Today Pastor Choi talks about incarnation: God became human. He explains three reasons behind Christ’s incarnation: to have the first-hand human experience, to undergo the same struggles and temptations, and to help us in times of need.
In the Scriptures, whenever God gave a new name to someone, He expected him to live a life worthy of the name.Christ was given two names.Jesus and Immanuel.Christ as Jesus lived a life that would save humanity from their sins once and for all.Christ as Immanuel does three things with us.1) He accompanies us throughout our Heaven-bound journey.2) He cares for us.3) He is fully committed to us.May the Christ be with us through this Christmas season and in the years to come.
Today Pastor Choi talks about his own journey in thanksgiving. First, he learned to be thankful for the blessings. Next, the Lord taught him to be thankful even in adversities. Finally, he learned about the reasons behind God’s command for us to be thankful in all circumstances.
Today Pastor Choi concludes his sermon series on spiritual warfare. He explains the six components of the full armor of God: belt of truth, helmet of salvation, breastplate of righteousness, shoes of the Gospel of peace, shield of faith, and the sword of the Spirit–the Word of God. He exhorts God’s people to hold their ground standing against the devil’s schemes until Christ comes.
Today Pastor Choi talks about two prerequisites for spiritual warfare: resting in Christ and in what He has done for us, and walking in God’s standards through the power of the indwelling Spirit of Holiness.
Pastor Choi continues his series on spiritual warfare: Expounding three verses in the New Testament (2 Corinthians 4:4, John 13:2, and 2 Corinthians 10:3-5), he points out what Satan is up to and how he harasses, oppresses, and attacks God’s children.
Today, Pastor Choi introduces a three-part (that ended up in a four part) series on spiritual warfare. In his message, he talks about two opposing kingdoms in spiritual realm: the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan. He urges the people of God to wake up from their spiritual sleep and follow their leader Jesus Christ in their spiritual battles.
Today, at Manahawkin UMC, Laity Sunday was observed where everything was led by the members of the congregation. Guest speaker was Sarah Choi, also member of the church. She talked about the secret of God’s provision.
Today Pastor Choi concludes his sermon series on the Church of God. He exhorts the congregation to focus on what God has in mind for MUMC and be faithful to His call as the Church in Philadelphia did: with a little power, keep His Word and not deny His name, hold fast Christ’s Promise on Second Coming, and listen/obey what the Holy Spirit says to the churches.
Today, World Communion Sunday, Pastor Choi explains why the Church celebrates the Lord’s Supper. He also discusses the nature of the Lord’s Supper based on Jesus’ own words. Finally, he talks about the proper attitude in receiving Communion.
Pastor Choi talks about the necessity of the Church in today’s sermon. The Church of Jesus Christ is commissioned to take the message of reconciliation in Christ to the world (Matthew 28:19-20). No other organizations in the world was chosen by God for that task. God reveals salvation the divine mystery through the Church. That’s why people need the Church.
Today Pastor Choi addresses the congregation on the question of why people need Jesus. For healing, for peace, for happiness, for teaching, and for eternal life. Yes, they are all legitimate reasons, but the true reason why every soul on earth needs Jesus is because of their broken relationship with God through sin. Everyone is a sinner and every sinner needs a Savior. That’s why we need Jesus the Savior and Lord.
Today Pastor Choi examines the question of why on evil. In the time of violence, evil, and injustice, he exhorts the congregation not to run away from God but to run towards Him in search of hope, courage, strength, and wisdom to overcome evil.
Pastor Choi talks about the importance of watch and pray in the believer’s life. Explaining the background information of the wedding in Israel at the time of Jesus, he exhorts God’s people to saturate their lives with prayer in earnest anticipation of Christ’s return.
Pastor Choi’s sermon series on Jesus’ Why questions ends today. Jesus’ question of “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” was directed not to humans but to God the Heavenly Father. He cried out to God not because His disciples betrayed and abandoned Him. Nor because of the mockery and insult from the religious leaders and bystanders. He rather did so, because the sin of entire world entered between Him and His Father and created a total separation between Christ and His loving Father in whose presence nothing unholy or impure is allowed. That separation made Christ cry out to God, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Through the story of a paralytic man who was healed by Jesus, Pastor Choi highlights the following: Be the friend to bring your loved ones to Jesus in prayer, God searches all hearts and understands every intent of our thoughts, Forgiveness trumps all other blessings, and Accept Jesus as your Savior and Lord.
Pastor Choi talks about breaking the commandment of God with human teachings and tradition. In today’s story, he draws three lessons: beware of human tradition that invalidates the Word of God, do not worship in vain, and watch out what truly defiles you.
Today Pastor Choi talks about putting the Lord to the test: what constitutes testing of the Lord. Not every act of asking for God’s sign is considered ‘putting the Lord to the test.’ The Scripture identifies three elements of testing the Lord: 1) Unbelief of God’s wisdom, power, good will, and His existence 2) Demand of wanton cravings 3) Rebellion against God.
Today Pastor Choi talks about the importance of obeying Jesus’ Word in the believer’s life. Those who hear and do Jesus’ commands are like a wise builder who built a house on the rock; those who call Him Lord yet don’t keep His words are like a foolish builder who built a house on the ground without any foundation.
Pastor Choi talks about three approaches people take in terms of salvation and eternal life: human goodness, the Law, and Christ. He explains how the first two approaches fail to bring us into God’s eternal presence. He reiterates what God’s Word says about salvation: Christ is the way, the life, and the truth. No one can come to the Father except through Him (John 14:6).
Today Pastor Choi expounds Jesus’ command on discerning the present time (Kairos). Kairos is God’s appointed time that demands God’s people to live a holy and godly life, spotless and blameless, for the day of Christ (2 Peter 3:11, 14).
Pastor Choi today talks about the cure for anxiety. First, he points out four characteristics of worries: useless, evil, stressful, and contagious. Next, he identifies four ways to handle life’s worries: keep a heavenly perspective, have faith in God, stop worrying, and seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness.
Today Pastor Choi expounds the Scriptures on divine anger. In the Old Testament, God’s anger was ignited when people of God followed other gods, grumbled against God, and afflicted orphans, widows, and foreigners. In the New Testament, Jesus also got angry at hypocrisy, commercialism in God’s house, belittling of children, stubborn heart and unbelief. May God help us never provoke Him to anger.
Pastor Choi talks about anger at God. Taking the example of Jonah, he explains how to handle our anger with God: Avoid bad theology. Be humble before God in anger. Choose to trust in God not own feelings.
Substituting for Pastor Choi, John Parker delivers a sermon on Pentecost when everyone asked “What does this mean?”
Pentecost is considered to be the day that the church was born. Ten days before, the apostles were with Jesus when He told them to wait in Jerusalem until the Spirit came upon them and that they would be given power through the Spirit to be His witnesses to Judea, Samara, and all the earth. This was the last thing that Jesus said to the disciples before He ascended to sit at the right hand of the Father.
After waiting and praying for 10 days, for the first time the Holy Spirit baptized all of the believers and they were forever changed. The power of the Holy Spirit made them boldly proclaim the great works of God in every language and dialect of all of the devout Jews who had gone to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Weeks. Peter became the rock that the church would be built upon reciting passages from the prophet Joel as he gave the first sermon of the Christian church. As prophesied in Jeremiah, the Word of God and the will of God would be written on people’s hearts and “they will be My people and I will be their God.”
These 50 days were perfect fulfillments of the Jewish feasts. At Passover, the sacrifice of the sinless Jesus, God’s only Son, the perfect Lamb of God, Mashiach ben Joseph , was the final payment for all sin of all mankind. At the Feast of Firstfuits Jesus was resurrected from the dead and so became the firstfruits of the new covenant. And at Pentecost or Feast of Weeks when the wheat harvest is celebrated, over three thousand souls were saved as Peter delivered the first sermon of the Christian church reaping the first harvest of souls ripe for salvation.
120 believers had faith in Jesus’ promise that He would never leave them alone even though He had gone to be with the Father. The believers waited patiently, expectantly, and prayerfully for the Holy Spirit to come to them. And on this Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended from heaven with the sound of a mighty wind and these 120 believers turned the world upside down. We are this generation’s body of Christ and we are called to do the same. We are called to be witnesses of Jesus Christ to Judea, Samaria, and to the end of the earth proclaiming the great works of God in every tongue to every nation.
Today Pastor Choi talks about Mary of Bethany who poured the very expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet. Three lessons to learn from Mary: a. Give all you have to Jesus. b. Jesus remembers your love and acts of service and reward you accordingly. c. Don’t wait until tomorrow to serve the Lord.
Today Pastor Choi concludes his series on the heart: we are to love the LORD God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our might. May God approve us like He did King David whose heart was wholly devoted to the LORD.
Today Pastor Choi concludes his sermon series on the prayers that Lord Jesus has actually said. He focuses on the last word of the last sayings of Jesus: Father, into Your hands, I commit my spirit (Luke 23:46).
Pastor Choi talks about Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane the night before crucifixion. He prayed on His knees, for God’s will to be done not His, and commanded His disciples to keep watch so as not to fall into temptation.
Today Pastor Choi talks about three characteristics of Jesus’ prayer: intentional, habitual, and alone with God. The sermon exhorts the congregation to cultivate the habit of spending time alone with God in prayer throughout the year.
Pastor Choi invites the congregation to examine the biblical accounts on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. “Where has the body of Jesus gone?” Two theories: one by the Christian community that He is risen indeed. The other theory by the chief priests and the elders that the disciples of Jesus stole away the body of Jesus, that’s why the tomb was empty.
Which theory do you believe? The sermon urges the congregation to make up their minds.
Pastor Choi talks about Jesus the humble king who fulfilled the prophecies on Himself by entering Jerusalem riding on a donkey. The servant King demonstrated that He came not to be served but to serve and give His life as ransom for many (Mark 10:45).
Today Pastor Choi continues his series on the Lord’s Prayer: Forgiveness. He explains the biblical understanding of forgiveness, expounds on the nature of forgiveness, and offers four practical reasons why we should forgive each other.
Pastor Choi talks about three characteristics of our “daily bread.” First, it is our daily “necessities” not daily “luxuries” or “desires.” Secondly, daily bread means daily trust in the Lord. Thirdly, it also means our daily “bread of Heaven” the Word of God.
Today Pastor Choi focuses on two sentences in the Lord’s Prayer: Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done on Earth as It Is in Heaven. He explains that we the believers in Christ are living in the times close to Christ’s coming and that we are called to work as God’s Kingdom agents to reclaim God’s Kingdom here on earth one individual, one family, and one community at a time.
Today Pastor Choi talks about the name of the Lord: The Lord commands everyone to revere, esteem, honor, fear and stand in awe before His name. Why should we care about His name? Because He does care about His name. Because He is the King of kings and Lord of lords. And, because He will hold accountable those who don’t. This attitude of “Hallowed Be Thy Name” is the foundation of every answered prayer.
For the next six Sundays, Pastor Choi is going to do a sermon series on the Lord’s Prayer. Today, part 1 of 6, he focuses on the beginning sentence of the prayer: Our Father in heaven. The sermon emphasizes on prayer as a relationship and urges God’s people to approach their heavenly Father with boldness.
The following is a summary of the sermon:
Our Father in Heaven: the Lord’s Prayer—part 1 of 6
Matthew 6:9-13King James Version (KJV)
9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.11 Give us this day our daily bread.12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
A Bible trivia: Did you know that you can say a beautiful prayer without the mentioning of ‘God?’ Not even once? Look at today’s text.
For the next six Sundays, we are going to learn about a prayer, commonly known as the Lord’s Prayer, the prayer that the Lord Jesus has taught us to pray.
This morning, part 1 of 6, let’s think about how we start our prayer by looking into how Jesus did. He began the prayer with a sentence: Our Father which art in heaven. In short, ‘Our Father in Heaven.’
Our Father: most of us would start our prayers with either ‘O, Lord,’ or ‘Our God’ instead of ‘Our Father.’ In fact, that’s how, I believe, the disciples of Jesus would’ve begun their prayers, too. So, when Jesus taught them to call God ‘Our Father,’ it must have shocked them. Jesus must have appeared to them very unconventional, even radical.
A little bit of information on how radical Jesus was in His time. In those days, ordinary Jews would not dare to even think about calling God ‘Father.’ Up until that time, for over 2000 years, they often called their human ancestors ‘father(s)’ such as Abraham (Matthew 3:9, John 8:41), Isaac (Romans 9:10), Jacob (John 4:12), or David (Luke 1:32, Mark 11:10). They also would call the LORD ‘God of our fathers,’ but seldom ‘Our Father.’ Never call God the Father, they were strictly reminded by their teachers, because it makes you either too high above or too close to God. Know your place: you’re human. He is divine. Actually, calling God ‘Father’ in such an affectionate term as Jesus did was considered by the religious leaders a blasphemy against God—that deserves the penalty of death by stones.
I looked up in the Old Testament to find out how often the Israelites called God Father: three times. The first one who ever possibly called God his Father was King David. There’s no actual evidence that David did: rather it was God who gave David a permission to call Him thus: He (David) shall cry unto me (God), Thou art my father, my God, and the rock of my salvation (Psalm 89: 26, KJV). Prophet Isaiah once prayed to God: For You are our Father, though Abraham does not know us. And Israel does not recognize us. You, O Lord, areour Father, our Redeemer from of old is Your name (Isaiah 63:16, NASB). Another time Prophet Malachi called God Father. He was lamenting the fact that people of God treacherously dealt with each other: Do we not all have one Father?Has not one God created us? (Malachi 2:10). Besides these instances, no one in the entire Old Testament ever called God Father. The people of God would restrain themselves from calling God their Father. They showed the utmost respect when it comes down to the name of God.
Well, that tradition was about to change when Jesus instructed His disciples to start their prayer calling God ‘Our Father.’ They might have thought to themselves, Rabbi, You are intimate with Him that You can call Him Abba (Mark 14:36) alright. But, we? No way.
The best part of prayer and the power of prayer lie right there in two words: Our Father. It reminds me that prayer is not a religion (cf. the older son in Luke 15:29). It is a relationship (cf. the younger son in Luke 15:12, 18, 21). You begin the prayer in the right status before God remembering who God is, who you are, and to whom you pray: He is your father (holy and righteous—John 17:11, 25), you are His child, and you are praying to your Father in heaven! By instructing His disciples (and us) to start calling God ‘Our Father,’ Jesus elevated their (and our) status from a sinner to a saint: from a commoner to a royal child of God, and from a complete stranger to God’s adopted child. It gets even better. Later on, after His resurrection, Jesus ultimately promoted us to the same status as His: My Father Your Father, My God Your God (John 20:17). From then on, every writer of the New Testament was inspired and instructed by the Spirit of God to boldly call God the Father, Abba (the most affectionate term). E.g. Philip called God Father (John 14:8). Peter did, too (Acts 2:33). Paul called God Abba (Galatians 4:6). We the believers in Christ today also call Abba Father because we are His adopted children: For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father (Romans 8:15, KJV). Jesus called His Father Abba all the time: in good times (John 11:45) and in the moment of distress (Mark 14:36) (e.g. Luke 2:49— the 12 year-old Jesus “In My Father’s House.” Later, Jesus called God ‘My Father’ over a hundred times in the Gospel according to John alone). So, He called His Father Abba all the time. So did His disciples. So do we God’s adopted children in Christ. In good times and bad times, we call Him Abba Father. All the time. In prayer.
One more thing: all are invited to be God’s child but not all of them become a child of God; each one must believe in Jesus to be so. Anyone can recite the Lord’s Prayer and call God Abba Father until his face is blue. Yet, it doesn’t automatically turn him into God’s child. Faith in Jesus does. For instance, Jesus said to some of the Jews your father is the devil (John 8:44) when they claimed that their father is God. Why did Jesus call them the children of the devil? Not because they didn’t believe in God. Yes, they did. What, then? But because they rejected Jesus and refused to acknowledge Him as the Messiah (John 8:45). The same thing goes with anyone today that refuses to accept Jesus as the Messiah. Once again: what makes a person child of God? Listen to Jesus out of His own mouth: if you believe that I came from the Father and if you love Me by keeping My commandments (John 16:27, 14:21). If a person fails this test, s/he is not a child of God.
In Heaven: What is Heaven? Simply put, it is the eternal home of God and the saints in Christ. It is the final destination that God has prepared for us (Hebrews 11:16). It is the counterpart of Hell. God is the architect and builder of Heaven (Hebrews 11:10). It is the kingdom where He is the King (Matthew 5:16), and we His children are citizens therein (Philippians 3:20). We will reign with Christ for eternity (Revelation 22:5). Of course, angels will be with us.
Who enters Heaven? Only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Revelation 21:27, 22:14). Only those who are born again (John 3, esp. v. 15). Nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who practices abomination or falsehood (Revelation 21:27). I will elaborate on this later.
Now, here’s the list of the things we will see in Heaven. First, the tree of life that will bear twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month, and its leaves will heal the nations (Revelation 22:2). Next, we will have the New Jerusalem, the holy city that is made of precious stones (its foundations and walls) and whose streets are made of pure gold (Revelation 21:18-21). It will have twelve gates. Also, there will be the river of the water of life that flows from the throne of God through the middle of the street of the city (Revelation 22:1-2).
What about the things we won’t see in Heaven? First of all, there will be no sea, no light of lamp (no electricity), no sun or moon (God is the light), and there will be no night (Revelation 22:5). There will be no Temple, because God will be the Temple (Revelation 21:22). There will be no closed gates. No curse (Revelation 22:3), no tears, no death, no sorrow, no crying or pain will be there, either (Revelation 21:1-4). No more Satan. No more devils or evil spirits. And, there will be no people of low character (the Bible calls them “dogs”–cf. Philippians 3:2), no cowards, no sorcerers, no fornicators, no murderers, no idolaters, and no liars (Revelation 21:8, 22:15).
Now, a word of caution. Some of us have heard or read about Heaven through different sources (books, tapes, personal experiences, and so on). You must test all those stories and testimonies against the Bible. If they are in agreement with the Bible, then keep them. If not, don’t take them as truth, because you don’t want to establish your faith on something that is not absolutely true or attested against God’s Word. Even Paul the Apostle who went to the third Heaven and tasted the life in Paradise wouldn’t elaborate much on that. Rather, he simply said that the glory in Heaven is so great that no human sufferings are worth comparing with that (Romans 8:18). One thing is for sure: Heaven is the place worth being in for eternity.
The real question is whether we will be there or not, right? There is only one condition we must satisfy: Our sins to be washed with Jesus’ blood (Revelation 22:14). That enters our names to be written in the Book of Life. That means to be born again. That means, to live a life holy and righteous before God. That means, we sincerely believe Jesus as our Saviorand obey Him as our Lord. Be careful here. Believing in Jesus never means a mere intellectual agreement with what Jesus has done on the cross. Even the evil spirits believe in God (James 2:19). Rather, faith in Christ must include sincere repentance of your sins living a life worthy of God’s name and keeping God’s commandments (Matthew 7:21). It would be very foolish of us to assume that God will get us into Heaven with our words of confession in Jesus alone when we never do what He commands us to do in our daily lives. Those who believe in Jesus with words only will be disillusioned and sore disappointed in the Last Day.
Prayer is not a religion. It is a relationship. You speak with your Heavenly Father. So, begin every prayer with ‘Our Father in Heaven’: He is your loving Father and you’re His child. He is delighted to see you in prayer and have you in Heaven forever with Him. Amen.
Today we celebrated Sunday School Sunday. All the Sunday School children and teachers participated in the worship services. Pauline McShea the teacher preached a message on how we started our faith journey and where we are going.
This year the saints at Manahawkin are participating in a Prayer Challenge using a prayer journal. During the 40 days, each one records specific prayer requests in the journal and keeps track of the prayers: the date started, what the prayer is about, date answered and how it was answered. Want to participate? Click here to download the form of prayer journal and start praying. May the Lord bless you in your daily prayers!
Today Pastor Choi continues his sermon series on ‘heart’—part 2 of 3: how to take care of your heart. After a brief recap of the last Sunday’s message, he points out three excellent ways to watch over the heart: 1. Screen out all negative and destructive thoughts. 2. Store up good and godly thoughts beginning with God’s Word—the Word of Life. 3. Stay on whatever is noble and honorable. By doing so, we will have the life God intends us to have.
Watch over your heart with all diligence,
For from it flow the springs of life.
This morning I will continue my sermon series on heart- part 2 of 3: how to take care of our heart.
Recap of the Last Week’s Sermon
Remember that the heart is the innermost seat of emotion, will, thoughts, and appetites. It is an open bowl where all the thoughts freely come and go. Three parties have access to your heart: you, God, and the devil. It is also a battleground where God and the devil vie for your worship, affection, and devotion.
Remember that you’re the sole caretaker of your heart. You are the guardian appointed by God and your heart is a ward under your protection. Your job is simple yet very important: to keep your heart safe and secure.
I am sure every one of us wants to take good care of our hearts. A healthy and strong heart begins with our desire to provide excellent care to the heart. Unless we want to take care of our hearts, no one will. Even God cannot help us on that. Why? Because God never overrides our free will. Without our desire or invitation, God won’t be able to help us much. The neglected heart becomes confused, unruly, and eventually we suffer the consequences thereof, that is, evil things march out and defile us (Mark 7:21-23).
Today’s verse expounded:
The first half of today’s verse reads: “Watch over your heart with all diligence.” The literal translation of the original Hebrew is: Above all guarding, guard your heart.
Definition of “to guard”: “to protect property, places, or people from attack or danger” (Oxford Dictionary). We all protect something or some people from attack or danger. A question: what do you guard? Life, health, wealth, house, bank accounts, investment portfolios, family, jobs, image, identity, and so forth. One thing is for sure: none of us guard anything worthless. We only guard something precious, valuable, and essential. So, out of all things worthy of our guarding, which one does God command us to guard most? The heart. Our heart is the number one priority to protect. Guard it fiercely.
Why the heart?
The second sentence of today’s text reveals the reason why we must guard our heart above all things. Once again the English translation reads: For from it (heart) flow the springs of life. The literal translation of the same sentence is this: For from it come out the sources of life. All things of life stem from your heart.
Let me elaborate a little more on ‘life’ here. The life here means more than just daily survival. It is the life meaningful. It is the life fulfilling. It’s the life of contentment. It’s the life God intends us to enjoy. In fact, Jesus wants us to have that life—and have it abundantly (John 10:10). It’s the life that consists of “earthly felicity combined with spiritual blessedness” (The New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Cesenius Hebrew-English Lexicon, p. 313). To ‘life’ here, the Septuagint (LXX) Bible renders a unique Greek word ‘zoe’ instead of ‘bios.’ In other words, things that matter most in life originate from our heart. The essential elements of the blessed life come out of our heart. And, whatever comes out of our heart even determines our final destination. That’s how crucial our heart is in life. So, if you want to live a life satisfactory and meaningful, and if you want to live a life with purpose and destination, and if you want to secure your life eternal, then learn to take good care of your heart.
Once again, understand your identity: You are the watchman. You are the guardian of your heart. Your job is to keep your heart pure, innocent, and blameless in the sight of God until Christ comes (Philippians 1:10). So, based on these understandings, I am going to introduce three ways to take a good care of your heart. Let’s not forget. The entire well-being of your heart and the quality of your life are determined by your desire, discipline, and diligence.
Three things we can do for our hearts: Screen out, Store up, and Stay on.
Screen out. You are on guard duty for life on behalf of your heart: to prevent the enemy infiltration. E.g. The army uses the daily password. Whoever says the correct password may pass, whoever doesn’t, the guard can shoot. Same goes with our guard duty for the heart. For any thought trying to enter the heart, ask the password which is always the same: are you in line with God’s will? If so, enter. If not, stop. Never allow anything bad to enter your heart: only good things.
God commands us to take captive every thought and bring it to Christ. Listen: “… we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5, NASB). We must learn to screen out thoughts and feelings especially those that are negative and destructive. Some of us are in the habit of following whatever our heart says. Follow your heart, they say. However, beware: the same heart can deceive us. In Jeremiah 17:9, God says, “The heart is deceitful above all things…” I would rather let God’s Word guide me not my own feelings. E.g. 1. “I cannot forgive my brother.”— Remember the Lord’s Prayer. E.g. 2. A young couple wants a divorce due to no more feelings of love to each other.—Marriage is a commitment. Let no one separate what God has joined (Matthew 19:6). E.g. 3. Depressive / Suicidal thoughts. Check out the source of every destructive thought. Satan can prompt such a thought in your heart (John 13:2). Give no opportunity to the devil (Ephesians 4:27). Bring every thought and feeling under the control of Christ. Filter it. Test it against God’s Word. E.g. Practice the screening on TV and movies you watch. Pray before you watch. Place guards on your eye-gate and ear-gate. Stay disciplined on it. Payoff will be huge.
Storeup. There are many good things we can store up in our hearts; good memories, good music, good stories, good images, good thoughts, and so forth. But, first and foremost, begin with God’s Word the Good Book. Why? Because it is the Word of life (1 John 1:1). It gives you peace. It restores your health (Proverbs 4:22). It is essential for your eternal life, too. Do you love God? Then, you will love and cherish His Word. It would be an oxymoron if you say, “I love God, yet I never open the Bible.” It would be equally contradictory if you say, “I care for my soul, yet I never read the Bible.” Why? Because God’s Word is the food for your soul, and if you don’t feed your soul with God’s Word, your soul will starve to death. Never believe in the devil’s lie that the Bible is too difficult to understand. He does everything to keep you from getting into God’s Word for your salvation. You need God’s Word for your eternal life. You need God’s Word to protect your heart (Matthew 15:19). Listen to the Psalmist: 9 How can a young man keep his way pure?By keeping it according to Your word.11 Your word I have treasured in my heart that I may not sin against You (Psalm 119:9, 11, NASB).
Stayon good and godly thoughts: 8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things (Philippians 4:8, NASB). Whatever comes into our hearts, it stays in our hearts and it is extremely hard to remove it. That’s why we need to make every effort to put godly things in our hearts in the first place as a daily positive reinforcement. Then, we keep on dwelling on such things all the time. Chew on them, sit on them, and meditate on them daily. You will have a blessed life.
Above all guarding, guard your heart: screen out all bad thoughts. Next, store up God’s word diligently; fill up your heart with whatever is honorable and noble. Finally, stay on them daily. Then, you will enjoy the life abundantly in Christ. Amen.
Today Pastor Choi talks about the human heart. Pointing out that the human heart is a battle-ground between God and the devil who vie for our worship, devotion, and affection, Pastor Choi exhorts the people of God to take good care of their hearts by asking for God’s help.
“The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it?
Recently, after 25 years in ministry, I wanted to have a deeper understanding on one subject: the heart. Not that I wanted to be a cardiologist or a psychologist. It seems to me that everything in our life (both good and bad) stems from the heart such as kindness, love, greed, and even hate. Heart matters in every relationship with God and with people. So, this is how I reasoned myself: the better understanding of the heart, the better understanding of myself and others, and the better relationships with God and with each other. So I started my study on the heart.
It still has a long way to go before I can even say that I understand the human heart. This morning, you are about to hear my preliminary study on the subject. In fact, I am going to do a three-part series in the next three Sundays. I hope and pray that the series will lead us to a better understanding, better care of our hearts, and better relationships. Here’s part 1 of 3: what is the heart?
Definition of the Heart
Let me begin with what I mean by the heart. There are three definitions of the heart: medical, poetic/artistic, and scriptural.
Medical: a hollow muscular organ that pumps the blood through the circulatory system by rhythmic contraction and dilation (Oxford Dictionary)
Poetic/Artistic: the center of the total personality, especially with reference to intuition, feeling, or emotion (Dictionary.com)
Scriptural: the innermost seat of emotion, mind, will, conscience, and appetites.
This morning I am going to strictly focus on the scriptural sense of heart: theheart as the innermost seat of emotion, thoughts, will, and appetites. Our western mindset is tuned to the separation of heart and mind (or heart and head) due to the Platonic distinction. Please note here that I make no distinction between heart/emotion and mind/intellect, because the Scriptures don’t make a clear-cut distinction between emotion and intellect. In fact, the Ancient Hebrews believed that all the characteristics of modern-day “heart and mind” were interconnected and originated from one entity, not two, and they called them “heart.” So, will I. When I say “the heart,” it covers both the mind and emotions.
Three Kinds of Heart
The Bible talks about three kinds of heart.
The Heart of God (Genesis 6:5, Jeremiah 32:41, Ezekiel 28:2)
The Heart of Man (Jeremiah 7:19)
The Heart of Beasts (Daniel 5:21)
The Heart of God
I am so thankful that God too has the heart. God’s heart deserves a full sermon for another time. This is how much I will tell you, though. Out of His heart, God created the heavens and the earth (intellect). Out of His heart, He has chosen us to be His children (will). Out of His heart, He loves us unconditionally (emotion). To Him each soul is equally valuable, sinners and saints alike (e.g. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous—Matthew 5:45). He never gives up on anyone unless they reject Him first. In fact, His loving kindness, generosity, and mercy endure forever! They blow us away! All out of His loving heart! Isn’t it wonderful that we worship and belong to such a God with a loving heart?
The Heart of Man
When God created Adam and Eve in His image and likeness, He has given them the heart that shared the characteristics of God’s heart; pure and innocent, loving, kind, creative, and no sign or touch of evil at all. However, when they disobeyed God, sin came in and that changed everything.
In fact, sin corrupted the human heart to the core and forever. For instance, during Noah’s time, God was deeply grieved with the constant evil thoughts of humans to the point where He regretted that He had created humans. He wanted a new start. So, through the Great Flood, He wiped humanity off from the surface of the earth except for Noah’s eight. However, Noah’s eight still had the old heart—still depraved as before. Thousands of years later, God described the condition of the human heart to prophet Jeremiah as follows: the heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9).
Almost three millennia passed since prophet Jeremiah; in the 21st century, our heart still is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick. Wouldn’t you agree?
The Heart of Beasts
The reference on the heart of beasts is also found in the Bible; only once. The heart of beasts demonstrates basic instincts of survival: no reason, no ability to create, no conscience, or no reverence of life. It only knows daily survival among prey and predators. One man actually experienced and had it for seven years (Daniel 4:32). E.g.
21 He [King Nebuchadnezzar] was also driven away from mankind, and his heart was made like that of beasts, and his dwelling place was with the wild donkeys. He was given grass to eat like cattle, and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven until he recognized that the Most High God is ruler over the realm of mankind and that He sets over it whomever He wishes (Daniel 5:21).
Once again, my focus will be on the human heart.
What’s Happening in the Heart?
You can forget all the rest of my sermon this morning. However, please remember this: Your heart is a battle ground between God and the enemy of God (that is, the devil) who vie for your worship, devotion, and affection. For instance,
– God sows the Word of God in the heart (Luke 8:11).
– The devil snatches away the Word sown in the heart (Luke 8:12).
Remember: Your heart is like an open bowl and both God and the devil have access to it. In fact, three parties have access to your heart: self, God, and the devil. All of them can throw in and take out any thoughts out of your heart. Let’s think about this a little more, beginning with “self.”
What Each Party Can Do to Our Heart
Self: we can initiate/retain/remove any thoughts, wishes, and plans in our hearts either good or bad. Here are some examples of what we can do with our hearts.
– We can humble ourselves and incline our hearts to God.
– We can watchover our hearts with all diligence (Proverbs 4:23).
– We can also neglect the care of our heart and let it be defiled: See what happens to the heart that is neglected, that is not properly cared after or not protected from the devil. Listen to Jesus in Mark 7.
– From within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deed of coveting and wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man (Mark 7:21-23).
The devil: too many a Christian have a very naïve understanding of the devil: some of us think he is not real; others believe that it is just a personification of evil. Others depict him as the guy holding a pitch-fork with two horns on his head and a tail. Or, a cute little guy sitting on our shoulder whispering to us. No, he is much more a cunning creature than those images. He has only one goal: to steal, kill, and destroy your soul into hell (John 10:10). In order to achieve his goal, he diligently works, first and foremost, on your heart. He enslaves your heart through temptation, fear, deception, and confusion. He snatches anything good and godly away from your heart especially God’s Word sown in your heart (Luke 8:12) [e.g. distractions during sermon]. Then, he fills up your heart with evil/unclean/negative/destructive thoughts that you often take as yours. E.g. Judas Iscariot (John 13:2).
God: He is the expert in the human heart and He is most interested in your heart and mine. Our hearts are His business. In fact, He cares about our heart more than any one of us ever would. How much does He know about our heart? Everything. Through and through. Remember: He is the designer and creator of the heart. He is the divine heart surgeon. He can make our sick hearts healthy again. In fact, the Bible lists 32 things that God can do/does with our heart. For instance, He searches the heart, weighs, examines, tests, strengthens, revives, renews, changes, and sets the heart free, to name a few. However, one thing He will never do to our hearts: control. He leaves the full reign of the heart to us to the point where we can abuse such freedom to even curse the Creator. Such a freedom is the sure sign of love.
The good news is this: God can help us to remove evil/unclean/destructive/negative thoughts. He also can fill our hearts with good/godly thoughts. He can purify and strengthen our hearts as well. All of these would He do only upon our invitation and requests. Without our desire to keep our hearts pure and clean, and without our invitation, God wouldn’t do it. We must ask for His help from the heart.
We all have a job to do: to take good care of our heart. Where do we start? Ask God for His help today. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit will help you. Next week, we will think about some practical ways to take care of our heart. Let us pray.
Today Pastor Choi designates 2016 to be the Year of Prayer. Beginning with the definition of prayer, he covers basic characteristics of prayer. He exhorts the people of God to call unto God throughout the year so that they may undeniably experience the living God who answers their prayers.
‘Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.’
The top ten most googled New Year’s Resolutions in 2015: the top ten most searched “how-to” questions in the U.S. during the week before and the week after New Year’s Day 2015:
1. how to get rid of stress
2. how to make kale chips
3. how much water should I drink to lose weight
4. how to write a resignation letter
5. how to cook lentils
6. how to cook cabbage
7. how to write a letter of recommendation
8. how to cook collard greens
9. how to steam broccoli
10. how to crochet a beanie(Olivia B. Waxman, Here Are the Most Googled New Year’s Resolutions –http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/technology/here-are-the-most-googled-new-year%e2%80%99s-resolutions/ar-BBo3D9a?ocid=spartanntp)
Well, one thing is for sure: people want to get rid of stress. Let me tell you the best answer to that quest: prayer. Let’s think about prayer this morning.
I don’t exactly remember how my prayer life has started. Neither can I recall when I first started praying to the Heavenly Father or who taught me to pray. I never took a course on prayer such as “Prayer 101: Introduction to Prayer,” either. Yet, sometime in high school, I started praying to God.
Prayer is the breathing of our soul.
Let me define what prayer is before I go further.
Oxford Dictionary defines prayer as follows: a solemn request for help or expression of thanks addressed to God or an object of worship.
Here’s my own definition: prayer is a series of thoughts or words, either spoken or unspoken, directed to God on behalf of others or for self.
Another definition: prayer is the breathing of our soul to God.
Whatever definition you follow, one thing is for sure: prayer is an activity of our soul. Prayer is to our soul as breathing to our body. Without it, our soul perishes. With it, our soul thrives.
We learn to pray by doing it, not by studying about it.
If someone asks you what breathing is, you may explain that it is ‘the process of taking air into and expelling it from the lungs’ (Oxford Dictionary). But, anyone can breathe in and out with no understanding on the lungs; where they are located in our body and what they do, right? In fact, we naturally breathe in and out; we never stop breathing until we die. Same thing goes with our prayer. When we first confess that Jesus Christ is our Savior and Lord, our spirit becomes alive and our soul begins to breathe, that is, pray. From that day on, our new born soul is to pray to God without ceasing.
You don’t need a sermon or training to start praying. You just pray like a new born baby breathes from the moment of birth without training. You learn as you go.
Some of us are skeptical about prayer when it comes down to actual praying. However, don’t say that prayer doesn’t work until you try it. E.g. When I first started praying, I was not 100% sure about the effectiveness of prayer. In fact, I wondered about the practicality of prayer: whether it works or not; and if so, how exactly God answers prayers. So, one year in college, I decided to experiment on prayer. I started a prayer journal where I recorded all my prayer requests: the date I started praying, the contents of prayer, the date it was answered, and how it was answered. I kept journaling for the next six months. At the end of the sixth month, I found 96 entries in the journal. To my great surprise, I found every single one of them answered in one of the following ways: YES (majority). NO (some). WAIT (a few). That’s how I discovered that prayer is real, not just a psychological hypnosis to comfort myself (note: prayer is not eastern style of meditation, either).
Fasting is a prayer that works ‘fast.’
Some of you heard about fasting. What is fasting? It is more than skipping meals. Fasting is an intense prayer. It is a prayer that works ‘fast.’ There came the time when I did some serious prayers with fasting, especially during my major crises in life. Pouring my soul in anguish, I would cry out onto the Lord to deliver me from my troubles. The Almighty God surely listened and answered my humble pleas in the ways beyond my imagination. Praise God! If you haven’t tried fasting, try it. It works really well and fast.
God speaks to us in the ways that we understand.
I must point out that prayer is a two way communication: we speak to God and God speaks to us. Most of us consider prayer, however, as one way street: we are good at telling God our shopping list but poor at listening to God.
So, how do we listen to God? God uses many different ways to speak to us: to some, through visions and dreams. To others, through audible voices of angels. To more others, through the open doors and closed doors. And, through the Scripture passages, too. No matter which way God communicates with us, let us not forget: He speaks to us in the ways that we can clearly understand (this one requires some training. I will talk about this later; how to discern His voice).
One of the ways that God speaks to me in prayer is reasoning: through questions He leads me to come to my own conclusion. Whenever He does that, I find Him very gentle and kind, patiently listening to my worries and frustrations. Then, He leads me through reasoning to His assurance that eventually takes away my worries.
The result of Prayer: peace and assurance
After prayer, we come out of God’s Throne Room with the assurance that He is in control, faithful, and alive in our lives. He is not the God who stays aloof from our daily challenges and struggles. Rather, He is deeply involved in our daily affairs. No wonder our God is Immanuel (‘with-us-God’). E.g. Philippians 4:6-7:Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
As your pastor, I designate this year “the year of prayer.” Let’s call it: the year of P.U.S.H. (Pray Until Something Happens).
This year I urge all of us to get on our knees to fulfill God’s will for us.
This year let us refuse to sit in the darkness or despair.
This year let us not stop praying until we see God’s promises fulfilled.
This year let us not stop praying until we undeniably experience the Living God.
This year let us press on and cry unto the Lord to see how He answers us.
This year let us claim the abundant life that Christ has promised to us.
This year let us offer our thanks to God for all the answers to our prayers.
This year let us praise His name among us.
This year let us declare to everyone that God is alive.
This year let us walk with God in prayer who leads us in victory.