Helping Families

The people of Manahawkin Methodist helped families who were temporarily out of their houses to feel home again. During the week of August 2-9, three families stayed with us in God’s love and care.


Special thanks

to all who made this possible

for the families!

Sermon: No Good Thing Is Withheld

Today Pastor Choi continues his series on God’s Adequacy as our sovereign Benefactor.  God provides us all things good with Christ.  All things ‘good’ are defined by God not by us.  All things good never means a plethora of possessions, either.  It rather has everything to do with being with God, knowing God, and enjoying Him.   Finally, Pastor Choi exhorts God’s people to give God all they have—their complete trust and absolute loyalty.

 

   No Good Thing Is Withheld

 

 

Following is a summary of the sermon:

 

No Good Thing Is Withheld                                    Romans 8:32

He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? (Romans 8:32, NASB)

Introduction

Last Sunday, I talked about the adequacy of God as our sovereign Protector.  When it comes down to human fears, God is greater than all of them and all the challenges we face in our lives.  As our protector, He never forgets or overlooks our needs.  He listens to our cries.  Our trust in God surely quells the panic.

Today, we will continue on God’s adequacy as our sovereign Benefactor.  He provides all things we need: spiritual, emotional, and physical.  Today’s Scripture, verse 32, declares that God who didn’t spare His own Son for our salvation never withholds anything good from us both in this life and in the life to come.  Do you believe that with no doubt?  I do.  In fact, I asked myself: Based on my life experience, will I solemnly testify that God indeed withholds nothing good from me?  The answer is a resounding “YES!”

Contents

Let me read to you today’s verse one more time: He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?

God did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all: Why did God send His own Son Jesus to the cross to die on our behalf?  Because He loves us.  Why would He give us all things freely?  Because He loves us.  God is love and His love is the foundation of our relationship with God.

Think for a moment.  Don’t you think it easier for God to keep to Himself the most precious possession and give us the rest?  That’s what the noblest parents in the world would do for others: having to choose between their own children and their most cherished possessions, they would give up possessions holding onto their children.  In fact, that’s what we all would do: between our children and anything else we cherish, we would give up everything but keep our children.  Here’s the twist.  God didn’t.  He delivered over His own Son His most precious Child as a ransom for us.  That tells us how much He loves us when we don’t deserve such love and grace.  By the way, the word “deliver” is to hand over.  It is the same word used when Judas Iscariot delivered Jesus over to the Jewish authorities.  God loved us so much that He handed over His own Son to death.   He didn’t spare His own Son so as to spare us from the judgment over our sins and iniquities.  Think about that!  How amazing that is!  If God loves us that much, Paul says, will He also not give us all other things free?

How will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Verse 32 reminds us that God freely gives us all things good with Christ.  Key phrase: with Him.  All things come to us with Jesus in a package deal.  Christ, God’s Gift, is the box.  All things are in it.  You accept the box, open it, and enjoy everything in it.  Same thing with Christ and good things.  Accept Christ and receive all things good in Him, all the blessings that come along with Him and in Him.  Reject Christ, and reject all God’s blessings.  You cannot have Christ without all things good. You cannot have all good things apart from Christ, either.  They are inseparable.  Here’s a good story.  The Painting of the Son.

A wealthy man and his son loved to collect rare works of art.  They had everything in their collection, from Picasso to Raphael.  They would often sit together and admire the great works of art.  When the Vietnam conflict broke out, the son went to war.  He was very courageous and died in battle while rescuing another soldier.  The father was notified and grieved deeply for his only son.  About a month later, just before Christmas, there was a knock at the door.  A young man stood at the door with a large package in his hands.

He said, ‘Sir, you don’t know me, but I am the soldier for whom your son gave his life.  He saved many lives that day, and he was carrying me to safety when a bullet struck him in the heart and he died instantly.  He often talked about you, and your love for art.’  The young man held out the package.  ‘I know this isn’t much.  I’m not really a great artist, but I think your son would have wanted you to have this.’

The father opened the package.  It was a portrait of his son, painted by the young man.  He stared in awe at the way the soldier had captured the personality of his son in the painting.  The father was so drawn to the eyes that his own eyes welled up with tears.  He thanked the young man and offered to pay him for the picture.  ‘Oh, no sir, I could never repay what your son did for me.  It’s a gift.’

The father hung the portrait over his mantle.  Every time visitors came to his home he took them to see the portrait of his son before he showed them any of the other great works he had collected.

The man died a few months later.  There was to be a great auction of his paintings.   Many influential people gathered, excited over seeing the great paintings and having an opportunity to purchase one for their collection.  On the platform sat the painting of the son. The auctioneer pounded his gavel.  ‘We will start the bidding with this picture of the son.  Who will bid for this picture?’  There was silence.  Then a voice in the back of the room shouted, ‘We want to see the famous paintings. Skip this one.’  But the auctioneer persisted.  ‘Will somebody bid for this painting?  Who will start the bidding? $100, $200?’  Another voiced angrily.  ‘We didn’t come to see this painting.  We came to see the Van Gogh’s, the Rembrandt’s.  Get on with the real bids!’  But still the auctioneer continued.  ‘The son!  The son!  Who’ll take the son?’

Finally, a voice came from the very back of the room.  It was the longtime gardener of the man and his son.  ‘I’ll give $10 for the painting.’ Being a poor man, it was all he could afford.  ‘We have $10, who will bid $20?’  ‘Give it to him for $10.  Let’s see the masters, [someone shouted.]  ‘$10 is the bid, won’t someone bid $20?’  The crowd was becoming angry.  They didn’t want the picture of the son.  They wanted the more worthy investments for their collections.  The auctioneer pounded the gavel. ‘Going once, twice, SOLD for $10!’

A man sitting on the second row shouted, ‘Now let’s get on with the collection!’  The auctioneer laid down his gavel.  ‘I’m sorry, the auction is over.’ ‘What about the paintings?’ ‘I am sorry.  When I was called to conduct this auction, I was told of a secret stipulation in the will.  I was not allowed to reveal that stipulation until this time.  Only the painting of the son would be auctioned.  Whoever bought that painting would inherit the entire estate, including the paintings.  The man who took the son gets everything!’  (Story : The Painting of The Son http://www.turnbacktogod.com/story-the-painting-of-the-son/#ixzz3icdLpK7H)

All things ‘Good’:  Two points.  First, ask yourself a question: in whose definition are all things ‘good?’  In ours or in God’s?  By the way, in whose definition the Bible calls things good?  Of course, in God’s.  Come to think of it, God’s definition of good things is far better and safer than ours.  His understanding is eternally superior to our understanding of what is good.  What we may think good may not be the case in God’s sight.  What God thinks good for us may appear terrible to us.  E.g. Cross is the worst punishment in human eyes, yet the best gift in God’s eyes.  One day Jesus told “His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. 22 Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” 23 But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s” (Matthew 16: 21-23, NASB).  I would rather rely on God’s interpretation of what is good for me than my own, because He knows best, He is never changing, and He sees the entire picture.  Our human understanding is limited, always changing, and not reliable at all times.

Next, ‘all things good’ never means a plethora of material possessions.  E.g. Jesus—we cannot serve God and money at the same time [Matthew 6:24].  The love of money is the root of all sorts of evil [1 Timothy 6:10].  E.g. Lottery winners.  At first, all of them thought wealth would make them happy after winning multi million dollars.  Opposite are the facts.  Many of the couples get divorced afterwards.  All of them squander their winning dollars.  Relationships go sour.  Money made their lives miserable.  E.g. 2.  A mafia gangster made a million dollars in one day.  In his apartment, he opened his briefcase full of cash.  He flung all these hundred dollar bills in the air laughing.  However, a few seconds later, as the money landed on the floor, he began to sob uncontrollably feeling so empty in his soul.  Here’s excellent advice from Paul to those who want to be rich in the present world: fix your hope not on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy (1 Timothy 6:17).  When it comes down to good things, we’d be far better off listening to God and His definition.

J. I. Packer explains on this phrase ‘all things good’: “The passion for possessions has to be cast out of us in order to let the ‘all things’ in.  For this phrase has to do with knowing and enjoying God, and not with anything else.  The meaning of ‘he will give us all things’ can be put thus; one day we shall see that nothing—literally nothing—which could have increased our eternal happiness has been denied us, and that nothing—literally nothing—that could have reduced that happiness has been left with us (p. 270, Knowing God).” God with us is the ultimate source of our happiness (Hebrews 13:6).

What are things ‘good’ in the Bible?  The best gift of all is salvation in Christ (Hebrews 6:9).  None of us fully understand now or appreciate how great this gift of salvation in Christ is.  May God open our eyes to see how blessed we are and to see His glory (2 Corinthians 4:6).  In fact, many non-believers mock at salvation.  E.g. A friend of mine distributed gospel tracts at a fair: a couple laughed at him saying, “Sure, we will go to Hell!  We will burn in there!” They walked away laughing.  We will find out who’s going to laugh in the end.  Folks, if you have nothing to be thankful for, begin with this one.  Thank God every day for your salvation in Christ.

Now, I discovered in the Bible things that are good as the following three (not limited to, but including):

  1.  Basic necessities: food, shelter, and clothing.  And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).  Paul to Timothy: Be content with what you have.  If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content (1 Timothy 6:8).  Be free from the love of money, being content with what you have (Hebrews 13:5).
  2. Means to do good works.  E.g. Grace and strength.  And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed (2 Corinthians 9:8).
  3. Anything that brings us closer to God.  E.g. the Word of God—the sweetness of God’s Word (Hebrews 6:5).  How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!  (Psalm 119:103).  E.g. 2.  Good heavenly gifts (Hebrews 6:4) and fruit of the Holy Spirit such as peace, joy, love, …self control (Galatians 5:22-23).

Conclusion

Many of us dither over giving our absolute loyalty to God.  Why?  Simply because of our unbelief in God.  Let’s call a spade a spade.

Packer analyzes: “We are not persuaded of the adequacy of God to provide for all the needs….  Therefore, we feel obliged to break the first commandment just a little, by withdrawing a certain amount of our time and energy from serving God in order to serve mammon.  This, at bottom, seems to be what is wrong with us.  We are afraid to go all the way in accepting the authority of God, because of our secret uncertainty as to his adequacy to look after us if we do (Ibid.).

E.g. A huge crowd was watching the famous tightrope walker, Blondin, cross Niagara Falls one day in 1860.  He crossed it numerous times—a 1,000 foot trip 160 feet above the raging waters.  He not only walked across it; he also pushed a wheelbarrow across it.  One little boy just stared in amazement.  So after completing a crossing the fellow looked at that little boy and he said, “Do you believe I could take a person across in the wheelbarrow without falling?” “Yes, sir, I really do.’  The fellow says, “Well then, get in, son” [Paul Lee Tan, Encyclopedia of 7,700 Illustrations].

Do you fear that “God lacks strength or wisdom for fulfilling His declared purpose for you?” (Packer, p. 271).  Then, ponder on the truths that “God created the worlds, rules them, and ordains all that takes place, even the fall of a sparrow” (Ibid.).

Do you fear that God may disappoint you?  Then, please listen to Romans 8:28, “In everything God works for good with those who love Him.” Never think that “you will be the first exception, the first person to find God wavering and failing to keep his word” (ibid.).

Do you doubt God’s constancy?  Remember God never changes: Malachi 3:6, Jesus is the same: Hebrews 13:8.

Give God all you have–your complete trust and absolute loyalty.  Never doubt that He is your sovereign Provider.  Hold back no longer.  Dwell on God’s promises.   He will not withhold anything good from you.

Amen.

Sermon: If God Is for Us

Today pastor Choi talks about God’s adequacy.  More specifically, he focuses on the truth that God is our sovereign Protector (Romans 8: 31).  He is bigger than any fears we may have, greater than any challenges we may face, and able to see us through any hardships we may encounter in our daily lives.  He exhorts God’s people to daily claim God’s promise in Romans 8:31: If God is for us, who is against us?

 

    If God Is for Us

 

 

Following is a summary of the sermon:

 

 

If God Is for Us

Romans 8:31-39   New American Standard Bible (NASB)

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?36 Just as it is written, For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Introduction

One of my favorite books is by J. I. Packer entitled “Knowing God.”  Based on his book, for the next four Sundays, I am going to do a sermon series on the adequacy of God: God is sufficient for all human needs.

Here’s a brief overview.   Today, part 1 of 4, we will focus on the truth that God is our sovereign Protector (v. 31).  He is bigger than any fears we may have, greater than any challenges we may face, and able to see us through any hardships we may encounter in our daily lives.  Next Sunday, we will discover that God is our sovereign Benefactor who withholds nothing good from us (v. 32).  The following Sunday, we will see God as sovereign Champion and Judge who offers salvation based on grace.  No one can condemn us when God justifies us (vv. 33-34).  Finally, we will see God as our sovereign Keeper who keeps us eternally secure in Christ.  Nothing will separate us from the love of God (v. 39).

I am convinced that at the end of my sermon series all of us will be blessed.  We will grow in faith and be eternally grateful for our God who is sufficient for all our needs; physical, emotional, and spiritual.

Contents

If anyone is qualified to talk about life, I believe Apostle Paul is the one.  He begins today’s text saying, “What then shall we say to these things?”(v. 31).  What are ‘these things’ that he refers to?  He is referring to all the things that he’s been through (moments of temptation and condemnation (Romans 8:2), moments of living in the flesh (Romans 8:9, 12), moments of fear (Romans 8:15), moments of suffering (Romans 8:18), moments of weakness and loss of directions (Romans 8:26), moments of disappointment and doubt (Romans 8:28).  In fact, he himself lived through more hardships and life-threatening situations than anyone I know (even more so than Job).

Here’s the list of what he’s been through: afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger (2 Corinthians 6:4-5).  Listen to him in his own words:  24 Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. 26 I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; 27 I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure (2 Corinthians 11:24-27).   After living through such harsh environments for years, he says, “What can I tell you about life?”

Let’s think of the environment we are living in today.  If you choose one word to characterize today’s world, what word would it be?   Here is mine: fear.  We are bombarded daily with message of fear, are we not?   E.g. NY Times Headlines (8/5/2015): ISIS or Al Qaeda?  American Officials Split Over Top Terror Threat.

DefinitionFear is “the bad feeling that you have when you are in danger, when something bad might happen, or when a particular thing frightens you” [Oxford Dictionary]. 

Fears are real, aren’t they?  Having fears is also a common human experience.  From ancient times, everyone with no exception has experienced fears and all of us currently have at least one or two.  For instance, the fear of death, the fear of losing health, the fear of losing our job, the fear of losing loved ones, the fear of the dark, spiders, snakes, the fear of flying, the fear of being a failure, the fear of loneliness, the fear of depression, the fear of heights, the fear of the terrorist attacks, the fear of bullies, the fear of rejection, the list goes on.

All of us have fears.  The real question is how can we handle them?  How do we counter the forces of fear and circumstances that are massed against us?  In today’s text, Paul points out an eternal truth that we can apply to our daily lives.  With the greatest conviction, he declares that God is the solution to all of our problems including fears.  Numerous times in the Bible, God says to His children, “Do not be afraid, for I am with you.”  Therefore, when we are afraid, we must declare as Paul did, “God is with me.  I am not afraid.  If God is for me, who is against me?”

My testimony: twenty some years ago, I was gripped with the fear of the future for my daughter.  God promised that He will be there for my daughter and take care of her, even long after her parents are gone.  Ever since He has kept His promise and He will do so until the Day of the Lord.

Let me read verse 31 one more time to you: If God is for us, who is against us?

What does it mean—God is for us?

It means God is committed to be our Protector.  It means that God is on our side.  It also means that no humans or fears can mess us up because God is with us.  When we are afraid, we can turn to and cry unto Him.  When our enemies see God with us, they will flee away from us; our fears will melt away within us.  God is the perfect answer to human fears.  He is the best solution that works always and forever!  As long as God is our sovereign Protector, no fear can crush us.  Don’t believe in a lie that no one can protect you from fears. God can and He will as long as you trust Him in faith.

Remember this: not everyone in the world can claim this promise that God is for them.  You have to be in relationship with God to be able to say, “God is for me.”  Why?  Because this promise of protection is only (let me repeat only) meant for God’s elect (v. 33), not for all.  God is only committed to those who worship and serve Him as the Lord.  God’s protection comes through His commitment to the covenant between Him and His people made.  The words ‘covenant’ and ‘covenantal relationship’ deserve our attention here.  In fact, the Bible is all about covenant relationship between God and His children.

Covenant Relationship

A little bit of historical information on the suzerainty covenant clause here would help us understand our “covenantal” relationship with God: A typical ancient suzerainty document begins with identifying the two parties in the covenant.  One is the suzerain and the other is the vassal state.  One is the more powerful state and the benefactor and the other is the weaker state and the beneficiary.  It declares that “the suzerain is for the vassal state…..”

In Genesis 17: 1, 7-9, we see the same type of covenant declared by God to Abraham.  “I am God Almighty,…. I will establish my covenant ….between me and you…to be your God and the God of your descendants after you….I will be their God…You must keep my covenant.”

Who is ‘God’ here?

He is God the Almighty.  He is God the Creator who created the universe and everything in it.  He is God the Sustainer.  All-powerful God.  All-knowing God.  All-present God.  He is God who cannot deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13).  He remains faithful even when we are not (2 Timothy 2:13).  He cannot lie and keeps His promises for His children (Titus 1:2).  He is God who predestined us to be His children and to inherit the Kingdom of God for eternity (Ephesians 1:5). He is God who loves the world so that He sent His own Son to the cross on our behalf (John 3:16). He is God who began a good work in us, and will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).

Who is ‘us’­­­­ here? 

We are God’s covenant people in Christ.  We are His children redeemed by the blood of Christ.  We are heirs of His kingdom: Gentiles or Jews, women or men, all who have faith in Jesus.

You see, we become children of God through our repentance of sins and believing in Jesus as our Savior and Lord.  That is how we become the covenant people of God.  Once established, the covenant between God and us abides for eternity, for God keeps it in being (p. 261, Knowing God, J.I. Packer).  In this covenant, God declares that He would uphold and protect us when people and circumstances are threatening to us.  In this covenant, God promises that He would provide for us as long as our earthly pilgrimage lasts.  To this covenant, God commits Himself that He would not leave us until we become more like Him in our character.  In this same covenant, in turn, we declare our faithfulness and loyalty to God in Heaven.  We promise that we would obey Him and keep His commandments.

What it means to be able to say “God is for me”?

I believe Paul got the idea of “God is for us” from Psalmist who says, “God is for me.”  Listen. Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call; This I know, that God is for me (Psalm 56:9).

 To say that God is for me means:

  1. God will not forget or overlook our needs.
  2. When we cry unto God, He listens and the enemies turn back.
  3. It gives us the basis for the trust that quells panic (Ibid., p. 262).

Conclusion 

Remember the story of David and Goliath?   David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied” (1 Samuel 17:45) .

When the Goliath of fears, worries, and doubts assails you, don’t run away.  Instead, walk straight toward him and counter with God’s truth: if God is for me, who is against me?   Claim this powerful promise of God every day.  Nothing can crush you, because for you is God the Sovereign Protector.  Amen.

Sermon: Seek Justice

Today Pastor Choi talks about seeking justice.  Religion without a humble walk with God is nothing.  Worship rituals without repentant hearts are futile.  Prayers without justice go unanswered.  At the end of the sermon, he exhorts the congregation to start living out justice every day including prayers of justice for our nation.

 

   Seek Justice

 

Following is a summary of the sermon:

 

Seek Justice

Isaiah 1:10-20   New American Standard Bible (NASB)

God Has Had Enough

10 Hear the word of the Lord,
You rulers of Sodom;
Give ear to the instruction of our God,
You people of Gomorrah.
11 “What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me?”
Says the Lord.
“I
have had enough of burnt offerings of rams
And the fat of fed cattle;
And I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs or goats.
12 “When you come to appear before Me,
Who requires
of you this trampling of My courts?
13 “Bring your worthless offerings no longer,
Incense is an abomination to Me.
New moon and sabbath, the calling of assemblies—
I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly.
14 “I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts,
They have become a burden to Me;
I am weary of bearing them.
15 “So when you spread out your hands in prayer,
I will hide My eyes from you;
Yes, even though you multiply prayers,
I will not listen.
Your hands are
covered with blood.

16 “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean;
Remove the evil of your deeds from My sight.
Cease to do evil,
17 Learn to do good;
Seek justice,
Reprove the ruthless,
Defend the orphan,
Plead for the widow.

“Let Us Reason”

18 “Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the Lord,
“Though your sins are as scarlet,
They will be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They will be like wool.
19 “If you consent and obey,
You will eat the best of the land;
20 “But if you refuse and rebel,
You will be devoured by the sword.”
Truly, the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

Introduction

Historical Background

  • Let’s time travel back to the land of Palestine 2800 years ago—around the 8th Century B.C.  Israel back then struggled for its survival like a smoldering wick, sandwiched between two power houses: Assyria in the north and Egypt in the south.  For years, it was subject to Assyria and would pay heavy tributes year after year.  It was often harassed by neighboring kingdoms as well.
  • Enter Isaiah the prophet: he was active in his ministry of prophecy during this tumultuous time (740-700 B.C.).  His service stretched over the reign of four kings in the Judean Kingdom: King Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah.
  • Over these years, Isaiah painfully witnessed the desolation of his home land from two major invasions by neighboring kingdoms (Syro-Ephramite War, 735-732 B.C./Hezekiah’s Revolt against Assyria 705-701 B.C.).  God describes the scene as this: “Your country is desolate, your cities burned with fire; your fields are stripped by foreigners, laid waste as when overthrown by strangers” (Isaiah 1:7). God’s Message to the Rulers: Morality over Security
  • Today’s text was written in that geo-political setting.  It begins with God’s utmost concern for Israel: moral decay.  God calls Israel sinful nation (v. 4) and His people wicked—as wicked as Sodom and Gomorrah: “Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom; Give ear to the instruction of our God, you people of Gomorrah” (v. 10).  Why?  Because “Your hands are covered with blood” (v. 15)—which means that they are accountable for murder and violent oppression in their land.  Therefore, God says, “Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean” (v. 16)—in other words, repent.
  • Two words stand out:  Seek justice (v. 17).  Please notice here: God’s urgent message to the rulers and people of this fragile kingdom is justice.  Why not national security?   Why not more protection?   One may wonder.
  • Now, let’s pretend that you are national security adviser to the king back in the 8th century in Jerusalem.  The king trusts you.  All he wants is independence and lasting peace and security from neighboring kingdoms.   What advice would you give him?
  • You might want to say: Let’s strengthen our diplomatic ties.  We need to build up our military power.  Let’s build a mighty army with more chariots and horses.  We need more fortresses and so forth.
  • God’s advice for the same challenge was quite different: repent and seek justice.   Why justice?  Because, justice is the foundation of prosperity and security of any nation.  Nation is built upon justice.  Without justice no nation stands.Without Justice No Nation Stands
  • Definition of justice: just behavior or treatment.  The quality of being right and fair.  The administration of the law or authority in maintaining this (Oxford Dictionary)
  • Let me repeat what I said: without justice no nation stands.
  • What is the ruler’s number one job in the land?  Economy?  No.  National security?  No.   Both of them are important.  But, neither of them is the number one job of the ruler.   According to God’s Word, the ruler’s number one job is to administer justice and righteousness (1 Kings 10:9).  Do what is just and right, not just in human standards, but also in God’s sight.  Throughout the Scriptures, God commands the rulers to do justice and walk humbly with Him (Micah 6:8).  Then, what they look for such as ‘economic prosperity and national security’ will be added to the nation (Matthew 6:33).
  • Let’s check out what the Scriptures say about God in the business of justice.  The LORD is a God of justice (Isaiah 30:18).  Justice is the foundation of God’s throne (Psalm 89:14).  God loves justice (Psalm 99:4).  Justice is the core of God’s being.  So is it of our being (created by God with attributes of creativity, love, and justice).
  • God says to every ruler: Do you want prosperity?  Administer justice first.  Do you want security?  Make sure justice is done.  Do you want stability?  Do justice.  The king gives stability to the land by justice (Proverbs 29:4).  “How do I do justice?” the ruler may ask.  “Have fear of Me, be accountable to Me, walk with Me, and honor Me,” God answers.  In fact, this is excellent advice to the rulers of any nation in the world.  We must pray for our national leaders that they walk in the reverence of God (healthy fear of the Lord).  Why?  Because justice cannot be done without the fear of God.  E.g. One thing in common among corrupt leaders: lack of fear of God.  Stalin.  Hitler. Saddam Hussein.  Kim Jong-Un.God Wants You to Seek Justice
  • Let’s turn our attention to ourselves.  Terribly mistaken would we be if we think justice is only for the rulers.  God wants everyone, especially His own children, to do justice in everyday life (v. 10).Worship and Prayers
  • In today’s text God makes three references in the context of justice: sacrifices (v. 11) (offerings), assemblies (v. 13) (worship services), and prayers (v. 15).  These acts of piety are important, God says, but they are not good when His people do evil.  Without justice practiced in our lives, they are considered nothing (actually, worse, an abomination) in God’s eyes (v. 13).  Justice completes your personal piety.
  • Listen.  Religion without a humble walk with God is nothing.  Worship rituals without repentant hearts are futile.  Prayers without justice go unanswered.
  • Do you remember faith without works is dead (James 2:26)?  Faith and works go hand in hand.  So do personal devotion and justice.  They are inseparable.
  • E.g.  John Wesley promoted the abolition of slavery in the late 18th century in England.  Following is his letter to William Wilberforce Member of Parliament who spearheaded the complete abolition in the British Empire:
  • To William Wilberforce  [*Athanasius: bishop of Alexandria in the 4 Century, A.D., five times exiled fighting for orthodoxy. He spearheaded Nicene Creed.  Church adopted his opinion on the number of books in New Testament Canon (27 books)].
  • BALAM, February 24, 1791. DEAR SIR, — Unless the divine power has raised you up to be as *Athanasius contra mundum, [‘Athanasius against the world.’] I see not how you can go through your glorious enterprise in opposing that execrable villainy, which is the scandal of religion, of England, and of human nature. Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils. But if God be for you, who can be against you? Are all of them together stronger than God? O be not weary of well doing.  Go on, in the name of God and in the power of His might, till even American slavery (the vilest that ever saw the sun) shall vanish away before it.
  • Reading this morning a tract wrote by a poor African, I was particularly struck by that circumstance, that a man who has a black skin, being wronged or outraged by a white man, can have no redress; it being a law in all our Colonies that the oath of a black against a white goes for nothing. What villainy is this!
  • That He who has guided you from youth up may continue to strengthen you in this and all things is the prayer of, dear sir,     
  • Your affectionate servant.  John Wesley (http://wesley.nnu.edu/john_wesley/letters/1791.htm)
  • John Wesley died on 2 March, 1791.  This was the last letter Wesley wrote—Wiki.
  • 42 years after this letter, in 1833, Wilberforce heard that “the passage of the Act [Slavery Abolition Act: 1833] through Parliament was assured.”  He died three days later (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Wilberforce).Remember justice begins with you and me.  Here are the Action points for this week:Stop
  • Doing what is wrong (Isaiah 1:16).
  • Oppressing the powerless (Zechariah 7:10).
  • Thinking evil of each other (Zechariah 7:10).Start
  • Showing mercy and compassion to one another (Zechariah 7:9).
  • Learning to do what is good (Isaiah 1:17).
  • Encouraging the oppressed (Isaiah 1:18).  E.g. Letters to the persecuted sponsored by the Voice of the Martyrs
  • Defending the cause of the orphans (Isaiah 1:18).
  • Pleading the case of the widows (Isaiah 1:18).Conclusion
    Our congregation, starting today for a week, hosts homeless families in our area.  I am very thankful for and excited with this great opportunity to defend the cause of the poor.  It is a good start.   Please pray for the success.  May God help us continue doing what is right and just in His sight for the people in our communities.  Let’s pray together “Prayers of Justice.”   Amen.Prayers of Justice (* all found in Scripture below)L: Almighty God, righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne.

    C: You love justice.  You bless those who conduct their affairs with justice.

    L: You discipline us only with justice and mercy.

    C: You will judge the world with justice.

    A: Many seek the favor of a ruler, but it is from You, O Lord, that we get justice.

    L: Let justice be a light to all nations.

    C: Let justice roll like a river in America.

    L: Endow our leaders with justice, O God.

    C: Help them not to pervert justice by showing partiality or receiving bribes.

    A: Help them not to be partial to the guilty or deprive the innocent of justice.

    L: Help our Congress never to write oppressive laws.

    C: Let our judges maintain justice in the courts.

    L: Make our judges aware that they are watched by a higher Judge of all.

    C: Grant our President discernment in administering justice.  Let his mouth not betray justice.

    L: You speak to us, “Make sure justice is done.”

    C:  We will “Help the down-and-out; Stand up for the homeless;
    Go to bat for the defenseless
    ” (The Message Bible).

    A: Help us not to deny justice to the poor.  In Christ’s name, we pray.  Amen.

Sermon: Faith

Lay Speaker Louise Jones delivered her sermon on Sunday, July 19, on the topic of faith based on Ephesians 6 16 “Above all taking the shield of Faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.”

 

     Faith

Sermon: Ways to Know Jesus

Today Pastor Choi talks about ways to know Jesus.  It is God’s will for God’s children to know Jesus.  The knowledge of Jesus is a matter of eternal life and death.  He then explains three major ways to know Jesus: 1. We know Jesus through the Holy Spirit.  2. We know Jesus through the Scripture.  3. We know Jesus through prayer.  He exhorts the congregation to press on to know Jesus throughout this year following those three ways.

 

  Ways to Know Jesus

 

 

 

Following is a summary of the sermon:

 

Ways to Know Jesus
John 10:11-15   New American Standard Bible (NASB)
11 “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.12 He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me,15 even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.

Introduction

God knows us quite well—everything about you and me.  So does Jesus.  So does the Holy Spirit.  In fact, the all-knowing God knows us to the deepest secrets of our hearts and minds.   We rarely doubt that.   How about us knowing God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit in turn?  How much do we know Jesus?  Many of us would say, “Well, I am not sure that I know Him well.”  How critical is it, anyway, for us to know Jesus?  It is a matter of eternal life and death.  That’s how critical it is to know Him.

In John 8:19, Jesus says to the Pharisees (religious leaders then), “You know neither Me nor My Father; if you knew Me, you would know My Father also.”  Knowing Jesus is the prerequisite for knowing God.  We know God through Jesus.   If we know Jesus, we would know God the Father also.  If we don’t know Jesus, we don’t know God, either.  In Jeremiah 4:22, God calls Israel His people fools because they don’t know God.  If we don’t know God, we are fools, too!  We are pathetic without the knowledge of God!  We perish if we don’t have the knowledge of God (Hosea 4:6).  We must know God.  We must know Jesus.  We must know the Holy Spirit (John 14:17).

That’s why I designated this year to be the Year of Knowing Jesus (T.Y.O.K.J.).  When we were not a believer in Christ, we were outside salvation.  Back then, God would overlook our ignorance and indifference to the knowledge of Jesus.  Now, we are in Jesus.  We have salvation through Him.  We are called to follow Jesus.  We are called to know Him.  Therefore, we have no excuses now not to know Him.  In fact, it is God’s will for us to know Jesus and His will.  God wants and expects us to know Jesus so that we may keep His commandments. Moreover, the knowledge of Jesus would keep us from being deceived with the wrong image of Jesus.  E.g. False image of Jesus such as the political liberator in South America, Jesus as spiritual guru, and Jesus as Father Christmas.

Contents

If you agree with me that we must know Jesus for our salvation, the next question would be: how can we know Jesus?  This morning, I am going to present three ways through which we can know Jesus.  By faithfully following these three ways, we will know Jesus and we will avoid deceptions in our journey to Heaven.

First, we know Jesus through the Holy Spirit.  Some folks attempt to know Jesus through the wisdom of the world (1 Corinthians 1:21) such as history and literature, yet no matter how hard they try in human wisdom and knowledge, they will never find the true Jesus.  They may pick up the partial image of Christ, but never gain the whole true image of Jesus.  E.g. In my college days, I took a course “Comparative Religion.”  The instructor had us study several religions of the world: Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Taoism, Islam, and even Shamanism to name a few.  Then, he asked the students to choose the truth among them.  At best, I was distracted from the truth.  At worst, I failed to discover the true image of Jesus that way.  Instead of helping me, it threw me into further confusion.  There’s only one way, God declares, for us to find the true image of Jesus.  That is ‘a spirit of wisdom and revelation’ (Ephesians 1:17that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him).  That spirit is the Holy Spirit.   He is the spirit of truth.  And, Jesus is the truth (John 14:6).  The Holy Spirit’s job is to reveal Jesus the truth to us and to glorify Him (John 16:14).  His responsibility is to teach God’s children everything about Jesus (John 14:26).  If you want to learn mathematics, you need a math teacher.  Likewise, if we want to know Jesus, we need the Holy Spirit the Teacher.

Now, many of us would say, “Well, I am not really familiar with the Holy Spirit.  Where do I start?”  Here’s what you do.  First, recognize that the Holy Spirit is God’s Spirit who dwells in you (John 14:17).  Then, you acknowledge His role as teacher by saying, “Holy Spirit, You are my teacher.  I need You.  Please reveal to me the true Jesus in the ways that I would understand.”  Then, you begin to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit in you.  Sometimes, we get confused with the other voices in us that seem to be the voice of the Holy Spirit.      E.g. New Age promotes the small voice in you is the Holy Spirit (when it is anything but the Holy Spirit).  Remember: God commands us not to believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God (1 John 4:1).  Our responsibility is to test every voice in us and accept only the true voice of the Holy Spirit and reject all others.  Now, at first, you may not be able to distinguish the Holy Spirit from other voices, but as you practice day in day out, you will become familiar with the ways He leads you.  The more you practice, the better you get.  Eventually, you will be able to discern the true ways the Holy Spirit guides you.

How do you tell the Holy Spirit from the other voices in you?  The bottom-line is this: the Holy Spirit never contradicts Jesus or the Scripture (John 16:14–He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you.)  In other words, you test the Holy Spirit’s voice against Jesus and the Scripture.  They agree?  Then, it is the Holy Spirit.  If not, it is not.  E.g.1. On my way home from visiting a shut-in, one day, the Holy Spirit spoke to me that I have seen Jesus that afternoon reminding me of the Scripture that confirms the voice: “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me” (Matthew 25:39-40).  E.g. 2. One lady thought that the Holy Spirit spoke to her to become her pastor’s wife (when the pastor was already married).  So, one night, while pastor’s wife was away and pastor was out, somehow she got into the pastor’s house and jumped in pastor’s bed waiting for him.  Well, her conviction wasn’t from the Holy Spirit, because it contradicts God’s commandment not to commit adultery (Exodus 20:14).

The second way to know Jesus is the Bible.  Some believers are privileged to know Jesus through special revelations such as dreams, visions, and even visitations from angels.  E.g. Jesus personally appeared to Saul on the way to Damascus (Acts 9:5).  However, most of us (including myself) don’t have such experiences.  Although those are very special ways to know Jesus, we don’t have to envy them, because they are not the primary means to get to know Jesus His Son.  What is the primary means, then?  The Scripture—the Word of God inspired by the Holy Spirit.  God uses the Bible to teach us of Jesus.  Let me share with you one thing God taught me this year about Jesus through the Scripture: Jesus’ love language is Action (Matthew 7) and to know Jesus means to love Him, and to love Him means to keep His commandments (John 14:21).  These new understanding of Jesus came through my daily reading of God’s Word.  The Bible is the Book about Jesus, so without getting into God’s Word, we will never be able to fully understand who Jesus is (like a student ignoring the major textbook).  We will be very susceptible to deceptions, too.  That is why it is crucial for us to get into God’s Word daily.

Two years ago, I challenged the congregation to read the entire Bible in a year.  For those who did, I promised I would record their names in my notebook called “The Book Club”—the Book meaning God’s Word.  So far, five people completed this challenge.  I am very proud of them.  I am still waiting for seven more people so that when I have twelve I would like to celebrate together their great achievement of reading through God’s Word in a year.  E.g. A man died and went to Heaven (later came back to life—near death experience).  When he asked Jesus in Heaven for lots of questions he had, Jesus said to him, “Have you read My Book?”  Folks, we have no excuses not to get into God’s Word (“It is too difficult to understand, I have no time to read”—those wouldn’t cut it).  God may be merciful to those who don’t have bibles with them such as Christians in North Korea, but here in America He will hold us accountable with His Word.

Lastly, we learn of Jesus through prayers.  Prayer is an ancient way of God’s revealing Himself to us.  Jesus still uses it.  God’s people still need it.  If we don’t pray, we deprive Jesus of revealing Himself to us.  We also deprive ourselves of knowing Jesus personally.  Many believers get to know Jesus through prayer.  Show me a prayer warrior, and I will show you the one who knows Jesus.  My own experience this year: in my prayers Jesus reminded me to love Him not because of the blessings He gives me but for the sake of relationship.  He also commanded me to love Him more than my wife.  All these understandings came through prayer.
Conclusion
Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, 15 even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father (John 10: 14-15)
My own know Me (v. 14):  the Greek sentence for My own know Me is passive—so, the literal translation is: I am known by them. The initiative and responsibility to know Him lies with us. We have homework to do.  That part, Jesus won’t do it for us.
Prophet Hosea exhorts us, “So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord (Hosea 6:3).  We still have the second half of the year to know Jesus.  Let us know Him by asking God’s Spirit to reveal and teach of Jesus every day.  Let us press on to know Him by getting into God’s Word every day.   Let us follow our Good Shepherd in prayer every day.  Amen.

Sermon: In the Presence of God

Today Pastor Choi talks about the blessing of being in the presence of God: to see God face-to-face and to have fellowship with God.  He further explains things that would break our fellowship with God: evil ways (sin) before the LORD.  Later he introduces things that would restore us back to the same fellowship with God: repentance and humility.  He concludes his sermon with 3-3-3 Challenge: 3 minutes a day-3 things-3 weeks in prayer to practice God’s presence daily.

 

    In the Presence of God

 

 

 

Following is a summary of the sermon:

 

In the Presence of God

Psalm 41:12  New American Standard Bible (NASB)

12 As for me, You uphold me in my integrity,
And You set me in Your presence forever.

Introduction

Think of one wish for God to grant you (for you personally): what would it be?  Don’t ask for a small stuff.   Think big.   Also, be careful not to choose one that matters only in this life.  Choose one thing that will trump all other earthly wishes.  Choose one wish that will last forever and benefit you eternally.  What would be that wish of yours?

Here’s my wish: I want to be in the presence of God forever.  As King David prayed, I would ask the Lord, “Please set me in Your presence forever” (Psalm 41:12).

Come to think of it, all the things we do as a believer in Christ boil down to one aim we have: to be in the presence of God for eternity.   We do the following:

  • We believe in Jesus’ name
  • We repent and are baptized
  • We receive the Holy Spirit
  • We keep Jesus’ commandments
  • We read the Bible/ pray/ go to church/ worship/ serve/ do good/ forgive/ stay away from evil

All that we may be in the presence of God.

Contents

Before I dig deeper, let me explain what I mean by “being in the presence of God.”  The English phrase “in the presence of God” is a direct translation of Hebrew expression “before the face of God.”  So, may I say, to be in the presence of God means to stand before God or to see God face-to-face?

In the Bible, to be in God’s presence simply means this: to be in fellowship with God.   And, to be in fellowship with God means to be a friend of God.  By the way, what do we do with our friends?  We get together / dine together / talk and listen to each other / have fun together / cry together / laugh together / suffer together….So with our God.  Being in fellowship with God, we do all these things above together with God.   There are more benefits: we find rest, joy, peace, love, righteousness, wisdom, strength, and courage.  All in the fellowship with God.

Folks, we are truly blessed to have fellowship with God because of what Jesus has done on the cross.  Before we came to know Jesus, the Bible says, we all were enemies of God and outsiders of the fellowship with God.  However, we became reconciled with God and became His friends when we confessed our sins and received forgiveness through Christ’s atonement.  From then on, we have fellowship with God.  We are in His presence.   Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:39).

However, we must beware of dangers out there lurking on us to destroy our fellowship with God.  I would call those things “Fellowship Breakers.”  These fellowship breakers at first don’t look too harmful to our relationship with God.  However, they will chip off our fellowship with God little by little.  We will be drifted away from God day by day without even realizing.  When left unchecked and not corrected periodically, they will eventually bring forth our removal from God’s presence.   Look what happened to the people of Israel in 2 Kings 17:7-20: because of their evil ways before the LORD, they lost their fellowship with Him, and were removed from God’s presence.  What caused them to get to that point?  The evil things that they sold themselves to for centuries.  The desire to obey God wasn’t there in their hearts (Philippians 2:13).

Here are some things that they did and grieved God: stubborn heart / rebellion against God / unbelief / idolatry / arrogance / rejection of God’s commands / divination / enchantments (magic).  Basically, whatever grieves the Lord and whatever provokes God to anger (it is called sin) are detrimental to our fellowship with the Lord.  Left unchecked and un-repented for a long time, they can cost us the presence of the Lord in our lives both in this life and in the life to come.

Think about the Israelites who lost their privilege of being in the presence of God.  Don’t think that they didn’t have second or third chance to repent or the LORD has not been patient with them.  In fact, the LORD has been long suffering with them since Exodus.  Here’s the timeline for you to consider: Covenant made with Abraham (c. 2091 B.C.), Exodus (c. 1446 B.C.), Entering the Promised Land (c. 1406 B.C.), Kingdom of Israel (c. 1043 B.C.), Kingdom divides into two (931 B.C.), Kingdom of Israel falls (723 B.C.), Kingdom of Judah falls (586 B.C.).  Between the first covenant with Abraham and the time Israel was removed from God’s presence, 1,500 years were there.   During this time, God has been patient with His people.  In fact, He repeatedly sent His prophets to bring them back to Him to no avail.   So, in the end, the Lord was very angry with Israel and Israel was removed from His presence (2 Kings 17:18).

Here’s a lesson for us: some of us may think that our salvation in Jesus is secured no matter what we do even when we don’t repent our willful sin against God.  Some of us may be falsely assured that once salvation is given, we never lose it even when we walk in darkness or remain in sin un-repented.  For instance, let’s say I have not forgiven someone in my life for 30 years.  I know I am to obey the Lord’s command by forgiving, yet I didn’t.  That’s a willful sin (knowing what is right and not doing it).  Let’s further say that the Holy Spirit convicted me repeatedly that I was disobeying the Lord by refusing to forgive someone in my life.  If my willful sin is bad enough, the refusal to repent is far dangerous because it may cost me eternal life—the life in God’s presence for eternity.

Consider this: God invites us to be in His presence through Jesus.  Jesus / angels of the Lord / apostles / saints are all in the presence of God and they are waiting for us to join them.  It would be a grave mistake with eternal consequences if we neglect this great privilege by our unwillingness to repent.  If we continue on stubborn heart and arrogance, we may end up joining the other side—Hell where the Devil and all his followers, both spirits and humans, are going to be.  They have one thing in common: disobedience to the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  In fact, they are already separated from God’s presence.  Their fate is sealed and revealed in the Bible as follows:  they will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, separated from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might (2 Thessalonians 1:9).  May we never be separated from the presence of the Lord.

I don’t want to end my sermon on a down-tone.  If there are “Fellowship Breakers” that derail us off our Heaven-bound journey, there are things that would restore us back to the fellowship with God, even after the fellowship is broken.  I would call them “Fellowship Antidotes.”  We have to use them as soon as we find ourselves infected with the symptoms of “Fellowship Breakers” in our lives.  There are two: repentance and humility.  E.g. King David (who committed adultery, murder, and cover up) repented his grave sin in humility and was pardoned by God.  His fellowship with God was broken by his sins yet restored through his humble penitence (Psalm 51:10-12): “10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. 11 Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. 12 Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit (KJV).

Conclusion

One last thing:  Most of us think that being in God’s presence is a remote future possibility.  However, you don’t have to die to be in the presence of God.  In fact, you can experience the presence of God here and now.   Every day.  Every moment.   E.g. Brother Lawrence in the 17th Century: “The Practice of the Presence of God.”   He practiced God’s presence daily through faith, love, prayer, and meditation of God’s Word.

Let me remind you once again of the meaning of being “in the presence of God.”  It means to appear before God seeing Him face-to-face.  It means to enter into God’s presence and look at His face without fear.  It means having an audience with God one-on-one.  You can do this while you are still living on earth.  One way to do it is prayer (cf. Genesis 32:31—Jacob said that he saw God face-to-face).

I am about to offer a challenge for you this morning: 3-3-3.  Three minutes a day – three weeks – three things.  Starting today, for the next three weeks, spend at least three minutes each day in God’s presence in prayer.  Let me suggest three things you do in your prayer: 1. Remember your covenant with God.  God is your God and you’re His child.  2. Repent of any sin that has been detrimental to your fellowship with God.  Do not leave any sin un-repented.  3. Renew your covenant with God by recommitting yourself to God.  Offer your body as a living sacrifice and your members as instrument of righteousness to God (Romans 12:2).

Those who would like to accept this challenge, please arise to your feet.  I invite you to say a prayer after me: “Lord, I am eternally grateful / for salvation through Jesus Christ my Savior and Lord.  I am also grateful / for the fellowship with You in Jesus.  You are my Father / and I am Your child.  I am Your friend.  If I have been disobedient to you willfully, please forgive my stubbornness and arrogance.  I repent of all my sins.  I offer myself as a living sacrifice and instruments of righteousness.  Use me for your glory and honor.  Thanks for Jesus.  Thanks for the forgiveness.  Thanks for restored fellowship with you.  Thanks for keeping me in Your presence.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

 

 

 

 

Sermon: On Fathers

Today Pastor Choi talks about God’s commandment on fathers: honor them (Exodus 20:12).  Pointing out the reality in America, he exhorts the congregation to reconcile with their earthly fathers not by feelings but by will.  He gives three pieces of advice to those who want to reconcile with their estranged fathers: obey God no matter what.  Forgive.  Be proactive.

 

   On Fathers

Following is a summary of the sermon:

 

On Fathers 

 

  • Exodus 20:12  New American Standard Bible

  • 12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.

     

    Introduction

    Happy Father’s Day!   Let me begin with a story of my own father.  Had he been alive today, he would have been 107 years old.  He passed away at 59 (I was 11 years old).  He was a kind man and never violent yet dysfunctional due to his alcoholism.  He was often sick and couldn’t hold a steady job and left a heavy burden on my mother’s shoulders to raise six kids.   I wish he had lived a little longer, but it didn’t happen.  I always had the longing in my heart for my father as I grew up into my adulthood.

     

    Contents

    Reality:  What about your father?  Is he a wonderful father?  Are you proud of him?  Then, be thankful and honor him.

 

  • Is he not so good, in fact, a terrible father?  Forgive and still honor him.

  • Not every one of us is proud of our fathers: in fact, there are many children wish that their fathers would’ve been different.  E.g.  One year a greeting card company offered free Mother’s Day cards to prison inmates.  It was a huge success!   So, for Father’s Day, the company did the same: free cards for fathers.  However, this time, unlike the Mother’s Day offer, it was received very poorly among the inmates.   Hmmm… it tells us something, doesn’t it?   Did you also know that Father’s Day is the busiest day of the year for collect calls (because so many fathers are in jail)?   Sadly, many fathers in America have a poor track record when it comes down to bringing up their children right (cf. Ephesians 6:4 says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord”).

  • Two kinds of father we see in the Bible: two different Hebrew words are used for father (when no such biblical distinctions  are made for mothers): 

    1) Ab:  it occurs in most references for fathers; five out of six times (also used in all occasions for father: e.g.1. father of all who play the harp and flute (Genesis 4:21).  e.g. 2. Paul was the father to all Corinthian believers (1 Corinthians 4:15).  

    2) Yalad: (biological fathers) occurs in one out of six times in the Old Testament references.   This one reminds me of the fathers who are good at creating babies but very poor in relationships with their children.   

  • My heart goes out to those young and grown-up children who have difficult relationships with their earthly fathers.  E.g.  I remember one female student in seminary who refused to call God in Heaven ‘Father.’   Why?  Because her difficult and abusive relationship with her earthly father made it impossible to call God ‘Father.’ Thank God that we have only one perfect Father in Heaven.  Jesus points out that we all have one Father who is in Heaven (Matthew 23:9) (we’d best stop relating the imperfect image of earthly father to that of heavenly Father).

  • With such reality (of two kinds of fathers) in mind, let’s pay attention to the fifth commandment once again: 12 Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.

    Why Should We Honor Fathers?

  • I asked myself a question: Why should we honor fathers? 

  • Simply because God commands us to do so (like the other nine commandments in the Ten Commandments.)  It is God’s will for us to honor our parents.  It’s a commandment of God not an option or suggestion.  If we don’t honor our fathers, we are disobeying God.  

  • This commandment is not conditional, either. 

  • In other words, God wants us to honor our fathers

    • Not because of what they have done for us.

    • Not because of societal pressure or culture.

    • Not because we may feel like doing it.

    • But because we owe them our lives.  Like they owed theirs to their parents.  It goes all the way up to God—the Giver of Life.  One reason we ought to honor our fathers is for the life in us.  Proverbs 23:22 says: “Listen to your father, who gave you life.”  By honoring our fathers, we ultimately show our respect to God the Giver of Life.

      By the way, God promises a reward to those who honor their fathers: a blessed long-life on earth.    

      What Does It Mean to Honor?

  • Honor: Note here that it is different from “obey.”  To honor means: to show respect [Nahash, 2 Samuel 10:3].  To Reward [Balaam, Numbers  22:17, 37].  To think more important [sons of Eli. 1 Samuel 2:29].  To make them proud of you.  Not to ‘embarrass’ [Saul to Samuel, 1 Samuel 15:30].  Not to ‘despise’ [Jerusalem, Lamentations 1:8, Despise vile men, Psalms 15:4, 1 Samuel 2:30].  To Care for, show affection, glorify, prize and cherish.

    How Do We Honor the Unworthy Fathers?

  • My honest thought: It would’ve been far easier if the commandment said, “Honor your father and mother only if they deserve it.”  Or, “Honor them only when they are good to you.”

  • But, that’s not how the commandment is written.  Rather, it says: “Honor your father.”  Period.   Plain and simple.  The way I see it is to honor all types of fathers, both good or bad.  

  • So, the real question is: how can we honor our fathers who deserve no respect or honor from us?   Impossible with our own might, but it is doable in the Lord.  Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

  • Here are three things to start with to honor your father. 

  • First, be resolved to obey God no matter what.  Be resolved that you are not going to let your hurts and feelings stand in the way to obey God’s commandment.  Resolution determines attitude; attitude determines approach; approach determines outcome (Derek Prince).

  • Next, forgive him.  Remember the Lord’s prayer: forgive our trespasses as we forgive those [our fathers] who trespass against us.   Forgiveness is not done by feelings but by your will. 

  • Thirdly, be proactive, not reactive.  Honor your undeserving father not because of but inspite of.  This commandment is one of the two commandments in positive formulation in the Ten Commandments [i.e., it is not “You shall NOT…” but “Do…”   When we are proactive, it opens a door for us to honor them in many ways. 

    Closing

    Folks, for closing, I am going to say a prayer especially for those who have very difficult relationships with their earthly fathers.  Please close your eyes and join me in prayer.  If you need to forgive your father, don’t wait for another day to do so.  Now is the time.  

    If you want to forgive your father, say after me in silence:  Father in Heaven, it is your will to honor my father.  I am determined to obey you no matter what.  Today I forgive my own father not by feelings but by will.  By myself I cannot do, but I can with your help.   In Jesus’ Name.  Amen.

 

 

Sermon: Confirmation Sunday Message

Today Pastor Choi explains the meaning of confirmation: it is a life-long faith journey where God is fully committed to strengthen the believer’s faith and practice until s/he is transformed into Christ’s image (Ephesians 5:1).  He exhorts God’s children to be Christ’s representatives to the world in this life and stand blameless in the day of the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

      Confirmation Sunday Message

 

 

Following is a summary of the sermon:

 

Confirmation Sunday Message

2 Corinthians 2:14-17   New American Standard Bible (NASB)

14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. 15 For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; 16 to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things? 17 For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God.

Introduction

Congratulations!  This is a great day for the confirmands who completed a three-month long class.  I am very proud of you all.  Thanks to the parents for their encouragement and support.  Thanks to the congregation for your prayers.  Today is also great day for our church because we received four new members to God’s family!  Special thanks to c0-teachers , Randy and Vanessa Estelow: we had such a great fun teaching about God and about God’s Church.  Also, special thanks to Rosemary Molinaro who provided each confirmand with a very special stole to wear this morning.

Let me begin my message with a question: What is confirmation to you?  How would you explain to your friend if she asks you ‘what confirmation is all about’?   A typical answer would be something like this: you complete a three-month (or a year) long class and you get confirmed on a Sunday (typically in June) and you become a full member of the Church of God.  Let me tell you.  Confirmation is much more than that.

I looked up the word ‘to confirm’ in the dictionary.  This is what I have found: the word “confirm” is originated from a Latin word “confirmare” which has two parts: con—(together) and firmare—(to strengthen).  Therefore, ‘to confirm’ means ‘to strengthen together.’   So, in the context of Church, ‘to confirm’ means ‘to strengthen together someone’s (typically youth) faith and practice.’

Contents

At the first confirmation class, I explained to the youth that confirmation is a life-long journey, not a three-month long class.  By taking the class, I said, they are taking their first step in their faith journey to Heaven.  I encourage the confirmands to continue their participation in the life of the Church after they are confirmed.

Sadly, however, that’s not the reality in America.  A vast majority of confirmands, as soon as they are confirmed, drop out of the Church (statistics show that they don’t come back to the Church until they are married and have their own kids).   My experience of 25 years of ministry testifies to that reality.  It shouldn’t be.  Let us remind ourselves that Confirmation Sunday is not the end, but the beginning of faith journey.

Remember the ‘together’ part?  In this faith journey, no one travels alone.  We go together.  In fact, God assigns to us four travel partners: family, friends, Church, and God Himself.   Families sometimes can discourage us.  Friends at other times can abandon us.  Even the Church of God can disappoint us as well.  However, we do have one partner, eternal and divine, who never abandons or forsakes us.   He is God.   His name is Immanuel.   He is with us forever.  He is our faithful partner in our journey to Heaven.  In fact, the Scripture says that God is fully committed to this journey of confirmation and sanctification to the end (through and through).  He will carry out His work in us until we are transformed into Christ’s image (Ephesians 5:1).   Listen to the promise of God: who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:8).   We can trust in Him.  We can rely on His commitment to make us whole and blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ—this phrase deserves our attention.

You see, our final destination in our journey is Heaven.  Heaven is not a physical place like the USA or Australia.  Heaven is a place where God is.  We are going to this place where God is and we will be with Him in His presence for eternity.

To be with God, we must know who God is and His attributes.  God is holy and righteous.  Nothing impure/unclean is permitted in His presence.   That means, to be with Him and in the presence of God who is holy, we too need to be holy like He is.  That’s why God expects us to be perfect, pure, and blameless (1 Corinthians 1:8) not just in human standards but in His own.  Of course, all of us would fail that holiness test before God due to our sin and iniquities.  That’s precisely why God sent His Son Jesus Christ the sinless so that He would take care of our sin and its consequences (the Bible calls it ‘the wages of sin’).  So, Jesus took our sins to the cross and paid the wages of our sins once and for all at the cross through His own death.  Now, we are pardoned of our sins and we are free from the condemnation of our sins that culminates in eternal judgment in Hell.  Because of Christ’s merit, not our own, and because of our faith in Him, we can stand in front of God with Christ’s righteousness that was imputed on us (like we are wearing Christ’s righteousness on us).

During our faith journey to Heaven, in this life God calls us to be His representatives to the world.  The Scripture puts in the following four ways: we are the salt, the light, the letter, and the aroma.

Jesus says in Matthew 5:13, “You are the salt of the earth.”   Imagine a food that is without salt.  A right amount of salt brings out the best taste of the food.  So do you.  Be the salt where you belong (family, school, work, community and church) and bring glory to God.

Jesus also says in Matthew 5:14 that weare the light of the world.  Imagine the world without God’s children—how dark it would be!  E.g.  A satellite picture of the earth at night with the background of pitch darkness studded with countless points of light.  Brighten the corner of your place with the light of God.

Thirdly, each one of us is a letter of Christ to the world.  People read us as if they read a letter.  Listen to Paul: (to the Corinthian believers) he wrote “…you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Corinthians 3:3).  When the people in the world read our lives, what would they think of us, of the Church, and of God?   Would they think of Christ the author and give glory to God or would they be disappointed and stay away from the Church altogether?  E.g. My bumper sticker: IXΘUS (Jesus Christ Son of God Savior) makes me a little more conscious of my driving behavior.

Lastly, the Bible says that we are a fragrance of Christ to God (2 Corinthians 2:14).  I am sure we are a fragrance of Christ to the world as well.  Let’s be an aroma of Christ, not a stench, to whomever we meet and interact.

One more thing before I am done.  For our Heaven-bound journey God never leaves us unprepared.  Rather, He fully equips us with essential tools (for lack of better terms)—things that we must have for the journey.  There are two: God’s own Word and God’s own Spirit.  The Bible and the Holy Spirit.   First, the Bible.  This morning we gave the confirmands God’s Word so that they may get into God’s Word daily.  We also gave them a 365 day Bible reading plan.  I pray that they diligently get into God’s living Word.   I believe God’s Word is more important than ever before.   Why?  Because we are living in a perilous time where everything is relative and permissible.  When everything is permissible, nothing is sacred including God’s Word.  For instance, nowadays, people don’t want to offend each other, so they remove anything that is offensive to someone.  E.g. An atheist sues the church to remove the sign board that posts God-references.  He claims that he is offended each day as he drives by the church sign with God-references in it.  The court sides with him!   Why is the Bible more important than ever before?   Because it is filled with absolutes and with God’s Word (not just human’s words).  I give Psalm 119:9, 11 to all: How can a young man keep his way pure?  By keeping it according to Your word.  Your word I have treasured in my heart that I may not sin against You.

For our Heaven-bound journey, God also provides us with His Holy Spirit as our constant companion.  Who is the Holy Spirit?  God’s own Spirit who dwells in our hearts (2 Corinthians 1:22).  What is He doing in us and in our lives?  He is the Helper and the Counselor.  He comforts us in times of sorrow.  In times of confusion, He guides us into the right directions.  He even intercedes for us even when we don’t know what to pray for ourselves (Romans 8:26).

Conclusion

So, folks, and especially confirmands, we are taking our first step in our Heaven-bound journey.  Our final destination is Heaven.  Our family, friends, Church, and God are journeying with us.  We do have the right tools—the Bible (map to Heaven) and the Holy Spirit (our guide)—that will guide us into the right paths and help us to stay on the course.  May God help all of us to complete this journey and stand blameless in His presence on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.   When we do, God will say to us, “Welcome Home!”  That day would be the most glorious day of all.   Amen.    Let us pray.

Sermon: Dunamis–the Power of God, Part 2 of 2

Today Pastor Choi continues his sermon series on dunamis (God’s power).  Based on Derek Prince’s Book “The Holy Spirit in You,” he lays out seven steps to receive the Holy Spirit: 1. Repent 2. Be baptized. 3. Ask God. 4. Be thirsty. 5. Come to Jesus. 6. Drink—receive within yourself. 7. Yield your body and members to God. He concludes his message with an invitation prayer to receive the Holy Spirit.

 

    Dunamis 2

 

 

Following is a summary of the sermon:

Dunamis—the Power of God, Part 2 of 2
Acts 2:37-38 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
37 Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” 38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Introduction
The night before He was crucified, Jesus promised His disciples that He would send them the Holy Spirit—the Spirit of God, the Spirit of truth, the Helper, the Comforter, and the Advocate (John 16:7). After He was risen from the dead, He stayed with His disciples for 40 days. As the risen Christ was ascending into heaven, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem and wait for the Holy Spirit. Indeed, 10 days later, the Holy Spirit like a tongue of fire descended upon the 120 praying disciples and filled them with dunamis (the power of God). That event is called Pentecost.

On Pentecost the Church was born. Since then, for the next two thousand years, the Holy Spirit has stayed with the believers and still dwells in every child of God providing timely help. He also fills them with dunamis—the power of God.

Two Sundays ago, I spoke to you what dunamis is all about. Dunamis is God’s power and it came down on the believers through the Holy Spirit two thousand years ago. It is God’s will for us to experience that same dunamis. He makes it available to us through the Holy Spirit today.
As I promised two weeks ago, this morning I am going to talk about how we can receive the Holy Spirit and dunamis.

Contents
Now, there are a couple of things we must prepare ourselves with before we talk about how to receive the Holy Spirit. First and foremost, we must acknowledge the presence of the Holy Spirit within us and among us. How do we know He is within us and among us? By trusting and believing God’s Word that says so. 1 Corinthians 6:19: 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you?
We also must bring in the right attitude; that is to acknowledge the authority of the Holy Spirit over us. The Holy Spirit is not our servant. We are His servants. He is not a genie in a bottle. He is the Spirit of God. If you are only interested in dunamis, and not in the Holy Spirit, forget about receiving it. You cannot separate dunamis the gift from the Holy Spirit the Giver. No Holy Spirit, no dunamis. The Holy Spirit won’t give you dunamis unless your heart is right with Him. Dunamis is only given to those who obey the Holy Spirit no matter what.

When we meet these conditions, then we are ready to receive the Holy Spirit and dunamis. In order to receive the Holy Spirit and receive all the blessings promised including dunamis, we need to be open up to the Holy Spirit. I am going to share with you seven practical steps to receive the Holy Spirit from Derek Prince’s book The Holy Spirit in You.

1. Repent and Be Baptized (Acts 2:37-38): On the day of Pentecost Apostle Peter preached to the crowd and they responded to his message as follows: “37 Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” 38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Here are the first two conditions for us to meet. Repent and be baptized. Repent means a complete turn-around from our sins and rebellion and submit ourselves to God without reservation. E.g. Switching the train. Be baptized means to openly acknowledge that we are dead to sin and to old self-centered life styles (that is, we have been crucified with Christ—Galatians 2:20) and alive to God (Romans 6:11—Christ was risen. So were we in Christ) and giving ourselves to God as instruments of righteousness (Romans 6:13).

2. Ask God (Luke 11:9-13): You never receive the Holy Spirit if you don’t ask for Him. Whoever wants to receive the Holy Spirit must ask for Him. 9 “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened. 11 Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? 12 Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? 13 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” Here, Jesus promises us that those who ask God for the Holy Spirit will receive Him. So we should ask God to give us the Holy Spirit.

3. Be Thirsty, Go to Jesus, and Drink (John 7:37-39). Three more simple conditions are stated here. 37 Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

This passage is clearly about who will receive the Holy Spirit—those who are thirsty, who come to Jesus and drink. God never forces anyone who doesn’t feel thirsty for His blessings including the Holy Spirit. E.g. Perhaps the reason why we don’t receive the Holy Spirit and dunamis is because we don’t feel the need of them let alone thirsty for them. Are you thirsty for the Holy Spirit and His dunamis? Then, you go to Jesus who baptizes you with the Holy Spirit. No human being but Jesus can baptize you with the Holy Spirit. Go to Him. Then, you must drink too—the decision is totally up to you. “Just being totally passive and saying, ‘Well, if God wants to do it, let Him do it!’ is not drinking. Drinking is actively receiving within you” (Ibid., p. 100). Make up your mind to drink and receive the Holy Spirit.

4. Yield: your body and members to God. Here are two more relevant facts. 1 Corinthians 6:19: 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? Our bodies are the places where the Holy Spirit dwells—the temple of God. Romans 6:13: 13 and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. We are commanded to offer our bodies as instruments for His service.

Recap: seven conditions for receiving the fullness of the Holy Spirit and dunamis:
1. Repent. 2. Be baptized. 3. Ask God. 4. Be thirsty. 5. Come to Jesus; He is the baptizer. 6. Drink—receive within yourself. 7. Yield your body as a temple for the Holy Spirit and your members as instruments of righteousness.

Conclusion
Perhaps you may wonder how you can do all this at once. You can begin with a simple prayer. I am going to lead you in prayer that is taken from the book of Derek Prince. Say after me if you would like to receive the Holy Spirit and dunamis in your life: “Lord Jesus, I am thirsty / for the fullness of Your Holy Spirit. I present my body to You / as a temple / and my members / as instruments of righteousness, especially my tongue, the member I cannot tame. Fill me, I pray, and let Your Holy Spirit / flow through my lips / in rivers of praise and worship. Amen” (Ibid., p. 103).

Receive the Holy Spirit—it is God’s will and God’s promise for you and me. When we receive the Holy Spirit, we can also experience dunamis. Start walking in the Holy Spirit, and you will lead a victorious life day in day out. Also, when you do, the church too will grow in dunamis every day: In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power (Acts 19:20). Amen.

Dunamis–the Power of God Part 1 of 2

Today Pastor Choi talks about the power of God (dunamis) that is promised to every disciple of Christ. Dunamis is God’s majestic power that created the heavens and the earth.  The same power sustains every living creature.  It is the power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead.  The sermon reminds the congregation that dunamis is available to God’s children through the Holy Spirit.

 

dunamis

 

Following is a summary of the sermon:

 

Dunamis (the power of the Holy Spirit)        Part 1 of 2

Acts 1:8
But you will receive power (dunamis) when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Introduction

Let me tell you a story of Jesus’ disciples in Mark 9:  one day, when Jesus was away, a father brought his son who suffered from epilepsy.  He asked the disciples to cure his son but they couldn’t.  Thankfully, Jesus showed up in the nick of time and healed the boy.  Puzzled and embarrassed, the disciples later asked their Master in private, “Why couldn’t we drive out the evil spirit?” Jesus answered: This kind can come out only by prayer and fasting (Mark 9:28-29).

The 21st century church in America faces the same dilemma as the disciples: We the Church of God have a great task before us: that is, to transform the lives of people in the name of Christ, yet we are unable to carry it out due to the lack of power in the Body of Christ.

Contents

Reality Check: Let us do a reality check with the following five questions.

1.   What’s the spiritual state of today’s Church?

A: Many a church (including Methodists) are dying (losing members left and right).  Like a drowning man, the Church of God gasps for God’s truth and God’s power.  We also witness the lack of God’s power in the lives of believers today.  Even though we proclaim the truth of God saying, “The Kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power” (1 Corinthians 4:20), we don’t see the realization of it.  Paul’s prophecy on the last days seems fulfilled: we have a form of godliness yet deny (or lack of) its power (2 Timothy 3:5).

2.   How well do we know what the power of God is?

A: Very little.   Few of us actually realize let alone experience what God’s power is.  We don’t know how majestic God’s power is that created the heavens and the earth.  We also are ignorant of God’s sustaining power of the universe.  We seldom read or hear about God’s miracles, signs, and wonders in today’s Church.  Worst of all, many of us are Bible illiterate.  We don’t spend time to get into God’s word.  Many Bibles at home collect dust.  Even the pew Bibles in the church rarely get opened.  The danger and the sad consequence of this reality is that the ignorance of the Scriptures leads to an error and misunderstanding in God’s power both in knowledge and in practice like the Sadducees in the 1st century: (concerning the resurrection) Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.”

3. What is the Power of God?

A:  Dunamis is the power of God.  Let me begin with a definition of dunamis: it is the Greek word for power/strength/ability.  The English words such as “dynamic” and “dynamite” are originated from dunamis.

The word “power” appears 335 times in the Bible (NIV).  In the New Testament alone 117 times in the form of “dunamis.”   Dunamis mostly refers to God’s majestic power.

What is dunamis?  It is the power that solely belongs to God [majestic power]: power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise belong to God” (Revelation 5:12).  It is the power of God that created the heavens and the earth and anything in between and underneath [creation power].  It is the power that sustains them all.   It is the power that is greater than any mortal or angelic powers.  Actually, we cannot even compare God’s power to any other powers in the world, both visible and invisible.  It is the power that wows and awes us (E.g. standing before Grand Canyon or looking into a night sky with many stars).   It is the power that performs all the miracles.  It is the power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead.

4.  Does God want His Church and His children in the 21st century to experience the power of God as the Early Church did in the 1st century?

A: Absolutely.  God wants every child of God in every generation to experience and live by God’s power.  When we become a believer in Christ, God starts working on us in some areas such as love and self-discipline.  He also wants us to experience God’s power in our daily lives.  In other words, God’s power, like love and self-discipline, is an integral part of our Christian life experience: For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7).  He wants us to lead a triumphant life both individually as well as in the life of the Church.

5.  Is God’s power still available for us?

A: Yes, definitely.  Not only does God want us to have His power in our lives, but He also makes it available to us.

In fact, God’s majestic power has been in operation for ages.  It still is. It still creates life on earth.  It still upholds the entire universe.  It still wows and awes us.  It still is the greatest power we can imagine.  It will be that way forever.

The good news is this: God shares His divine power with us freely and graciously.  In fact, He is delighted to share His mighty power with His people.  How does He do that?  He does so through the Holy Spirit.  By sending us His spirit and by having the Spirit dwell within us, God makes His divine power available to us 24/7.

Why does God do that—sharing the divine power— through His Spirit?   Because, He loves us.  His promise to send us the Helper and the Comforter was fulfilled at the first Pentecost 2,000 years ago.  From then on, the Holy Spirit—the Giver of dunamis— has been with us, worked with God’s people, and demonstrated God’s mighty works in the Church (the Book of Acts is all about the Acts of the Holy Spirit).

The real question for us all is this:  Why, then, don’t we see such God’s power demonstrated in our Church and in the lives of believers anymore?  The more important question is: “How can we experience dunamis in our walk with God?”  I am going to talk about those things next time in two weeks.

Let us pray.

Sermon: Women in the Bible

Today Pastor Choi talks about how the Bible treats women.  Quoting Edith Hamilton who said the Bible is the only book up to the 20th century that treats women as equal as men, Pastor Choi points out how Jesus treated women in the Bible.  He urges all God’s people to follow Jesus’ examples.

 

  Women in the Bible

 

 

Following is a summary of the sermon:

 

Women in the Bible                                         John 8:1-11

John 8      New American Standard Bible (NASB)

The Adulterous Woman

But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.Early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people were coming to Him; and He sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the center of the court, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?” They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground. But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the center of the court. 10 Straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.”

Introduction

Happy Mother’s Day!

Today’s sermon is dedicated to the mothers of our congregation for all the things they have done for their children over the years.  Abraham Lincoln said it right: “All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother” (brainyquote.com).  Their love, prayers, and tender care are forever appreciated.   Originally, I was going to speak about mothers in the Bible.  Then, I decided to extend my attention to the women in the Bible instead.  So, this morning you’re going to hear a sermon on the women in the Bible.  More specifically, how the Bible treats women.

Contents

Question: is the Bible a good influence or a bad one when it comes down to women’s status in our society?  Some believe that the Bible, particularly the Old Testament, is a bad influence.  For instance, in Texts of Terror, Professor Phyllis Trible depicts the women in the Old Testament as victims.  Quoting the stories of four women in the Hebrew Scripture (Hagar, Tamar, the daughter of Jephthah, and unnamed concubine), she sees God as the one who smites, strikes, and imposes suffering on women (I disagree that it was God who made women suffer.  It was people who did that).  In the past 50 years in America, the Church and its century old practice of male dominance and male preference were rightfully criticized by the feminists who fiercely promoted women’s equality with men.  It improved people’s attitude towards women.  More people began to treat women as equal to men, thanks to the education.

Let me refine my question a little bit: “Is the Bible itself a bad influence against women or is it the people responsible for that abuse?”  I believe it is the people who misuse and abuse God’s Word to justify their deeds.  I don’t see God or His Word at fault, because God always treats men and women equally.  He doesn’t show favoritism.  He is the fairest of all.   It is the society, the culture, and the people in it that historically favored men over women for centuries; both in the West and in the East.

E.g. 1.  Korean culture under the Confucian teachings (during Joseon Dynasty: 1392-1897 A.D.) was very unfair to women—one example, a widow should remain forever a widow, while a widower could remarry.

E.g. 2.  My mom, the second eldest of five children in her family, always wished to have been a boy.  Simply because, as a girl, she was not educated beyond the 2nd grade while all her three brothers went into a higher education.

Today a bias and practice against women still continue in some parts of the world.  For instance, some cultures practice honor killings (“Honor killings are acts of vengeance, usually death, committed by male family members against female family members, who are held to have brought dishonor upon the family—wikipedia ‘honor killings’).  Another instance, in China there is a serious shortage of women today due to the years of son-preference birth practice among the parents.  Now, some worry that such a disparity between genders will cause a problem: less women for men to marry may lead to a war.

Here’s another view on women in the Bible.  Edith Hamilton (a German-American educator and author who was “recognized as the greatest woman Classicist”—wikipedia) once said, “The Bible is the only book in the world up to our century which looks at women as human beings, no better or no worse than men.”  Her view resonates with mine and with the Bible.  Let me explain what the Bible says about women.

In the beginning, God created woman as a helper for man.  Not just a helper but a divine helper—that is uniquely designed and provided by God alone.  The partner God has created and appointed exclusively for man:  The Lord God said, “It is not good (literally, evil) for the man to be alone.  I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18).   The meaning behind “ezer (helper suitable)” is this: man is stuck in a pit and cannot get out by himself.  Woman comes to his rescue and throws him a rope to pull him out.

Man needs woman and woman needs man.  They complement each other.  Without the other, neither side is complete.  They are partners for life.  Equal partners.   Furthermore, without women, humanity will be in a big trouble, because there will be no procreation and no future for humanity.

Do you know how many women are listed in the Bible?  Hundreds of them.   First, there are 188 women whose names are recorded in the Bible, from Abigail to Zipporah.  See how many you can recognize: Eve, Sarah, Hagar, Rebekah, Leah, Rachel, Tamar, Zipporah, Miriam, Rahab, Deborah, Hannah, Ruth, Bathsheba, Esther, Jezebel, Mary of Nazareth, Elizabeth (mother of John the Baptist), Anna (prophetess) who prayed in the Temple day and night waiting for the coming of Messiah, Mary and Martha of Bethany, Mary Magdalene, Dorca, Lydia, Priscilla, and many more.

Next, there are other women who remain unnamed in the Scriptures: the wife of Noah, the wife of Lot, the wife of Potiphar, the wife of Job, the daughter of Jephthah, the unnamed concubine (who was senselessly murdered by thugs), the mothers who lost their babies to Herod’s sword while Jesus’ family escaped to Egypt, the Samaritan woman, the Syrophoenician woman, the woman whose hemorrhage problem was healed by Jesus, the woman who was caught in the middle of adultery and brought before Jesus, the women who cried for Jesus on His way to Calvary, and so on.

They were queens, prophetesses, leaders, slaves, prostitutes, wives, widows, sisters, daughters, daughters-in-law, mothers, and mothers-in-law.  Oppressors and victims.  Young and old.  Good ones and bad ones.  Except a few bad ones such as Jezebel—the evil queen who worshiped Baal and persecuted/killed God’s prophets, most of them encountered God and were touched by God’s grace.   Working together with God, they left their footprints in the history of God’s people and their salvation journey.

Women’s status makes a huge progress in the New Testament.   All thanks to Jesus!   He brings a lot of good things about women.  For instance, Gospel stories show a high number of references on women.  Historically, the way Jesus treated women has laid the foundation for the western culture to treat women as equal to men.  Jesus became our role model when it comes down to how we think of and treat women.  Even today His story still gives us a fresh perspective on women.

I am going to briefly point out three ways how Jesus treated all the women who had encountered Him.

  1. He treated them equally as He did with men.  He treated each woman with respect.  He liberated and affirmed them.  He never disgraced, belittled, reproached, or stereo-typed women.   E.g. No sign of degrading the woman in John 8.  The Samaritan woman at the well in John 4.
  2. He acknowledged their worth and value as co-heirs of God’s Kingdom and co-workers for God’s Kingdom.  Women were always an integral part of Jesus’ ministry.  He worked together with them (they ministered to the physical needs of Jesus and His disciples).  For the next two thousand years, the gifts women brought to the Church have been the true blessings to the Church.
  3. Jesus looked at woman as a soul housed in a female body.  Never as an individual who is inferior to man (a soul housed in a male body).  We ought to practice as Jesus did, that is, to look at individuals, male or female, as precious souls in God’s sight.

Conclusion

Thanks to all women for their divine partnership with men.  Thanks for all the contributions they have made in our human history.  Let us follow Jesus’ examples.  Let us continue working for God’s Kingdom treating each other with respect and equality.

Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sermon: Who Do You Say That Jesus Is?

Today Pastor Choi lays out all the opinions on Jesus (that are found in the Bible) 2,000 years ago in Israel.  He also presents three outrageous claims that Jesus has made for Himself: He and God are one.  He has authority to forgive sins on earth.  He has risen from the dead.  Pastor Choi also introduces people’s understanding of who Jesus is today.  Then, he urges the congregation to make up their minds and declare their own confession on Jesus.

 

     Who Do You Say That Jesus Is

 

 

 

Following is a summary of the sermon:

 

Who Do You Say Jesus Is?     Matthew 16:13-20

Matthew 16:13-20  (NASB)

Peter’s Confession of Christ

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” 20 Then He warned the disciples that they should tell no one that He was the Christ.

 Introduction

Last January, as pastor of the church, I designated this year to be the year of knowing Jesus.  I handed out scrolls that contained eighteen different Scripture verses pertaining to our goal of knowing Jesus.  I encouraged you to look at the verse everyday as often as you can as a reminder.  I also told you that I would preach six sermons on knowing Jesus.  I am doing sermon number 3 today.  

I hope and pray that we all have been making a progress of knowing Jesus so far.  As for my progress, I have kept a journal to record any new insights about Jesus.  As of today, there are over twenty things that I have discovered anew about my relationship with Him: who He is and what He expects of me, and so forth. 

Let me share a couple of them with you.  First, I discovered that to know Jesus means to love Him; to love Him means to keep His commandments (John 14:21).  So, keeping His commandments is a sure sign that I know and love Him.  In other words, if I don’t keep His commandments, that means, I don’t love Him.  If I don’t love Him, no matter how strongly I claim that I know Jesus personally, it doesn’t count.  The next thing I learned about Jesus is this: To know Him means that I recognize Him (Amos 3:2) both in public and in private without shame or fear.  For instance, saying grace in a restaurant for the meal shouldn’t be a struggle.

So, here we go folks, the sermon number three: who we say Jesus is, to us and to the world.

Contents

Have you noticed one thing in the past couple of months?  Welcome to the season of presidential election again!  They don’t leave us alone, do they?  We begin to hear about candidates from both parties.  We also hear about how many dollars some candidates have raised, their stances on certain issues, who the front runners are, and so forth.  By the way, how do they know who’s leading and who’s trailing?  By polls, right?  So, for the next year and a half, we will hear plenty polls on candidates from various sources such as CBS, NBC, CNN, and so forth. 

Did you know that Jesus once did a poll on Himself?   We can see that in today’s text.  One day Jesus was curious to know what the people said about Him.   So in their private setting, He did an informal survey.  He asked His disciples: Who do people say that the Son of Man is?  One answered, “Some say John the Baptist.”  Another disciple said, “Others say you are Elijah.”  Another chipped in saying, “They consider you Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

Then, Jesus turned to them saying, “Who do you say that I am?”  Peter, one of the twelve disciples, hit the bull’s eye!   He said, “You are the Christ,the Son of the living God” (v. 16).   He called Jesus the Christ—the anointed (three offices were anointed in the Old Testament tradition: kings, priests, and prophets).  Christ had all three offices in one.  Calling Peter blessed, Jesus told him that it was God in Heaven who revealed to him the true identity of Jesus.  No humans could give that understanding.  Only God could. 

By the way, we must consider other opinions on Jesus at the time that were not included in today’s text: First, the famous doubting Thomas called Him, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28).  Some religious leaders called Him a trouble maker (Luke 23:2), a Samaritan (John 8:48); or worse a demon or even insane (John 8:52, 10:20).

So you heard it all: several opinions on Jesus that existed 2000 years ago; from John the Baptist to prophets; from the Messiah to a demon; from God to a lunatic.   Today, like the first century, we too have a wide spectrum of understanding of who Jesus is.  Some believe that He is equal to God.  Others consider Him a prophet.  More others think that He is a good moral teacher such as Confucius or Socrates (e.g. M. Ghandi).  Even worse, some consider Jesus a myth, a non-historical figure.  How about Jesus an insurance policy for heaven?  E.g. My Sunday School lesson: What if Jesus were in Hell?  Would you follow Him there or would you rather stay in Heaven having nothing to do with Him?  It sure makes you think twice about your true motive in believing Jesus, doesn’t it? 

Before you say anything about Jesus, you must consider some outrageous claims Jesus has made about Himself.  I am going to present three claims that He has made.  First, He said, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30).  He made Himself equal to God.  He even said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father;”(John 14:9).   He said that He was with God before the creation of the world.  He claimed that He was older than Abraham (John 8:58) to the point where the Jews wanted to stone Him.  Next, He claimed that He has authority to forgive sins on earth (Mark 2:10).  Once again this is unthinkable in the Jewish mind where they consider God alone has that authority; no human beings, not even Moses, nor Abraham, can forgive someone’s sins.  Thirdly, He has risen from the dead.

Now, who do you say Jesus is?  Whatever you say about Him, one thing you don’t want to do is this: sitting on the fence.  For instance, you don’t want to say that Jesus was a good moral teacher while you reject His claims, because no good moral teacher makes a false claim about himself.  Let’s listen to C.S. Lewis: I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say.  A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher.  He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell.  You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us.  He did not intend to. … Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God (Lewis, C. S., Mere Christianity, London: Collins, 1952, pp. 54 – 56).

Make up your mind today, because your confession of who Jesus is makes a world of difference in your walk with God, in your worship and services, and in your daily life.  E.g. If your life as a believer is boring and your commitment to the Lord is mediocre, it is a direct outcome of your fuzzy confession of Jesus.  Even Jesus doesn’t like that attitude:  He said to the church in Laodicea, 15 ‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot.16 So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth (Revelation 3:15-16).   If you take Jesus as He claims to be, the Son of the living God, the Messiah, the Lord of the world and your personal Savior, your walk with God will be revolutionized, because He means everything to you.   

Conclusion

So, this morning declare your confession on Jesus.  Ask yourself: who do I say that Jesus is?  Who is He to me?   Do not delay.  Don’t be half-hearted, either.   Let me tell you what mine is.  To me, Jesus is the God incarnate, the Son of God, the Messiah, my Savior and Lord.  To Him, I give my life and undivided allegiance.   What is yours?    May God reveal true Jesus to you as He did to Peter. 

Let’s pray. 

 

Sermon: The Easter Message of the Risen Christ

Pastor Choi talks about the message of the risen Christ to His people.  His message to His disciples on the first Easter Day would be the same to us in the 21st century in America.  He would speak to us: stop crying, for I am with you.  Shalom.  Receive the Holy Spirit.  Forgive.

 

The Easter Message of Christ

 

Following is a summary of the sermon:

 

The Easter Message of the Risen Christ                        John 20:1-23

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) 10 Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.

Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene

11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. 13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. 15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). 17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.

Jesus Appears to His Disciples

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. 21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

 

Introduction

If the risen Christ appeared to us again this morning, what words do you think He would say to us?  I believe He would give us the same message that He had given to His disciples 2000 years ago: one in the morning and one in the evening.  That’s what you are about to hear from me this morning: the message of the risen Christ to Easter people.

The message was (is, and will be the same): stop crying, for I am with you.  I give my peace to you.  Receive the Holy Spirit.  Forgive.   Let’s go over them one by one.

Why are you crying (v. 13, v. 15)?  When Mary Magdalene couldn’t find Jesus’ body in the tomb, she went back to Peter and John and reported that the tomb was empty.  The two men ran to the tomb to check it out, looked inside and didn’t see Jesus’ body, either.  Then, they went back to their home.  Thank God, Mary lingered a little longer.  When she peeked inside the empty tomb, two angels spoke to her saying, “Woman, why are you crying?”  After telling them that she was looking for Jesus’ missing body, Mary turned around saw Jesus standing right behind her.  At first, she didn’t recognize Him (perhaps it has something to do with Christ’s resurrection body).  She rather thought Him a gardener.  The risen Christ asked her the same question as the angels: “Woman, why are you crying?”  By the way, the term “woman” here is not a derogatory term for a female.  Rather, it was a dear and affectionate term to call a woman at the time: like we say today, “My dear lady, my dearest, honey, darling, sweetheart, and so on.”  Jesus said, “My dear lady, why are you crying?”

What do you see in the words of Jesus?   Here, I see Jesus’ deepest concerns for Mary.  I see Jesus the caring and compassionate who was right there for her when she was crying.   E.g.  Have you ever been with someone who was crying?  You don’t have to say many words to comfort them.  All you have to do is to be there.

Do you see what I see in the story?  Jesus saw the tears of Mary.   Likewise, the same risen Lord sees your tears today.  So does our Heavenly Father.  In other words, our Lord is not so detached from our daily struggles.  He is not a God who is aloof from us.  Rather, He knows everything about you and your life.   He is fully aware of what’s going on in your life right now and He knows what you are up against.   He sees your tears and feels your pain.  He knows you and calls you by name (v. 16.  See also John 10:4, 27, Isaiah 45:3-4).   He deeply cares about you.  So, when you are alone crying next time, please remember that Jesus sees your tears and He is with you.

One more thing about Mary quickly:  When Jesus opened Mary’s eyes so that she could recognize Him standing right next to her, instantly her sorrow turned into joy and ecstasy.  May the Lord open your eyes to see the risen Lord right there right beside you.  He will turn your sorrows into joy.

Peace be unto you (v. 19, v. 21).  It was Easter evening.  Several hours passed since Mary first encountered the risen Christ.  The rest of the disciples (except Thomas) were gathered in one place.  Gripped with fear of the Jewish authorities, they locked their doors and windows.   Then, the risen Christ, out of nowhere, appeared in their midst and said to them: “Shalom.”

I believe the risen Christ would bring the same greetings to us: Shalom!  Peace be unto you.  Of course, He is not talking about the world peace.  Rather, He means the peace in our hearts.  Notice in today’s text: Jesus said “Shalom” twice, because He wanted His disciples to have it in their hearts.  Is there anything you and I desire more than peace in our hearts?  The same Christ wants us to have such peace–the peace that overcomes our fears and anxieties.

Did you know that such peace is available to us?  Indeed Jesus promised that peace—the peace of Christ, and the peace that the world cannot give or take away from us.   Listen to Jesus in John 14:27:  27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.  It is the same peace that we experience when we pray—the peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:6-7).

Receive the Holy Spirit (v. 22).  Please note here in verse 22.  When Christ commands the disciples to receive the Holy Spirit, it was not an option or suggestion.  It was a command.  It’s a must.  The same command applies to us as well.  Every believer in Christ must receive the Holy Spirit.

Some of us wonder why we need the Holy Spirit: after all, isn’t God or Jesus enough for us?  Here’s why we need the Holy Spirit: first, without the Holy Spirit, we cannot confess that Jesus is our Savior and Lord.  It is the Holy Spirit who enables us to believe in the name of Jesus.  Next, the Holy Spirit is God’s pledge to us that He is with us until the Day of Judgment.  Every believer in Christ has that seal of salvation.  Finally, the Holy Spirit is not limited with time and space.  He can be everywhere, so, God is with billions of believers through His spirit.

The trouble is that many of us don’t think we need the Holy Spirit.  Or, some of us don’t know whether we have received the Holy Spirit or not.  Let me ask you a question.  Do you have the Holy Spirit?  If you are not sure, here’s a simple test: From the bottom of your heart, can you say that Jesus is your Lord and Savior?  I mean, you wouldn’t deny Him even if it means imprisonment or worse, the death?  If you confess in such a sincere manner that Jesus is your Lord and Savior, you do have the Holy Spirit in you.   Never ever doubt that.  He dwells in your heart.

Who is the Holy Spirit?  He is the Spirit of God.  He is the third being of the triune God.  What does He do in us?  Dwelling in our heart, He is our resident counselor, comforter, and teacher.  He guides us to the truth.  He reminds us of Jesus’ teachings.  He convicts our sins and nudges us to repent our sins.  He even intercedes for us in unspeakable sighs when we don’t know what to say in prayer (Romans 8:27).

Forgive (v. 23): Consider this: out of so many things Jesus could have said to the disciples on that very first Easter evening, He included this one: forgive.  It is crucial for us to forgive.

You might just have discovered that Christ has given us the awesome authority and power to forgive others’ sins.  In reality, though, seldom have we the Protestants practiced this privilege in the name of Christ.  The only case I know this practiced on a regular basis is in the Catholic Church where priests remit the sins of the people who come to the confession.

Now, I want to say one thing to those who may focus on the second part of v. 23, “if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”  I am sure most of us have one or two individuals in our lives whom we haven’t forgiven (or would not forgive)—those who trespassed against us big time.  E.g.  Once I heard a believer saying, “I would never forgive so and so.”

Perhaps you would never forgive the sins of your adversaries because you think they don’t deserve your forgiveness.   Think again.  What makes you think you deserve unlimited forgiveness from God when you don’t reciprocate the same grace for your fellow humans?  Despite the fact that none of us deserves God’s unconditional love and grace, God still forgives us.  The same thing God expects us to do for our fellow humans: forgive.   Furthermore, from a practical perspective, ask yourself: is it really good for me to keep their sins un-forgiven forever?  The answer is “No,” because it is eternally bad for the both parties; you and them if you haven’t.  Here’s why: because your own sins remain un-forgiven forever along with theirs, if you don’t forgive.   Don’t you understand?

I must remind you of Jesus’ own words: Unless you forgive their sins from your heart, your Father in heaven will not forgive your sins, either (Matthew 18:35).  If their sins are not forgiven by you, then neither is yours by God.

Here’s another reminder.  Remember the Lord’s Prayer where we say “Forgive our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”?  It is conditional.  Unless you forgive them, your sins will remain un-forgiven, too.

Recap: The risen Christ says to the Easter people: My dear one, stop crying.  I am with you.  Shalom to you.  Receive the Holy Spirit and forgive.    Let’s pray.

Sermon: Creation Care

Today Pastor Choi exhorts God’s people to be a sensible steward of God’s creation.  Creation care begins with the restoration of broken relationships between God and us, between us and others, and between people and nature.  Creation care only succeeds when we are faithful to God, merciful to one another, and sensible stewards of God’s creation.

 

   Creation Care

 

The following is a summary of the sermon:

 

Creation Care     Genesis 1:28   (NASB)

God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.

Introduction

On April 22, in many parts of the world, people celebrate the Earth Day.

It’s a good thing that all nations work together with a common goal to build a clean, healthy, safe environment for future generations to enjoy and live in.

Earth Day addresses many environmental issues such as oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness, and the extinction of wildlife.  It promotes clean air, clean water, and green energy.

There also has been a charge that environmentalists care more about birds than people.  So, now, some people want to put people back, especially the poor, at the center of the movement.   An article in the Christian Science Monitor reads, “This Earth Day, let’s focus on people.  Environmentalists go on about the loss of endangered species and degraded coral reefs. But we barely mention people – nature’s biggest beneficiaries. This Earth Day, let’s put human well-being at the center of things, and make explicit the value of nature to our everyday lives” (M. Sanjayan / April 20, 2012. the Christian Science Monitor).

I agree.  Let’s not forget people.  I dare to say, though, in this earth care movement we forget the most important partner: God.  Did you know God is the first environmentalist and the first whistle blower in the history of the earth care?  Almost three thousand years ago, He brought a charge against the polluters of the land (Isaiah 24:5, Hosea 4:1-3)—I will get to this later.  In today’s world, His name is barely mentioned, if ever,—God the Creator, the Sustainer, and the ever-gracious Benefactor.  If we want to succeed in the earth care, we need the whole picture.  In order to see the whole picture, we must consider every party involved (God, humans, and nature all together).  In fact, it’s the only way that will work.  Without God the Creator/Sustainer in the picture, no environmental movement would succeed.  God is the author of a holistic solution to the environmental issues today.

This is where my creation care idea differs from the secular version of “Save-the-Earth.”  My approach is: God – people – creation in that order.  The secular approach is: environment – people in that order with no God in it.  We may do some things in common like recycling and using energy efficient bulbs, yet the two approaches are fundamentally different.  My approach would say, “Let’s seek God’s wisdom, listen to Him, and do what God commands us to do.”  The secular earth care says, “Look, this earth is the only thing you’ve got.  You’d better take good care of it.”

Contents

So I begin with God.

In the beginning God created lights and creatures first that are non-human (sun, moon, stars, birds, plants, fish, and animals) for five days; at the end of each day of creation, God looked at His own work and said it was good (Genesis 1:3, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25).  On the sixth day, He created human-beings; when He looked at the humans, male and female, He said it was very good (Genesis 1:31).  At first, every creation of God worked and operated in perfect harmony and balance that pleased the Lord.  The ensuing creation story, however, doesn’t have a fairy tale ending: they didn’t live happily ever after.

“What did cause the imbalance and disharmony in God’s creation?” we may wonder.  The Bible says sin.  Sin caused it.  Sin has entered and permeated into the world: pride, selfishness, idolatry, hatred, murder, greed, and jealousy.  They entered in the history of the world and adversely affected the entire creation.  God, humans, and non-humans all suffered from it ever since.   Sin is the cause.  Pollution of the world is the effect.   The Bible says so. 

Listen to the Word of the LORD in Isaiah 24:5.  :  “The earth is also polluted by its inhabitants, for they transgressed laws, violated statutes, broke the everlasting covenant.” 

Listen to God one more time in Hosea 4:1-3.   “Listen to the word of the Lord, O sons of Israel, For the Lord has a case against the inhabitants of the land, Because there is no faithfulness or kindness Or knowledge of God in the land. There is swearing, deception, murder, stealing and adultery. They employ violence, so that bloodshed follows bloodshed. Therefore the land mourns, And everyone who lives in it languishes Along with the beasts of the field and the birds of the sky, And also the fish of the sea disappear.”

Both times the Lord points out that all God’s creation (land, people, the beasts, the birds, and the fish) mourn and languish because of the inhabitants of the land and particularly their transgressions against God (swearing) and against each other (deception, murder, stealing, adultery, and violence).

Sin has broken the relationships among the three parties: God, humans, and non-humans.  Let’s take a closer look.

1. God and Humans.  In the beginning, God set the boundaries for humans (Genesis 2:16-17).   Adam and Eve disobeyed God and were consequently thrown out from Eden.

2. Humans and humans.  The first murder in human history took place in Adam’s family and innocent blood was shed on the ground (Genesis 4:8).  Since then, it was a downward spiral.  By the time of Noah, the sin in the world was so bad that the Lord grieved that he had made humankind (not the other creatures) on the earth.  His heart was filled with pain that He had to start anew (Genesis 6:6).

3. Humans and non-humans.  Humans kept abusing and misusing the God-given resources without providing proper care (we misinterpreted Genesis 1:28 and subdued the environment without mercy).  Creation eagerly awaits the day of redemption:  “22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now” (Romans 8:22).  “The creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God” (Romans 8:19).

The real question is: how do we bring back the order, balance, and harmony among all three parties?  By fixing the broken relationships among the parties.  Once the broken relationships are restored, then the order, balance, and harmony will be naturally restored as well.  Please notice here the order of brokenness, because in the same order we will find the proper restoration: Be faithful to God.  Be merciful to each other.  Be a sensible steward.  Let me explain to you one by one.

a. Sin of breaking the Sabbath: there can be so many areas where we should restore our broken relationship with God, but let me suggest one thing today: that we start with the Sabbath.    It’s worth repeating the Fourth Commandment:

8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy (Exodus 20:8-11).

The whole idea of the Sabbath is that we rest one day a week: a complete stop from labor and rest.  God set the example before us: He Himself took a rest from His work on the seventh day.  He commands us to do the same.  Imagine a town where everyone takes a rest on Sunday at the same time.  That’s the beauty and key of the Sabbath.   Everyone at the same time.   God’s simple solution is still relevant, yet our society doesn’t follow it any longer.

Remember the Blue Laws?  America used to close the stores on Sunday until the 1960s.  Then, it began to vanish 50 years ago.  A few stores began to open Sundays, then the majority followed suit.  Now, opening the stores on Sunday is a norm in our society.  Keeping the Sabbath holy became a rarity even among the Christians.  We are all guilty of violating the Fourth Commandment, are we not?  Myself included.

Personally I believe shopping on Sundays hurt our society rather than help.  Why?  Not because shopping and pleasure activities themselves are evil, but because they take our time away from rest.  More activities mean more energy spent and less rest taken.  None of us is an Energizer Bunny, yet we think and act like one.  No wonder, back to work on Monday morning, many of us are sluggish.   Furthermore, environmentally speaking, keeping the stores open on Sunday means more electricity needs to be generated, more traffic for shoppers, more CO2, and more family time taken away from the employees, let alone that of shoppers.  Maybe, I am living in a fantasy world myself, but I believe it doable (otherwise, God wouldn’t command us to do it) and God will honor those who honor Him by keeping the Sabbath holy.  Here are a couple of positive examples: 1) B & H Store in NYC.  Business (both store and online store) is shut down during Sabbath and Passover.   2) Chick-Fil-A company.  Stores are closed on Sundays.  Truett Cathy, the founder, says, “I don’t want to ask people to do that what I am not willing to do myself” (Golden Rule).    Both of them thrive with God’s blessings.

b. Sins of Hate, murder, jealousy, greed, and violence among nations: we need to restore peace among us.  One way to do it is Jubilee—God’s concept of debt cancellation. 

What is Jubilee?  In a nutshell, it is the year of release from debt.   Listen to the Word of God.  The Lord then spoke to Moses at Mount Sinai, saying, “Speak to the sons of Israel, and say to them, ‘When you come into the land which I shall give you, then the land shall have a sabbath to the Lord. Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its crop, but during the seventh year the land shall have a sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord…You are also to count off seven sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years, so that you have the time of the seven sabbaths of years, namely, forty-nine years. You shall then sound a ram’s horn abroad on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the day of atonement you shall sound a horn all through your land. You shall thus consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim a release through the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you (Leviticus 25:1-4, 8-10, NASB). 

Application: imagine the world where everyone, both individuals and nations, practices a universal debt cancellation [forgiveness—remember the Lord’s Prayer].  How wonderful would it be?  Not a far-fetched idea, either.  E.g. Japan three years ago said it would forgive about 300 billion yen ($3.7 billion) of Myanmar’s debt and resume development aid as a way to support the country’s democratic and economic reforms (ABC News 4/21/2012).

c. Sins of Greed and Abuse: Although we have been making a progress on this, we still have a long way to go.  One thing we Christians must remember is this: we are the stewards, not the owners of God’s creation.  The earth doesn’t belong to us.  Neither do we belong to the earth.  Both belong to God who has entrusted in our hands the care of the earth.  Being God’s stewards means that God will hold us accountable.  God will reward those who fear His name and will destroy those who destroy the earth (Revelation 11:18).

Application: Never waste God-given resources but use with care.  E.g.  A study shows the less consuming of meat helps to reduce the global warming: nearly 80 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions (of foods) come from producing and processing food. (http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2011/10/07/141123243/how-that-food-you-throw-out-is-linked-to-global-warming).   So, my suggestion is to eat less meat.  E.g. My personal habit of eating half of the food at restaurant and bring the other half home.

Conclusion

We have a job to do: creation care (Romans 8:19).  Creation care begins with bringing God back into the picture.  We need to restore our broken relationships with God, with each other and with God’s creation.    We can only be responsible stewards of God’s creation when we keep God’s commandments, when we are merciful to each other, and when we treat God’s creation with the sense of accountability.

Let’s pray.

Sermon: An Easter Challenge

Pastor Choi talks about resurrection today: Christ affirms that there is resurrection.  He raised the dead.  He even raised Himself from the dead.  In the same resurrection we will partake after our physical death.  At the end of the sermon, Pastor Choi invites the congregation to take up an Easter Challenge: to worship the Lord every Sunday to walk close with God.

An Easter Challenge

 

Following is a summary of the sermon:

 

An Easter Challenge                                    Matthew 22:23-33

Matthew 22:23-33  New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Jesus Answers the Sadducees

23 On that day some Sadducees (who say there is no resurrection) came to Jesus and questioned Him,24 asking, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies having no children, his brother as next of kin shall marry his wife, and raise up children for his brother.’ 25 Now there were seven brothers with us; and the first married and died, and having no children left his wife to his brother; 26 so also the second, and the third, down to the seventh. 27 Last of all, the woman died. 28 In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all had married her.”

29 But Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God.30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 31 But regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God: 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” 33 When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at His teaching.

Introduction

The human mind is a curious thing; it sure is a curious thing.  Our brain houses the mind.  In this football-sized brain, we can contain the entire universe, the vast universe (E.g. The Sun is 93 million miles away, our own galaxy the Milky Way is so huge that it takes at the speed of light 100,000 years to travel across it.  It is the size of a quarter when the Sun is a microscopic speck of dust on it; whose orbit is the flat disc of the coin—NASA).

The human mind is curious about anything in the world; both visible and invisible.  It has an insatiable appetite for knowledge.  It is in the constant search of truth and information.  It engages itself in ever going exploration of the unknown.  In the past 30 years, technology and information have advanced in an unprecedented rate.  E.g. IBM computers in the 1980s took up the entire room.  Now, in the 2010s, we feel we need to upgrade our computers every three or four years due to the fast pace of innovations made.  Another example is genetic engineering: not only have scientists mapped the entire human DNA, but they also alter the genes across various species, cloning, cross-breeding, both plants and animals and even humans (it’s perilous times we are living in).

The same mind has been curious about one thing ever since Day-1 of human history: the afterlife.  What’s out there after we die?  There seem two beliefs: don’t know/nothing or something.   Apple co-founder Steve Jobs (in the book written by Walter Isaacson) once said about life after death: don’t knowMaybe it is like a switch “on-off.”  50-50. This theory follows the logic that since we don’t exactly know what’s out there let’s not talk about it.  Death is followed by complete darkness.  No one knows what’s out there.  No one has been there and come back to tell us.  Science can’t prove it.  No one can explain it.  Today, many scientists follow this approach.

At the time of Jesus, the Sadducees (religious leaders and members of the Sanhedrin—the Jewish Council—along with the Pharisees) also took this approach, not through science but through logic.  They thought of themselves as rational (scientifically-minded in today’s term).  Has anyone come back to life after death and tell us what it is like?  No, then, why bother with something you don’t know well?  Why bother with something invisible and intangible?   So, they said, let’s focus on what we have here.  All we need is the idea of God and the principles to live by.  Not miracles.  Not resurrection. Not even angels.  Stop talking about supernatural things.   Just give me the Book of Law (Torah—the first five books of the Old Testament). 

That’s what today’s story is about: one day the Sadducees brought a hypothetical question to Jesus.  A woman was married seven times, they said.  If there is resurrection, whose wife is she going to be in the end?   A tricky question that no one was able to answer until Jesus cleared it up.  Jesus said to them, “Two things you don’t understand: the Scriptures and the power of God.”  There is resurrection, Jesus asserts.  It’s a sure thing.  Your question is invalid in itself, too, because there is no marriage in resurrection.  All will be like angels.   After all, Jesus concludes, God is the God of the living, not of the dead.

The second approach is the belief that there’s something out there after we die.  In this belief, there are two schools of thoughts.  One is reincarnation (Hinduism and Buddhism): basically, it is the recycling of life.  Born over and over again with no end.  Like a circle with no beginning and no end.  Continuous cycle of life for eternity.  The next life form you will be born into is determined by how good or bad you have been in the present life: born into a lower form of life if you had been bad and vice versa.  You will be born as a worm if you had been bad in this life.  A dog can be born into a human form in its next life if it had been a good dog.  The other branch is Christianity.  We believe in the resurrection.  Every human soul with no exception will be resurrected.   All will stand before God’s judgment throne.  They will either enter into eternal life in Heaven or eternal judgment in Hell.  God determines each one’s eternal fate.

So far, I talked about beliefs on the afterlife.  Now, if you were inquisitive, the Bible would be a good place to study further on this subject (e.g. 40 occurrences of the word “resurrection”).  It is filled with stories and teachings on resurrection, in both the Old and the New Testament.  For instance, Elisha the prophet in the Old Testament raised the son of Shunammite woman (2 Kings 4:32-37).  In the New Testament Jesus raised the dead at least three times: resurrected the only son of a widow in Nain (Luke 7), raised the only daughter of Jairus (Mark 5), and raised Lazarus from the tomb (John 11).  Peter the Apostle raised a woman called Tabitha/Dorcas—Acts 9:36-41.   Paul the Apostle too raised a young man named Eutychus—Acts 20:7-12.  The Bible presents real proofs of physical resurrection.

Now, we can raise the bar another notch: Can Jesus, who taught about the resurrection and also raised others from the dead, raise Himself from the dead?  Yes, He can and He did.  He rose from the dead on the first Easter Day, every Apostle and every writer of the Four Gospels testified with their own lives.  He is the first fruit of resurrection, the Scripture says.  The risen Christ appeared to three ladies first, to His ten disciples, then to the doubting Thomas.  Later He also appeared to more than 500 people (1 Corinthians 15:5).   Then, He ascended into Heaven.

Since then, the Church of Christ celebrated Christ’s resurrection for the next two thousand years.   Please note here that the risen Christ never appeared to those who rejected His teachings or to those who refused to believe Him as the Messiah.  If I were Christ, I would’ve appeared to everyone who doubts God’s power to raise the Christ from the dead (this approach of mine is dangerous because it puts God to the test and brings Him down to the human level).  E.g. an atheist professor dares God, if He exists, to strike him down with lightning.  Nothing happens so he claims that there’s no God.  Just remember: God doesn’t respond to those who put Him to the test.  He appears only to those who sincerely seek Him.   E.g.2. an atheist teacher asks the children in classroom to look at the sky.  He asks if they see God in the sky.  When the students say no, he says, “See?  There’s no God.”  Johnny the student asks his peers if they can see the teacher’s brain.  When they say no, he says, “See?  He has no brain.”

Finally, I want to place an Easter challenge before you.  I hope and pray that all of us will take it.  The challenge is to renew our relationship with God through worship for the next year.  The goal is to worship the Lord at least 52 times in the coming year.  Yes, that means, once a week.  Every Sunday.  Perfect attendance for a year.  Challenging, maybe.  But, it is doable.

Why the challenge?  Let me explain.  I am thankful that we all share the same faith in Jesus’ resurrection.   Every one of us believes that Christ has risen from the dead, right?  Otherwise, you would not have been here this morning.  We believe that we too will partake in the same resurrection as Jesus, that is, to have the same resurrection body that Jesus had, that transcends time and space.  We also believe that we will be in the presence of God forever along with our loved ones in the place called Heaven.  So far, so good.

I must point out to you, though, that it would be very naïve of us to believe that having such intellectual agreements alone would carry us all the way to Heaven’s gate even when we neglect to worship the Lord on a regular basis, let’s say only a couple of times a year.  You know that there’s such a word in the Church nowadays, “Chr-easter-s” combined word of the two words: Christmas and Easter referring to folks who go to church only twice a year on holidays.

I am not criticizing anyone.  Because there are some reasons why people don’t worship the Lord often enough.  You work on Sundays, you have families over, you are tired, you want to sleep in, and so forth.  You don’t have to explain to me or defend yourself.  It is between God and you.  All I am saying is this: even though worship itself doesn’t guarantee your seat in Heaven, it will help you to stay the course without drifting away from salvation.   It is delusional to believe that we still have a good chance or even a guarantee in Heaven without worshiping the Lord.   If I were you, I would make sure that I clear out my Sunday mornings so that I worship God with God’s children every Sunday.  Why?  Because in worship we encounter the living God.  Worship establishes and reaffirms our covenantal relationship with the Almighty God: who we are and what kind of God we serve and honor.  Worship, like an anchor to a ship, keeps us from drifting away from God.  Worship also provides the opportunity to cultivate the attitude of gratitude.  In worship we encourage one another.  We will miss out on all these great opportunities if we only go to church a couple of times a year.

Think this way: Jesus was in very nature God.  However, when He was on earth, He would worship the Lord every week along with other believers either at synagogue or at the Temple of God.  How much more do we need to do so?  By the way, if you got hurt in the past by the Church, or by “the organized religion,” for whatever reasons, I sincerely apologize on behalf of the believers.  However, that shouldn’t keep you from worshiping the Lord, because it is Satan’s scheme to keep you from the Body of Christ by all means.   After all, as the Day of Judgment is approaching, God commands us never to neglect worship (Hebrews 10:25).

I pray all of us will take up the Easter Challenge so that next year you come to me and say, “I have completed my challenge!”  And, I will say, “Good for you!  Praise God!”  Take up the challenge, and you will be forever blessed. Your life won’t be the same.

Amen.

 

Sermon: Jesus the Humble King

Today Pastor Choi highlights Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem 2000 years ago.  The biblical scholars call it “triumphal.”  Was it really, though?  If so, in what sense?  Not in the world’s point of view but in God’s.  Not in power and dominance but in humility and service.   Christ the King clearly demonstrated true power and triumph through His humble examples in birth, teaching, life, and death.

  Jesus the Humble King

 

Following is a summary of his sermon: 

Jesus the Humble King                                                              John 12:12-16

Jesus Enters Jerusalem    John 12:12-16 (NASB)

12 On the next day the large crowd who had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem,13 took the branches of the palm trees and went out to meet Him, and began to shout, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.” 14 Jesus, finding a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written, 15 “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your King is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.” 16 These things His disciples did not understand at the first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written of Him, and that they had done these things to Him.

Introduction 

Once I watched a PBS program on “Frontline” featuring Kim Jung-il the North Korean dictator.  It explained how America got into the botched nuclear deal with North Korea in the 1990s.  One of the people interviewed in the program was then Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.  She had a meeting with Kim to ease the tension between the two countries caused by North Korea’s missile development.  Albright and her team were invited to the 50th Anniversary of the Labor Party.  They were impressed with the way they were treated.  ¼ million people cheered in one accord, applauded, chanting their leader’s name, and pledging their unshakable allegiance to their leader. 

Wow!  That’s what I would call an unforgettable welcome.  Such an impressive welcome, however, is nowhere seen in today’s passage where Jesus the Messiah enters Jerusalem.   

Contents  

Two thousand years ago today, He entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey’s back.  The crowds, marching in front and behind Him, shouted in excitement “Hosanna! (הושיעה־נאPlease save now!) Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna!”  They shouted aloud, “O Jesus Our King!  Please save us now!  Save us!”   Some waved the palms in honor of the king of Israel.  Others spread their cloaks on the road along with palm branches.  I have to tell you, though.   It was rather a small and unnoticed event in Jerusalem at the time, because about 3 million people were in the city to celebrate the Passover.   Had it been there a newspaper in town, it never would’ve made a headline. The biblical scholars call the historical event of Jesus’ entry triumphal, though. 

Now, here’s a question to ask.  Why is it called triumphal? (See also, Zechariah 9:9, 2 Corinthians 2:14)   Why is it so? 

Was it because there was anything in Jesus’ march that deserves to be called triumphal and magnificent?   Humanly speaking, my honest answer is no.   Here’s why.  The word “triumph” comes from an ancient “ceremony attending the entering of Rome by a general who had won a decisive victory over a foreign enemy (Merriam-Webster).  Certain images come to my mind such as an impressive long procession of captives, chariots, and soldiers carrying in pride on their shoulders the spoils of the battle.   Laurels on the general’s head and fancy red carpet would also be appropriate.  Finally, the march would culminate in magnificent and professional fanfares.  Yet, none of the above was shown, not even a hint, in Jesus’ procession.  Not at all. 

Furthermore, in the worldly sense, the status as triumphant king should have lasted for a while.  At least, more than a week.  Yet, do you know what happened to Jesus following His entry?   Two or three days after the entry, Jesus was completely betrayed and abandoned by His own disciples.   He was arrested, spat on, beaten, and mocked by Roman soldiers.  The next morning the crowd rejected Him by shouting, “Crucify him!  Crucify him!”  Eventually, Jesus the King of the Jews was crucified.   Anyone with average intelligence would not call such Jesus’ entry and the following events triumphal and victorious, would he?  Why, then, do we call it triumphal?

Here’s why.  We call it triumphal because God says so.   We must understand that God’s definition and our Christian understanding of triumph is absolutely different from that in the world.   The world measures one’s success and victory by power, achievements, position, degrees, wealth, health, and long life.   The more you have, the greater you are.   The less you have, the less significant you are.  However, God judges differently.  He measures one’s success by faithfulness and obedience to the Lord, even though at times it means rejection, humiliation, mockery, persecution, suffering, imprisonment, and even death.  E.g. Think of all martyrs.  John the Baptist.   Please notice here that Jesus rode on the donkey back in order to fulfill the Scriptures (Zechariah 9:9), that is to obey God’s will.  In fact, He could’ve have commanded the heavenly angels to declare, “Hail the king!  Long live the king!”  He could’ve called out the heavenly choir to sing wonderful tributes one after another accompanied with angelic trumpets.  Yet, He didn’t.  Why?  Because He knew better than that.  He wanted to demonstrate to the world what really matters in the Kingdom of God: Love not force.  Service not dominance. Humility not arrogance. 

Speaking of humility, Jesus was a humble king.   His image as king doesn’t fit at all the worldly image, does it?  Listen to Napoleon Bonaparte: “Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have founded empires. But on what did we rest the creations of our genius?  Upon force.  Jesus Christ founded his empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for him.

In the worldly sense Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem was anything but triumphal.  Yet, it was the most splendid and magnificent procession in God’s sight.   He was anybody but king in human eyes.  Yet, He was the true king of kings in the kingdom of God because He was the humblest of all.   Paradox, isn’t it?  Paradox!   In fact, Christ’s message is full of such paradox:  He said, if you lose your life for Me, you will gain it again.   When you cling to your life denying Me in front of the people, then you would lose your life eternal.  Death means life.  Life means death.  The first will be the last, and the last will be the first.   The servant of all here on earth will be the greatest among all in heaven.  The master washes disciples’ feet.   Bless your enemies, give them a drink when they are thirsty, and feed them when they are hungry, and so on. 

Jesus came to earth not to be served but to serve us (Mark 10:45).  He demonstrated true humility in all areas of His life— birth, life examples, teachings, and even in death.  He was equal to God, yet He was born in human flesh laid down in a manger.  He was the Lord of all, yet He washed His disciples’ dirty and smelly feet with His hands.  He was the king of kings, yet He died naked on the cross.   Philippians 2:5-8 well summarizes such Jesus’ humility.  “Your attitude should be the same as that of Jesus Christ: who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on the cross!” (E.g. the closest analogy I can think of is turning myself a human into a lower form of life such as an amoeba or ant).

Conclusion 

As we celebrate Palm Sunday today, I pray that all of us would remember one thing: Jesus’ humility.  I pray that we imitate the humble Christ in all areas of our lives.  I pray that we seriously check out our own measurements of greatness and success: follow God’s definition not that of the world.  I often wonder how we Americans appear in the eyes of the world.  We are a mighty nation, are we not?  We often demonstrated our military supremacy to the world, didn’t we?  Yet, are we not considered a very arrogant nation? 

Christ’s message is clear for all whether individuals, families, or nations: true greatness is only to be measured and demonstrated in humility and service not in arrogance or dominance.  May the Lord would help us to practice our humility daily by considering others better than we are and serve them accordingly. 

Let us pray.      

  

 

Sermon: Jesus’ Ministry: Healing

Today Pastor Choi talks about Jesus’ healing ministry.  He points out that God’s healing is still available in the 21st century.  He also reminds the congregation to do three things before they seek divine healing: first, say “God’s will be done.”  Next, leave no sin unresolved.  Third, believe that God can heal the sick.  He exhorts the congregation to claim God’s healing with faith and perseverance. 

     Jesus’ Ministry. Healing

 

 

Following is a summary of the sermon:

 

Jesus’ Ministry (3): Healing                             Matthew 8:1-4

 

Matthew 8:1-4   New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Jesus Cleanses a Leper

8 When Jesus came down from the mountain, large crowds followed Him. And a leper came to Him and bowed down before Him, and said, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus said to him, “See that you tell no one; but go, show yourself to the priest and present the offering that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”

 

Introduction

 

In the past two Sundays we learned what Jesus has done for people in His ministry.  First, He taught.  His teachings were full of truth, grace, and wisdom.  Jesus’ teachings are priceless and it would be tragic if we don’t learn from them.  They are recorded in the Bible and that’s why I urge every child of God to get into the Word of God to be fed by and live on Jesus’ teachings.  Jesus also preached.  He proclaimed the Kingdom of God—that is to come and that is here and now.  While we await the Kingdom of God to come with Jesus’ Second Coming, we live out God’s Kingdom here and now by keeping Jesus’ Word.  We live it out by on-going repentance of our sins and forgiveness of each other’s sins.

 

Today, as part three of my series, I will speak about the healing ministry of Jesus.  Once a pastor calculated how much time Jesus spent during His public ministry for healing of the sick.  He claimed that about 2/3 of Jesus’ time was devoted to healing and the rest to teaching and preaching.  Just for this reason alone, it is worth our time looking into the healing ministry of Jesus.  After careful research on this topic I realized that there is no way for me to cover the entire subject of divine healing with one sermon.  Therefore, this morning I would focus on the following two things: first, divine healing is still available in the 21st century.  Second, what we need to remember when we seek God’s healing.

 

Contents

 

History of the divine healing in the Scriptures: 

 

Throughout the Scriptures, both Old and New Testament, we see God heal His people.  The God whom we worship and serve is the God of Healing.  Begin with the name Rafael—God of Healing (Immanuel, Israel, Michael, El Shaddai, El Elyon, and Bethel).  YAHWEH God declares, “I am the Lord who heals you” (Exodus 15:26). 

 

Here are three examples in the Old Testament where God made people whole again.   First, God healed the infertility problem among the women of Abimelech (Genesis 20:17).  Second, He healed King Hezekiah’s unknown sickness at the point of death and added 15 more years to his life (2 Kings 20:1 ff).  Third, He cured Naaman’s leprosy (2 Kings 5).

 

Jesus our Lord also healed many people during His Ministry on earth.  He even raised the dead (Luke 11, John 11).  In fact, He healed every disease (Matthew 4:23).  To name the few, He healed the people of paralysis (Matthew 4:24), hemorrhage (Matthew 9:22), blind (Luke 18:43), deaf and dumb (John 5:10), dropsy (Luke 14:2), epilepsy (Luke 9:42), and leprosy (Luke 17:11 ff).  He also healed the people who were oppressed by demons (Mark 9:14 ff).  He came to set people free from the bondage of pain and suffering.

 

Even after Jesus ascended into heaven, God’s healing ministry continued in the Early Church: this time by the hands of Jesus’ Apostles.  I am going to give you a couple of examples. 

 

First, Peter and John (Acts 3).  One day, they were going up to the Temple in Jerusalem to pray.  It was in the afternoon around 3 o’clock.  At the gate of the Temple, a man lame from birth was begging for alms from the people who entered the Temple. When the beggar asked for alms from Peter and John, Peter said, “Silver and gold have I none, but I give you what I have.  In the name of Jesus, rise and walk!”  Then, Peter took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong.  The man stood up, and began to walk, jump, and praise God. 

 

Next, Paul the Apostle did many healings as well in the name of Jesus.  One time, he was shipwrecked at an island (Malta) along with other 275 passengers (Acts 27:37 ff).  He cured the father of the chief of the island and later many others with diseases and led the entire island to Christ (Acts 28:8-9). 

 

What about the churches in the first century?  Yes, they too carried on this divine healing in the name of Jesus.  For instance, in the Corinthian Church, some believers received the gift of healing and used it for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 12:28).  

 

For the next 2000 years, the Church of Christ practiced and benefited from divine healing of the sick. 

 

The real question is whether divine healing still happens or not in today’s church.  It was thing of the past and no longer God Himself heals the sick, some claim.  He uses doctors instead.   Others like me disagree.  Why?  Because God doesn’t change over time.  He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).  The God of Healing in the Old Testament still heals people today.  The same Jesus in the New Testament still sets us free from the demonic oppressions and ailments in our body and soul (Acts 10:48).  

 

For more empirical reasons, I asked the following questions for myself: Have I experienced it personally?  (YES, I have and in fact more than once too)  Do I personally know people who are healed in the name of Jesus?  (YES, I do)  Have I seen God’s people healed in my own ministry? (YES, I have)—one time in Michigan, we prayed for God’s healing in the congregation and for 18 months we didn’t lose a single life.  Therefore, with the fullest conviction, I can testify to you that divine healing is still available to those who claim it in the name of Jesus.  Of course, God uses many other means of healing such as doctors, nurses, medicine, and medical technology, yet God still wants you and me to seek divine healing. 

                               

I am going to present now three essential things to remember as we seek divine healing: 

 

First and foremost, God’s will:  Before we claim God’s promise of healing, we must bring in our humble attitude—the foundation of answered prayers—God’s will be done.

 

In today’s story, the leper said to Jesus, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed” (Matthew 8:2-3, NASB).  Take this God’s promise with you in your prayers and present it to Jesus: Lord, if you are willing, you can make me whole like you did the leper. 

 

Next, leave no sin unresolved.   Sin must be dealt before we invoke God’s healing upon us, because undealt sins block the answers from God (Mark 11:25-26).  Confess every sin before you ask.  Also, forgive your perpetrators.  An unforgiving spirit is a boulder that blocks the path to answered prayers. 

 

Thirdly, believe that God heals you.  In almost every case of Jesus’ healing He emphasized the importance of the person’s faith: your faith has saved you (Luke 7:50) or do you believe that I can do for you? (Matthew 9:28) or.  Say to Jesus, “YES, I DO!”  In today’s story, the leper said to Jesus, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.”  Say to Jesus, “YES, YOU CAN!” Do not expect to get anything from God if you doubt God’s ability (James 1:6-7).  E.g.  My experience with some people who prayed with me for the divine healing.  Believe that you already received it: Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you (Mark 11:24, NASB).   Notice the sequence here: believe and it will be granted. 

 

 

Once these three conditions are met, we go to God in prayer for healing.  Don’t give up after one prayer.  Keep on praying.  In fact, Jesus commands us to be persistent (Luke 18) until we receive the healing or until the Lord reveals the reason why the answer is no like Jesus or Paul (but that’s another topic for later time).

 

 

Conclusion

 

My prayer for all of you: may God heal your body, mind, soul, and spirit in Jesus’ name. 

 

Invite the people to the altar in the following steps as Paul did (Acts 28:8): Pray-Lay Hands-Heal.

 

  1.  I pray: Lord, You are the God of Healing.  You want us to be free from physical illness.  If You are willing, You can make us whole.  We ask for Your forgiveness on everything we’ve done wrong.  We forgive those who trespass against us.  Every one of them.  We believe that You have already answered our prayers.  We thank You and praise You for the healing.  Have mercy on us.  In Jesus’ name, we pray.
  2. People kneel/stand around the altar.
  3. I lay my hands on them saying, “Be healed in the name of Jesus.  Amen.”
  4. Leave the rest to God.

Sermon: Jesus’ Ministry: Preaching

Today Pastor Choi continues his sermon series on Jesus’ ministry: preaching.  The central theme of Christ’s preaching was the Kingdom of God.  Pastor Choi explains the two aspects of the Kingdom of God: here and now (present) and that is to come (future). In the end, he exhorts God’s people to establish God’s Kingdom in their hearts by repentance and forgiveness.

Jesus’ Ministry. Preaching

 

Following is a summary of the sermon:

Jesus’ Ministry (part 2): Preaching     Mark 1:14-15

14 Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:14-15, NASB).

Introduction

I promised you last Sunday a three-part sermon series on Jesus’ ministry.   First, I talked about His teaching ministry: his teachings are filled with truth, grace, and wisdom.  It would be a grave mistake with eternal consequences if we fail to tap into God’s great resource for us—the Bible where we find Jesus’ teachings.  Today, as part 2 of the series, we will think about His preaching ministry.  During His ministry for three years, Jesus would go around from one city and village to another, proclaiming and preaching the Kingdom of God (Luke 8:1).  Today’s text well sums up what He preached about:  Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:14-15).

Contents

The catch phrase for His ministry is this: The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel (Mark 1:15).   The central theme of His preaching was the Kingdom of God.

What is the Kingdom of God?

A child in China once asked a missionary what the Kingdom of God is.  The missionary simply explained that the Kingdom of God is the kingdom where God is King.   The Kingdom of God is, indeed, where God is King and we are His subjects.  In the Kingdom of God, God is in charge and we are His citizens.  He is our loving Father and we are His children.   In God’s Kingdom He is our Lord and we are His servants.  He is our boss and we are His agents working together to bring about His Kingdom here on earth.

Two concepts

We all wonder when and where Kingdom of God is going to come.  I will explain briefly this morning that there are two aspects of the Kingdom of God: here and now and that is to come.   Present and future.  Let me explain the future sense of God’s Kingdom first.   It will come in the end times.   One day Jesus’ disciples asked Him when the end of the age is going to come on the earth—the full consummation of God’s Kingdom (Matthew 24:3).  Jesus answered: there will be wars, rumors of wars, natural disasters, heavenly signs, and the persecution of believers.  The gospel must be preached in the entire world before it comes.  There will be false prophets and false Christs.  Lawlessness is to be increased and people’s love will grow cold.  Then, the end of the world will come and Christ will return in His glory.   Since nobody but God knows exactly when it is going to be, Christ commands us to be prepared, watch, and pray.   That is the Kingdom of God in the future.  The full consummation of God’s reign both in the heavens and on earth.

Here’s the other aspect: the Kingdom of God here and now—it is the foretaste of God’s Kingdom in your heart and this is what we need to be concerned about while we are waiting for Christ’s coming.  In fact, that’s what today’s text is all about: God’s Kingdom here and now.  Let me elaborate on it.

The Kingdom of God at hand

Jesus begins verse 15 saying, the time (kairos–God’s time) is fulfilled and the Kingdom of God is at hand.  “At hand” means God’s Kingdom is right next to you and to your heart.  By the way, the Kingdom of God at hand— it reminds me of an imagery of Jesus standing at the door knocking: Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me (Revelation 3:20, NASB).

What is your answer to His call?  Jesus asks you to open your heart and invite Him so that you may have the relationship with Him: Christ as your King and you as His servant.  Invite Him into your heart and to your throne: you give up your throne to Him and serve Him as your Lord.   He calls you to establish this wonderful and eternal relationship with Him.  He wants you to walk in God’s light and truth.  He wants you to do justice and walk humbly with God.  He wants you to pursue holiness with Him and peace with one another (Hebrews 12:14).

Repent

You may wonder what’s the first thing you need to do to establish the Kingdom of God in your heart.  Jesus answers, “through repentance.”  Now, think with me.  Out of so many words Jesus could’ve chosen for His ministry catch phrase such as “The Kingdom of God is at hand, therefore, be good/do good/serve the poor/ pray/read the Bible/go to church/transform the world” and so forth, why did He choose the word “Repent” instead?

Repent is one of the most beautiful words in Christianity that has been misunderstood, misinterpreted, and consequently has been shunned by preachers and believers for years in America.  E.g. In my seminary days, the emphasis of preaching class was “Give a positive and uplifting message.”  Therefore, shun negative words such as sin or repentance.  But, you know what?  If Jesus used them, so shall I.  So must every preacher.  In fact, it would be a great disservice to you if I only focus on the “feel-good” words never mentioning words that are essential in the Christian’s life.  I just don’t want to omit the words that Jesus frequently used: the words that are crucial in our relationship with God and with each other.  Repentance is the word Jesus often used in the context of forgiveness.

Why repentance is important?  Because it is a means to restore our relationship with God and with each other.  Everyone needs a relationship with God, therefore, everyone needs repentance.  Without repentance, there’s no forgiveness, and there is no relationship with God.  No matter how holy and devout we may think we are, we still need to repent to God and to one another.  As often as we can.  Repentance is a tool to make up our broken relationships with God and with each other.  By the way, the tense for Greek verb ‘to repent’ here is present and it carries the meaning of “on-going” action of repentance, not just a one-time and done deal.  Repentance is an on-going act before God.   If you had repented twenty years ago, and never did repent since, something is wrong.  To me, repentance is a daily act with God and with each other.

Believe in the gospel.

Jesus said, repent and believe in the gospel (v. 15).

Believe what?  The gospel.  The good news.  What is the good news?  The good news of God.  The good news that God originated and brings to all.  The good news that Jesus came and died on our behalf.  Last Sunday, one child asked me why we call the Friday when Jesus died on the cross good.  I explained that although it was sad to see Him crucified, we still call Good Friday because of the good that God brings forth out of Christ’s death on our behalf.  I cannot have enough of this great news for all.  In fact, the greatest news of all with the eternal benefit for you and me.

Jesus died on the cross to redeem us from the penalty of our sins.  The same Jesus asks us (the forgiven) to forgive others.  Lent is the great time for forgiveness.  First, we seek God’s forgiveness for our sins against God and against others.  Next, we ask for forgiveness from others.  Thirdly, it is our turn to forgive others’ sins.  Now, some of us have a hard time forgiving someone in our lives.  For whatever wrong they have done against us.  Let me tell you.  God commands us to forgive.  Forgiveness is not a suggestion or option.  It is a command like the Ten Commandments.  E.g. You shall not murder/steal.

Forgiveness is intentional not emotional.  When we forgive the perpetrator, we do not rely on our feelings.  Rather, we use our will power.  It is about giving up our right to revenge and putting it in God’s hands. “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay” says the Lord (Romans 12:19).  E.g.  On October 2, 2006, a non-Amish man Charles Karl Roberts IV, a 30-year old truck driver, entered an Amish Schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, PA.  He tied up all ten girls and shot them all.  Five of them died.  When a trooper came in through the window, he turned the gun on himself.  The same day the Amish community visited the killer’s father and told him, “Chuck, we will forgive you.”  More than thirty Amish attended the burial of Charles Roberts the perpetrator.  Among them were the parents of several victims.  Listen to a mother of a victim: “To me when I think of forgiving, it doesn’t mean that you have forgotten what he’s done.  But it means that you have released unto God the one who has offended you.  And you have given up your right to seek revenge.  I place the situation in God’s hands.  And I choose not to hold against Charles because it really doesn’t help me anything anyway” (Video, The Amish, The American Experience).

Conclusion

If Jesus starts His public ministry in America today, what catch phrase would He use for His ministry?  I believe He would take up the same sentences that He used 2000 years ago in Israel: the Kingdom of God is near, therefore, repent and believe in the good news.  Establish your relationship with God by repenting of your sins.   Ask for God’s forgiveness and forgive those who trespass against you.  Believe in the greatest news of all: Jesus loves you and died for you.

Amen.

Sermon: Jesus’ Ministry: Teaching

Today Pastor Choi walks the congregation through Jesus’ teaching ministry.  He points out that His teachings are still relevant today in America in the following three aspects.  They are full of truth, full of grace, and full of wisdom.  He exhorts God’s people to get into God’s Word today to live out Jesus’ teachings in their daily lives.

 

    Jesus’ Teaching Ministry

 

Following is a summary of the sermon:

 

Jesus’ Ministry (I): Teaching                         Matthew 4:23-25

Matthew 4:23-25  New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Ministry in Galilee

23 Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people.

24 The news about Him spread throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all who were ill, those suffering with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics; and He healed them. 25 Large crowds followed Him from Galilee and the Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan.

Introduction

 

Last Sunday, I talked about why Jesus the Messiah came to this earth: to set us free from the bondage of sin and death and to release us from physical and emotional evils.  For the next three Sundays, I am going to walk you through Jesus’ public ministry to know what He has done to minister to the people.   Today’s reading well sums up His ministry: Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people (Matthew 4:23). 

 

This morning, as part 1 of the series, we will think about Jesus’ teaching ministry.

 

Contents

 

Jesus was a marvelous teacher.  People in His time were truly astonished at His teaching.  They noticed that His teaching was far superior to those of the scribes—teachers of the Law, because He taught the lessons with authority (Mark 1:22).   In fact, they were so amazed that they debated among themselves saying, “What is this?  A new teaching—and with authority!”  (Mark 1:27). 

 

Of course, it is not difficult to figure out why His teaching was so outstanding:

 

First, Jesus was from above while the other teachers were from below.  He was the Son of God while the scribes/rabbis were mere human beings.  When it comes down to God’s Word, He learned firsthand from God the Father while the others didn’t.  

 

Next, Jesus was the Word of God Himself (John 1:1). Therefore, He had no need of external support for His teachings, while the scribes would refer to the rabbinic teachings.    E.g.  Jesus (the Sun—the source of light) and scribes (the Moon—the reflections). 

 

Thirdly, the clarity, simplicity, and the conviction of truth Jesus brought to the audience were far superior to those of the scribes because the Holy Spirit was working together in His teaching, while the same Spirit was foreign to the scribes. 

 

That was 2000 years ago.  His teachings truly helped the people of God in Israel.  What about today?  The question of relevance arises: Are Jesus’ teachings still relevant in today’s world?   In the 21st century in America?  My answer to that question is a resounding “YES!!!”

 

Why? 

 

Because His Word is the truth, and the truth never changes.  The same truth He taught 2000 years ago in Israel still remains true and relevant in the 21st century in America.  His teachings were filled with truth, grace, and wisdom back then, and they are still the same today.  Let me elaborate on what I said.

 

First and foremost, Jesus’ teaching is full of truth.  In the Gospel stories, we see many lessons of Jesus.  When you really pay attention to them, you cannot but think that He is telling you the truth and nothing but the truth.  He is not politically correct.  He doesn’t show favoritism to anyone, either.  Here’s one example.  One day He was speaking to the religious leaders about their hypocrisies.  He didn’t mince words.  Listen: 25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence.26 You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also” (Matthew 23:25-26, NASB). 

 

When it comes to speaking the truth, Jesus is the lion, not a lamb.  He also speaks directly to the heart of the listeners, so sometimes it hurts.  That’s why the religious leaders hated Him and later killed Him. 

 

I remember reading a story of a preacher and two brothers:  “(The two brothers) were rich.  They were also wicked.  Both lived a wild, unprofitable existence, using their wealth to cover up the dark side of their lives.  On the surface, however, few would have guessed it, for these consummated cover-up artists attended the same church almost every Sunday and contributed large sums to various church-related projects.  Then the church called a new pastor, a young man who preached the truth with zeal and courage.  Before long, attendance had grown so much that the church needed a larger worship center.  Being a man of keen insight and strong integrity, this young pastor had also seen through the hypocritical lifestyles of the two brothers.  Suddenly one of the brothers dies, and the young pastor was asked to preach his funeral.  The day before the funeral, the surviving brother pulled the minister aside and handed him an envelope.  “There’s a check in here that is large enough to pay the entire amount you need for the new sanctuary,” he whispered. “All I ask is one favor: Tell the people at the funeral that he was a saint.”  The minister gave the brother his word; he would do precisely what was asked.  That afternoon he deposited the check into the church account.  The next day the young pastor stood before the casket at the funeral service and said with firm conviction, “This man was an ungodly sinner, wicked to the core.  He was unfaithful to his wife, hot-tempered with his children, ruthless in his business, and a hypocrite at church…but compared to his brother, he was a saint” (Leadership magazine, Fall 1995). 

 

I pray that God’s Church would follow Jesus’ example of teaching the truth.  May the preachers do the same, handling God’s truth accurately without compromise (2 Timothy 2:15).  May God’s people welcome the truth of God even though it hurts. 

 

Next, Jesus’ teaching is full of grace.  Do you remember His encounter with a woman who was caught in adultery?  Listen:  “But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.Early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people were coming to Him; and He sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the center of the court, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?” They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground. But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the center of the court. 10 Straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.” 

 

Each time I read this account, it gives me goose bumps.  No one but Christ can come up with such a graceful truth to a sinner like me.

 

Thirdly, His teaching is full of wisdom.  His lessons are priceless.  Listen to this: 19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

 

Here’s another one:22 “The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light.23 But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! 24 ‘No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth’” (Matthew 6:19-24, NASB). 

 

How about this one? “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34).

 

Oh, I can go on and on.  We sure miss such great teachings from a great Teacher.  However, God hasn’t left us alone without help.  In fact, He has given us two resources to tap into for our life journey: the Great Book and a resident Teacher in us.  The Great Book is the Bible where we can find Jesus’ teachings.  The resident Teacher in us is the Holy Spirit. 

 

Here’s the sad reality: Few people of God get into God’s Word, because they lack the desire to get into the treasure of Jesus’ teachings.  Few are aware of the Holy Spirit’s presence in them and even less ask Him for help.  Therefore, most of God’s people remain ignorant of Jesus’ teachings and deprived of blessings thereof.   The end result?  We miss out on the life-transforming teachings of Jesus.  We miss out on the abundant life in the Holy Spirit.  The worst of all, we may miss out on eternal life if we neglect God’s Word. 

 

Do you know who Satan is?  Your enemy.   Do you know what his ultimate goal is?   To deprive you of eternal life.  How does he achieve that?  By convincing you that you can live by bread alone without God’s Word.  By convincing you that God’s Word is too difficult to understand so that you may not open the Bible.  By convincing you that it is the preacher’s job, not yours, to read the Bible.  By keeping you from having access to God’s Word.  By keeping you ignorant of the salvation knowledge.  He would do everything in his power to keep you from God’s truth so that you may miss eternal life.  Never ever allow your enemy to do that.

 

Conclusion

 

God has given us the Bible and the resident Teacher in us.  We have no excuses not to rely on them in our life journey.  We have God’s Word right under our nose and God’s Spirit in us.  Show me a believer who takes God’s Word seriously, and I will show you a believer who loves Jesus. 

 

Get into God’s Word today.  Ask the Holy Spirit to teach you Jesus’ way, too.  By the way, about 18 months ago, I challenged you to read the entire Bible, from cover to cover and let me know.  Then, I would record your name in my book, “The Book Club.”  I am still waiting.   If you think Jesus was the Great teacher and His teachings are relevant today, you will get on them in the Bible starting today.  Beginners, you can start with the Gospel of John, and you will be forever blessed.

 

Let’s pray.

Sermon: Christ’s Mission Statement

Pastor Choi talks about Christ’s mission statement today.  Jesus the Messiah, the Anointed One of God, came to accomplish God’s given mission to preach the good news to the humble and meek, to bind up the broken-hearted, to set the captives free from the bondage of sin and death, and to pay the wages of our sin forever through His own death.

 

Christ’s Mission Statement

 

 

Following is a summary of the sermon:

 

Title: Christ’s Mission Statement

Text: Luke 4:14-21, Isaiah 61:1-2

 

Luke 4:14-21New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Jesus’ Public Ministry

14 And Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about Him spread through all the surrounding district. 15 And He began teaching in their synagogues and was praised by all.

16 And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. 17 And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written,

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor.
He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives,
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set free those who are oppressed,
19 To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.”

20 And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. 21 And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

 

Introduction

Imagine this: Using a time machine, you travel back to the first century Israel to the town of Nazareth the hometown of Jesus.  The first thing you notice is that it is a very small town with a population under 500.  It happens to be a Sabbath Day.  You walk into the synagogue that is built on a hill.  You enter there and quietly sit while waiting for the service to start.  There are about 30-40 people gathered, men and women altogether.  Not long after you sit down, Jesus comes in.  The service starts.  Then, He stands up which means He has something to say to the people.  The attendant of the synagogue brings Him the Torah.  He opens Isaiah 61:1-2 (the prophecy on the Messiah) and reads it aloud to the people.  Then He sits down and says to the congregation the prophecy that they just heard has been fulfilled in their hearing that day.  In other words, Jesus claims that He is the Messiah–the Anointed–God’s chosen one.   You hear Him saying it in plain Aramaic.  He is the Messiah.  Most of the folks, however, don’t get it.

 

Contents

In fact, that’s exactly what happened one day two thousand years ago in Nazareth Jesus’  hometown (Luke 4:16-30).  Before He launched His public ministry in the district of Galilee, Jesus declared to everyone in His hometown that He was the Messiah of God.  FYI: the Hebrew word ‘Messiah’ is same as Christ.  The anointed one of God.  In the Old Testament times, in three occasions a person was anointed with oil to announce that God has set them apart for certain tasks: kings for ruling, priests for sacrifices and prayers, and the prophets for delivering God’s message to God’s people.  The Messiah has all three offices: king of kings, the High Priest for our sins, and the Messenger of God’s Word.  Jesus is the Messiah sent by God.  This morning, we will carefully listen to the Messiah and His mission statement.

Isaiah 61:1-2 is not only the prophecy on the Messiah but it also tells us about his mission.  It is Christ’s mission statement in which Jesus laid out why God anointed Him, to whom He was sent, and what He would do for the people.  Let me unpack His mission statement:

First, God sent the Messiah to preach the Good News to the poor.  The first task for the Messiah is to bring the Good News of God to the poor–the recipients of the Good News.  The original meaning of ‘to preach the Good News,’ ‘to bring the good tidings,’ and ‘to bring a joyful message’ carries the meaning of ‘to rub/smooth the face.’  By bringing the Messiah, God wants to comfort His people.

The Hebrew word for ‘poor’ (ahnahv) also deserves our attention here.  It can be translated in five different ways: poor, afflicted, weak, humble, or meek.  Consider the two slightly different versions of the Beatitudes: in Matthew Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3, NASB).  In Luke Jesus says, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God ” (Luke 6:20, NASB).  Matthew was a Jew who understood Jesus’ usage of the word (ahnahv) and, therefore, translated it ‘those who are poor in spirit (that is, humble),’ while Luke a Gentile literally translated as the poor with meager material possessions.

Knowing the usage of this adjective ‘poor’ (ahnahv) in various settings, I am inclined to go with that the Messiah preaches the Good News to the humble and meek.  The humble and meek means that they are neither strong nor mighty.  Perfectly understanding their weaknesses, they are not high on themselves.  They readily acknowledge that they need One who is mightier and stronger than themselves.  They are ready to accept God into their lives.

What about the proud and the mighty–the opposite of humble and meek?  Rich folks tend to be haughty.  Jesus says that it is extremely difficult for the rich to get into the Kingdom of Heaven: “Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:24).   Why?  Because, they are proud, relying not on God but on their own might.  Furthermore, they rely on the power of money and pursue and worship mammon.  They also tend to look down on folks believing that they are better than others.  God is opposed to the proud.  Be sure that you stay humble to avoid self-reliance and to prevent yourself from worshiping mammon.

The second mission of the Messiah is to bind up the broken-hearted.  The Hebrew word for ‘to bind’ is habash: bind up the wounds.  So, the Messiah came to bind up the wounds of the broken-hearted.  He came to comfort the distressed and emotionally wounded.  I am thinking of those folks who have been emotionally mistreated and verbally abused in their relationships.  The Messiah came for those folks to bind up their wounds and make them whole again.   The imagery that comes to my mind is gentle and loving, kind hands that bind up our wounds.  In fact, Jesus is such a kind and loving God.  Isaiah 42:3 says about the Messiah: “A bruised reed he will not break and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.”  Matthew 11:28-29: “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (NASB).   The Church–the Body of Christ– also should be the sanctuary for the wounded spirits and crushed souls.

Thirdly, Christ came to set free the captives and set at liberty those who are oppressed.  Here, Jesus the Messiah is not talking about political liberation through revolution.  Rather, He refers to the liberty and freedom from both spiritual and physical evils.  The Messiah came to free us from oppression and harassment, both spiritual and physical, imposed on us by our enemy the Devil.  As a matter of fact, if I had to choose one word to summarize what the Christian life is all about, I would choose ‘freedom’– the first and foremost benefit I enjoy as a Christian.  Nothing and nobody owns me but God.  Christ set me free from the power of sin and from the fear of death.  I am no longer enslaved to sin.  I am no longer under the bondage of sin.  I am no longer oppressed by Satan, either physically or spiritually (Acts10:38).  This is especially essential and true to those with addictions.  Christ is the Liberator.  Christ is the truth.   He liberates people from the strong grip of sin and addiction (John 8:32).  That’s what He did when He was on earth.  He would heal many people who were physically inflicted and set them free from the spiritual oppressions by Satan.

Last, but not least, Christ came to proclaim to all Jubilee (the favorable year of the LORD).  What is a Jubilee?  It is every fiftieth year when a release is proclaimed through the land to all its inhabitants (Leviticus 25:10).  It is the year when the people of God return to their own property and to their families.   Slaves become free and people forgive each other’s debt.   Christ declares that He has forgiven our debts through His own death once and for all.  Indeed, the Messiah paid the wages of our sins through His own death so that we may forever go free from the consequences of our iniquities.   In the mid-course of His ministry, Christ affirmed His mission as this:  “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many”(Mark 10:45, NASB).  To give His life as a ransom for many.  He completed that mission on the cross offering His sinless and innocent body on behalf of all who would believe in His atoning death on the cross.  The sinless for the sinful.  I pray that all of us understand how great God’s love for us to send His only begotten Son Jesus the Messiah to do that job on the cross— to save us from our sins and let us go free.  Some day we will be eternally grateful for the Messiah.

Conclusion

On the night before He was crucified, Jesus the Messiah was standing before the high priest.  The high priest asked Jesus one question: Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One? (Mark 14:61).   And Jesus said, “I am; and you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven” (Mark 14:62, NASB).  2,000 years ago, Jesus the Messiah came to us for the first time with the Good News of redemption and healing.  The same Messiah will come again this time not to redeem the sin of the world but as the Judge in the last days (Hebrews 9:28).

May we find ourselves blameless and pure in the sight of the Messiah on that day (2 Corinthians 2:11).     Amen.

Sermon: When You Are Down

Pastor Choi offers three pieces of advice to those who are down due to their life’s difficult situations: 1. Do not trust own feelings.  Rather, trust in God and His Word.  2. Do not let the negatives pull you down.  Cherish small successes and thank God for the strengths He has given you.  3. Surround yourself with trusted believers, family, and friends, because you need their support and their encouragement.

When You Are Down

 

The following is a summary of the sermon:

 

When You Are Down

Numbers 11:10-15    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

The Complaint of Moses

10 Now Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, each man at the doorway of his tent; and the anger of the Lord was kindled greatly, and Moses was displeased. 11 So Moses said to the Lord, “Why have You been so hard on Your servant? And why have I not found favor in Your sight, that You have laid the burden of all this people on me? 12 Was it I who conceived all this people? Was it I who brought them forth, that You should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom as a nurse carries a nursing infant, to the land which You swore to their fathers ’? 13 Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they weep before me, saying, ‘Give us meat that we may eat!’ 14 I alone am not able to carry all this people, because it is too burdensome for me. 15 So if You are going to deal thus with me, please kill me at once, if I have found favor in Your sight, and do not let me see my wretchedness.”

Introduction

One of church jokes on Moses: Why did Moses wander in the wilderness for 40 years?  Because, being a man, he never asked for directions.  Indeed, Moses led the congregation of Israel (a.k.a. Israelites) for 40 years in the wilderness until they finally entered the Promised Land.

Grumbling Generation: During those forty years in wilderness, many a time the Israelites grumbled against God and against Moses: mainly due to the harsh living conditions in the wilderness: from food and drinks to fears.  Their constant grumbling against God and against their leader provoked God to anger and drove Moses to frustration.  In turn, Moses complained to God.  I must say here: it is best for us not to complain or grumble, but the truth is that God tolerates our occasional complaints but never likes our grumbling.  Grumbling displeases God, while occasional complaints don’t (disclaimer: I never suggest you to complain to God oftenJ).

I would like to make a clear distinction here between two words: Complain vs. Grumble: The Oxford Dictionary defines as follows:

Complain: to say that one is not satisfied/something is wrong/one is suffering.

Grumble: to complain/protest in a bad tempered way.

Tired Leader:  Let’s go to our leader Moses again.  Most of the times, he handled well his moments of frustration and discouragement.  In fact, I admire his patience and humility with the Congregation of Israel (personally, I don’t believe I would survive even a year in Moses’ shoes).  Yet, there were times when Moses had more than he could handle.  Here, I see a leader discouraged / fed-up with his people’s constant rebellion against God.  He had enough.  He was about to quit.

So, one day, he vented out his frustration to God in his prayer.  He begged God to release him from his duty.  Listen again:  11 So Moses said to the Lord, “Why have You been so hard on Your servant? And why have I not found favor in Your sight, that You have laid the burden of all this people on me? 12 Was it I who conceived all this people? Was it I who brought them forth, that You should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom as a nurse carries a nursing infant, to the land which You swore to their fathers ’? 13 Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they weep before me, saying, ‘Give us meat that we may eat!’ 14 I alone am not able to carry all this people, because it is too burdensome for me. 15 So if You are going to deal thus with me, please kill me at once, if I have found favor in Your sight, and do not let me see my wretchedness.” (vv. 11-15) [emphasis mine].

Whoa!  Did you just hear what I heard?  His death wish in the words he uttered to God?  Pretty strong, I must say.  Come to think of it, some great men of God have been there and done that: Job wished to die in the midst of misery.  So did Jonah.  So did Elijah.  So did I (not that I am worthy of being in that party).  Welcome to the club.  When the chips are down, we all get discouraged.  Sometimes, we even wish to die.

I remember, several years ago, falling into a spiritual depression.  I didn’t arrive at a death wish, but I was very discouraged.  One day I attended a District Day of Learning where church leaders were invited to learn something beneficial for church growth.  The topic of the day was “Discover your spirituality type.”  Both for pastors and congregations.  There are four types: Theologian, Charismatic, Mystic, and Crusader.  The speakers also talked about the American spirituality in the past 50 years quoting from Robert Wuthnow’s Book: “After Heaven: Spirituality in America since the 1950s.”  Here’s a summary.

The 1950s was the era of “Dwelling Spirituality.”  Here come the baby-boomers!   Neighborhoods were swarmed with children.  Houses of worship were filled with people.  Denominations across the board all flourished.   People flocked to the church which became a cultural center.

“Seeking Spirituality” emerged in the 1960s.  People would go beyond churches.  The denominational loyalty began to erode.  Believers began to go any church they chose to.

“Practice or (Do Something) Spirituality” emerged in the 21st century.  On the one hand, people love “hands-on” ministries.  On the other hand, however, they are uncomfortable within a single faith community when it comes down to commitment.   In fact, they offer minimal or no commitment to their churches.  E.g. The attitude of “No longer than six weeks” commitment permeates in committees, membership classes, confirmation class, and even worship leaders.  That day I struggled with one question: what happened to the membership vow?  (every members promises “to faithfully participate in ministries by prayers, presence, gifts, and service”).  That Non-committal phrase was what got me!!!  Welcome to the era of non-commitment.

I Was a Discouraged Leader: That day, more than anything else, I lamented over the fact that the Christian Church suffers from this great pandemic of the “non-committal” attitude among its members.

That afternoon, and for the next two days, I found myself very discouraged / tired and spiritually down.  Thank God, though, my slump didn’t last long.

How I Came out of the Spiritual Dump: Three things helped me to snap out of the spiritual depression.

First, it was God’s Word.  One verse pulled me out right away.  It was 1 Corinthians 15:58: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord (NASB).”  I learned a lesson that I should never trust my own feelings because they change constantly.  I also learned not to make any decision when I feel down or angry or hungry.  I would rather trust in God and His unchanging Word than my own feelings.  To such an immovable Word of God I can anchor my soul.

Next, I didn’t let the negatives pull me down.  Instead, I focused on what was working well and cherished small successes in my ministry at that time.  E.g. a couple of members of the church thanked me, the pastor, for their answered prayers.  In turn, I was grateful to God for answering their prayers of which I was part.

Thirdly, I surrounded myself with faithful family and friends.  They listened to my frustrations and supported me, and encouraged me to keep on going.   Their support and words of encouragement were priceless because they lifted me up.   That’s why I thank God every day for my family!

What Do You Do When You Feel Down?

I would give three pieces of advice to those who feel down and frustrated with their life situations.

First, trust in God and His Word, not your moods.  God makes all things beautiful according to His good will in His time.  His timing is never too late or too early.  Therefore, be patient.   Do not trust your feelings especially when your chips are down.  Never make a decision influenced by your moods, either.  Let God’s word speak to you.  Soak your soul in God’s word daily.

Next, never let the negatives pull you down.  Focus on the small successes and on your strengths that work well.  Recall the times when God answered your prayers and thank God for that.  Do not give up but keep on praying (Jesus’ command in Luke 18:1 ff).  P.U.S.H.  (Pray Until Something Happens).  Meditate on God’s Word that would keep your heart and mind in assurance and peace such as Philippians 4:6-7 and Matthew 6.  That’s where this year’s Lenten Challenge comes in.  Do the daily proclamation using the booklet I provided for you.

Third, surround yourself with trusted believers for their support and prayers.  You need family and friends who would encourage you to go on in God.   E.g. Paul was encouraged by Titus’s arrival.  Even Jesus had a moment of discouragement (John 6:53-69).  One day, He fed 5,000 people with five loaves and two fish.  The crowd loved it.  So, on the following day, they returned for more bread.  Jesus, this time, gave them a hard teaching to accept: to eat His flesh and to drink His blood meaning His own atoning sacrifice for all.  The crowd didn’t understand the true meaning of it.   In fact, they took it literally and got quite offended with His message.  Shaking their heads in disapproval of His teaching, they deserted Him.  Jesus, turning to His disciples, said, “You won’t leave me, would you?” Peter answered: No, we are going to stick with you and around you, because You have the words of eternal life (v. 68).

You can definitely use the prayers from your friends as well.  E.g. Even Jesus asked for prayers from His disciples in his darkest hour at the garden of Gethsemane.  How much more do we need them!  Ask your friends to double up their prayers for you!

Conclusion

Jesus Knows Your Problem: Jesus deeply cares about your daily needs.  In fact, if He knows how many strands of hair you have, don’t you think He already knows what you are up against?   Therefore, hang in there, because He will see you through.

The late Corrie ten Boom once said: “When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away the ticket and jump off.  You sit still and trust the engineer.”   Be still and trust the Greatest Engineer of all—God.   Never trust your feelings.   Anchor your soul to God’s Word that is immovable.  Gather your trusted friends and family members and pray together.  You will get out of your slump in no time.  Amen.

Sermon: Proclamation of God’s Word

Today Pastor Choi presents a Lenten challenge to his congregation: Proclamation of God’s Word every day for 40 days.  He talks about the meaning of “to proclaim,” explains why proclamation is necessary, and how we do it.  For the transformation of life, he urges every child of God to start practicing this privilege and responsibility to proclaim God’s Word daily.

 

Proclamation of God’s Word

 

Following is a summary of the sermon:

 

Proclamation of God’s Word    Isaiah 55:10-11

Isaiah 55:10-11           New King James Version (NKJV)

10 “For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven,
And do not return there,
But water the earth,
And make it bring forth and bud,
That it may give seed to the sower
And bread to the eater,
11 So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void,
But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.

Introduction

(Invite the congregation to read aloud Isaiah 55:10-11 with me).

This Wednesday the season of Lent begins.  In the Church Calendar, after the hustle and bustle of the Advent season, Lent falls upon us rather quietly.  It begins with Ash Wednesday and ends on the day before Easter. Not counting 6 Sundays in between the two days, Lent consists of 40 days of self-reflection and meditation on God’s Word.   It is the season of prayer, repentance, almsgiving, and self-denial in preparation of Easter.  As pastor of the church, I am bringing you another challenge for Lent.  (Remember what we did last year?  We prayed for everyone in the church directory for forty days).  I am excited to announce this year’s Lenten Challenge: Proclamation of God’s Word.  I got this idea from a book written by Derek Prince: Prayers and Proclamations.

Looking at the title of the challenge, some of you may wonder if you are supposed to preach a sermon to others.  Don’t worry.  That’s not what I have in my mind.  Rather, I want everyone to proclaim God’s Word every single day during Lent (if you want to, you can even proclaim God’s Word on Sundays as well).  Yes, every single day for the next 40 days, you’re encouraged to say aloud God’s Word to yourself.  That’s the challenge.  Let me explain how it works.

Content

What Does It Mean “to Proclaim?”

First of all, let me explain what I mean by “to proclaim.”  It means “to cry out” or “to shout forth” (originated from the Latin word ‘proclamare’).   It also has a connection to a Greek word “to confess (homologeo).”  In Greek, “to confess” means “to say the same as”.  So, “to proclaim” God’s Word is “to say the same thing with our mouths as God has already said in His Word” (Prayers & Proclamations, Derek Prince, p. 11).  The closest example of the activity of proclamation is this: a herald proclaims king’s edict to the people saying, “Oyez! Oyez!”  We do the same thing with God’s Word: not in front of others but to yourself.

Why Proclamation?  For the transformation of our lives.

Proclamation is more than just saying any human words aloud.  You are proclaiming God’s Word that has power to create and change environments.  E.g.  Remember how God created the universe?   With His own spoken Word.  For instance, in Genesis 1:3, God said, “Let there be light” and there was light.  In Genesis 1:24, God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures after its kind: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth after their kind; and it was so. 

When we do the same with God’s Word, something happens in our circumstances.   How?   God’s Word that goes forth from our mouths will not return to us void; it will accomplish what God pleases and it will prosper in the thing for which it is sent (Isaiah 55:11).   So, why proclaim God’s Word?  Because we want to see our lives transformed by God’s Word and by its power: our faith will grow, we become bold and we will face the day with the conviction that the Lord is with us.  Proclamation is a means of releasing God’s tremendous power unto our lives and circumstances.  There’s no more effective way to release God’s power than proclamation.

Derek Prince says that too many believers are unaware of this spiritual truth and live their lives without experiencing the changing power of God’s Word in their circumstances.  I agree with him.   It’s time that we reclaimed this spiritual privilege and blessing that is available to every child of God.  When we learn how to proclaim God’s Word into every situation, from our personal needs to international crises, we will see God’s creative power that transforms our circumstances and us.  It’s time that we exercised the privilege and responsibility to proclaim God’s Word every day.

A word of caution

Although learning to proclaim God’s Word into circumstances sounds simple, the Word of God we proclaim won’t be effective at all until we learn to reverence God’s Word.  Even though we proclaim God’s Word until our faces are blue, unless we bring in our reverent attitude towards God’s Word, it won’t work.

Listen to Isaiah 66:1-2:  Thus says the Lord:

“Heaven is My throne,
And earth is My footstool.
Where is the house that you will build Me?
And where is the place of My rest?
For all those things My hand has made,
And all those things exist,”
Says the Lord.
“But on this one will I look:
On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit,
And who trembles at My word.

Have you noticed here that God in heavens won’t be impressed with all the human works and achievements in the world?   Indeed, Jesus said, to God the clothing of King Solomon in all his glory wasn’t as impressive as the lilies of the field (Matthew 6:29).  Yet, Isaiah points out certain individuals who will attract God’s favor: poor, of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at God’s Word.  God looks for and favors those who show holy reverence for His Word. 

 

Why we should tremble before God’s Word?  In his book “Prayers & Proclamations” Derek Prince points out two reasons:  First, the very Word of God will judge us in the last day.  Listen to Jesus: He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day (John 12:48, NKJV).  Each time we open the Bible and read it, “we are looking at that which will one day judge us.  No wonder we should tremble at it” (ibid. p.35).

 

The next reason is that through the Word of God will Jesus and God come to us.  Listen again to Jesus: Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him (John 14:23).  Note here We–Jesus and His Father.  They both will come to us and make their home with us.  How will they come?  Through God’s Word.  When we read God’s Word, God (the Father and the Son) come into our lives and make home with us.  Imagine that Jesus is coming to your house.  You would vacuum, dust, and get everything ready to invite Him to your living room.  As soon as He steps in, you would fall down before Him and worship Him.  But, then, not only is He coming to your house, He is also bringing His Father with Him.  Wow!  You would be overwhelmed with a sense of awe.  The same thing happens spiritually every time we open God’s Word.  Shouldn’t we, therefore, show a much greater sense of reverence and awe to God’s Word? 

 

How to Proclaim?  Three steps: Proclaim, Thank, and Praise.

 

Say aloud the appropriate Scripture with bold and unwavering confidence.  Personalize it by replacing “we,” “us,” or “you” with “I” or “me.”  Accept the Scripture proclaimed as true, even before you see its actual outworking in your situation.  Thank God and praise Him for the transformation of your life.

For Maximum Benefit

Ask the Holy Spirit to make “alive” to you any Scriptures that are appropriate to your particular situations.  Remember: God’s Spirit always works together with God’s Word.  He is our teacher who makes God’s Word alive and relevant.  Ask for His help.

Also, read the Scriptures through many times—out loud, if possible.

Gradually proceed from reading aloud to systematic memorization.

So, this is how we will do proclamation of God’s Word through Lent.  For the next seven Sundays, in the bulletin insert, I will provide three or four verses for the coming week.  We will proclaim those verses together as a congregation each Sunday starting today (Do it now).  Then, you go home and proclaim God’s Word throughout the week until the following Sunday and we will repeat it seven times.  How long will it take each day to proclaim God’s Word?  3 minutes max each day, but the benefits will be tremendous for your spirit, soul, and body.

This morning, I will also provide a booklet for those who are serious about proclaiming God’s Word for the next seven weeks (on your way out, the ushers will hand out one for you).   So, throughout Lent, we will proclaim God’s Word in the following seven areas of our lives: salvation and holiness, overcoming negative thinking, protection from evil, financial and physical needs, national and international affairs, Christianity and opposing forces, and testing and trials.

Conclusion

I have been doing this proclamation of God’s Word for at least a couple of years.  My daily practice prepares me to face the day with courage and faith.  Proclaim God’s Word over and over again every day.  Speak them out loud until the Scriptures become part of your thinking and attitude.  Personalize it and accept God’s promise for you.  You will see your lives transformed forever.    Amen.

Sermon: Can Anyone Love without God?

Today Pastor Choi talks about agape love and its three attributes: 1. Agape love is divine.  God is agape—the author and source of divine love.  2. Agape love is unconditional.  God loves us unconditionally.  3. Agape love is reciprocal.  God expects us to love others as He has loved us.

 

Can Anyone Love without God

 

The following is a summary of his sermon:

 

Can Anyone Love without God?      1 John 4: 7-21

 

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. 14 We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.

15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us.  God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world.18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. 19 We love, because He first loved us. 20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also (1 John 4: 7-21, NASB).—-26 times of “beloved,” “love,” and “to love.”—all rooted in agape (love).

 

What does love mean?  Let’s listen to a group of 4 to 8 year-olds what they think love is (Read the excerpts from internet below).

Subject: Love according to children

“When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn’t bend over and paint her toenails anymore.  So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too.  That’s love.”   Rebecca – age 8.

“Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other.”  Karl – age 5.

“Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is OK.”  Danny – age 7.

“If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate.”  Nikka – age 6.

“There are two kinds of love.  Our love.  God’s love.  But God makes both kinds of them.”  Jenny – age 4.

“Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it every day.”  Noelle – age 7.

“Love is like a little old woman and little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well.” Tommy – age 6.

“During my piano recital, I was on a stage and scared.  I looked at all the people watching me and saw my daddy waving and smiling.  He was the only one doing that.  I wasn’t scared anymore.”  Cindy – age 8.

“Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day.”  Mary Ann – age 4.

“I let my big sister pick on me because my Mom says she only picks on me because she loves me.  So I pick on my baby sister because I love her.”  Bethany – age 4.

“When you love somebody, your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out of you.”  Karen – age 7.

“You really shouldn’t say ‘I love you’ unless you mean it.  But, if you mean it, you should say it a lot.  People forget.”  Jessica – age 8. 

And we think they don’t notice….

Introduction

Can Anyone Love without God?

The answer depends on how you define love:

Let’s check out how Oxford English Dictionary defines love: 1. affection: a strong feeling of deep affection for someone or something, especially a member of your family or a friend (a mother’s love for children).  2. Romantic: a strong feeling of affection for someone that you are sexually attracted to (fall in love with each other).  3. Enjoyment: the strong feeling of enjoyment that something gives you (a love of learning).   4. Someone or something you like:  a person, a thing, or an activity that you like very much (tennis is my first love).

Yes, anyone can love a person whom they are sexually attracted to.  That’s a basic human instinct.  All humans do.  So do all the animals.  Yes, anyone can love someone else whom they have a strong and deep affection like their children, parents, spouses, even pets.  Most parents love their children based on their parental affection.  Such a love is built in the parents, both in humans and animals.  Yes, anyone can love their favorite sports team and cheer for the champions of Super Bowl because of their proud achievements.

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But, the love I am going to talk about this morning is far different from these types of love.  The love I am going to talk about is far greater than all of these combined.  The love we are going to focus on this morning is the love the Bible constantly talks about.  It is called agape—the divine love or God’s love.

Agape love is God’s love. It is divine.  It is the ancient love of God, the present love of God, and the future love of God.  It never changes.  From the very beginning of the universe, God has constantly exercised agape love for humanity and for all the creatures.  Since the same God wants and expects His children to practice the same love as His, (yes, He wants you and me to practice the divine love in our daily lives), we need to seriously think about agape love this morning.  We will pay a close attention to three attributes of God’s love so that we may have a better understanding of it, learn from it, and put it into our daily practice.

  • Three attributes of agape: divine, unconditional, reciprocal.
  • Agape is divine:  Where does agape come from?  From God (1 John 4:7).  The Bible says that God is agape (love).  He is the author and source of agape.  Agape love is the very essence of God.  His purpose for humanity/ His creation of all things/ His providence for all creatures are based on His love.   E.g.  The reason why God created us and the way we are created (fearfully and wonderfully made) is because He loves us.  The reason why God gives us life every day and provides our daily needs is because He loves us.  The reason why God disciplines us is because He is our loving Father.  The reason why He sent Christ to the cross is because God loves us (Romans 5:8).   Everything God does is motivated by love.  So should we be like God (1 Thessalonians 1:3).
  • Agape is unconditional:There are two kinds of love: conditional love and unconditional love.  Conditional love is “if” love.  The way I love you totally depends on what I get from you and how you behave.  It is a merit system.   E.g. I will love you if you are lovable.  I will love you if you love me back.  I will love you if you behave well.   I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine.Unconditional love, however, never depends on the recipient’s merits.  Rather, it totally depends on the giver (will and grace).  It is exercised regardless of the recipient’s merits.  It is “in spite of” love.  That’s how God loves us.  He loves us unconditionally.  That’s how God demonstrates His grace and love for us in Christ.   He loves us in spite of what we have done or what we have not done.  He loves us, the unlovable.  He loves us despite our sins.  He loves us even though we never deserve His love.  E.g. The Beauty and the Beast—love the unlovable.This is what the Bible says: God is holy (nothing impure or unclean can stand before Him).   We are called to be holy like God, yet all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).  No matter how hard we try, we still cannot reach God’s standards of holiness with our own merits.  Now, whenever we sin, there are always consequences, which the Bible calls the wages of sin that is death.  However, God doesn’t want us to pay the wages of our sins by ourselves, so, out of His love for us, He sent Christ Jesus instead to the cross.  The innocent and the sinless Christ, taking over your sins and mine, paid the penalty on our behalf once and for all so that we may go free.  Cross is the ultimate expression of God’s love for us.Did we deserve such a great love of God?  No.  Even though we were the enemies of God due to our sins, even though we fell short of God’s standards, even though we were so unlovable, God still loved us.   That’s agape love.
  • Agape is reciprocal.   Agape love is always a two way street.  Got love?  Love back.  God loves us and we love Him back by loving those around us.  “Do you love Me?” says God, “Then, love one another.”  We reciprocate God’s love by loving others.What is love?  Bob Dylan says, “It’s just a four letter word.”  How do you define love?  This is mine: Love is the expression of our love for God toward fellow humans in the same manner that we have received divine love.  A good example is Jesus.  E.g. He has experienced God’s love to its fullest extent.  He learned such divine love from God, and He loved God back by loving sinners as God had loved Him.  He demonstrated His ultimate love for us by taking care of our sins on the cross.  This time, the same Jesus wants us, the recipients of His unconditional and sacrificial love, to love back, not to Him, but to other fellow humans.  His command is simple: to love one another as He has loved us (John 13:34).  Love God? Love others.  (1 John 5:1).  If anyone asks you why you love others, tell him/her that because God has loved you.  The Bible says, 11Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:11).One more thing: The demonstration of agape is the sign of knowing God (John 17:26).  If we claim that we know God, yet fail to love others, then we are liars.  If we don’t love, then we don’t know God because God is love (1 John 4:8).  Know God?  Love God.  Love God?  Love others.  E.g. “I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least”—Dorothy Day.Conclusion

    Back to the original question:

  • Can anyone agape love without God?  I don’t think so.  No one can love unconditionally without God or without God’s help.  God has called you to love others unconditionally, even your enemies.
  • What is your answer to His call?Let us pray.

Sermon: Following Jesus

Today Pastor Choi expounds on the meaning of following Christ.  He points out three marks of a Christ’s disciple: self-denial (all-of-Christ- none-of-me): obedience (keeping His commandment to love one another): service (serve as Christ did with humility).

 

Following Jesus

 

Following is a summary of the sermon:

 

Following Jesus                       Matthew 4:18-20

Jesus Calls His First Disciples

18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him (NIV).

 

Introduction

(Begin the sermon with group discussion for two minutes: What does it mean to be a Christian?  Am I a Christian?)

Once I looked up the definition of “computer” in a 1920s dictionary: one who computes.  Today everyone understands it quite differently: “A computer is a general purpose device that can be programmed to carry out a set of arithmetic or logical operations automatically” (wikipedia).  Its original meaning got lost or changed over time.

What about the word ‘Christian’?  Same thing happened.  2,000 years ago, the disciples of Jesus were called Christians first in history at Antioch (Acts 11:46).  Today, however, it has lost its original meaning even among believers.  Sadly, in America, it is often associated with a political movement and misused as a political term, far from its true meaning.  E.g. During election, “evangelical Christians”—a political group with negative image.

The true meaning of “Christian” is the disciple of Christ.  The follower of Jesus.  The one who learns from Jesus the Master and lives out His teachings accordingly.  That’s what we are going to think about this morning: the meaning of following Jesus.

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The meaning of Following Jesus:

2,000 years ago, in Galilee, Jesus invited a fisherman Simon Peter and Andrew his brother to come and follow Him (Matthew 4:19).   Think for a moment about the meaning of following.  Today, we tend to use the word “follow” casually such as “Follow me on Twitter.”  Back then, however, following Jesus never meant casual or no-sweat as today.  Rather, it meant serious business and a total commitment.

Did you notice what Simon and Andrew did when they were called by Jesus?  They dropped everything and followed Him (v. 20): they left behind their vocation, their family, and their dreams.  In those days, and still today, following the Master meant to live together with Jesus, breathe together, eat and sleep together, walk and journey together, be together all the time.  Go wherever and whenever Jesus goes.  Memorize the teachings of Jesus and live out.  Experience everything together with Master: from praise to persecution even suffering and death; from the glorious moment on the mountain top to the grotesque scene at the foot of the cross.

Following Jesus never means, as some of us believe and practice today, “Twice a year,” “1 hour on Sunday morning,” or “one day a week.”  Imagine a married couple spending time together like that.  No wonder our Christian life has no intimacy with Jesus, no power or joy.  If your walk with Jesus rather has been boring, think about the amount of time you spend with Him.   Let me repeat: being Christian means to be with Jesus 24/7/365.   That’s the life of a disciple who follows Jesus.

In such seriousness, 2,000 years ago, Jesus called the Twelve to be His disciples.  They, except Judas Iscariot, all followed Jesus for the next three years and for the rest of their lives.  In the end they turned the world upside down.  That’s the power of the gospel.

His call still continues today: Jesus still looks for those who would “follow” Him and to be His “disciples.”  He still invites us to be the kingdom agents for God following Him with purpose and commitment.

I looked up in the Bible to understand what it entails to be His disciple, and I have discovered three marks of Christ’s disciple.

Three marks of a Christian:  Self-denial, Obedience, and Service.

The first sign is Self-Denial: Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me (Matthew 16:24).

To follow Jesus means all in, live or die.  E.g. My military training camp:  Zip Line across river with single pulley: Are you ready to die?  Christ asks you this morning, “Are you ready to die for Me?”  If you are, then, you are in.  Not half-half.  Never lukewarm.  Be either hot or cold.  Ready to die and live for Christ and His cause.  This command is not just for a few pastors or a few religious fanatics.  It is for every believer who is serious about their faith.  This attitude of all-in may look foolish to the world but it is essential to God’s kingdom.  It may be a total waste to the world but actually eternal gain to you.

The real question is this: Is Jesus worth following and dying for?  Absolutely!  In fact, Christ and His kingdom are worth of everything we have!  Listen to Jesus.  “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field(Matthew 13:44, NASB).

That’s what the Twelve did with Jesus.  They waged their entire lives on Jesus.  That’s how Paul spent his life: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).  That’s how Jim Elliot, missionary to Auca Indians, lived out his life: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose” (Jim Elliot).  So should we.  Let our lives be Christ only and Christ alone. 

Self-denial means none of me and all of Christ.  When we deny ourselves, we pursue the Kingdom of God, not the Kingdom of Mine.  It is all about Christ and none of me.  Don’t be like those who seek their own interests before the Lord’s.  E.g. Someone’s prayer: “Lord, not Thy will but Mine be done.”

Don’t believe in the false gospel that promises glory and crown without cross and self-denial.  Those who don’t want to give up on their self and self-interests are unfit for the Lord Jesus.  E.g. Jesus turned away some want-to-be disciples in John 6:66.  They no longer followed Him.

The second sign of Christ’s follower is obedience10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love” (John 15:10)

 To remain in Jesus means to obey His Word.  To obey His Word is to keep His commands and to love one another as He did: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35) –Love one another as Christ has loved us.  Unconditionally and sacrificially.  E.g. Korean pastor (Pastor Sohn Yang-Won) who adopted the murderer of his son during the Korean War.

Reminder: We don’t have the power to love as Christ on our own. “I am the vine; you are the branches.  If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:5). Apart from Him we can do nothing.  Like the branches have no power to bear fruit by themselves without the vine, we have no strength to love without Christ.  The power comes from Jesus.  Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me.” 

The third sign of discipleship is service:  For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

The same Christ calls us to be the servant of all:  (cf. Secular governments, rulers and authorities rule over you).  Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant (Mark 10:43).

Christ served us with humility and expects us to do the same: “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5).

Let’s serve people like Jesus did: to free people from the bondage of sin and death with the truth of the gospel.

Closing:

-Let us recommit ourselves to Christ today: All in.

-Let us deny ourselves by carrying our own crosses: Christ alone and none of me.

-Let us obey His word: Love unconditionally and sacrificially.

-Let us serve one another with humility.

Then the world would know that we are His disciples and followers.

Amen.

 

Sermon: Paid in Full

Today Rosemary Molinaro (Sunday School Superintendent), speaks about her faith journey: growing up in church, away from church, and coming back home.  She finally formed a new relationship with God and Jesus saying, “God and I are partners in contract. Jesus and I are friends to the end.”

 

      Paid in Full

 

Following is a summary of her sermon:

 

Sunday School Sunday – January 25, 2015

Rosemary Molinaro

 

Good morning and welcome to Sunday School Sunday.  Today both services, as well as fellowship Coffee Hour are hosted by our Sunday School children, their families and our teachers.    I ask you to keep the children and their families in your prayers as we have had so many of them out sick with the flu or bad colds.

 

Each week at Sunday School we meet in the Sanctuary for a few minutes before class time to come together to talk about how our week went, or about something special that may be coming up, we celebrate birthdays and also spend time in prayer.  We usually have a short lesson and since there is no class today, we will use this morning’s service as our time together.

 

As Pastor Choi has announced, 2015 has been dedicated as the Year of Getting to Know Jesus.  So when I was praying for an idea of what to talk about, Jesus reminded me of my relationship with him over the past how many years of my life.  So I thought I would follow Pastor’s lead, and tell about my personal journey in getting to know Jesus.  Not that my journey is over – far from it – but about what I have experienced along the way so far.

 

My Journey began when my parents had me baptized into the Catholic Church soon after I was born.  I had no clue what was happening at that time and probably cried throughout the ceremony.  But when I became ready for school, in my Italian Catholic neighborhood, all the kids went to the Catholic School.  All the good kids anyway – I say with tongue in cheek!

 

I began my very formal religious education at the hands of the Felician Nuns.   We had our catechism books that we memorized, word for word.  Who made me?  God made me.  Why did God make me?  God made me to show forth his goodness and bring me to everlasting life.  There was a question and an answer – and that was it.  We either never thought to, or were not allowed to ask our own questions.

 

When it was time for First Communion, we had a list of questions to memorize.  I remember very clearly kneeling at the altar practicing for the big day, and when the priest came to me to ask me a question, before I could even answer he said “if you don’t know the answer, I am going to cut off your braids.” I remember crying at the thought of losing my braids, and luckily he didn’t wait for an answer and just moved on to the next poor victim.

 

Confirmation was another set of questions and answers to be memorized, this time to be answered to the Bishop.  I remember there were fifty questions and since we didn’t know which ones he would choose, we had to memorize them all.  And when the big day came, the Bishop chose about five.

 

Talk about instilling the fear of God.  Speaking of which, the motto of our School had to be “God is going to punish you” because everything we did was followed by that statement.  Believe me when I say, I went to confession every week and confessed the weirdest stuff just to avoid God’s punishment.

 

We were told the only reason you could miss Mass on Sunday was if you were near death.  So if for some reason I did not go to church, I stayed in bed all day so God would think I was dying!  I might have even prayed that I would, just so I didn’t have to tell the nun I missed Mass.

 

Another drawback to my learning about Jesus was when I was in school, the Mass was in Latin.

I was in the Choir, and all the songs we sang were in Latin too.  More memorizing, without knowing the translation and what the words meant.

 

It was not a very healthy start to knowing God and Jesus.  I feared God with all my being.  Anything I did or didn’t do was out of fear, not out of love for Him.  And in the Letter of Paul First Corinthians, 16:14, it states, Let all you do be done in love.   Many years later, during an adult education class, an assignment was given to describe how we see God.  Here is my description: Picture this –  the clouds would drift apart and the sky would crack open.  Out would come God, growing taller and taller like a giant out of heaven.  His face was very angry and his long arm was out-stretched and his finger was pointing –I was sure it was pointing at me.  This was the vision I had for a very long time.

 

Then there was my understanding of Jesus.  To me, for whatever reason, Jesus was only a symbol – represented of course by a baby.  We would put out the manger at Christmas and I would play with the figures of Mary and Joseph and Jesus as if it were a toy.  We would hide Jesus until Christmas day and then put him in the stable.

 

Palm Sunday was making sure everyone in the family exchanged palm – no reason why.  And Easter Sunday was all about the hat, the dress and the shoes.

 

Then there was the Bible.  I know we had this huge book in our house because on Saturday morning when I dusted for my Mom, I remember dusting it.  When my Dad passed away, the company he worked for gave our family a Bible as a gift in memory of my Dad.  I was 20 years old.  Because it was a sad remembrance of why we had it, nobody wanted it around.  Too bad we didn’t think to actually read it.

 

Now believe me, I am not placing blame on my parents, maybe some on the priests and nuns, but that’s the way things were then.  Fear was the way to raise good kids.  But fear was not the way to learn about God and boy did I miss out on a lot not knowing Jesus as a child.

 

Well I grew up and thankfully had not been brainwashed beyond repair.  When I had my own children I did not want them to have the same experience I had.  Actually, I remember my mom saying to me when my son was a little boy “Don’t ever tell him God will punish him.”  Hmmmm….. I guess she had an epiphany as well!  Thanks, Mom.

 

But what also forced me to see God and my faith in a different way was when I volunteered to teach Sunday School at my church.  I knew I could not teach what I had learned, so I made the effort to learn all over again.  Through reading, teaching and listening to what the children had to say, I found a whole new vision of God and His most wonderful son, Jesus.  They became so real in my life.  Not a giant in the sky pointing at me, or a baby doll that came out at Christmas.  They were there, day after day.  And I was able to make choices out of love, not fear.

 

I realized I was forming a very real relationship with God and Jesus.  And as a mother, I also looked to Mary as a role model for myself.  I knew she was a better mother than I was and always prayed that she would watch over my kids.

 

So like any good relationship with someone, you begin to trust them, depend on them, love them, and ask them for help.  You have conversations with them and of course, you invite them into your home.  And for the most part, things go pretty well.  And that’s how my relationship with Jesus was moving along.

 

And then it happened.  My family was turned upside down.  All I will say is that an evil came into our lives in the form of a friend and betrayal,  that we could never have expected and in a way we could never have imagined.  I could not understand why my journey with Jesus had taken such a wrong turn.  Always praying to keep my children safe and to watch over them – had those prayers been ignored or just not heard.  Did I not pray the right way? And Mary, where was she?  Did she not hear my prayers either?  Was this the punishment I was warned about as a child – would God punish me through my child?  What did she have to do with it?

 

Well, that was it.  I wasn’t afraid anymore.  I was just plain mad.  What kind of a friend are you, Jesus, I asked.  I love you so much; I trusted you to help me.   Where were you when all of this was going on?  Why didn’t you tell me?  Most of all, why didn’t You stop it?

 

So I decided to end that relationship.  I stopped going to church and the only conversations I had with Jesus were when I broke down and cried and kept asking why did you do this?

 

In the beginning, when Sunday came, I felt a kind of revenge towards Jesus in thinking that he would get the message if I weren’t in church.

 

As the months went by, and Sundays passed, I felt no remorse for not going to church; in fact, I was happy to have a day to sleep in or to do things.  My relationship with Jesus was truly disappearing.

 

This went on for about four years.  Life was moving along, not getting much better, in fact, it was getting much worse.  Days were filled with all kinds of problems, physical and emotional distress, illness and a hole in my heart that I just could not fill.

 

I knew I was missing my relationship with Jesus, but I didn’t know how to get it back.  What was worse, I didn’t know if He would take me back.   I began looking for a new church where I could find a new understanding of Jesus.

 

A co-worker of mine invited me to her church on Palm Sunday, in 2003.  I was very hesitant to go, especially because it was a special service for Palm Sunday, and since it was outside of my Catholic upbringing, I didn’t know how they celebrated it.  After all, it was a Methodist church and who knows what those people did!  But I had to stop making excuses and take the first step.

 

The significance of going back to church on Palm Sunday was my Alleluia moment.  When I walked through the doors of Wesley UMC, in Bethlehem, PA, I knew I had found a new home.  Holy Week – re-living what Jesus went through, what Mary went through, and seeing that God did not stop that, how could I think my life, my child, was any different.  Mary was a good mother, and still she had to bear her child’s pain.   Jesus Himself asked God to take this cup from Him, but what was to be, was to be.  And as with Jesus, His resurrection will be my resurrection as well.

 

So I was welcomed into my new church family and began finding ways to learn about Jesus and to build our relationship again.  It wasn’t easy, because as a human, there were still things I found hard to let go of and to forgive.  I realized at this point, I had exhausted most of the professional help within a 100 mile radius of my home.  In addition, all the professional counseling, therapy and medication that was being given to me, were no longer helping.   I needed something else – something much more powerful.

 

So I started going for spiritual counseling.   The first question I was asked was “What do you feel got you through all of your problems?  How did you come this far?”  The counselor told me I could think about my answer and let her know during our next session.  But I immediately answered her.  “I know you want me to say God, but honestly, it was medication.“  Her response to me was “Don’t you think that was a gift from God?”  Yikes, I never thought of it that way.

 

After several months of spiritual counseling, and finding amazing support at church, I was finally beginning to feel that my relationship with Jesus was growing and thriving again.

 

I began to see that when life goes terribly wrong, it is not a punishment from God, rather it can be the unfortunate results of another person’s poor choices. God has given us the wonderful gift of free will, which means we can choose how we want to live our lives, what we will do and say and how we will treat others.  To go with that gift, God gave us the ability to think, to reason, make decisions and especially to know right from wrong.   So how we use these gifts, and the choices we make, certainly affects other people – sometimes in a good way and sometimes in a very bad way.  In my journey to know Jesus, I found that people hurt each other, it is not Jesus who hurts us.

 

Many years have gone by, and today, at this very moment, standing here with all of you, I can say with overwhelming confidence, that Jesus loves me and I love Him, and we are friends to the end.   Oh I still have lots of bumps in the road on my journey to know Jesus better, but what has changed is the way I handle those bumps, and I now use those bumps to bring me closer to Jesus, not pull me away.  I learned that talking to Jesus must come from your heart, not from something memorized.

 

So to the children here today, my prayer for you is that you have a friendship with Jesus; always stay close to Him, learn about Him, ask lots of questions about Him, love Him, even get angry at Him, He can take it.  But don’t be afraid of Him, because He loves you very much.   Use your gift of free will to make good choices.  It’s not always easy; sometimes we are faced with very tempting or difficult choices to make.  When you are not sure, ask yourself WWJD – What Would Jesus Do?  And always make a choice out of love, not out of fear.

 

Back in the day, whenever you were going on a trip, you would depend on a large paper map to find the roads and directions to get to where you were going.  But we have a come a long way from the paper map and are now using electronic systems called GPS.  Pretty amazing little gadget!  However, Christians have had a spiritual GPS in their journey with Jesus since the beginning of time.  GPS in this sense is God’s Path to Salvation, and is found in the Bible.  Unlike the global positioning systems, our spiritual GPS has only one set of directions – Earth to Heaven.   So to the adults, who are already well on the journey to know Jesus better, I say program your spiritual GPS and have an awesome trip!

 

Finally, like many of you, Bob and I have a mortgage on our house and for the past several years, the bank has been allowing us to live in it!   And we are waiting for the day when we can walk out of the bank and say “it is finished” and the mortgage contract is stamped “Paid in Full.”  But also, like everyone here, I have another home, which is Heaven.   I’ve always felt that when we are born, we enter into an unwritten contract with God that says you didn’t ask to be here, but you are, and whatever happens in your life, for however long I have given you that life, you must deal with it.   But remember, we are partners in this contract and together we will get through it.

 

And I realized that even though I never actually signed that contract, Jesus did – in blood.  According to John, Chapter 19, verse 30, the last words Jesus spoke on the cross were “It is finished.” And when Jesus uttered those words on the cross, God stamped my contract “Paid in Full.”     God Bless you all

Sermon: Do You Have Eternal Life?

Today Pastor Choi talks about four aspects of eternal life: 1. Eternal life is the life everlasting lived in the presence of God.  2. Eternal life is obtained through Jesus Christ alone, because it is hidden in Him.  3. Eternal life is to know the only true God and Jesus Christ.  4. Eternal life begins here and now and culminates in Heaven after physical death.

 

  Do You Have Eternal Life

 

The following is a summary of his sermon:

  

Do You Have Eternal Life?             1 John 5:13, John 17:3, 5:24

 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life (1 John 5:13, NASB).

 And this is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent (John 17:3, NASB).

 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him, who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life (John 5:24, NASB).

Introduction

The concept of eternity—“If you have a steel ball, solid steel, the size of this earth, 25,000 miles in circumference, and every one million years a little sparrow would be released to land on that ball to sharpen his beak and fly away only to come back another million years later and begin again, by the time he would have worn that ball down to the size of a BB, eternity would have just begun” (Chuck Swindoll, Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes)

 (Begin the sermon with group discussion for three minutes:

What is eternal life?  Does everyone have it?  Do I have it?  If not, how do I have it?)

 Contents

 So, what is eternal life?  Let me begin with a secular definition.  Oxford Dictionary defines: Life without an end.  Life that exists and continues forever.  Simply put:  It is the life that lasts for eternity.  Many believers follow this concept.  However, that’s a secular definition.  The biblical definition is different.

 The Bible expresses and explains eternal life in several different ways, but they all boil down to four aspects: eternal life is the life that is lived in the presence of God.  Eternal life is God’s free gift through Christ.  Eternal life is to know God and Jesus Christ the Messiah.  Eternal life begins here and now and it culminates in Heaven after physical death.  Let me unpack one by one.

A.  Eternal life is the life everlasting that is lived in the presence of God. 

Now, do you remember the question: Does everyone have eternal life?  I mean, every human being who was born and died in human history, do they all have eternal life with no exception?  Well, the answer depends on how you define and understand what eternal life is.  If you mean that every human soul never perishes and goes on forever beyond physical death, and that’s eternal life, then, the answer is yes.  However, in the biblical sense, the answer is no, because the Bible plainly says that not everyone will have eternal life.  E.g. Those people whose names are not in the Book of Life (Revelation 21:27), no sorcerers, no fornicators, no murderers, no idol-worshipers, and no liars will be in the presence of God in Heaven (Revelation 21:8, 22:15). 

Please, listen very carefully.  The eternal life defined in the Bible is far different from the way some people may understand or use what eternal life is.   Eternal life in the Bible not only covers the life that goes forever and ever, but it also means the life in the presence of God.  In other words, if the life is not lived in God’s presence, even though it lasts forever, it is not eternal life.  That’s why in the Bible ‘eternal life’ is also interchangeably used with ‘the kingdom of God’ and ‘Heaven’ which is God’s dwelling place.  Apart from God, there is no eternal life, because God is life.  No God, no eternal life [e.g. Atheists do not/will not have eternal life].  Let me repeat: even though everyone’s soul goes on and on forever beyond physical death, if their eternity is not lived in the presence of God who is holy, it is not eternal life.  In fact, the Bible calls such a life ‘eternal judgment’, ‘eternal punishment’ or ‘eternal fire’ (commonly known as hell) where torment continues day and night and forever and ever (Revelation 20:10).

The next aspect of eternal life is this: 

B. Eternal life is obtained through Jesus Christ alone because Christ Himself is the eternal life (1 John 1:2). 

Everyone asks the question: how do I have eternal life?  Only through Jesus Christ, the Bible declares, because Jesus Christ Himself alone is the eternal life.   The eternal life is hidden in Him.  Listen to the Word of God: “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.  He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life” (1 John 5:11-12).  No Christ, no eternal life.  There’s no other way. 

The Bible says that our spirit is dead in our sins (Ephesians 2:1) until we meet Jesus and accept Him as Savior and Lord.  When we invite Him into our hearts, Christ comes in and His Spirit begins to abide in us.  As our spirit becomes united with Christ as one, spiritual fusion takes place in us.  Christ the Eternal Life turns our spirit alive again (Ephesians 2:5) and eternal life begins in us.  Although eternal life is given to us by God as a free gift (Romans 6:23), it’s not like a Christmas package that is totally separate from our being.  The gift of eternal life is hidden in Christ.  So, when Christ comes into us, so does eternal life come into us, and it becomes part of us and part of our life.  Eternal life is also an unmerited gift—no one can or has to earn it through good deeds (Ephesians 2:8-9).   

So, to answer the question, “How do we obtain eternal life?”  By believing in Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord and walking in Him (1 John 5:13).  

The third aspect of eternal life is this:  

C. Eternal life is to know God and to know Jesus the Messiah.

Here’s a profound truth: Jesus says in His prayer that eternal life is to know the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom God has sent (John 17:3).  The key phrase here is to know Jesus Christ.  To know means more than intellectual understanding/ knowledge.  E.g. the meaning of Hebrew verb ‘to know’—Mary (Luke 1:34)—means physically and spiritually become one.   The real knowledge of God and of Jesus is deep and personal.   Those who know Jesus on a personal level walk with Him daily and have the foretaste of eternal life here and now.

Let me say it again: those who know the only true God and Jesus Christ whom God has sent have eternal life here and now.  That’s why Jesus says that anyone who believes in Him already has eternal life (έχει ζωὴν αίώνιον) (John 5:24).  E.g.  I served on the Board of Ordained Ministry examining all the candidates for ministry.  One afternoon I interviewed a candidate for pastoral ministry.  During Q & A session, I asked her: Do you have eternal life?  For the next few minutes, she only talked about the futuristic sense of eternal life and was quite puzzled with my answer when I said that we already have eternal life since we know Christ as Lord and Savior. 

Eternal life I am talking about is the life that is hidden in Christ and reserved for those who believe in the name of Jesus God’s Son.  You don’t have to die to have eternal life.  For those who have accepted Him as Christ, eternal life starts in this life.   Here and now.  You already have it.  It is in your possession during your life on earth. 

The last aspect of eternal life is this: 

D. The highest and ultimate form of eternal life is yet to come.  It culminates in Heaven after physical death.

Many people, Christians and non-Christians alike, associate life eternal with Heaven, so they say that their eternal life will begin 5 minutes after death.   E.g.  A pastor was preaching on going to heaven.  He said, “How many of you would like to go to heaven tonight?”  And everybody raised their hands but a little boy in the balcony.  He tried again, “How many of you would like to go to heaven?”  Everybody but that one little fellow in the balcony.  So he said to him, “Son, don’t you want to go to heaven?”  The little boy said, “Yeah, someday, but I thought you were getting’ up a load right now” (James Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited).

There is a legitimate reason why people think this way.  For instance, the Scripture talks about inheriting eternal life after we die.  It is appointed for all to die once, and after that everyone will stand before God and be judged according to what s/he has done (Hebrews 9:27, Romans 2:6).  At that time, those who have obeyed the Lord with all their hearts and minds (including those who have made sacrifices for the sake of Jesus in their lives and possessions) will be rewarded (Matthew 19:29, John 12:25) and inherit eternal life.  And, they will be in the presence of God forever and ever!  That’s the eternal life we all look forward to having in the end.

Conclusion

Let me repeat four aspects: eternal life is the life that is lived in the presence of God.  Eternal life is God’s free gift through Christ.  Eternal life is to know God and Jesus Christ the Messiah.  Eternal life begins here and now and it culminates in Heaven after physical death.   Do you have eternal life?

Let us pray.

Sermon: Do You Know Jesus?

Today Pastor Choi designates 2015 as the Year of Knowing Jesus (T.Y.O.K.J.).  He exhorts God’s flock to make every effort to know Jesus—the Word of Life.  The true knowledge of Jesus is essential to our salvation, because to know Him means to keep His commandments, and only those who keep His Word will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

 

Do You Know Jesus?

 

Following is a summary of the sermon :

 

The Year of Knowing Jesus (1): Do You Know Jesus?

1 John 1:1-4   New American Standard Bible (NASB)

1 What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life— and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us— what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.

 

Introduction

Have you ever written references before?  I have written some over the years for people, adults and youth alike.  Every reference has common questions such as How long have you known the applicantHow well do you know the applicantList strengths and weaknesses of the person, and so forth.

Imagine that you are filling out a reference letter for Jesus.  One question you must answer is: How well do you know Him?  I am afraid that most of us, including myself, would struggle to answer the question, because we know of Him so little despite our head knowledge about Him.   That’s the reality of today’s believers: little or no knowledge of Jesus.

That’s why I designate 2015 as the year of knowing Jesus.  We must know our Savior and Lord on a personal level.   Why?  Because, if we don’t, we will be denied at Heaven’s gate even after years of being a Christian.   We can be religious without knowing Jesus at all.  E.g. Jewish religious leaders who persecuted Jesus in the name of God.   We can serve on church committees for years without doing what Jesus really wants us to do (E.g. unforgiving spirit).  The life without the true knowledge of Jesus is a life without substance like a fruit tree that bears no fruit.  So, I urge everyone to use this year to get to know Jesus on a personal level and to walk with Him daily.

Contents

Back to the question: How well do you know Jesus personally?  I ask myself the same question.  How well do I know Him?   We all wish to say that we know Him quite well like John the Apostle did.  He would answer my question in a heartbeat:  I knew Him very well.  Listen to what he wrote in today’s reading: we have seen and heard, and even touched Jesus with our hands (v.1).   Speak of first hand experiences!  Can’t beat that!

By the way, God wants every one of us to experience and know Jesus in the same ways that John did.  The word “to know” in Hebrew term means to know someone intimately.  For instance, it is used between husband and wife when they become one, both physically and spiritually.  E.g. Joseph didn’t know Mary until Jesus was born.

I have been a Christ’s follower for over 40 years.   I know that Jesus is real.  I have experienced Him a few times undeniably and miraculously.  Furthermore, I’ve been a minister of the gospel for 25 years.  I preached and taught about Him every Sunday.

Yet, when it comes down to a real personal knowledge of Him, I find myself far short of where I should’ve been.  In other words, despite my head knowledge of Him, my heart knowledge and field knowledge of Him is far short of what it should’ve been.  However, the Lord has been very patient with me.  In fact, He recently taught me two things so as to get to know Him better.

Take my prayer life, for example.  My prayers have been mostly one way conversation all these years.  It’s been more or less presenting a shopping list to Him: Lord, this is what I need.  Remember this and that.  Please take care of them.  Then, my prayer is done.  In other words, I seldom took time to listen to Him.  In fact, I have never been trained in listening to Him in silence.  By the way, silence is not my cup of tea.  Living in America, we are so used to some level of noise, music, TV, or people’s voices that when the surroundings are quiet we don’t know what to do.  The same thing goes with my prayer life.  Typically, I get right on my agenda, I speak to Jesus what I need without wasting time, then I am done with prayer.  Last month, I was just praying like that about the goal for 2015 for the congregation, that is, to know Jesus.  The Lord reminded me of this: Do you want to teach My people to know Me?  You learn first then teach.  First, Learn to listen to Me.  Train yourself to listen to Me in prayer.  Don’t sign off right away after your list.  Sit quietly and listen to Me.  I have been practicing that since.  Still hard.

The second lesson He taught me is this: Keep the appointments with Him.  I realized that Jesus gets disappointed when I fail to keep the appointment with Him on time.   It just happened last week.  In fact, it must have happened many a time in the past, but this time it came to me so real that I got ashamed of what I have done.  You see, I pray for an hour every night before I go to bed.  That night, before my appointed time, let’s say 11 p.m., I was playing solitaire on my computer, and you know how addicting it can be at times.  That night, I was stuck with one game and I was determined to solve it, but the thing is I played beyond my appointed time with Jesus.  I was fully aware of that, so I said to the Lord, “Sorry, Lord, but can I finish this game and pray?”  Well, I finished the game alright but missed the appointment with God by 10 minutes.  When I started my prayer, I was deeply ashamed of what I had done.  I was convicted that I wouldn’t have done the same to someone (physical person) who expects to see me.  Furthermore, if I were on the other end, and someone is late for the appointment because he is having so much fun with his game play, I would be very upset with the way he treated me.   But, that’s exactly what I did that night to my Lord and Savior.  As I said before, this kind of thing must have happened many times in the past for various reasons, but that night I was deeply convicted of my folly and I sincerely repented to the Lord.  The lesson I learned is this:  Treat Jesus as a real person who gets disappointed if I don’t keep the appointments.  In fact, much more than that!  Treat Him as your Lord as you confess!  Mean what you say.  He is my King and God!   Such a Jesus have I silenced with my lusts in pleasure multiple times in the past!  Such a Jesus have I neglected daily through my ignorance of His presence!

Imagine I invited my friend to dinner.  My honored guest has arrived on time.  I motioned him to come and sit in the living room while I finished one game on the computer that I started ten minutes before his arrival.   In the meantime, he is patiently waiting!   Finally, I am done with the game and I apologize profusely.  Then, I invite him to sit at the dinner table, but I never give him a chance to talk.  I keep talking straight for the next 3o minutes and when I am done with talk, I get up and leave the table.  Then, I start doing the dishes without a conversation with my guest.  Then, I just remembered what I needed from my friend, and so I bring him the list and put it in his hand.  Then, I go back to my chores.  In the entire visit that night, the guest is not able to talk to me at all!   That’s the way I have been treating Jesus my Lord and Savior!  We all know that it should be much better than that!

Closing

Bruce Allen: “I have been blessed over the years to have face-to-face encounters with Jesus as He has revealed Himself in many facets of His character: I’ve met Jesus the Healer as He came and poured a healing balm over me at a very difficult point in my life; I’ve met Jesus the Comforter, who comforted me and held me through my tribulation.  I’ve spent many hours with Jesus my best friend. This night, however, I discovered a new facet of His character.  This night I met Jesus the King of Glory—Jesus the Lion of the Tribe of Judah!” (p. 142, Gazing into Glory).  Mr. Allen emphasizes that experiencing Jesus is a must, not an option.  It is for all God’s children, not just for him alone.  I agree.  It is for all of us.  God shows no favoritism.  John the Apostle experienced Jesus very personally.  So did Paul the Apostle.  So did Bruce Allen.  So shall we, because we too belong to Jesus.

So, folks, this year let us get to know Jesus personally.  Not just with our heads, but also with our hearts.  Not just in words but down to earth level.  Let us treat our Lord and Savior Jesus as He is worthy of our honor and respect.   Not just with lips but in deeds.   Let’s not be satisfied with the intellectual understanding of Jesus alone, but let’s be passionate about knowing Him closely.

Some of us know Jesus as someone who stays up in Heaven aloof from our daily struggles.  He is far more than that!   Others worship Jesus on Sunday morning for one hour and for the rest of the week have no communications with Him at all.   He deserves far more attention from us than that!   Our interest in Jesus stops with our shopping list in prayer!  But, He deserves far more than our prayer list!  He is our Lord and Savior!

So, throughout this year, we will focus on Jesus to get to know Him in person: we will look at Jesus.  We will listen to Jesus.  We will talk to Jesus.  We will ask for His wisdom.  We will walk with Him.  We will touch Him.  We will experience Him.  All in personal level!  Day in and day out!  So that, by the end of the year, all of us would be able to say, “I have known Jesus in ways that I never have before! I have grown in His knowledge!”   That would be our testimonies.

May the Lord bless our endeavor this year.

Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sermon: Have You Heard the News?

Today, John Parker, guest speaker, speaks about Jesus the Christ God’s gift for our forgiveness.

Have you heard the news?  Jesus is here !

Sermon Audio

Passage:

Galatians 4:4-7 (NKJV)

But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.

And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

Summary:

The Galatians had received the gospel message but quickly fell away and started following after false apostles. These false apostles were teaching that faith in Christ is not enough. First, you had to follow certain Jewish laws such as following the Sabbaths, observing the feasts and seasons, and circumcision. Then, you could accept the forgiveness of Christ.

In this letter to the Galatians, Paul is trying to set the record straight and this passage contains the core of Paul’s gospel doctrine:

  1. Jesus is the promised Messiah.  We know this because he was born in the “fullness of time” which the Jews realized referred to Old Testament prophecies about when the Messiah would come. An example is found in Daniel 9:24-25 written by Daniel during the Babylonian captivity 500 years before Jesus was born. In this prophecy, Daniel predicts the command to go and restore Jerusalem (as much as 100 years after the prophecy) and then says that the Messiah will come 483 years after that command. This command was given by Ezra in 458 BC  meaning that the Holy One would be anointed in 29 AD, the year that Christ was crucified defeating sin and death once and for all at His resurrection.
  2. Jesus came to redeem man from bondage to the law. Jesus had two natures being fully God and fully human. Jesus was born of a woman and was under the law like all mankind. Jesus felt joy and wept. He was tempted by Satan but prevailed. Being God and living a sinless life, the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross has infinite value and can atone for any number of sins and sinners granting to all the gift of eternal life with God. All you have to do is accept His forgiveness and follow Him. When you are redeemed you are filled with the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ. And the Holy Spirit will guide you and give you the fruit of the Spirit bringing life more abundant in the here and now.
  3. Once redeemed we then have the position of sonship. In other words, believers in Christ have the status of sons and daughters of Almighty God. It is the Spirit of Christ who moves us to cry out Abba (Daddy) to our God. Because of our position as sons and daughters of God, we are then heirs of God through Christ.

If you haven’t accepted Christ as your Savior, there is no need to delay. This is the most important decision a person can make and right now is the best time to make that decision. Accept the forgiveness offered by Christ, turn from sin, and turn to Christ who wants to give you life.

If you have accepted Christ, you know how important this decision is. You know how valuable a gift you have been given. And we need to share life’s most important gift with those who need to make life’s most important decision. Pray, listen to the Spirit, and share the good news with all who need to hear.

Sermon: A Christmas Reflection

At Christmas Eve service, Pastor Choi reminds all God’s people of what Christmas is all about: 1. Christmas is about God who predestined Christ’s birth before the beginning of the universe. 2. Christmas is about us who we are in need of forgiveness and love.  3. Christmas is about Christ the Savior who died for all sinners.  At the end of the message, he invites people to accept God’s greatest gift—Jesus Christ the Savior— into their hearts.

A Christmas Reflection

 

Following is a summary of his message:

 

A Christmas Reflection

 

Tonight I am going to talk about names—more specifically, the meanings behind names.  Let me begin with mine.  I like my name because of its uniqueness.  I have not met one single person yet whose name is exactly the same as mine.  My parents have done a good job.  The meaning of my first name is “laurel tree in the cloud.”  My last name means “high as a mountain.”  My parents gave me that name hoping that I would become somebody in the future.

Anyway, names are important to all of us even in the Bible.  Did you know that God is in the business of giving names with meanings behind them?   E.g. Jesus (God saves), Joshua – Yeshua.  This name was given even before the birth of the baby.  Jesus was born with a mission.  He was to become the Messiah—the Christ (the Anointed).  His name determined His destiny—that He would heal, teach, and serve humanity with God’s love.  His name also determined that He would sacrifice His own life to save the people from their sins.  The same name “Christ” has everything to do with “Christmas.”

So, it is appropriate to think about the name “Jesus–God Saves” as we celebrate Christmas tonight.  In fact, it is far more important than any other topic we can talk about such as decorations, parties, presents, and even peace in the world.  Christmas is about “God Sent Us a Savior.”

Three points:

  1. Christmas is about God.  Without God, there would be no Christmas.   Celebrating Christmas without thinking and thanking God is meaningless, because Christmas is about the birth of Christ and it is God who planned the birth of Christ meticulously and flawlessly.   God predestined Christ’s birth before the creation of the universe.  He initiated it.  He planned it.  He designed it.  He executed it at the right time, at the right place, with the right people.  Christmas is about God.
  2. Christmas is about Us.  There would be no Christmas without us.  Celebrating Christmas without thinking about who we are and about our spiritual needs of forgiveness is meaningless, because without us God would have no one to love, to forgive, and to save.   In fact, God knows everything about us.  He knows that we goof up all the time in our relationships with Him and with others.  In other words, we sin all the time.  There are always consequences for the sins that we commit.  The Bible says it is death (spiritual, physical, and eternal).  At the same time, God loves us so much that He wants to rescue us from the consequences of our sins.  That’s why He prepared the Savior who would pay the wages of our sins on our behalf so that we would go free and so that we would be in the presence of God forever.   That leads us to the next point.
  3. Christmas is about the Savior.   There would be no Christmas without the Savior Jesus.   Celebrating Christmas without taking Jesus as Savior is meaningless and disastrous, because you ignore and bypass the greatest gift of all that comes from God exclusively for you.  That Gift of God is Jesus, the Savior for all sinners.   Not just for a few good ones.  Not just for Jews or Gentiles.  He is the Savior for all.  For you and for me and for everyone in history!

Tonight God gives His Son to you, because He loves you.  Even if you were the only one person to save, God would still send His Son Jesus to save you!   So, tonight, accept Jesus the Messiah into your heart.  Ask for forgiveness of your sins and you will receive it through Jesus the Savior.   Christmas is about “God Sent Us a Savior.”

The Sinner’s prayer: Jesus, I take you as my Savior and Lord tonight.  Forgive me my sins and cleanse me through your precious blood.  Thank you, Jesus, for loving me and saving me from my sins and making me God’s child.  In Jesus’ name, I pray.

Amen.

 

 

Christmas Cantata

Today, in place of the sermon, the Manahawkin United Methodist Choir presents a cantata: “The Advent of Hope, the Birth of Peace” by Robert Lau and Stephen Andrews.  As you listen to the songs and readings, may God bless you richly to bring you close to Jesus the Christ.

cantata 2014 

 

Service: A Quiet Christmas

On Tuesday, December 16, the Manahawkin Congregation offered a service for God’s people who are having a difficult time this Christmas season due to various reasons such as the loss of their loved ones, strained relationships, financial difficulties, and loneliness.  As you listen to the Word of God and songs recorded, may God keep your heart and mind in Christ’s peace, comfort, and strength.                                                                                                                                                                                          

A Quiet Christmas Service

 

                  

                

 

         

 

Sermon: The Shepherds and the Angels

Today Pastor Choi talks about God’s greatest gift and the best news to humanity: Jesus the Savior of the world.  Through the story of the shepherds and the angels, he points out the following: 1) Salvation is for all.  2) Sharing of the good news is up to us. 3) Peace on earth is only possible in Christ the Prince of Peace.

 

The Shepherds and the Angels

 

Following is a summary of the sermon:

The Shepherds and the Angels                    Luke 2:8-20 (KJV)
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

1And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

 

Listen to Handel’s Messiah songs #14-17 (for 3:50 minutes) before the message.

Salvation for All

  • Salvation is the greatest and the best news ever in human history.  Why?  Because, it is God’s gift for all that matters for eternity!  No exception.  Absolutely free, too!   Everyone is invited to take it.  No money, no status, no education is required.  Only faith is necessary to take it!  That’s why it is the greatest news for all.  Here in the story, its greatness was modestly put this way: Good news of great joy (v. 10—good tidings of great joy).  What was the angel referring to?  The birth of our savior—Christ the Lord—is good news and great joy to everyone (v. 10).  Think of it for a while.   This birth of the savior for all was a culmination of God’s mysterious salvation plan for humanity: the forgiveness of sins through Jesus the Son of God by His death on the cross.  This salvation plan was conceived by God alone, laid out by God alone, revealed by God alone, and executed by God alone.  It was done in God’s time (kairos) and in God’s way.  It was exclusively done for God’s glory and solely prepared for our spiritual necessity.  Roy Lessin (founder of Christian greeting card company Day Spring) puts our need of salvation well in his poem, “God sent us a Saviour.”    Here it reads:

–       If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator.  If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist.     If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist.       If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer.  But our greatest need was forgiveness, so God sent us a Saviour.

  • Let’s not forget that this salvation through Jesus is for all people, not just for a few chosen ones.  Not just for the Jews.  Not just for the Gentiles.  But for all.   Salvation is God’s free gift for all.  Everyone needs it.  Everyone needs to take it.   However, they won’t be able to take it until they hear about it first, and they won’t hear about it unless someone tells them.  That’s why God wants you and me to be the instrument of passing of the great news on to the person next to us.  That leads us to the next point.

Sharing of Good News

  • The way God’s great news was shared/spread in human history was like this: God→ angels→ shepherds→ the family of Jesus→ and beyond.   Or, Jesus→ apostles→ Early Church→ missionaries→ and beyond.  I would call this process of sharing the gospel–the sharing chain of the gospel.  This chain, like a prayer chain, has been going on for the past 2000 years all over the world.  Very likely, someone in our lives passed the great news onto us that we became a believer in Christ.  The same chain of sharing should not stop with us.  It must go on to the next person.
  • Think of today’s story again.  The angels were told by God the great news of Christ’s birth and they passed it onto the shepherds.  The shepherds, then, passed it onto the family of Jesus.  Both the angels and the shepherds heard and passed onto others as exactly as they had been told (v. 20) —it should be the model for our witnessing.  You don’t have to reinvent the story.  Just pass along what you heard.  Sometime in your life, the gospel story was brought to you by someone.  Then, you have met the Lord.   You have seen Him, touched Him, heard Him, and experienced the Lord Jesus.  Then you pass it onto the next person.  That’s how it goes with the gospel sharing.  We tell others in the same way that we were told.
  • Reality Check:  many of us, when it comes down to sharing the gospel, stay mum.  We, in fact, have trouble sharing the good news with others, in the name of not wanting to push the religion to others, right?  Some of us are even afraid of sharing of Christ’s great love for all.   We say that we’d rather share our faith quietly through our silent witness of love.  Sounds great, doesn’t it?  Does it work well, though?  When was the last time you brought one soul to Christ through silent witness?  Folks, don’t get me wrong.  Witnessing to the name of Jesus through life examples works; God uses your love to bring people to Christ and I don’t negate its value.  However, that’s not the main way God’s people share the good news with others.  Think of all the examples in the New Testament—how the disciples of Jesus Christ took God’s love to the world.  They were a loud bunch who proclaimed Jesus’ name in the market place not quietly but aloud, they talked to people in public, and they turned the world upside down in the name of Jesus.  Had they chosen to witness Jesus’ name through their silent love, I (in fact, a lot of us) wouldn’t have heard the gospel yet and still living in darkness without knowing Jesus.  In my case, my brother invited me to church in the name of Jesus.  In fact, I am glad that he didn’t choose to witness through his love.  E.g.  Sharing the good news with others is like sharing the victory of your favorite baseball team or football team.  Imagine your favorite team the Phillies won the World Series.  Imagine the Eagles won the Super Bowl.  If you were a Phillies fan (or Eagles), you wouldn’t silently share your great joy for your team, would you?  You would call around everyone you know and even throw a party to celebrate your joy with others, right?   Why don’t we do the same with the great news of salvation that matters to all for eternity?
  • In today’s story, I see the same excitement and joy, if not more,  among the angels and the shepherds on the night of Christ’s birth.  They both were so excited that they didn’t keep the news to themselves.  Instead, they right away passed the good news of salvation onto others with great joy and enthusiasm (both glorified and praised the Lord for what He has done –v. 13, 20).
  • The chain of good news is still expanding and growing today.  You are one of the links of the salvation chain.   Don’t be the last link.   When my brother passed the good news to me, the good news didn’t stop there.   I too passed it onto others and still do with a great conviction that Christ is the best present I can ever give to anyone.  On the Day of Judgment, together we will stand before God with those who received the good news from us.  On that day, they will say to God, “Thanks for bringing me the great news through so and so (put your name here).”  God will say to us, “Well done, my good and faithful servants.  Enter into my rest!”

Peace on earth

  • When it comes down to peace in the world, too often our hearts get disturbed/discouraged with what is happening in the world.  E.g. Ebola to begin with.  Kidnapping and Bombings in Nigeria by Boko-Haram.   Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice.  Another school shooting in Portland, Oregon (12/12/14), and even a 6 year-old boy in Texas whose father carved a pentagram on the back of his son with a utility knife a couple of years ago.   I cry out to the Lord, “What’s going on in our world?”  Not to mention all other troubles going on in the Mideast among nations such as Israel, Gaza, Syria, Iran, Iraq, and ISIS.  The list goes on.
  • My heart is literally aching and crying out for peace in the entire world.  Not just for peace in America.  Not just in Africa.  Not just in the Mideast.  Not just in the Korean peninsula.  But, in every corner of the world and in every single home.  Peace on earth.  Peace for all.  I am sure you feel the same way as I do.  We all cry out to God for “Peace among men.”   We all ask in our hearts such questions as, “When, Lord, and how long should we wait for peace for all?”
  • Here’s what I believe: Reformation of the system may reduce the police brutality.  A peace treaty among nations will help a little too.  Some believe that we can establish peace on earth without God and without depending on God.  Well, I disagree entirely, because we need God.   The world already tried to achieve peace in the past century through the League of Nations and failed to prevent World War II.  Even with the United Nations, the system is broken and not working well.   Peace, in my humble opinion, never comes from human schemes.  Peace is a heart issue; therefore, it must come from God.  Unless there’s a change of heart among all, there won’t be a lasting peace among us.  Unless there’s a fear of the Lord in everyone’s heart (which deters us from doing what is evil) and unless Christ’s love rules in our hearts that we no longer want to hurt others, there won’t be permanent peace.  That’s why I say to all that only Christ is the answer (by the way, He is the Prince of Peace and He is the one who refused to use a sword even though He was perfectly capable of it).
  • We all know that when Christ returns God’s permanent and everlasting peace will prevail in the world.  Until then, we ought to live as peacemakers wherever we are.   Christ has called us to be the peacemakers (Matthew 5:9).  We must bring Christ’s peace wherever we go: beginning in our hearts and in our homes, families, work places, schools, churches, our communities, and beyond.
  • This Christmas may the birth of Christ be in your heart and in your family.  This Christmas may the birth of Christ be the greatest joy you’ve ever had.  This Christmas may the Lord help us to be the excited bringers of the good tidings to others—the birth of Jesus the Christ.  This Christmas may the peace of Christ keep your hearts and minds.
  • Amen.

 

Sermon: Here I Am, Lord

Today Pastor Choi talks about Mary the mother of Jesus: how willing she was to work with God who asked her to do something beyond her own strength.  Besides the assurance to Joseph that it was alright to take her as his wife, Mary was not given any other special protections from God.  Yet, she persevered and became a part of God’s eternal salvation work for humanity.  May God help us to be like Mary who willingly said to the Lord’s invitation, “Here I am, Lord.  Let your will be done in my life.”

 

Here I Am, Lord

 

Following is a summary of his sermon today:

 

Here I Am, Lord                Luke 1:26-38

  • The Birth of Jesus Foretold
  • 26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
  • 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
  • 34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
  • 35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”
  • 38 I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

Introduction

I invite you to join me in listening to the author and what he is trying to tell us in the story.

  • First, here’s a brief recap of the story: In this narrative the birth of Jesus the Messiah was foretold.  2000 years ago, God sent His chief-of-staff, Gabriel the angel, to Mary a young lady who was engaged to Joseph.  She and Joseph resided in Nazareth, a small town in Galilee with less than 500 residents at that time (James Strange).  [In 1918, 8000 people.  In 2011, 80,410.  60% Arabs and 40% Christians—wikipedia].   The angel told Mary that by God’s power, not by man, she would conceive a boy child.  Her son Jesus would be called the son of the Most High and He would reign over Israel forever.
  • One of the best ways to listen to the author is to put ourselves in the main character’s shoes: that is, in Mary’s shoes.  Had you been Mary, how would you have felt and reacted to this awesome visit from an angel?
  • Think of Mary for a while.  She was God’s highly favored one.  She had found favor with God.  The Lord was with her and she was a blessed woman chosen to work with God.  This is what God was going to do for her, the angel said:  she would conceive a child extraordinary without knowing a man.  Her child would be called the son of the Most High.  He would be called holy son of God.  He would forever reign over the house of David and His kingdom would never end.
  • That’s so great, isn’t it?  So far so good.Contents
  • Then, after the angel left, fears for the future began to set in her heart.  She might have reasoned in her heart as follows: “It’s amazing that God has chosen me to work with Him.  I am truly blessed.  Now, how am I going to break the news to Joseph my fiancé?  I know he is a good man, but will he believe me?  Getting pregnant by God’s power?   What’s going to happen to me if he doesn’t and breaks the engagement?  How am I going to explain to my family and friends?  Who’s going to believe my story about the pregnancy?  I’d better hide from people for the entire nine months of pregnancy.  If not, how will I cover my belly for several months since it will show to every one?  Everyone will eventually find out about my pregnancy.  Oh, how will I endure the cold stares and unfriendly gossip from townsfolk afterwards?  I will be lucky if I am not pelted with stones.  Furthermore, how will my child endure the town gossip?  (Indeed, in later life, Mary and Jesus endured a persistent and malicious rumor that called Jesus “Mary’s son (not Joseph’s)—understood at that time as illegitimate child”).
  • As you can see here in Mary’s story, being favored by God doesn’t always mean that everything in life will be rosy.  In fact, being chosen to work with God and for God never means an easy road.  On the contrary, sometimes it means very painful and uncomfortable experiences.  A narrow and rugged road, if you will.  For a long time, too.  In fact, the greater God’s plan for you, the harder the road is that only a few choose to take this road.  Yet, the reward is great!  God’s call is always worth saying yes to.  That was the path that Mary chose to follow.
  • Think of Mary again.  God already knew everything Mary would face or what she would go through in the years to come.  Yet, He went ahead with His plan.  A reminder here: no special provisions or protections were promised to Mary except His presence with her: except the fact that He sent the same angel Gabriel to Joseph, Mary’s future husband, to assure him that her pregnancy was from God’s Spirit, not from man.  “This is happening according to God’s salvation plan,” the angel assured Joseph.   “Therefore, take her as your wife (Matthew 1:20-21).”
  • That’s all God had done for Mary.  God provided no other special protections for her.  What’s that mean for us?  Sometimes, when God calls us to work with Him, He provides us with one or two promises or assurances about His plan.  The rest, we must endure with patience and trust in the Lord clinging to His faithfulness until its fulfillment.  We ought not to despair.  We should not give up, because the Lord is with us and He will see us through.  His grace and presence are sufficient for us to go on with God’s mission.
  • By the way, I love the way Mary responded to God’s call in verse 38: here I am, Lord.  I am the Lord’s servant.  Let your will be done.  God never forces anyone to follow His will against his/her wish.  Anyone can say no to God’s invitation to work with Him.  God only works with those who say a willing yes to His call.   My prayer for all of us is that when we are invited to work with Him we too respond to His call with a willing heart saying, “Here I am, Lord.  Use me according to your will.”
  • One more thing:  Note here how God communicates with His people: For Mary: it was an angel.  Not just an ordinary angel but His Chief-of-Staff.  It demonstrates the extreme significance of the case, because it was a water-shed event in human history.  Christ’s birth divided the human history in two periods: B.C. and A.D.
  • In the past, God used prophets to convey His messages for His people.
  • He still uses prophets, angels, dreams, and visions to communicate with us.  However, the most reliable and secure way that God uses today to reveal Himself to His people is His written Word the Bible.  In the Bible, God meets us and reveals Himself to us.  In the Scripture, God points us to the directions we need to go.  The Bible is the meeting place.  Devotion time is our time with God.  That’s why it is crucial for us to get into the Bible daily.   E.g. every morning God speaks to me in daily devotion reminding me of His will in my life.  The other day’s message to me was “Walk in the light as God is in the light (1 John 1:7).”  This is how He sends His message to His children every day.
  • Folks, don’t be naïve and neglect this opportunity to meet with God.  Too many of God’s people never meet with God because they never search God in the Bible.  Yet, somehow they expect God to speak to them.  They never discover God’s will for them.  Therefore, they live out their lives according to their own will, not God’s and often end up living a life with no eternal perspective.Closing  
  • The Almighty God has a plan for you.  You are not an accident.  Nothing is a coincidence with God.  You may not plan to be at a certain place at a certain time, but if God has called you to be there, He will arrange it accordingly, and it will happen (E.g. meeting a lady at dentist office).  As God has chosen Mary to be the instrument of His plan of salvation, God also has a purpose for you.  God wants you to be a part of His plan.  The part you alone can fulfill.  This morning He invites you to work with Him.  His plan for you may not be as drastic as Mary’s, yet He still waits for your answer.
  • Are you ready to say yes to His call?  Are you willing to take a narrow path for God? Are you willing to suffer on behalf of Jesus the Lord?  If you do, the reward will be great and eternal.  You will never regret it.
  • Let us pray.

Sermon: Forgiveness in God

Today Pastor Choi talks about three attributes of forgiveness through the story of Joseph: 1) forgiveness is not easy but not impossible.  2) Forgiveness is possible only in God and with God’s help.  3) Forgiveness requires initiative.  May God help us all to forgive those who trespass against us and overcome evil with good.

 

Forgiveness in God

 

 

Following is a summary of the sermon:

Forgiveness in God 

Genesis 45:1-15  New American Standard Bible (NASB)

45 Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried, “Have everyone go out from me.” So there was no man with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. He wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard of it. Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph!  Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed at his presence.

Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come closer to me.” And they came closer.  And he said, “I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry and go up to my father, and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, “God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay. 10 You shall live in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children and your flocks and your herds and all that you have. 11 There I will also provide for you, for there are still five years of famine to come, and you and your household and all that you have would be impoverished.”’ 12 Behold, your eyes see, and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see, that it is my mouth which is speaking to you. 13 Now you must tell my father of all my splendor in Egypt, and all that you have seen; and you must hurry and bring my father down here.” 14 Then he fell on his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, and Benjamin wept on his neck. 15 He kissed all his brothers and wept on them, and afterward his brothers talked with him.

 

Introduction

Today I will finish my Genesis series with the story of Joseph.   There can be several things we can talk about Joseph such as favoritism, dreams, temptations, integrity, wisdom to prepare for hardships and so on, but to me, one word stands out above all others: forgiveness.  Did you know that in the entire Bible the word “to forgive” first appears in Joseph’s story (Genesis 50:17)?   Before I dig deeper, let me summarize his life story as briefly as I can.  I am covering 14 chapters (Genesis 37-50), so folks stay with me closely.

Jacob had twelve sons altogether, but he loved Joseph the most.  He made him a multicolor tunic when the rest of his brothers got plain ones.  Because of this favoritism, his older brothers hated him.   One day Joseph came to them while they were in the fields with their flock.  Originally, they wanted to kill him and throw him into a pit but ended up selling him for 20 coins of silver to a caravan that was headed to Egypt.  Of course, to their father, they lied that Joseph was mauled by a wild beast and showed Joseph’s tunic that was stained with goat’s blood.

Joseph was 17 years old when he was sold into slavery.  For the next 13 years, he had a rough life serving as a domestic slave and later on was falsely accused by his master’s wife that he had tried to rape her.  For that, he was imprisoned until he was 30 years old.

Well, God never left Joseph during the years of slavery.  In fact, He was with him and made him prosperous in everything he did.  When he was in jail, he worked as an assistant to the jailer.  One day two royal servants of Pharaoh (king’s head cupbearer and head baker) were imprisoned due to the king’s wrath.  Both of them had dreams the same night and Joseph interpreted their dreams: the baker would be hanged and the cupbearer would be restored to his former position.  Joseph asked the cupbearer to remember him if his dream came true.  However, when the cupbearer was restored to his position, he forgot about his promise to remember Joseph.   Two years passed.  This time Pharaoh had a dream.  The king was deeply troubled with his dream—the same dream twice in a different way.  He asked for interpretations from his advisors to no avail.  That’s when the cupbearer remembered Joseph and recommended him to the king.

Of course, once again, Joseph was able to interpret king’s dream with God’s help.  He said that there would be seven years of abundance followed by seven years of famine in the land of Egypt.  So, Joseph advised the king to find a wise one who would prepare the kingdom for the upcoming hardships.  Pharaoh appointed Joseph to that position and made him the second-in-command in his kingdom.  At the age of 30, Joseph became a prime minister of the Egyptian Kingdom.

Joseph’s interpretation of king’s dream came true.  There was plenty in Egypt for seven years.  During that time, Joseph gathered all the spare food and stored them in the cities.  After seven years of abundance the seven years of famine started.  The text we read this morning happened in the second year of famine.  The famine was so severe that it affected not only Egypt but also the land of Palestine where Jacob and his eleven sons and their families dwelt.  They too felt the pinch of famine—no food to eat.

One day Jacob heard that food was available in Egypt.  So, calling up his ten sons who sold their younger brother to slavery, he sent them with money to buy some grain for food.  Off they went to Egypt and stood before Joseph who handled all trade of grain.   They bowed down before him and explained why they stood before the prime minister: to buy food.  As soon as Joseph realized that they were his older brothers, he pretended to be a stranger and spoke harshly to them saying, “You are spies.  You have come to see where our land is unprotected” (Genesis 42:9).  The brothers denied emphatically, but Joseph brushed off their explanations, took Simeon as a hostage and commanded them to bring their youngest brother to Egypt to prove their innocence.

After returning home, the nine brothers reported to Jacob what had happened in Egypt and why Simeon was missing.  They begged Jacob to send Benjamin with them so that they would bring back more food with Simeon.  Jacob said, “No!” at first.  However, when they ran out of food, he had no other choice but to consent to his sons’ demand.

So, they went down to Egypt again—this time with Benjamin to buy more food and bring Simeon back home.  Benjamin was Joseph’s younger brother from the same mother.  Well, when they stood before Joseph again with Benjamin, Joseph wanted to keep Benjamin with him and send the rest of 10 brothers back to Canaan. Judah, one of the older brothers, panicked and volunteered to stay instead because if Benjamin became a hostage, it would break their father’s heart.  That’s when Joseph couldn’t pretend any longer.  He broke down and revealed himself to his brothers.  That’s what’s happening in today’s text Genesis 45.

Contents

Today’s text is about forgiveness.  It reveals three important aspects of forgiveness.  By the way, the concept of forgiveness here is to lift up the burden of guilt and shame from the trespasser.

First, forgiveness is not easy yet not impossible.   Many biblical scholars call Joseph a Tzaddik—a righteous man who lives a blameless life before God.   Even to such a righteous man, forgiveness was not easy at all.  It took him 22 years to forgive his brothers who had done wrong to him (13 years of slavery and imprisonment, 7 years of abundance, and 2 years of famine).

Let me tell you this.  His older brothers were mean and jealous.  They were so cruel to Joseph that they blocked their ears to Joseph’s cry for life.  They sold him to slavery in Egypt.   For the next 22 years, in Joseph’s heart, they were the source of bitterness and anger.   What people do when they are hurt?  They try to forget, right?  Joseph tried the same thing: he wanted to forget everything at home—father, brothers, and everything else in his family.  And, that’s what he did: when his first son was born, he named him “Manasseh”—which means “It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.”   Remember Manasseh was born after Joseph became the prime minister.  That means, he didn’t forgive his brothers or forget his trouble for at least 13 years, but he eventually did.  Forgiveness is not easy but not impossible.

Next, forgiveness is only possible in God and with God’s help.  Imagine you were Joseph.  In front of you your ten brothers are standing who sold you to slavery.  They bowed down before you.   You would have the urge to extend this sweet moment to punishing them “because they deserve it.”  I don’t think it was easy for Joseph to resist that temptation of revenge.   But, Joseph would not be the avenger because of God.  So, he revealed himself to them, saying, “Come close to me.  I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt.  And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.  For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping.  But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.  So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God…” (Genesis 45:4-8a).

Who helped Joseph change his mind from revenge to forgiveness?  It was God, wasn’t it?  God convicted Joseph that He sent him into Egypt not his brothers.  Joseph had seen in his own life that God turned the evil meant by his brothers into good for his entire family.  Because the good in the end was far greater than his ordeal, Joseph was able to forgive his mean brothers.

Folks, how about you?  Do you have some people in your life who had done wrong to you?  Are you still holding grudges against them?  May God open your eyes and heart to see that forgiveness is necessary and possible in God.  May you see God’s protection and providence in your life as Joseph did.  May you see that the outcome is far better than your ordeal.  Only then, you can forgive those who harmed you.

Finally, forgiveness requires initiative.  I believe there are two ways to forgive the trespassers.  One, we forgive the trespassers when they repent.

The other way is we forgive them even if they never ask for forgiveness.  This is more challenging than the first one.  However, we must know what God wants us to do.  His will is to forgive the trespassers whether or not they repent.   For instance, Jesus on the cross forgave the crowd when they mocked Him.  They never showed any sign of repentance (Luke 23:34 ff).   What about Stephen the martyr?  He also asked God to forgive those who stoned him to death (Acts 7:59) because they didn’t know what they were doing.

Consider Joseph in the story one more time.  How did he forgive his brothers?  Did he do so after they were repentant?  No, he didn’t wait for them to say that they were sorry.  It reminds us that we take initiative to forgive those who hurt us even though they never come to us and say sorry.    Not easy at all, but with God’s help we can do the same as Joseph did.

A question arises.  What is going to happen to those who hurt us yet never repent of their sins?  God’s Word answers in two ways: first, vengeance is God’s business not ours.  When his brothers were so worried about Joseph’s getting even with them after their father died, Joseph assured them he is not an avenger saying, “Am I in place of God? “ (Genesis 50:19).  Romans 12:17-21 says, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil.  Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written; “It is mine to avenge; I will repay.  On the contrary; if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Next, each of us will be repaid for our deeds, whether good or bad: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10).

Conclusion

Do not wait for another day to forgive someone in your life who hurt you.  You may want to argue, “You have no idea what s/he has done to me!  I will never forgive that woman/man!”  Folks, I hear your hurt, but as long as you maintain that position, your sins will never be forgiven by God (Matthew 18:35).

May God help us to forgive our trespassers.  Remember that forgiveness is done with your will not with your emotions.

Forgive in God and overcome evil with good!

Let us pray.

Sermon: The God of Jacob

Today Pastor Choi talks about the God of Jacob who stayed with Jacob all his life despite his shortcomings and weaknesses.  He points out three lessons from Jacob’s life story: first, Jacob turned a life threatening situation into a life-turning experience.  Next, Jacob claimed his father’s God as his own.  Thirdly, Jacob desired God and cherished what God cherished.

 

   The God of Jacob

 

The following is a summary of his sermon:

 

The God of Jacob

 

Genesis 32:9-12  New American Standard Bible (NASB)

 

Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O Lord, who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your relatives, and I will prosper you,’ 10 I am unworthy of all the lovingkindness and of all the faithfulness which You have shown to Your servant; for with my staff only I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two companies. 11 Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, that he will come and attack me and the mothers with the children. 12 For You said, ‘I will surely prosper you and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which is too great to be numbered.’”

 

Introduction

Let me tell you a story of a man.  His name was Jacob.  Yes, the man whom we all read and heard about in the Bible.   He was a twin son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham.  From his birth he was called a cunning man.  He was a cheater of his brother, his father, and his uncle.  Yet, God never gave up on him and worked on him for his entire life.  God was not ashamed of calling Himself, “I am the God of Jacob.”   His name became a permanent part of God’s title (Exodus 3:6).   What made Jacob so special in God’s sight?  Not because he was a saint.  Far from it.   So folks, let’s think about Jacob and His God this morning.

Isaac and Rebekah his wife had twin sons: Jacob was a younger of the two. His older brother was Esau.  They were born a few minutes apart: Esau (meaning ‘red’ —covered with hair) came out first, and Jacob followed holding onto his brother’s heel (Genesis 25:26).  So, they named him Jacob “the heel grabber.”   By the way, in those days, the second son had no privilege, because the eldest son inherited everything from the father.  The Bible calls that special privilege birthright.  This birthright was exclusively reserved for the first born, and the first born only.   So, Esau was privileged to have all the inheritance from his father.  Not Jacob.  Sorry, Jacob.

Interestingly, Jacob was very much intrigued by the birthright.  He wanted it so much so that he wouldn’t give up on it even though he wasn’t entitled to it.  In fact, he wouldn’t mind snatching it from his brother by all means.  So, one day a chance arose.   His brother Esau the hunter came home from his hunting trip.  He was very hungry.  Jacob the tent man was cooking a stew at that time.  Esau was famished and asked for the stew.   Jacob said, “First sell me your birthright, then you can have the whole stew!” (Genesis 25:31).  Esau said, “What good is the birthright when I am about to die!” So, for a bowl of soup, he sold his birthright to Jacob (Genesis 25:32-33).   The Bible says Esau despised his birthright (Genesis 25:34).  In other words, you don’t sell your birthright for a bowl of soup no matter how hungry you are.

Even though Esau verbally sold the birthright to Jacob, Jacob still had one more hurdle to overcome: his father Isaac.  Typically, the birthright and its blessings culminated in at the father’s deathbed.   One day, Isaac realized that his death was near.  He wanted to bless his oldest son, Esau, before he died.  So, he asked Esau to prepare a savory meal for him to eat and bless him (Genesis 27:4).  Esau said, “Yes, father.  I will get a fresh kill and prepare a dish you like.  You can eat it and bless me.”  So, he went out for hunting.  Rebekah was listening while Isaac spoke to Esau (Genesis 27:5).  While Esau was out hunting, Rebekah along with Jacob her favorite son (Genesis 25:28) concocted a plan to steal the blessing from Esau and they did succeed.

This is how they did it: Rebekah cooked Isaac’s favorite dish and camouflaged Jacob’s hands and neck with goat skins to fool her husband.  She had Jacob wear Esau’s best garments.  She then asked Jacob to take his father’s favorite dish to him, pretending that he was Esau, Isaac’s favorite son (Genesis 27:15-17).

Covered with the goat skins, Jacob went into the tent where Isaac was lying.  He pretended he was Esau and even imitated Esau’s voice.   He did his acting quite nicely.  After eating the meal, Isaac finally gave Jacob all the birthright blessings convinced that Jacob was Esau his favorite son (Genesis 25:28).   When Esau finally came home after the hunting trip and found out what his twin brother did, he swore to kill him for stealing his birthright blessings (Genesis 27:41).  So, Jacob had to flee from his brother’s wrath (Genesis 27:47).

Of course, when he fled from home, his mother sent him away with a good excuse: to marry a girl from her homeland hundreds miles away.  It was in part true, because, Esau married foreign women with whom Rebekah was very unhappy (Genesis 27:46).   The Bible says his marriage with Canaanite women grieved his parents (Genesis 26: 34).

Fast-forward 20 years (Genesis 31:38).  By then, Jacob had two wives and two maids from whom he got 11 sons.  He had numerous servants and a huge flock of cattle.  Finally, he was heading home.  Everything was alright except one thing: his brother.   He was frightened that Esau would get him for what he had done before: stealing the birthright blessings from their father.  Jacob came up with two plans, A and B.  Plan A: appease Esau with lots of gifts—hundreds of goats and sheep, scores of camels, cows and bulls, and donkeys (Genesis 32:15).   He thought the gifts might appease his brother’s anger towards him (Genesis 32:20).     Plan B: protect his best interests.  Jacob divided his possessions and his people in three groups.  The first group led by his sons thereof his maids, followed by his first wife Leah and her sons.  At the tail of his caravan he put his second (and favorite) wife Rachel and his favorite son Joseph (Genesis 33:2).   Just in case Esau strikes the first company, he reasoned, he can escape with his favorite wife and son.  That was the plan.

Finally, the night before he met his brother, he had all the company crossed the ford named Jabbok.  He was left alone on the other side of the ford.  He was facing a life and death situation.  He was so desperate.  He was greatly afraid and distressed (Genesis 32:7). That night he couldn’t go to sleep so he stayed all night praying to the Lord until the daybreak for divine protection from his brother.  That’s what we just read this morning.

Contents

Three things stand out from his story:

  1. Jacob turned a life-threatening situation into a life-turning experience.  In his prayer to the Lord, Jacob admitted that he feared his brother (Genesis 32:11).  The danger of losing everything including his own life was real to him.  He was sure that his brother Esau would attack him with four hundred men who could draw the sword (Genesis 32:6).  I would feel the same as Jacob if someone is on the way to hurt me and my family.

 

Now, Jacob had to make a choice: either to run away from the situation and avoid his brother (and, therefore, live the rest of his life in fear) or to face the threat head on.  He chose to face the threat.  Not alone, though.  He went to God in prayer.  You see, we all face from time to time life-threatening situations like Jacob.  We have a choice: either to run away and avoid the situation all together or to face it right on.

 

Let’s make a choice to face it head on.  Why?  Not because we are strong, but because we have God on our side.  When God is on our side, a crisis can turn into an opportunity to meet our God as we have never experienced Him before.  By the way, Jacob was so determined to get God on his side that he wrestled with God’s angel that night (that means in prayer) and he had a permanent injury on his thigh socket that made him limp for the rest of his life.  He simply wouldn’t let God’s angel go unless he blessed him first.   May God help us to make a right decision in times of adversity like Jacob did.

 

  1. Jacob claimed his father’s God as his own: Up until that point, Jacob considered the Jehovah God as his ancestors’ God not his (Genesis 32:9).  However, when he was frightened with his brother coming at him for revenge, he finally called on his ancestors’ God and claimed Him as his own.  Folks, let’s think about ourselves.  Let’s think about our relationship with our Heavenly Father.  For instance, why do you attend church services on Sunday mornings?  Is it because you want to keep on your family tradition of worship even though you don’t have a personal relationship with Him?  You see, some of us have four or five generations worshiping in our congregation.  That’s great.  Keep it on.  However, if you think that the God you worship and serve is the God of your grandparents and parents, but not yours, it is time that you called onto Him and made Him your God as Jacob did.  That night, Jacob made that claim.  No longer was Jehovah God his father’s God.  He was Jacob’s God as well.  From that night on, God also started calling Himself “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”

 

  1. Jacob desired God and cherished what God cherished such as the birthright and the blessings of God.  Esau despised the birthright.  He took God’s blessings lightly too.  Esau was self-reliant.  He didn’t pray to God for help.  Jacob was different.  He took the birthright seriously.  He desired God’s blessings so much that he even cheated his father and brother.   He went to God for help.   He was God-reliant despite all his shortcomings.  Perhaps, after he exhausted all his smart ways and his own wits, Jacob realized what he truly needed was God.

 

That’s what made Jacob special in the sight of God: his desire for God’s company.   Jacob was never a godly man in my opinion, yet he went to God in times of need.  He was sincere in his prayers.  He was determined to have God on his side no matter how selfish it seemed to us.  That’s what counts most in God’s sight.  Like Jacob, none of us are perfect.  In fact, we are far from perfection.  We all struggle with our shortcomings and weaknesses, too.  But, one thing we can learn from Jacob is to desire God and cherish what God cherishes.  Cherish the relationship with God and call unto Him in times of need.

Conclusion

A question for all of us: Is the God of Jacob also my God?   Do I know Him personally?  Do I go to Him in times of need?  Have I experienced God in hardships?  Am I self-reliant or God-reliant?   Do I cherish what God cherishes?

If you are going through tough times right now, folks, there are no better times than now that you go to God in prayer and wrestle with Him saying, “Lord, I want to know that you are out there.  I want to know that you are with me.  I want to experience that you hear my prayers and answer me.  Until that happens, I won’t let you go!”   Let’s cry out onto God.  Let’s claim His name.  Let the God of Jacob be yours today.   Amen.

Sermon: Overflowing with Thankfulness

Today Pastor Choi talks about one of the marks of believers in Christ: gratitude. Taking the examples of Jesus our Lord and Savior, he exhorts God’s people to practice thankfulness in all circumstances by Doing of Thankings (D.O.T. 20) every day.

Overflowing with Thankfulness

Following is a summary of the sermon:

Overflowing with Thankfulness Colossians 2:6-7

Colossians 2:6-7 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

6 Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7 having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as youwere instructed, and overflowingwith gratitude.

Introduction

Overflowing with gratitude is a sure sign of mature Christian. Likewise, overflowing with ungratefulness is a sure sign of immature Christian. Let me explain to you what I mean by overflowing.

Imagine you are headed out to work one morning. Of course, you are one of those folks who need coffee in the morning to start the day. You are a Starbucks fan, so you walk into the store to get a cup of coffee. The smell of your favorite coffee begins to wake you up. You slowly take a sip and it tastes heavenly. It is so good. Then, something happens. On your way out, someone coming in, by accident, bumps into you and, alas, you spill your coffee—all of it! Thank God, it wasn’t that hot! But, the coffee spilled all over on you, on the other person as well, and all of it.

That’s the image of overflowing. As you live out your faith, thankfulness is bound to spill over from you and it gives away what kind of believer who you are.

Are you one with gratitude?

Imagine you ran into a friend at Shoprite. She has been a believer in Christ for years. After a few minutes of conversation, you begin to notice something different in her. Somehow her words and her attitude catch your attention. She is going through chemo treatments for cancer, yet you notice that she doesn’t complain at all to God or to anybody. In fact, you are quietly shocked to see her calmness considering what she is going through. She even thanks God for her cancer because, she says, it set her priorities straight. Her words of gratitude overflow from her. Frankly, you are so impressed with her attitude of gratitude that you want to be like her. You want to find out the secrets of her calmness and of her attitude of gratitude.

Sadly, the story I just shared with you seems rather a remote possibility to most of us. In reality, we encounter our brothers and sisters in Christ who often whine and complain about things in life. Certain words that come out of their mouths or their attitude on life in general make us wonder about them being a believer in Christ let alone we want to be like them. E.g. Once at the Annual Conference, I served as usher. My job was to direct the hungry crowd (over 1000 people) to their tables at lunch time. In the auditorium over 100 tables were set up with each table of 10 chairs. As the rush began, for a better traffic, I directed the first comers to the tables at the farthest corners. Most of them were cooperative, but occasionally some individuals clearly let me hear their whining, “Why can’t I sit right here?!”

Had you been one of the people guided by me, would you have been thankfully following my directions to walk another 50 yards to the corner so that everyone else would be served on time or would you have been one of those whiners?

Jesus

Let me bring Jesus in here. Imagine you had the privilege of accompanying Him one day. Standing next to Him, you watch everything He does. You also hear all the wonderful lessons from Him. At the end of the day, you are on your way home. You think about what kind of person Jesus is. You try to use one word or two to describe Him such as grace, love, compassion, wisdom, miracle worker, teacher, righteous anger, justice, etc.

We may have no trouble coming up with one or two images of Jesus right away, but seldom would we catch the image of Jesus the grateful: the Jesus who was overflowing with thanksgiving.

Three things come to my mind when it comes down to Jesus the grateful. First, His prayers at the Last Supper—the first Eucharist ever in history that He initiated with His disciples the night before His crucifixion. He broke the bread at the table with words of “thanks” to God. The second image that comes to my mind is this: when He fed the crowds of over 5000 people with five loaves and two fish. Once again, before He gave the food to the crowd, He held up the bread to Heaven, broke it with grace—thanking God for the bread. Third time, He thanked God in advance for answering His prayers: “And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, ‘Father, I thank You that You have heard Me.’” (John 11: 41, NKJV). Right after His thanks to God, He raised Lazarus from the dead.

May I say that Jesus’ life and prayers were filled with thanksgiving to God? Why do I say so? Because Jesus was rooted in His relationship with God. He was a beloved Son of God. God loved Him dearly and was well pleased in Him (Mark 1:11). Jesus loved His Father back with the same love! He loved God so much that obeying God was never a duty but a delight. He pleased His Heavenly Father by doing what God commanded Him to do, and it brought Jesus joy. And, all the more did He all things that are pleasing to the Lord in Heaven. Of course, due to His reverent obedience to God, God answered His prayers. When Jesus received answers from God, He was more thankful to God. In turn, more thanks from Jesus make God more pleased with His Son that brought forth more answers to prayers. More thanks. And, so the cycle of gratitude continued.

Therefore, I can easily say that Jesus’ life overflowed with gratitude in every way. Naturally, it rubbed off on everyone around Him. So should it today on us Jesus’ followers.

That’s why I say that the attitude of gratitude is a sure sign of Christ’s followers. By knowing Jesus, and imitating Him in our words and actions, we can be grateful. And, by being grateful, we honor our Heavenly Father. Of course, by being ungrateful, we dishonor Him. With gratitude we move one step closer to God and with ungratefulness we move one step away from God.

Conclusion

I am sure all of us want to overflow with gratitude. However, we don’t become a thankful person overnight. Like anything else, we need practice. So, here’s my advice: say a prayer every morning that you want to do God’s will. More specifically, you want to be thankful for all things, both good and bad, because it is God’s will for you.

Here’s the action plan: start your day by counting 20 things you are both grateful and thankful for. Begin with small things and gradually increase to big things up to 20. I would call this practice D.O.T. 20 (Doing of Thankings for 20 things). E.g. Every morning I do this: I give thanks to God for life and health. I also thank God for His granting me faith in Jesus Christ. I thank Him for food, shelter, clothing, family, and my church. When everything good is counted, then I move onto not-so-good things (or you may call them bad things). Despite my feelings, I want to make sure that I stay thankful according to God’s command “be thankful in all circumstances. It is, of course, never easy to be thankful for bad things in life. But, by doing so every day, I learned to trust in God’s good will and the good God who makes all things both good and bad beautiful in due time. By being thankful for all things, I learned to glorify His name in my life. My prayer for all of you is this: may God make you overflow with thankfulness.

Amen.

Give Your Heart to Jesus

Today Pastor Choi talks about the nature of giving: Giving is to the Lord Jesus first before it is to the Church.  Giving must come from our heart.  Giving is determined by our understanding of who Jesus is.  It is also determined by how much we love Jesus not by how much money we have.

 

    Give Your Heart to Jesus

 

 

Following is a summary of his sermon:

 

Give Your Heart to Jesus

Mark 14   New American Standard Bible (NASB)

 

14 Now the Passover and Unleavened Bread were two days away; and the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to seize Him by stealth and kill Him; for they were saying, “Not during the festival, otherwise there might be a riot of the people.”

While He was in Bethany at the home of Simon the leper, and reclining at the table, there came a woman with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume of pure nard; and she broke the vial and poured it over His head. But some were indignantly remarking to one another, “Why has this perfume been wasted? For this perfume might have been sold for over three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.” And they were scolding her. But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you bother her? She has done a good deed to Me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them; but you do not always have Me. She has done what she could; she has anointed My body beforehand for the burial. Truly I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.”

 

Introduction

Once a year, as pastor of the church, I preach on the nature of giving to the LORD in conjunction with our church-wide stewardship campaign.  Today is the day that I speak about our giving to the Lord.   Our giving is to the Lord Jesus first before it is to the Church or it is to help the needy.  Our giving must come from our heart.  Our giving is determined by our understanding of who Jesus is.  It is also determined by how much we love the Lord not by how much we have in our possessions.   This morning we will think about our attitude in giving through the story of a woman who gave her heart and gave all she had to the Lord Jesus in worship.

Contents

What’s happening in the story?  It was the week of the Passover and three days before Jesus was crucified.  He was staying at a house in Bethany [a couple of miles SE of Jerusalem].  Then, a lady entered the room where Jesus was reclining.  Standing next to Him, she broke a vial of very expensive perfume made of pure nard and poured the entire bottle over Jesus’ head.  Indeed it was very expensive in those days.   [e.g. Horace –Roman poet during the time of August–offered to send Virgil a whole barrel of his best wine in exchange for a phial of nard.  “Though nard is now rare on the shelves of the western perfumer, its name stood for centuries as an evocation of the perfume of the lost Garden of Eden” http://www.biblefragrances.net/nard.html].

When the disciples saw what was happening before their eyes, their jaws dropped.  They couldn’t believe their eyes.  Immediately, a clash of convictions took place in silence and an argument ensued among those in the room on her act of giving; whether it was a waste or not.

Three groups of people were in the room: the lady (the giver), Jesus (the recipient) and the disciples (the onlookers).   Let’s think about them one by one.

The onlookers: “Why this waste?”–that was the outcry of Jesus’ disciples when they saw what the lady was doing with that very expensive vial of perfume—worth a worker’s annual wage (in today’s money it’s about $30,000).   Actually, the literal translation of “Why this waste?” would be “Why in the world has this happened?” or “A total waste!

The disciples got indignant.  They were very upset, because their conviction was violated.  Their conviction deep down in their hearts was this: Jesus doesn’t deserve such a devotion and honor.   He isn’t worth that much.  He is our teacher and worthy of our respect, but not this much.  Maybe, He is worth of a drop or two of the perfume, but not the entire bottle.

That’s why their jaws dropped.  Soon, they raised their voices and rebuked her.  They put her to shame, because they didn’t approve the way she used her own precious possession.  Perhaps, they would have had no problem if she had used it for her dowry in marriage or even for her own burial.  However, when it was used for Jesus, they had a big problem and exclaimed, “What a waste!”  “It could have been sold and given to the poor!”  They truly shamed her big time.  That’s where Jesus comes in.

The recipient: Leave her alone,” intervened Jesus.  He reminded His disciples and the lady that her giving was not a waste at all.  Actually, He continued, it was a beautiful thing she did for Him for His burial ahead of time.  He implied that all the disciples a week later wouldn’t be able to embalm their Master’s dead body.  Come to think of it, Jesus was right, because none of these disciples were able to do so with Jesus’ body, because He was risen.  Only this lady did.

Now, if you only focus on the words such as “waste” or “helping the poor” you may miss the whole point.  Here, Jesus is least concerned about the waste or the best ways to spend one’s material possessions.  Nor does He discourage us not to help the poor.   By the way, He is the one who cares about the poor so much so that He opened His Sermon on the Mount with the declaration that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to the poor.   He proclaimed the Gospel to the poor.   Furthermore, when it comes down to waste, He is the one who knows what it means not to waste God’s given resources.  Remember His story of feeding the 5000 people with five loaves and two fish?   After everyone was fed, Jesus commanded to collect all the left overs so that the food would not go wasted.  He surely knows what waste is and what is not.

Jesus points out one thing very important to all—the lady, to His disciples and to us the readers of the Bible: who He is as the recipient of our giving and devotion.  Do you know who Jesus is?  He is more than a good moral teacher.  He is more than a master who deserves respect.  He is one of the triune God whom we worship and serve: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.  He is equal to God.  He is eternal as God.  He is the God incarnate—God in human flesh.  Unlike any other human beings, He is sinless.  He has the authority to forgive sins in the world (yours and mine).  He is our God and Savior.  Therefore, He is worthy of our adoration, praise, worship, and our best!  He deserves our all!   That’s what’s happening in the story.  Knowing who Jesus was, the lady gave her heart, her best, and all she had to Jesus.  Let’s think about the lady the giver this time.

The giver: to the lady, nothing was too precious or too costly for Jesus.  Nothing was wasted on Jesus, because He was her God and her Lord.  That’s why she gave her heart and didn’t hold anything back from Him.

Think about the perfume one more time.  Scholars believe that there are two possibilities for the perfume in her possession: it was a family heirloom kept either for dowry or for her own burial.  But, she gave it up for Jesus.  I must say it was more than monetary sacrifice.  It was the total surrender of her personal plans, ambitions, and aspirations.  That’s what happens in true worship.  Surrender all to Jesus.  Romans 12:1 [present your bodies as a living sacrifice].  He is worthy of nothing but the best from us, not a scrap here and there.  Not a divided attention here and there.

Do you surrender all to Jesus?  Do you give your best to Him or just put one hour in on Sunday mornings?   Do you give Him all your heart or only a piece of it and keep the rest with you?   It all depends who Jesus is to you.

When you worship the Lord with all your heart and mind, you may experience sharp criticisms and angry glances from the onlookers.  That’s exactly what happened to the lady when she broke the vial and gave her heart for Jesus’ sake.

Even today people don’t change and still criticize the true worshipers of Jesus.  When you enthusiastically worship the Lord, when you give all yours to Jesus, the onlookers in worship may give you a hard time.   Even shame you.

Remember what really matters, though: Jesus’ praise trumps all the criticisms of the bystanders.  Therefore, don’t be afraid to offend people with your love for Jesus.  Only focus on pleasing the Lord.  Only worship the Lord in spirit and truth.  That’s what really counts before the Lord.

One more thing.  In today’s story, I can almost smell the fragrance of that expensive perfume that permeated the entire room.  I am sure it lingered there for some time.  Think of the lady who must have carried the sweet smell for some time on her clothes wherever she went afterwards.  People would exclaim to her saying, “Whatever happened to you, you smell good!  Where have you been?”  She would reply, “Today I was with Jesus and gave my heart to Him in worship!”

God calls you to be the fragrance of Christ to the world (2 Corinthians 2:15).   What smell do you give forth?   The fragrance or the stink?  Your being a sweet smell to the world begins with your heart entirely given to Jesus.  When you worship the Lord Jesus with all your heart and mind, you will carry the fragrance of Jesus to the world.

Conclusion

Remember the gift the lady gave to Jesus.  It was much more than the expensive perfume.  That day she gave her heart.  It impressed Jesus so much that He commanded His disciples to spread her story along with the gospel—the story of worship and adoration.  Give your heart to Jesus today and every day in worship.  He will remember your devotion.

Let’s pray.

 

Sermon: Altar in the Nation

Pastor Choi talks about the relations between idol worship and the destiny of a nation: idol worship brings forth rejection of God and the rejection of God brings down a nation.  Taking the example of two kingdoms in Israel, he compares America’s today to the day of Elijah: idols are plenty and abandonment of God and God’s commandments and ordinances become a norm in our society.  Pastor Choi exhorts God’s people to seek God with prayer and petitions, turn from wicked ways, and give attention to God’s truth on behalf of America.

 

  Altar in the Nation

 

Following is a summary of his sermon:

 

Altar in the Nation 

 

Daniel 9:1-19   New American Standard Bible (NASB)

9 In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of Median descent, who was made king over the kingdom of the Chaldeans— in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, observed in the books the number of the years which was revealed as the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet for the completion of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years. So I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed and said, “Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments, we have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly and rebelled, even turning aside from Your commandments and ordinances. Moreover, we have not listened to Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings, our princes, our fathers and all the people of the land.    

“Righteousness belongs to You, O Lord, but to us open shame, as it is this day—to the men of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, those who are nearby and those who are far away in all the countries to which You have driven them, because of their unfaithful deeds which they have committed against You. Open shame belongs to us, O Lord, to our kings, our princes and our fathers, because we have sinned against You. To the Lord our God belong compassion and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against Him; 10 nor have we obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in His teachings which He set before us through His servants the prophets. 11 Indeed all Israel has transgressed Your law and turned aside, not obeying Your voice; so the curse has been poured out on us, along with the oath which is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, for we have sinned against Him. 12 Thus He has confirmed His words which He had spoken against us and against our rulers who ruled us, to bring on us great calamity; for under the whole heaven there has not been done anything like what was done to Jerusalem. 13 As it is written in the law of Moses, all this calamity has come on us; yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our iniquity and giving attention to Your truth. 14 Therefore the Lord has kept the calamity in store and brought it on us; for the Lord our God is righteous with respect to all His deeds which He has done, but we have not obeyed His voice.

15 “And now, O Lord our God, who have brought Your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand and have made a name for Yourself, as it is this day—we have sinned, we have been wicked. 16 O Lord, in accordance with all Your righteous acts, let now Your anger and Your wrath turn away from Your city Jerusalem, Your holy mountain; for because of our sins and the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Your people have become a reproach to all those around us. 17 So now, our God, listen to the prayer of Your servant and to his supplications, and for Your sake, O Lord, let Your face shine on Your desolate sanctuary. 18 O my God, incline Your ear and hear! Open Your eyes and see our desolations and the city which is called by Your name; for we are not presenting our supplications before You on account of any merits of our own, but on account of Your great compassion. 19 O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and take action! For Your own sake, O my God, do not delay, because Your city and Your people are called by Your name.”

Introduction

This sermon concludes my series on the altar: individual, family, church, and nation. Last Sunday, I talked about the saddest day of Israel’s history when clergy and laity made a wrong choice tossing out God and inviting an idol to be their god.  Since that day God’s people worshiped idols and consequently paid the price that culminated in the Babylonian Captivity.  They were ushered into the Promised Land by the LORD God, but in less than 700 years, they were taken out and away from the same land because they worshiped idols abandoning the very God who gave them the blessings.

This morning we are going to think about the relations between idol worship and the future of a nation: idol worship brings forth rejection of God and the rejection of God brings down a nation.

History repeats itself and if we fail to learn a lesson from the past, we would make the same mistakes.  We the people of God can learn from the history of Israel in the context of destiny of a nation and idol worship.  One clarification: idol worship means we worship and serve anything or anybody in place of God.  Idols dictate us what to do and we obey.   Idols can be a molten image, but they can be abstract things such as humanism, rejection of God, science, greed, or love of money.

Contents

A brief history lesson: after Moses died, Joshua led the Israelites into the Promised Land.   It took another 300 years for the twelve tribes to finally settle in.  King David expanded the territory and finally brought peace into his Kingdom.  He wanted to build the temple to the Lord.   God said, no, not you, but your son will do it.

Solomon did it.  He built the magnificent temple dedicated only to the LORD.   He is a perfect example of backsliding.  He started right and ended wrong.  You see, his problem was too many women in his life: 700 wives and 300 concubines.  All for in the name of diplomacy and security.   All wives brought their own gods from their lands.  Too many idols.  He reigned for forty years.

After his death (928 B.C.), the kingdom of Israel was divided into two: the northern kingdom (the Kingdom of Israel) and the southern kingdom (the Kingdom of Judah).  The northern kingdom lasted about 200 years.   From its inception, it never stopped worshiping other gods until the fall in 722 B.C.  The southern kingdom lasted 350 years, but it was no better than the northern kingdom, because it too worshiped idols right next to God’s altar in the middle of the temple in Jerusalem. 

The worst example was King Manasseh (697-642 B.C.):  “Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem; …He did evil in the sight of the Lord, according to the abominations of the nations whom the Lord dispossessed before the sons of Israel. For he rebuilt the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed; and he erected altars for Baal and made an Asherah, as Ahab king of Israel had done, and worshiped all the host of heaven and served them. He built altars in the house of the Lord, of which the Lord had said, “In Jerusalem I will put My name.” For he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the Lord. He made his son pass through the fire, practiced witchcraft and used divination, and dealt with mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord provoking Him to anger. Then he set the carved image of Asherah [mother goddess, consort of Yahweh–mine] that he had made, in the house of which the Lord said to David and to his son Solomon, “In this house and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen from all the tribes of Israel, I will put My name forever.” (2 Kings 21:1-7).

One phrase to describe the history of idolatry in Israel is “a rollercoaster ride”: ups and downs.  Idol worship, return to the Lord, idol worship, and return to the Lord: this pattern repeated for 400 years since the dedication of the temple to the Lord.  Bad kings dominated; once in a while good kings popped up such as Hezekiah and Josiah.  But, overall, 9 out of ten times, bad kings.  One good one.

So what did God do about it?  He repeatedly sent His prophets such as Jeremiah (626 – 587 B.C.) and asked them to come back to Him.  He warned them against the danger of idol worship and asked them to turn their hearts back to Him.  Did they listen?  No, they provoked God to anger through their continued idolatry.  So, God finally said, so be it.  There came God’s judgment upon them: the Babylonian Captivity in 586 B.C.

I believe we are living in such a perilous time as that of Jeremiah.  Idols are plenty.   Abandoning God and rejecting His commandments and ordinances have become a norm in our society.  People refuse to listen to the Lord and come back to Him.  

About 50 years ago, when America removed prayer and the Bible from public schools, it was one of the saddest days in our history.  Stores began to open on Sundays.  Now, many stores open 7 days a week.  Although we’ve never been completely free from idol worship in our society, the degree of forsaking our Heavenly Father today is getting worse in a very alarming rate.  For instance, less and less people respect or fear the LORD: e.g. the monument of the 10 commandments in Oklahoma City was desecrated recently.  Do you think it shocked the nation?  I doubt it.  Some of us are not even shocked let alone outraged.  Families are being broken up at a record high rate.  God’s Word spoken at God’s house is being censored by the government.  Just last month, Houston mayor subpoenaed five pastors’ sermons in her city (later she rescinded).  It is a bad omen of what’s coming in our society.  One million witches in our land.   Violence in our society sickens our soul almost every day: shooting incidents at schools and even at churches. 

Many people already see the downfall of America, not just economically, socially, and even as a nation.   A year ago, 68% of Americans thought that our nation was headed in the wrong direction (Bloomberg News National Poll, Sept. 20-23, 2013).  This year, another poll by NBC News/Wall Street Journal (July 30-August 4, 2014) said that 71 percent thought that the country was on the wrong track.

Frank Bruni, columnist for New York Times, in his recent article “Lost in America” (August 25, 2014) wrote.  After stating that Americans were apprehensive about their direction and hungry for hope yet don’t find it on the menu, he asked, “But to what or whom can Americans turn?”   The government?  Bruni doubts it.   “A Gallup poll in late June that showed that Americans’ faith in each of the three branches had dropped to what he called “near record lows,” with only 30 percent expressing confidence in the Supreme Court, 29 percent in the presidency and 7 percent in Congress.”  He concludes saying, “…this isn’t just about the economy. It’s about fear. It’s about impotence. We can’t calm the world in the way we’d like to, can’t find common ground and peace at home, can’t pass needed laws, can’t build necessary infrastructure, can’t, can’t, can’t.  In the Journal/NBC poll, 60 percent of Americans said that we were a nation in decline.  How sad. Sadder still was this: Nowhere in the survey was there any indication that they saw a method or a messenger poised to arrest it”  (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/26/opinion/frank-bruni-lost-in-america.html). 

Bruni doesn’t see any hope.  Neither does he point out any solution.  Just frustration on the direction we are going. 

 Let me tell you what is wrong with our country: forsaking God and His commandments and ordinances.  Pushing God out from every arena of our society:  government, military, business, schools, and homes.  As long as we do it corporately, our nation will decline.   Listen to George Washington, who must have foreseen it coming many years ago and gave us a warning in his inaugural speech:  “We ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained” (April 30, 1789).

America today is very much like the time of Elijah.  By the time of Elijah, in Israel, there were many altars to idols; they tore down altars to God everywhere that the Prophet was afraid that he was the only one left (e.g.  At Mountain Carmel, he encountered against 850 prophets of idols (1 Kings 18:19, 450 of Baal, 400 of Asherah).  He said to God: “Lord, they have killed Your prophets, they have torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they are seeking my life.” But what is the divine response to him? “I have kept for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal” (Romans 11:3-4).

Folks, don’t despair.  We have an answer.  We have hope.  Not the hope in any human beings or government, but in God the LORD Almighty.   Bring God in.  Let us listen to Him.  Tear down the idols.  That must begin with God’s people.  It must begin with ourselves:  “and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:14, NASB).   The healing of our land depends on us and begins with us.

It is time that we paid attention to Daniel’s prayer. In the face of national collapse and calamity, Daniel teaches us to do the following: 1. Seek God through prayer and petitions 2. Confess our nation’s sins.  3.  Ask for forgiveness.  4. Seek God’s favor on behalf of America by turning from iniquity and give attention to God’s truth.

Conclusion

Beware of the consequences of idolatry: you begin with God alone at first.  Then, you sneak in one idol, and start worshiping it alongside God.  It looks harmless at first.  You add another idol later.  As the number of idols increases, you eventually keep the idols and reject God and His commandments.  That’s what happened to Israel.   That was the cause of their downfall.

That’s what’s happening in America.  We started as a godly nation whose foundation was God the Almighty.   We began to sneak in one idol after another.  In the past fifty years, the signs of rejecting God in our society become more visible.   More daring attacks to tear down the altars to God are being made: God’s name is blasphemed; His Church and God’s commandments are dismissed by our leaders and people.  Remember America is not even 250 years old yet.  Remember those kingdoms with all God’s favor on them didn’t get spared from God’s wrath.  We must not repeat the same mistake twice.  We must begin with us.  Seek God.  Pray.  Confess.  Ask for forgiveness. Turn from iniquity.  Give attention to God’s truth.  Then, only then, God will heal our land.  Amen.

Sermon: Altar in the Wilderness

Today Pastor Choi talks about altar in the church.  3,500 years ago, in the wilderness, while their leader Moses was away, Aaron the priest succumbed to the demand from the people and created a golden calf.  That opened the floodgate of idolatry to Israel for the centuries to come and brought down God’s wrath on the future generations that culminated in the Babylonian Captivity.   Pastor exhorts the congregation to make a wise choice at Manahawkin UMC: worship the LORD God only for the sake of next generations.

 

     Altar in the Wilderness

 

 

 

Following is a summary of his sermon:
Altar in the wilderness

 

Acts 7:37-44   NASB

37This is the Moses who said to the sons of Israel, ‘God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brethren.’38This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness together with the angel who was speaking to him on Mount Sinai, and who was with our fathers; and he received living oracles to pass on to you. 39Our fathers were unwilling to be obedient to him, but repudiated him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt, 40saying to Aaron, ‘Make for us gods who will go before us; for this Moses who led us out of the land of Egypt—we do not know what happened to him.’ 41At that time they made a calf and brought a sacrifice to the idol, and were rejoicing in the works of their hands. 42 But God turned away and delivered them up to serve the host of heaven; as it is written in the book of the prophets, ‘It was not to Me that you offered victims and sacrifices forty years in the wilderness, was it, O house of Israel? 43 You also took along the tabernacle of Moloch and the star of the god Rompha, the images which you made to worship. I also will remove you beyond Babylon.’  44 “Our fathers had the tabernacle of testimony in the wilderness, just as He who spoke to Moses directed him to make it according to the pattern which he had seen.

Introduction

I have been doing a sermon series on the “altar.”  I first talked about the individual altar.  All of us have an altar in our hearts built to someone/something we worship and serve.  Build one only to Me and pull down the altars of your idols, God commands us.

Then, I talked about the “family prayer altar.”  We as the family ought to have an altar dedicated only to God not to anything else or to anybody else.  With this altar, we declare to the world that we belong to the Lord God and that we worship/serve Him only.  Every day we gather around this family altar and pray together.  When the family prays together, they stay together.  I encourage you to take up the challenge of the family prayer altar for 30 days.  In fact, I am very pleased to announce that out of my goal of having 100 families, now the number is 51.  Forty nine to go and if you haven’t signed up yet, please do so today before you go home.  The sign-up sheet, daily check-list, and the directions of how to do it are on the table in the Narthex.

Contents

I am going to talk about the corporate altar this morning; the altar in the church.

Come and meet the pastor Moses.  You can’t ask for a better leader than him: He was a top-notch leader in every aspect.  First, academically, he was educated in the Egyptian palace as prince.  Next, for practical training in ministry, he spent forty years honing his skills as a shepherd.  Furthermore, look at his impressive references. For instance, for his personality, God vouched for him that Moses was the most humble man in the world: “Now the man Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3, NASB).

What about his accomplishments in ministry?  He was second to none.  God helped him to perform signs and wonders for 40 years (E.g. 10 plagues, parting of the Sea, manna).  God accompanied his congregation day and night: clouds to cover them from the Sun during the day and pillar of fire at night to keep them warm.   Moses directly spoke with God and received the living oracles from God and passed them onto the congregation of Israel.  His encounter with God was so supernatural that, after each meeting with God, his face would glow.  The people of Israel were afraid to see his face that he had to cover his face with a towel. “The sons of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone. So Moses would replace the veil over his face until he went in to speak with Him” (Exodus 34:35, NASB).

He remained their faithful leader for 40 years until he died at the age of 120.

Let’s think about the congregation this time.  Moses’ congregation—the congregation of Israel—had over one million members!  The largest ever in human history!   It was huge.  There were problems and challenges galore.  Here’s one to begin with: there was an ongoing grumble against their leader Moses.  Why?   Because they loathed their journey to the Promised Land.  They hated what they were physically going through such as the same food for forty years (manna), scarce water, and harsh climate in the wilderness.  But, it was on the surface.

The real problem was this: their heart.  Their heart was never right with God.  They never liked what God was doing with them. They missed their old life-style in Egypt where they were slaves.  They missed it so much that they desired to go back.  They didn’t care if they became slaves again.  They preferred food over freedom.  To them, the freedom in the Promised Land wasn’t worth the hardships in the wilderness.  They wanted the old Egypt back.

In the Bible, Egypt means the world.  It is the world where we didn’t know God; where we didn’t know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  The world where we would worship idols and do whatever we desired without God; the world where we were slaves to sin and death.   Exodus means God’s action to bring His people, the Church, out of that world.  As we come out of the world, we become separated from the world.  Going through the Red Sea means baptism.  Baptism is the beginning of our life as a new creation in Christ.  The Wilderness means our life on earth as sojourners.  This world is not our permanent or true home.  The Promised Land means Heaven our eternal destination our true home.   The congregation in the wilderness is us as the believers who are separate from the world; the believers who are baptized for the forgiveness of sins through Jesus; the believers who travel through life’s challenges with endurance and with trust in God.  The believers who never turn their hearts back to the world but keep on pressing onto Heaven our eternal destination no matter how hard the journey is.

The fundamental issue is always the heart.  The hearts of the Israelites were not in God but always in the world where they used to live.  Their bodies were in the wilderness, yet their hearts never left Egypt.  They were least interested in God’s purpose and destination, and most interested in the comfort and pleasures of the world they left.  They would grumble against God and Moses wondering why they were brought out of Egypt into the wilderness: They said to Moses, “Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you dealt with us in this way, bringing us out of Egypt?” (Exodus 14:11).  Do you hear in every sentence “Egypt?”  They sure missed Egypt.

They desired Egypt and often tried to go back there.  Well, finally a chance arrived to rebel against their leader Moses and against God.  Moses wasn’t in the camp.  He had gone up into the mountains to receive the 10 commandments.  He didn’t come back in the same day.  He didn’t return the next day, either.  His absence became a week; a week turned into two weeks; the two weeks became 40 days.  After 40 days, they went to Aaron, Moses’ brother the second-in-command.  They asked him to create gods that would lead them back to Egypt.

Instead of rebuking them, Aaron succumbed to their demand.  He asked them to bring him gold.  With the collected gold, he created an image of a golden calf calling it god.   People rejoiced and brought their sacrifices to their idol and worshiped it.  That was the saddest day in the history of Israel because the congregation built an altar not to the Lord God but to the idols.  That was the day when idolatry sneaked in and never left from Israel.  Such idolatry continued in the Promised Land and beyond!  In fact, they worshiped idols and relentlessly provoked the Lord to anger for the next thousand years (Moses: 1,500 B.C.  The Babylonian Captivity: 586 B.C.).  Can anyone blame God who brought wrath upon the future generations—which culminated in the Babylonian Captivity?

The story of the golden calf is very poignant to God’s Church today: Do not build an altar in My church to idols.  Keep your heart with Me, God says.   He warns us this morning, “Remove idols in the church.  Do not turn back to the world and follow its lusts.”

In today’s church, the hearts of many believers are not with God but still in the world.  Many church attendees in America have already gone back to the world (or their hearts never left their spiritual Egypt, the world).  They have been backsliding.  Furthermore, what Aaron (who represents priests) did with the Israelites back then is still happening in the contemporary churches.  E.g.  Among the emerging and popular congregations many messages are crowd-pleasing rather than God-pleasing (Romans 2:29).  Many sermons focus on how to cope with life on earth but fail to equip the saints for eternal life.  Few promote Christ-like life-styles.  Many teach believers to seek the crown without the cross.   Resurrection without crucifixion.

Today people look for churches where preachers preach to their itching ears.  Listen to Paul the Apostle who said, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Timothy 4:3-4 KJV).  The scariest thing is this:  when we prefer the world to God, when we love and practice the lusts of the world instead of God’s truth, God gives us over to our idols. “Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity” (Romans 1:24, 1:26, NASB).

The Lord asks us to repent today; both clergy and laity.

For clergy:  We must repent of our sins to please the crowd with sugar-coated messages.  Many a time, we succumb to the pressure from the crowd and end up preaching what they love to hear rather than the sound message of God’s Word.  We must repent of our sins of being a peddler of God’s Word (2 Corinthians 2:17).  We must repent of our sins of adulterating God’s Word (2 Corinthians 4:2).   We must stop preaching the prophecy of greed, flattery, and human glory (1 Thessalonians 2:4-6).   Pray for the clergy that they would be a faithful servant of God’s Word.  Pray that they would preach God’s Word without compromise.  Pray that they would be accurate handlers of God’s Word (2 Timothy 2:15).

As far as the laity is concerned, we must repent our sins of pressuring the clergy to preach only what we want to hear, not the wholesome truth of God’s Word.  We must repent our sins of loving the world and following its lusts.  Do not be conformed to the pattern of the world, God commands (Romans 12:1).   Listen to John the Apostle who said, “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” (1 John 2:15-16 KJV).

For us all, both clergy and laity, let us follow not the world, but God by renewing our hearts and minds daily (Romans 12:1-2).  Let us love the Lord with all our heart and soul and mind and strength (Mark 12:30).  Let us set our minds on things above, not on the things that are on earth (Colossians 3:2).  Let us live out a life worthy of God’s calling (2 Thessalonians 1:11).

Conclusion

               Think of one church: the congregation of Israel.  Think of one clergy: Aaron.  Think of one choice: idolatry.  If they both had resisted the temptation of worshiping idols, they could have avoided God’s wrath on their future generations.  The congregation could’ve chosen freedom over food sticking to the Lord their God.  Aaron could’ve chosen to please God instead of the people.  Neither of them did.  The result?  Centuries of idol worship ensued in Israel and God’s people suffered immensely for years.

Think of one congregation: Manahawkin.  Think of one clergy:  Kyewoon Choi.  Think of one choice we make together: The Lord God only.  The result?  God’s blessings on the next generations in our church.   Amen.              

Let’s pray.

Sermon: Family Prayer Altar

Pastor Choi challenges the congregation to join in Family Prayer Altar Challenge for the next five weeks (30 days except Sundays).  Taking the example of Gideon, he explains that God requires us to do two things before we go out into the world and make a difference.  Those two things are: Remove the idols in your life and build an altar to God (worship).

 

   Family Prayer Altar

 

Following is a summary of the sermon:

Family Prayer Altar

Judges 6:1-32   New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

6 The Israelites did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord gave them into the hand of Midian seven years. The hand of Midian prevailed over Israel; and because of Midian the Israelites provided for themselves hiding places in the mountains, caves and strongholds. For whenever the Israelites put in seed, the Midianites and the Amalekites and the people of the east would come up against them. They would encamp against them and destroy the produce of the land, as far as the neighborhood of Gaza, and leave no sustenance in Israel, and no sheep or ox or donkey. For they and their livestock would come up, and they would even bring their tents, as thick as locusts; neither they nor their camels could be counted; so they wasted the land as they came in. Thus Israel was greatly impoverished because of Midian; and the Israelites cried out to the Lord for help.

When the Israelites cried to the Lord on account of the Midianites, the Lord sent a prophet to the Israelites; and he said to them, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: I led you up from Egypt, and brought you out of the house of slavery; and I delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians, and from the hand of all who oppressed you, and drove them out before you, and gave you their land; 10 and I said to you, ‘I am the Lord your God; you shall not pay reverence to the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you live.’ But you have not given heed to my voice.”

11 Now the angel of the Lord came and sat under the oak at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, as his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the wine press, to hide it from the Midianites. 12 The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, “The Lord is with you, you mighty warrior.” 13 Gideon answered him, “But sir, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our ancestors recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has cast us off, and given us into the hand of Midian.” 14 Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian; I hereby commission you.” 15 He responded, “But sir, how can I deliver Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” 16 The Lord said to him, “But I will be with you, and you shall strike down the Midianites, every one of them.” 17 Then he said to him, “If now I have found favor with you, then show me a sign that it is you who speak with me. 18 Do not depart from here until I come to you, and bring out my present, and set it before you.” And he said, “I will stay until you return.”

19 So Gideon went into his house and prepared a kid, and unleavened cakes from an ephah of flour; the meat he put in a basket, and the broth he put in a pot, and brought them to him under the oak and presented them. 20 The angel of God said to him, “Take the meat and the unleavened cakes, and put them on this rock, and pour out the broth.” And he did so. 21 Then the angel of the Lord reached out the tip of the staff that was in his hand, and touched the meat and the unleavened cakes; and fire sprang up from the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened cakes; and the angel of the Lord vanished from his sight. 22 Then Gideon perceived that it was the angel of the Lord; and Gideon said, “Help me, Lord God! For I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face.” 23 But the Lord said to him, “Peace be to you; do not fear, you shall not die.” 24 Then Gideon built an altar there to the Lord, and called it, The Lord is peace. To this day it still stands at Ophrah, which belongs to the Abiezrites.

25 That night the Lord said to him, “Take your father’s bull, the second bull seven years old, and pull down the altar of Baal that belongs to your father, and cut down the sacred pole that is beside it; 26 and build an altar to the Lord your God on the top of the stronghold here, in proper order; then take the second bull, and offer it as a burnt offering with the wood of the sacred pole that you shall cut down.” 27 So Gideon took ten of his servants, and did as the Lord had told him; but because he was too afraid of his family and the townspeople to do it by day, he did it by night.

28 When the townspeople rose early in the morning, the altar of Baal was broken down, and the sacred pole beside it was cut down, and the second bull was offered on the altar that had been built. 29 So they said to one another, “Who has done this?” After searching and inquiring, they were told, “Gideon son of Joash did it.” 30 Then the townspeople said to Joash, “Bring out your son, so that he may die, for he has pulled down the altar of Baal and cut down the sacred pole beside it.” 31 But Joash said to all who were arrayed against him, “Will you contend for Baal? Or will you defend his cause? Whoever contends for him shall be put to death by morning. If he is a god, let him contend for himself, because his altar has been pulled down.” 32 Therefore on that day Gideon was called Jerubbaal, that is to say, “Let Baal contend against him,” because he pulled down his altar.

Introduction

Every one of us wants to make a difference in the world.  God says, “That’s wonderful, My child, go for it, but I want you to do things in proper order.  Do these things before you go out and start making a difference.”

We may ask, “What things?”  God says, “Remove the idols, worship Me, and change the world.”  That’s what I see in today’s story.  That’s the proper order of making a difference in the world.  Let me explain how I got that inspiration.

Contents

One day God’s angel appeared to Gideon and commissioned him to deliver his people from the enemies.  God said to him that He was with them.  Gideon said that if it were so, why did God’s people still suffer?  The LORD replied: because you guys abandoned Me.  Because you worship foreign gods instead: “I am the Lord your God; you shall not pay reverence to the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you live.’ But you have not given heed to my voice” (v. 10). 

Please notice here that God didn’t send Gideon right away into the battlefield to deliver Israel.

He required two things of him before changing the world.  What were they?  They were: remove the idols in your own house, worship Me, then go out and rescue My people.

Remember what I said last Sunday?  The revelation of God to His people always prompts them to build an altar to Him.  The same thing happened again here.  God appeared to Gideon, and Gideon built an altar to the LORD.

Something unusual in this picture, though.  Gideon built an altar twice to the LORD in one day.  Nowhere in the Bible was a man ever asked by God to build an altar twice a day.  But Gideon was.  In fact, he was the first and the last one who ever built twice an altar to the same God in one day.  It seems as if his first altar wasn’t good enough.

Think why God asked Gideon to build another altar after the first one in the same day.  Here’s why: because, right next to God’s altar that Gideon built, Baal’s altar was still standing and competing for Gideon’s loyalty.   It is like you dating your girlfriend and her ex-boyfriend is accompanying your date wherever you go.  You wish him to go away!

When it comes down to worship, our God doesn’t like competition.  He deserves and demands an exclusive loyalty from us to Him alone, not to any other gods/not to anybody else or anything else.  Even though Gideon built a genuine altar to the LORD first time, when God saw the altar of Baal still standing next to it, He said, “No way.  Get rid of it, Gideon!”

By the way, what was Baal?  It was one of the foreign gods in the land of Canaan.  It was a fertility god.  It was the rain god.  The meaning of the name is “lord, master, owner, or keeper.”  The people of Canaan worshiped it for centuries believing that it would bring blessings.  When the Israelites entered the land, God forbade them to worship Baal or any other gods in the land.  Yet, the people of Israel went after them.  Like the surrounding nations, they too wanted to worship this god of abundance.  Like the other people, they too loved the graven and molten image of Baal over no image of Jehovah God.

Let me read verses 25 and 26 one more time:  God said to Gideon,

“Pull down the altar of Baal that belongs to your father, and cut down the sacred pole that is beside it; 26 and build an altar to the Lord your God on the top of the stronghold here” (v. 25-26).   

Tear down the altar of Baal and build an altar to Me, God said.  Do it on top of the stronghold of the place where Baal’s altar used to be.  What is a stronghold?  It is a fortified place to protect people in it against attacks.   A castle.   A fortress.  It is built mainly for defense.  It provides a place of refuge (1 Samuel 23:19).

We must realize why God calls the altar of Baal a stronghold:  Once an altar is built, it becomes the place of refuge.   Whatever gods we build an altar to, they become our refuge and master.  E.g.  When you build an altar to money, it becomes your god and master.  When you build an altar to the LORD, He becomes your stronghold and refuge.  Gideon’s father built one to Baal and it became his idol and stronghold.  God wanted Gideon to remove it, repent of his father’s sin, and re-establish the covenant with Jehovah.

Why the family prayer altar?

This morning, I am launching a challenge of a family prayer altar to re-establish our relationship with God.  I urge every family in our congregation to remove their idols first and build a family altar on top of the stronghold of their idols.  At this altar, we give God access to our lives.  At this altar, we provide God with a stronghold and reign at our home.  Our family altar is the base for God to operate in our lives.   E.g.  Consider an altar like the American flag.  Imagine the American Flag flying at the White House, on Capitol Hill, and even in front of our church and our houses.  What does it signify?  It declares to everyone that America has reign over that territory and place.  We agree to live under its law and order.  The residents of the house where the flag is flying pledge their allegiance to America.

Same with our family prayer altar.  By dedicating our family prayer altar to the LORD, we fly the flag of allegiance to God’s sovereignty over our homes.  We welcome God to establish His kingdom and His stronghold in every family member’s life.  We also declare to our spiritual enemies that they have no business in our homes.  We ask them to look at our altar where God’s reign is firmly established; we tell them loud and clear that they are not welcome in our homes, in fact, we are at spiritual war against them.  As we defend our family altar, we defend God’s reign in our homes.  At the family prayer altar, we also invoke God’s help, provision, and protection.

That’s what the family prayer altar is all about.

What Are the Benefits of the Family Prayer Altar?

  1. Repentance and forgiveness of our sins.
  2. Peace and harmony in our home so that we may as a family hear the voice of God (Lydia Prince).  The peace between husband and wife also trickles down to our children.
  3. Family dialogue replacing TV, smart phones, and other things that deprive the family of quality time.
  4. Train our children on behalf of our society.  At the altar, the family stays strong in the Lord.  Families that pray together stay together.  We build up our children strong before they go out into the world.  “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war and then seek to win” (Sun-Tzu).  God prepared Gideon first before He sent him out to the battlefield.  Likewise, God will prepare our children at the family altar before they go out into the world.

How-to?

  1. Daily: repeated sin offerings were necessary in the temple of God.   We do it every day except Sundays, because we already worship the Lord at church.
  2. 10 minutes max
  3. Demonstration with the help of Prayer Group
    1. Sharing.  How was your day?
    2. Scripture (Gospel, Psalms, Proverbs) and Praise
    3. Prayer.  Everyone participates.
    4. Lord’s Prayer

Conclusion

It is time to wake up from our spiritual slumber.  God calls you and your family to the prayer altar!  I am looking for 100 families.  Our church has three hundred families.  We can have at least 100 families who would build their family prayer altar to the LORD daily.  Please sign up today and start praying for your family and for our community and society!  Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

Sermon: Isaac the man of maturity, peace, and altar

Today Pastor Choi remembers Isaac—son of Abraham— as the man of maturity, peace, and altar.  Isaac was wise and mature, because he practiced his strength under control despite the temptations to strike back against his enemies.   The LORD blessed him for his peaceful approach to conflicts.  Isaac also built an altar to God to worship the LORD only.

    Isaac the man of maturity, peace, and altar

 

 

Following is a summary of the sermon:

Isaac: the man of maturity, peace, and altar

Genesis 26:12-33New American Standard Bible (NASB)

12 Now Isaac sowed in that land and reaped in the same year a hundredfold. And the Lord blessed him, 13 and the man became rich, and continued to grow richer until he became very wealthy; 14 for he had possessions of flocks and herds and a great household, so that the Philistines envied him. 15 Now all the wells which his father’s servants had dug in the days of Abraham his father, the Philistines stopped up by filling them with earth. 16 Then Abimelech said to Isaac, “Go away from us, for you are too powerful for us.” 17 And Isaac departed from there and camped in the valley of Gerar, and settled there.

Quarrel over the Wells

18 Then Isaac dug again the wells of water which had been dug in the days of his father Abraham, for the Philistines had stopped them up after the death of Abraham; and he gave them the same names which his father had given them. 19 But when Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and found there a well of flowing water, 20 the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with the herdsmen of Isaac, saying, “The water is ours!” So he named the well Esek, because they contended with him. 21 Then they dug another well, and they quarreled over it too, so he named it Sitnah. 22 He moved away from there and dug another well, and they did not quarrel over it; so he named it Rehoboth, for he said, “At last the Lord has made room for us, and we will be fruitful in the land.”

23 Then he went up from there to Beersheba. 24 The Lord appeared to him the same night and said,

“I am the God of your father Abraham;
Do not fear, for I am with you.
I will bless you, and multiply your descendants,
For the sake of My servant Abraham.”

25 So he built an altar there and called upon the name of the Lord, and pitched his tent there; and there Isaac’s servants dug a well.

Covenant with Abimelech

26 Then Abimelech came to him from Gerar with his adviser Ahuzzath and Phicol the commander of his army. 27 Isaac said to them, “Why have you come to me, since you hate me and have sent me away from you?” 28 They said, “We see plainly that the Lord has been with you; so we said, ‘Let there now be an oath between us, even between you and us, and let us make a covenant with you, 29 that you will do us no harm, just as we have not touched you and have done to you nothing but good and have sent you away in peace. You are now the blessed of the Lord.’” 30 Then he made them a feast, and they ate and drank. 31 In the morning they arose early and exchanged oaths; then Isaac sent them away and they departed from him in peace. 32 Now it came about on the same day, that Isaac’s servants came in and told him about the well which they had dug, and said to him, “We have found water.” 33 So he called it Shibah; therefore the name of the city is Beersheba to this day.

Introduction

I love the book of Genesis in the Bible.  I love it, not only because it is God’s Word, but also because it has plenty of real life stories of real people that I can relate to: Adam and Eve, Cain, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and many more.  In the past couple of months, I spoke about Adam and Eve’s temptations.  I talked about Noah and his preparation for God’s judgment.  I also spoke about Abraham twice already (lies and generosity).

The same Abraham got his son Isaac when he was 100 years old.  Isaac was the miracle baby, the promise child, and the “laugh” child (the meaning of ‘Isaac’).  Isaac’s birth taught Abraham and his wife a lesson: the lesson to believe that nothing is impossible with God.  Because of his unwavering faith in God, Abraham was considered righteous before God.  Today’s sermon is about that blessed child of Abraham—the next generation of faith in God.

Contents

How would I remember Isaac in the Bible?   In today’s terms, he was an entrepreneur.  Truly a successful business man was he!  Did you know that he was engaged in three different types of business: shepherding, digging wells, and even farming?  He was not a farmer, yet, one year he ventured into farming; he sowed seed in the land, and in the same year he reaped a hundredfold (v. 12).  A hundredfold return in a year!  That would be any farmer’s dream!  Any investor’s (any hedge fund manager’s) dream!   Whatever he did, he flourished.

That’s the business side.  As far as his life as a person, three things stand out in today’s text.  He was the man of maturity, the man of peace, and the man of altar.

  1. The man of maturity

Isaac, on the outside, was a mild mannered man, yet inside he was mature, prudent, and strong.  I also believe that digging wells shaped him into a man of maturity.   You may wonder: how in the world well-digging has anything to do with his wisdom and maturity.   Let me explain.  I have to begin with his father Abraham.   Abraham passed away at the age of 175 (Genesis 25:7).  Isaac became the head of his household when he was 75 years old.  Throughout his life, he dug several wells (v. 18, 21, 22, 25, and 32).

Last week, I explained to you that digging a well in the land of Canaan—the wilderness—was not a small task.  Many a time the wells had to be dug at least 100-foot deep.  It involved many men and days to dig one.  Isaac did it several times.  Most of the time, he did so, not by choice, but rather he was forced to.  Originally, he inherited the wells that his father had dug.  However, as you read in today’s story, his neighbors were not kind.  In fact, they were very hostile to him, because they were very envious of his success and his wealth.  Compared to their well-being, Isaac the foreigner was filthy rich.  So, you know what they did to him?   They went to Isaac’s wells and filled them up with dirt.  They went to another well that also belonged to Isaac and claimed it was theirs, although they never lifted a finger to dig it.  Talking about persecution of Jews for no reasons—such anti-Semitism has been around thousands of years.

  1. The man of peace

What impressed me is this: whenever the locals disputed Isaac’s right to the wells, he didn’t contest.  He just gave up and moved to a different place and dug a new well.  Four times he did so in today’s story alone.  You see, when things happen, we can tell what kind of people we are by looking at how we handle the situations.  I like Isaac’s approach here: he didn’t fight back.  Each time the locals harassed him and stopped up or confiscated his wells, he kept moving on and avoided confrontations.

Mind you that he was not a wimp at all. On the contrary, he surely had a power to fight back for his own rights and win, too.  Did you know that Isaac had his own army ready to fight any battles?  To begin with, he inherited a private army from his father.  Remember this: Abraham defeated the armies of five kings with his own army of 318 men, all born and trained in his house (Genesis 14:14).   On top of his father’s men, Isaac must have had hundreds more men who were capable of bearing the sword.  Look at today’s text.  He was very powerful in the eyes of enemies (Genesis 26:16) to the point where King Abimelech (the king in the region) came to him at his own will to cut a peace treaty with Isaac (Genesis 26:31).  You see, Abimelech realized that Isaac was a powerhouse in the region that he wanted to keep peace with him.

Despite all his military strength as such, Isaac chose not to strike back when he was wronged repeatedly.  He practiced strength under control.  I think it was a smart move.  I believe he was prudent.  He was a man of peace.  Had there been the Nobel Peace Prize back then, he would have won it.  War seems a good choice at times, but pursuing peace brings forth the best result in the end.  You want a proof?   Isaac thrived more than ever.  Look at verses 12 and 13:  “12 …the Lord blessed him, 13 and the man became rich, and continued to grow richer until he became very wealthy;” (Genesis 26:12-13).

  1. The man of altar

Here’s another thing that deserves our attention: Isaac built an altar to the LORD.  I am talking about something very significant here.  In fact, this is far more important than being mature and keeping peace with neighbors.  Look at verse 23 where God appeared to Isaac.  He assured him that He would bless and multiply his descendants as He promised to Abraham.  Then, look at verse 25.  In response, Isaac built an altar to God and called upon the name of the LORD (v. 25).  God appears to God’s people and they build an altar to God.  In fact, this is a pattern repeated over and over in the Bible: Noah was the first person in the Bible who built an altar to God after the Great Flood.  Abraham followed suit (he built an altar at four different places), followed by Isaac, and followed by Jacob.  And centuries later Moses built an altar twice to God.  King Saul, King David, King Solomon did the same.  So did the Prophets.

Think with me one more time about altar.  What’s the purpose of altar?  What’s the significance of altar?  It’s not a nice piece of furniture in the sanctuary for decorations.  Rather, altar is the place where we meet God.  God initiates the meeting and people of God meet Him at the altar.  He reveals Himself and invites us to a relationship—the covenant relationship—at the altar.  We respond to God’s invitation with allegiance and gratitude at the altar.  At the altar we offer sacrifices (typically burnt offerings), because they were pleasing to the LORD (Genesis 8:21).  All these revelations of God and all our responses to Him take place at the altar.

Let me repeat what I said: altar is a place of covenant.  Altar is the witness between the two parties in covenant: God and us (Acts 7:44).  Altar is where God is present.  It is a holy ground because God is there (Acts 7:34).  Altar is where our heart is.  God meets us there and proclaims Himself who He is to us.  He is the Almighty and God WHO I AM.   He also sets the terms of our relationship with Him: He is our King and Lord.  He is our Provider and Protector.  He is our Refuge.  He is our Comforter.  He is our Peace.  He is our Shield.  He is our Strength.  He would be all of these for us as long as we stay loyal to Him.  He would do all of these in exchange of one thing: Worship Him only, no other gods.  With trust and confidence, we accept these terms.  We pledge our allegiance to Him and express our gratitude through offerings.  All of these take place at the altar.

Conclusion

In our hearts, everyone builds and has an altar.  To whom is your altar dedicated?  Too many people build altars to their idols and worship them (money, power, lust, desires, etc.).  However, God’s people build an altar only to Him; to no one or to nothing else.  Let us build an altar to God for daily worship and prayer.  Let us build an altar where we present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is our spiritual worship (Romans 12:1).   Next week, I will talk more about altar: this time, family prayer altar.  Don’t miss it.

Let’s bow our heads and pray.

Sermon: Generosity

Today Pastor Choi talks about another lesson from Abram: generosity (the quality of being kind and generous to others).  When Abram’s herdsmen and those of Lot (Abram’s nephew) had the strife among them, Abram resolved the conflict by pursuing peace in the family.  He was also generous to his nephew by giving the first choice to choose whatever he wanted.  The lesson is that when we treat others with generosity, God rewards us for our generosity.

      Generosity

 

Following is a summary of the sermon:

Generosity

Genesis 13:1-18 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

13 So Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev, he and his wife and all that belonged to him, and Lot with him.

Now Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver and in gold. He went on his journeys from the Negev as far as Bethel, to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, to the place of the altar which he had made there formerly; and there Abram called on the name of the Lord. Now Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents. And the land could not sustain them while dwelling together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to remain together. And there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock. Now the Canaanite and the Perizzite were dwelling then in the land.

So Abram said to Lot, “Please let there be no strife between you and me, nor between my herdsmen and your herdsmen, for we are brothers. Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me; if to the left, then I will go to the right; or if to the right, then I will go to the left.” 10 Lot lifted up his eyes and saw all the valley of the Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere—this was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah—like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt as you go to Zoar. 11 So Lot chose for himself all the valley of the Jordan, and Lot journeyed eastward. Thus they separated from each other. 12 Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled in the cities of the valley, and moved his tents as far as Sodom. 13 Now the men of Sodom were wicked exceedingly and sinners against the Lord.

14 The Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Now lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward; 15 for all the land which you see, I will give it to you and to your descendants forever. 16 I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth, so that if anyone can number the dust of the earth, then your descendants can also be numbered. 17 Arise, walk about the land through its length and breadth; for I will give it to you.” 18 Then Abram moved his tent and came and dwelt by the oaks of Mamre, which are in Hebron, and there he built an altar to the Lord.

Introduction

Two weeks ago, I spoke about Abram’s distrust and lies.  He lied twice calling his wife sister.  He did so, because he was afraid of losing his life.  It’s a lesson for us too.  When it comes down to protection, God is our shield (Genesis 15:1).  Our best protection in times of need is God, not our own schemes.  It is a far better choice to call on God trusting in Him and in His mighty power than to rely on our own wisdom and might when the chips are down.

Today’s text is the continuation of Abram’s journey.  This time it brings us another lesson: generosity (the quality of being kind and generous).

Contents:

Let me recap today’s story in my own words:  after God intervened for Abram in Egypt, Pharaoh returned Sarai to her husband and ordered them to leave the area.  So, he headed out for the land of Canaan—the wilderness.   Abram traveled together with his nephew Lot.  In those days, it was an advantage to travel together, especially if you were a foreigner.  The greater in number, the better protection it brought.  Abram and Lot both were shepherds, both were wealthy, and both had many hired herdsmen to take care of thousands of sheep and cattle.

As you can imagine, to feed and water the flock would be a huge challenge.  Mind you that in the wilderness you don’t have a nice river or even a small lake that provides a steady supply of water.  Therefore, you solely rely on a well.  By the way, no one shares his well with you either, so you have to dig one for yourself.  Furthermore, digging a well was not a small task.  “Many of the hand dug wells in the ancient Holy Land exceeded 100′ in depth.” (http://ptl2010.com/2010/12/27/the-tale-of-the-tel-wells-in-ancient-palestine-2/)  It involved trials and errors.  It took many workers and days to dig one well that was good.

Once a well is dug, you would like to stay there as long as you could until either water or grass, whichever first runs out.  That’s what they did.   They shared the land and the well which seemed at first sufficient for the both.   Then, one day the strife broke out between the herdsmen of Abram and those of Lot.   Someone must have started claiming they had the first right to the well and the land.  The other party said no way.  Their verbal quarrel got noisy.  They yelled at each other.   Some rough ones might have had a fist fight.  Luckily, no one was killed.  I believe the same strife very likely happened more than once (although the Bible doesn’t say how many times).

Of course, the herdsmen reported to their bosses respectively.  Each side complained and blamed the other side for the strife: “We were absolutely right and the other guys were absolutely wrong.”  Sound familiar?

Finally, all these matters came to the boss: Abram.  That’s where the buck stopped.

How did he handle the whole situation?  How would you handle the situation if you were him?   Let me tell you what I believe he could have done:  He could’ve chastised his nephew and his herdsmen for the strife.  He could’ve reminded Lot who was in charge in his household.  After all, he was his uncle.  He also could’ve called for a committee meeting to come up with the feeding and watering schedule for both sides.  He did none of the above.

Rather, he called for a one-on-one meeting with his nephew.  He said to Lot, “Look!  Please let there be no strife between you and me, nor between my herdsmen and your herdsmen, for we are brothers. Is not the whole land before you?  Please separate from me; if to the left, then I will go to the right; or if to the right, then I will go to the left.”

I love Abram’s approach here to resolve any conflict between him and his nephew.  Call for a one-on-one meeting.  No mediators.  Just you and me.  We are brothers.  The same approach is also recommended by Jesus our Lord.  In Matthew 18:15, He said, 15 “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.”

Abram said to Lot: Hey, look.  We are family.  Let’s have peace between us.  Here, he acknowledged that peace is the most important thing among his family members.  Not just between uncle and nephew, but even among their employees.  He was conscientious in setting a good example before the world (see verse 7: the Canaanite and Perizzite).  He was determined not to allow anything to come between him and Lot.   I believe many families today can use this approach.   E.g.  Have you ever seen some families fight over an inheritance taking each other to the court?  Perhaps that’s the way some people in the world settle their disputes, but not for God’s people.  We are peace makers.  We seek peace and pursue it among us (Psalm 34:14).

I also like Abram’s perspective on the way we gain material things.  “After you!” approach.  He was kind and cool giving the first choice to his nephew: Look, you go first.  Choose whatever suits your needs.  If you go to the left, I will go to the right.  If to the right, then I will go to the left.  Don’t you love his solution?   I do.  E.g.  If we yield to each other in driving, how much less stressed out would all of us be?

I would call Abram’s attitude generosity: let others have the first choice.  Such an attitude only comes from a mature person who has a room in his/her heart for others.  Some of us may be afraid that by being generous to others would make us a loser.  Not really.  On the contrary, God rewards us for our generosity.  Indeed, that’s what God did for Abram.  Right after Lot left for his choice land, the fertile, green, plenty of water land, Abram ended up staying in the same place–very harsh, arid, and tough to live with his livestock.  However, in the end it was Abram who was blessed.  He didn’t become a loser.  This is how it happened.  God appeared to him and assured that He would give him forever wherever his feet touched as a permanent inheritance for his descendants.  To make a long story short, do you know what happened to Lot?  He lost everything despite the favorable environments he went after.  Abram and his possessions, however, multiplied despite the harsh conditions.  That reminds me that true blessings always stem from God and stay with God.  God is the source of our blessings.  He Himself is our blessing.  Here’s another spiritual secret.  You don’t choose blessings over God.  You choose God instead and blessings will follow you.   Here’s one good prayer for you: Stop praying “Lord, bless me in what I do.”  Instead, start praying “Lord, help me to do what You bless.”  You will see a huge difference in your life.

E.g. Sundar Singh, a Christian man in India in the 20th century, once was on his way to India from Tibet, traveling through a high mountain in freezing weather in the Himalayas.  He was traveling together with a friend.  As they approached the next lodge, which was about a couple of miles away, they found a stranger on the ground buried in snow half frozen and dying.  Singh suggested to his friend to take the man with them.  The friend refused saying, “Are you out of mind?  We cannot afford to carry another man in this cold weather!”   Singh insisted.  His friend said no and went ahead alone.  Singh took the man on his back.  The weight of the man on his back made his steps extra heavy and slow.   About a mile later, Singh found another man on the ground—it was his friend who went ahead and collapsed to death.  Singh and the other man, however, made to the next house, both alive.  Later Singh realized that the heavy weight of the man on his back provided the extra heat that kept them both warm.  The lesson: Singh chose what God blessed—help others–and survived.  His friend didn’t.

Closing:

Let’s be generous to others and God will reward us for our generosity.   Amen.

Sermon: Say Thank-You to Jesus

Today, Pastor Choi introduces a few practical ways for God’s people to say thanks to Jesus first and to each other: writing thank-you notes, acknowledging in public those folks who helped and loved us, praying for loved ones, keep “gratitude journal,” doing of thanking every day for twenty things and so on.  Thanksgiving is a mark for the believers in Christ that glorifies God in the world.  It is God’s will for us.

  Say Thank You to Jesus

Following is a summary of his sermon:

Say Thank-You to Jesus     

Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God through Him” (Colossians 3:17).

I thank my God every time I remember you (Philippians 1:3)

Introduction

Recap of my last messages:  In January, as pastor of the congregation, I designated this year to be the Year of Gratitude.  My intention was to encourage God’s people to live a life of gratitude (not seasonally around Thanksgiving Day only, but daily).   I promised that I would preach six times on this topic of gratitude.  My sermon this morning is the fifth one.

In the past eight months I spoke about the reasons why we must be thankful and the benefits thereof.   Why thankful?  Because it is God’s will for us to be thankful in every circumstance, both good and bad (1 Thessalonians 5:18).  Do you want to live out God’s will for you?  Then, be thankful in all circumstances.  It is important to be grateful in good circumstances.  However, it is far more important for us to trust in God and His good will for us in bad circumstances—the Bible calls that attitude and act of trust “being thankful.”   God is a master weaver.  He weaves all things (both good and bad) in our lives and makes them work together for our good in the end (Romans 8:28).

In March, I preached that we ought to learn to give thanks to God, not based on what happens to us, but based on God’s attributes: for His goodness, loving kindness, and faithfulness (Psalm 100:1-5).  God commands us to bring a sacrifice of thanksgiving even when nothing good goes on in our lives.  He expects us to cultivate the attitude of thanksgiving throughout our lives.  Last May, using the story of the ten lepers whom Jesus healed, I reminded you to express your gratitude right away when the occasions arise.  Do not put it off, or you may lose the opportunity.

In July, I spoke about three blessings thanksgiving brings to us: the peace of Christ that rules (Colossians 3:15) in our hearts, the effective prayers (Philippians 4:6-7) and God’s deliverance (Psalm 50:23).  Thanksgiving is a prerequisite for God’s deliverance.  Do you need God’s deliverance in your life right now?  Spread the red carpet for God to come into your life and rescue you from your trouble.  That red carpet is thanksgiving.

Contents

A sick lady with troubled walking once served as usher in the Board of Ordained Ministry.  Her job was to collect hundreds of ballots from members.  Each time she collected the paper ballot, she said “Thanks.”  She must have said it hundreds of times that day.  I told her that she was an unofficial Guinness World Record holder of saying thanks the most in one day.   A few months later I saw her restored to a full health.  The power of saying thanks—that’s what I am going to talk about today.

What can I compare thanksgiving to?  It’s like oil in a machine.  Like oil makes the machine run well, thanksgiving makes our relationships run smooth without friction: our relationship with God and our relationships with others.  When we say thanks to each other, it also refreshes our soul and it warms up the heart of the recipient.  E.g.  “Each time you give thanks, you’re literally being regenerated—you’re being recharged” (Henry Gruver).

This morning, I am going to suggest some practical ways to give thanks to God and to people.   I hope you pick up at least one or two and start using them right away.  There are many ways people express their gratitude.   To name the few:

  • Thanks a Million/Zillion
  • I owe you one.
  • I’m deeply indebted.
  • I appreciate your help.
  • I couldn’t have done it without you!
  • Words are inadequate to express my gratitude.
  • You=Awesome         Me=Grateful
  • My gratitude knows no bounds.
  • Sometimes you can simply say thanks with a look or tears.Now, here are some specific ways we can express our gratitude to God and to others:
  • Say “Thank-You” to Jesus and to people (notes, cards, email, texts, phone calls…).  E.g.  One time I preached on giving thanks to people.   We also had a visitor that day.  The next day I sent her a thank you note for attending the service.  She wrote me back saying:  “Dear Rev. K. Choi, I attended your service on September 1st with my boyfriend.  We had driven down from Maine to come and visit my grandmother.  As I sit and write this thank you letter for your card, I have also finished two other ones.  I remember that was part of your sermon that week about stopping to think about how much time it took someone to send you a thank you note and making time to reciprocate it.  It was very useful information and I am putting it to use.  Thank you for your thoughtfulness.” (Cheriese Lawrie).
  • Acknowledge in public those who helped and loved you (1 Corinthians 16:18).
  • Be generous to others, for it generates thanksgiving (2 Corinthians 9:11).
  • Remember loved ones in prayer with thanksgiving and joy (Ephesians 1:16, Philippians 1:3-4).
  • Keep “Gratitude Journal” every day for five things.
  • Say, “I get to do….” instead “I have to do…”
  • Count blessings three times a day.
  • Drop a Thanks Card in a Thanks Box.
  • When greeted by someone “How Are You?”  Answer “Thankful” or “Grateful for You.”
  • Say grace before each meal.  Grace and Thanksgiving share the common Greek root (charis).  Consider Italian Grazie and Spanish Gracias.   Two things happen when you say grace: you remember the Giver of all blessings, and the prayer cleanses the food (1 Corinthians 10:30).
  • Doing of Thanking for 20 Things (D.O.T. 20).  Start your day with thanksgiving.  Begin with the ten things you are grateful for.  Then, add another ten things you are unhappy / concerned about and be thankful to God for His goodness and providence.  Do it every morning.  You will see the difference.Conclusion
  • Thanksgiving is a mark for Christians.  When we give thanks to God, we glorify God and His name among us.  When we thank the people, it also refreshes their hearts and ours.  Therefore, it is a right thing to do.
  • Let’s say, “Thank You” to Jesus and others as often as we can.
  • Amen.

Sermon: Distrust and Lies

Today Pastor Choi talks about one experience we all have: lies.  Through the story of Abraham, he points out that the root cause of Abraham’s lies was lack of trust in God.  He exhorts the congregation to learn a lesson from Abraham: put trust in God daily in everything so that we may walk uprightly before God (Psalm 84:11).

   Distrust and Lies

 

Following is a summary of his sermon:

Distrust and Lies

Genesis 12:10-20     New American Standard Bible (NASB)

10 Now there was a famine in the land; so Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land. 11 It came about when he came near to Egypt, that he said to Sarai his wife, “See now, I know that you are a beautiful woman; 12 and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife’; and they will kill me, but they will let you live. 13 Please say that you are my sister so that it may go well with me because of you, and that I may live on account of you.” 14 It came about when Abram came into Egypt, the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. 15 Pharaoh’s officials saw her and praised her to Pharaoh; and the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house.16 Therefore he treated Abram well for her sake; and gave him sheep and oxen and donkeys and male and female servants and female donkeys and camels.

17 But the Lord struck Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. 18 Then Pharaoh called Abram and said, “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? 19 Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife, take her and go.” 20 Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him; and they escorted him away, with his wife and all that belonged to him.

 

Introduction

Let me begin with a pop quiz: who was the first human being in the Bible ever told a lie?  The answer is Cain.  He was the eldest son of Adam and Eve.  He was a farmer.  His brother Abel was a shepherd.  In due time, when both of them brought their offerings to the LORD, He accepted Abel’s but not Cain’s.  Out of jealousy and anger, Cain killed his brother.  Later, when asked by God where his brother was, he said he didn’t know (Genesis 4:9).

Everyone lies: The Bible declares that everyone is a liar (Romans 3:4).  Although many of us don’t want to believe that, somehow we know deep in our heart that’s a truth.  Throughout human history, people lied.  They did.  They do.  They will.  East and west, old and young, male and female, we all lie.  It is not surprising (and strangely comforting) to discover in the Bible that even the people of faith lied, too.  In fact, that’s why I love and trust the Bible.  God’s Word doesn’t hide or embellish.  It calls a spade a spade.   When the people of God lied, it says they lied.  It never justifies lying.  Rather, it painfully reveals both the good and ugly side of God’s people.

Here’s the list of the people in the Bible who lied: Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Jacob’s sons, Saul, David, even Peter the apostle (he denied the Lord three times in one night).  It tells me that we are all human and no one is perfect except Jesus who was sinless and never told a lie.  Everyone else lies from time to time.

My own records: Looking back at my own life, I remember several instances when I lied.  Five times I lied when I was a child under the age of ten.  Twice I did after I became a believer (I was over 30 years old, too!).  The last one I did was twenty three years ago.  One day a member of the church whose car was very old asked me if I got a new car.  I said instantly “no” in order not to hurt her feelings.  I told her a half-truth, but still a lie (it was a replacement car under the Lemon Law in NJ yet still a new and upgraded one).

 

Contents

Definition: I looked up the definition of lie: “Statement that one knows to be untrue” (Oxford).  Here’s my own extended definition: to lie is to say two different things with one tongue: to tell only what benefits and omit the rest.  To alter the facts due to fears, desires, or feelings such as hate, anger, and etc.

The name Abram: Some of you may wonder why the name of Abraham in today’s text is spelled Abram.  It is not a typo.  Today’s story took place long before God gave Abram a new name Abraham.  Abram means an exalted father.  Abraham means a father of multitude.  God first called him, when Abram was 75 years old.  God didn’t give him the new name until he was 99 years old.  So, whenever you read his name Abram in the Bible, that means, he wasn’t given a new name yet (same with Sarai).

The life style of Abram: one more information to help you understand the text better.  The life style of Abram wasn’t a settled one.  He was not a farmer.  He was a shepherd.  He had to be on the move always.  He had hundreds and thousands of sheep and cattle.  He had to move around wherever he could find grass and water for his flock.  Keep in mind too that he was a foreigner—someone from outside who had to be on his toes always.  The Bible recorded three places Abram traveled over 25 years.

  1. Egypt (Genesis 12:10-20).  Abram was 75 years old when God called him out of his homeland Ur (modern day Iraq–close to Kuwait border) and commanded him to go to the land of Palestine.   He traveled over 1,000 miles to Palestine.  There was a famine in the land.  He had to move.  He kept going south until he reached Egypt.  Note here that he was a foreigner (non-documented and even illegal in today’s terms) in the land of Egypt.  He had enough challenges, but the biggest trouble was that his wife Sarai was so beautiful that he was afraid the king in the land would kill him and snatch his wife.  So, Abram came up with a self-protection mechanism (v. 11- v.15); pre-meditated, well-planned-out, and mutually agreed between him and his wife: let’s call you my sister then they would not kill me.  Sarai his wife consented.   At first, it seemed working.  His life was spared, he was rewarded with lots of gifts, and Sarai was taken into Pharaoh’s palace to be his wife.  Later, before it got too late, God intervened and revealed the truth to Pharaoh.  This was Abram’s first lie.  Did he learn a lesson here?  Not really, because he repeats the same mistake twenty four years later.
  2. Mamre (Genesis 18:1-15).  Move your time table 24 years.  Abram was 99 years old.  He was back in Palestine.  God appeared to him and gave new names to him and his wife—Abraham (Genesis 17:5) and Sarah (Genesis 17:15).  God also gave him a promise of a son by Sarah.  Later, God appeared to him again and reassured of the son by Sarah (Genesis 18:10).
  3. Gerar (Genesis 20:1-18).  Two chapters later, Abraham was still 99 years and residing in Gerar (capital city of Philistines).  He was still a foreigner.  He faced the same challenge and the same fear—the fear of losing his life due to his beautiful wife.  So, he dug out the same old plan, self-protective action (v. 11-v. 13), pre-meditated and mutually agreed plan.  The old plan almost worked twenty four years ago in Egypt until God intervened.   Sarah condoned again.  The truth of the matter was she was indeed Abraham’s half-sister— the same father but different mother (Genesis 20:12).  Abraham was telling the half-truth.  He just hid that she was his wife.  The king of the land took Sarah to be his wife.  Once again God intervened.  This time Abraham learned a lesson: trust in the Lord, not in your own wisdom.

We would be gravely mistaken if we called Abraham a coward.  Rather, we can learn a lesson or two from his mistake and apply it to our lives.

Lessons

  1. God always reveals the truth: nothing will stay hidden forever.  We’d better not believe that our lies will stay hidden forever.  Lies are never good for God’s children in the first place, and they never work, either.  Choose to tell the truth.
  2. Lack of trust in God causes us to lie.  Consider Abraham’s case again.  When he first lied under the hostile circumstance in a foreign land, it is very understandable:  he was afraid to lose his life.  Perhaps, under the same condition, I would have lied, too.  But, when he did it again twenty four years later, that made me realize that Abraham lacked trust in God (for the same matter God tested him later: near sacrifice of his own son Isaac—Genesis 22).   He forgot that the LORD was his shield (Genesis 15:1).  Twice he lied because he was afraid of losing life.  Twice God convinced him that it was God who protected him from threats, not his own plan.   Had he chosen to tell the truth from the very beginning, I am convinced, God would have protected him.  Remember God’s way is always better than our ways.  His wisdom is far greater than ours.   What’s the lesson here?  Put trust in God every day in everything.  Learn to trust in God to avoid lies.  E.g.  In 1985, God helped me to secure my visa to America through honesty.
  3. Family: parents, how do you help your kids to stay away from lying?  Do not choose the “fear of punishment” approach (e.g. my personal experience: the fears made me lie).  Rather, take the “assurance and love” approach.  Reason with them.  Explain the consequences of lies (that is, the disappointment to the parents).
  4. Self: none of us may ever be completely free from lying.   However, when it happens, we repent and ask for forgiveness.   At the same time, to avoid more lying in the future, we can train ourselves to tell the truth and to describe things accurately without omitting.  We can also surround ourselves with trustworthy friends for accountability.  E.g.  When I was accepted to the Korean Air Force officers program by an administrator through an unsolicited practice of favoritism, a Christian friend gave me a verse in the Bible Psalm 84:11, which reads “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; The Lord gives grace and glory; No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.”   So, I ended up going to Army as a private and that helped the person who was wait-listed because of me to enroll.

Conclusion

Are you in a situation you feel you have to lie?  Don’t be afraid.  Trust in God and tell the truth.   God is your shield.  He will keep you and protect you.  No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.   Amen.

 

 

Sermon: Blessing of the Children

Today Pastor Choi talks about Jesus’ blessing of the children: permit them to come to Me and do not stop them (Mark 10:14).  Sharing his own experience in parenting, he exhorts the parents to keep eternal perspective and to remember the law of harvest in parenting.  Finally, he recommends the parents to bless children daily, equip them with God’s Word, and have family devotions in order to raise healthy and happy children in the Lord.

    Blessing of the Children

 

The following is a summary of his sermon:

Blessing of the Children

Mark 10:13-16  New American Standard Bible

13 And they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them. 14 But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.”  16 And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them.

  • Think about it!   What Jesus did and said towards children were revolutionary in the first century standards in Israel.  Back then, children and women were not equal to men.  They were considered and treated as inferior to men in many aspects.  They were not even counted as individuals.  For instance, in a room, let’s say, there are 10 men, 10 women, and 10 children.  Today, the head count would be 30.  However, if someone counted back then, he would say 1o people besides women and children.  In fact, that’s how they counted the crowd in the time of Moses when the Israelites came out of Egypt (approximately 3,500 years ago).  That’s also how they counted the crowd when Jesus fed the multitudes with the five loaves and two fish—5,000 people.  Had women and children been counted, the number would have been at least 15,000.
  • One thing is for sure.  Jesus was different.  He kept the children dear in His heart.   He loved them so much that when His own disciples shooed away the parents who brought their children to Jesus for blessing, He got indignant.  You don’t see Him often angry, but this time He got really upset.  I understand why the disciples rebuked the parents.  They believed that their master had no time to see the little ones.  There are so many other people to look after, not the children!   To such disciples Jesus said, “What are you doing?  Let the children come to me and do not stop them.”  In my imagination, I almost see His red face.  I almost hear His raised voice.  The message was clear.  Let the children come to me.
  • The same Jesus still loves the children and welcomes them into His kingdom.  As Jesus said in today’s text, I expect to see a lot of children in God’s kingdom.  I also expect to see in our congregation a lot of adults who are child-like, not childish.  The child-like adults receive God’s kingdom like a child does—with simple trust and obedience, not with doubts or calculations.  Let me repeat Jesus’ warning: Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all (v. 15).
  • Jesus commands us to welcome children in God’s house.   That’s why we as Christ’s body always welcome children.  So, next time, when you hear a baby crying in the middle of service, don’t get annoyed like the disciples did.  Rather, remember and thank Jesus that we still have children in our midst.  Children are always welcome in our midst.  Listen to what Jesus said: “Whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me” (Mark 9:37, NASB).  By welcoming children among us, we welcome God among us.
  • God also commands us not to cause little ones to stumble in their journey to Heaven.  Listen to Jesus again: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea” (Mark 9:42, NASB).   If we made the children sin against God by our poor examples, Jesus said, we would be better off dying than facing the consequences.   In other words, God will hold us accountable with what we have done with our children.
  • This morning, we will briefly think about children and parenting.  If this topic doesn’t concern you, you can still pass along this message to the parents of young children.
  • First, children are a gift from God.  God gave them to us.  We don’t own them.  They are precious, adorable, and wonderful.  They bring us joy, laughter, and sometimes tears and headaches.  With them we walk our life’s journey together.  Together we create wonderful memories with children.  We are the family.
  • In family, parents take the crucial role: it is called parenting.  We are the caretakers of our children.  We are the stewards in whose hands God entrusts children.  It is our privilege as well as responsibility to raise them as children of God and as responsible citizens in our society.   In fact, the future of our society depends on your family: you and your child.
  • I wish that parenting were a piece of cake.  Most of the time, it is rewarding, but sometimes, it gets challenging.  It is wonderful and horrible at times.   We all wish that each child were born with a customized manual, but they are not.   Don’t despair, though.  God can help you and so can the Church.
  • Two things helped me in parenting: First, eternal perspective.  When you look at your child’s life through the lens of eternity, everything looks different.  You will realize that the life on earth is only the stepping stone to eternal life.  The goal of parenting would be different.  The means of parenting would change as well.  When you begin with eternal life in mind, you would realize that what you do here and now prepares your child for eternity.   Many of parents would say, I want my child to have a good education and enjoy a happy life, and so on, but those goals are all about the life here on earth.   What about their eternal life?   Therefore, ask questions like “What can I do to prepare my child to be in the presence of God forever?” “What do I want them to be like in the end?” or “What should be their first priority in life?”
  • My wife and I wanted our child to be with Jesus in Heaven.  We always prayed that she would know God and that she would love God and her neighbors.  Once our priorities were set, we organized everything around the priorities and executed them.   E.g. Sunday morning sports vs. worship, no sleepovers on Saturdays.
  • Next, the law of harvest.  We harvest what we sow.  We cannot harvest corn where we planted tomatoes.  My personal observation tells me that there’s a 20-year cycle.  What I sow today, I will harvest the fruit twenty years later.  Today I enjoy the fruit of my twenty years of investing my life in my child’s life.  Love and trust.  Fun and laughter.  Blessings and prayers.  I still plant today for the next twenty years of relationship with my child.
  • Three things I recommend to the parents:
    • Pray:  lay hands on your child’s head and bless him/her in the name of the Lord.  Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and even Jesus did it.  This will instill security in your child’s heart.  This biblical practice is too good to miss.  Remember: who will pray and bless your child if you don’t?  E.g.  I used to do daily blessings for my daughter one in the morning and one at night.
    • Bible:  Equip your child with a life-long help: the Bible.  After all, it is a divine and supernatural means to help your child.  “Bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesian 6:4, NASB).   E.g. In my family, we chose an age appropriate Bible for our child to instill early in her heart a godly habit of getting into God’s Word.  Daily.  It would have been foolish of us if we had failed to do so.  Why?  Because, God’s Word will help our children to develop a life-long relationship with God.  It will equip them with a right understanding of people.  For instance, everyone is equal under God, no one is under or above others.  It will also help them to cultivate a healthy self-esteem in God.
    • Family Devotions: Have family devotions once a day after dinner.  Have everybody participate.   Read a short passage from the Bible.  Share joys and concerns, and pray together.  End the devotions with the Lord’s prayer.  It takes about 10 minutes.  You will be blessed beyond your imagination.  I will follow up on this topic next month.
  • My blessings and prayers are with every family to raise a healthy and happy child in the Lord.    Amen.

sermon: Water and Fire

Today Pastor Choi reminds God’s people of Christ’s Second Coming and God’s judgment.  Unlike His first coming (He came for the forgiveness of sin), this time Christ will come for the judgment of the world.   Based on the water judgment during Noah’s time, the sermon points out to the cause of divine judgment—the wickedness of humankind.   Pastor Choi also exhorts the congregation to be ready for the coming, to beware of the scoffers, to love fervently, and to pray for the salvation of family members.

    Water and Fire

 

Following is a summary of the sermon:

Water and Fire                                                                                      Genesis 6:5-8, 2 Peter 3:1-15

Genesis 6:5-8 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. The Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.

2 Peter 3:1-15  New American Standard Bible (NASB)

This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you in which I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles.

Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. 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.

But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

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;

Introduction

One of Jesus’ promises that has yet to be fulfilled is His second coming.  “Surely I am coming soon,” said He (Revelation 22:20).  Yes, He will be back again one day, but this time, unlike His first coming, it won’t be for the forgiveness of sins, but for the judgment of the world (Hebrews 9:28—“2so 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.”

Although some of us don’t want to hear a sermon on God’s judgment or Jesus’ second coming, it is my duty as preacher to speak about it lest we forget.  After all, Jesus talked about it, so did all the apostles, and so should I.  By the way, if you think you hear too often such a sermon from me, think again.  I preach on this topic once a year.  That’s about my average: one out of about 45 sermons each year.  Wouldn’t you agree that this important topic deserves at least one sermon a year, if not more?

This morning we are going to think about God’s judgment and Jesus’ second coming.  Let me begin with the history of God’s judgment.  The first universal judgment of God recorded in the Bible fell upon humanity many years ago in the time of Noah.  We are familiar with the story of Noah and his Ark.  Some of us even watched the recent movie “Noah”—by the way, don’t believe everything the movie says about God and Noah.  Some of them are untrue:  “The film’s director Darron Aronofsky, even he’s described the movie as the least biblical film ever made…” (http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/video/noah-controversial-biblical-film-critcized-taking-liberties-23047843.)   Rather, read the whole story in the Bible—God’s authentic script.

Who was Noah?  He was the man who built a huge boat called an ark on top of a mountain.  The ark was huge—450 feet-long, 75 feet-wide, and 45 feet-high!  It was longer than a football field (360’ x 160’) and almost three-stories high.

Let’s not forget.  The ark wasn’t just for the sake of having fun with the animals!  That’s in the children’s storybook.  The real reason for it was that God wanted to have a fresh start with a new humanity after wiping off the old sinful humanity from the earth.   Do you know what brought down the water judgment to the old humanity?  The wickedness of man, the Bible says. “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually(Genesis 6:5).  God was sorry that He made humanity and was grieved in His heart (Genesis 6:6).  The wickedness of man brought down the judgment on the earth.

I need to speak a little about God’s judgment.  Some of us don’t like the idea of God’s judgment claiming that God is the God of love.  But, that’s not the entire picture of God in the Bible.   Yes, the Bible indeed says that God is love and He loves the people in the world (John 3:16).  However, that’s only one part.  The other side of God is holy and righteous in whose presence no sin, wickedness or evil can stand (like no darkness is allowed in the presence of light).   We need to have the healthy balance of the both: love and judgment, grace and holiness, mercy and truth.

You may argue that in Noah’s time there must have been some good people who did some good that the world didn’t deserve to be punished.  I understand your reasoning.  However, you must remember that it is God who makes the judgment call, not we humans.  I would rather leave it to God who is the fairest of all and who knows what He is doing.  In my opinion, He makes the fairest judgment call.  If He says that He was grieved because the world was corrupt, and if He says that He would make an end of all flesh because of the violence that filled the earth (Genesis 6:11), who am I to say “no” to God?  After all, it was His creation and He owned them.  Whatever He does, I accept His judgment call as righteous and fair.  We may not like what He does, we may disagree with His criteria, we may even pray to change His mind, yet as far as the final decision is concerned, it rests with Him.

So, when the wickedness of man became too much for God, He decided to blot out any trace of evil and wickedness with water: by sending rain for forty days that resulted in a universal flood.  He only saved Noah and his family (all together eight) along with all the animals (two of every kind—male and female, Genesis 6:19.  Compare Genesis 7:2, 3—seven pairs of clean animals, two pairs of unclean animals, and seven pairs of birds).  The rest of the world all drowned.  None survived the flood except the ark and those in it.  Why were Noah and his family spared from the water judgment?  Because, the Bible says, he alone was righteous before God in his generation (Genesis 7:1).

I hope you begin to see the pattern of judgment—what causes it, who is spared, and who aren’t.  It began with the human sins/wickedness that covered the entire world.  It was so bad that God was sorry for His own creation.  It grieved Him very much.  God came up with a plan to fix the problem.  Only one way, He concluded, start anew.  So, that’s what He did with Noah’s family.  After the flood, God gave them a promise that He would not bring another water judgment to humanity.  As a token of His promise, He gave them the rainbow in the sky (Genesis 9:13-17).

Now, move the time table from Noah and enter the world of Jesus and His disciples, Paul and Peter.  Welcome to the first century.  Was humankind in the first century any better or morally improved than the people in the time of Noah?  Not really.  They were more or less the same, if not worse.  A wicked, adulterous, and sinful generation, Jesus called them (Matthew 12:39, Mark 8:38).  Paul the apostle picked up where Jesus left and continued in Romans 1:29-32 (NASB).   “ 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; 32 and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.”

Now, fast forward the time 2000 years into the 21st century.  What about now—the present world we are living in?  Are we any better than those folks in the first century?  I wish I could say so in a heartbeat.  But, I cannot.  I am afraid we are worse than they.  Here’s one example.   E.g. “The Guilty Go Free—-I saw it the other day.  It was in the paper.  You probably saw it also.  It wasn’t headline news, but it might have served a good purpose if it had been.  It read something like this: ‘Sensation hungry spectators, disappointed when a 19-year-old gas station attendant abandoned a suicide attempt, taunted him into jumping to his death from a 104-foot water tower Thursday.   A fire department official said the youth, Juergen Peters, climbed an iron ladder to the top of the tower and threatened to commit suicide following a dispute at the filling station where he worked.  He changed his mind and was climbing back down when the taunts began.  ‘Jump, you coward, jump!’ someone shouted from the crowd.  As Peters moved lower the taunts became louder.  He hesitated, looked at the crowd, then began to climb back to the top.  At the top he moved out on a parapet and flung himself off.”  (Don E. Wildman, March 1996).

I believe we are already living in the end times.  Perhaps, we are in the end of the end times.  Listen to Paul who prophesied what it is going to be like in the last days: “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power;”  (2 Timothy 3:1-5, NASB).

Once again, hold onto your urge to argue that the world is not as bad as the Bible says that deserves a divine judgment.  Let’s leave it to God.

Let me sum up how God’s judgment works: the wickedness of people and corruption of the world grieves God, which leads Him to a judgment.  The next judgment won’t come with water, but with fire.  In fact, that’s what Peter the apostle saw coming.  He says that there will be a judgment from God through fire against the ungodly.  Listen to 2 Peter 3: 6-7 (NASB): “the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. 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.

Applications:

Knowing all about the coming judgment, I would like to recommend us to do the following.

First, be ready for His coming (Matthew 24:36-44), for we don’t know when He is coming (Matthew 25:13).  Watch and pray (Matthew 24:42).  Two thoughts God gave to me in this regard: stay alert in prayer and do not be deceived by false prophets and false christs (Matthew 24:4, 24).  There will be many of them in the last days and we are already seeing some of them.

Next, beware of the scoffers.  Peter warns that some folks will make fun of us waiting for Jesus’ coming.   2 Peter 3:3-4, 8 says, “…in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation…. But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

Thirdly, love one another fervently.  Peter exhorts us as follows:  The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:7-8).

Listen to Peter once again.  “ 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;” (2 Peter 3:11-15).

One last thing: be sure to pray for your family members to be included in salvation.  Pray fervently for their salvation.   E.g.  I pray daily for my family for 40 years.

Conclusion:

As far as the exact time and date go, no one knows except God and it is not for us to know (Acts 1:7).  But, I know it is getting closer.   We don’t have to panic about the coming judgment.  He is coming for us.  All we need to do is to prepare.  Like Noah was.  God promises to save the righteous like He did Noah.  You and I are righteous before God because of Jesus.  Mind you that the righteousness here is not our own, but that of Jesus.  Our righteousness is through the redemptive blood of Jesus Christ our Lord, not self-righteousness or a good moral life-style.  Never forget that.

John Wesley once was asked what he would do today if tomorrow would be the last day of the earth.  He said, “I will live as exactly as I did yesterday.”  He was ready.  Are you ready?

Amen.  

 

Sermon: Teen Challenge Presentation

Today, in lieu of pastor’s sermon, Teen Challenge in Philadelphia presents testimonies and praise songs.  They all witness that they were set free from the bondage of addiction through the power of the Holy Spirit.  As God was glorified and the congregation was edified, may you too be blessed by their stories.

There are two recordings: songs and the introduction are the same but testimonies are all different (five in each recording).  Share the stories with those who need the deliverance from addictions.

   Teen Challenge

  Teen Challenge 2

 

 

 

 

Sermon: Understanding Temptation

Today Pastor Choi talks about the nature of temptation.  Taking the story of Adam and Eve, he reminds the congregation that the devil always promotes his own agenda not our interests, that he is a liar and father of lies (John 8:44), and that his strategy is deception.  He urges the believers to submit themselves to God and resist the devil (James 4:7) not giving him any footing to tempt them.

Understanding Temptation

 

The following is a summary of the sermon:

Understanding Temptation       Genesis 3:1-24

Introduction

There are temptations galore.  As long as we live in our physical bodies, we will live with a variety of temptations: physical, emotional, and spiritual.   We all wish that we were mighty strong when it comes down to resisting temptations.  Like Jesus was.  Like Joseph or Daniel.  Yet, we often find ourselves overcome by the temptations instead of overcoming them.  Even our forefather Adam and his wife Eve succumbed to their first temptation.

Contents

One question arises: Why did Eve yield to the temptation so easily?  Where was her fight to resist the temptation?  Where was Adam when she needed him the most?  He could’ve assisted her not to listen to the tempter.   After all, why did he not stop her from eating the forbidden fruit?

By the way, I was always curious to know where Adam was when Eve was tempted.  My research reveals that at the time of Eve’s temptation, Adam was beside her.  The Bible doesn’t say how close he was to her, but it says he was with her: “She took the fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate (v. 6).”  In other words, I can safely say that Eve wasn’t alone when she was approached by the serpent.  In my opinion, it is highly likely that Adam was at her side and condoned his wife’s action and participated in the act of disobedience to God.

Another point to consider: the temptation was coming.  In other words, it was not out-of-the-blue.  It was rather a deliberate attempt carefully made by the serpent after a prolonged observation on Adam and Eve’s behavioral patterns.  Let me elaborate what I mean by that.  The tempter, in the shape of serpent, was cunning, the most cunning creature among all God’s creation (v. 1).  So cunning that he carefully studied and contemplated the best way to carry out his scheme.  He observed what Adam and Eve did in the past, made a chart, analyzed, and came to the conclusion that they were curious about this tree and very interested in the fruit.  Therefore, the best way to lure them into the snare was the same “forbidden” fruit—the tree of knowledge.

In fact, hovering around the tree was what Adam and Eve must have done before the day of temptation.  Here’s why I believe so.  In Genesis 2:16-17 God commanded Adam not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  If he did, God said, he would surely die.  Now, most of us understand what it’s like to be told not to do something.  At first, we pay attention to the warning.  We are careful not to do as we are told.  Then, as time goes by, our self-control wears out, our curiosity grows, we get itchy to try it against the warning.  E.g.  A child is warned not to eat candy before dinner.  Her craving for the candy grows stronger.  E.g. 2.  When I was a child, I was warned not to play with the fire.  Then, I wanted to play with it more!  E.g. 3.  Remember Pandora’s box?  She was warned not to open it but her curiosity overcame her self-control and she eventually opened it.

The same idea must have worked here.  Adam and Eve knew which tree God forbade them eating from.  However, like us, they must have been very curious and itchy to try it!  So, imagine this.  When they walked by the tree, at first they just glanced at it.  Next time, they went a little closer to the tree and took a closer look, and so on.  As long as they didn’t eat it, they thought, it was alright.  They might have repeated this behavior scores of times before the temptation.

Enter now the deceiver, the serpent, in the picture.  The cunning creature watched and observed the behavioral pattern of Adam and Eve.  In fact, he’d been looking for a way to mess up the purpose and the order in God’s creation.  What was God’s purpose?  It was to have a loving relationship with Adam and Eve.  What was God’s creation order?  He remains the Creator and Adam and Eve remain the created.  The boundaries between the Creator and the creatures were set by His command to them: you can eat all things in the garden but this one (Genesis 2:17).  The serpent wanted to change that.  He wanted to destroy the covenantal relationship between God and the first couple.  He wanted to undermine the creation order by challenging God’s command.  And, he finally figured it out!   The tree!  The forbidden fruit!  Let it be the bait!

So, one day, the tempter in the form of serpent approached Eve first who might have shown the stronger interest and desire than Adam.  Or, more likely, the serpent chose her the more vulnerable target because she didn’t receive God’s warning directly.  She received it second-handedly from Adam not from God.  Adam was the one who received a direct warning from God.  The serpent began seducing Eve with a question, “Did God really say that you must not eat from any tree in the garden?”

I think it is appropriate here to talk about the tempter, the devil.

First, the devil always promotes his own interest never yours.  In the story, his true motive was not the benefit of Eve or Adam.  When he threw the question at Eve, he was not promoting the happiness of the couple.  No, that was the last thing in his mind.  In fact, he was the least interested in their gaining the knowledge of good and evil.  Rather, he was promoting his own agenda.  What was his agenda, then?  To disrupt the harmony and order in God’s kingdom and His creation.  He wanted Adam and Eve to do what he wanted to do.  That was, to disobey God.

Next, by nature Satan is a liar and deceiver.  In the garden, he brazenly contradicted what God said.  God said to Adam that he would surely die when he disobeyed God’s command.   Satan contradicted saying, no, you shall surely not die (v. 4)!  That’s a blatant attempt to make God a liar!  Who’s the liar, here?  The tempter, the serpent, Satan.  Jesus says Satan is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44).  Everything Satan says is a lie, therefore, it always contradicts everything God says which is the truth.

Thirdly, beware of Satan’s strategy: deception.  When confronted by God, Eve said, it is the serpent who beguiled me (v. 13).  Basically, she was saying, the serpent talked me into it and I ate!   I looked up the definition of Hebrew word “beguile,” it means to deceive someone or make somebody believe what is not true in order to get what you want.  Eve and Adam fell for the deception believing that the tempter was helping them when actually he was hurting them big time.  Remember: whenever you are tempted, you are dealing with the deception.  It may look great at first, it may even seem promising.  Beware of the outcome.  It’s always bitter and empty.

Applications

What lessons can we learn from today’s story?

First, beware of the tempter.  Behind every temptation, there’s the tempter.  He is the most cunning creature of all.  He is a liar and father of all lies.  Never believe that he promotes your good.  It is always the other way around.  He never helps you, but always hurts you in the end.

Next, don’t allow your enemy to gain a foothold in your life.   Adam and Eve should’ve never hovered around the tree.  Ravi Zacharias said, “It is better to shun the bait than to struggle in the snare.”  Don’t go near the hook, or Satan will observe your pattern and deceive you with an irresistible temptation.

E.g. If you have a habit of watching TV, especially Saturday night, then the devil can prompt a thought in your heart at midnight to watch a late night movie.  After watching it, around 2 a.m., you go to bed, and can’t get up early the next morning for church.  The devil achieved his goal to keep you from worshiping the Lord.

E.g. 2. The sermon just started and Satan prompted a thought in your heart.  Soon, a train of thoughts led you astray for the next five minutes and by the time you came back to the sermon, you lost the track and didn’t get much out of it and wished the pastor to end it soon.  Satan achieved his goal of snatching God’s Word from being planted in your heart.  When this happens again next time, shake it off right away.  Don’t allow it to lead you astray, or Satan will keep using that strategy on you.

E.g. 3.  Same with the way you handle your anger.  When it comes down to handle your frustrations, if you often go to violence instead of obeying God’s command, Satan observes the pattern and prompts the angry thoughts which will drive you into violence.

There are many other examples.  The bottom-line is: don’t give any chance to your enemy to tempt you.

We must remember why Adam and Eve couldn’t resist the temptation even after God in no uncertain terms warned them not to eat the forbidden fruit.  Their fall started with their curiosity.  They first allowed then contemplated the thought of trying the forbidden fruit and later their behavioral pattern gave away their interest to the enemy.   That invited in the tempter.  Likewise, when we are saturated with desires to do something that God forbids, God’s warning becomes powerless and we become an easy target of the tempter.

Conclusion

Whatever temptations you face now, don’t let Satan tempt you.  Submit yourself to God.  Resist the devil and he will flee from you (James 4:7).  Don’t give him any footing to tempt you.  Stop visiting the area where you are tempted.  Stop hovering over it.   Stay away from it.  Take your vulnerable areas to God and ask for His help.  He will help you out (1 Corinthians 10:13).  Amen.