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?





Breaking News Bulletin!

4 10 2016

mass-media

To say that we are bombarded 24/7 with “new” news would be an understatement of an overwhelming truth!  Today’s advances in technology places within  our reach many news media, while just a few years ago we were dependent on the Radio, Newspapers and television.

Today we receive it just looking at what is within arms reach of me a Kindle, my laptop, my “smartphone” the remote to the TV, Wall Street Journal and Time magazine.  “Stop the world I want to get off”!

How then do I infuse my mind with, “Whatsoever things are TRUE, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report … meditate on these things”! (Philippians 4: 8 NKJV)

The Psalmist seems to have found that he was maybe in the same situation as I am and his go to solution was, ” … and in His law he meditates day and night …”(Psalms 1:2).  It might be because he was taught the words spoken to Joshua as he was given the commission to lead the people of Israel into the promised land.  “This Book of the Law … meditate in it day and night … then you will make your prosperous, and then you will have good success.” (Joshua 1:8)

To help me, I have found a few tools on the  “gadgets” that surround me.  Here they are:
YouVersion Bible and their Bible Study plans, Bible Gateway with their numerous Bible translations, MegaVoice audio Bible, Blog posts on Bible Reading from Eagle Brook Church, many different godly preachers of God’s Word on TV.

So, I would encourage you to meditate on His Word day and night and you will find that He makes your life prosperous and your path a way of success!  Try it, you will love it!

 

 





A Tapestry of Love!

29 07 2016

Tapestry of Love

This is a unique quilt with a unique theme and it was made by my Daughter-in-Law, Jennie for our grand-daughter, Samantha.  The quilt was made with many of Samantha’s shirts, pajamas and other memorabilia from her life.  Samantha is nine years old.

As I saw this my thoughts triggered on how, God is making each of us in our own lives, a “Tapestry of Love”.  The Master Creator making a Masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10) in us in 2016. Wow!  Amazing!

So, I travel through the years gone by, another year is done, and I am starting a new one and I realize that this is also another year of counting the miraculous blessings of God in my life and ministry.  It was 50 years ago that I graduated from Union Biblical Seminary in India and started out in ministry.  And I think, “… this is the Lord’s doing and it is marvelous in our eyes …” (Psalm 118: 23).

I am reminded of the author of Hebrews in Chapter 11: 32 says, “…And what more shall I say?  I do not have time to tell about …”!  God has been so good to me, like a woven tapestry, the quilt depicting 73 years of life and 50 years of ministry, and I have to say, “Only God”!  To Him be all the glory!

Just to mention a couple of awesome things, and I just mention these to encourage you to think with gratitude, “what tapestry of love is God weaving of your life.  The first, is my devotions that I do with the YouVersion.com Bible and its devotions.  Through these I have built a small community of fellow believers who are my “devotion buddies”!  We comment and encourage each other to “continue in God’s Word and in the fellowship of believers”.  What to me is most incredible is that, we are an online group, some I have never met in person, but all bound by our love for Jesus!  A physician from Kentucky, a young man of Sri Lankan background in Australia, a young mother living in China, an army wife, a youth minister in California, Missionary Story Teller Trainer …! Plus a few others!

Then my home church Eagle Brook Church – Spring Lake Park, the connections and the beautiful workings of God into my life, to make that tapestry.  God patiently working one beautiful piece after another, using different threads, different stitches, a hot iron to smooth some edges out … many hours, many days but painstakingly becoming a “masterpiece”, because He “does not make no junk” as Mahalia Jackson so eloquently expressed.

God is not done with us as yet, and He is doing a great work in our lives, and it is marvelous in our sight!





Why I love my home church!

5 05 2016

2016 EBC _ SLP STAFF

Front Row

Rachel Otterness (Kids Pastor) Sandi Hawks (Senior Adult Pastor) Megan Czech (Leader Kids Ministry) Carrie Rassmussen (Campus Executive Pastor) Steve Whicker (Campus Pastor) Jenna Sederstrom (Video Director)

Back Row

(left to right): Josh Dekker (Music Pastor) Paula Johnson (Campus Support Coordinator) Nancy Sackett (Pastor of Serving) Mike Cole (Pastor of Groups) David Schussman (Pastor of Student Ministries) Russell Munson (Service and Events Producer) Mark Sackett (Facility Manager) Ryan Jamieson (Audio Engineer)

Bottom Left:

Marcia Johnson (Facility Assistant) (left) Kim Obrycki (Retail Supervisor)

Bottom Right:

(left to right) -Vicky Frandsen (Facility Coordinator) Brian Shields (Facility Assistant) Sarah Norton (Retail Services Supervisor)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

March 2008 marked a defining moment in the lives of Linda and me as we were introduced to our new Home Church, Eagle Brook Church -Spring Lake Park campus, in Minnesota.

We had just attended a conference in Florida conducted by the International Orality Network and were fired up about the possibilities of taking the Gospel to the nations, using the “heart language” of people, the language that they communicated in on a day to day basis.  We were challenged by the fact that 70% of the world population, even in societies that were literate, were gaining their knowledge and information through stories and the oral media.

We were at this time making a transition, and as we visited Eagle Brook Church, we saw how God had been “setting us up” the last few months from December 2007 to March 2008 to make this move to start attending Eagle Brook Church at Spring Lake Park, Minnesota.  Let me highlight some key factors.

The driving force and desire of Eagle Brook Church was to reach the unreached with the Gospel of Jesus Christ using every method and means, being relevant and relational.

First, the Teaching pastors of the Church were using narrative and communicative language which enabled every person who heard the message to be able to understand the message of the Gospel in a very clear and relevant manner, so that they were able to apply it to their lives in a day to day basis.  There was no need to use dictionaries and concordances and previous background in “churchianity” to understand what was communicated each weekend.

Second, it was a Megachurch with a small church feel!  Eagle Brook Church is the largest church in Minnesota, yet from the time a person pulls into the parking lot of the church and is greeted by the parking lot volunteers, to greeters at the doors and ushers and children’s workers and throughout the church, a person feels welcomed but not intruded upon.

This is made possible at Spring Lake Park as over 60 percent of the attenders, also are actively involved in volunteering in some capacity of their giftedness, and claiming a “sweet spot” to serve in.  Each person is encouraged in their volunteering by staff and team members, and also by the knowledge that as they serve, they may be reaching out to someone, for whom ‘this service is the first time at the church’, and maybe even the first time of having the opportunity to hear and respond to the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Third is the music and the time of worship.  The worship pastors and the rest of the staff are focused and challenged to make the complete experience of each service, effective, efficient and appealing to make each person enter into a time when each person who walks through the doors will have a meaningful experience, where they will know that they have been met and ministered to by God in a personal and intimate way.

Many times I am reminded that as a young Youth Director in the 60’s we were challenged in trying to make the music relevant to bring in the youth of our generation, to hear the Gospel message.  At Eagle Brook Church, the Worship Pastors each weekend accomplishes this same challenge, of reaching the attender in a relevant way, and then leading them into an atmosphere of worship, and the preparation of the heart to hear the message of the Gospel as it is presented by the Teaching Pastors.

I have tried to use my Home Campus, Eagle Brook Church – Spring Lake Park to illustrate what is also duplicated with personal touches and nuances in the five other campuses which make up Eagle Brook Church – campuses at Lino lakes, White Bear Lake, Blaine, Woodbury and Coon Rapids.  It is a picture of the church in a nutshell.

The picture of the staff of Spring Lake Park, show the catalysts of what God is doing with a group of people who are dedicated with the desire to reach everyone in the community with the saving message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the power to transform and redeem lives in miraculous ways.