Following an Impossible God!

12 04 2017

IMG_0176Just this morning I woke up with the thought, “God Is Crazy”!  Before you say that I am sacrilegious, and tune me out, please hear me out!  Yes I believe in a God who specializes in the Impossible and in the crazy!

Easter has always been my most favorite celebration of the Church Calendar!  I have memories of many different places where I have celebrated Easter! Colombo and Kandy in Sri Lanka!  Camrose, Alberta in Canada!  Seattle, Grand Rapids, Minneapolis … !  Yes the list goes on, and they are significant to ME, because of what God has done in my life!

I think back to my High School days in Colombo, Sri Lanka  and think of sitting in a class room, with only about three others who even called themselves Christians, while the others were Buddhists and Hindus and Muslims, and to think that God reached down and touched my life, and gave me a new life in Christ Jesus!  He changed me and put the Spirit of God in me, the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead!  Wow!  Okay, how can it get better than that!

And so I start to think of this God, and the Easter Story!  That was God’s crowning moment, in raising Jesus from the dead, and He is going to do this for all of us, who believe in Jesus, use His mighty power to raise us from the dead, to an eternal life with Him in Heaven!

He starts His career by taking all the chaos that was this world, and creating form and order out of it, “Yes, I have an App for that”, He must have said!  He calls a man called Noah, and gives him a blueprint to build this huge big boat, to take his family and animals of every form and kind for the “cruise of their lifetime”!  He sends a flood of epic proportions, and recreates the structure of the early human tree!

He calls a man called Abram, and tells him to take his wife and leave the security of the business he has built with his Dad, and his home and lifestyle, and go on a road trip, camping along the way, to a better place, that He (the Impossible God) has prepared for him.  And Abram and his wife Sarai, leave all to follow this Impossible God!

The stories continue throughout history as they are recorded in the Bible, (see the Book of Hebrews chapter 11 for a sample), and also throughout the ages!  Have they stopped?  Has the number of Impossible things stopped?  I am sorry to say, they have not stopped, but they are multiplied today, as Jesus promised in the Gospel of John 14: 12 –

       “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.”

Yes, and God wants us to experience some of these Impossible Things this Easter, as we see the Resurrection Power working in us, 

The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you. (Romans 8:11)

May I invite you to experience this Ressurection Power in the Easter of 2017, with Christ followers from around the world!

 





The Caravan Chronicle

2 04 2017

(Read Joshua chapters 1:9 , 2: 1-24 and Matthew 1: 5,6)

Pearl in the Sand: A Novel by [Afshar, Tessa]Joshua sends two spies into Jericho, just like Moses had sent twelve including Joshua and Caleb!  They are to spy out the land that “God had given to them”!  (1:9)

They enter the brothel that Rahab (see “Ten Women of The Bible” by Max Lucado) was running, so that they could get the town gossip, and Rahab fills them in on what the people in Jericho were feeling and thinking!  They were scared spitless because of the Israelites who’s God was working on their behalf.

Rahab said that they had heard, through the grapevine, the reporting in the Caravan Chronicle, that God had parted the Red Sea for the Israelites to cross over on dry ground, and how they had defeated the kings on the way, and now they were camped outside Jericho, causing fear in the hearts of the citizens of this city!

Rahab had believed what she heard and placed her trust in God, evidenced by the fact that she was willing to help the two spies!

Her faith is rewarded, and her life is spared, and she later gets married to Salmon, the Israelite … what a story that is (Pearl in the Sand by Tessa Afshar), and they have a son … Boaz (Matthew 1:5-6), who marries Ruth (see the Book of Ruth), whose great grandson was King David, and is the lineage of Jesus!

How do we fill in the blanks of this story!  WOW!

What impressed me, was in the reading of the story of Ruth, and seeing what a “gentleman”, Boaz is, that Rahab, instilled some real godly characters into her son!  So what is the story of Rahab!

What is the GRACE of God, and what is the hilariousness of His provisions for us, who live in the 21st century and are His chosen for “such a time as this?

How would YOU fill in the blanks?





The Church – An Exciting Weekend!

28 03 2017

2017 ANOKA EBC

 

What an exciting weekend it has been for Eagle Brook Church in Anoka, Minnesota as the sixth campus of the church opened in its own building, with a packed and over flowing attendance!

 God is Good and Awesome!

               This campus had been meeting in a local High School, as they prayed and looked for a place of their own to meet in!  God gracious provided an old K-Mart building, which has now become a state of the building to house the Anoka Eagle Brook Church!

This sent me reminiscing on the many churches that I have attended, beginning with the Cinnamon Gardens Baptist Church, as a new born baby through the churches I attended as a young person to College days in India and then in Seattle then to Minnesota!  This also included churches I had itinerated in Canada and the USA and also in Seminar ministry.

It was a time not just of reminiscing but of evaluating my “Ecclesiology”, and what did I really believe about the church?  First, I know and firmly believe, that “The Church” is the Body of Christ, comprising of believers in every country of the world, of people of every race, language, people group and every background that we can imagine!  I am assured of this as I see how in Revelation 5: 9, 10 says,

And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.”

And Revelation 7: 9-12 says,

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

Second, I thought, our worship is going to be different, in that we will be worshiping in many languages, and in maybe in many different formats, dependent on our backgrounds, and styles – contemporary, traditional, liturgical – but we are ALL worshiping JESUS, our Redeemer and King, because HE IS WORTHY TO BE PRAISED, TO BE WORSHIPED!

Third, it does not matter what type of a building we are in!  A new state of the art building, a cathedral with stain glass windows, a regular brick and mortar building, a lean-to or a half walled building with thatched roof or a tin roof!  The basement of a church, behind prison walls, under the shade of a tree in an open desert like area!  Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”!  That is the most important thing!  I am so grateful to God for enabling me to experience the love and worship of believers in many different places, as they worshipped Jesus!  An experience of what it is going to be like in Heaven!

Where is Church for you and me?  Are we celebrating the Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as My Lord and My Savior this weekend?

Some pictures of churches I have been in recently:

 





Enoch walking on Cloud 9!

19 02 2017

pappa-1                  I remember when I was a pre-teen and my grandfather used to visit us that he would love for me to join him as he went on his morning walks.  Normally it was mid morning, and he was always dressed in a suit jacket (open collar), and his hat and a walking cane!  This was the stylish thing to do, to carry a walking cane, and swing it with a special style!

I also liked to walk with him, because his pockets always contained candy which he would give to the neighbor kids, who would always come and talk to him.  I don’t remember any of the conversations I had with him, but I was just happy that he asked me to go with him on his walks.

I was reminded of this because as we read of Enoch in the Bible not much is said of Enoch, but what is said of him says much that we could heed for a relationship with God!

Enoch we find is in the lineage drawn between “Joseph the Carpenter” (remember him?) and Adam the first man, that God created!  He lived a total of 365 years which was “chicken feed” compared to his father Jared who lived 962 years, and Methuselah his son, recorded to be the oldest living person at 969 years!

But it says that “Enoch walked with God” (Genesis 5:22) and that “he pleased God” (Hebrews 11: 5)!   This is what drew me to Enoch!  We all desire to walk with God and to please God, especially if the end result is the same as of Enoch, because we find that it says, when Enoch walked with God and he was not, because God took him (5:24)

We see from the beginning that God liked to walk with his people.  It seems from Genesis 3, that everyday God would come and walk in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve.  And here he walks with Enoch!  Oh how I would love to take a walk with God in the cool of the evening, or the morning!  But, maybe it is possible!

I see them have some animated conversations about all the beauty that surrounded them, the things which God said “was good” when he created them, including the people!  I see Enoch walking on Cloud 9 for this privilege, because Hebrews 11:5 says, ‘he pleased God’.  Why does the term, “Lord of the Dance” keep popping in my head?  Is it because I see children break out into impromptu moments of dance, when they are happy?  Was Enoch like this when he was walking with God?

There was another thought about Enoch from Hebrews 11: 5 and 6, which I had not seen before.  Verse 6 always stood apart to me, but here I see that as it follows verse 5 and it connects to the mention that Enoch pleased God.  How did he do it?

Hebrews 11: 5-6 gives us the answer. By faith.  Faith in what?

1.  That He exists

2.  That He cares enough to respond to those who seek him.

So what was Enoch doing?  He believed God, and I guess he had a personal relationship with God and walked with God.

And finally I was seeing Enoch in Jude 1: 14-16 coming back with Jesus and a thousand angels in the last days… just like he was taken away!  Two people had this experience of been taken away by God, without seeing death, Elijah (2 Kings Chapter 1) and Enoch in (Genesis 5).  (Side note:  It helps to have your name start with the letter “E” if you want to experience “translation”!!!!  Just kidding.)

                     Yes, we can walk with God because he wants to walk with us, and yes we can please God, because all we need to know and believe is that God exists and that He cares to respond to me if I seek Him?

 

 





And God Chose: Joseph the Carpenter!

1 02 2017

Christmas 2016 seemed like a joseph-the-carpenterreminder from every side of the life of Joseph, the Carpenter.  The sermons that I heard, the songs we sang all seemed to highlight this Carpenter from Nazareth who we know very little about, but seems to in reality, have a vital part to play in the life and ministry of Jesus!

It was beckoning me to look and study a person, who might be relegated to a back seat in the story, but looms large in the economy of God!  I am almost tempted to feel, that this could be a project for a book to walk in Joseph’s shoes and see his life and the impact that he had on Jesus, and to realize, that even though we might be “anonymous”, that in God’s eyes, our faithfulness is a vital ingredient in God’s Kingdom, to accomplish the task of His work and ministry!

So let’s go meet Joseph the Carpenter!

Since we do not know him too well, let’s sit around and fire some questions at him and try and get some ideas as to who he is.

  •  Joseph you grew up in the town of Nazareth and it is reported that there was a Roman garrison (an army base) in town. What was it like to have the enemy living in your town?  What kind of feelings and emotions and questions did you and your neighbors and relatives have towards them?
  • Since you are known as Joseph the Carpenter, we have to presume that this is a trade you learned as a child/ young man from your father, and you inherited or grew into the family business. Since it was a fairly large town, did you have a prosperous business?  You must have been quite a good carpenter to be known as “the carpenter”!
  • Can you tell us your thoughts about you and Mary? She must have been a very pretty girl?  We don’t know too much about either one of your parents.  Were they all good friends?  Did they arrange your marriage?
  • You must have loved Mary a lot, for you to decide to break the wedding plans, quietly and not openly disgrace her. Did you somehow have the feeling, that maybe what she was saying to you about her conception was true?
  • Were you a religious person, Joseph? Why would God have chosen you to be the earthly father of Jesus?  Sounds like a big responsibility?  God must have been working a lot in your life from your young days, and you were obedient to His voice.
  • When Jesus was a kid in your home, and as he grew to be a teen and then as a young adult, you were his role model. What were some things you did with him?  We know that you when on your trips up to Jerusalem with Him as we see in Luke 2: 41-52.  We also see that you taught him the trade of being a carpenter.  He must have been very precise and meticulous in his work in the carpentry shop!
  • Would you mind telling us a little bit about your trip to Bethlehem, when Mary was pregnant and you were ordered to travel for the Census.
  1. Did you carry many supplies when you were traveling? I am sure that you wanted to provide for Mary as much as possible for her comfort?
  2. What were your thoughts when you had to have the baby in a manger, because there was no other room available? Did you have some troubling thoughts as to God’s Provisions, when you could not even give the basic necessities for Jesus to be born?
  3. What were your feelings when the Shepherds came looking for Jesus, and the Story that they were relating?
  4. Looks like you found a place to live in Bethlehem, and you must have supported your young family with some odd jobs when the “wise men/magi” came to see Jesus. This must have given you some assurance that this was truly from God.
  5. I see that, God seems to speak to you in dreams. You must have grown up to learn things this way as a young person, that you were confident in them.
  6. Eight days after Jesus was born, you and Mary, took Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem, to dedicate him to God. There you met Anna and then Simeon, two godly people who prophesied over Jesus and Mary.  Could you fill in some details on this trip?
  • So after the Wise Men came and left, you had a dream and then you had to get up and become Refugees in Egypt, so that you could protect Jesus from the hand of the cruel King Herod. What kept you assured that God was still working in your life?  Are there some specific verses of scripture that gave you assurance of your safety and of God’s care and protection over you?
  • Another story that we see you in is when you went to Jerusalem with Mary and Jesus when Jesus was twelve years old.
  1. You must have been very worried when you found out He was missing.
  2. Yes, he was the eldest in your family (even though he was not your own)! You had a special responsibility to guard and protect him.
  3. What were some of your thoughts, when and till you found Him?
  4. How did Jesus’ comments to you and Mary about being about His Father’s business affect you?
  5. Did your conversation with Jesus in the carpentry shop and around the house take on a different meaning from that time on?
  • To end our conversation with you, I have a fun question to ask you. Listening to Jesus’ teachings and conversations, it feels like you taught him to love and enjoy life. He had a good sense of humor, and I have a sneaky suspicion, that He learned it from you?  Any special stories that you have from his young days that stand out in your  mind?

God chose Joseph because he saw that Joseph could be trusted to be the earthly father of Jesus!  God has chosen you to be “who you are” and to live to your full potential, right where you are!  YOU ARE CHOSEN BY GOD for “such a time as this”!

 

 





Name and Voice Recognition!

26 01 2017

Isaiah 43:1 (ESV)  “But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.”

sbts-annual-1972-3 I find that one of my strengths lies in my ability to recall the names of people, whom I know and/or have met on occasion, even in a very chance meeting.  While this is a strength this is also my biggest weakness.  Why, you might ask?  Because, when I meet a person, specially as I am getting older, I don’t have the “instant recall”, that I prided myself in, and so this produces a lot of negative feelings inside of me.

Recently, I met a gentleman whom I had attended a class with at the local YMCA. I remembered many things about him and his wife from the conversations we had had in class and outside, but I could not remember his name!  I even introduced him to my wife (without mentioning his name)!  It was almost two hours afterwards, hundred and twenty minutes of agonizing thinking, that I finally remembered, “Bill”!

This has triggered some thoughts that make me to study some people in the Bible, who I am sure that we will meet in heaven as we walk the streets of gold, and we will definitely recognize them, but will we be unfamiliar with their name?  I know we will not agonize as to who they are … maybe we will all wear name tags in heaven … ya, betcha!

So I am going to study “Facebook Friends on Streets of Gold”, people whom I want to find as much as I can in the days ahead, before I meet them on the streets of gold.  Just like on Facebook, many times it will be a very short profile of a few things that I know about them, and through the years as my friendship with them grows, I want to add to their page!

I would very much enjoy having you join me in my journey, and add your own knowledge of what you know about this friend, because, I hope and trust that they are also your friends, and that you will want to get to know them too!

I would also enjoy getting to know some of your friends, whom you have met in your journey through the Bible, and that you will introduce them to me too!  Some of them might be “no name friends”, but are very important in our story and in God’s Story!

So, I trust that we will enjoy our time in getting to know and enjoying the friends we will spend eternity with on the “Streets of Gold”!

Name Recognition:  (A few of many)

Isaiah 43:1 –  “…Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.  I have called you by name; you are mine.”

Isaiah 45:3-4  And I will …so you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name…  Why did I call you by name when you did not know me?

Isaiah 49:1   Listen to me, all you in distant lands!  Pay attention, you who are far away!
The Lord called me before my birth; from within the womb he called me by name.

Voice Recognition:  (A few of many)

John 10:3-5 –  “The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.”

John 10: 27 – “ My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. “

Trivia

My Full Name is Theodore Samuel Nalin Senapatiratne

 

 

 

 

 





Heaven: Place where BFFs (Best Friends Forever) live

9 01 2017
vasantha-kumar-001-2

Leadership Training of Youth at Lakshman’s Tea Plantation in Dyraba in 1984

“Grandpa, don’t you know?  That’s my BFF!” said my seven year old grandson one day in his incredulous tone.  How could I have missed such an obvious fact?

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to think about, “BFFs”.  Do guys even have BFFs, let alone BFs?   That is a different story!  But I heard of the home going of my friend, Lakshman Perera, and some thoughts ran through my mind.

I don’t even remember the time I first met him, even though it was sometime when I was in my early 40’s when my wife and I and our two sons, were serving as missionaries in Sri Lanka.  But since then it seems like his family and ours were like close friends, who had known each other forever.

Lakshman and Sunil had the ability to make people feel welcome in their home, in their church and wherever, with great ease.  Their love for the Lord Jesus and their desire to make Him known and introduced to everyone they knew was contagious.  Many are the stories, and the incidents that flashed through my mind.

The hours going into the night of looking at a particular passage of scripture, or discussing a situation related to the church were numerous.  Lakshman’s passion for people was evidenced in his desire to plant a church in every place that he was employed in.  He was a manager of tea plantations, and he would be assigned to different places, and yet where ever he was, this was his burning desire.

He started a small church plant on this one tea plantation, where he invited me to come and train some young leaders to be the core of the church, and to train them to be “disciple makers”.  He would also arrange for me to lead Bible studies in the homes of his friends, who managed other tea plantations, so that these managers would come into a personal knowledge of Jesus, and also so that they also would catch the vision of starting a church in their own plantations.

Great is the reward that Lakshman (and Sunil) will be presented with as he is with Jesus, enjoying the presence of the Lord that he loved.

But I digress a little, or do I?  Because, Jesus was Lakshman’s Best Friend.   Jesus had another friend in whose home, Jesus spent time with whenever he was in town.  His name was Lazarus!

But one day, Jesus got a message from Lazarus’ two sisters, Mary and Martha, that Lazarus was very sick, to the point of death.  Would Jesus please come?  But Jesus delayed till four days after his friend had passed, and he arrives at their home.  (The details are in John chapter 11, well worth the time reading this amazing story)

Jesus comes and we see the emotions of Jesus, very Man and very God, as he confronts the death of his “Best Friend”.  Walk through that passage very slowly and capture the details … Wow!  What a story, and then we see the friends restored in fellowship again.

But we know the story does not end here, even though we do not know the details.  Jesus dies and is resurrected and he goes to heaven, and he leaves the words he spoke to Mary and Martha … and Lazarus … “I am the Resurrection and the Life” … for us all to believe in and to have HOPE in, when we face death.  Yes, if we believe in Jesus, we will be “Best Friends Forever”, because He promised us Eternal Life!

This is the Hope that we can have, and this is the challenge that faces us, which drove my friend, Lakshman to desire to see all his friends be ‘best friends forever’!  Do we desire that for our friends, that they believe in Christ Jesus, and would be our BFFs because they will live forever, through their faith in Jesus?