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.
Manahawkin United Methodist Church
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.
Today Teen Challenge from Philadelphia shares their testimonies and praises with the Manahawkin congregation. This is part 2 of 2.
Today Teen Challenge from Philadelphia shares their testimonies and praises with the Manahawkin congregation. This is part 1 of 2.
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).
Today Pastor Choi talks about the meaning of “not to judge” others. They are stop being self-righteous, stop being judgmental, and stop condemning others like God.
Today Pastor Choi talks about Jesus and Peter walking on the water. Three lessons he points out in the story of Jesus: God’s in it, so is our faith, and fix your eyes on Jesus.
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.
Today Pastor Choi concludes his series on anger. He introduces four biblical ways to control anger: S.L.O.W.—Slow to anger, Let go and let God, Overcome evil with good, and Work it out (Reconcile).
Manahawkin UMC helped to install a borehole well in Ghana. The well was recently dedicated. Praise God!
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 continues his series on the Lord’s Prayers. He points out that Christ’s prayers were relational, personal, and grateful (full of gratitude).
Free Washer/Dryer Service is coming to town on May 26 sponsored by Manahawkin United Methodist Church.
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 concludes his sermon series on the Lord’s Prayer. He covers three areas of temptation: definition, nature, and ways to overcome temptations.
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 6:9-13 King 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, are our 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 Savior and 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.
Following is a summary of the sermon:
Watch Over Your Heart
Proverbs 4:23 New American Standard Bible
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
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.
Store up. 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).
Stay on 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.
Following is a summary of the sermon:
What is the Heart?
Jeremiah 17:9 New American Standard Bible
“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.
This morning I am going to strictly focus on the scriptural sense of heart: the heart 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
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?
– 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).
What Each Party Can Do to Our Heart
– We can humble ourselves and incline our hearts to God.
– We can watch over 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 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.
The following is a summary of the sermon:
2016: the Year of Prayer
Jeremiah 33:3 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
‘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.
Let us pray.
In loving memory of Emily Eisamann, MUMC once again sponsors blood drive at our church on Tuesday, January 4, 1-5 p.m. We appreciate all the volunteers and donors.
The Year of Prayer
This year,2016, has been designated the Year of Prayer so the people of Manahawkin UMC will cultivate the habit of getting on their knees in prayer and undeniably experience the living God in their lives. Pastor Choi will preach on prayer periodically throughout the year to encourage God’s people to stay on prayer.
Today Pastor Choi takes a moment to reflect on the goal of 2015 for Manahawkin Congregation: the Year of Knowing Jesus. Out of many lessons he learned through the year, he shares the following three: first, love the Lord with a pure heart. Next, do everything for the glory of God and His pleasure (I Corinthians 10:31). Thirdly, brighten the corner where you are.
Following is a summary of the sermon:
Reflections on 2015
Today we have the cantata, so my message will be brief.
First of all, as pastor of this congregation, I would like to thank God for His faithfulness. He has blessed us to finish this year strong, therefore, let us praise our Heavenly Father who sustained us both physically and spiritually. I also thank all of you for loving the Lord and being faithful to His ministry through your presence, gifts, and talents.
I’d like to take a moment to reflect on our goal of 2015—“the year of knowing Jesus.” I hope and pray that all of us have made progress in our faith and practice.
Personally, this year was one of the most productive years in terms of growing spiritually. I have discovered Jesus in new and refreshing ways that, in turn, energized my walk with the Lord.
I’ve made over 30 discoveries throughout the year in knowing Jesus and they can be squeezed down to the following three:
First, love the Lord with a pure heart. The Lord taught me to check on my motive why I wanted to know Jesus on a deeper level in the first place: it is never for selfish gains such as ‘doing great wonders and miracles’ or ‘making our church ten times bigger than it is now.’ Rather, He wants me to know, enjoy, and love Him with a pure motive for the sake of relationship not for the benefits thereof. E.g. In any healthy and thriving relationship, no one looks for what’s in it for them first; rather, they love each other first, and enjoy the benefits thereafter.
Next, do everything for God’s glory and His pleasure (1 Corinthians 10:31). Often times, I find myself keeping God’s commands for fear factors such as ‘to avoid the consequences of sins’ or ‘not to fall into temptations.’ The Lord wants me to change that attitude: keep His word, not because I’m afraid if I don’t, but because I love Him. E.g. English sentence: I don’t have to, but I love to. From now on, I will keep His Word not because I have to, but because I love Jesus (John 14:23). Jesus also reminds me of this: whenever I keep His Word, it pleases Him. E.g. Eric Liddell “God made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.” Let us do everything, from reading the Bible to prayer, from worship to our words, for His pleasure. When He is pleased, it makes us pleased in turn.
Thirdly, brighten the corner where you are. I realize more and more that the Lord doesn’t expect me to save the entire world (it is the job for Jesus). Rather, He expects me to brighten the corner where I am and to blossom where I am planted. E.g. A young man in 1930s wanted to liberate Korea from Japanese occupation by joining the armed resistance. His mentor’s advice was to stay home instead and brighten the corner where he was. What matters most in the sight of the Lord is: not how many great achievements we make but how much we love people around us with Christ-like love. “Fervently love one another from the heart” (1 Peter 1:22, NASB).
2015 is almost over. However, knowing Jesus doesn’t stop on December 31. It is an ongoing process for us. Let us keep growing in His love, knowledge, insight so that we may test and know what matters most and stay pure and blameless until Christ comes (Philippians 1:9-11). Amen.
Today Pastor Choi talks about true joy and where we can find it: in the Lord Jesus Christ. Sharing stories of three believers in Christ who found true joy in the Lord, he exhorts the believers to do the same by fixing their eyes on Jesus the true source of joy and light in the world.
Following is a summary of the sermon:
Philippians 4:4 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!
Have you been in the mall lately shopping? Have you ever closely observed people’s faces? Were they all happy, beaming, or joyous? Or, rather, empty, tired, and even grumpy? I’ve seen more weary faces than merry ones in this season of joy.
During this season of Christmas, we hear and speak a lot about joy: Christmas joy, joy to the world, and so forth. One question arises in my mind: where’s the joy in this season of joy? What has gone wrong in our celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ? Although joy should’ve been the central theme of the season, some of us find burden in our hearts instead. Some folks even suffer from ‘holiday blues.’ Sure, we can find fault with commercialism for the loss of our joy. Yes, we can also blame our kids for their unreasonable requests of very expensive toys. Yet, seriously, what happened to our joy? How can we find true joy and where should we look for it? That’s the topic this morning.
Where can we find joy? Would you believe if I said that you can find joy in the midst of cancer treatments? Would you say amen if I said that you can find joy even in a prison cell? Would you agree if I said that you can find joy even in your disabilities?
I am going to tell you stories of three individuals who found their joys in the midst of hardships. After their stories, I will briefly speak about the common thread that binds them together.
First, please come and meet a sister in Christ. I will leave her unnamed. I will simply say she was one of my parishioners some years ago in Michigan. She was very ill at that time, because she had cancer and had been through a series of chemotherapy. As a result, she lost all her hair and no physical strength was left in her body. Believe me: none of us wants to be in such a state. One day I met with her to pray for her healing and strength. Humanly speaking, she had nothing to be joyful about. However, that day, on her face I saw something priceless and heavenly: a smile. In fact, I haven’t seen such a beautiful smile on anyone’s face in my life. It left such an indelible impression on my mind that I wondered where this kind of smile / joy came from. You simply cannot buy such a smile with money for sure. Her smile definitely didn’t come from her circumstances, either. Yet, I witnessed it.
Next, come and meet a brother in Christ who found a similar joy in a place where we would least expect to find it: in prison. His name is Paul a.k.a. the Apostle. In today’s passage, he says to us, “Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I will say rejoice!”
Now, please consider the circumstances in which he wrote his letter. He wasn’t vacationing in Hawaii basking in the sun. Rather, he was sitting in a dark and damp dungeon in Rome. He was a prisoner for Christ. Mind you that he was not enjoying benefits of modern prison such as TV, internet, library, three square meals, medical benefits, exercise room, and so forth. As far as his sentence was concerned, he had no hope of release. Why? Because he was on death row. He was waiting for his last day on earth. Yet, writing this letter with his own hands to the believers in Philippi, he commanded them twice to rejoice in the Lord. How can a person on death row encourage the people outside to rejoice always?
Have you ever visited with a man who was terminally ill? You go there to comfort him. Yet, instead of comforting, you come out being comforted by him. The same thing was true with Paul and the Philippian believers. Humanly speaking, Paul was the one who needed to be comforted big time by the believers outside, because he was in prison with no hope of clemency, waiting to be executed. The saints in Philippi, on the other hand, were the ones who were free and able to do whatever they wanted to do. Furthermore, they had lots of blessings to be grateful for such as family, food, clothing, and shelter. As far as material possessions, Paul had nothing to share with others. Yet, the one with nothing actually did comfort those with much. ‘Rejoice and again I say rejoice,’ the same prisoner urges us this morning.
Here’s the third story to ponder. Feel free to guess who this lady is. She was born in 1820 and died in 1915. She became blind when she was six weeks old through an improper medical treatment. She was married to a blind musician and had a child who died in early infancy. She was rather petite in appearance; less than five feet tall and weighed less than one hundred pounds. To some, she was physically unattractive —“a long face, prominent front teeth with a gap between them; thick, wavy hair parted in the middle and pulled backward in curls that hung to the shoulders”; she also wore the dark rectangular glasses obscuring her sightless eyes. “Yet, when she spoke, it is said that there was an unusual charisma about her, as her face lit up with an expression that gave her great charm and attractiveness” (Kenneth W. Osbeck, 101 More Hymn Stories, pp. 239-240).
You need more hints? She wrote lots of poems for the Lord, and, in fact, we know well a number of hymns she wrote: “Blessed Assurance,” “All the Way My Savior Leads Me,” “Rescue the Perishing,” and etc. Got the idea now? Yes, her name was Fanny J. Crosby.
By the way, folks, do you know that she had a true conversion experience at a Methodist revival meeting, and said about her conversion experience as follows? “The Lord planted a star in my life and no cloud had ever obscured its light” (Ibid., p. 240).
Now, speaking about the light, Jesus says He is the light of the world (John 8:12). As long as He is in you, no cloud in your life will ever obscure His light, and you will walk in the light. Jesus is also the source of our joy and delight. Can you imagine a person like Fanny J. Crosby, who was blind, did one of the most wonderful ministries in history? What did she do? She led numerous souls to Christ through her songs. Although she could’ve pitied herself for her handicap through her entire life, she was never imprisoned by self-pity. Rather, she stayed very active for the Kingdom of God for years. Who made all the difference in her life? Wasn’t it Jesus Christ the Light and the Joy of the world? She lived for 95 years on earth and now is with the Lord. What do you think she would say to us, if she became alive at this moment among us? Wouldn’t she say the same thing she did through many words of hymns she wrote? That is, the best blessing anyone can have is Jesus Christ–Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine.
True joy is found in the Lord:
I promised at the beginning that I would briefly share with you one thing that is in common among these three individuals. They were all Christians. They all had the same faith in Jesus. Their circumstances were different, yet they all found the same joy in the Lord—the source of true joy in our lives. Let me say it one more time: True joy is only found in the Lord. It doesn’t come from anything material. That is, you still may have emptiness even when you are surrounded with a plethora of things. However, you can have true joy without spending a dime, too, as long as you are in the Lord. True joy also transcends circumstances. That’s why I would call it true joy. It doesn’t depend on circumstances. Prosperities don’t guarantee it. It doesn’t disappear in adversities, either. It is unshakable. It is immovable, because it comes from eternal God. Circumstances may change, but God never does. Therefore, let us learn to refuse to fall into your mood swings that go with the circumstances. Rather let us tell God that we will put our 100% trust in Him no matter what. E.g. Fanny J. Crosby story again. “At the age of eight years she wrote her first poem:
Oh what a happy soul am I!
Although I cannot see,
I am resolved that in this world
Contented I will be.
How many blessings I enjoy
That other people don’t;
To weep and sigh because I’m blind
I cannot nor I won’t.” (http://www.truthfulwords.org/biography/crosbytw.html)
Do you remember what happened on the first Christmas Eve in the region of Bethlehem (Luke 2:8-12)? That night the heavenly angels appeared before the shepherds out in the field and proclaimed the good news of a great joy for all the people in the world. Since then, Jesus Christ has been the true joy to many. He may be the greatest joy for the world, but He can’t be yours, unless you too have Him in your heart as your Savior and Lord.
Do you miss joy in your life? Does your soul cry for help? Have Jesus Christ right now in your heart. Have Him as your personal Savior and Lord today. Ask Him to come into your heart and be the King in your life. Then, your heart will be filled with heavenly joy. You can have this joy all the time as long as Christ reigns in you. Fix your eyes on Jesus, because He is the only one who can give you true joy. Ask Him, and He will give it to you. Shall we pray?
“Say after me, if you would like to have true joy in your life. Lord Jesus, I repent my sins. Forgive my sins through your precious blood. Please come into my heart and be my Lord and Savior. Be my true joy for the rest of my life. In Christ’s name, I pray. Amen.”
Today Pastor Choi continues his series on Jesus’ Second coming: how to live W.E.L.L. in end times. He focuses on Watch and Pray, Encourage each other to assemble, Lay aside the deeds of darkness, and Love fervently. Those who daily live these principles will be ready for His coming without fear.
Following is a summary of the sermon:
How to Live W.E.L.L. in End Times
2 Peter 3:10-18 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
A New Heaven and Earth
10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.
11 Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! 13 But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.
14 Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, 15 and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, 16 as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. 17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, 18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
In the past few months, I have been praying and pondering on Christ’s coming. I asked the Lord to help me to prepare for what’s coming. Over time, my study of God’s Word and answers to my prayers began to crystalize in my thoughts on how to live in end times. The discoveries I have made and the insights the Lord gave me is what I shared with you last Sunday and I will continue so this morning.
Last Sunday I talked about three things we must be aware of concerning Christ’s second coming: Why He comes again (to judge the ungodly), How He comes again (in the clouds with a trumpet sound), and When it is going to be (no one knows but God).
Today, we are going to think about how we the people of God ought to live our lives as we await His coming. In fact, I want all of us well prepared as we go through difficult times. I want all of us to live W.E.L.L. in the end times. W.E.L.L. stands for Watch, Encourage, Lay Aside, and Love. When we live out these four principles, we will be ready for His coming without fear.
As far as the first component of living well, that is watch, I pretty much covered it last Sunday, so I won’t repeat the whole thing again. However, for those folks who missed the sermon, and for all of us to refresh our memory, I would like to briefly mention it.
Out of so many things we can possibly do to prepare for His coming, Christ commands us, first and foremost, to be on the alert and be on our guard. Simply put, watch and pray. If God wants us to pray without ceasing in ordinary times (I Thessalonians 5:17), how much more urgent it is for us to watch and pray in difficult times? Therefore, I urge everyone to increase your time of prayer. Remember: no matter how godly we may think we are, if we don’t spend time in prayer, we are asleep and we will find ourselves unprepared for Christ’s coming. May the Lord find us on the alert at His coming.
Now, I am going to focus on the other three elements of living well in the end times: (Watch), Encourage, Lay Aside, and Love.
A. Encourage one another to gather in Christ’s name (Hebrews 10:24-25).
God’s Word commands us to encourage each other to get together in the name of our Lord as we see the day draw near. Listen to the Word of God in Hebrews 10:24-25: 24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
Reality check: today in America, many Christians get into the bad habit of not going to church. 92 % of Americans believe in God (http://www.gallup.com/poll/147887/Americans-Continue-Believe-God.aspx). Only 37% of Christians attend worship services weekly and 29 % of Christians seldom or never attend church (http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2013/09/13/what-surveys-say-about-worship-attendance-and-why-some-stay-home/). The average worship attendance of Methodists is once a month and it is not getting better. I am grateful and proud of my congregation, though, because you are faithful worshippers. Some of you even drive more than 10 miles one way each week. Worship on Sunday morning is well ingrained in our spiritual DNA and we worship the Lord every Sunday. Please keep up the good work.
Now, let’s think about why the Lord commands us to keep up this great practice of gathering together. The answer is found in verse 24: so that we may stimulate one another to love and good deeds. When we get together in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, first we worship the Lord; next, we also stimulate each other to love and good deeds. We need each other’s encouragement and stimulation. In God’s kingdom, “no one is an island” (John Donne). E.g. Church is like a fire-place. We are like firewood. Like the logs are put together for fire going strong, so are we for our faith going strong. Like the logs are separated and the flame dies out, so does our faith and practice when we are not together. E.g. the other day I heard a story about one member who was exhausted with her week and almost didn’t come to church that morning. But, when she did, her tired spirit was refreshed during the service by the children’s sermon.
Even though our technology-driven society keeps us more isolated than before, and some of us love the virtual reality through social media, let us not neglect our physical gathering together in the name of our Lord. We need each other.
B. Lay aside the deeds of darkness (Romans 13:11-14)
The next key to living well in end times is to lay aside the deeds of darkness and conduct a holy life. Listen again to the Word of God in Romans 13:11-14. 11 Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed.12 The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy.14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.
In the Scripture, the Day of the Lord is compared to the wedding day in Heaven: Christ is the groom and the church (that is, body of Christ) is the bride. Imagine the day of the wedding. Both the groom and the bride make sure that they are pure and clean. For instance, they take a shower/bath and put on the best clothes. The same idea applies to our Heavenly wedding: we the church of God, the bride of Christ, must prepare ourselves with the cloth that is pure and clean; acceptable to God and to Christ our groom. The Bible puts it this way: put on the Lord Jesus Christ. Put on the armor of light (Romans 13:14, 12). Why do we put on Christ? Why do we need the armor of light? So that we may not give any provision for the flesh; so that we may not succumb to the sin and lusts that defile our souls such as carousing, drunkenness, sexual promiscuity, sensuality, strife or jealousy (Romans 13:13).
The armor of light is also called the armor of God. To partake in the Heavenly wedding, we need to put on the armor of God such as truth, righteousness, gospel of peace, faith, salvation, and the Word of God so that we may endure the difficult times and stand firm before God. Listen to Ephesians 6:10-17:
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Be sure to wear the armor of God for yourself in the end times. You need it for your defense.
C. Love fervently (1 Peter 4:8)
Lastly, we can live well in the end times with love. Peter the apostle emphatically says to us to love fervently. I am sure all of us have been doing that. But, let’s listen to him one more time in 1 Peter 4:7-8: 7 The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. 8 Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.
Please notice here the context of Peter’s exhortation of fervent love: the end times. In verse 7, he says, “The end of all things is near therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer.” Then, he goes onto verse 8 saying, “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love coves a multitude of sins.”
Let’s think about it for a moment. Have you ever loved someone to the point where your deeds of love actually cover the multitude of sins of the person who received your love? Few of us have such experiences. However, Christ did. He loved us so much that He laid down His life for us. Ultimately His death on the cross covers a multitude of our sins.
Folks, we have a job to do. From today until the Day of the Lord, let us imitate Christ and keep ourselves fervent in loving each other until our love covers the multitude of sins of others.
As for closing, I would repeat what Peter the apostle said in verse 14: 14 Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless. How do we do it? By living W.E.L.L.: watch and pray, encourage one another to get together, lay aside the deeds of darkness, and love fervently.
Let us pray.
Today Pastor Choi talks about Christ’s second coming in three aspects: A. Why He comes again? B. How will He come again? C. When is it going to be? In conclusion, he reminds and exhorts the congregation that they must be on the alert in prayer while they await their Savior.
Following is a summary of the sermon:
Mark 13:32-37 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
32 But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.
33 “Take heed, keep on the alert; for you do not know when the appointed time will come. 34 It is like a man away on a journey, who upon leaving his house and putting his slaves in charge, assigning to each one his task, also commanded the doorkeeper to stay on the alert. 35 Therefore, be on the alert—for you do not know when the master of the house is coming, whether in the evening, at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— 36 in case he should come suddenly and find you asleep. 37 What I say to you I say to all, ‘Be on the alert!’”
According to the Church calendar, today is the first Sunday of Advent. Advent consists of four Sundays before Christmas Day. During this Advent season, we remember the spirit of Christmas from awaiting the promised Messiah to witnessing His actual coming as our Savior and Lord.
In the past, God communicated with His people through many means such as nature and people, dreams and visions, signs and wonders. Today He mostly communicates with His people through the Bible (because the Bible is freely available—the best-selling book in history). However, when the Scripture was not available, for instance, in the Old Testament times, the primary way of communication was prophets. For hundreds of years God has spoken to His people through prophets (Hebrews 1:1). Through the prophets He promised to Israel that He would send them the Messiah who would restore God’s reign on earth. That promise had been fulfilled 2,000 years ago in Bethlehem. God sent His Son to humanity. In fact, that’s what Christmas is all about. Jesus Christ was born with a mission: to save His people from their sins. Let me assure you again the very reason for Jesus’ first coming: (as His name says the Lord saves) He came to save humanity from sin and to give them eternal life.
Now, our Lord Jesus Christ lived on earth for 33 years. Especially, the last three years of His earthly life, He did many miracles, healed the sick, preached the good news, and taught the Word of God. At the cross He completed the work of salvation: His body was broken so that we may be healed. His blood was shed so that the wages of our sins may be paid. The best part is this: He arose from the dead in order to show us that death is not final. We do have hope of eternal life.
After His physical resurrection, for the next forty days, the risen Christ repeatedly appeared to His disciples and performed many more miracles. Eventually, He ascended into Heaven to be seated at the right hand of God. As He was ascending to Heaven, He promised His disciples saying, “I will come again.”
Since His ascension, 2,000 years have passed. We Christians still await the fulfillment of His promise. We are still waiting for His second coming. In the New Testament Jesus in His own words had already told us about His coming (Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21). So, it would be foolish of us if we fail to take heed to what He said about His own second coming. That’s our topic this morning.
One day Christ’s disciples asked Him about His second coming (Mark 13:4). Today’s passage is part of His answer to them. If Jesus were here today in our midst, and if we asked Him the same question (that is, when He is coming to us and what signs we should look for), I doubt that He will change His original answer. He would give us the same answer and say to us, “I already have given you. Read My Book—-Mark 13.” Based on that chapter, I am going to explain to you three parts of His promise of coming: A. Why He comes again? B. How will He come again? C. When is it going to be?
One thing I know about His second coming is this: He will come to judge the world. It is going to be different from the first time. When He came first time, it was for salvation for all. But this time it’s going to be for judgment. The Bible says He will come to judge the ungodly. Listen to 2 Peter 3:7: But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.
Christ will come again for the judgment of the world, not for its redemption. It is not going to be pretty for those who refuse to obey God. It is going to be miserable for those who are ungodly. We don’t have to be afraid of His coming, though, because it is going to be our salvation and deliverance (Luke 21:28). It is going to be our glorious day to meet the Lord in the air. Listen again to Hebrews 9:28: so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him. Folks, His coming is great news for us! Rejoice! Let’s share this great news with others so that they too can be included in salvation not in judgment, Amen?
B. How will He come again? (Acts 1:11, Matthew 24:26-27, 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)
In what manner He will come, first, Jesus said that He will come in the same way as He was taken to Heaven (Acts 1:11). In other words, as the disciples of Jesus witnessed with their own eyes Him taken up into Heaven, we too will be able to see Him come down with our own eyes. Furthermore, when He comes, everyone on earth, with no exception, will be able to see Him simultaneously. It won’t be like: we Americans see Him, but folks in Australia won’t. Rather, everyone in the world, from America to China, from Antarctica to Greenland, even people in North Korea will be able to see Him at the same time. How do I know? The Word of God says so. Listen to Matthew 24:26-27: So if they say to you, ‘Behold, He is in the wilderness,’ do not go out, or, ‘Behold, He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe them. 27 For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be.
Next, He will come in clouds with great power and glory (Mark 13:26). He will send forth the angels, and will gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest end of the earth to the farthest end of heaven (Mark 13:27). He will come in the clouds with the trumpet sound. No one will miss His coming. It’s going to be loud and clear to all ears. Listen to 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17: For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. [play Handel’s Messiah: The trumpet shall sound].
We must know that His coming is the appointed time (Kairos) (v. 33). It is firmly written in God’s schedule book. He has every intention to keep it. Therefore, Christ’s second coming is not a matter of “if” it happens, but “when” it happens.
As far as the exact time of His coming is concerned, no matter how curious you are, don’t waste your time in speculating, because no one knows the day or hour, neither the angels in Heaven, nor Jesus; only the Father knows (Mark 13:32). In the past 2-3 years, many God’s servants say that we are getting close to His coming. Don’t blindly believe what they say. Rather, check yourself with what’s going on in today’s world. Collect all the news yourself and compare them to the words Jesus has spoken in Mark 13, Matthew 24, and Luke 21. Here are some of the signs of the end times that I checked myself in recent months: wars, rumors of wars, nation against nation, earthquakes, famine, darkening of the Moon, persecution against Christians, and false prophets. Consider also other signs in our society. Paul the Apostle prophesied about them well in 2 Timothy 3:1-5: But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. 2 For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, 4 treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power.
In terms of what we must do while we await His coming, the Lord Jesus commands us not to panic (Mark 13:7), or be deceived (Mark 13:5, 21), nor worry (Mark 13:11). The first and foremost of Christ’s command for us is to be on the alert [γρηγορειτε]—four times in today’s text (v. 33, 34, 35, 37). ‘Watch’ in KJV. By the way, how did the disciples of Jesus understand the word ‘watch’? Here’s how they understood: watch means to ‘remain awake’—Oxford Dictionary— ‘for a period of time.’ It is also used in the context of ‘pray.’ So, ‘to be on the alert’ means ‘to watch and pray.’ And, ‘to watch and pray’ means ‘to stay spiritually awake and keep on praying.’
Why do we need to stay awake and pray? Because, we don’t know the day or the hour of His coming. He will come like a thief at night (1 Thessalonians 5:2). Since we don’t know the time of His coming, we relax our attitude and our expectation of His coming. Consequently, our hearts will get dull to the signs of the times so that we live out our lives as business as usual. Our hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness, and the worries of life. Another translation (the Message Bible) puts this way—Don’t let the sharp edge of your expectation get dulled by parties and drinking and shopping. We must watch lest we live a life of dissipation, our hearts be drunk with the worldly pleasures and wrapped with the worldly cares. And to those souls, the Lord warns, the day will come upon suddenly like a trap (Luke 21:34—NASB).
Don’t think that His warning is just for some pastors. It is for every believer in Christ. Jesus says in v. 37: What I say to you I say to all, ‘Be on the alert!’ Listen again. But keep on the alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36).
Be on the alert. We can do it, until He comes, Amen?
Next Sunday, we are going to listen again to the Word of God: this time what kind of life we should conduct while we await His coming.
Let us pray.
Today Pastor Choi talks about God’s will in Christ for all God’s children: be thankful in all circumstances. He shares with the congregation three keys to thankfulness; thankfulness is a choice, thankfulness is a trust, thankfulness is an attitude of worship.
The following is a summary of the sermon:
The Old Man and the Horse [subtitle: three keys to thankfulness]
1 Thessalonians 5:18 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
18 in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Let me begin with a Chinese folk tale. It is called “The Horse of an Old Man in a Remote Village.”
Once upon a time there was an old man in a village in the northern Chinese border. He lived with his only son. He also owned a horse and one morning his horse was gone. The village people came to see if he was all right. They comforted him saying, “We are sorry that your horse is gone. It is a misfortune!”
The old man responded with little emotions saying, “Don’t be sorry for me. Who knows if this may turn into a blessing?’
Several months later, the horse came back. Not only had he returned, he also had brought a beautiful mare with him. Once again, the village people gathered around and said to the old man, “We are glad that your horse is back with another horse. Congratulations! What we thought a misfortune was a blessing!”
The old man replied as-a-matter-of-factly saying, “How do I know if this is a blessing or not? It may turn into a curse.”
Sure enough. His word came true a few days later. While the old man’s son tried to break the new horse, he fell from the horse and broke his legs. Once again the villagers comforted the old man saying, “We are sorry about what happened to your son. This new horse is a bad news!”
The old man spoke plainly. “Who knows if it is a blessing or a curse?”
A year passed and China was engaged in a war against a neighboring country. All the able men of the village went to the war and many of them died. Only the son of the old man was spared because of his injury.
The morale of the story is this: Do not jump to conclusions too quickly. No one is wise enough to know how things will turn out in the end. Only God knows.
Thanksgiving is just four days away. As we gather with our families and friends, let us not forget giving thanks to God for all the blessings.
A pop quiz for you: If you squeeze the entire population of the world down to 10 people, how many of them would actually remember to say “thank you” to you when you do something nice for them? The answer: only one (10%) [Both statistics and the Bible confirm it]. This is true when things are good. For bad things, very rarely people give thanks to you and to God [actually we tend to blame God for bad things, don’t we?]. But, God commands us to be thankful in all circumstances; both good and bad. That’s our topic this morning.
Before I dig deeper, let me read today’s text one more time to you: this time my own translation of the original Greek: in all circumstances and all the time be thankful; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Some of us already think that it is impossible to be thankful in all circumstances. You’re right. In fact, with our own power, we can’t be thankful especially in adversities. I am here to remind you, though, that God never asks us to do something impossible. For the things that He asks us to be thankful, He also equips and enables us to do it. Being thankful in all circumstances is not only possible but also doable [but only in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:13)]. I am going to share with you three keys to thankfulness in all circumstances.
First, thankfulness is a choice. It is not a feeling. We don’t thank God only when we feel like it. We don’t thank God only for good things, either. In fact, even the people who don’t know God can be grateful for the blessings. We, God’s children, are different. We choose to be thankful no matter what (why? Because it is God’s will). In the midst of all life’s situations, we choose not to go with our emotions but with our will. Don’t misunderstand here: when God commands us to be thankful, He doesn’t mean that we should be happy because bad things happened to us. No, He rather expects us to stay thankful to Him despite bad things and despite our bad feelings.
There are two words in English we interchangeably use to express our gratitude: ‘grateful’ and ‘thankful.’ Let me point out here that it was rather intentional when the Bible translators chose the word ‘thankful’ over ‘grateful’ in today’s text. In the Bible, ‘grateful’ is used for only good circumstances, while ‘thankful’ covers a greater territory and is used in both good and bad circumstances. For instance, we are grateful for a promotion at work. We are not grateful, however, when we are laid off. Let’s say we lost our jobs. We may not be happy; we may be far from grateful for the situation. However, God still wants us to be thankful. Remember: we are commanded to be thankful not just grateful. We choose to stay thankful. We choose to obey God’s will even when we don’t understand why bad things happen to us. Thankfulness is a choice.
Next, thankfulness is a trust. Without God, you can’t be thankful in all circumstances. Without trust in God, you can’t be thankful at all, either. Thankfulness begins with the understanding of who God is. God is all-powerful. He is everywhere. He knows everything. He is the author of time: He sees everything simultaneously; the beginning, the end, and everything in between. He is the only One who sees the entire picture of our lives. He knows when we were born. He sees when we are going to die. He sees everything in between. He sees the whole picture of our lives. That’s why we can trust in Him. That’s why we can rely on His wisdom. Remember the story of the old man and the horse? We humans pretend that we know all about our lives, yet the truth is that we don’t. We only see a piece here and a piece there. Without looking at the big picture, we make quick judgments on our situations (either good or bad) and we are bound to make mistakes. None of us knows how our life will turn out in the end. But, God does. Do you believe in God’s faithfulness and goodness? Then, trust in Him and put everything in His hands. Defer your judgments to God. He is the fairest of all. Trust in His good will that He will cause all things to work together for our good (Romans 8:28). Thankfulness is a trust.
Lastly, thankfulness is an attitude; the attitude of worship.
You may wonder: what does worship have anything to do with being thankful to God? How can worship help me to be thankful to God in all circumstances, especially in bad ones?
By the way, the worship I am talking about is more than Sunday morning worship services. Worship can take place, if we choose to, anytime and anywhere; we can worship God when we drive. We can worship God when we rake the leaves or even in the shower.
This is how it works: worship shifts our attention from us to God. In worship, we fix our eyes on God and His greatness, not on our problems. In worship, we remember who God is. We adore and praise His Holy name and invoke His help for our situations. In worship we remember who we are; we are God’s children and we call out to our Heavenly Father who cares about every need of ours. In worship, we encounter the God who is faithful to His children. In worship we remember God’s goodness and hold unto His promises, not unto our fears or anxieties.
Let me put it a different way. In worship, we don’t focus on the bad things happening to us. We focus on God, His greatness, His faithfulness, and His goodness. Worship helps us to look up to God and trust in Him who makes all things beautiful for those who love Him. Worship reminds us to trust in God’s ultimate good will for us. You see, we can be thankful to God only when we trust in Him who turns all the bad things into our good in due time.
Stay in constant spirit of worship of the Lord wherever you are and whenever it may be, and you will be able to be thankful. Thankfulness is an attitude of worship.
A well-loved hymn: It Is Well with My Soul—the words were written by Horatio Gates Spafford in 1873. Mr. Spafford was married and lived in Chicago with his family. He was “professor of medical jurisprudence of Lind University and he bought a great deal of real estate on the lake front. Then tragedy struck repeatedly. First, the Chicago fire of 1871 wiped out his real estate holdings. Then, in 1873, he planned a family vacation in Europe. Spafford sent his family ahead aboard the ship Ville du Havre. Out on the high seas, the Ville du Havre collided with the Lochearn and sunk. Mrs. Spafford was saved but their four daughters perished. Spafford took the next boat to meet his wife in Cardiff, Wales, where the survivors had been taken and while sailing past the spot where his daughters perished, wrote It is Well With My Soul. Their son also died an untimely death in 1880” (Charles Johnson, One hundred & One famous hymns, p. 144). He lost his five children in 7 years. [Hymnal #377] Verse 1: When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll; whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul. It is well with my soul, it is well, it is well with my soul. I have no doubt that only his determination to trust in the Lord in the attitude of worship carried him through his life’s tragedies.
Anyone can be grateful for good things. Very few people in their own might can be thankful in adversities. However, God’s people are called to be thankful in all circumstances. In Christ and with God’s help, we can and will be thankful all the time in all circumstances. Thankfulness is a choice, it is a trust, and it is an attitude of worship.
Today Pastor Choi urges the congregation not to be a fool in the sight of God. He points out a three-fold error the rich fool made: fixing eyes on the life on earth only, setting his heart on the increase of wealth, and neglecting the welfare of others. He exhorts the believers to be rich toward God by living with an eternal life perspective, setting their heart on true riches of God, and giving to the poor.
Following is a summary of the sermon:
Don’t Be a Fool.
Luke 12:13-21 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
13 Someone in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” 14 But He said to him, “Man, who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 Then He said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” 16 And He told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man was very productive. 17 And he began reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’ 18 Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ 21 So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
Some years ago, I was much into children’s literature all over the world: from Europe to Africa, from India to Korea. After reading scores of them, I began to notice certain common themes such as ‘don’t be greedy,’ ‘be honest,’ ‘honor your parents’ and so forth. One of the themes across the board was this: don’t be a simpleton. Don’t be a fool. I guess it is a universal lesson for humanity for centuries. Even the Bible talks about it. That’s our topic today: don’t be a fool.
Let me begin with a question for you.
Are You a Fool?
To the Poor
Today Pastor Choi encourages God’s people to pray for the persecuted believers in Christ in the world. He also urges the congregation to take up their own cross and follow Christ. He points out that Christ Himself suffered on behalf of humanity. We too as followers of Christ must deny ourselves, take up our cross daily, and follow Him for the eternal good for all.
Following is a summary of the sermon:
Church and Suffering
Colossians 1:24 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.
Bulletin insert: “I Commit to Pray”— use it to lift up our sisters and brothers in Christ in prayer. [Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body—Hebrews 13:3].
Our topic this morning is Church and suffering.
Suffering is a very unpopular topic to talk about in today’s society; whenever you talk about it, it is almost certain that you will make someone mad, either at you or at God. In my 25 years of ministry, I preached over 1,000 times. Yet, only once or twice I spoke about pain and suffering, because people generally don’t appreciate it. Furthermore, the topic itself is too broad to cover with one sermon; you have to deal with evil in the world (to begin with) and with so many sufferings that don’t make any sense such as school shootings, plane crashes, children’s cancer, and so forth.
This morning, I am going to wise up myself and limit my focus on the Christian suffering; suffering in the context of Church, the body of Christ; the believers’ suffering due to their faith. Questions or comments on other types of suffering must wait for another time. Lord willing, I will deal with them later. So, pray with me now: Lord, open up our hearts and ears to listen to Your truth about Church and suffering. Amen.
MY OWN TRANSLATION OF GREEK TEXT
Let me read to you today’s text one more time—this time my own translation with my own commentaries. Remember: Paul was in prison when he wrote this letter— in a Roman dungeon—not because of his wrongdoing but because of his witness for Christ.
Now I rejoice [keep rejoicing—not liking it, but whenever suffering comes, I take it in stride and with an attitude of welcoming it] in my sufferings [multiple occasions] on your behalf [my sufferings have a purpose in it—they are for you the Church], and I fill [keep filling] up in my flesh [my own share of physical pain] the lacking things of Christ’s afflictions [‘lacking’ means, afflictions will continue to happen to God’s people until God says enough—Revelation 6:11. ‘afflictions’ means unpleasant experiences] on behalf of His body [once again my sufferings are not meaningless—they are for His body], which is the church.
DEFINITION OF SUFFERING
Secular understanding: Oxford dictionary defines as [u] pain of body or mind; [plural] feelings of pain, unhappiness, or etc. General attitude: avoid it at all costs.
Biblical understanding: in the entire Bible there are 150 entries under ‘suffer,’ ‘suffered,’ ‘suffering,’ or ‘sufferings.’ Only once, it talks about suffering as a consequence of our sins [murder, for example]. It is not God’s will for us to suffer for wrongdoings. However, there are times and occasions that God wills and considers it worth suffering; for instance, sufferings for Jesus and His Kingdom. In the New Testament, the believer’s suffering is described exclusively in the context of Christ, Christians, and Church. E.g. suffering on account of faith in Christ, suffer according to God’s will, suffer while doing what is good / right in the sight of God. Proper attitude should be like Paul’s: rejoice and take it in stride.
CHRIST THE SUFFERING SERVANT
The Christian understanding of suffering begins with our Lord Jesus Christ.
Did you know Christ Himself was not exempt from suffering even though He was equal to God and sinless? Why did He suffer, then? Not because He had done anything wrong, but because God willed His suffering. It was God’s perfect will for Christ to suffer and die for us. He suffered vicariously for humanity. In Isaiah 53, we see Christ the Messiah, the suffering servant. He was without sin yet suffered on behalf of the sinners. God sent Him to the Cross to pay the wages of our sin. On the cross, He had to endure excruciating pain for hours. Let’s not forget: He didn’t deserve to be punished like that. Rather, He suffered on our account and on our behalf so that we may go free. Such suffering, God wills and approves. Listen more.
SUFFERING WITH A PURPOSE
I already told you that God appointed His only begotten Son to suffer and die on the Cross: not that He didn’t love His son, not that He wasn’t pleased with Him, nor that the Messiah deserved such a punishment. But that it was God’s will and His plan that were laid out even before the creation of the world. Here’s the truth. Christ’s suffering was with a divine purpose. It was not meaningless or senseless. Christ the Righteous died for the unrighteous. It makes no sense in human eyes where the penalty should go to the perpetrator, not to the innocent, yet it sure makes perfect sense to God. Some of us still grapple with it. You may call it God’s mystery. You may even reject the cross and accept only good things of the gospel such as peace, joy, love, and eternal life, yet one thing you cannot deny is that Christ suffered. The same God expects us to be like Jesus including suffering (2 Corinthians 1:5, 4:10, 1 Thessalonians 3:3).
TWO-FOLD MEANING OF CROSS: suffering and eternal good
“Deny yourself, take up your own cross daily, and follow Me,” commands the suffering Christ (Luke 9:23). He means what He says. He is never ambiguous about it. Neither should we. Remember: cross means suffering. Think of the cross in the time of Jesus. It was a means of public execution. Everyone understood the meaning of it —public disgrace and hours of excruciating pain that led to death. As Christ took up His own cross, He commands us to take up the cross of our own—be ready to die for Him and for the sake of others. We too, as He suffered, have our own share of suffering in our heaven-bound journey. However, our suffering is not senseless or meaningless. It too has a purpose. What’s the purpose? Eternal good for ourselves and for others. Imagine a relationship where no one wants to sacrifice themselves on behalf of others. Imagine a family where no one wants to take the garbage out, cook, do the dishes, or clean the toilet. Every troubled relationship or nation has one thing in common: no one wants to take up their cross and they blame everybody else for the problems. Somebody has to take up the cross for the sake of others.
Let’s face it. When we became a believer in Christ, very few of us signed up for the cross; rather, we signed up for blessings such as eternal life, health, wealth, wisdom, love, joy, peace, and self-control. Now, we must realize that those ‘good’ things are not the ultimate goal of a Christian (they are benefits, not the goal). Our ultimate goal is Christ Himself; do whatever He commands, go wherever He leads, and live out His will. All other ‘good’ things are the byproducts of the cross: they come afterwards not before. Jesus says, the cross is good for you; take up your own cross and follow Me; in the end, it will benefit all; you, others, and the Church. Let me tell you one more time: the cross is eternally good for all. The cross and crown go together. However, the cross comes before the crown. You can’t have the crown without the cross.
APOSTLES AND THE BODY OF CHRIST IN THE NEXT TWO MILLENIA
I already told you that Paul wrote today’s text in prison taking part in Christ’s suffering. Later, he was executed. So were all the other apostles; they fully participated in Christ’s suffering by enduring public disgrace, shame, and death: all of them filled up their bodies with suffering on behalf of the Church.
For the next two thousand years, countless believers followed Christ’s steps and filled up His body the Church with their own sufferings, too. Like Pastor Suta today. Like an Indian sister in Christ who was attacked with acid that ruined her face.
We call those believers who died on behalf of Christ “martyrs.”—meaning “witnesses” with their own death. For them, it was worth it all—for the sake of Christ and His Church!
Wherever martyrdom takes place, one thing always happens to the body of Christ; revival and growth. The opposite is true, too. History tells us that when there was no persecution or suffering, the Church became corrupt, compromising, stagnant, and even declined. E.g. one American Christian sect dissuades its followers from meditating on the Cross because it reminds them too much of suffering and pain. They even removed the crosses from their church decorations. Is it a coincidence that the Church in America is dying when it avoids the cross by all means? I don’t like a recent increase of persecutions in America against believers, but in a grand scheme, perhaps God has a different plan to purify His Church through suffering.
When persecution arose against the body of Christ, and when the believers underwent torture, imprisonment, and death, the Church of God stayed pure, strong, and even grew in number. Today, all around the world, persecutions abound and the Holy Spirit is at work. The Church is growing leaps and bounds in the midst of suffering.
REALITY CHECK IN AMERICA
Understand the culture we are living in: Get rid of pain/suffering by all means. E.g. pain killer business—multi-billion dollar business every year. I understand why non-believers push suffering away from them. What about the Church? We too avoid suffering at all costs, do we not? But, how can we help the people in the world without knowing and experiencing the suffering first hand? How would we understand the meaning of apathy, sympathy, empathy, and compassion when we have not tasted of suffering at all?
Don’t get me wrong. I am not advocating needless pain or suffering for the sake of suffering and pain. Neither am I looking for it for the sake of having it. Like many others, I myself prefer no suffering and a painless life. Yet, when it comes down to legitimacy and necessity of pain and suffering in the believer’s life and the life of the Church, if that’s what God has in mind, I am willing to take it. In fact, God’s Word confirms it. That’s why I urge you all to be willing to take your own share of suffering for the sake of Christ. I am thankful that ours will not be as drastic as Christ’s or Paul’s. Most of us are grateful that God doesn’t consider our faith as strong as Paul’s. However, all of us have our own crosses to bear. As long as we take it, let’s take it in stride.
Millions of believers in the world today go through all kinds of persecution because of their faith in Christ. They rejoice as they fill up their own lives with Christ’s afflictions such as mockery, physical pain, financial loss, and even death. Let us remember them in our prayers. Support them financially if you can. May the Holy Spirit convict us; strengthen our hearts to follow Christ all the way like our brothers and sisters in the world do.
May God awaken our souls and grant us the desire to follow Him with our own crosses.
Let us pray.
Today Pastor Choi talks about life worthy of God’s calling: God the Creator and the Sustainer of all creations has chosen us to be His adopted children before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). His choice was intentional and He called each of us by name. The same God calls us to live a life worthy of His calling. Pastor Choi exhorts God’s people to make God proud through a lifestyle that is worthy of His name.
Following is a summary of the sermon:
Life Worthy of God’s Calling
2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 (New American Standard Bible)
11 To this end also we pray for you always, that our God will count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power, 12 so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 4:1-3 (New American Standard Bible)
4 Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, 3 being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
It’s hard to believe that we are already in November. Two more months to go, and another new year! In January this year, I designated 2015 to be the year of knowing Jesus. I encouraged every one of you to get to know Him personally. I myself was blessed to know Jesus in a newer and deeper level than before. I pray and hope that all of you made progress in knowing Jesus personally. Let’s continue knowing Him every day.
Whatever and however we get to know Jesus, one thing we want to make sure is this: to know Him right. Here’s why: after many years of serving Him in many capacities and doing many things in His name (prophesying, casting out demons, and performing miracles), there’s a chance that we still could get Him wrong. E.g. Matthew 7:21-23 “I never knew you.” We may think that we have known Him well, yet He could say to us in the end of our heaven-bound journey, “I never knew you! Depart from Me.” Now, none of us wants it to happen to us, right?
Therefore, let us come before Him with humility and a prayer that He would illumine us with the true and correct knowledge that it would bring forth in us the lifestyle of which He would be proud and say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant! Enter into the joy of your master!” (Matthew 25:21).
Please look at the sermon title: life worthy of God’s calling. I am going to highlight three things here. First, God who has called us—we are going to ponder on the greatness of God. Next, we are going to think about the object of God’s call: us. Thirdly, the life worthy of God.
The Greatness of God: The life worthy of God’s calling cannot begin without the right understanding of how great our God is. Most of us have a general and shallow understanding of God. Some believers even call Him “a man upstairs.” We all know that God exists and He is greater than we are. But, that’s just about it. We seldom take time to think or meditate on the greatness of God.
I don’t have enough time to give you a sermon on God’s greatness, so I am going to give you a brief summary of who God is. First, God is the Creator of the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1). He created all the things visible and invisible; every living creature that has breath in it. By the way, folks, He doesn’t share the credit of creation with anyone else, not even with evolution. Check yourself. Numerous times in the Scripture, God claims that it is He alone who willed every single creature, designed them, and created them all (Isaiah 45:8, Revelation 4:11).
God is not only the Creator, but also is the Sustainer. He gives life and health to all the creatures. He provides their needs every day, too; food, shelter, and clothing. He takes care of them all. E.g. One day, Jesus was talking about worries. He says when you are worried, lift up your head and look at the birds of the air. They don’t sow, reap, nor gather into barns, yet the Heavenly Father feeds them. Look at the lilies in the field, He continues. They do not toil or spin, yet even Solomon in all his glory did not clothe himself like one of these (Matthew 6:26-29). If God cares about the creatures like that, Jesus concludes, how much more He will take care of your needs? (Matthew 6:30).
Thirdly, God is the One to be worshipped. He is the only One worthy of our worship and devotion. Here’s why. He has created us; He sustains us; He provides every need of ours. We owe Him everything we have and enjoy. Therefore, He deserves our total devotion to Him, and we render it in worship. Look at the first commandment of the Ten Commandments: you shall have no other gods before Me (Exodus 20:3). You shall worship Me alone (Exodus 34:14). We worship God alone, because no one else deserves our worship but God.
Speaking of worship, some people say that they don’t go to church because they don’t get anything from the sermon. Even though you get nothing out of the sermon, it doesn’t exempt you from worshipping the Lord with fellow believers. E.g. A history book describes Pilgrims as folks who loved to travel by sea. Seriously? They came to America for the freedom of worship. I am afraid that some textbook writers in future may describe Christians as folks who love to get together once a week to have fellowship; as the folks who love to sing songs; as the folks who love to give offerings. No, all these are on the surface. The center of worship is God. He is the main focus and object of worship. That’s why even when we get nothing out of sermon, we still worship the Lord.
Let me tell you about the true nature of worship: worship is an encounter with God where we acknowledge who God is in our life (Creator); and we acknowledge who we are before God (Creature). E.g. Heavenly worship in Revelation 4 & 5. Every creature, including the 24 elders and four living creatures, along with angels and multitudes of God’s saints, worships God in His throne prostrating before Him (Revelation 5:12-14). They all declare, “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory, honor, and power” (Revelation 4:11). What about Jesus? In the same Heavenly worship, they too worship Him declaring, “The Lamb of God who is worthy of power, riches, wisdom, might, honor, glory, and blessing” (Revelation 5:12). “He is Lord of lords and King of kings” (Revelation 17:14). “At the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth” (Philippians 2:10). That’s how majestic our God is. That’s how great our Christ is. That’s the Christ we follow and serve. That’s the God who has called us to be a part of His kingdom.
We are called by God: Have you ever played “bingo?” As you play, have you not always desired to be called the winner? How exciting it is to be chosen! How much more exciting it is to be chosen and called by God to be in His family! The sad reality is this: some believers have no idea of this blessing to be called by God.
God has called us from darkness to light; from bondage of sin and death to freedom; from fear to love; from condemnation to forgiveness; and from death to life. Furthermore, in Christ, He has adopted us into His family and made us His own sons and daughters (Ephesians 1:5). If God is the King, what would it make us to be? Princes and princesses, right? Hello, how many of us feel that way let alone realizing this great blessing?
It gets better. God’s choice is intentional. God hasn’t chosen us on the spur of moment. Rather, He carefully thought it through and executed the adoption. Listen to God’s Word: He has chosen us to be His children even before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). Mind boggling, isn’t it? Yes, long before we were even conceived in mother’s womb, He has chosen us to be His children. God knows this. Jesus knows this. The Holy Spirit knows it, too. God’s Word confirms it. Angels know this. Even the devil and his followers know this. Yet, do you? God has not chosen you by number, either. He knows you by name. He called out your name and invited you to join the family. It can’t get any better than that, can it? Such a God expects us His children to lead a life worthy of His calling. That leads us to the final part.
Life worthy of God’s calling: E.g. The story goes that a young boy was brought before Alexander the Great for stealing a horse. Alexander saw how young he was and heard his story and decided he would go easy on him. Getting ready to release him, Alexander asked the young boy, “What is your name?” He replied, “Alexander, sir.” Alexander the Great was furious and asked him again, “What is your name?” The boy, this time with fear in his voice said, “Alexander, sir.” In anger, Alexander the Great threw the boy to the ground pointed at him and said, “Boy, change your conduct, or change your name.”
Think of the life worthy of God’s name. We carry the name of Christ. We are Christians. Are you proud of the name you carry? Is Christ proud of you carrying that name?
Let’s not forget: You and I represent God and Christ. We are His children. We belong to God. We belong to Christ. We are a Christian. By the way, let’s not be ashamed of being a Christian. We are living in a society where the mockery and persecution of Christianity is ever increasing. Let’s not be ashamed of Christ whom we follow. In fact, if we are ashamed of Him before people, Christ will be ashamed of us in front of the angels (Mark 8:38). Let’s be proud of the name we carry. We are a Christian!
Now, God considered us worthy of calling, and the same God calls us to live a life worthy of His calling. In terms of what entails of the life worthy of Christ’s name, such as humility, gentleness, patience, and love, you can find them in today’s texts. Do your homework.
Now, I am going to close my sermon with a story of David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17).
One day two armies gathered for battle: Philistines and Israel. “The Philistines stood on the mountain on one side while Israel stood on the mountain on the other side, with the valley between them. 4 Then a champion came out from the armies of the Philistines named Goliath whose height was [about 10 foot tall]. 5 …a bronze helmet on his head,…clothed with scale-armor which weighed [125 pounds] of bronze. 6 He also had bronzegreaves on his legs and a bronze javelin slung between his shoulders. 7 The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and the head of his spear weighed [15 pounds] of iron; his shield-carrier also walked before him. 8 He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why do you come out to draw up in battle array? Am I not the Philistine and you servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves and let him come down to me. 9 If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will become your servants; but if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall become our servants and serve us.” 10 Again the Philistine said, “…; give me a man that we may fight together.”
6 The Philistine came forward morning and evening for forty days and took his stand. 24 When all the men of Israel saw the man, they fled from him and were greatly afraid.
One day David delivered a care package for his three brothers who were in the army of Israel. “23 As he was talking with them, behold, …Goliath, was coming up from the army of the Philistines, and he spoke these same words; and David heard them and said, “For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should taunt the armies of the living God?”
40 He took his stick in his hand and chose for himself five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in the shepherd’s bag which he had, even in his pouch, and his sling was in his hand; and he approached the Philistine.
42 When [Goliath] looked and saw David, he disdained him; for he was but a youth, and ruddy, with a handsome appearance.43 [He] said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And [He] cursed David by his gods.44 …said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the sky and the beasts of the field.” 45 Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted.46 This day the Lord will deliver you up into my hands, and I will strike you down and remove your head from you. And I will give the dead bodies of the army of the Philistines this day to the birds of the sky and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel,47 and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not deliver by sword or by spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and He will give you into our hands.”
The rest is history. I want to be that David, the man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). I want to live a life that is worthy of God’s name and His calling. I want my God to be proud of my words and actions like He was with David’s. I pray that all of us live the life worthy of God’s calling.