who did those things.
CS LEWIS, Mere Christianity, “Forgiveness” Luke 22:24 A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. Having disagreements in a family shows a closer bond than one with absolutely no disagreements. 5. Daily Adoption Ephesians 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Ephesians 5:8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord… Colossians 1:21-22 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you The church on earth that is truly fulfilling its mission will always be an imperfect church. Photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash
The Lure of Comfort Giving
Do we need to rethink our concept of giving? Throughout the centuries, people of God have been encouraged to give back to God. It intuitively feels like the right thing to do - God has given us his blessings and we give back in return. This particular discipline is called tithing. The command in times past was to give ten percent of whatever you had back to God. In those days, it meant material goods, but it also included money. Over time, with wealth not being counted by the number of animals one had or the amount of agriculture one harvested, monetary giving became the norm. Thus, in the matter of giving back to God, ten percent of one’s money became standard. In the New Testament, of course, the concept of the ten percent tithe is not commanded. Instead, just as a child would give without limit (and without keeping tabs) to his parents, so also, we are to give whatever we can to our Father in Heaven. Yet money is not the only possession we have. Money is not the only gift that God has given us. We also have an objective and a subjective gift available to us – time and energy. Though we talk about giving money to God, we rarely ever emphasize the giving of time and energy to God. Doesn’t God deserve our time and energy just as we give Him our money? (Of course, there are numerous people that could care less about giving God money either). How good of a parent would one be if they gave money to their kids but did not spend a single minute or spend an ounce of energy on them? We would rightly conclude that they are less than adequate parents. If you are a good father or mother, you will spend time with your kids, energy for your kids, and, of course, spend money on your kids. Needless to say, there are many people who, having received good gifts from God would obediently choose to give money to God, but unwittingly never think of giving God their time or energy. Even if we went by the ancient rules, ten percent giving to God would be a definite 2 hours and 24 minutes every day and an arbitrary amount of energy in a day. [For a couple of sermons on investment including time, money and effort, see here: Retirement Planning] But I want to take this further. Is it fair for us to base our giving on ancient rules? Let me examine this under each category: 1. Time When I was a kid, since we stayed just outside the city limits, we did not have running water. For a few years, we had to get water for our daily use from outside. My brothers and I would spend about one and a half hours every day after school to get water for the house. Today, simply by having running water, I have saved 90 minutes every day and have that time available for use. Living a normal life in the past occupied a large amount of time. For example, the mode of travel in the distant past (during the time of Jesus, for instance) was walking. Getting from point A to point B would take hours and days. Everything took time to do. Today, because of the progress of living, we have many extra hours every week to do whatever we please to do. 2. Energy In the past when people didn’t have resources that we enjoy today, they used their energy for basic living. I remember visiting my grandparents’ home in rural Kerala, India during our summers hols. They used to gather and stack firewood to make food. Making food to sustain the family was a task that required a lot of effort. There would be several people involved to ensure that three full meals were placed on the table. Getting the water, chopping the firewood, bringing the raw food materials, and then cooking it with rudimentary equipment. Just in the matter of food, with the increased amenities today we have lots of energy to spare. Think of all the other ways that we are saving our energy for basic living. 3. Money Most of the people during Bible times that gave their money to God came from poverty-stricken cultures and backgrounds. Yet, they freely gave. Acts 2:44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Most of the common people living today live in significant wealth when compared to the common people in the Bible (even if we adjust for inflation and the cost of living). Yet, in terms of giving, we give the same percentage back to God. True, giving a percentage means that you are giving proportionally more to God. But it is also true that we have proportionally more money available for personal use with the remaining 90% than someone who lived in the first century. (or 2000 BC, for that matter). What do we do with the extra time, money, and energy that we have saved due to the advancement and amenities of life? Our giving today does not account for the resources saved due to life advancement. We use the extra on ourselves. We have bought more things, spend our lives on getting more activities and spend our time on vacuous things that have minimal eternal value. And then, probably inadvertently, we continue to pat ourselves on our backs since we are giving God the amount that we think will pacify Him. [For a sermon on Money, see here: Two Classes] I suggest that with the proportional gain in time, money, and effort that we have today, rather than spending it on temporal idiosyncratic wants, we should invest it back into God’s service that has eternal value. Not because we have to, but because we want to, because we love Him, because He has given us everything already and because we would rather invest our resources on eternal things rather than temporary fleeting lures. As GK Chesterton said, "If my children wake up on Christmas morning and thank Santa for the gifts in their stockings, do I have no one to thank for putting two feet into mine?" Then maybe we will change from comfort giving to sacrificial giving. #time #giving #money #effort #energy #tithe #advance #gratitude Photo by Micheile Henderson on Unsplash
The 70/30 Rule of Satisfaction
I was chatting with my cousin today on job satisfaction and other life issues. As we were talking I stumbled on a realization about the reality of satisfaction. Here's my theory: 100% is an impossible number to obtain to be satisfied. We can never be 100% satisfied with anyone or anything. So, I arbitrarily chose a lower number. I wonder if we can be satisfied only 70% with anyone or anything? What if, the most anyone can be satisfied is around 70%. Then, anything beyond this is not the general reality. This obviously has wide implications. Some examples follow: a. When I look for an employee, is it realistic for me to expect someone who fits all the criteria 100%? No, it is not practical. If I can get someone who fulfills 70% of the criteria as long as the critical ones are fulfilled, I should choose to be content. b. If you are working at an office or any job: Expecting to have 100% job satisfaction is unrealistic. If we stand back and see the big picture: if we can get 70% of the perfect workplace, the perfect boss, the perfect co-workers, then we should be satisfied. c. When you get married, is your spouse about to fulfill 100% of your dreams? Absolutely not! If you can get about 70% compatibility and agreement, it is probably the most we can get. (the same with family members). d. When you have children, will they listen to you and obey you 100% of the time? Even if they did that initially, it is just a matter of time before their individuality and personhood cause a drop in their compliance. e. With friends (or any other relationship), will anyone be 100% compatible with anyone else? Unlikely. Having a realistic expectation in every relationship will help in two ways: 1. It will help us to be content with what is reality. Contentment is a choice. So we can choose to be content with 70% compatibility and compliance. Alternatively, I can choose to be unhappy by focusing on the 30%. So, Paul can say, "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." (Philippians 4:12) 2. It can help us to avoid disappointment and therefore jeopardize relationships. When our expectations are lower, then disappointment is also lower. If I get into any relationship knowing that the most I will be satisfied is 70%, then anything in that relationship that doesn't gel with me, I can easily attribute it to the 30%. (For a sermon on contentment, see here: Mud Pies) Thus, a. Once you realize that your employee won't be the perfect employee fulfilling 100% of the role, then employers can account for it in other ways, other than placing unnecessary pressure on the employee and in the company. b. Once we know that any person can only find 70% fulfillment in a job or in an employer, that will prevent him/her from quitting her job or getting frustrated. Instead, they will work around the 30% that cannot be fulfilled. c. Once we realize that we can have only 70% compatibility with our spouses (at best), then we won't put unnecessary pressure on the relationship or look outside the relationship in the futile effort to get the elusive 100% satisfaction. For those who are looking for spouses, expecting to have a potential spouse to be 100% compatible is unrealistic. d. Once we realize that we can have only 70% compliance from our children, then we won't treat them like robots (that would give 100% compliance). Rather, we will treat them like people with minds and personalities of their own. e. Once we realize that we may only get 70% similarity in viewpoints and thinking (at best) with friends, neighbors, and colleagues, then we are free to disagree and yet continue the friendship. At the end of the day, my own views and personality change over time. Thus over time, I am not 100% compatible with myself! How then can I expect to be fully compliant with another unique individual? Aiming for a lower number, like 70% and choosing to be content with that, is more realistic and likely to result in more successful (and compatible) relationships. #relationship #compatible #friendship #family #realistic #spouse #wife #husband #content #happy #choice Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash
The Gates of Hell - The Difficult Matter of Hell
A Sermon on Hell Objections to the Concept of Hell Why can’t God simply annihilate the evildoers, instead of eternal punishment? Why can’t Hell be a short-term punishment instead of an eternal one? Why doesn’t God try to reform sinners rather than punishing them forever? Is eternal damnation an overkill for temporary sins? How can anyone be happy in heaven if a Loved One Is in Hell? Why Did God Create People if he knew that they were bound for Hell? If people are born as sinners how can they be blamed? How can a loving God send people to Hell? Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today - John Lennon, Imagine. 1971 A. The Existence of Hell The existence of hell has been defended by arguments both from Scripture and from human reason. 1. Evidence from Scripture 2. God’s Justice Demands a Hell Romans 2:6 God “will repay each person according to what they have done.”11 For God does not show favoritism. Genesis 18:25 Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Habakkuk 1:13 Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing. Psalm 73:3 For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. 3. God’s Sovereignty demands a Hell 1 Cor. 15:24–25 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 4. God’s Redemptive plan indicates the presence of Hell Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Rom 4:25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. Hebrews 13:12 And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. 5. Love Demands a Hell 1 John 4:16 …. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. Matt. 23:37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. “the Irresistible and the Indisputable are the two weapons which the very nature of his scheme forbids him to use. Merely to override a human will … would be for Him useless. He cannot ravish. He can only woo” CS Lewis, Screwtape Letters “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done’” CS Lewis, Screwtape Letters B. Pictures of Hell Revelation 20:1 And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. Revelation 20:7 When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison. Matt 5:25–26 “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny. Those who believe in a salvation by works, will be working infinitely to pay off the debt. Matt 8:12 But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 2 Pet. 2:17 These people are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. Matt 25:41 Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 2 Thess. 1:7–9 This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. 8 He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might. C. Inhabitants 2 Peter 2:4,9 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment; …then the Lord knows how to … hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment. 2 Thess. 1:8 He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. D. The Punishment 1. Eternal Matt. 25:41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. Matt. 25:46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” Rev. 20:10 And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever. 2. Conscious Phil 1:21-23 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; Luke 16:23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 3. Suffering Luke 16::22-24 The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’ Rev. 2:11 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death. Heb 9:27 … people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, Luke 16:27-28 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ “Do you want to take a leap of faith or become an old man filled with regret waiting to die alone?”
Saito (Ken Watanabe) asks Cobb (Leonardo di Caprio), Inception, 2010 Matt. 5:22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. Mark 12:38-40 38 As he taught, Jesus said, “Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, 39 and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. 40 They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.” . Luke 16:26 between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’ Last thing I remember
I was running for the door
I had to find the passage back
To the place I was before
"Relax", said the night man
"We are programmed to receive
You can check out any time you like
But you can never leave"
Eagles, Hotel California, 1977 Revelation 20:14-15 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire. John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. #hell #heaven #sin #evil #justice #punishment #sovereignty #eternal #suffering #escape #salvation Photo by David Werbrouck on Unsplash
A Certain Hope - Hope in Uncertain Times
A Sermon on Hope Numbers 6:22-27 22 The Lord said to Moses, 23 “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them: 24 “‘“The Lord bless you and keep you; 25 the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; 26 the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”’ 27 “So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.” A. What is hope? It is a confidence of actual goodness for the present and the future, based on actions in the past and the present. I just keep on hoping that you call me
You say you wanna see me but you can't right now
You never took the time to get to know me
Was scared of losing something that we never found
- Post Malone, Hollywood’s bleeding B. The Need for Hope. C. The Basis for Hope. Isaiah 29:7-8 will be as it is with a dream, with a vision in the night— 8 as when a hungry person dreams of eating, but awakens hungry still; as when a thirsty person dreams of drinking, but awakens faint and thirsty still. 1 Cor 15:19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. What is the basis for our hope? 1. the secular humanistic worldview God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him” - Frederick Nietzsche, Prussian philosopher, 19th Century The Worldly Hope men set their hearts upon
Turns Ashes—or it prospers; and anon,
Like Snow upon the Desert’s dusty Face
Lighting a little Hour or two—is gone.
Omar Khayyam, Persian philosopher and Mathematician, 11th Century 2. the Christian worldview It is a confidence of (God’s) actual goodness for the present and the future, based on (God’s) actions in the past and (human responses in) the present. Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.
I will be hoping that this letter finds you and finds you well.
- Andy Dufresne, The Shawshank Redemption, 1994 John 2:19-22 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” 20 They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” 21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken. The hope of a secular humanist is based on humans.
The hope of a Christian is based on a human – Jesus Christ. Rom 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Eph 3:20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us #hope, #atheism, #humanism, #secularism, #Nietzsche, #goodness, #confidence, #certain, #hardship, #enlightenment, #depression, #hopeless, #hopelessness, #good, #suicide Photo by Faris Mohammed on Unsplash