Manahawkin United Methodist Church

Today Pastor Choi talks about resurrection: Christ was the first fruit of resurrection to give us a hope of resurrection.  He begins with his encounter with deaths and moves onto the importance of believing in resurrection.  He concludes that we believe in Christ’s historical and bodily resurrection not because of scientific proof but because of the integrity of those witnesses of Christ’s resurrection.

  He Has Risen

Following is a summary of today’s sermon:

He Has Risen!               Luke 24:1-12

Luke 24:1-12    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

The Resurrection

24 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men suddenly stood near them in dazzling clothing; and as the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living One among the dead? He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.”And they remembered His words, and returned from the tomb and reported all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now they were Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James; also the other women with them were telling these things to the apostles. 11 But these words appeared to them as nonsense, and they would not believe them. 12 But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings only; and he went away to his home, marveling at what had happened.

Introduction

Have you ever heard of an expression “Atheist Pastor?”  Yup, you heard me right.  A pastor who doesn’t believe in God.   His name is Klaas Hendrikse.  This Dutch pastor wrote a book titled Believing in a God That Does Not Exist.  He is a pastor in the Protestant Church in the Netherlands.  In his book he claims that he believes in the idea of God but not in the existence of an actual God (Christianity Today, April 2010, p. 13).

I said, “Whoa!  Can you actually do that?”  Preaching every Sunday on everything about God yet you don’t believe in the very existence of an actual God?  What shocks me more is that the congregation decided to keep him on his preaching post!

Some folks take the same stance as far as resurrection is concerned.  They believe in the idea of resurrection, but don’t believe in the actual bodily resurrection.

This morning, I am going to talk about resurrection.  Let me begin with my encounter with deaths in the lives of my loved ones, because, in my humble opinion, without talking about death no one can take resurrection seriously.

My first encounter with death was through my own father’s.  It was June 1968 in Korea.  I was 11 years old.  My father was 59 years old when he was struck and killed by an American military truck.  When I first heard the news of his death, I don’t remember that I cried: perhaps a few drops of tears caused by a numb feeling in me that my father was gone and no longer going to be around.

We had a wake in our house.  In a room, the casket was kept behind a divider so that it wouldn’t show to the public.  In front of the divider, on a table at the center, my father’s picture was placed along with an incense bowl that filled the room with fragrance.  There, next to the table, my three older brothers stood in a row garbed in sack-cloth with a black band around their arms, properly dressed for mourning.  They wailed each time visitors came into the room to pay their respect by burning the incense to my deceased father.  The next day, they buried my dad at a sunny place on a mountain.  I wasn’t allowed to go–too young to participate in the funeral.

The first time my family took me to my father’s grave was about six months later in January.  We walked a couple of miles in snow to arrive at my father’s grave.  In my young mind at the time, I didn’t fully understand what death meant to me and my family.  Death appeared to be a series of events such as physical separation, funeral, and gravesite visit.  All these memories still linger in me like a summer haze: foggy, distant, dull, yet sad.

Since then, in the next few years, I have seen more deaths: a friend in middle school died two years later followed by my aunt’s.  All these deaths created a yearning in me: I wanted to see them again.  Even though I wasn’t a Christian in those years, I hoped that there has to be something beyond our physical death.   Death shouldn’t be the final.

Contents

The Bible calls such a yearning the hope of resurrection.  In fact, the Bible says, on the Day of Judgment everyone, good and evil, will all come to life again (that is, resurrected) in the presence of God and Jesus the Judge will decide each one’s eternal destination: the righteous will enter into eternal life and the wicked into eternal punishment.  Christ Jesus, the Bible says, was the first fruit of resurrection.  Two thousand years ago, in that early morning on Easter, He showed His resurrected body to the women who went to the tomb: (Matthew 28:9, Mark 16:9, John 20:18, Luke 24:10).  We call that historical event the First Easter.

This morning, I would like to share with you my thoughts on resurrection.

Messengers and Witnesses:

When it comes down to proclaiming and believing in Jesus’ body resurrection, God provides no other means but His angels (messengers) and witnesses.  In other words, neither God nor His Church offers any other proof including scientific evidence than the accounts of 500+ people who personally saw the risen Christ with their eyes and touched His body with their hands (I Corinthians 15:6).

For the next two thousand years, their accounts stood sufficient for the countless believers, including myself, to believe in the resurrection of Jesus.  To many others, including the skeptics, that’s not the case.

C. S. Lewis, one of the prominent theologians in the 20th century, asserts that the biblical accounts of Jesus’ resurrection are sufficient to believe.  He says that we the Christians believe in the resurrection of Jesus solely based on the words of witnesses.  Lewis takes an example of believing in the existence of NYC.  He says that he’s never been to the city to see it with his own eyes.  However, he argues, the accounts of those folks who have been there are good enough for him to believe in its existence.  Because, he says, he believes in the integrity of those folks who tell him the truth.  Likewise, we the Christians believe in the resurrection of Jesus the Christ, not because we have a scientific proof, but because we believe in the integrity of those witnesses of Christ’s resurrection.   Furthermore, their accounts have been attested through their own lives and the lives of the believers for 2000 years (that is, they gave up their lives for the truth of resurrection).  Their accounts still stand strong as the only reliable source of Jesus’ resurrection.

Think about it.  If the Almighty God chose to make everyone believe in Him, He could take a simple approach to convince everyone of His existence.  Let’s say, if He sends out lightning and thunder for 30 days on the dot of 12 noon every day, then everyone would believe in God, right?   Yet, He never does such a thing, because He is the God of love and love by nature never forces anyone to do anything they don’t want to.  God would never force anyone to believe in Him against their own will.  In other words, God would honor our free will to choose whatever we wish: either we believe or reject even the very existence of God.  God never overrules our free will.

The same principle of free will applies to the beliefs in the miracles.  Whether or not we believe in all Jesus’ miracles in the Bible such as virgin birth, healing, walking on waters, turning water into wine, and feeding 5000+ people with five loaves and two fish, His suffering and death on the cross, His resurrection, and His ascension to Heaven, God leaves it entirely up to us.  He simply presents His case, not through scientific proof, but through the accounts of witnesses and leaves the decision to us.

In fact, He has been that way from the very beginning of the creation.   He used this very method of oral accounts to proclaim the truth.   Even in the 21st century, He still does so for Jesus’ resurrection.  He simply urges you this morning to decide yourself whether or not to believe in the accounts of the women who witnessed Jesus’ resurrection, later those of the Eleven disciples and 500+ witnesses.  Many of them became martyrs claiming that they have seen the resurrected Lord.  I believe in their accounts, because I do believe in their integrity that vouched for Jesus’ resurrection with their own lives.   I believe in what the Bible says, because its truth has withstood the fiery trials for centuries.  I believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and mine, because I do believe in Jesus’ integrity who claims that He is the resurrection and the life, the way and the truth.

As far as the seekers are concerned, one thing always comforts me: God is very kind and understanding with our lack of faith.  Here, in today’s text, God showed His patience with the women’s slowness of faith in resurrection.

Please reason with me here.  If the three women had believed without a doubt in Jesus’ body resurrection, why did they bring the spices?  The spices were used for the dead body; therefore, they would not have needed them for the risen body, would they?  Yet, to such forgetful souls, Jesus graciously showed His resurrected body (Matthew 28:9)—the clear evidence of God’s grace and patience in dealing with our human hearts that are often slow and stubborn to believe the unbelievable.

Later, to His unbelieving disciples including the famous Doubting Thomas, Jesus demonstrated the same grace and patience.  Each time they were in doubt, instead of rebuking them for their lack of faith, Jesus showed them one by one His resurrected body.

I am speaking to some of you who are still skeptical of Jesus’ body resurrection, let alone of your own.  I am sure all of you demand the tangible scientific proof of resurrection.  Some of you even would call the resurrection either a myth or wishful thinking.  Whatever your reasons of unbelief in Jesus’ resurrection and mine, I pray that the same Jesus would extend the same patience and grace to you.  May the Lord either grant you the evidence you’re looking for or increase your faith to believe.

One warning, though.  If Jesus ever grants the proof of resurrection, He does so only to those who are genuinely seeking Him in their lives.  He would never grant the proof to those who are not sincere in their search of truth.   Because He never plays by their rules.

If you are one of those sincere seekers, the Lord will speak to your heart this morning that you too come to know Jesus, believe in the resurrection, and eventually claim your own resurrection through faith in Jesus.

Conclusion

Christ has risen first.  We will too someday.  He was the first fruit of resurrection and the rest of us will follow.   Christ is risen.  He is risen indeed!   Amen.

Today Pastor Choi talks about honesty.  Pointing out that we believers are the light and salt of the world, he speaks about three reasons why we ought to be honest: 1. Honesty is to the glory of God  2. Honesty protects individuals from vices.  3. Honesty preserves society.   He also mentions what helps us to lead a life of honesty: Awareness of God, accountability to God, and God’s commandment.

  Honesty

 

Following is a summary of the sermon:

Grow in Christlikeness (4): Honesty              Leviticus 19:11, Acts 24:16

  • Leviticus 19:11  New American Standard Bible (NASB)
  • 11 ‘You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another.
  • Acts 24:16  New American Standard Bible (NASB)
  • 16 In view of this, I also do my best to maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men.

    Introduction

    A fellow in Long Branch went into a fried chicken franchise to get some chicken for himself and the young lady with him.  She waited in the car while he went in to pick up the chicken.  Inadvertently the manager of the store handed the guy the box in which he had placed the financial proceeds of the day instead of the box of chicken.  You see, he was going to make a deposit and had camouflaged it by putting the money in a fried chicken box.  The fellow took his box, went back to the car, and the two of them drove away.  When they got to the park and opened the box, they discovered they had a box full of money.  Now that was a very vulnerable moment for the average individual.  However, realizing the mistake, he got back in his car and returned to the place and gave the money back to the manager.  Well, the manager was elated!  He was so pleased that he told the young man, “Stick around, I want to call the newspaper and have them take your picture.  You’re the most honest guy in town.”  “Oh, no, don’t do that!” said the fellow.  “Why not?” asked the manager.  “Well,” he said, “you see, I’m married, and the woman I’m with is not my wife!”  (Dallas Times Herald, September 23, 1966)

    In the past three Sundays, we focused on Christ-like character such as love, humility, and purity.  Today, we are going to think about growing like Him in honesty.

    If there’s one area where we all can do a better job, it would be honesty.  In our society, there is plenty of corruption in leadership (political, religious, and financial), cheating in marriage, cheating at work and in school (especially high school and college).  It gets worse every day; we suffer from poor work ethic and performance, distrust, manipulation, and more corruption.  Left undealt with, in the end, dishonesty will bring down our entire nation.  And, God calls us to stand in the gap on behalf of our society.

    Let’s do some numbers first around the world.

  1. The least corrupt countries in the world (2012):  Every year Transparency.org ranks nation’s integrity on a scale of 0 to 100 (0 the most corrupt, 100 the least corrupt) “based on a number of surveys that seek to gauge hard-to-find metrics like bribes paid to government officials or transparency in corporate reporting.”  Denmark, New Zealand, and Finland are tied for least corrupt (90/100).  The United States is 19th (74/100)  (http://www.transparency.org/cpi2012/results)

 

  1. The most honest cities in the world:  some years ago Reader’s Digest did a project in 16 cities around the world.   The magazine asked “its reporters to ‘lose’ the wallets in public places, such as shopping centres, car parks and on pavements.   Each wallet contained a contact number, a family photo, business cards, coupons and the equivalent of $50 or £31.”  Helsinki, Finland, was the most honest city in the world with 11 out of 12 wallets handed in, while Lisbon, Portugal was the most dishonest with only one wallet being returned to its owner.  New York City came on third (8 out of 12).  (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/the-most-honest-cities-in-the-world-8839046.html)  Where would Manahawkin stand?   E.g.  My lost umbrella at Home Depot was never returned to customer services.

     

  2. How honest are Americans at work?

“Anyone looking for an honest man or woman in the U.S. today would have lots of problems, according to Lousig-Nont and Associates, Nevada.  Out of 7,443 people it tested for honesty in 1993, 52% were ranked as low desirability for employment because they admitted to stealing or thinking about stealing regularly or said they would steal if they thought they had a good enough reason.   14.5% stated that the temptation to steal can be too hard to resist; 12.2% admitted to prior job dishonesty and rationalized this behavior; 11.2% said they would not give lost money back to the owner even if they knew who he or she was; 10.7% indicated that they would steal if they knew for sure they would not get caught; 9.3% admitted that they would bribe a police officer; 6.8% believe you can have a good reason to steal from work; and 5.9% feel they have a good reason to steal from work.” (http://www.thefreelibrary.com/How+honest+are+Americans%3f-a016227269)   (You can’t be honest in one way and dishonest in another.)

In 2013, another survey, “How focused are you during the workday?” found that almost one third (29%) visits Facebook each day while they’re at work.   (http://mashable.com/2013/10/02/facebook-workday/)

Contents

Definition: Let’s check out a standard definition of honesty.  Honesty is “the quality of always telling the truth, and never stealing or cheating” (Oxford Dictionary).  Here’s a biblical definition: the quality of being truthful to God and people in word and action.

 

Why Be Honest?  If your child asks you why she needs to be honest, especially when many others at school cheat on tests, how would you answer her?  We would answer it is wrong to cheat.  We would say God wants all people, especially His children, to live an honest life.  For those who want to know more than just “it is God’s command,” here are three reasons I found in the Scriptures for why we should be honest.

 

  1. Honesty is to the glory of God:  dishonesty is to the glory of Satan.  God commands us to deal with each other with honesty so as to please Him and to bring Him the glory.  Remember our God is the God of truth.  He is the God of light.  He cannot stand dishonesty, falsehood, or darkness.  Imagine every Christian in our society tells a lie.  Our Heavenly Father wouldn’t be pleased with us at all, would He?  Dishonesty has no place before God.  It has no place in our family or church, either.  Why?  Because, it belongs to darkness and we the children of light must have nothing to do with it.  If we are dishonest, it will actually honor our enemy Satan and help him to gain more territory over our society.  The Bible says it right about the devil: he is a liar and the father of all lies (John 8:44).

     

  2. Honesty protects individuals from vices.   It keeps us from unwanted troubles such as more lies, cover ups, slanders, and future embarrassments.  Honesty morphs us into a character of virtue.  It also builds more trust and credibility around us among peers.  Furthermore, God will reward you when you walk uprightly.  He will withhold no good thing from you (Psalm 84:11).   E.g.  My IRS refunds.   Honesty is a best policy.  E.g. “which tire was flat?” the professor asked when two cheating students rescheduled the test due to “flat tire” on their way to school.

 

3. Honesty preserves society.  It keeps our society healthy and sound.  Honesty strengthens our families.  It also protects us from God’s judgment.  E.g. Jeremiah 5:1.  God looks for ONE person honest and upright to spare the entire city of Jerusalem.  E.g.2. Abraham’s plea for Sodom and Gomorrah / 10 righteous people would have prevented the divine judgment (Genesis 18:32).  Christians are the light and salt of the world.  We are standing in the gap on behalf of our society.  We are called to keep our society from getting darker.  We are called to preserve our society from corruption.  Honesty does that job.

 

How can we be honest?  Before we ask how we can be honest, perhaps we need to ask what makes people dishonest?  What makes people cheat?

    • Fear: My first lie about my brother’s necklace.
    • Greed: Jacob lied to his father to steal blessings from his brother (Genesis 27:19).
    • Hatred/Envy/Jealousy: Joseph’s brothers (Genesis 37:9, 32) lied to their father after they sold Joseph to slavery out of hatred.
    • Desires (ambition, lust) for success without hard works (e.g.  students cheating on tests).

       

      What would help us to live a life of honesty?   Three things.

      1. Awareness of God: God watches over you.  E.g. Joseph—how can I do evil to fellow people and sin against God (Genesis 39:8, 9)?

      2. Accountability to God.  God is my witness in all I do and say.  On the Day of Judgment, He will hold me accountable for whatever I have done.  Think before you act.  Begin with the end in mind.

      3. God’s commands: Love God?  Obey His commandments.  Follow the principle of honesty in every intent (Genesis 20:5—everything in the integrity of heart and the innocence of hands), words (Proverbs 12:17—be a truthful witness), life style (Acts 24:16—maintain a blameless conscience both before God and before people) and business practices (Leviticus 19:36—use honest scales and weights).

       

      What if I struggle with honesty?  Check on those fear factors that keep you from being honest.  Trust in God.  God will take good care of you.  Be content with what you have (E.g. Wall Street bankers).  Do no harm to others.  Love others and stick to God’s principles.  Ask for God’s help.  Repent if you haven’t been truthful to your loved ones.  Practice being honest on small things first.  Do it again and again.  Before long, you will become a character of honesty and be able to be honest in everything to the glory of God.  One more thing.

       

      Don’t despair.  You are not alone.  You are not any worse than many people in the Bible.  God will teach you throughout your life and help you to grow up, one lesson at a time until you get it.  Embrace His training with gratitude and trust.  E.g. Abraham: trust over fear.  Jacob: stop being manipulative and start being truthful to others.  God will train you through and through in your life until honesty becomes a part of you.  You can count on His faithfulness and patience.

       

      Conclusion  

      God commands us, “You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another.”  Let us honor Him by being truthful always in all we do and say.  Amen.

       

Pastor Choi talks about purity today which we the believers are called to pursue in our lives.  Examining the biblical and historical background of Greek word porneia (which was translated as sexual immorality, fornication, sexual promiscuity, and adultery in various translations of the Bible), he urges the congregation to avoid sexual immorality by all means, let no vulgar talk or greed be among the saints.  Instead, honor God with body, be thankful, and be content, he exhorts them.

  Purity

 

Following is a summary of the sermon:

Grow in Christlikeness (3): Purity                     Ephesians 5:1-7

Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.

Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people. Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God. You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God.  For a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.

Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the anger of God will fall on all who disobey him. Don’t participate in the things these people do.   (New Living Translation)

Introduction

As children of God, we do have a promise and assurance of being in Heaven.  We are invited to the wedding in Heaven between Christ and His Church.  We are Heaven-bound with the wedding invitation (that is, salvation) in our hands.  As you have guessed right, our enemy Satan makes every effort to snatch it from us.  We are fully aware of such schemes so we need to be very careful not to lose our salvation.  If the Devil fails to snatch it away from us, then he tries his next strategy: making us unfit for the occasion. 

Here’s how:  I am sure most of us have attended a wedding or two before.  Imagine that you are ready to go to the wedding.  You are all washed up and dressed up to spit and polish.  Then, out of nowhere, as you walk to the church, someone throws dirty water on you so as to stain your clothes entirely.  You know that you are no longer acceptable at the wedding with such soiled clothes.  Your day is totally ruined!   In the same way, on your way to Heaven, the Devil throws dirty water on you.  He wants to defile you in every possible way so that you may be unfit for the Heavenly wedding of Christ and His Church.  Beware of the Devil who wages a constant war against your soul. 

Contents

Let’s recap: it is God’s will for us to be holy, pure, and blameless (Leviticus 19:2).  Yet, our enemy would make sure that the opposite is true.  He employs and deploys all kinds of sins to defile us.  In today’s text, three contaminants of our soul and body are identified: sexual immorality, vulgar talk, and greed.

1. Sexual immorality (v. 3): In various Bible translations, Greek word porneia (πορνεια) was translated as sexual immorality, fornication, sexual promiscuity, and even adultery.  From this word English words such as pornography or pornographer originated.  Here’s a little background information how the word was understood in the 1st Century when Apostle Paul wrote this letter to the Ephesians.  I am going to quote a paragraph from the commentary by Gordon D. Fee:

“The word porneia (“sexual immorality”) in the Greek world simply meant “prostitution,” in the sense of going to the prostitutes and paying for sexual pleasure.  The Greeks were ambivalent on that matter, depending on whether one went openly to the brothels or was more discreet and went with a paramour.  But the word had been picked up in Hellenistic Judaism, always pejoratively, to cover all extramarital sexual sins and aberrations, including homosexuality.  It could also refer to any of these sins specifically, as it does here (meaning 1 Corinthians 5:1–mine).  In the NT the word is thus used to refer to that particular blight on Greco-Roman culture, which was almost universally countenanced, except among the Stoics.  That is why porneia so often as the first item in the NT vice lists, not because Christians were sexually “hung up,” nor because they considered this the primary sin, the “scarlet letter,” as it were.  It is the result of its prevalence in the culture and the difficulty the early church experienced with its Gentile converts breaking with their former ways, which they did not consider immoral” (The New International Commentary on the New Testament, Gordon Fee, p. 200).

My research on the same word in the New Testament reveals that porneia covers prostitution, adultery, and sexual indulgence (1 Corinthians 10:8: 23,000 perished in the desert after an orgy and debauchery provoked God to anger).  Basically, it means any sexual activities outside God-defined/sanctioned boundaries, that is, marriage between a man and a woman. 

The same porneia became an issue at the Church of Corinth in the first century.  Back then, the Church of Corinth was a hip church.  It took pride in being open-minded, sometimes even more progressive than the secular culture.  Here’s an example:

One day, Paul received the news that a member of the church was living with his father’s wife (1 Corinthians 5:1).  It wasn’t even a “one-night stand” but continuous living with her sexually (it’s not clear whether it was the mother or step-mother).  When Paul heard about this, he couldn’t hide his dismay because it was unheard of even among pagans: such a practice, cohabiting of father and son with the same woman was forbidden by all ancients, both Jewish and pagan (G. Fee, ibid.).   Paul lamented that such a life style was accepted among the saints.  He was even more horrified that the church didn’t do anything about it! 

Comparing the two cultures, I am not sure America in the 21st century is any better than Corinth in the 1st century in terms of sexual morality.  Our sexual standards today are so lax and low that many people even believers fall into this trap of fornication.  The sex revolution in the 1960s started it and the following decline in morality has broken too many individuals, marriages, and families to count.  E.g. Some years ago, one marinewas in a hut of forty-eight fellows.  Over ninety percent of them then or in the past had venereal disease.  The whole unit was shot through with an illicit lifestyle” (Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations and Quotes, p. 292).

E.g. 2.  The Lost Children in Rockdale County (pbs special, 1997: many young affluent white teenagers acquired syphilis):

Here are some alarming statistics:  In 1996, the U.S. had the highest rate of sexually transmitted disease (STD) among industrialized countries.  12 million Americans would acquire a STD every year; 1 out of 3 Americans will acquire an STD in their lifetime (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/georgia/outbreak/stats.html)

The 2010 CDC (the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) estimated 19 million new infections every year in the United States (http://www.cdc.gov/std/stats10/trends.htm).

“According to The New York Times, a new study has found that American youth have the highest rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) among wealthy nations. The U.S. also ranked highest in teen pregnancies.  According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Americans between ages 15 and 24 are diagnosed with nearly 50 percent of all new STDs in the nation in a 2009-2010 study, though young people only make up a quarter of the national population” (http://www.stdtestexpress.com/std-news/us-has-highest-std-rates-among-developed-countries-800943204/).

We must guard ourselves against sexual immorality.   Here’s why.  (You are about to hear of the consequences of fornication.)   When it comes down to fornication, God commands us to repent, abstain, avoid, shun, flee, and put it to death (Colossians 3:5).  Why guard against sexual immorality?  Because, it has no place before the holy God.  God judges those who practice fornication (Hebrews 13:4).  Furthermore, the Bible repeatedly says that those who practice fornication will not enter the Kingdom of God (Ephesians 5:5, 1 Corinthians 6:9).  In fact, the final destination for those who practice fornication (along with murderers and sorcerers) is Hell known as “the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8).  That’s why I would avoid fornication by all means.  And, I urge you to do the same.

One more thing before I move on.  As much as we blame Satan for the sin of sexual immorality, and as much as forgiveness is available when we repent of this sin, Jesus also points out that we need to curb the desire for fornication in our own heart (Matthew 15:19, Mark 7:21): out from what we have stored up in our hearts, the desire comes and says ‘YES’ to the Devil’s temptationSo, we need to diligently watch what goes in and comes out of our hearts daily so that, when tempted, we may be able to control the desire of the flesh. 

Consider the case of pornography.  Many a people are addicted to pornography and easy access to the Internet makes things worse.  E.g. Ted Bundy’s warning 2o years ago (one day pornography will invade your living room and lure so many vulnerable souls into this sin) has been fulfilled.

One of the children’s Sunday school songs: 

O be careful little eyes what you see

O be careful little eyes what you see

There’s a Father up above

And He’s looking down in love

So, be careful little eyes what you see

O be careful little feet where you go

O be careful little feet where you go

There’s a Father up above

And He’s looking down in love

So, be careful little feet where you go

2.  Let there be no foolish/vulgar talk and things that are inappropriate for the children of God.  Rather, let there be thanksgiving.  Be careful about what you hear and say.

O be careful little ears what you hear

O be careful little ears what you hear

There’s a Father up above

And He’s looking down in love

So, be careful little ears what you hear

O be careful little mouth what you say

O be careful little mouth what you say

There’s a Father up above

And He’s looking down in love

So, be careful little mouth what you say

3. Greed:  “a strong desire for more wealth, possessions, power, etc. than a person needs” (Oxford Dictionary).  Our society promotes greed big time: you deserve it, you are entitled to more!   Greed is an act of idol worship.  Why?  “It takes ownership of the love and trust that belongs to God” (Matt Katzenberger).  Anyone who worships wealth, possessions, and power beyond their needs fits this category.  Like idol worship, greed is violation of the first Commandment.    Alternative is contentment.

Conclusion

The Bible says that those who partake in those things (fornication, vulgar talk, greed) will have no part in the Kingdom of God.  God has called us not to impurity but in holiness (1 Thessalonians 4:7).  Honor God with your body.  Be thankful.  Be content.  That will help us to stay pure and blameless until the Day of the Lord.    Amen.

Today Pastor Choi talks about another attribute of Christ: humility.

He points out to three signs of humility: consider others more important than self, look out for the interests of others before one’s own, submit to one another.  He also explains why we need humility: 1) because it is God’s will 2) without humility, no one can see God 3) it is necessary for God’s Kingdom to be realized in our lives, in our families, and in our churches.

    Humility

 

Following is a summary of the sermon:

Grow in Christlikeness (2): Humility    Philippians 2:3-4        1 Peter 5:5-6

  • Philippians 2:3-4   New American Standard Bible (NASB)
  • 3Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
  • 1 Peter 5:5-6   New American Standard Bible (NASB)
  • You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
  • Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time

 

Introduction

Christ is the true image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4): whoever has seen Him, Jesus says, has seen God.  Whoever has experienced Him has experienced God.   Whoever has known Him personally has known God personally.  We are called to imitate the same Christ in every aspect: thinking patterns, perspectives, even words and actions.  We are called to grow into His image day in day out.  No Christian should ever stop growing.  It is God’s will for us to partake in Christ’s character to its fullness.  He expects us to grow in Christ.  In fact, God already sees us fully grown into Christ’s image (like any great coach visioning the championship of his players).

Last Sunday, we talked about one of Christ’s attributes: love.  Christ commands us to love one another as He has loved us; both unconditionally and sacrificially.  By this love, people will know that we are Christ’s disciples.

Today, we are going to think about the second attribute of Christ: humility.  E. g.  A pastor was voted by his congregation most humble pastor in America.  They recognized him during service one Sunday and presented him a medal.  On the following Sunday, in appreciation of what the congregation had done, the pastor wore the medal around his neck.  As soon as the congregation saw that, they were shocked and took the medal away from him (Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes) saying that such an act of boasting automatically disqualified him for the title!

It is my sincere prayer and hope that we all learn about Christ’s humility this morning and start living it out in our lives.

Contents

What is humility? 

Humility is one of the Christian virtues along with others such as compassion, kindness, meekness, and patience (Colossians 3:12); mercy, love, joy, peace, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).   Humility is the work of the Holy Spirit: no matter how hard we may try, our own efforts will not make us humble.  God must help us on that.  We become humble when we seek God.  We become humble when we obey God’s truth and His will.   The end result is peace and joy in Christ.

What is humility?  Let me begin with a dictionary definition: the quality of not thinking that you are better than other people; the quality of being humble (Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries).  It is pretty close to what I am thinking.  Actually, I believe it borrowed the idea from the Bible, particularly from today’s text Philippians 2:3; with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.

The opposite of humility, of course, is arrogance.  The definition of arrogance is: the behaviour (sic) of a person when they feel that they are more important than other people, so that they are rude to them or do not consider them (Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries).

Arrogance is one of the vices listed in the Bible such as fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing (Galatians 5:20), selfishness, slander, gossip, and disorder (2 Corinthians 12:20).  Arrogance, unlike humility, is the work of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-20).  It is self-seeking.  It puts self above others.  It promotes own interests before those of others.  It says ‘No’ to mutual submission.   It doesn’t obey God’s truth.  It cannot, because it doesn’t pursue God’s will.  The end result is wrath and fury from God (Romans 2:8).

Signs of humility

  1. Consider others more important than yourself  (Philippians 2:3)
  2. Look out for others’ interests before your own (Philippians 2:4)
  3. Submit to one another (1 Peter 5:5-6)

What humility is not:  I would call it ‘wrongly directed humility.’  Self-imposed abasement is not humility.   True humility never makes you believe or act like you are nobody or ‘zero.’  It never makes you a door mat for everybody, either.  Think of Jesus who was humble.  His humility was not self-abasement, because He at times sounded outrageously arrogant.  E. g. People wanted to stone Him to death when He made Himself equal to God and claimed that whoever has seen Him has seen God the Father (John 14:9).  Furthermore, He wasn’t a wimp, when it comes down to confronting evils (e.g. driving out money changers from the Temple) and hypocrisy (e.g. Woe to Pharisees and Sadducees).  He was rather like a roaring lion and a champion of justice.  Humility is not self-imposed abasement.  Rather, it is strength under control guided by God’s will and truth.

Times we live in: humility is hard to come by nowadays.  The American society doesn’t seem to consider humility a virtue.  It rather promotes arrogance and pride.  The Bible prophesied that in the end times arrogance becomes prevalent (2 Timothy 3:2).   We shouldn’t be surprised.  Actually, we see more and more people who are filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice, full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness.  We also see more gossips, slanderers, God-haters, people who are insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious toward parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, and ruthless (Romans 1:29-31).  In such time as this, God calls you and me to conduct our lives with godliness and humility.

Who’s our role model?  Jesus is.  He calls us to learn from Him about humility (Matthew 11:29), from Him directly: Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart.  Let’s learn from Christ who, being equal to God, yet did not regard equally with God (Philippians 2:6).   Let’s learn from Christ who emptied Himself taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness (Philippians 2:7).  Let’s learn from Christ who humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death (Philippians 2:8).   Let us learn from Him by having the same mind in us that was in Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5).  He is our role model.

Why humility?  Three reasons God’s Word provides why we need humility.

  1. Because it is God’s will for us.  Arrogance is not.  God commands us to humble ourselves in the presence of the Lord, then He will exalt us (James 4:10).    Humility is particularly significant in prayer.  Every prayer requires humility.  What is prayer?  It is the act of having an audience with God.  We cannot imagine going into God’s presence with arrogance or with the attitude of entitlement.  Rather, we would show our utmost humility to the Almighty God before we even think of presenting our petitions.
  2. Without humility, we cannot see God.  To enter the Kingdom of God, we must be humble like a child (Luke 14:11).  The rich, the mighty, and the kings have a great disadvantage on this one, because they often trust not in God but in their own strength, power, and money.  Furthermore, when people put them on a pedestal, it doesn’t help them at all.  It is very hard for them to be humble.  Perhaps, that’s why Jesus says, it is very difficult for the rich to enter God’s Kingdom; lack of humility.   Remember: God is opposed to the arrogant.  Arrogance belongs to the flesh and the flesh itself refuses to obey God’s truth.
  3.  Humility brings forth the realization of God’s kingdom in our personal lives, in our families, and in our church.  To realize God’s kingdom among us, we need mutual submission, and we cannot submit to one another without humility.  How can you submit yourself to an individual, when you think yourself better than the other person?   Here’s what I have discovered through the Bible study what humility is all about.  Humility is the quality of willing submission to God and to one another (Philippians 2:8, James 4:10).  The meaning of mutual submission is this like this: think of the human body where all members and organs work together in ultimate submission to the head (E.g. you want to go to church on Sunday morning; your hands get your body ready—washed, combed, dressed up / your feet take you to the car or walk/ the rest of body goes with them!  All under the decision made by your brain).  Can you imagine the body with mutiny against each other?  It is called cancer.  Likewise, under the headship of Christ, we the members of Christ’s body submit to each other.  The key word is submission: willing submission to God and to others.  When we submit to one another, it brings forth unity, order, and harmony in our family and the church.  Arrogance, on the other hand, brings forth division, disorder, and contention in our family and church.

Conclusion

Live a life worthy of God’s calling that would make God proud of you.  Live a life with all humility and gentleness (Ephesians 4:2).  Let us clothe ourselves with Christ’s humility and start living it out today.

Amen.

 

Today Pastor Choi talks about growing in Christlikeness: love.  After we commit ourselves to Christ as our Savior and Lord, we begin to grow in faith.  As we grow in faith, one thing we will demonstrate in our lives and one thing that people will notice from us is love.  It is Christ’s command to love one another as He has loved us.  Pastor Choi exhorts the congregation to start small in their homes and workplaces putting into practice Christ-like love for one another.

  Love

 

Following is a summary of the sermon:

Grow in Christ’s Likeness (1): Love              John 13:34-35, 1 John 3:18

John 13:34-35   New International Version (NIV)

 

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

 

  1. John 3:18     New International Version (NIV)

 

18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

 

Introduction

I am starting a new sermon series today: Grow in Christlikeness.  There will be six sermons altogether.  Today is series number one: love.  When we have committed ourselves to Jesus as our Savior and Lord, the Bible calls it spiritual rebirth or “born again.”  From then on, as a new born baby in Christ, we begin to grow in faith.  As we grow in Christ-likeness, the first thing we will demonstrate in our life and the first thing people will notice from us is love.  Not the love for self but the love for others, because Christ in us gradually transforms us from a self-centered person to a Christ-centered person.

My sermon is not about love itself or quick tips on “how to love,” or that sort of self-help tips on love.  Rather, it is about Christ.  It is about growing into Christ-like character; it is about “how to be like Jesus” and partaking in His character.  This is how I see it.

When we become like Christ, Christ’s attributes such as love, grace, gentleness, kindness, truth, justice, and mercy will form in our character and naturally flow out from us in our daily lives.  E.g.  In John 15, Jesus says He is the vine and we are the branches.  Being in Christ and attached to Him, we will learn, draw strength from Him, and naturally demonstrate or bear fruits of His character and attributes.

Once again, my goal this morning is to help all of us to imitate Christ in every aspect so that we may become “little Christs” (C. S. Lewis).  Let’s dive into today’s topic: love.

Contents

Let’s look at the first text again: John 13:34-35.   34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

First of all, to love one another is not an option or suggestion.  It is a commandment, isn’t it?  Therefore, we can’t be choosy to love or not love depending on our moods and circumstances like we can’t be choosy with the Ten Commandments.  Christ commands us to love one another.  Period.

Next, let’s ponder the meaning of “love one another as I have loved you.”  Just as Christ has loved us, we are to love each other.  That means; unless we know His love and unless we have experienced His love for us first-hand, we cannot fully love one another as Christ has loved us.   We can read or hear about Christ’s love and try to understand intellectually how Christ has loved us, but it’s not the same as, in fact, far inferior to the first-hand experience of Christ’s love.  E.g. You can read all the books in the world about love between man and woman, but all those information cannot trump (or even come close to) your own experience of falling in love with your sweetheart.

I told you that the first-hand experience of Christ’s love is the key to love one another with Christ’s love.   So, as I prepared my sermon, I asked a question for myself: O.K.  I am going to talk about Christ’s love for us, and do I know what I am talking about?  That question led me to three more questions: how Jesus loved His disciples back then; how Jesus loved me now; and what the Bible says about His love for us all.

First question, “How did Jesus love His disciples 2000 years ago?”  Here’s how He did.   He loved them as God loved Him.  Jesus experienced God’s love first hand and then passed the same love onto His disciples.   He loved them with truth and grace.  He loved them through His examples.  He also loved them with grace and forgiveness (E.g. forgiving Peter’s denial three times, John 8—not condemning the adulterous woman).  He loved them with humility washing their feet—John 13.   Jesus loved them by laying down His own life on the cross.  He died on their behalf.  That’s how Jesus loved them.

Next question, “How did Jesus love me?”  Have I experienced Christ’s love in my life personally?  Can I testify and explain to anyone how Jesus loved me?  So, one day, I asked the Lord, “How did you love me, Lord?”  Then, I took time recalling every single incident that I remember when Christ appeared and demonstrated His love for me.

Here are some examples: Jesus patiently tolerated my foolishness when I gave Him a silly ultimatum of 2 hours demanding His answer right away for my question.  Numerous times, He put up with my stubbornness of heart.  He forgave my sins over and over again.  He would answer my questions in ways that I understand (E.g. Daniel 1:5, dialogue style answers in prayer).  He was there for me in moments of anxiety, fears, and confusion.  He kept His promise of providing my daily needs.  He gave me life and health every day.  He granted me wisdom and courage in crises.  He gave me a free gift of eternal life and the hope of resurrection.  He protected me from the Evil one.  In a nut shell, Jesus loved me in the same way a loving parent loves his/her child.   He was there for me, kept His promises, provided my needs, protected me from any harms, and guided me with truth and grace through my life.

Thirdly, I checked out the Word of God to discover how Christ has loved us all.  In a nutshell, He loved us sacrificially and unconditionally.  Remember John 3:16?  God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son and whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).   God loved you and me that He gave His only Son to us.  Christ, the sinless, died on the cross and paid the penalty of our sins on our behalf.  He died in our place as the Lamb of God, that’s why His love is sacrificial.   In fact, His love is great because He loved us even when we didn’t deserve His grace.  He loved the undeserving and unlovable.  What amazing about His love is that He didn’t wait until all of us became lovable (that moment perhaps would never come).   His love doesn’t depend on how we have been good or bad.  His love, like the Sun, shines on the evil and the good.  His love, like rain, comes down on the righteous and on the unrighteous (Matthew 5:45).  He is gracious to all—both good and bad.  He even loved Judas Iscariot till the end (John 13:1).  Aren’t we glad that His love is not based on our goodness or on His own mood?  Rather, it is absolutely based on His will to obey God no matter what.   That’s how He went to the cross.  That’s why the Bible says Jesus loves us unconditionally and sacrificially.

Into the practice of such great love of Christ, God calls us.  His call is for us to imitate Christ and to practice His love for one another.  He wants us to live out our faith with the same love as He has demonstrated for us.  I am sure all of us are overwhelmed with such a tall call or high expectation from God.  Remember, though, God would not command us to do something impossible.  Of course, with our own might, we cannot love each other with Christ’s love. However, we can do it with the help of the Holy Spirit.   That’s why obedience to the Lord is essential.  We also can love others with Christ’s love when God pours His love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5).  E.g. Mr. Ho, a Christian parent, whose son was murdered by gang members on the streets of Philadelphia asked the judge to pardon the perpetrators.  When you love one another as I have loved you, Christ says, all the people will know that you are My followers.  By your love, He says, they will know that you are My disciples.

Of course, the real question is where do we start?  How do we put Christ’s love into daily practice?

As much as we admire Mr. Ho and his Christian love, let’s not begin with big things like that.  Let’s not even think of loving everyone in the world at this point.  Rather, let’s begin small in our daily lives and in the places where God has planted us.  E.g.  During WWII there was a young man (Mr. Yong-ki Kim) who wanted to liberate Korea from the Japanese occupation.  He wanted to join the Liberation Army to fight the tyranny of colonialism.  He went to his mentor one last time for advice.  The wise mentor asked him if he truly loved his country.  Kim said yes.  Then, he gave him a huge piece of bread and asked him to finish the whole thing in one bite.  Of course, Kim couldn’t do it.  He had to eat the bread one bite at a time.   The mentor said to Kim, “Go home instead and start with small things that matter to the community.  One day at a time.”  The lesson was clear: begin small from where you are and with what you can.

So, how about being like Jesus in your home first?  Begin with your thoughts and words you say.  Start with small actions and interactions with your family members.  I don’t have to reiterate how many homes and families today are dysfunctional or broken.  I can say that had Christ-like love been practiced in our homes, the problems would have been far less than what we have today.  So, let’s start loving our family members as Christ has loved us, sacrificially and unconditionally.  Let’s restore our homes and heal our wounds with Christ’s love.  Let’s ask the question of “What would Jesus do?”  Let’s serve others as Christ has served us.  Let’s lay down our lives for our loved ones as Christ did.

Conclusion

Three action points:

Write your own statement of “How Jesus loved me.”

Pray that the Holy Spirit would pour out God’s love in your heart.

Start loving others with Christ’s love.

Amen.

Today Pastor Choi talks about the importance of giving thanks to God regardless of our circumstances.  The sermon points out that worship is the key to staying thankful, because it shifts our attention from ourselves to God.   Based on Psalm 100:4-5, he expounds on three reasons for thankfulness at all times and in all circumstances: 1) The LORD is good 2) His loving kindness is everlasting.  3) His faithfulness continues from generation to generation.

  Nothing to Be Thankful for

 

Following is a summary of the sermon:

Nothing to Be Thankful for?    Think Again.                            Psalm 100:1-5

Psalm 100

New King James Version (NKJV)

A Psalm of Thanksgiving.

100 Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands!
2 Serve the Lord with gladness;
Come before His presence with singing.
3 Know that the Lord, He is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

4 Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
And into His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.
5 For the Lord is good;
His mercy is everlasting,
And His truth endures to all generations.

Introduction: Last January, as pastor of this congregation, I designated this year to be the Year of Gratitude.  My goal is to help all of us to cultivate the habit of giving thanks to God in all circumstances.  We are doing this, not just for the sake of doing it, but for spiritual, emotional, and physical benefits.

Here is a recap of what I said last January:  Gratefulness is used only under good circumstances, yet thankfulness covers a greater territory than gratefulness; both good and bad circumstances.  For instance, I am grateful when someone does something nice for me.  I cannot be grateful, however, when the same person hurts me.  Neither can I be grateful when bad things happen to me.  However, in the same bad circumstances, we the believers are called to be thankful, not because we are glad that such bad things happened to us, but because we can trust in God and put everything in God’s hands.  Be thankful in all circumstances; it is God’s will for us.

Statistically, only one out of ten people in the world remember to say “thank you” when good things happen to them.  Far less people would be thankful to the Lord in all circumstances.  Even in the Church of God.  We need to change that.

I told you about my plan in January: that I would do a reminder sermon every other month (six times this year).  Today is the day that I do that sermon: series number two.  Series number one covered giving thanks because 1) it is God’s command, 2) it is better than the other option, and 3) it is good for your health.  Today I am going to talk about worship and thankfulness.  Want to be thankful in all circumstances?  Then, stay in the spirit of worship all the time, because worship helps us to cultivate the habit of giving thanks regardless of our circumstances.

You may wonder: how can worship help me to be thankful to God in all circumstances?

Please note that the worship I am talking about here includes but is not limited to Sunday worship services where we sit in the pews.  Worship can take place anytime and anywhere; we can worship God when we drive.  We can worship Him when we cook or are in the shower.  This is what I mean by worship: staying in constant spirit of worship of the Lord wherever you are and whenever you can.

What does worship have anything to do with being thankful to God, you may ask?  This is how it works: worship shifts our attention from us to God.  When properly done, worship helps us to fix our eyes on God, not on our problems.  What do we do in worship?  We adore and praise God’s Holy name.  We see God is far greater than our problems.  We ask for God’s help.  We are reassured of God’s faithfulness.  And we hold onto God’s truth, not our feelings.

Let me put it a different way.  Instead of focusing on the bad things, we focus on God, His greatness, His faithfulness, and His goodness.  Worship helps us to look up to God and trust in Him who makes all things beautiful for those who love Him.  Worship helps us to trust in God’s ultimate good will for us.  You see, we can be thankful to God only when we trust in Him who turns all the bad things into for our good in due time.

All these things I mentioned always happen in worship.  In fact, those are the very things that we need in bad times such as trust in God’s ultimate good will, relying on God’s faithfulness and wisdom.  Those are the very essential ingredients of worship and they are only cultivated through worship.  That’s why constant worship equips us with thankfulness to God.  Without God, no one can be thankful.  Without worship, we cannot learn to be thankful.  With God, however, we can be thankful all the time in all circumstances.

In today’s reading, God commands us to enter God’s gates (and His house) with thanksgiving and bless His name (v. 4).  We all go through life’s hardships.  And, there are times when we feel so lousy that we say to God, there’s nothing I can be thankful for, even when we worship on Sunday mornings.  Or, we say to God, everything is all right but this one thing kills me and my spirit of gratitude, and I cannot be truly thankful.  But, in those moments, remember verse 5 where God gives us reasons to be thankful.  There are three.

First, we can be thankful because the LORD is good.  If you can’t find anything in your life to be thankful for to God, use this one.  Over and over again, as often as you can, especially in the midst of darkness and gloom, declare yourself that “the LORD is good.” Make a habit of saying that the LORD is good all the time, in both good and bad times.

Let’s think about the meaning of “The LORD is good.”  What’s that mean exactly?  Does it mean the same as when I say, “Chelsey is good at math? Or “my mom always has been good to me?”  One thing you would agree with me is this: divine goodness is far more superior to its human counterpart.  Although it is true that we humans carry in us a trace of divine goodness that God has endowed in our nature from birth, we cannot even compare the divine goodness with our own.  In fact, the Bible declares that God is the only One that is good, when all other human goodness appears like filthy rags.

Here, “God is good” means that He is incorruptible.  That is, when our human goodness is conditional, changing, and corruptible, His is not.  His goodness doesn’t change according to circumstances, either.  Ours do.  So, in bad circumstances, when we declare that God is good, this is what we actually do: we declare that “God is the ultimate judge of what is good and I will not judge.”  In other words, by doing so, we put our judgment call in God’s hands, not in ours, whether something just happened to us is good or not.  E.g. how many times have we realized that what was considered bad turned out to be good and vice versa? (e.g. someone missed the train and later the train derailed).  God is good all the time.  Let’s say it together in one voice:  God is good (me)—All the time (congregation).  All the time (me)—God is good (congregation).  Amen.

Next, we can still be thankful when we are in a dump, because God’s loving kindness is everlasting.  He is loving and kind.  He is merciful.  He will be that way forever.  The original Hebrew of kindness carries the meaning that He is kind to the needs of His people and His creatures forever.   Therefore, I can safely say that God knows your needs and He will provide them according to His riches.  He is aware of what you are up against and will provide you a way out.   Notice here, the word ‘everlasting’ or ‘endures’ forever.  His mercy, His love and His kindness never run out.  They last forever and ever.  How comforting to know that!  It gives us another reason to be thankful.  Don’t wait to give thanks to God until things turn around.  Take a pro-active approach saying, “Lord, I am in a dump, but I am thankful for your loving kindness.  I know you will do something about my situation soon.  Amen.”

Finally, we are thankful, because His faithfulness continues from generation to generation.   What does it mean that God is faithful?  It means that He keeps promises for us even when we find ourselves unfaithful to Him.  It means that His affection and allegiance with us are steadfast.  He is reliable and trusted.  He adheres to the truth even when we don’t want to hear it.  E.g.  Matthew 1:6.  “David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah.” God tells the truth no matter what—Bathsheba was Uriah’s wife, not David’s.  God calls a spade a spade!  How comforting to know that God is never swayed by mood swings and circumstances!  How assuring to know that God’s truth stays the same forever and ever!  Let me say again: our God is the same, yesterday, today, and forever!  He never changes and His faithfulness endures forever!  Furthermore, His faithfulness to you will pass onto your children and it will continue on to your grandchildren and their children’s generation.  He will stay true to you and your descendants forever and ever!  So, how can we not be thankful to Him?!

When we remember to give thanks for God’s goodness, loving kindness, and faithfulness, and practice these things in the spirit of worship all the time, we can be thankful even in adversity.

One last thing: About three years ago, I had a heated argument with a close friend of mine.  The discussion on a certain topic went so wrong that he stormed out on me.  Since then, for the next six months, he never contacted me either by email or phone.  He must have been pretty mad at me.  So was I.  During that time, I felt like a dark cloud hovered over me blocking all sunlight from above.  Almost at the same time, God led me to 1 Thessalonians 5:18—“be thankful in all circumstances, for it is God’s will” for me!  So, I forced myself every day to thank Him for both good and bad things, including this one.  It wasn’t easy at first, but I did it anyway, because I didn’t want to go against God’s will.  About six months into doing it, I began to see a breakthrough and a change, not in circumstances, but in me: I stopped complaining and began to trust in the Lord and His goodness.  Eventually, God gave me courage to contact him back initiating the reconciliation.  Surprisingly, he accepted my offer and in fact admitted that he was so ashamed of his behavior that he couldn’t contact me first.  Since then, we became good friends again.  Praise God!

I also learned not to focus on the problems, but rather focus on God who is greater than my problems.  Verse 5 tells us this: despite your reality, hold fast onto the word of God and use it as your spiritual weapon against your enemy.  In midst of feeling lousy, declare to yourself: “I thank God, not because where I am, but because He is good.  I thank God, not because how I feel, but because His mercy and love endures forever.  I thank God, not because I am happy, but because His faithfulness continues through all generations.”  Keep doing that in the spirit of worship, and you will see God’s power lift you out of tough situations, no matter what they may be.

Amen.

Today Pastor Choi talks about the importance of evangelism.  He challenges the congregation to hear Jesus’ call: Testify for Me.  Testify to what I have done for you to all the world.  Tell the truth and nothing but the truth about Me. 

He points out three characteristics of Jesus’ witnesses: they know who Jesus is, they know who they are, and they know what to tell.   The sermon concludes with the need of Holy Spirit’s power in evangelism.

  Witnesses for Jesus

Following is a summary of the sermon:

Witnesses for Jesus: Be Christ’s Disciple (6)

  • Acts 1:8
  • New American Standard Bible (NASB)
  • but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”
  •  Matthew 28:18-20
  • New American Standard Bible (NASB)
  • 18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

     Introduction

  • The sermon title “Witness for Jesus” has nothing to do with Jehovah’s Witnesses.  I was compelled to choose that title after studying of today’s texts.
  • Testify for Me (Acts 23:11).  Testify to what I have done for you: That’s what Jesus calls us to do.  Testify for Me.
  • We the believers are called to testify to Jesus: His life, death, resurrection, and His teachings.  We are called to testify to the Word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all the things that we have seen in Jesus.  We are called to testify to the things in which Jesus appeared to us.  We are to bear witness to Him, because we have been with Him for some time.  As much as we are called to keep the commandments of God, we are also called to hold the testimony of Jesus.  We are called not to shrink from declaring to the world the whole purpose of God in Jesus.  That’s our call.

    Contents

  • This morning, I invite you to explore with me the meaning of being a witness for Jesus and what we need for dynamic evangelism.
  • Three Characteristics of Jesus’ Witnesses:
  • A. They know who Jesus is: Many people in the world don’t know Jesus; some know Him as a good moral teacher.  Others understand Him as a miracle maker; even more others perceive Him as someone totally different from what the Scriptures say about Him.  E.g. a missionary in India at one village once talked to a man asking if he knew Jesus.  The man said, “No, there’s no one in my village with that name.”  Many don’t know who Jesus is.
  • We, Jesus’ witnesses, however, know who Jesus is.  We know Jesus is the Son of God the Messiah as God has testified in the Bible.  We don’t just know about Him but know Him personally: we have experienced Him (1 John 1:2, 4:14).  We have walked with Him.  We have seen and heard Him.  We have the testimony in our hearts (1 John 5:10).  E.g. Samaritan woman: Come and see the Messiah who told me everything I have ever done (John 4:39).  She discovered who Jesus was and told everybody her story.
  • B. They know who they are:  We not only know who Jesus is, but we also know who we are and what we are called for.  We are Christ’s followers.  We clearly understand whose witnesses we are.  We are Christ’s witnesses.  In Acts 1:8, Jesus says to His disciples, “You shall be My witnesses.
  • Think of the image of witnesses and their oaths in court: tell the truth nothing but the truth to the world.  Jesus solemnly charges us the witnesses: You as My witness shall bear witness to Me and tell the truth and nothing but the truth about Me to all the world.  That is our call.  That is our charge.  We know who we are.  We are Christ’s witnesses.
  • C.  They know what to tell:  We also know what to tell: the truth.  To testify to the truth is the bottom-line for any witness.  Truth determines the validity of the testimony.  There’s always a danger of perjury.  A true witness must tell the truth.

    We have a cloud of witnesses who make the claims on Jesus valid.  All of them testified to the truth and their testimonies point to one person: Jesus.

    Who are these witnesses to Jesus?  They are God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, the works of Jesus, and the prophets.  They all testified to the coming of the Messiah, the suffering and death, resurrection, the Second coming of the Messiah, and the Lordship of Jesus over all creation.

  • What’s our testimony?  John the Apostle sums up quite nicely the truth about Jesus this way: God gave us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.  Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life (1 John 5:11-12).  That’s the testimony.  That’s our story to tell to the world.
  • Go into the World:  With this testimony, we are called to go to the world.  It is God’s plan to send us out with the Good News of the kingdom.  The Gospel will be proclaimed throughout the world, as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come (Matthew 24:14).  God never wants us to keep the Good News to ourselves.  He doesn’t want us to stay within the church walls, either.  He sends us out to all the nations.  We are being sent out as witnesses for Jesus to proclaim the message of repentance and forgiveness.  We bring the message of reconciliation and peace with God.  We tell the truth that everyone who believes in the name of Jesus will receive the forgiveness of sins.
  • We go out there to make Jesus’ disciples.  Making disciples is the call.  Going, baptizing, and teaching are our missions.  E.g. Methodist Slogan is “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” Don’t get confused here.  Transformation of the world itself is not the purpose.  Transformation of the people in the world is.  Change the world is not.  Reconciliation of people in the world with God is.  E.g.  pig in a clean room vs.  clean person in a pig-sty.
  • Power that we need: Reality check.  We do very poorly in witnessing to Jesus, don’t we?  The grade on our report card is an F.  Evangelism nowadays is a taboo word.  The United Methodist Church in America is declining.  It seems we are desperately doing everything else but witnessing nowadays.  The numbers don’t lie: we don’t have many genuine converts (or profession of faith/baptism).  We may bring some people to church, but how many of them are serious about following Jesus to death?  E.g. Willow Creek’s own study “Reveal.”   Let’s face it: our witness stinks.  Our evangelism efforts are ineffective and even secular (e.g. marketing strategy).  So, what’s the fix?
  • Power from the Holy Spirit: We must begin with the Holy Spirit.  We need the Holy Spirit’s power and initiative in our evangelism.  We shouldn’t even think of going out to the world without the Holy Spirit’s power and guidance.
  • Now, this is what happens when we have power from the Holy Spirit: witnessing becomes dynamic and evangelism explodes.  Historically, whenever there was an anointing of the Holy Spirit, and wherever the outpouring of the Holy Spirit was, there was always an explosion of evangelism.  E.g. Methodism exploded in the 19th century in America.  I have seen and experienced it once in my life.  E.g. in the 1970s, in my home church in Korea, it all began with fervent prayers and fasting of a few young adults in the prayer room at the basement of the church.  Then, for the next 5 years, there was an explosion of witnessing: outdoor evangelism, street evangelism, and even workplace evangelism took place.  The results?  Hundreds of young souls came to the Lord (300 young people in a 1000-member church!).
  • We need power here!: So, folks, if you agree with me that the Church needs new converts and that we need to do a better job in our witnessing, then we must begin with prayers.  That’s what the disciples did in the Early Church.   Before you are amazed with 3000 conversions with Peter’s sermon, you have to think what had preceded first: after Jesus commanded them to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit, for the next ten days, they stayed at one place.   With their hearts and minds united, they devoted themselves to prayer.  On the tenth day, the Holy Spirit came down upon them and the rest was history.
  • I really want to see the same thing happen in our church.   I pray that our 40-40-40 challenge would grant us a break-through in our church prayers.  I pray that it would ignite our hearts in enthusiasm and passion for God.  I pray that the Holy Spirit would come down upon us and grant us the power that would turn us into a dynamic witness for Jesus.

    Conclusion

  • We need the power of the Holy Spirit; the power from above that brings people to the Lord.   E.g. my mom, Jehovah’s Witness, refused to come back to the Church.  She came back to the Lord only after she saw the demonstration of the Holy Spirit through prayers (that is, my brother came out of comatose after fervent prayers).
  • People need the Lord.  The Church needs the Holy Spirit.  We need the demonstration of the Holy Spirit in evangelism.
  • Lord, grant us the power of the Holy Spirit.   Amen.

Tonight Pastor Choi talked about three characteristics of repentance.  First, everyone needs to repent of evil in the sight of God.  Kings, rulers, old and young, male and female, parents and children, even priests and churches.   Next, in our repentance, God wants us to rend our heart, not outside clothing.  Genuine repentance always brings forth inner change.  It never means only carrying outward signs such as sitting in ashes and tearing the clothing we wear.   Finally, repentance never brings us down.  It, rather, brings us up to where we should be: the children of God.  It restores the joy of salvation to us.  It also restores our relationship with each other.

  Concerning Repentance

 

Following is a summary of the sermon:

Title: Concerning Repentance

Joel 2:12-17

New International Version (NIV)

Rend Your Heart

12 “Even now,” declares the Lord,
    “return to me with all your heart,
with fasting and weeping and mourning.”

13 Rend your heart
    and not your garments.
Return to the Lord your God,
for he is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love,
and he relents from sending calamity.
14 Who knows? He may turn and relent
    and leave behind a blessing—
grain offerings and drink offerings
for the Lord your God.

15 Blow the trumpet in Zion,
    declare a holy fast,
call a sacred assembly.
16 Gather the people,
    consecrate the assembly;
bring together the elders,
gather the children,
those nursing at the breast.
Let the bridegroom leave his room
and the bride her chamber.
17 
Let the priests, who minister before the Lord,
weep between the portico and the altar.
Let them say, “Spare your people, Lord.
Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn,
a byword among the nations.
Why should they say among the peoples,
‘Where is their God?’”

Psalm 51: 10-12, 16-17

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
    or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
    you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.

I.  Introduction

Begin with the story of Professor Hong Won Tak in my graduate school days: “Summarize the entire article in one sentence.”

II. Content

One word that summarizes all the texts we read tonight: REPENTANCE.

Before I proceed, though, I need to talk about sin first.  Without sin, there is no repentance.  Without sin, there’s no need to talk about repentance.

What is sin?  It is “an offence against God or against a religious or moral law; the act of breaking a religious or moral law” (the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary).

The Scripture defines sin in the following five ways: a. violation of God’s commandments (Leviticus 26:43):  any violation of the Ten Commandments is sin.  Here are some examples from Jesus’ own mouth: Sin is what defiles a person before God and it comes from our own heart such as evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, and slander (Matthew 15:19-20).  More specifically, people commit the sin of worshiping money and idols, the sin of self-loving and God-hating (there are flagrant and blatant attacks against Christianity in America). People live a life unholy, ungrateful, and unforgiving.  They are haughty and boastful.   Many are rebellious and disobedient to parents.  Greed, covetousness, cheating, sexual immorality, gossip, and false testimonies are rampant in our society.  b. violation of the covenant between God and His people (Joshua 7:11)  c. all types of wrong doing (1 John 5:17)  d. not believing in the name of Jesus (John 16:9)   e. whatever is not from faith (Romans 14:23).

The Hebrew word (hataat) or Greek word (hamartia) both carry the meaning of “missing the mark” when you shoot an arrow.  Therefore, I can say that sin is missing God’s way, missing the mark of God’s glory and honor; sin is wrong-doing (trespassing) against God and against others.

Now, we are ready to talk about repentance.

Tonight, I would like to share with you what God has spoken to me through Psalm 51 and Joel 2.

Three characteristics of repentance stand out in tonight’s readings.

First, repentance is for everyone.  Repentance is a good thing, because it restores us back to God after we have committed a sin.  It not only is a good thing, also is a necessity.  We need it available to us, 24/7 and unlimited.  Who can afford a life without repentance—the second chance?   Everyone needs repentance; only God is exempt from it.  The rest of us must have it, because we constantly trespass against God and against each other.  You may claim, “Not I!   I have nothing to repent of, because I haven’t done anything wrong in my entire life.”  Really?  How then would you think of Jesus who said, “No one is good except God”?   The Bible also differs from you.  It clearly states that no one but Jesus in human history can make a claim of sinless-ness.  Rather, listen to the Word of God that declares we all are sinners; if we have sinned, then we are in need of repentance (Romans 3:23).   When we break the human laws, we need to repent.  When we do and say hurtful things to each other, we need to repent and ask for forgiveness.  Sometimes we may think we are perfectly right in human laws, but our lifestyle may be in a clear violation of divine laws.  E.g.  The rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16.  Is it right to live in a 12 million dollar worth of three bed-room apartment with floor and a bath tub made of Italian marble (in NYC)?  It may be perfectly legal (after all, it is your money, but is it right before God?)

Consider King David for a while.  One night, he was strolling at the roof of his palace looking down around.  Obviously, the palace was built on a hill higher than all the houses around in those days.  Lo and behold, he saw in a distance a woman bathing on the roof of her house.  Immediately, he felt his male hormone surging to its maximum level, and soon he summoned the woman and that night he lay down with her.  The trouble was that she was the wife of one of David’s soldiers who was away in a war at that time.  Later, David got a message from the woman: I am pregnant.  What would I do? He thought.  Cover up!   How?   Bring the husband back and send him home so that he may sleep with his wife.  Clever, isn’t it?  Well, it didn’t work as David wished.  Back in town, Uriah the husband never went to his house.  Why?  He felt guilty being home while others were dying in the battlefields.  So, instead of sleeping in his own bed, he chose to sleep outside home along with other soldiers in town.  So, it’s time for Plan B!  Kill him!  So did he.  David ended up murdering the innocent husband.

Well, David covered up everything very nicely before human eyes, but not before God.  The Bible says that his act was evil in the sight of God.  One day, God sent His messenger Nathan and confronted him.  Then, David humbly admitted of his sins (adultery and murder) before the Lord and before people (2 Samuel 12).   Psalm 51 was his confession as he was repenting of his sin before God.

Kings and rulers need to repent.  So do the old and young, great and small, male and female, parents and children.   So does God’s Church.  In the book of Revelation Christ wrote letters to seven churches in Asia.  He asked them to repent of their sins (all five churches received Christ’s warning except the two that were going through severe persecution).

Even the ministers of the Gospel ought to repent at times their sins of hypocrisy, professional mannerism, laziness, and lack of empathy or compassion.  As a minister of the Gospel, I must confess that I haven’t spoken often enough about ‘sin’ or ‘repentance’ in my teaching and preaching in the past 24 years of ministry.  I also repent of the preachers’ sin in America that we failed to preach the wholesome Gospel, the whole truth of the Gospel.  We chose to please the crowd, not God.   We chose not to offend them at the expense of God’s truth.  It is no secret that believers in America don’t like to hear such words as sin and repentance from the pulpit.  They want to stay away from anything that sounds negative or anything that would make them feel guilty.  So we the preachers stay mum about those words.   Although we need a healthy balance between God’s holiness and goodness, we the preachers have been preaching the goodness of God too often and too much at the expense of God’s holiness and righteousness.  We’ve been silent too long on sin, repentance, and God’s holiness in pursuit of God’s goodness.   For that, I repent and ask for God’s forgiveness.

Please bear with me.  If you read the New Testament very carefully, you will find that there is an inseparable relationship between repentance and the Good News we preach.  Almost anywhere we turn to in the New Testament, we see John the Baptist, Jesus, and Christ’s apostles proclaim both repentance and the Good News together, never separately.  Repent, for the kingdom of God is near; Repent and believe in the Good News; Repent and be baptized; Repent and turn to the Lord….  Repentance and the Gospel always go together hand in hand.  If the Church of God had been preaching only the Good News, only baptism, and only turning to the Lord, all without repentance, then, are we not guilty of preaching only the half-truth?  Are we not guilty of being not faithful messengers of God?   That’s the sin I believe the churches in America should repent of.

Second, repentance means inner change, not carrying outside signs.  In the Old Testament times, to demonstrate their repentance to God, the people of Israel would wear sackcloth, sit on ashes, throw ashes on their heads, and even rend their clothes in front of others.  Although all those outward signs were begun with good intentions, as the time went on, people began to focus more and more on the outward signs and less and less on the inner change of the heart.  “As long as I do these outside acts,” they believed, “I will be OK with God.”  The skeleton of tradition continued on strong, while the inside, the heart of repentance, was gone.

Don’t be fooled: To God, those outward signs of repentance mean nothing, because He always looks on the heart inside.  King David knew exactly what God wanted from him during his penitence.  In Psalm 51:17, he said, God wants a broken and contrite heart, not sacrifices or burnt offerings.  Joel echoes with David; rend your hearts, not clothing (Joel 2:12ff).

When John the Baptist baptized the crowd, they asked him, “What shall we do?” He answered them to bear fruit worthy of their repentance.  For instance, to soldiers, he said, “Stop being cruel to civilians and use your strength to protect the weak.”  To the tax collectors, he said, “No more exploitation.  Be fair to all.”   To those rich folks who had not been sharing their wealth with others, he exhorted, “Share your blessings with others.”  It is simple and clear that true repentance brings forth a fundamental change in heart and life-style, rather than just lip service.

Thirdly, repentance never brings us down.  Rather, it builds us up and always restores us back to where we should be: the children of God.  It restores our relationship with God that was broken due to our sins. Repentance always restores unto us the joy of salvation.  It removes the barrier that blocks our prayers to God.  It also restores our relationship with others.  When we repent, there is joy among us and in heaven.  Consider Luke 16—the story of Prodigal Son—the story of Rod Colby (who repented of his racial prejudice after years of practice against African-Americans).

III. Concluding Remarks

Lent is a period of “repentance, preparation for baptism, and renewal of baptism into the Easter (Paschal) mystery” (United Methodist Book of Worship).  It is a great time to pause and ponder over our Christian life.   Since nowadays we virtually have no time to ponder how we are doing before God, these forty days of Lent will serve us well to reflect on our Christian walk with God. 

 May the Lord help us to use this time wisely to count God’s blessings upon ourselves, our family, our church, and our society. 

 May the Lord also open our eyes wide to clearly see the areas that we have lapsed and help us to turn away from our sins. 

 Finally, it is my prayer that the Lord would restore the joy of salvation through our genuine repentance and enter into Easter with great joy and thanksgiving.    Amen.  

Today Pastor Choi talks about another mark of Christ’s disciples: Give generously.  He exhorts the congregation to honor the LORD with their giving realizing how critical giving is in the life of believers.  He also points out that liberal giving allows us to meet the living God and that every type of giving to the LORD ought to be acceptable to Him.

Give Generously 

 

Following is a summary of the sermon:

Give Generously: Be Christ’s Disciple (5)

Proverbs 3:9-10

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Honor the Lord from your wealth
And from the first of all your produce;
10 So your barns will be filled with plenty
And your vats will overflow with new wine.

2 Corinthians 9:6-7

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Introduction

Recap: In the past few weeks, we’ve been talking about what distinguishes Christ’s followers from mere church goers.  The marks of Christ’s disciples are: put Christ first (before anybody or anything else), separate from the world (be transformed daily by the renewal of mind), be steadfast (our life is built on Christ the Rock), serve others (we fulfill God’s will by serving others to build up their lives).  Today we are going to think about another characteristic of Christ’s follower: Give generously.

Reason for the sermon: Today, in America, the average believer has a poor attitude towards giving, if not negative, due to their poor understanding on giving.  I want to change their perspective on giving with my sermon this morning.

I also want to make clear one thing before I proceed: I am not doing this sermon because our congregation needs more money.   In fact, I am glad that I talk about this topic when our church is in a good financial shape; actually we are doing better than the last year.  I give thanks to God for His provision.  I also thank you for your generosity in giving. 

Let me repeat: I am not doing this message to ask for more money from you.  That’s not my intention this morning.  Rather, the purpose of the sermon is to help you to understand how critical giving is in your life as Christ’s follower: show me a person who is a genuine disciple of Christ, then I will show you a person who is very generous in giving (not necessary in the absolute amount but rather in proportion to the income).  No matter which way we may put, the level of commitment in giving gives away the depth of our faith and commitment to the Lord.  Remember what Jesus said: where your money is, there’s your heart (Matthew 6:21).  Young Christians must learn early to give to the Lord as they grow in faith.  The life of a faithful giver must begin with a sound understanding on giving.   

Reasons for Giving: The Scripture commands us to give generously to the Lord.  When it comes to giving, I have been practicing it for 40 years.  From the day when I gave my first tithe to the Lord until today, my joy and level of giving has not diminished at all.  In fact, it has increased as I have grown mature in understanding of what my giving means to the Lord and to His Church.   

Let’s be honest with ourselves this morning and ask the question: why do I give?  Why do you give?  Why do people give?  Here are some possible answers to the question: some folks give tithes to the Lord simply because God commands them to (Malachi 3).  They don’t think twice.  They don’t ask why.  They just do it, because God says so.  Others give because they love the Lord.   More others give to the Lord, because they want to support God’s church to advance God’s kingdom here on earth.  Many more others give, convinced that giving is a good thing; it’s a good thing to share God’s blessings with others.  And, all of us believe that giving is good because whenever we give, we feel good about ourselves.  Giving is more blessed than receiving (Acts 20:35).  I thought I have listed all the possible reasons for giving to the Lord, well, until I read today’s text.

Honoring the LORD: Proverbs 3:9 offers us one more excellent aspect of giving that few of us are aware of: giving is an act of honoring the LORD.  In other words, each time we give to the Lord, we obey His command in Proverbs 3:9.  And, each time we obey His command, we honor God.  Please stay with me as I continue unpacking the verse Proverbs 3:9. 

Command:  First, look at the verb ‘honor’ in verse 9.  It is an imperative.  It is a command.  It is not a suggestion or an option.  The LORD commands us to honor Him with our offerings. This command is not just for a few godly people.  It is a command for all; rich and poor, male and female, old and young, baby Christians and mature Christians.  It is even given to those who live paycheck-to-paycheck.  It is for everyone who confesses his/her faith in Christ.  We are called to honor God by giving.

Think with me about the meaning of Hebrew verb (kabad— ‘honor’) here.  Yes, that’s the same verb used in the context of ‘honor’ your mother and father (Exodus 20:12).  The root of the verb ‘honor’ carries the meaning of glorifying someone (in this case, God).  To honor God means to glorify Him; to glorify Him means to make Him pleased with and proud of what you do, in this context, with our giving.  Simply put, do you want to honor and glorify God? Then, take giving seriously. 

Here’s an analogy.  We are called to honor God in our lives like the athletes honor their mother countries by winning medals in the Olympics.  E.g.  Have you lately watched the Sochi Olympics, especially the medal ceremony?  As the winners stand on the stand, medals and flowers are presented to them.  Then, the national anthem of the gold medalist is played as her national flag is being hoisted.  Often, the camera zooms in on the face of the winner and we see the winner’s eyes welled up with joy and pride.  In that very moment, the gold medalist’s emotions are flooded with pride because she has honored her country.  That’s the meaning of honoring and glorifying.  As the winners honor their mother countries with medals, we too honor our Heavenly Father with our giving.  We seldom think or practice that way, though.  On any given Sunday, many of us just drop the offering envelopes or a few dollars in the offering plates without any thoughts.  Next time, as you do it, remember that you are honoring the Lord with your giving.  Do it so with pride and joy!

Encounter the Living God:  There’s a great advantage of liberal giving, too.  When we give generously to the Lord, it opens wide the door of opportunity to experience the living God in often unforgettable ways: the more sacrificially you give to the Lord, the higher chance you have to encounter God who not only knows your needs but also provides them according to His riches (Philippians 4:19). 

Imagine two individuals this morning: Mr. Stingy and Mrs. Generous.  Mr. Stingy claims that he is a believer in Jesus.  Each time he goes to church, he drops a couple of dollars in the offering.  It’s not that he doesn’t have money.  On the contrary, he has plenty of money to live comfortably for the rest of his life; over a million dollars in his bank accounts.  Yet, he doesn’t believe he has enough.  Most of the time, he doesn’t feel any need of God thinking “Why would I need God when I am well taken care of by money?”  (I think that is the biggest curse on the wealthy) Such a life-style deprives him of the chance to meet the living God in person. 

Now, let’s think about Mrs. Generous.  She lives paycheck-to-paycheck: many a time she feels that she has no money to spare let alone give to God.  Yet, somehow, she decides to give anyway.  You know what’s going to happen to her?   She will definitely meet the living God in an unforgettable way.  Here’s one person who just did that.  E.g. Brother Andrew (author of God’s Smuggler), after giving his last money to a homeless friend, received in the mail the same amount of money for his tuition in the nick of time!  Had he not given away the money to his friend that afternoon, I am sure he would have continued on his walk with God, yet he would have definitely missed the great opportunity to know such an awesome God.  Never would he have learned to totally rely on God for his finances!

Acceptable to the LORD:  One more very important aspect of giving is this: any type of giving to the Lord ought to be acceptable to Him.  We must give Him the best of all, because God always looks into the heart of the giver.  The giver’s heart must be right with God in every giving.   Now, it is true that God blesses those who honor Him with their giving; however, blessings must not be the main reason why we give to the Lord.  The wealth, and becoming rich, is never the purpose of our giving.  It can’t be the ulterior motive for our giving.   E.g. I want to live in a mansion, so, I give tithes.  Wrong.  I want to drive a Rolls-Royce, so I give 10% of my income.  Wrong.  I want to win 20 million dollars from the lottery, so I promise God that if I win, I will give the half of my winning.  Wrong.  You never use your giving as bait for more returns from God.  Giving is not a way of fattening your portfolio.  E.g. At one church finance workshop, someone complained to the speaker that her church refused to accept her offer of the half of her winning if she won the lottery.  The speaker said he would have no problem of accepting the offer.  I had to differ with the speaker on this, because such a donation lacks righteousness in the sight of God.  It is as wrong as accepting donations from a pimp who keeps his business going while he gives a regular donation to the church out of his guilt.  Every type of giving to God must be in sync with God’s righteousness.  I say so, because the Scripture says so.

Honor God with righteousness:  In the Septuagint Bible (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scripture), the same verse Proverbs 3:9 reads as follows: Honor the LORD from your righteous labor/hard works and from the first fruits of righteousness.  Lottery earnings and gambling are never honorable before the Lord, because they fail the litmus test of righteous labor and hard works.  So do donations through prostitution; those monies extorted from the victims are not right with God. 

Giving is a Heart Matter: One more thing.  In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul the Apostle briefly points out the eternal spiritual truth: whatever we sow, and however we sow, we will reap accordingly.   Sow sparingly, reap sparingly.  Sow bountifully, reap bountifully.  Don’t expect otherwise.  Everything we do and say, and everything we give to the Lord, we will harvest in the Day of the Lord.  Paul also points out to a right attitude in our giving.  Give it cheerfully.  Give it from your heart. 

Closing:

Action point: Starting today, each Sunday, as you drop your offerings in the plates, remind yourself by saying, “Lord, I am honoring you today by giving this offering to you.  This is my best!  It is from my heart!  May it be acceptable in your sight.  Amen.” 

Today Pastor Choi talks about another mark of Christ’s disciples: serve others.  God has called the believers in Christ and appointed them to be His servants.  He points out that to serve God and others in Christ’s name indeed is a privilege and honor rather than a burden or even a duty.  The sermon focuses on what God’s will for His servants is and proper attitudes with which we are to serve others.

    Serve Others

 

Following is a summary of the sermon:

Serve Others: Be Christ’s Disciple (4)

  • Mark 10:45
  • New American Standard Bible (NASB)
  • 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
  • 2 Corinthians 4:5
  • New American Standard Bible (NASB)
  • For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake.Introduction:
  • Recap: I have been talking about marks of Christ’s disciples: what distinguishes us as a follower of Christ from a mere church goer?  They are: put Christ first, separate from the world, be steadfast.  Another mark of Christ’s disciple I am going to talk about today is: to serve others.
  • We are called to a life-long servant-hood.  When Christ calls us to follow Him, He also calls us into a life of service.  He came to this earth, not to be served, but to serve (Mark 10:45).  The same Lord calls us this morning to follow His steps by serving others in His name.  You are called to God’s service.  Don’t think that being in God’s service is only for clergy; but it includes all of you too:  You are called to serve God and people in your lives.  You are a servant of God.
  • The meaning of servants of God:  Nowadays, the phrase “servant of God” and its concept are foreign to us.  We are living in a democratic society where everyone is considered and treated as equal (we use the words ‘employee (not servant)’ and ‘employer (not master).’  You occasionally hear the phrase “servant of God” in church, and many of us have no idea what it is all about.
  • The phrase “servant of God” has a very special meaning for us.  First of all, we must understand that this title is not for everyone in the world.  Rather, it is reserved only for those who are called in Christ and appointed by God.  Only they can use the title.  In fact, we are privileged to follow this special line of God’s people who worked as servants of God.  Here are some examples: Abraham, Moses, David, Daniel, all the prophets of God, Mary (the mother of Jesus), Jesus (Luke 22:27), Peter, Paul, and all the apostles of Christ.
  • Next, to be God’s servant is a privilege and honor, rather than a burden or even a duty.   Why?  Because it is God who has appointed us Christ’s disciples to serve Him and to serve others in the name of Jesus our Lord.  Have pride in serving Him in this capacity.  E.g.  A butler in uniform was preparing the State Dinner in the British Kingdom paying attention to the final details at the table.  He was going over one seat at a time, meticulously examining and wiping the glasses with a clean towel.  I could clearly see in his face the pride of serving the Queen.  How much more we ought to be proud of serving God who considered us worthy to be in His service!  We are God’s servants, bond-servants.
  • Meaning of bond-servant:  The Scripture calls us bond-servants (to be exact, the original Greek is ‘doulos’—slave).  The bond-servants are the servants that are bound with a contract (the Bible calls it Covenant).  When we were baptized washing away our sins, and when we declared to the church that we would follow Christ, we entered into this covenantal relationship with God where God says that He is our God and that we are His people.  In this covenant, God promises that He is with us, that He provides our needs and that He protects us from the Evil One.  In turn, we promise our allegiance and loyalty to Him in worship and service.  Please note here that no covenant was ever made without a sacrifice.  That’s where Christ comes in.  God has cut a new covenant with us through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  The New Testament puts this way: we are bought with a price.   That price was Christ the Passover Lamb, and His death on the cross paid the wages of our sins.
  • Accountability:  Where there is a servant, there is a master.  Servants work for their masters.  Servants are there to serve their master’s wishes and needs.  They do what their masters command them to do.  They don’t serve themselves.  If they do, they are no longer servants.
  • For each servant, there’s a certain set of expectations from the master.  As our Master, Jesus our Lord also has a certain expectations from us.  What are they?
    • Understand the master’s will:  First and foremost, servant must understand what the master wants.  Any servant who is ignorant of the master’s will is a useless servant.  If we claim that we are God’s servants, we ought to make every effort to clearly understand what God wants us to do in our lives and with our lives.  This is what God wants us to do: Serve others, using God-given talents and resources.  He wants us never to serve our own selfish needs and desires neglecting (or at the expense of) others’ needs.  God’s blessings on us are always meant to be shared with the less fortunate.  E.g. a rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31).  The rich man feasted sumptuously every day.  At his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores…. The problem of the rich man was to fail to take care of his neighbor.
    • Serve with good attitudes:  Next, every servant is expected to serve with good attitudes.  Serve others—
      • A. with a purpose: Understand how your service to neighbors is connected to the Lord.  When you serve others, you serve the Lord.  By serving others, you please the Lord.  E.g. three masons working on God’s temple: the first one says, “I’d rather do something else, but nothing else is available for me.”  The second one says, “I don’t want to do this, but if I don’t, my family will starve.”  The third one says, “It is my joy working here.  I am doing it for the Lord and His people.”  He was the only one who can see how his service was connected to the Lord.  The Bible says, “Do everything for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
      • B. out of love, not out of duty:  Make sure that you serve others in love (Galatians 5:13), not out of duty.  E.g. Jacob served Laban his father-in-law for 7 years to marry Rachel.  “Those seven years seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her (Genesis 29:20).”
      • C. with humility (Acts 20:19):  Consider others better than you are when you serve them.   “Do nothing from conceit, but regard others as better than yourselves (Philippians 2:3).”   E.g.  A group of all white Christians went down to the Deep South during the 1960s to help a black congregation for repairs.  The program coordinator from the black church noticed that some of the white group doing their services out of conceit.  When he politely yet firmly confronted them with that attitude, the white folks got offended and left for home.
      • D. with God-given strength:  When you serve others, do it with God-given strength, not with your own.  There is a huge difference between services done by own strength and those done in God’s power.  It is like a difference between going to New York City by walking and driving.  It is much easier when you serve with God’s strength than with your own.  E.g. Last fall, 17 new members joined our church.  It was all done by God’s power and initiation, not by my own.  When you serve others, be sure to ask God for His strength and His wisdom (Psalm 86:16, 119:125).

What’s the reward for our services?

  1. Here on earth, lives changed and transformed.  Through our services, we build up each other’s life for good.  We see lives changed.  God commands us to contribute to each other’s spiritual and emotional growth.  E.g.  The other day I was doing my devotion reading Romans 15.  Verse 2 stood out to me: “Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up.”  I felt as if God was telling me to daily offer my service to build up my neighbor’s life through words of encouragement and love.  I envisioned myself standing by my neighbor who is building his house with bricks and I offer him the building material—one brick at a time.
  2. In Heaven, praise and honor from God.  In Heaven, God will acknowledge us by saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant!  Come and share in your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:21).  God will honor those who serve Christ (John 12:26).

               Closing:

A king delights in a wise servant and a shameful servant incurs his wrath (Proverbs 14:35).  May God bless us to be a wise servant who brings delights to Him through our daily life of service for others.  Amen.

Today Pastor Choi talks about the languages people use to convey their love messages to each other based on Gary Chapman’s sermon tape.  Pastor Choi begins with his own definition of love languages: love languages are the means of communication to say “I love you” to each other.  They are the languages that the recipients of love would understand in the ways that the givers mean.  They are languages that would instantly register our love messages in the hearts of the recipients.  Then, the sermon explores the following five love languages (defined by Gary Chapman): words of affirmation, gifts giving, quality time, physical touch, and acts of service.

  Five Love Languages. based on Gary Chapman

 

Following is a summary of the sermon:

Five Love Languages”—based on Gary Chapman’s tape                      

1 Corinthians 8:1b

“Knowledge puffs up, while love builds up.”

Introduction

  • Everyone lives on love:  Everyone wants to be loved.  Everyone, in fact, needs to be loved.  We are creatures of love.  We live on love; when we are loved, we thrive.  When we are not loved, we wither.  We give one another love and we receive love from others.
  • How are we doing in this business of loving one another?  Why do we see so many people clamoring for love?  Why are there so many people, children and adults alike, deprived of love?  They don’t receive love; therefore, they have nothing to give. Or, they don’t give love to others, so they don’t receive love back.    Everyone wants to be loved.  We need love.
  • How do you say it?  So, if you want to love someone, let’s say, by saying ‘I love you,’ how do you communicate your love message to the recipient?  Just say it, you may think.  But, have you ever wondered that whatever you have said doesn’t always register in the person’s heart in the way you meant?  In other words, you need to say the love message in the ways that the recipient would surely understand it.  We need to communicate in the same language between the giver and the recipient.
  • E.g. If I speak to you “I love you,” in Korean, 100 times until my face becomes blue, you still won’t be able to understand what I am saying, because the Korean language is not your language of communication.  You would have no idea what I am talking about.  However, if I say “I love you,” in English, everyone here would get it right away, simply because it is your language.  It registers immediately in your heart.  The key is the means of communication.  The means to convey our love to each other.  I would call them love languages.
  • Credit to Gary Chapman: That’s the topic for today: the love languages we use daily.  I must give a proper credit here to the person who coined this terminology: love languages.  His name is Gary Chapman.  He came up with his theory that there are five different love languages people use daily.  About three years ago, my wife and I listened to an old sermon tape (18 years old to be exact) by him.  The sermon was very entertaining and informational that improved my marriage in understanding and practice.  My sermon this morning is heavily based on the tape that I heard.  I pray that my message would help every one of you to build up your relationships with spouses and children.  I also believe if you practice these love languages well, it will improve the relationships with friends, neighbors, and even coworkers.

    Contents

  • Definition of love languages: Before I dig deeper, let me repeat what I mean by love languages:  Love languages are the means of communication to say “I love you” to each other.  They are languages that the recipients would understand in the ways that the givers mean.  They are languages that would instantly register our love messages in the hearts of the recipients.
  • Emotional Tank:  Note here that Chapman mostly focuses on the emotional aspect of love and how-to’s thereof (in other words, the more important spiritual side such as ‘God’s love poured out into our hearts’ [Romans 5:5] or ‘love does no wrong to a neighbor’ [Romans 13:10] are not covered in his message.  Neither will I cover that this morning).
  • This is how it goes with the emotional aspect of love:  Each individual has his or her emotional tank that is filled up with love.  For instance, if someone loves you by saying, “You are wonderful,” then it increases the level of love in your tank.  If someone spends a quality time with you, you feel loved and the level of love in your tank rises up as well.  Out of that reservoir, you are able to give love to someone else in your life.  In these languages, people communicate with each other, build up each other in love, and help each other feel loved.  When these languages are practiced faithfully by couples in marriage, especially in a troubled marriage, their marriages can be healed and even thrive.
  • Five Love Languages:  Chapman identifies five languages.  I encourage you to follow along my sermon outline that is printed on your bulletin.  The first language of love is “Words of Affirmation.”
  • Words of Affirmation: Here are some examples of words of affirmation: “I Love You.”  “You look great today!”  “You did a fantastic job!”  “You’re the best!”  “You are beautiful!”  “You’re awesome!”  The list goes on.  Many of us are fluent in this love language.  However, some of us are not so good at this, so we say nothing to our loved ones.   Some of us are so poor on this language that we end up saying hurtful things to our children and spouses.  E.g.  One father would say to his son, “You, no good bum!” This became a permanent scar in the son’s emotions for the rest of his life.  E.g.2.  Faramir who yearned for his father’s affirmation to no avail in “the Lord of the Rings.”    E.g. 3.  One night, after the political rally on their campaign trail, George W. Bush drove home late with his wife Laura sitting next to him.  Still his truck running in front of his garage, he asked Laura, “What do you think of my speech tonight?” Laura obviously didn’t give him the highest mark, and he was so upset that he drove his truck into the garage wall.
  • Gifts Giving:  Clearly this is the language some people are very familiar with.  They are the masters of remembering special days and events in your life.  They would never fail to give you flowers/cards/presents.  E.g.  One husband would save up money for five years to buy a diamond ring for his wife on their every fifth anniversary.  The wife was really appreciative of that she still talks about it years later.    For someone with this language, if you don’t give gifts to her/him, guess how s/he would feel about the relationship.   Love deprived.  Love missing. Unloved.
  • Quality Time: I don’t have to tell you about the importance of spending time together.  Out of sight out of mind.  When you spend time with your loved ones, be sure to give undivided attention to each other.  E.g. I have seen a married couple eating T.V. dinners watching evening news on T.V.   No communication.  Nothing to talk about.  Nowadays, young couples communicate with smartphones even in their beds.   It is very important for parents to spend quality time together with their children.  E.g. 2.  A son was a star quarterback in his high school football team.  His dad never showed up at his son’s games, not even once.   So, next time, if your son wants to play a game with you, don’t refuse.  Drop everything and play with him.  One thing is for sure:  You will fill up his emotional tank and he will remember it for a long time.
  • Physical Touch: This one includes sex/hugs/holding hands.  Some of us love hugs.  Others avoid hugs by all means, because physical touch is not their thing.  But, there’s a sure merit to it.  Even Jesus gave a special blessing to the children by laying his hands on each of them.  E.g. Miura Ayako (Japanese novelist and Christian author): right after WWII, in her 20s and she was still single, she contracted tuberculosis that attacked her spine (known as caries of the spine or Pott disease).   Because of that condition, she was confined to bed for 13 years, “seven of them in a body cast that restricted all movement” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ayako_Miura).   During this time, she married a wonderful Christian Miura Mitsuyo.  In her books, she wrote about her marriage life: basically, devoid of all sexual relationships, yet holding her hand with her husband sufficed her need of love.
  • Acts of Service: Simply put, this means, “Talk is cheap.  Show me your action!”  Husband can say to his wife a million times, “I love you.”  Wife replies, “If you truly love me, help me with house chores.”  “Here’s the vacuum cleaner!”  The Bible puts this way: “Let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action” (1 John 3:18).   It also puts this way in James: “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works?  If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that?”  (James 2:14-16)

    Closing

  • Case Study:  pastor couple of 17 years of marriage.  Their love languages were different: Husband’s was Words of affirmation.  Wife’s was Gifts.  For their entire marriage, each one would speak to the other in their own love language instead of the other’s, so they always felt that something was missing in their unfulfilled marriage.  For instance, to make her husband happy, the wife would buy gifts for him on every single special occasion: birthdays, anniversaries, and Christmas.  He always thought that those gifts were a waste of money.  What about the other side?  The husband thought that his wife needed words of affirmation so he would tell her everyday how much she meant to him; how precious and beautiful she was.   All the words of affirmation without buying one single gift!  This practice went on for 17 years!  Then, one day, they discovered their language differences, so they started communicating in their spouse’s language, rather than in their own: the wife now tells her husband how great the sermon was on Sundays.  The husband begins to get something special for his wife.  So, their marriage has improved and they are still married.
  • My family:  Mine: words of affirmation. My wife: acts of service [results are important]. My daughter: quality time.  She cherishes every moment we spend time together.  She still talks about all the Bed Time Stories I told her many nights, and also remembers the times that we watched movies together.
  • Action points:  Remember this: these love languages work and work well only if when each of us practices them out of a sincere and selfless heart.  Otherwise, when ill-practiced, it will turn out as another expression of selfish desires we clamor.
  • This week, take some time to analyze your loved ones’ complaints, identify their love languages, and start loving them in their love languages in order to fill up their emotional tanks.   Before long, they will start giving back the love to you, and you will see the positive changes in your relationships.
  • Let’s pray.

     

Today Pastor Choi talks about another mark of Christ’s followers: steadfastness.  He begins his message with the inseparable relationship between foundations and buildings; foundations determine the fate of buildings–to stand or to fall.  The same goes with believers.  He points out that Jesus is our foundation because He is our Rock that is immovable, unchanging, and never shifting.  On Him, we build our lives.  At the end of the message, he talks about an antidote for spiritual weariness and discouragement.

   Be Steadfast

Here’s a summary of the sermon today:

Be Steadfast: Be Christ’s Disciple (3)

1 Corinthians 15:58

  • New American Standard Bible (NASB)
  • 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.

    Hebrews 12:3

  • New American Standard Bible (NASB)
  • For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

    Introduction: Foundations determine the fate of the building

  • The Leaning Tower of Pisa (a city in Tuscany, Central Italy): the twelfth century edifice still stands today (August 9, 1173, the foundations were laid; construction lasted for the next 199 years).  As of today, the tower leans at an angle of 4 degrees.
  • “The tower’s tilt began during construction, caused by an inadequate foundation on ground too soft on one side to properly support the structure’s weight.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leaning_tower_of_pisa)

    Why foundations?

  • Anyone who’s in the building business knows how critical the foundations are for the buildings.  Building a house without firm foundations would be a disaster and a waste of time and money.
  • Why are foundations so important?   Because, without foundations, no house or building will stand strong.  Think of all the old cathedrals in Europe standing today.  Somebody had done a great job laying foundations of those churches.  Even though we cannot see the foundations from outside, every one of them has stood on firm foundations for centuries.
  • Why do foundations matter?  Because, they support the buildings.  Same thing goes with our life.  We need foundations for our lives.
  • Everyone conducts a life.  Everyone’s life is built on something, whether it’s built on principles or convictions such as education, relationships, money, fame, or ambition.  Our Christian life is built on repentance and forgiveness (Hebrews 6:1).  Our relationship with God is built on faith and hope.  The relationships that are built on love and commitment (Ephesians 3:17) last forever.

    God the Master Builder:

  • When it comes down to firm foundations where our lives stand, we don’t have to look further.   Meet God.   He is an expert architect and a master builder.  He knows what we are talking about.  He knows what we need for foundations of life.  He has been in this business for thousands of years.
  • Here are some of His credentials just in case you wonder.  God knows how to create things.  He knows how to sustain them, too.  He created the universe according to His brilliant design.  He created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1).  He is the architect who laid foundations of the earth (Hebrews 1: 10).  He is the builder of the City in Heaven (Hebrews 11:10).   It’s worth talking about Heaven here.
  • In Heaven, there is the Holy City (New Jerusalem) that radiates with the glory of God. The city’s street is pure gold, transparent as glass. The Holy City has a great, high wall with twelve gates, and the twelve gates are twelve pearls. At the gates are twelve angels, and on the gates are inscribed the names of the twelve tribes of Israelites; on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. The wall of the city has twelve foundation stones, and on them are the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb (Revelation 21:11-14, 21).
  • The foundation stones of the city are adorned with every kind of precious stone: jasper (red-yellow-brown-green), sapphire (blue), chalcedony (various colors), emerald (green), sardonyx (various), carnelian (brownish red), chrysolite (yellow-green), beryl (green-blue-yellow), topaz (blue-brown-yellow-orange), chrysoprase (green), jacinth (red), amethyst (purple) (Revelation 21:19).   Wow!
  • Why am I talking about foundations this morning?  Because, depending on what kind of foundations we build our lives on, in the end, we will either harvest wind (that is, nothing) or eternal life.  Also, the stability of our life as believers solely relies on the foundations.  God wants us to be steadfast and immovable in Christ.  He doesn’t want our lives to collapse whenever adversities strike us.  God wants us to stay strong in our life’s journey to Heaven.  He wants us to be rooted and established in love, hope, and faith (Ephesians 3:17) (Colossians 1:23).  He perfects us, confirms us, strengthens us, and establishes us in Christ (1 Peter 5:10).  And, He begins His work in us with the foundation.

    Who is our foundation?  Jesus Christ.

  • Remember Jesus’ parable on the wise and foolish builders? (Luke 6:48-49)  One built his house on the rock; the other built on the sand without a foundation.  One day rain came down. A flood arose, and the river burst against the houses. One house stood strong; the other fell and great was the ruin of the house!
  • Consider this: the two builders used the same materials for their houses. They had the same trouble at the same time: the torrential rain and the waves of waters.  But, the result was a night and day difference; one fell and the other stood.  Why?  All because of the foundation.
  • The house that withstood the torrents was built well on the rock (Matthew 7:25).
  • Jesus is the Rock in our lives.  Upon Him, we build our lives as a believer (1 Corinthians 3:11).  On this foundation of Jesus, we build our covenantal relationship with God.  When we build our lives on Him, we will be steadfast and strong, because Jesus Himself is immovable; we will withstand life’s challenges far better than those whose foundations is not Christ.

     

    Unpacking of 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.
  • Be steadfast (Εδραιοι):  The Greek root carries the meaning of ‘support’ and ‘foundation.’  In other words, you can only be steadfast with a foundation. No foundation, no steadfastness.  No foundation, no stability or longevity.  The same goes for us.  We cannot be steadfast without Jesus the Rock the firm foundation in our lives.
  • Immovable (Αμετακινητοι): this word ‘immovable’ comes from the Greek root ‘kineo’—where the English word “kinetic” comes from.  ‘Kineo’ means moving, shifting, and dislodged.  A house built on shaky foundation will be shifted and eventually fall to the ground and vice versa.
  • Always abounding in the work of the Lord: knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.   There’s no such a thing as retirement in the Christian vocabulary.  As long as God grants us a healthy body and mind, we need to be actively engaged in the work of the Lord all the time.  E.g. Professor Moffett at Princeton Theological Seminary.  In 1990s, over 90 years old, he would jog a couple of miles on a treadmill and work on his book daily, well beyond his retirement age.  I hope every one of us to be like him.  What’s the incentive for abounding in God’s work?  Your labor is not in vain.  God watches and will reward you for your labor.  We shall reap what we have sown in due time (Galatians 6:9) if we faint not (grow weary, give up).  That leads me to the next verse.

    Unpacking of Hebrews 12:3

  • For consider Him (Jesus) who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary (original Greek: be sick in soul) and lose heart.    
  • Consider Him:  Have you ever got discouraged after you worked so hard for the Lord?  In fact, it is normal for us to get discouraged or lose heart once in a while when we are involved with God’s work.  E.g.  Someone said an insensitive word that hurt your pride.  Others failed to give credits that you deserve.  The list goes on.  In those moments, the author of the Hebrews urges us to consider Jesus as an antidote for discouragements (sick in soul—like flu in body) or burn-outs: Look!  You’re not alone.  Consider Jesus who went through much worse than what you are going through now.  Consider how He endured hostility by sinners.  Indeed, on the cross, Jesus endured all the mockery from the sinners for whom He was dying.  Jesus endured hostility and His cross by focusing on the glory of crown.  If He did it, we the followers can do it, too.  By focusing on the glory and honor we will receive from the Lord, we can overcome temporary spiritual weariness.

    Closing

  • Build your life on Jesus the Rock.  He will keep you immovable and steadfast.  Abound in the work of the Lord and God will reward you eternally.  In moments of discouragement, consider Jesus.  Amen.

Today Pastor Choi urges the congregation to follow Jesus remembering one of the marks of Jesus’ followers: separate from the world.  Expounding on 1 John 2:15-17, he warns the believers not to love the world–the lust of flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.  He exhorts them to choose God over the world keeping the end result in mind–the eternal life in the presence of God.

Separate from the World

Following is a summary of his sermon today:

Be Christ’s Disciple (2): Separate from the World

  • 1 John 2:15-17
  • New American Standard Bible (NASB)
  • Do Not Love the World
  • 15 Do not love the world nor the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.

    Introduction

  • We are on the sermon series of “Be Christ’s Disciple” focusing on what makes a person a follower of Jesus.  Jesus invites us all to follow Him to Heaven.  He leaves the decision to each individual.  Do you want to be His follower?  If you do, then you had better pay attention to what He says about discipleship.  One thing is for sure: going to church doesn’t automatically make you Jesus’ disciple.  Joining the church as official member doesn’t necessarily turn you into Jesus’ disciple, either.  That’s why I am doing this series on “Be Christ’s Disciple” where I am going to tell you the several marks of Jesus’ follower.
  • Last time, I talked about the first mark of Christ’s disciple: Put Christ first.  The one who follows Christ must (not a suggestion but a command) put Christ first, even before family and even before self.  Is it too tough to follow Him?  I decided to follow Him for the following two reasons: first, Jesus is worth dying for.  Next, He knows what’s best for me, so I trust in Him.
  • Today, I am going to talk about the second mark of a follower of Jesus: separate (set apart) from the world.  We the disciples of Jesus are not of the world.

    Contents

  • Spiritual World: Before we think about the meaning of being separate from the world, let’s think of the world we live in first.  It would be very naïve and even foolish of us to think that the world we see and feel is the only world there is.  Sun and moon, mountains and forests, animals and plants, ocean and fish and so on.  It is called the physical/natural world.  Anyone would agree that there are other worlds such as the mental world that we create/imagine in mind (E.g. Stephen Hawking with ALS disease created the universe in his head) and the spiritual world (invisible and incomprehensible without God’s help).
  • Spiritual Battle: When God created the world, the original plan was for us to enjoy His creation and have a right relationship with Him through worship and service.  Something went wrong, though.  One of God’s created angels rebelled against God.  His name was Satan—Lucifer—the Evil one.  He wanted to usurp God and take the place of God himself—to be worshiped by all.  He tempted Adam and Eve in the beginning.  He even tempted Jesus saying, if you worship me, I will give you all the kingdoms, glory, and power of this world (Matthew 4:9).   Two thousand years ago, God sent Jesus to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8).  At the cross, Jesus won the decisive battle and won the victory over Satan.  Satan put Him to death, but Jesus rose again!   The Bible prophesied it this way in Genesis 3:15: He (referring to Jesus) shall bruise you (the Devil) on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.  In this spiritual world, we find ourselves still engaged in skirmishes with Satan’s followers until the Day of Judgment when God will throw Satan and his followers along with the fallen angels into Hell the eternal fire.  Today, Satan tries to deceive and destroy God’s people by all means including deception, fear, and persecution (that’s a topic for another sermon).
  • Jesus’ Prayer: Jesus was fully aware of this spiritual environment in which His disciples would be.  The night before He was crucified, He prayed to God on their behalf (John 17).  This is what He said to God in His prayers:  They are in the world but not of the world.  The Evil one tries to harm them, so protect them from him.  Sanctify them with your word.  Send them into the world, not out of the world, as holy (set apart) people of God.
  • Separate from the World:  We are of God not of the world.  We are set apart from the world.  Jesus said that we don’t belong to this world but to God.  Being of God means to be united with God.  We are one with God, which means that what goes well with God goes well with us.  What doesn’t go well with God doesn’t go well with us, either.  For instance, God is holy, therefore, we are to be holy.  God is the Light, therefore, we walk in the light not in the darkness.  What God rejects, we do the same.  E.g. God rejects hatred and sin.  So do we.  God practices truth and mercy.  So do we.  (E.g. 1 John 3:10–The one who doesn’t love his brother is not of God).  The same goes with us not being of the world.  We are not one with the world.  We are separate from the world, therefore, what the world loves and promotes, we don’t agree or accept.  E.g. sad reality: the worldly way of thinking permeates today’s church.
  • Consequences of being separate from the world: Jesus says, since we are of God and not of the world, the ruler of the world, the Evil one, hates us.  He hated Jesus first.  Here’s an example.  We are living in an age, where the persecution of Christianity becomes more and more intense (E.g. Kindergartner was forbidden to bring his children’s Bible for show- and-tell.  E.g. 2.  Gideons are forbidden to bring the Bibles to school nowadays).  Jesus says it is normal if the world hates us and persecutes us.  Because, we don’t follow what the world promotes.  Don’t worry, though: we do have God’s protection from the Evil one.
  • 1 John 2:15-17:  Now, let’s listen to John the Apostle what he says about the world we live in.
  • 15 Do not love the world nor the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.
  • John is right:  In one sentence in v. 15, John sums up what the things in the world are all about: the lust of flesh (self-will), the lust of eyes (self-wanting), and the pride of life.   I think he is very accurate in his assessment.  E.g.  Recently sitting in doctor’s office, I watched two programs on TV: Who wants to be a millionaire?  & The Chew.  One promotes the love of money and the other eating pleasure.  Both the desires of flesh.   If you watch TV, movies, and internet for hours every day, then don’t tell me that you don’t get influenced by the lust of flesh, the lust of eyes, and the pride of life.
  • Unpacking of v. 15Do not love the world nor the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him:   The Message Bible puts this way: Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. There’s a myth among Christians: You can love both God and the world.  The truth is we must choose either God or the world, not both.  Jesus says no one can serve both God and money at the same time.  We still try, though.  If you chase two rabbits, you will lose them both—Native American saying.  There will be a rude awakening one day if we do chase both.  I would rather choose God over the love of the world because I know what would happen to me when I love the world and fill my heart with the love of the world.  In the end, it would turn me into a monster who loves nothing but money/ loves no one but myself and I would die miserably with no hope in Heaven (E.g. Mr. Koo of LG).
  • Unpacking of v. 1616 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.  The Message Bible puts this way: Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him.
  • Unpacking of v. 1717 The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.  Choosing God over the world is no brainer for me for the following three reasons:  First, God matters eternally; the world doesn’t last forever. Next, everything from God is good.  Third, you become more like what you love and pursue over the years.  I want to be like God.   Make your choice with the end in mind.

    Closing:

  • Being separate from the world is not about rules and regulations.  It is, rather, about understanding who we are and what we are called for and pursuing the relationship with the Holy God and obtaining the outcome—the eternal life. One thing is for sure:  whatever we sow daily in our character and life, we will harvest years later: either the life eternal in the presence of God or the eternal death (simply put, Heaven or Hell).
  • Are you a disciple of Jesus?  Don’t follow the world.  Do not love the world.  You are not of the world.  You are set apart by God.  Stay pure and blameless until the Day of the Lord.
  • Let’s pray.

     

     

Charles Ray, one of our youth in Sunday School, shares with the congregation what he has done for his school project in remembrance of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

  Charles Ray

Today is Sunday School Sunday and our lesson will take place during both Services.  Everyone is in class today.  Our teachers and children will actively participate in both services by being Greeters, Acolytes, Ushers, and Readers. Today’s sermon will be a lesson given by Sunday School Superintendent, Rosemary Molinaro.  The name of the lesson is “BE.” The word “Be” is a small word but has a powerful meaning – it describes the qualities of a person.  Good qualities are pleasing to God – to be faithful, to be honest, and to be kind, are just a few.  Everyone has hopes and dreams of being something when they grow up, but no matter what we choose to be, we can all have the same good qualities.  Reading through the Bible we can find many ways God wants us to be.  Today we will talk about how blest we are to be loved by a God who created us to be all that we can be.

  Sunday School Sunday

 

Following is a summary of the sermon:

Good morning everyone, and on behalf of our Sunday School Teachers and the children, I welcome you to Sunday School Sunday.  Today, you are all in class with us and Matthew tells us in Chapter 18:20  “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

 

Pastor Choi has asked me to speak in his place, and I would like to challenge him as he does each week.  Pastor Choi, I would like you to see if you can count how many times I say the word “Be” OR “BEING” in my lesson.

 

Okay, the challenge starts now!

 

As I do each Sunday, I have prepared a lesson for everyone.  My lesson for today is called “BE.”  Tiny little word, only two letters, B-E, but has a powerful meaning.  According to the Dictionary, BE is a verb \ˈbē\

 

—used to indicate the identity of a person or thing

—used to describe the qualities of a person or thing

—used to indicate the condition of a person or thing”

 

I would like to talk about the meaning of “BE” that refers to the  “qualities of a person.”  “Qualities” means how good or bad someone is. For example, a person can have good qualities or bad qualities.  For this lesson, we will talk about good qualities and how God wants us to BE. 

 

So let’s talk about  a very basic question:  what do you want to BE when you grow up?  Now keep in mind, we are always growing UP, right?  No one grows down.  So whatever your age, you are always growing up and will always BE something!

 

Would anyone like to tell us what they would like to BE when they grow up?  Remember, you are all in class today!

 

(Wait for responses)

 

What do you need to do to become that?

 

(wait for responses)

 

What will you do in that job?

 

(wait for responses)

 

OK.  So BEING a _____________ will tell people what you do.   But it won’t tell people what kind of a person you are.  You have to show them your qualities by the way you act.

 

Way, way back in 1986, there was a commercial for the Army that said  “BE all that you can BE” and I think God would respond by saying “I have created you, and if you follow Me, you can BE all that you can BE.”

 

 

Everyone has hopes and dreams of being something in their lifetime.   

 

We have hopes and dreams when we are very young for what we want to BE when we get older – maybe its whatever our Moms or Dads are, or something completely our own; maybe you love animals and want to BE a Vet; maybe you love flowers and trees and you want to BE a landscaper or own a flower shop.

 

No matter what we choose to BE, God wants us to all have the same good qualities.

 

Someone can BE the smartest or richest person in the world, but if their qualities are not good, do you think God is pleased with that person? 

 

Whatever it is that you want to BE is special and important, but what matters most is how you “BE” it.   Wow, that sounds like very poor English, doesn’t it? 

 

So let’s see how God wants us to “BE all that we can BE….”

 

Where do you think you can find that?

 

Let’s see some of the ways the Bible tells us:

 

 

 

 

First, BE Faithful Deuteronomy 6:5:7  

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  Keep these words that I am commanding you in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise.”

Another is BE Kind – no matter what type of job or career you have, remember to BE kind to people.  Who remembers the “Golden Rule?”  ( “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.”)  What does that mean?  (Treat people how you want to be treated.)

Matthew 7:12  

“In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the Law and the prophets.”

Next BE Honest – there is an old saying “Honesty is the best policy” and that will BE true to the end of time.  Lying is hurtful in so many ways.  Telling the truth and taking responsibility for something we may have done, is not always easy, but it is always the right thing to do.

In the book of Exodus, Chapter 20:16 The Ninth Commandment given to Moses by God, tells us:

Thou shalt not bear false witness against they neighbor. 

 If something is false, what does that mean?

(wait for response)

And who is our neighbor?  Just the person who lives next door to us? 

There is a very old movie called “The Fly” and one of the lines in that movie is “BE afraid, BE very afraid” The movie wanted to scare people.  It was a silly science fiction movie, but the line is still used when people want you to think that something scary is going to happen. 

 

But God says in Isiah 41:10

Do not fear, for I am with you.  Do not BE afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you……”

Did you ever hear the saying “Children should BE seen and not heard?” That saying means that children can BE in a room, but they are not allowed to talk.  Who would want that?   If that were true, who would tell us funny stories to make us laugh?  How would we hear “I love you Mom and Dad” or “I miss you Grandpa.”

Jesus says in Mark 10:14:    “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”  Jesus actually got angry when the people tried to stop the children from talking to Him.

And then there is “BE careful what you wish for.”  That means you may wish for something that turns out to BE not really what we wanted.  But when Jesus taught us to pray, He said, “Give us this day our daily bread” That means we don’t have to wish for anything, God knows what we need.

 

What other ways to “BE” can you think of?

(wait for responses)  

BE fair, BE helpful BE good, BE happy !

BE Thankful – Pastor Choi has dedicated 2014 as the year of Gratitude.  Remember everyday to thank God for loving us and for all He has given us.

 

Psalm 30:12 That my glory may sing your praise and not BE silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!

Here is a real challenge for Pastor Choi:

No matter what you decide to BE, remember to always BE how God wants you to BE, and you will definitely BE all that you can BE.

 

God Bless us all.   Thank you all for coming to class!

 

Today I read a very good book where I found something you might be interested in: a guideline to choose a right Christian fellowship.
It is from a book entitled, “Marriage Covenant” written by Derek Prince.  He presents nine questions you should ask before you make any definite commitment:
1. Do they honor and uplift the Lord Jesus Christ?
2. Do they respect the authority of Scripture?
3. Do they make room for the moving of the Holy Spirit?
4. Do they exhibit a warm and friendly attitude?
5. Do they seek to work out their faith in practical, day-to-day living?
6. Do they build interpersonal relationships among themselves that go beyond merely attending services?
7. Do they provide pastoral care that embraces all your legitimate needs?
8. Are they open to fellowship with other Christian groups?
9. Do you feel at ease and at home among them?
He concludes: “If the answer to all or most of these questions is “yes,” you are getting warm.  Continue to seek God, however, until you receive definite direction from Him.  Remember that you will not find the “perfect group.”  Furthermore, even if you did, you could not join it, because after you did it, it would no longer be perfect!”  (pp. 166-167, Marriage Covenant, Derek Prince).
By the way I recommend anyone to listen to Derek Prince on Youtube.  There are plenty.
Kyewoon

Today Pastor Choi expounds on the meaning of being Christ’s disciple.  It is more than attending church services and claiming that we are the followers of Christ.  Being Christ’s disciple requires us to put Christ first before anything or anybody else.  Otherwise, Christ says, we cannot be His disciples.  It also means to seek God’s kingdom and His righteousness, to deny self, to take up own cross and follow Him daily.

  Put Christ First

 

Following is a summary of his sermon today:

Put Christ First: Be Christ’s Disciple (1)            Matthew 6:33, Luke 9:23

  • Matthew 6:33
  • New International Version (NIV)
  • 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
  • Luke 9:23
  • New International Version (NIV)
  • 23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.

    Introduction

  • United Methodist mission statement: “making Disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” –Not many of us fully understand what the word “disciple” means.
  • Disciples of Jesus:  What’s that mean to be Christ’s disciple?  Simply put, it means to follow Jesus.  Jesus is the Teacher and Master and we are His followers.  To follow Jesus—what’s that mean?  We no longer follow Him physically, do we?  Does it just mean that I go to church every Sunday morning and present offerings to God?  Is it good enough to allow me to claim that I am a disciple of Jesus?
  • For the next six Sundays, we are going to think about what it means to be Christ’s disciple.  In particular, we will focus on what makes a person follower of Jesus.  We will also look into what distinguishes Christ’s disciple from a mere church goer.  The six marks of Christ’s disciples are: 1) Christ first, 2) separation from the world, 3) steadfastness, 4) service for others, 5) generous giving, and 6) world vision.

    Contents

  • The first mark of Christ’s disciple is to put Christ first before anything or anybody else.  Two verses demand our attention.
  • First, Matthew 6:33:  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
  • Context: In the preceding few verses (v. 25-v. 32), Jesus talks about daily cares and worries.  Then, he concludes His lesson on cares and worries in life with verse 33: in the midst of life’s journey, you will struggle with cares.  However, don’t get mixed up in your priorities. Keep God as your number one priority in life, then you will do well.

     

  • Seek: Desire, Aim at, and Practice.  Seek Continually (Greek grammar—present tense—not one time action but on-going).  Day and night.  All the time.
  • The Bible says, “Seek and you shall find” (Matthew 7:7).  Whatever you seek you shall find: you shall find material things if you seek them.  You shall find God if you seek God.  Before we seek anything, though, we need to know what exactly we are seeking.  We are called to seek God’s Kingdom and His righteousness.  So, what exactly are the Kingdom of God and His righteousness all about?
  • God’s Kingdom: is the kingdom where God is King.  It never ends.  It lasts forever.  It is from generation to generation.  It is the kingdom where He rules and He reigns.  He calls the shots.  No one else does.  No one can challenge Him what He has done.  He is in charge.  He is in control.  To seek God’s kingdom in our life means to desire His reign, to aim at His reign, and to practice His reign in our life.  It means to align our life and its goals with the divine will and work for the extension of God’s reign (p. 39, The Wesleyan Bible Commentary).    It also means to “Overcome the evil of care by filling the mind and heart with the concerns of the Kingdom of God” (p. 967, Abingdon Bible Commentary).  It is to pursue His reign as the ultimate goal of our daily activities (p. 646, the New Jerome Bible Commentary).
  • Righteousness: Hebrew word: tzedakah– its root: speak the truth, straight, perfect, just, excellent.  Tzedek: rightness of weights and measures.  This is God’s attribute as sovereign.
  • Therefore, I can safely say that God’s righteousness means whatever is right in the sight of God such as truth, justice, and mercy.
  • Seek God’s righteousness: it means to desire, aim at, and practice what is right and just in the sight of God.  It means to seek what pleases God and to do what God desires in our lives such as truth, peace, justice, mercy, humility, and divine strength.  E.g. The Lord loves justice (Ps. 33:5).   So should we.  The Lord practices mercy.  So should we.  The Lord speaks the truth.  So should we.
  • E.g. Micah 6:8  He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?  King James Version (KJV)
  • Self-righteousness: It is worth mentioning here what the opposite of God’s righteousness is: self-righteousness.  Self-righteousness promotes/glorifies self before God and people.  Self-righteousness seeks to please self and do what self is pleased to do.  Seeking God’s righteousness makes one desire what pleases God and do His will.   Pursuing self-righteousness makes one proud.  Pursuing God’s righteousness makes one humble.
  • All these things: things that we need, not necessarily what we desire.  (Cf. Beware of health/wealth teachings.  Jesus never promises us to be rich and healthy all the time).  Rather, if God blesses us with material things, it is meant for us to share with others.  When we do what pleases the Lord, He will add all the things that we need in life.
  • E.g. King Solomon asked for God’s wisdom to rule God’s people (1 Kings 3:9-13).  Pleased with the request, God added all other things that Solomon didn’t ask for such as wealth and power.  When we pursue God’s righteousness, God will grant us with strength, peace, quietness in our souls, confidence, as well as all our needs.
  • My Paraphrased translation: Don’t be bogged down with daily cares and anxiety, because you may lose the focus and forget what matters most in your life on earth.  Here’s the remedy that will help you stay focused on your journey to Heaven:  Continually and pro-actively speak God’s truth and love others as God has loved you. Continually (as long as you breathe and like you eat three meals a day) and pro-actively (don’t wait until you are overwhelmed and stressed by life’s cares that would force you to make unhealthy choices) speak God’s truth and love others as He has loved you.  Then, peace, humility, confidence, wisdom, strength, and even life’s necessities will follow you.  Do it all under His leadership.  Ask for His wisdom every day and in every matter.  Walk with Him humbly and you will do well.
  • Next: Luke 9:23: Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”
  • Disciples in Jesus’ days: They lived together with Jesus, ate together, slept together, walked together, and went wherever the Master led.  They saw all the miracles and healings that Jesus performed.  They heard all the wonderful teachings of Jesus and learned from the Master through His daily examples, and memorized the teachings and passed them on to people.  After Jesus ascended into Heaven, they boldly witnessed to the Way of Jesus to the world.
  • Disciples today: Many of us have quite poor conviction of Jesus the Messiah.  We suffer from a loose understanding of who we are.  We are quick to claim that we are the followers of Jesus, yet in reality we deny His lordship: we live a life without Him most of the time.  We only seek Him when we are up against crisis.  We are still in charge of our own lives.  We are still in control in our lives.  We still call the shots, not He.  We ask Jesus to bless what we do, rather than doing what He blesses.  We are the kings/queens in our lives, not Jesus.  Jesus is the servant for us to bring what we desire, not the other way around.  That’s the modern day picture of Christ’s disciples.
  • It wasn’t so when Jesus first extended His invitation to all (everyone, without restriction) to follow Him.  He set out three conditions: self-denial, bearing the cross, and obedience (p. 170, the Interpreter’s Bible).
  • Meaning of self-denial: Self-denial is more than giving up chocolate during Lent.  It means a radical re-orientation of the center in your life.  It means inviting God to the center of your life.  It means stepping down from the throne of your heart and yielding the seat to the Lord.  It means serving Him and His causes as servant. It means to put ourselves in the service of God, not the other way around.  It means to put Him first and put ourselves last.  E.g. J.O.Y. (Jesus – Others – You).   It means to say “no” to our selfish desires and life-styles and say “yes” to God’s will. It means to declare that we’re dead but Christ lives in us (Galatians 2:20).   “You can’t be a self-pleaser and a Christ-pleaser.  It’s impossible” (p. 22, The Grace of Yielding, Derek Prince).
  • Meaning of taking up your own cross:  Your cross is not your wife/husband/sickness.  Rather, it is the place “where your will and the will of God cross” (p. 23, Ibid.).  That is where you lay down yourself.  Some scholars put it this way: to bear the cross means to “Run the risk of being misunderstood as criminals” as Jesus did (p. 194, Jesus and the New Age, Danker).  To some of us, it may mean literal martyrdom, but for most of us it means living sacrificially: not a death wish, but obedience to the reign of God (p. 130, Interpretation, Craddock).  In the course of fulfilling God’s will, there will be “prices to be paid, pain and hurt to be accepted” (Ibid.).   Are you ready to die for Christ?  Are you willing to pay the price for the name you carry every day?
  • E.g.  Nabeel Qureshi’s (a Muslim convert) testimony: his family denounced him because he became a follower of Christ (Jan. 2014, Christianity Today).
  • Daily: Taking up the cross is an ongoing process in our faith journey.  It continues day in day out.  It is a daily decision.  We declare “a daily steadfast loyalty to the master and his way of life” (p. 700, the New Jerome Bible Commentary).  We submit ourselves to God’s will daily (p. 262, The Wesleyan Bible Commentary).

Conclusion:

  • A disciple’s life is a life led by God and lived by kingdom priorities.  Put God first.  Pursue what God pursues.  Do what God blesses.  Live a life that is worthy of God’s name, willing to go through pain and suffering, then you will be a true follower of Christ.

Today Pastor Choi urges the congregation to beware of sure-fire time wasters.  They are: 1) be unforgiving, 2) keep comparing, 3) be doubtful, 4) keep grumbling, and 5) keep worrying.  By doing so, he warns the audience, they can waste their time — every minute of it!  At the end of the sermon, he exhorts the congregation to forgive, stop comparing, have faith in God, stop grumbling, and pray more this year to have a productive year.

 Sure-fire Time Wasters

 

Here’s a summary of his sermon:

Title: Sure-Fire Time Wasters!

Text: Ephesians 5:15-17

 

Ephesians 5:15-17

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

15 Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, 16 making the most of the time, because the days are evil. 17 So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

 

In January, everyone seems determined to keep their new year’s resolutions going strong.  For instance, for a healthy year, some want to get into daily exercise (walking, jogging, yoga, Pilates, jazzercise…) and to eat more nutritious foods.  Others start the New Year with godly resolutions such as attending services more often this year, daily prayer, and reading the Bible more often.  Many more want to make every moment count this year, that is, to spend the time wisely, productively, and efficiently.

 

Well, speaking of managing our time, just for some tongue-in-cheek fun (I got this idea from Rev. Chuck Swindoll’s message about three years ago), this morning I am going to present to you a series of suggestions of time wasters—sure-fire time wasters!  If you follow the five suggestions that I am about to make, I can guarantee that you will make no progress this year and find yourself wasting your time —big time and every minute of it!

 

First, be unforgiving: Lengthen the list of your enemies this year.  Have a goal to double it up.  Hold your grudge against your enemies as long as you can.  Don’t even try to forgive those who made it on the list this year.  If necessary, never forgive them at all, saying that it is 100% their fault and not yours.  Say that there’s nothing you can do about it.  Dump your hurts on family and friends.  Harbor your anger and resentment day in day out.  Nurse your grievances against your enemies throughout the year forgetting what it actually does to you, spiritually, emotionally, and physically.

 

Next, keep comparing: Compare yourself with others always.  Be dazzled with your life’s successes while you pity those who have failed or not so good as you are.   Take every opportunity to toot your own horn before others.  If you are an underachiever in life, please be sure to throw a pity-party, dwelling on negative thoughts about yourself all the time.  As a matter of fact, it will do the trick for you for many years to come.  If you are really into physical beauty stuff and envy the youth, count the wrinkles on your face and hands everyday, but be sure to have the Valium ready.

 

Thirdly, doubt: Make doubt your number one priority and the dearest ally this year.  Put the Doubting Thomas to shame.  Doubt everything.  Always doubt that God loves you.  Doubt more that He is with you.  Doubt that He is going to see you through this year.  Question God’s credentials.  Question more His faithfulness.  Never trust that He takes care of your daily needs.  Doubt most that He is a personal God who understands your daily challenges and provides the way out from your struggles.

 

Fourthly, grumble: Complain all the time that everything goes wrong against your plans.  Grumble that God’s provision is never enough for you and your family.  Always ask for more even beyond what you need.  Demand that you want them right now.  Be an Ebenezer Scrooge this year.  Never share God’s blessings with others.  Be a mean person.  Be the champion of the game.  Take everything for granted.  Never miss the opportunity to let everyone else know your absolute entitlement.  Never take time to count the blessings from God.  Never share the credit with anyone else let alone with God.  Rather, take all the credit to yourself for your prosperity.  Never thank those to whom you owe your success.

 

Finally, worry: Worry a lot: day and night.  Make a goal to be on the Guinness World Record as the number one Worrier.  Worries are contagious, so spread your worries to anyone and everyone that this year is going to be a disastrous year for all and for the global economy.  Keep on worrying about what to wear and what to eat everyday.  Lose your sleep by worrying that tomorrow is going to be the end of the world.  Spend everyday twice longer than usual looking at the numbers of Wall Street.  Have your mood swing with those fluctuating numbers in economy.

 

There you have it: five proven and sure-fire time wasters!  Put them into practice and the year 2014 would be the year of wasting your time.

 

But, on the other hand, who really wants to do that?  No one.

 

So, let’s get serious.  My real message this morning is: Beware of those time-wasters!

 

Here’s what I really want to say:

 

  1. Forgive as if you have only one day to live.  Forgive your enemies.  Bless and pray for every one of them.  Don’t prolong your forgiveness.  Remember what Jesus said: your sins won’t be forgiven until you forgive others’ trespasses first.

     

  2. Stop comparing yourself with others.  Rather, be thankful and content with the way God created you.  Remember, your body is God’s Temple where the Spirit of God dwells.  You’re no longer your own.  You are bought by a price, that is, Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.  Now, you are God’s.  You’re not the owner of your life.  Rather, you are the steward of God’s property. Therefore, take good care of yourself, your soul and body, and glorify God with your life.

     

  3. Have faith in God.  He is with you all the time.  He will see you through no matter what happens to Wall Street.  Trust God rather than numbers in your checkbook.  He will provide your daily needs.

     

  4. Stop grumbling.  Be thankful for what you have and content with what God has provided you.  Share your blessings with others more often.  Give more.

     

  5. Pray more and worry less.  You can’t change a thing by worrying.  Prayer works.

     

    Make 2014 the most productive year of all, because God doesn’t want you to waste your time!

     

    Let us pray.

     

For the Manahawkin Methodist Congregation, Pastor Choi designates 2014 to be the Year of Gratitude.  He begins his message with a comparison between secular understanding and biblical knowledge on words such as ‘grateful,’ ‘thankful,’ and ‘gratitude.’   He exhorts the people of God to become a character of gratitude through daily practice of being thankful to the Lord in all circumstances.

 2014- The Year of Gratitude

The following is a summary of his message:

2014—the Year of Gratitude                                    1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

 

Introduction

  • I praise and thank God for His continued loving kindness and faithfulness to our congregation throughout 2013.  I also thank every one of you for your partnership in the ministry of the good news.  We indeed work together as partners for God’s Kingdom both here at Manahawkin and in the surrounding communities.  Your presence, services, and gifts are always appreciated.  I very much look forward to working with you again this year.
  • As pastor of this church, I plan to designate each year for our common goals—something that would strengthen our faith and enhance the practice of our beliefs.   I designate 2014 to be the year of gratitude: that all of us stay thankful throughout the year.  And, I chose 1 Thessalonians 5:18 for my sermon today.
  • Now, I know that a lot of us have a trouble accepting 1 Thessalonians 5:18: how can I be grateful / thankful when bad things happen to me?

    Definition

  • Such a question requires some study on words such as ‘grateful,’ ‘thankful,’ and ‘gratitude.’
  • Let’s begin with definitions of those words that are most accepted by the people in America.
  • Grateful: is “feeling or showing thanks because someone has done something kind for you or has done as you asked” (Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary).
  • Thankful: is pleased about something good that has happened, or something bad that has not happened” (Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary).
  • Gratitude: is “the feeling of being grateful and wanting to express your thanks” (Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary).
  • Under such an understanding of ‘grateful,’ and ‘thankful,’ the people in America interchangeably use ‘thankful’ and ‘grateful’.  That’s the exact mindset people have, even the people of God, when they read a text such as 1 Thessalonians 5:18: be thankful in all (both good and bad) circumstances.  They cry out, “I can be grateful for all the blessings, but don’t ask me to be thankful for something bad!  I can’t do it!”  We are all conditioned to be thankful / grateful for only good things.
  • This is why we need to listen to what the Bible says about gratitude so that we may understand today’s passage: to be thankful in all circumstances.
  • First of all, the Bible clearly differs from the world in terms of understanding and using of those words.  The Bible, like the secular world, uses the word ‘grateful’ for things that are considered good.  When it comes down to all things both good and bad, however, unlike the secular world, the Word of God employs the word ‘thankful’ rather than ‘grateful’.  In other words, the Bible brings up and expands the secular definition of ‘gratitude’ to one higher level.  ‘Gratitude’ in the Bible and in the lives of the believers means more than ‘being grateful for something good that has happened to you.’  It, rather, means ‘being thankful’ than ‘being grateful’.  In all circumstances.
  • Based on such biblical understanding, here are my own definitions of the three words:
  • Grateful: is same as the Oxford Dictionary.  It is “feeling or showing thanks because someone has done something kind for you or has done as you asked” (Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary).
  • Thankful: is pleased about something good that has happened,” (same as the first half of Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary) or “trusting in the Lord for something bad that has happened” (the second half is mine).   
  • Gratitude: is “being thankful in all circumstances, not just in good ones.”
  • Now, we are ready to talk about gratitude.  Gratitude is our call.  God has called us the Christians to be thankful in ALL circumstances.  Be thankful always.  That’s our call.
  • Why?

    Why Gratitude?

  • For three reasons: It is God’s will, it is better than ingratitude, and it is good for your health.
  • First of all, it is God’s will for us to be thankful in all circumstances.  God wants every child of His to be thankful.  He wants you and me to stay thankful in all life situations: both good and bad.  When we live out a life of gratitude, it brings glory and honor to the Lord.  When we live out a life of thankfulness that transcends circumstances, it sets us apart from the people in the world that show their gratitude only in good circumstances.
  • Sometimes, I don’t understand why bad things happen when I never want them to.  Neither do I understand why good things don’t happen when I badly need them to.  However, over the years, I’ve learned a lesson: that is, when I obey God’s command to be thankful whether I like it or not, whether I understand it or not, in the end, I always harvest wisdom and the fruit of my obedience.  I’ve seen in my life that simple obedience to God brings forth unexpected benefits.  I will get to this later in the sermon.
  • Why be thankful?  Because when we are thankful, it brings us closer to God.  Because it keeps our communication lines open with God.  For instance, did you know that gratitude is a prerequisite to prayers?  Do you want your prayers answered?  Then, begin them with thanksgiving, because gratitude paves the way for our prayers to God just like when we are thankful to people, it lubricates our relationships with each other.  The more we say thanks to people, the better relationships we enjoy with each other.  Same thing with God.
  • Being thankful also deepens our trust in the Lord.  Trust in the Lord means to acknowledge God even in bad circumstances when nothing makes sense to us.  Trust in the Lord means to tell God that He knows what He is doing when we don’t.  E.g. Cancer survivors.  Almost all of whom I know say that they were thankful that it happened to them, because it taught them the life’s priorities.  Gratitude is a sign of trust in God while ingratitude and grumbling is a sign of distrust in God.  By being thankful in all circumstances we declare that we believe in God’s ultimate good will for us and that the same God will make all things good in the end as He promised (Romans 8:28).
  • Show me anyone who walks with the Lord, and I will show you a life filled with gratitude.
  • Next, gratitude is a better option than ingratitude or grumbling.  If you continue on the path of daily complaint and grumbling, soon it will turn you into a seasoned complainer.  The opposite is true with the path of gratitude. Which character path would you like to take?
  • Think of Job in the Bible: After he lost everything he owned, after all of his ten children perished in one day, and even after he lost his health, Job didn’t sin against God with his lips (c.f.  His wife wanted him to curse God and die).  His action not to complain to God in such a difficult time was more than the result of sheer human will.  Such a character wasn’t developed overnight, either.  It was rather a by-product of Job’s life-long practice of gratitude.
  • Lastly, gratitude is good for your health.  It’s the real chicken soup for your soul.  A lot of us are into body exercise for our physical health hoping that it would keep us fit and healthy for the coming years.  Indeed, physical exercise is important and a bit of help for your body.  However, very few of us realize that godliness is profitable for all good things: in all areas of spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being, not only in this life but also in the life to come (1Timothy 4:8).  So, why not be thankful if you care so much about your well-being?
  • Remember I promised at the beginning of my sermon to talk about unexpected benefits of obeying God’s command to be thankful?  Here we go.  E.g.  My triglycerides number was 205 three years ago.  It’s a borderline between healthy and unhealthy life style (below 200 is all right, and above 200 is not good).   Some doctors would put you on cholesterol medicine with such a number.  Instead of putting me on medication, though, my doctor wanted me to monitor my stress level for the next year.  Almost at the same time, unrelated to this medical finding, I started practicing being thankful every day.   Six months later, I had blood work done again.  This time the number went down to 150.  Mind you that there was no change in my diet or exercise habits during that time.  The only reason I can think of that contributed to this positive change was gratitude: just being thankful everyday improved my health.  When the level of gratitude goes up, the level of stress comes down, and so do the bad numbers.

    Closing

  • The Year of Gratitude kicks off today.  Throughout the year, I urge everyone to be thankful in all circumstances so that we may become a character of gratitude and bring glory and honor to our Lord in Heaven.
  • I plan to remind you of gratitude every other month: six times this year on the first Sunday of January, March, May, July, September, and November.
  • I will also introduce you some practical ways to hone your gratitude skills daily.
  • As a starter, please pick up your scroll today during communion.  One for each person.  I prayerfully have chosen 18 verses from the Bible—all are related to thankfulness.  Your scroll will have one of those verses.  You can memorize the verse or post the scroll on the most visible place where you can see it often throughout the day, such as a bathroom mirror, bedroom, even the refrigerator door so that you may ponder it throughout the year.  Let us take every opportunity to give thanks to God for His blessings, for unfulfilled dreams, and even for the things we consider bad.  In the end, we will abundantly harvest the fruit of gratitude in all areas of life: physical, emotional, financial, and spiritual.
  • Let’s pray.

     

Summary:

John Parker is our guest speaker for today filling in for Pastor Choi who is on vacation.  Our text for today is a wonderful account where God steps into his creation, watches over and takes care of His children, and ensures that His plans always succeed.  It is a message of encouragement, hope, and faith as Joseph is guided by angels to protect Mary and Jesus. We can feel secure knowing that God knows what we are facing and will protect those doing His will.  Our faith is further sustained in the knowledge that while Jesus is fully God, he came to us in the most humble of circumstances showing the love that He has for us.

  Flight to Egypt

On this Christmas Eve, Pastor Choi exhorts the congregation to have faith and trust in Jesus by giving all their cares and anxieties to Jesus the new born King as they celebrate the birth of Jesus.  Jesus intends to keep all their cares with Him and not give them back to them.

   A Christmas Reflection 2013

The following is a summary of the sermon:

A Christmas Reflection                          Dec. 24, 2013

Have you been out lately, either in the mall or at the stores for last minute shopping?  I just did that yesterday, stopping at a couple of stores.  Every store I visited was packed with people.   All of them, children and adults alike, were busy getting things they needed, either food or gifts—all for Christmas!

Speaking of gifts, last Sunday, our Sunday School threw a birthday party for Jesus.  Rosemary, our Sunday School superintendent, asked the kids what birthday gifts they would bring to Jesus besides anything with monetary values.  One child said love.  The other said faith.  The third child said friendship.  I was deeply touched with their answers and, in fact, was very proud of these 6-8 year old kids!

As the kids gathered for Jesus’ birthday party, we too are gathered here tonight to celebrate the birth of Jesus the new born King.  If I may ask, what gifts would you bring to Him, besides anything with monetary values?

Some of us may present the gifts that would fit and honor the new born King like the three wise men did: gold, incense, and myrrh.  We may bring adoration, praise, and worship to Jesus.

Others may bring their broken dreams and hearts, wounded spirits, weary souls, and tired bodies for healing and restoration.  In fact, our lives are full of such broken relationships, hurts, abuses, hatred, sorrow, confusion, sadness, tears, spiritual hunger and thirst, …the list goes on.

Most of us, however, would bring personal concerns, anxieties, and even doubts on behalf of our loved ones (E.g. A concerned wife asked for a pastoral help for her husband’s spiritual backsliding).  Even for ourselves, we would bring our worries about the uncertain future at work, financial struggles, health problems, school situations, relationships, and even for the world peace.

No matter what concerns you bring, one thing is certain: Jesus intends to keep them with Him, not give them back to you.  He doesn’t want you to take them back home!  (That’s actually what a lot of us do in our prayers.  We pray for God to take over, and then at the end of the prayer, we take them back!).

No matter how big your concerns may seem to you, remember that Jesus is greater than any problem in the world.  He can handle them.  He will wipe your tears.  He will restore your spirit and grant rest and peace to your soul.  He will quench your thirst and heal your body.  He will answer your prayers.  He will be with you forever!  Just come to Him.

Tonight, Jesus grants you repentance for forgiveness.  He offers Himself to every one of us: His life, His truth, and His love.  He offers us eternal life.  He gives us the hope of resurrection and takes away the fear of death.  He sets us free from the bondage of sin.  He grants us rest, peace, strength, and courage to face tomorrow!

As you go home tonight after the service, remember that Jesus is Immanuel (God is with us).  He is with you.  Have faith and trust in Him.  And remember once again that Jesus loves you.  That’s why He came to the earth after all.

Merry Christmas to you all!

 

Today Pastor Choi talks about the most powerful name of all: Jesus.  Encouraging the congregation to ponder the name Jesus, he answers carefully three questions on the name of Jesus:

Q1: Do I know the name ‘Jesus’?

Q2: Do I know the meaning of the name ‘Jesus’?

Q3: Do I claim the name and do everything in the name of ‘Jesus’?

In the end he exhorts the congregation to do everything in the name of Jesus and start experiencing Jesus in a new way.

   The Name Jesus

 

Following is a summary of his sermon:

The Name Jesus                                                                                                    Matthew 1:18-25

  • 18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yetdid not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).  24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

    Introduction

  • Do the Bible trivia insert before the sermon.
  • Let me begin with a story of a woman in the 19th century in America (There Is More, Tae-Hyung Lee, p.76).   She was an African-American woman who was a believer in Jesus.  She loved the Lord with all her heart.  Naturally she desired to know more of Jesus.  Where could she do so?  Of course, in the Bible.  Yet, she had a problem.  She couldn’t read.  Since she was a slave serving a white family and like many other slaves in those days, she was illiterate.  No one sent her to school.  Her daily responsibility was to take care of the children of her master.  One day she asked the children if they would teach her to read some words in the Bible such as “Jesus Christ.”  So, the children taught her how to recognize those two words in the Bible.  She was delighted with her new gained knowledge.   One day she got her own Bible.   Whenever she had a chance to be alone, she opened the New Testament and started searching for the word “Jesus” using her index finger going page after page.  Each time she found the name Jesus, she was the happiest woman in the world, because the Name Jesus gave her a great comfort and strength.
  • This morning we are going to discover and rediscover the joy and the significance of the name Jesus in the believer’s life.  Did you know that the New Testament (NT) literally begins and ends with this Name ‘Jesus’?   E.g. Matthew 1:1 (“A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham”) and Revelation 22:21 (“The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all”).   All nine authors and their 27 books in the NT (without having a conference together), yet under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, focused on one single theme: Jesus.  As a matter of fact, this name consistently appears in every single chapter of the NT except 3 John.  Therefore, we can safely say that the NT is all about Jesus.
  • Here are some trivia for those curious-minded people: the name ‘Jesus’ (Greek Ἰησοῦς) appears 923 times in the NT (cf. the word ‘God’ — appears about 1200 times).  This alone tells us how important the Name Jesus is in the NT.
  • More trivia: the average APB (appearances per book) of ‘Jesus’ is 34 (that is, 923 divided by 27 books).  The average APC (appearances per chapter) of ‘Jesus’ is 3.6 (923 divided by 260 chapters).  The Gospel ‘John’ has the most entries (245 times in 22 chapters: 11.7 APC—almost 4 times more often than the average.  This is the book I recommend to every beginner to read).
  • The Name “Jesus” is ‘awesome,’ ‘amazing,’ ‘incredible,’ and ‘extraordinary.’  This is the name we are going to think about this morning.
  • Let’s ask three questions for ourselves.

    Q1: Do I know this Name ‘Jesus’?

  • Did you know that this Name ‘Jesus’ is the most powerful name in the world?  Did you know that this is the very name that has power and authority over all creatures in the world?  This is what the Bible says about this name: it is above all names in the world, both visible and invisible.   It is the name that is exalted above all nations and rulers both in heaven and on earth.  This is the name to which every knee shall bow and worship (Phil. 2:9-10).
  • This is the name that we must love, fear, honor, and revere above all other names.  E.g. imagine having an exclusive audience with Queen Elizabeth II.   You would show the utmost respect to her and her name.  The same queen once said that she would lay her crown at the feet of Jesus upon His return.  How much more respect should we show to this Name ‘Jesus’?
  • The reality: people tend to misuse this name and profane this name with no idea of what they are doing to and with the name.  Never ever treat this name casually.  Never ever misuse or profane this name.  E.g.  Almost all ‘R’-rated movies are filled with profanity using the name of the Lord in vain.  Screenwriters, beware how you use the name ‘Jesus’, because God concerns His holy name and will hold you accountable.

    Q2: Do I know the meaning of the Name?

  • The name ‘Jesus’ means ‘God saves.’  It is a Greek counterpart of Hebrew word ‘Joshua.’ –Jehovah saves.
  • What kind of image comes to your mind when you hear and think about the Name Jesus?  E.g. around Christmas time, Jesus is a cute little baby boy in a manger—as soon as Christmas is over, we all forget about Him for the rest of year.  Next year, we bring out the cute baby image again.  No, this is not how we should remember Jesus.  We should remember as His name says: God saves.
  • Who is Jesus?  He is the savior of the world.  He came here to save you and to save me.  His name tells us about His destiny (why He was born in human flesh) and His mission (why He had to die on the cross): He died on the cross to save you and me from our sins.  For us, He was crucified; for us, He resurrected from the dead; for us, He ascended into heaven; and for us, He will come again to judge the world.
  • This is the only name given to humanity for their salvation.  See Acts 4:12:Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

    Q3: Do I claim this Name and do everything in the Name?

  • The Bible says, “In whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17–NIV).
  • We are Christ’s bearers.  We represent Christ Jesus in the world.  We are called to do everything in the name of Jesus.  Jesus is our life.  He is our breath.  He is our strength.  He is everything to us.
  • Here are some Scriptural examples of doing everything in the name of our Lord: In the name of Jesus we “Bless, rejoice, praise, pray, forgive, love enemy, prophesy, preach, proclaim, confess, call on, walk, minister, raise the dead, heal, cast out demons, do miracles, welcome, gather, baptize, ask, endure hardships, suffer for the Lord, and remain true to this name.”—All in the name of Jesus.  E.g. Peter healed the beggar in the name of Jesus.    See Acts 3:6-8: 6 Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” 7 Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. 8 He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.
  • Reality Check:  How many of the things above do we actually do in the name of Jesus?  Maybe a couple?  None?  It is time that we obeyed God and did everything in the name of Jesus and experienced the wonderful Jesus in our lives.
  • Amen.

     

     

2,000 years ago, Gabriel the angel visited a young woman named Mary in Nazareth.  She was told that she would conceive a boy child by the power of Holy Spirit.  Based on the story of Mary’s conception, Pastor Choi expounds on three qualifications of God’s worker: any believer who wants to work with God must bring “a willing heart,” “courage,” and “communication with God.”

 Work with God

 

Following is a summary of his sermon:

Work with God    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:

  • This is a fascinating story from a human’s perspective, isn’t it?  We see God working with a human, a mere country girl.  I am going to point out three things that stood out to me in the story, the things that are required of the believer who would like to work with God.  They are: a willing heart, courage, and getting into God’s Word daily.
  • First, here’s a brief recap of the story: 2,000 years ago, God sent Gabriel, His Chief-of-Staff, to a young woman whose name was Mary.  Mary was engaged to Joseph at the time, and the both resided in a small town called Nazareth whose population was less than 500 (James Strange).  [In 1918, 8000 people.  In 2011, 80,410.  60% Arabs and 40% Christians—wikipedia].   That day, Gabriel told Mary that by God’s power, not by man, she would conceive a boy child.  The child would be called the son of the Most High.  He would forever reign over the house of David and His kingdom would never end.  Then, he left.
  • That’s so great, isn’t it?  So far so good.
  • Let’s try to understand what was going through in Mary’s mind and heart at that time.  One of the best ways for us to understand her mind and heart is to put ourselves in her shoes.  Had you been Mary, how would you have felt and reacted to this very unusual yet awesome visit from an angel?Willing Heart:
  • After the angel left, I believe, fears for the future began to arise in the heart of Mary.  She might have reasoned in her mind as follows: “Wow!  It’s so great that God has chosen me to work with Him.  I am truly blessed.  Now, how am I going to break the news to my fiancé?  I know he is a good man, and I hope he will listen, but will he believe me?  What’s going to happen if he breaks the engagement?  What about my family and friends?  Who’s going to believe my story anyway?  Everyone will eventually find out about my pregnancy, too.  I’d better hide from people.  How else will I cover my belly for several months since it will be obvious to everyone?  Oh, will I be able to endure the cold stares and malicious gossip from the 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 malicious rumor which called Jesus “Mary’s son (not Joseph’s)—understood at that time as illegitimate child”).
  • I love the way Mary responded to God’s call in verse 38: here I am, Lord.  Let your will be done.  She could’ve easily said, “No, I don’t want to!  Choose someone else, God!”  Yet, she embraced God’s will with courage.  God never forces anyone to follow His will against their wish.  Rather, He only and always works with those who say a willing yes to His invitation.   My prayer for all of us is that we too, when invited by God, respond to God’s call with amen saying, “Here I am, Lord.  Use me according to your will.”  That leads me to the next point: courage.Courage:
  • Being favored by God doesn’t always mean that everything in life will be exciting and wonderful.  In fact, being chosen by God to work with Him never means an easy road.  E.g. Abraham, Moses, Jesus, John the Baptist, and Paul.  On the contrary, working with God often means uncomfortable or even painful experiences.  A narrow and rugged road, for sure.  For a long time, too.  In fact, the greater the task is, the harder the road that lies ahead of you.  Only a few will 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 her again.  God already knew everything Mary would face or had to go through in the years to come.  Yet, He went ahead with His plan.  A poignant 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 what God did for Mary.   No other special provisions or protections.  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 the plan.  The rest, until its fulfillment, we must endure with courage, patience, and trust in the Lord clinging to His faithfulness.  E.g. My response to God’s call to work in English speaking congregations.  When we work with God, we ought not to despair.  Rather, we should cling onto God, because the Lord will see us through, providing us with His sufficient grace and presence.Encounter with God: 
  • One more thing and I will be done.  Notice here how God communicates with His people.  For Mary: an angel appeared.  Not just an ordinary angel but God’s Chief-of-Staff.  It demonstrates the extreme significance of the case, because Christ’s birth was a water-shed event in human history.  Christ’s birth divided the human history in two periods: B.C. and A.D.
  • God also used prophets to convey His messages to His people.  He also uses dreams and visions to communicate with us.
  • For most of us today, though, God uses the Bible to reveal Himself and His will to us.  The Bible is the best, the clearest, and the surest way to know God’s will for us.  In the Bible, we meet with God and communicate with Him.  In the Scripture, He points us in the directions we need to go.  If the Bible is the meeting place, then our devotion time is the time to encounter with God.  That’s why it is so crucial for us to get into the Bible daily.  E.g. God speaks to me in my daily devotion reminding me of His will in my life.  The other day’s message was “Love does no harm to its neighbor (Romans 13:10).”  The same God in the same way sends His message to us every day.
  • One of the greatest tragedies among believers is this: many of us are so naïve as to neglect this opportunity to meet with God.  Too many of us never meet with God in the Bible, because we never expect to meet with Him in the Bible or to discover His will for us through the Bible.  Consequently, we end up living out our lives as if we are on our own; living life our ways, rather than God’s.  We live every day with no eternal perspective on life.   Let’s get into the Bible daily.Closing:
  • The Almighty God had a plan for Mary and Jesus.  He also has one for you.  You are not an accident.  Nothing is a coincidence in God.  You may not plan to be at a certain place at a certain time, but if God has meant you to be there, He will arrange accordingly, and it will happen (E.g. meeting old friends from Texas at Costco one time).  As Mary served as the instrument of God’s salvation plan, so can you.  God wants you to be part of His plan.  You alone can fulfill that part.  He invites you to work with Him.  His invitation for you may not be as drastic as Mary’s, yet God still works with you in your life.  Are you willing to say yes to His call?  Are you willing to take the 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’s work with God.
  • Amen.

“Comfort Ye, Comfort Ye, My People,” says your God (Isaiah 40:1).  Today God speaks to us contemporary believers in Christ though the mouth of Prophet Isaiah that it is not the time that we focused on our own comforts.  Rather, it is time that we focused on others’ needs and comfort them by speaking to their hearts.   Pastor Choi explains the meaning of comforting the afflicted and what’s the best way to comfort them–by speaking to their hearts.  He challenges the congregation to reach out to the afflicted throughout the Advent season.

 

  Comfort Ye My People

 

Following is a summary of the sermon:

 

Comfort Ye My People                           Isaiah 40:1-2

  • Isaiah 40:1-2
  • King James Version (KJV)

 

  • 40 Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.
  • Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.

Introduction:

  • Explanation of the Church Calendar: Unlike the regular calendar, it begins with the Advent season, the four Sundays before Christmas, typically falling at the end of November.  It has the seasons of Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost until the next Advent.  We are entering the season of Advent today.
  • The word Advent originates from the Latin word— “coming.”  In this season, we remember and anticipate the coming of the Lord Jesus.
  • During the season of Advent, we anticipate the second coming of Christ, because His first coming has already been fulfilled.  The Bible says, the first time, Jesus came to save us from our sins.  When He comes second time, He will come, not for the redemption of the world, but for the judgment of the world.  He is coming as the Judge, not as the Savior: “28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:28).
  • This morning, let us ponder the reasons why God sent Jesus to earth for the first time two thousand years ago: to comfort God’s people and deliver them from the bondage of their sins.  In fact, hundreds of years before Jesus was born, through the mouth of Prophet Isaiah, God revealed Jesus’ mission for His people: comfort.
  • Begin with listening to “Comfort Ye My People”–one of the songs in Handel’s Messiah:Comfort ye, comfort ye My people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to
    Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned” (lyrics are based on Isaiah 40:1-2). 

Comfort:

  • Definition: “to make somebody who is worried or unhappy feel better by being kind and sympathetic towards them” (Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary).
  • Pay attention to the word “Comfort” in verse one: it’s a verb and a double imperative.  Twice God commands to comfort.  E.g. To make sure the news is clear, the reporter used to say “Repeat” between the same news.  Here we see God do the same showing His clear intention to comfort His people.
  • Note here that God doesn’t command to comfort those who are already comforted.  There’s an old saying among the preachers: Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comforted.  Obviously, here in the verse, God wants to comfort His people, because they were already afflicted.

Ye:

  • Comfort Ye (Second person plural).  Who are ‘Ye’ here?  Whom does God speak to?  Three possibilities: 1) Septuagint Bible (Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures in the 3rd Century B.C.) says ‘priests’—the preachers like me.   2) Other commentaries say ‘heavenly court.’    3) God speaks to you this morning: comfort.
  • If God still uses the Bible to speak to us, this verse is for us: God wants you and me to comfort the afflicted.  In other words, it is not the time for us to focus on our own comfort.  Rather, it is time that we focused on others’ needs and the comforts of the afflicted around us.

My People:

  • God is interested in comforting the people, particularly His people.  Who are God’s people here?  You may say, Israel.  You are right, but there’s more.  It is true that God has called Abraham and his descendants Israel to be His beloved children in the Old Testament.  He also calls you and me to be His people in Christ in the New Testament: we call Him Abba Father.  He calls us children.  As our Heavenly Father, He minds our welfare, both physically and spiritually, both temporal and eternal.  We are His people and His business.  We are the object of God’s comfort.
  • Did you also know that God has chosen you long before the creation of the world?  Long before you were even born.  Mind boggling, isn’t it?   Listen to what Psalmist says to God in prayer: “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:16).  Yes, He has chosen you long time ago and has mapped out your entire life: He knows not only what happened to you, what’s happening to you now, but also what will happen to you in future.  He sees the entire picture of your life.  So, you can relax and put your trust in Him.   You are God’s People and He is your God.   He never regrets that He has chosen you to be His child, because His gifts and call are irrevocable (Romans 11:29).  Rest assured that you are His child forever.
  • As our God, the LORD considers our business His.  As God’s people, God’s business is ours, too.  God protects us, cares for us, and cares about our needs.  As much as He provides us with His presence, protection, and promises, He also expects us to stay faithful to Him: worship Him only, to gladly obey His commands, and to bring honor and glory to His name in our daily lives.  He loves those who gladly submit themselves to Him every day, not grudgingly.  He works with those who offer themselves to Him as an instrument of peace and righteousness.  We are in such a relationship with our heavenly Father.  The Bible calls it a covenant relationship where the LORD is our God and we are His people.   In this relationship, if we go astray from Him, God holds us accountable and brings us back to Him through chastisements.  E.g.  Like the one Israel had with Jehovah God—the background of today’s text: after the Babylonian exile for 70 years due to their idolatry and disobedience, God brings them back home.
  • A little bit of historical background: after the people of God committed the sin of idol worship and injustice, the nation of Israel was destroyed by a foreign enemy.  They, for the next 70 years, paid their wages of sin through the humiliation of slavery.  After the time of hardship had passed, God spoke softly to them saying, “My people, your humiliation and hardships are over.  It is time that you were restored and comforted.”

Speak tenderly (v. 2):

  • How do you comfort someone?  One way to do it is to speak tenderly [literally, speak to the heart] (v. 2).  It is like you saying to a crying child, “Come on now, child” wiping the tears from his/her eyes and giving a hug.  Whatever you do or say, it must register to the heart of the one afflicted.
  • By the way, have you ever tried to comfort someone who was afflicted with either physical pain or emotional suffering?  Was it easy?  Was it hard?  In my experiences, it was never easy.  E.g. I once paid the pastoral visit to one family who lost their precious child due to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.  I discovered that it was not the time for theological elaboration explaining why bad things happen to us.
  • So, how do you comfort someone?  Of course, we can do that with God’s word of assurance and hope like the one in today’s text.  We can also comfort people by being empathetic (being in their shoes) with them.  By being sympathetic with them (suffering together).  By simply being there for them.   A lot of times you don’t even need to say a word.  Just be there.  Your presence will do it.
  • Action point: Reach out this month to at least one person who is afflicted and speak to their hearts in the name of Jesus.
  • Let us pray.

Today Pastor Choi talks about contentment.  Based on Adam Hamilton’s Book ‘Enough,’ he makes four suggestions to cultivate contentment in the believer’s life: a. Say “It Could Be Worse.”  b. Ask “How Long Will This Make Me Happy?  c. Develop a Grateful Heart  d.  Ask ” Where Does My Soul Find True Satisfaction?”  By doing so, we will find ourselves content in all circumstances.

  Which ‘Tent’ Will You Live in?

Following is a summary of his sermon:

Which “Tent” Will You Live in?                    Luke 12:15, Hebrews 13:5

  • Luke 12:15
  • New International Version (NIV)
  • 15 Then he [Jesus] said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”
  • Hebrews 13:5
  • New International Version (NIV)
  • Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,
    • “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

Fire in the House:

  • Imagine that your house is on fire, and you have five minutes to grab something (besides, the people and the pets) and get out of the house; what would you save?

–       Smart phones, laptop computers, iPads, Bible, jewelry, stuffed animals, pillows, family albums, important documents, purse, shoes, diploma, and so on.

  • Your answer reveals your priorities.  This scenario forces us to think about the nature of possessions, doesn’t it?   We cannot take them with us.  (E.g. Movie: You Can’t Take It With You (1938) a comedy film directed by Frank Capra that won two Academy Awards : Best Picture and Best Director).
  • Nothing in this world is permanent.  Our material possessions don’t last forever, either: in fact, when we are gone, most of our stuff will be obsolete or wouldn’t mean much to anyone else but to us.  That’s why I say “amen” to Jesus who declares, “Life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”
  • The problem is this: we say that our lives do not consist in the abundance of possessions, yet our actions betray our words.  We live and act as if they do, because most of us are, as Pastor Adam Hamilton puts, afflicted with affluenza and credit-itis.   He also points out to another condition that afflicts our hearts: Restless Heart Syndrome (p. 55, “Enough,” Adam Hamilton).

Restless Heart Syndrome (RHS):

  • Have you heard of restless leg syndrome (RLS)?  It is a medical condition that causes twitches and contractions in the legs.  Restless Heart Syndrome works in a similar pattern, Hamilton claims, but only this time it afflicts our hearts – or souls – instead.  Its main symptom?   Discontentment.  Afflicted with RHS, our hearts never become satisfied with anything: as soon as we get one thing, we hardly take time to enjoy it before we want something else.  We are perpetually discontent.  This is the nature of RHS; if left unchecked, it can destroy us.
  • I am not saying that every type of discontent is bad.  On the contrary, there is a certain discontent that God intends us to keep or never depart from.  We can call it godly/holy discontent.  Our hearts are wired in a way that they would be discontent with certain things.   For instance, James Mackintosh, the great Scottish philosopher and politician of the early nineteenth century, said this: “It is right to be contented with what we have, but never with what we are” (ibid., p. 56).  It is right for us “to be discontent with our moral character, our spiritual life, our pursuit of holiness, our desire for justice, and our ability to love…” (ibid.) because God wants us to grow and improve in these areas.  However, it is never good for us to be discontent with our possessions.
  • Let me say again: with certain things, God wants us to be content and we are to be discontent with others.  The problem is this: we tend to get them mixed.  We tend to be discontent with those things we are supposed to be content with and content with those things we are supposed to be discontent with!

Adam Hamilton:

  • Listen to what Pastor Hamilton says: “The problem is that we tend to be content with our involvement in pursuing justice in the world.  We tend to be content with our level of righteousness—sometimes being self-righteous.  We tend to be content with how much we love others.  We tend to be content with our relationship with God.  We tend to be content with how often we read the Bible and pray.  Generally, we are satisfied with those things that deserve more of our time and attention” (ibid.).
  • “Likewise, those things we should be content with are the very things we find ourselves hopelessly discontented with.  Most of us, for instance, experience discontentment with our stuff – our homes, cars, televisions, gadgets, clothes, and a whole host of other things” (ibid.
  • Here are more examples:

–       70% of the workforce in America is disengaged / discontented with their jobs (p. 8, “The State of the American Workplace: Employee Engagement Insights for U.S. Business Leaders,” Gallup 2012).

–       Many of us do the same thing when it comes to the church, our parents, our children, and even with our marriages.

  • The way we live our lives with discontentment is like this:  if we say to God, “I don’t like what you have given me, God, and I want something else.  I want to trade it in and want something better than what you gave me” (ibid., p. 59).
  • Clearly, we struggle with discontentment.  So, what can we do about it?

Four Suggestions for Contentment:

  • Hamilton suggests the following four ways to cultivate contentment in our lives.
  • It Could Be Worse (I.C.B.W.):  whenever you find yourself discontented with something or someone, remind yourself that it could be worse.  John Ortberg, the pastor at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in California, makes an excellent suggestion as follows: When you are getting into your five-year old car in the parking lot, say, “I.C.B.W.”  As you walk into your house or apartment that is in desperate need of repairs, say, “I.C.B.W.”  When you go to work and are faced with problems and difficulties and disappointments, say, “I.C.B.W.”  When you are frustrated and disappointed with your spouse, say, ”I.C.B.W.”  (ibid., p. 60).
  • This practice helps us to look on the bright side or find the silver lining.  This will also help us to recognize that whatever we may dislike, a thing, person, or circumstance, we can always find something good to focus on.
  • How Long Will This Make Me Happy?:  The second key to contentment is to ask yourself a simple question: How long will this make me happy?   “So often we buy something, thinking it will make us happy, only to find that the happiness lasts about as long as it takes to open the box” ( ibid. )  E.g.  Think of the many children’s Christmas gifts.
  • This practice is especially helpful to control the “urge” of buying something instantly.  Wait 24 hours and see how much you can control your impulsive buying habits.
  • The third key to contentment is to develop a grateful heart.  Gratitude is essential if we want to be content.  Contentment will come to us when we spend more time in giving thanks for what we already have than complaining about what’s missing or wrong in our lives.  Here’s the fact: in any situation, we can either complain or be thankful.  We humans are, as Rick Warren says, animals of habit.  Either we pick up the habit of complaining or we pick up the habit of being grateful.  We can focus on all the things we don’t like, or we can begin to search for the things we like and be grateful for them.  We can focus on the disappointments in life, or we can give thanks for the blessings.
  • Many of us believe that the feelings should come first, but it actually works the other way around.  In other words, do not wait until good things happen so as to be grateful.  Start right away today to be thankful, then your feelings will follow.  Act first and feelings will follow.  E.g.  G. K. Chesterton writes, “There is the great lesson of ‘Beauty and the Beast’; that a thing must be loved before it is loveable” (p. 50, Orthodoxy, G. K. Chesterton).  If we say first to someone, “I love you,” and do loving things, then eventually the loving feelings will follow.   Likewise, when we begin to be grateful and express gratitude to God, over time we will find our hearts changed and we will be grateful for what we have.  Then, we can be content.
  • The fourth key to contentment is to ask yourself this question:  Where Does My Soul Find True Satisfaction?  The world lies to us, brainwashing us that it can be found in ease, luxury, comfort, and money.  The Bible, however, answers the question quite differently.  In every book, it reminds us that God alone is the source of our true satisfaction and contentment.
  • Listen to St. Augustine’s prayer: Thou hast created us for Thyself, and our heart is not quiet until it rests in Thee”http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/s/saintaugus385403.html#wDrUJagtWFKpRTI9.99).
  • Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).  The Psalmist said, “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you, my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you…./  My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods…..(63:1, 5-6).
  • Blaise Pascal wrote: There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.”  http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/b/blaisepasc395508.html#tM5jyq6yQ7GjJ7Xg.99
  • Paul the Apostle confessed that all of his deepest needs were satisfied in his relationship with God through Christ.  “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:12-13).  He has found the secret to contentment.  He found Christ to be his source, the One who satisfies his every need and enables him to be content in all circumstances.

Closing:

  • One thing is for sure: the longings of our souls cannot be satisfied with material possessions or an abundance of wealth.  The only real satisfaction of our souls is Jesus Christ.  We can be content because we know Christ is by our side no matter what we’re walking through.  The writer of the Book of Hebrews was right when he said it this way:  “Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for [Christ] has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’  So we can say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid’” (13:5-6).  With this assurance, we can face whatever each day may bring with contentment and joy.
  • Which “tent” will you live in?  Discon‘tent’ or Con‘tent’?  Choose today.
  • Let’s pray.

Maureen, member of Manahawkin United Methodist Church, shares her testimony with the congregation on the subject of tithing.

 

   On Tithing

 

Tagged with:

Today, Pastor Choi concludes his sermon series on “Rely on God’s Resources.”  He gives an overview on the topic of temptation covering the characteristics of temptation.  He also identifies two sources of temptation: human heart within and Satan the tempter without.  The sermon also provides practical ways to “shun the bait”: flee from the tempting circumstances, resist the devil, and filter out thoughts.  Pastor Choi exhorts the congregation to lay up God’s Word in their hearts, to pray, and to ask for help from the Holy Spirit so that they may lead a victorious life in Christ.

   Rely on God’s Resources (6): His Help in Temptation

Following is a summary of today’s sermon:

Rely on God’s Resources (6): His Help in Temptation

Hebrews 2:18

New International Version (NIV)

18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

Psalm 119:9-11

New International Version (NIV)

How can a young person stay on the path of purity?
By living according to your word.
10 I seek you with all my heart;
do not let me stray from your commands.
11 I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you.

 

  • There’s no way to extensively and adequately cover the topic of temptation with one sermon.  Today I will give you an overview of temptation.

Temptation is a common human experience: 

  • You are not alone.  When you are tempted, your experiences are not unique.  All of us are tempted.  Everyone, old and young, male and female, goes through temptations almost every day. No human being is exempt from temptations.  Even Jesus was tempted, although He never succumbed to them.  He understands what you are going through, because He’s been there.
  • Temptations are all over, although they may vary among individuals:  drugs (Tim), drinking (Sam), smoking (Kay), eating (Lisa), pornography (Ted), greed (Mitch) (those who want to be rich fall into temptation: 1 Timothy 6:9), gambling (Harry), pride (Paul), vanity (Sue), self-pity (Bea), and so forth.  One of the mysteries in life is that God never removes temptations from our lives (this requires another sermon).
  • Temptations are unavoidable; however, you don’t have to fall into or succumb to them.  “It is better to shun the bait than to struggle in the snare” (Ravi Zacharias).

Understanding of the nature of temptation:  

  • Some of us wonder where in the world the temptation comes from.  The Bible identifies two sources of temptation: the human heart within and Satan without.   The heart of man and Satan the Tempter, the ultimate cause of evil.  One thing we never do in times of temptation: blame God.   Listen to James: “When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed” (James 1:13).
  •  Where does God stand in temptation, then?  He sets the boundaries of our temptations—how far we can be tempted.  God knows how much each of us can handle temptations and never allows us to be tempted beyond what we can bear.  Furthermore, He helps us by providing the way out (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Three Factors in Temptation:

  • Imagine you are standing in the middle of Temptation Coliseum.  Welcome to the arena of real life temptations.  You will see three factors involved in your battle with temptation.   First, Circumstances/situations.   Look at your surroundings when you are tempted.  In our daily lives, often we find ourselves in a situation where it is almost impossible to resist the temptation.   E.g. Sam the alcoholic is sitting in a bar with drinking buddies.  The best strategy is to flee from those tempting situations (1 Timothy 6:11).  E.g.2. Consider two men with sexual/sensual temptations.  First, Joseph, in Genesis 39, ran from the master’s wife who seduced him to commit adultery with a perfect circumstance where no one was around them.   Next, consider King David who fell into the temptation.   Joseph ran away from the temptation.  David ran into it.  The outcomes were quite different: Joseph became the prime minister of Egypt, while David murdered Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, to cover up his adultery.  So, do not put yourself in a situation where you are going to be tempted.   Do all you can to flee from the situation where you will be vulnerable to temptations.  Flee.
  • Next, beware of the tempter—the Devil.  He tempts everyone.  He tempts you.  He tempts me.  He even tempted Jesus.  Our enemy’s goal is very simple and clear: to destroy us and to nullify God’s work in our life (1 Thessalonians 3:5).  E.g. David Wilkerson said, “I believe Satan’s most powerful weapon against God’s people is temptation and lust that leads to sin.  His purpose is to engulf believers in guilt, fear, and condemnation—to make them discouraged and downcast (bolded for emphasis).  And the more they love Jesus, the hotter and heavier their temptation will be.”  By the way, Satan knows exactly which button to push to tempt you.  This is how he works: he makes a careful observation of your life pattern (the way you act and react) and knows to push the button which you cannot refuse.  E.g. Think of Eve in the Garden of Eden.  Before the serpent approached to tempt her, I bet, Eve herself went near to the forbidden tree often looking and admiring the beauty of tree more often than Adam did.  And, guess who the tempter approached first and how he did it.  “Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1)
  • Guess what: If Harry the gambler frequented a casino in A.C., Satan would push the button in him–the desire to become rich quick.  He would assail him by all senses (eyes, ears, nose, tongue) to make him succumb to the temptations.
  •  The Bible prescribes the best way to handle our enemy: it is to resist the Devil and he will flee from you (James 4:7).
  • Third, we need to understand our inner disposition.  I don’t have to tell you that our heart and mind are a spiritual battleground.  We feel the tug of war constantly—between the desire to have instant gratification and the heart that resists the very same temptation.  The Bible commands us to “Take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).  We need to learn how to discern and filter out thoughts in our hearts and minds, because some of them are from our enemy who puts the thoughts of temptation in our hearts and minds.  E.g. John 13:2—the Devil put the thought of betrayal in Judas’s heart.  Do not give any chance to our enemy to tempt you through thoughts.

Help is available in times of temptation:

  • Finally, we must not forget that help is available.  Remember that God never leaves us alone in times of temptation.  He provides us with means to resist and overcome the temptations and to lead a triumphant life in Christ.  His help comes in three forms: the Word of God“I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11), prayer“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41), and the Holy Spirit—who constantly offers intercessory prayer on your behalf–“the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans (Romans 8:26).  Therefore, surround and gird yourself with this three-way protection.  You will lead a victorious life.
  • Recap: Flee from temptations.  Resist the Tempter.  Guard your heart and mind with God’s Word, prayer, and the Holy Spirit.

 

  • Amen.

 

Today Pastor Choi talks about God’s provision for His people.  He draws his insight from two verses in the Bible: Romans 8:32 and Philippians 4:19.   He expounds on the basis of provision (love), how God provides all things good along with Christ, and what all things entail.

    Rely on God’s Resources (5)

 

Following is a summary of the sermon:

Rely on God’s Resources (5): His Provision                    Romans 8:32, Philippians 4:19

  • Romans 8:32
  • New International Version (NIV)
  • 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
  • Philippians 4:19
  • New International Version (NIV)
  • 19 And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

Introduction:

  • Group discussion for 3 minutes: “When was the last time you experienced God’s provision for your needs?”

Romans 8:32 (Underline He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not, along with him, all things?)

  • He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?   This reminds us of the truth that our salvation was costly to God: free to us, but very costly to God.  It was not done casually, but very seriously.  It was not done lightly, but it cost the very own life of Jesus, God’s own son, to save us.  That means, in God’s sight, you and I are extremely valuable and precious that God did not hesitate to give up His own son to save us from our sins.
  • Your own child vs. everything else:  Which is more important to you?  E.g. No parent would give up her/his child for anything else.  But, God did because He loves us.  Therefore, let us be forever thankful for our salvation.  Let’s be always proud of what God has done for us in Christ.  Let us never forget that we are children of God.
  •  how will he not : He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?  Logic behind this verse is this: If God didn’t spare His own son to save us from our sins, how do you think He will not give the rest of the things we need? The logic goes on: No good thing will be withheld from us (Packer, p. 264, Knowing God).  Basically, Paul says here, it is impossible for God not to do this for us.  God provides us with everything that is good in Christ.  Love is the driving force for the provision.  E.g. Sunlight and rain even to the wicked (Matthew 5:45).  His overwhelming and amazing love provides for every need we have.
  • Along with him:  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?    All the things we receive from God come along in a package—that package is the Son of God.  E.g. A Story of Portrait of a Son

A wealthy man and his son loved to collect rare works of art. They had everything in their collection from Rembrandt’s to Van Gogh’s. They would often sit together and admire the great works of art. When the Vietnam War broke out, the son went to war. He was very courageous and died while saving the life of another soldier. The father was notified and grieved deeply for his only son.

About a month later, around 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 the lives of many men that day, and he was carrying me to safety when a bullet struck him in the heart and he was killed instantly. He often talked about you and your love for art.”

The young man held out his package. “I know this isn’t much, and I’m not really a great artist, but I think your son would’ve 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. The father was drawn to the eyes that his own eyes welled up with tears. He thanked the young man and offered to pay him for it. “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 a visitor came, he directed them to the painting of his son, recounting the story, before taking them to see any other works of art.

The man died a few months later. There was to be a great auction of all his paintings. Many influential people gathered, excited to see the vast collections of Picassos and Raphaels the man had amassed and having the opportunity to bid on the collection. On the platform sat the painting of the son. The auctioneer pounded his gavel. “Who will start the bidding on the picture of the son? Who will bid for the son?”

There was silence. Then a voice from the back of the room said, “We want to see the famous paintings. Skip this one.”

But the auctioneer persisted. “Who will start the bidding, $100, $200?”

Another voice shouted angrily. “We didn’t come to see this painting. We came to see the Rembrandts and Van Gogh’s.  Get on with the real bids!”

But still the auctioneer continued. “The son, the son!  Who will take the son?”

Finally, a voice came from the back of the room. It was the longtime gardener of the man. “I’ll give $10 for the picture.”

Being a poor man, it was all he could afford. “We have $10, who’ll give $20?”

“Give it to him for $10. Let’s see the masters!”

“$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 his gavel.

“Going once, going twice, sold for $10” A man on the front 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 valuable paintings. The man who took the son gets everything.”

God gave his Son 2,000 years ago to die on a cruel cross. Much like the auctioneer, his message is, “The Son, the Son, who’ll take the Son?” because, you see, whoever takes the Son, gets everything! 

Author unknown (http://www.crystal reflections.com/stories/story_130.htm)

  • All things:  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?:  Mind you that all things here never mean to be plethora of material possessions.  E.g. J.I. Packer: “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 (bolded for emphasis).  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). 
  • Here, all things include, but are not limited to 1) God’s calling us to be His children, 2) His justification that made us righteous before the Holy God because of Christ’s redemption, and 3) His commitment to sanctify us into the Christ-like image for His kingdom, and 4) His promise to have us in His presence for eternity.
  • Furthermore, all things that are good, not that we can think of, but that God can think of.  We may think hotdogs and hamburgers are good enough, but God may think of fillet mignon.  We may be content with a cottage, but God may have a palace in mind.  Listen to Packer again: “If God denies us something, it is only in order to make room for one or other of the things he has in mind” (ibid.).  E.g. Lilly Endowment Application: had I been accepted to the program, I wouldn’t have been able to come to Manahawkin congregation this year.
  • Philippians 4:19: (Underline all, needs, and riches)
  •  All: “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus— Original Greek says, every need: spiritual, mental, emotional, financial, and physical need.  All our needs in daily life.  Beware of the brainwashing of the worldly teachings that all we need is physical and material.
    Rather, listen to Jesus who says, “Man cannot live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).
  • Needs: And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus- Note here: needs not wants.   It would be foolish of us to believe that God grants us anything and everything we desire.  Never think or treat God as a genie in the bottle.
  • Riches: And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.  Ponder the riches of God who owns everything in the universe.  Will He ever run out His supply for our needs?  This verse is Paul’s everlasting testimony that God supplies all our needs.  So it is mine.  May God help us to prove this truth in our lives, too.    Let our lives demonstrate God’s faithfulness to His promise: God provides.
  • Amen.

 

Today Pastor Choi continues focusing on God’s resources that are available to God’s people.  This time it is God’s peace that transcends circumstances.  He also talks about how we can get God’s peace in our hearts and minds: by trusting in God, by trusting in God’s providence, and by fixing our eyes, hearts, and minds on nothing or nobody but on God.

    Rely on God’s Resources (4). His Peace

Following is a summary of the sermon:

Rely on God’s Resources (4): His Peace                 Isaiah 26:3, 1 Peter 5:7

  • Isaiah 26:3
  • New International Version (NIV)
  • You will keep in perfect peace
    those whose minds are steadfast,
    because they trust in you.
  • 1 Peter 5:7
  • New International Version (NIV)
  • Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Introduction:

  • Three Bible translations caught my attention (King James, New American Standard, New International).  They say that God will keep in perfect peace those who trust in Him.  I asked myself, “Why perfect peace? Why not just peace?  What’s that mean?”  In the original Hebrew text, it says, “You will keep in Shalom Shalom (repeats twice);שָׁלֹ֣ום ׀ שָׁלֹ֑ום .”  The literary technique used here is to ensure the readers, God’s people, to understand the meaning of the writer, God: never ever forget that those whose hearts are fixed on the LORD will have peace in their lives.
  • Number of the occurrences of “Peace” in the Bible: Total 250 times.  OT: 155 NT: 95.  You may wonder what’s the importance of word frequency in the Bible?  The more frequent a word is, the more significant it is.  Besides some common words such as “the (almost 64,000), and, of, to, that,” and so forth, the most important nouns are LORD (6749), God (3995: by the Psalms it occurs about 2000 times, OT: 2678, NT: 1317—OT as twice many as NT)  (cf. Esther doesn’t mention God).  Money (113: 61 OT 52 NT), Pleasure(s) (38: OT 28, NT 10), Health (22), Heaven(s) (622).  Family (205). Worries (4) (OT:1, NT:3) Anxiety (7: OT 5 NT 2). Fear(-s, -ed, -ful) (336: OT 268 NT:68). Peace is very important for us to know.  So is it to our daily life.  Everyone longs for peace.
  • For my curiosity, I checked out how often we have peace in human history.  I put the following question on Google search: How many wars have there been in the world? 
  • Answer:  (bolded certain parts for emphasis)
  • There can be no definite answer to this question, given that when speaking of war we can speak of international wars, intra-national wars. Also there is often contention over what constitutes a war.However, estimates suggest that for 362 days of the year, there is a conflict going on somewhere in the world. This excludes internal (or civil) wars. Estimates also suggest that there have only been 250 years of peace in over 3400 years of documented history. (Some people suggest there have only been 26 days of peace). 

    There are currently over 40 wars ongoing, in which over 1000 people die per year (those which result in fewer deaths are excluded from UN statistics), occurring world wide. There have been hundreds since the end of the Second World War. ”

    (http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_many_wars_have_there_been_in_the_world)

  • As Lloyd Cory said, “Peace is the brief glorious moment in history when everybody stands around reloading.” (Lloyd Cory, Quote Unquote)
  • We desire not only peace in the world, peace in the nation, peace in society, but also peace at home, and especially peace in mind and heart.

Contents:

  • If all of us want peace so badly in our hearts and minds, why does it seem like so little people have/enjoy it?   Perhaps, the reason why many people don’t have it is because they may look for peace in the wrong places.   When was the last time that you were disillusioned with broken promises of peace made by either politicians or bank accounts?  E.g. I know a retiree from Lucent Technology with millions of dollars of company stocks.  He lost everything when the company stock lost values.  Let’s not be fooled.  True and lasting peace is found only in God.  God alone gives such peace that is good both inside of our hearts and outside in the world.
  • What is divine peace?  It’s the peace God gives to His children.  This is what God’s Word says about divine peace.
  • God is the author of peace, establishes peace, gives peace (Isa. 26:12, Jer. 14:13, Jn. 14:27).  He is our peace (1 Co. 14:33).  Christ is our peace (Eph. 2:14).  Jesus is the Prince of peace.
  • The God of peace wants us to have the peace of Christ in our hearts.
  • The peace that God gives is a kind of peace that doesn’t rely on happy occasions or bad circumstances.  In fact, it never relies on outside circumstances.  It is transcendental.  It is that calm of mind and heart that isn’t shaken by adversity.  It is a rather strange calm that human words cannot explain, but the person knows it when s/he receives it from God.
  • How do we get God’s peace?  There is only one way.  You cannot buy God’s peace.  You get it only by trusting in Him.  Trusting in God is same as putting your heart and mind in His care, in His hands, and in His purpose.  The image in Isaiah 26:3 is this: the heart of the one who trusts in the Lord is sustained by God like pottery is in the masterful hands of potter. Imagine that you want to keep a most delicate jewel in the most secure safe in the world.  Let me tell you: your heart is that jewel and the most secure safe in the world is God.
  •  Reality Check: what do you trust in?  Really.   E.g. Dollar bill “In God We Trust.”  Really?   Do we not rather trust in our bank accounts, health, family, government?  You can easily find out by yourself what you really trust in by looking at what you constantly think of and where your mind and heart are set on.
  • Here’s what I mean by trusting in the Lord.  Trusting in God means that we don’t rely on our own understanding of what’s going on in our lives.  Rather, we believe/profess that God knows what He is doing.  E.g.  A man holding onto a branch of tree on cliff for life, screaming for help.  He prays to God for help…God says, “Let go of the branch.”…Without letting go of the branch, he screams again, “Is anyone else out there?”
  • Trusting in God also means that we set our minds and eyes on Him, not anything/anybody else.  E.g. Apostle Peter walked a few steps on water before he began to sink, because he was afraid of what was going around him when his eyes were off from Jesus.
  • The same Peter speaks to us in 1 Peter 5:7 about the way we handle our daily anxiety: Cast away (and do not claim back) anxiety to God, because He cares for you (literal translation: Your business is His).  E.g.   When the disciples were about to drown in the middle of lake one night, they woke up Jesus saying, “Master, you sure care about us, don’t you?”

Closing:

  • Horatio Stafford, a business man in Chicago, sent his wife and three daughters to Europe by ship while he remained back in the States, intending to join them later.  En route there was a terrible storm and a shipwreck during which their three daughters drowned.  Mrs. Stafford made it to safety and wired back saying, “All of our daughters have been lost.  Only I have been saved.”  He took the next vessel.  As they came near the place where his daughters drowned, the skipper of the ship pointed to the place where the other ship had gone down.  It was there on the deck of the ship he wrote these stirring words: When peace like a river attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, “It is well, it is well with my soul” (John Haggai, How to Win over Worry).
  • Horatio’s eyes, his heart and mind were fixed on Jesus, not on the tragedy.  He still declares to us that the Lord knows what He is doing.  He shows us how we dwell in God’s perfect peace: by trusting in the Lord.
  • Amen.

Today Manahawkin congregation celebrated Laity Sunday acknowledging and appreciating all the volunteers who served the Lord and God’s people.  Lay Speaker Louise Jones and John Parker (finance chair) shared the pulpit reflecting on the meaning of family and ministry.

 Laity Sunday 2013

Today Pastor Choi talks about another resource of God that we can rely on in times of need: God’s faithfulness.  Through the eyes of Prophet Jeremiah, the message looks at God’s faithfulness as the best antidote to disappointment and despair.

Rely on God’s Resources (3)

 

Following is a summary of the sermon:

Rely on God’s Resources: His faithfulness  Lamentations 3:22-23, Numbers 3:19

Lamentations 3:22-23

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,        
    his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.

 

Numbers 23:19

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

19 God is not a human being, that he should lie,
    or a mortal, that he should change his mind.
Has he promised, and will he not do it?
    Has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?

 

Recap: The last two Sundays, I talked about the divine resources that God has made available to us for our life’s journey.  First, the Holy Spirit is with us.  He is our teacher, comforter, and guide.  Listen to Him always.  Next, we have God’s strength.  Those who rely on God’s strength will never go wrong.

Today, I am going to talk about the third resource of God: His faithfulness.  We often talk about an animal’s faithfulness such as a dog’s faithfulness to its owners.  We are also impressed with and appreciative of people’s faithfulness to each other such as in marriage relationships.  However, we seldom think about God’s faithfulness even in the church.  This morning, I am introducing God’s faithfulness to you as one of our resources we can tap into in times of need (disappointment and despair).   If God’s presence is the best antidote to fear, God’s faithfulness is the best antidote to despair.

Let me begin with the definition of faithfulness so that we may stay on the same page.  I looked it up in the Oxford dictionary and this is what it says: faithfulness: noun of faithful.  Being faithful.  So, I had to look further up the word faithful.  And, this is what it says: faithful– Staying with, supporting a particular person/ True and accurate/ Not changing/ Loyal/ Able to be trusted; that you can rely on—I later realized that all these definitions are indebted to ancient Hebrew words such as Hasad and Amuna: loving kindness and faithfulness, the two divine attributes that often go hand in hand.   In fact, those two words appear in today’s text Lamentations 3:22-23:

  • 22 The steadfast love [Hasad:  חַֽסְדֵ֤י]of the Lord never ceases, [deeds of loving kindness never cease: mine]       
        his mercies never come to an end;
    23 they are new every morning;
        great is your faithfulness[Amuna:אֱמוּנָתֶֽך].

 

  • Jeremiah asserts that God’s loving kindness never ceases or comes to an end.  It never runs out.  In God, we find an unlimited supply of mercies and compassion for us.  This surely defies our notion of the Old Testament God who is harsh and cruel, doesn’t it?

 

  • At first, I struggled with this passage as I prepared my message.  Pondering the verses over and over, I felt as if Prophet Jeremiah was saying to me, “You don’t know what I’ve been through!”  Sure, I really don’t know what he has been through.  All I know was the background information of his time.  Since I don’t have the same experience Jeremiah had, I was unable to fully understand God’s faithfulness which Jeremiah talks about; therefore, I felt unqualified to speak about God’s faithfulness.  Furthermore, I was quite struck with his confession despite his affliction.  Such conviction deeply rooted in affliction surely makes his declaration of God’s faithfulness far more powerful, real, and poignant than anyone else’s.  E.g. Holocaust survivor’s testimony on God.  At the end, I reasoned, “Even after such hardship and life’s disappointment, if he can confess that God is still faithful and that God is still worthy to be trusted and hoped for, how much more should I put my hope in God and in His unfailing faithfulness?”

 

  • Historical background: here’s a little background information about Jeremiah and his time.  In the early 6th century, B.C., Prophet Jeremiah was still active.  In front of his eyes, Israel (the Kingdom of Judah to be exact) was destroyed by the foreign enemy in 586 B.C.  They burned the house of the Lord, the king’s house, and all the houses of Jerusalem.  The enemy army broke down all the walls around Jerusalem.  Furthermore, they took thousands of people, nobles and commoners alike, as captives to Babylon (Jeremiah 52:12-16).  This historical event is called the Babylonian Captivity that lasted 70 years.  Jeremiah wasn’t sent away, though.  In fact, he was left behind in his homeland with the weak and the poor.  Day and night, he witnessed and grieved over the utter destruction of his beloved country and her people.  His despair and affliction were thoroughly recorded in the book of Lamentations.  In today’s text, Jeremiah begins the chapter with his anguish about the way the Lord treated His own people (“I am one who has seen affliction under the rod of God’s wrath; v. 1), yet at the end of his lament, surprisingly he returns to God declaring that he still trusts in the Lord and His everlasting faithfulness for His people.  What a confession!  What a faith!  What a tough example to follow!
  • Jeremiah’s theology: The Scripture says, “To the faithful, God shows Himself faithful” (2 Samuel 22:36).  I believe God showed Himself faithful to Jeremiah because Jeremiah remained faithful to Him.  This kind of faith that Jeremiah had only comes from a man who believes deep in his heart that the Lord does no wrong (Deuteronomy 32:4) to His people.  E.g. Job and his wife.  Jeremiah must have known the verse well as this:  9 Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His loving-kindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments; (Dt. 7:9).  He believed that the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful (Ps. 25:10).  To him, the divine works are faithful and just (Ps. 111:7) even though they sometimes mean to His people total ruin and destruction.  He learned anew that God is faithful even when His people are faithless (2 Tim. 2:13).  He says that he experiences such divine faithfulness anew every morning.  His conclusion on God’s faithfulness to God’s people: steadfast and never changing.  God is always faithful in all He does (Ps. 33:4).   He never flip-flops.  He remains faithful forever (Ps. 146:6).  Therefore, he exhorts the audience to stick with God relying on Him and having hope in Him always, especially in times of despair.
  • There must have been a question in Jeremiah’s heart, though:  If God is so faithful to His people, how can any one explain this destruction?
  • Jeremiah realized that the cause of destruction of his country and the ruins of his people lied, not in the Lord, but in their unfaithfulness to the Lord such as worshiping other gods and practicing injustice against God’s commandments.  Their hardship was the direct consequences of the choices they had made: disobedience to God and not keeping His commandments.  In the midst and through the affliction, Jeremiah rediscovers who and what kind of God His God is: the God who holds His people accountable and the God who is faithful to His people and promises.  That leads us to our next verse.
  • Let’s read Numbers 3:19 together in one voice, shall we?
  • 19 God is not a human being, that he should lie,
        or a mortal, that he should change his mind (or he feels sorry for what he has done:   mine)
    Has he promised, and will he not do it?
        Has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?
  • God is faithful to His promises.  He faithfully keeps the promises He has made for us (Ps. 145:13) (Heb. 10:23).    I have discovered in the Bible where God demonstrates His faithfulness to us His people in the following four ways:
    • He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear (1 Co. 10:13).
    • He will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one (2 Thess. 3:3).
    • He will sanctify you through and through (1 Thess. 5:24).
    • He will forgive you your sins (1 John 1:9).

Closing:  So, in times of disappointment with God, and in times of despair, let us recall to our mind and have hope in God and stick with God.  When we go through fiery trials, let us remember that God can be trusted and we can rely on Him.  He stays with us, supports us, and protects us.  He is true and accurate.  He doesn’t flip flop.  He is loyal to us.  He is faithful to us forever.  Rely on His faithfulness.

Amen.

 

Today Pastor Choi talks about the second divine resource that God has made available for us to tap into in times of need: God’s strength.  Expounding on Isaiah 41:10 and Philippians 4:13, he exhorts the congregation to rely not on their own wisdom and might but on God’s.

  Rely on God’s Resources (2)

Following is a summary of his sermon:

Rely on God’s Resources: His Strength                    

  • Isaiah 41:10
  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
  • 10 do not fear, for I am with you,
    do not be afraid, for I am your God;
    I will strengthen you, I will help you,
    I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.
  • Philippians 4:13
  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
  • 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
  • Recap: Last Sunday, I started a new sermon series, “Rely on God’s Resources,” and talked about the resources God has made available to us for our life journey.  The first resource available to us is the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, who dwells in our hearts.  He resides in every believer who confesses that Jesus Christ is the Lord and Savior.
  • Today, I am going to talk about the second divine resource that we can tap into: God’s strength.
  • Nowadays, we are living in a constant state of fear and anxiety.  Everything today seems fragile, volatile, uncertain, and unpredictable.  Think, for a moment, of our society, our government, our national security and economy, let alone our health and families.  I don’t have to go further.
  • We are inundated with heart-wrenching, sad, and fear-raising news every single day.  People in the media, in competition with each other, seem determined to bring the shocking news to us by all means.   Do they even care about the impact of news on the audience?   We cannot completely shut down the news, either.   I wish all of us were free from fears and anxieties.  I wish we would be exempt from all life’s uncertainties.
  • However, we are not.  In fact, I, your spiritual leader, am no different from you.  Almost every day, I too go through life’s uncertainties, challenges, struggles, worries, or fears.  I too know what it is like to have worries and fears.  Here’s an example.
  • About twenty years ago, I was in Michigan serving a small congregation.  At that time, my daughter was about 3 or 4 years old.  Like today, back then, I would pray for her every night.  I still remember one particular night.  I was on my knees praying for God’s protection on my daughter from any harm and evil forces.  All of a sudden, in my heart, a fear arose about her future.  The fear was about what would happen to her when both of her parents were gone (she had no siblings and no relatives in the States.  All of them lived in South Korea).  The fear totally gripped me and began to take away the peace from my heart.  That feeling of panic bothered me greatly, so I continued on asking God the question: Lord, indeed, who’s going to be there for my daughter in times of need, when neither of us (parents) is around?  I remember how God answered my question that night.  I love the way He did.  He answered my question with a set of three questions.
  • The first question He raised in my heart was this: Do you remember when you first came to America?  “Yes, Lord,” I answered.   In fact, I still do quite vividly that summer of 1985, August 2, to be exact.  Both my wife and I landed at the O’Hare International Airport in Chicago with several pieces of luggage and $5,000 in cash.
  • The second question from the Lord was: Who took care of you since then?  “No brainer, Lord,” I answered, “It was You.”  Indeed, He provided everything my family needed more sufficiently than we ever imagined.
  • The third question from the Lord was the clincher: “Don’t you believe that I will still be around long after you both are gone and be there for your daughter as I always have been for you?”  That did it!  It melted away my fear right away!  That night, the Lord assured me, once and for all, that He is with me and my family forever and takes care of us!  Amen.  The antidote to our fears is the presence of the Lord.
  •  That leads us to our first verse: Isaiah 41:10.
  • Here, the LORD spoke to His people, Israel, through the mouth of the Prophet Isaiah.  Obviously, Israel as a nation, even back then, was fragile, caught in between the mighty powerhouses such as Assyria and Egypt.  Fear and anxiety of an uncertain future filled up the hearts of the people.  So, God spoke to them,
  • 10 do not fear, for I am with you,
    do not be afraid, for I am your God;
    I will strengthen you, I will help you,
    I will uphold you with my victorious right hand
    (Isaiah 41:10).
  • Let me unpack the verse.  First, God says, “do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God;” The English translation doesn’t do us justice here: it barely shows the meaning of the original Hebrew.   The better translation would be: God says, “stop fearing.”  God saw His people already engaged in fear and worries about their future.  So, He says to them, “Stop fearing now!”  In the same way, God sees what we are going through.  He knows you and I are already engaged in constant worries and fears.  And, to us, He says this morning, “Stop fearing, my child!  Stop being afraid!”
  • In the next sentence, God provides us with the reasons why we should stop fearing.  Because He is with us.  Because He is our God.  Do you see what I see here?  Throughout the Old and New Testament times, God consistently provides His assurance to His people reminding that He is with them.  However, we the people of God constantly forget that truth and keep worrying about our future.  This morning, He reminds us, once more, “Stop fearing, for I am with you.  Stop being afraid, for I am your God!”  He is not just anyone’s god, but your God.  My God.  E.g.  One pastor, in order not to forget God’s presence with him, would walk for the rest of his life with one hand closed as if he was holding someone’s hand in his.  In this case, he was holding the hand of Jesus.
  • Three promises: After the assurance of His presence with His people, God provides three promises to them: I will strengthen you, I will surely help you, and I will surely uphold you with my right hand of righteousness.  I love the way King James Bible puts it:  “I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”  Three times God repeats that He is our true source of strength and help.  Three times He reminds us that we ought to go to Him for help in times of need.
  • One more thing: with my right hand.  In Hebrew language, the right side means strength and might.  Here, God says to us that He will hold us with His mighty hand and will never let go of us.  Let God’s hand have a grip on you, not fear.
  • That leads us to Philippians 4:13.
  • Philippians 4:13
  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
  • 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
  • Here, Paul the apostle talks about the true source of his strength: not himself, but Christ who strengthens him.
  • Most of us are familiar with this verse and, in fact, this is a favorite verse to many.  How great it sounds!  How wonderful it is to know that we can do all things!  Often, though, focusing on this positive attitude that we can do all things, we easily forget who enables us to do all things.  It would be a great illusion/disaster to believe that we can do all things by our own might.  In fact, Paul is actually saying here that he cannot do anything without Christ who strengthens him.  He declares that Christ alone is the true source of all things possible, not himself.  If we believe otherwise, and if we believe in ourselves, it would be very risky.  E.g. G.K. Chesterton talks about people who are full of themselves in his book “Orthodoxy.” He writes: “Shall I tell you where the men are who believe most in themselves?  For I can tell you.  I know of men who believe in themselves more colossally than Napoleon or Caesar.  I know where flames the fixed star of certainty and success.  I can guide you to the thrones of the Supermen.  The men who really believe in themselves are all in lunatic asylums.” (p. 14).  He clearly points out the danger of being full of self: lunacy.
  • Paul wasn’t full of himself, here.  In fact, he discovered a simple yet profound truth in accomplishing anything in life: Do not rely on your own wisdom and might.  Rather, rely on God’s wisdom and His might, and you will never go wrong.    He later went on to say that when he was weak, that was when he was strong (2 Corinthians 12:10).  When he was weak, he relied on God’s strength, which in turn made him strong.  The same line of thinking also helped King David when he was fighting with Goliath.  He said to Goliath, “You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted (1 Samuel 17:45).”
  • Do not rely on your strength.  Rely on God’s.
  • Let’s pray.

 

 

Today Pastor Choi talks about relying on God’s resources for our daily walk with God.  As Part 1 of the series, he emphasizes the importance of knowing that we are God’s temple and that the Holy Spirit dwells in our hearts.

  Rely on God’s Resources

 

 

Following is a summary of the sermon:

Rely on God’s Resources: Holy Spirit

  • 1 Corinthians 3:16
  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
  • 16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?
  • 1 Corinthians 2:12
  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
  • 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God.

Introduction:

  • A Christian friend of mine once was walking in his neighborhood.  He heard loud music coming from one of the houses down the street.  Out of curiosity, he headed in that direction.  As he arrived at the house where the music came from, he noticed that the gate was wide open.  There were several bystanders, too.  They all peeked into the house to watch what was going on.  My friend joined the crowd.  Inside the house, a shaman was doing her rituals, dancing to the drums.  Typically, the family would ask for blessings on the house or casting out an evil spirit that made someone sick in the family.  My friend never witnessed this kind of thing before, so he stood there watching for a few minutes.  Then, all of a sudden, the dance stopped along with the music.  Everyone was wondering what happened.  A couple of minutes later, the father of the house came out and asked if there was any Christian among the bystanders.  No one except my friend raised his hand.  Then, the owner begged him to leave the premises so that they could go on with the rituals.  My friend asked the owner why.  The explanation was: in the middle of her rituals, the shaman noticed the nearby presence of a spirit that was far greater than those spirits she was trying to appease.   Furthermore, the presence of that greater spirit prevented her from going on with her dance.  So, she had to stop and asked the father of the house if there was any Christian in the family.  When the owner said no, then, the shaman asked him to go outside and inquire of the bystanders.  That’s how he came out to my friend.  Anyway, as my friend left the place, he realized for the first time that he indeed carried in him a Spirit that is far greater than his own spirit – the Spirit of God, known as the Holy Spirit.
  • In the gospel stories, the same thing happened to Jesus.  Whenever evil spirits saw Jesus approach them, they all cried out acknowledging who Jesus was: the Son of the Most High.  These spirits knew who Jesus was long before than people did.   When people failed to see who Jesus was, all the spirits knew right away and recognized the Holy Spirit in Jesus.  You see, in the spiritual world, the spirits all know that there’s a greater spirit than they, and they also know that that greater spirit lives in us—the believers in Christ.  Say after me, please: the Holy Spirit is in me.  How many of us know this truth, though?  Not many.  This leads us to 1 Corinthians 3:16.

 

1 Corinthians 3:16

  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
  • 16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?
  • Do you not knowLiteral translation would be: You sure know, don’t you?  Greek grammar here:  the writer expects an affirmative answer from the readers.  They are expected to say, “Yes, we do.”  The same question is still relevant to today’s Christians.  You sure know about this truth, don’t you?  However, lots of believers still would say, “No, I don’t.”  This is one of the greatest spiritual tragedies among the believers today.  The ignorance of the presence of God’s Spirit in them.
  • This is a mere reflection of the spiritual climate in the American Church.  The Bible says that God is with us through His spirit in our hearts.  Yet, lots of believers are simply ignorant of this spiritual truth: we claim and believe that God is with us, but we don’t know how.  Somehow, we believe that God is with us both mysteriously and supernaturally, but never believe that God is indeed with us in our bodies through His spirit.
  • Speaking of ignorance of God’s truth, it is never God’s will for us to stay that way, especially on God’s resources available to us such as His spirit.  I believe our poor experiences of God result from the ignorance of God’s resources in us.  God has made divine resources available to us (and the Holy Spirit is the number one resource,) yet seldom do we tap into those resources.  No wonder our walk with God is so dry and boring.
  • Jesus says in John 14:21, “They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me.”   I can safely say, then, that those who don’t keep His commandments don’t love Him.  How can we love Jesus when we don’t even know what His commandments are and what He wants us to do?  The ignorance of God’s Word is equal to not loving Him.
  • You are God’s temple and God’s Spirit dwells in you:  What is the temple of God?  It is the place where God dwells.  Not physically but spiritually, since God doesn’t have a physical body like we do.  He is a Spirit.  God’s temple is the place where we come and worship.  It is the place where we offer our prayers to God.  Jesus says God’s temple to be the house of prayer.  Paul the apostle here calls our body that temple of God where God dwells.  As God dwells in His temple through His Spirit, so does He in our body through His Spirit.  (Cf. 2 Corinthians 1:22: Holy Spirit in our hearts as mark of salvation, Galatians 4:6, Romans 5:5).  E.g. A person who smokes, as a matter of fact, fills God’s temple with smoke.
  • Let’s be clear on the understanding of our body.  Our body is no longer ours but God’s.  It belongs to God not to us.  God is the owner and we are stewards.  Take good care of God’s temple.
  • Same truth goes with the Church: the body of Christ.  Church is not one of the social gatherings like clubs, but rather it is the place where God dwells among His children.  Wherever we gather in the name of Jesus as church, so is God in our midst.
  • How can it be that God is with us in our hearts through the Holy Spirit?  E.g. A farmer’s wife asked her pastor a question how the Spirit of God can be in millions of believers’ hearts at the same time.  Pastor explained that His presence is like the moon’s reflection on the surface of waters in rice paddies in full moon.  She understood perfectly.

1 Corinthians 2:12

  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
  • 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God.
  • Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God:  We see here a spiritual dichotomy of two spirits around us.  God’s spirit vs. the spirit of the world.  God’s spirit dwells and works among His children.  The spirit of the world dwells and works among the non-believers.  We the believers received the Spirit of God.  People who don’t know Christ receive the spirit of the world.  Notice here the past tense (i.e., we have received).  Not will receive, but already received the Holy Spirit.  We have the Holy Spirit in us.  Yet, a lot of us remain ignorant of this spiritual truth and, therefore, live our Christian life without the aid of the Holy Spirit.  Any Christian who walks life’s journey without the help of the Holy Spirit is like a spiritual orphan to God.  Orphans who are left alone without parental protection and love are often a target of mockery and harassments.
  • Naturally, that is exactly what our enemy Satan, the spirit of the world, tries to do to us.  His age old strategy against God’s children is to keep them in ignorance of God’s truth and harassing them like orphans.  In fact, by not getting into the word of God, and therefore remaining in ignorance of God’s truth, we are doing a great favor to our adversary and doing a great disservice to ourselves.  Furthermore, it is far easier for Satan to harass those folks who are ignorant of God’s truth than those who are in the Word of God.
  • Here’s what Jesus did to His disciples before He left earth.  He promised to them that He would not leave them orphaned.  Rather, He would send the Helper and Comforter to each believer.  Listen to what Jesus said to them in John 14:18, 25:            
  • 18 I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.25 “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Advocate,the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.”
  •  In John 15:26, He also promised to send the Holy Spirit, the Advocate:
  • 26 “When the Advocatecomes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf.
  • So that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God: so that we may understand what God has freely given us such as  eternal life and salvation.
  • Also, the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23): love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
  • Let us never forget that we have great resources from God, the Holy Spirit.  God never leaves us orphaned.  He is not far from us.  He is within us through the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is our helper, teacher, advocate, truth-teller, and comforter.  It is time that we turned to the Spirit of God in us for wisdom, guidance, and courage.
  • Let’s pray.

 

Today Pastor Choi talks about the importance of sharing the good news, the gospel, with our loved ones.  He talks about not being ashamed of the gospel which is God’s power for salvation to all who believe in the name of Jesus and also about responding to Jesus’ call to be fishers of people so that we all together share the eternal life in the presence of God.

   Live the New Life (6): Evangelism

 

Following is a summary of the sermon:

Live the New Life (6): Evangelism                 Matthew 4:19, Romans 1:16

  • Matthew 4:19
  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
  • 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.”
  • Romans 1:16
  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
  • The Power of the Gospel
  • 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

Introduction:

  • If you had to choose someone who made a world of difference in your life, who would that be?  If you had to name someone to whom you are most grateful, who would that be?  (Talk with your neighbors for the next minute or two.)
  • It could be your parents who gave life and raised you well.  It could be a friend who helped you with finances.  It could be your first grade teacher who instilled the love of books in your heart.  It could be your boss who led you to a great job.  It could be a matchmaker who introduced you to your spouse.  The list goes on.
  • In my case, I would choose someone to whom I owe my life, literally.  First, I would choose my friends at high school.  In the summer of 1973, we were vacationing together at one of my friend’s house whose father was an admiral of the Korean Navy.  One afternoon, we all went swimming at the bay.  I almost drowned that day.  Unless my friends had come to rescue me, I would have been a goner.  Next, I would choose my brother as the person to whom I am most grateful.  If I am grateful to my two high school friends who made a difference by adding forty years to my life, how much more should I be grateful to my brother who made an eternal difference in my life?  How did he do so?  With a simple invitation to join him at church.  I still thank God for my brother who made a world of difference both in this life and in the life to come.  I am eternally grateful to him for introducing me to Jesus.
  • Wouldn’t you like to be the one who makes the eternal difference in someone else’s life?  I would like to be that one.
  • This morning, we are going to think about evangelism.  This is the word that was hijacked and misused by a few Christian politicians especially around election seasons.  It sometimes carries negative publicity among people saying, “Those evangelical Christians!”  It is time that we reclaimed this beautiful word in our faith.  Evangelism is originated from a Greek Word “ευαγγελιον” which means the good news, the gospel.  This morning, I invite you to think with me about the good news, the gospel, especially sharing the good news with others.   What is evangelism?  It is the act of sharing the greatest news of all with others.  This leads us to Romans 1:16.
  • Let’s listen to Paul the Apostle:  16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
  • Paul was not ashamed of the gospel.  Neither should we.   I pray that none of us are ashamed either of the gospel or of Jesus.  America today is not really a gospel friendly nation.  E.g. Pressures from outside such as government, in the name of separation of church and state, make it extremely hard to share the gospel with others.  E.g. Gideons are forbidden to distribute pocket Bibles to students on school premises.   Sometimes we hide our faith from people in the name of privacy.   We’d rather keep our faith to ourselves.  But, let’s make sure that we are not ashamed of the gospel.  E.g.  A boy during the Korean War: didn’t deny the Lord and the Lord spared him from being executed by the communists.  As much as we believe Jesus’ promise that He will give us eternal life in heaven, we must also believe His word that if we are ashamed of Him in front of others, He too will be ashamed of us in the presence of angels (Mark 8:38).
  • It is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith: We tend to think that God’s power is always something supernatural, some miracles and wonders.  Yet, here, Paul says the gospel is God’s power for salvation to those who believe.   The same gospel is foolishness to those who don’t believe in Jesus and what He has done.  But, for us, it is God’s power who rescues us from the bondage of sin and the power of death.
  • Here we see that the gospel is for everyone.  Both for Jews and gentiles.  It is for Buddhists and Hindus. It covers all race, gender, and age.   It is God’s power for salvation for all.  Everyone is invited to accept God’s salvation through the gospel.
  • Let’s look at Matthew 4:19 where Jesus invited Peter and his brother Andrew to follow Him.  Both of them were full-time fishermen at the time.  At Jesus’ invitation, both dropped everything and followed Jesus.  The same Christ invites us today to be the same: fishers of people.
  • Fishers of people, not fishers of fish.  We can learn a lesson or two from real fishermen.  Did you know that none of them is casual about their vocation but dedicated?  They work hard every day, no matter how bad the weather or season may be.  Sometimes they have good catch.  Other times, they have none.  However, they always go out to fish.  Their minds and hearts are always out there where the fish are.  They constantly think of the best ways to catch fish, too.  So should every believer.   As fishers of people, our hearts and minds ought to be with people, constantly thinking of the best ways to bring people to Christ.
  • Why does Jesus call us to be fishers of people?  So that people too can come to Him through the message of good news from us.  How can anyone become a believer unless she hears about the gospel first?  And, how can one hear about the gospel unless someone else shares it with her?  E.g. A high school friend of mine.  He and I were buddies, the best friends.  He was a believer before me.  One thing bothered me the most, though, was the fact that he never said one single word to me about becoming a Christian (church, Jesus, salvation, eternal life, or Heaven).  In other words, he had all the good things in Christ yet never shared with me.  Wouldn’t you rather have someone recognize you in the presence of God saying, “Lord, please remember (your name) because s/he shared the gospel with me and led me to Christ?”  This is what evangelism is all about: stand by someone to share the gospel and eternal life together.

Action Points:

  • We don’t have to be like Paul to share the gospel with others.  We can begin with someone whom we already know well; it can be our best friends.  It can be our family members.  It can be our coworkers.  It can be our neighbors.  It can be our school friends.  Let’s begin with someone we are familiar with.
  • Take your friend’s name to God: Ask God to open the door of evangelism for you.  Ask Him to provide you with the right opportunity to share the gospel with your friend.  Ask God to open the heart of your friend so that s/he may listen to the gospel message.
  • Take God’s name to your friend:   After you asked for God’s help in prayer, then go to your friend in the name of Jesus.  Ask God to give the right words that you need to say to your friend.
  • Don’t get discouraged with the first try.  Remember too that believing in Jesus doesn’t have to start with church, either.  Some of the people carry a negative image of the church such as “organized religion,” or “full of hypocrites.”  Stick to the salvation message.  Tell them how much Jesus loves them.  In due time, they will join the church as well.  Be friends first.  Let them see your genuine interests and motives.   Be there for them whenever they need you.  Let them see your light in Christ.
  • Let us pray.

Today Pastor Choi talks about the power of fellowship and importance of gathering in the name of Jesus in the believer’s life.  As the Day approaches, we ought not to neglect to meet together all the more provoking one another to love and to good deeds.

 Live the New Life (5): Fellowship

 

Following is a summary of the sermon:

Live the New Life (5): Fellowship

Matthew 18:20, Hebrews 10-24-25

  • Matthew 18:20
  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
  • 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”
  • Hebrews 10:24-25
  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
  • 24 And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Introduction:

  • 1996 was a tough year for me and my family.  It all began with my wife losing weight.  At first, it was great news (who doesn’t want to lose a pound or two, right?).  However, as she continued losing weight and became very thin, we began to be concerned about it.  Furthermore, because she couldn’t handle stresses well (part of the symptoms), she began to isolate herself from people including her own family.  Later on, her illness was diagnosed as overactive thyroid.   It was finally regulated through radiation treatment.  Anyway, for about six months, while this was going on, I did as much as I could as a husband and as father.  One night, though, I had enough.  I had to let out my pent-up emotions by opening the backdoor of my house and screaming into the corn field.
  • While this was going on, I had to preach on Sundays.  I still remember one Sunday, during the Passing of the peace, one teenager, whose name was Chris, came up to me and said, “Pastor Choi, how are you?”  I don’t think he knew what was going on in my life at the time.  However, his simple three words of greeting brought me to tears.  I felt like, “Here’s someone who finally cares about me.”  That day, I experienced the power of words.  Furthermore, I experienced the power of gathering together.  Without church and without him being there with me, I would have never experienced the power of words that brought me comfort and encouragement.  That’s what I am going to talk about this morning: fellowship and being together.
  • John Donne once said, “No man is an island.”  The Chinese knew that as well.  The Chinese character for “people” also indicates that we need each other in life.  We rely on each other.  We are interdependent on each other.  We are designed to need each other’s company.  E.g.  After God created Adam, He said, “It is not good for the man to be alone (literal meaning of ‘not good’ here is ‘evil’ or ‘wicked’) [Genesis 2:18].  We need each other’s company.  We need to get together even in the context of church, which leads me to Matthew 18:20.

Matthew 18:20

  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
  • 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”
  • For where two or three are gathered: How many people are needed to have church?  Two.  That’s the quorum.  Two or three who have the common faith in Jesus as their Savior and Lord.
  •  in my name: At church, we always gather in Jesus’ name, not in the name of the pastor, not in the name of council, not in the name of the township, but in the name of Jesus, because there’s power of gathering in Jesus’ name.  Where does the power come from?  From His presence and from Jesus Himself.
  • I am there among them: When we gather in His name, Jesus too IS there in our midst.  He is present whenever and wherever we gather in His name.  He also provides His protection in our gathering so that Satan can’t touch us.   E.g. It was fun growing up in Korea in the 1960s.  Every family was having babies after the Korean War.  My neighborhood was swarming with boys and girls.  We even organized our own neighborhood boys’ army.  My brother was second-in-command in that army.  I was so proud of him and, whenever my brother was with me, no boy dared to harass me.  He provided me with protection so that I didn’t need to worry about bullies.  Same with our gathering.  When we gather, Jesus is with us.  When He is with us, because of His protection, Satan can’t touch us.  Sadly, though, we often fail to see and realize this truth in our worship, Bible studies, and committee meetings.
  • Think one more time how precious Jesus’ presence is to us.  E.g. King David wrote our favorite Psalm where he said, “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:6).  He believed that one day in God’s presence was far better than a thousand days somewhere else.  He also said,  “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life (Psalm 27:4).”  Who was David?  He was king.  He was living in palace with gourmet food and all the things he wanted, yet he desired to be in God’s tent in the presence of the Lord.  Oh, I wish all of us had such a longing and desire to be at God’s church with God’s people in His presence!  The good news is this: God provides us with a means to create God’s presence among us: getting together in Jesus’ name.
  • So, what do we do when we get together in Jesus’ name?  We do everything in His name, because there’s a power in His name; we praise God’s name among us.  We pray together in Jesus’ name.  We worship together in His name.  We encourage one another in Jesus’ name.  This leads us to the next verse.

Hebrews 10:24-25

  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
  • 24 And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
  • Let us: It invites everyone.  It includes everybody.  It’s not just the minister’s job alone.  Rather, it’s everyone’s (old and young, male and female, members and friends) to stimulate each other to love and good deeds.
  • Consider how to provoke (stimulate, spur, challenge, and rouse) one another onto love and good deeds:  We need to keep praying about fresh ideas to stimulate one another.  We need to come up with creative ways to encourage each other to love more and to do more good.  We can encourage each other by our examples and testimonies to the point where everyone wants to grow in Christ.  E.g. Stella wants to be like Thelma; Thelma wants to be like KC, and so on.
  • Not neglecting to meet together: Two thousand years ago, the author of Hebrews warned us of the coming of the neglect of Christian worship.   In fact, this is Satan’s strategy to keep us from gathering together and driving us into further isolation, loneliness, and depression (by the way, loneliness is one of the biggest problems in our society today).
  • The American church has been neglecting the practice of meeting together in Jesus’ name in the past 50 years.  E.g.  During the 1960s the mainline denominations would have Wed. night and Sunday night services.   Fifty years later, we all dropped those practices.  Nowadays, only Sunday morning services are offered.  Even with that one, the average attendance is now once a month.  At this rate, another 50 years later, we may have no services on Sunday morning on physical premises; maybe only virtual worship will be available encouraging us to worship wherever we are through the internet (by the way, this is already happening).  Folks, by all means, we need to get together in Christ’s name; physically, not virtually, in God’s temple.
  • Encouraging one another all the more as you see the Day of Christ approaching: Church is like a fireplace.  The more we gather together, the stronger our faith will be.  Vice versa.  E.g.  Fireplace.   Each log must stay together for the fire going strong for some time.  Pulled apart from each other, even the log with flame won’t last.  Each one of us is like that piece of wood.  Flame is like our faith.  Our faith gets strong and lasts long when we are together.  Vice versa.

Action Point:

  • Here’s a challenge for the congregation: perfect attendance for the next year.  Make a goal to worship God every Sunday.  As long as you are in town, come and worship with us at our church.  On vacation, worship in a nearby church on Sunday.
  • Tip 1: Be proactive by blocking Sunday mornings strictly reserved for worship.  Do not schedule anything else but worship services.
  • Tip 2: Go to bed early on Saturday night so that you may wake up fresh on Sunday morning ready for church.  Don’t expect that you will be fresh and good when you stay up until 2 a.m.
  • Let us pray: Help us , Lord, to take it seriously to meet together in worship in the name of Jesus.

 

Today Pastor Choi shares his personal testimony regarding prayer: He shares how God revealed Himself to him in prayer, what are the conditions to answered prayers, and some practical tips to effective prayer life including Prayer Journal.

   Live the New Life (4)

 

Following is a summary of his sermon:

Live the New Life (4): Prayer                John 15:7, Philippians 4:6-7

  • John 15:7
  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
  • If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
  • Philippians 4:6-7
  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
  • Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Introduction:

  • Testimony: My New Year’s Eve prayer in 1975.  I still remember what I prayed to God that night. By then, I have been a Christian for two years.   I was a senior in high school and was about to apply to my dream college.  I was a promising student all through the high school years except the last semester which was very critical: I wasn’t doing well in academic tests.  For instance, my Korean SAT scores didn’t turn out good.  Unlike today where you can take two or three tests and choose the best scores, back then in Korea, it was a one-time deal.  I wasn’t doing well in school tests, either.   Those two poor scores convinced my guidance counselor (also my home room teacher) not to allow me to apply to the best college in Korea.   I was crushed.  The hope to get into my dream college was slipping away from my hands.
  • You see, that’s when your loving mom comes in.  Knowing her son was having a hard time at school with the counselor, she came to my aid.  She went to the counselor and tried to reason with him that her son was well qualified to apply to the best college.  If not, she argued, at least he deserved to give it a try.  Well, he wouldn’t budge.  For about a week in December, a tug of war was going on between the two.  In the meantime, I was frustrated.  So, I decided to go to the Lord in prayer.
  • You see, I learned from the church that we Christians are supposed to pray to God in our hardships, right?  Up until that point, although I prayed every day, like anybody else, I didn’t truly understand what the prayer is all about.  My prayers were more likely lukewarm and nominal, not meaning much, all words that are cut and dried.  Anyway, that night, I walked into the prayer room of my church around 11 o’clock.  It was New Year’s Eve.  Normally, there was a curfew after midnight, but that night was special, so I didn’t have to worry about rushing home before midnight.   So, I prayed to the Lord as follows: “Lord, I am confused and frustrated.  I need to hear your voice right now.  All I care is to know what you want me to do.  Just tell me which college: do you want me to apply to my dream college or the other college my counselor recommends?   I really need to know tonight before I go home.  If you don’t tell me tonight, I won’t believe in you any longer!” How foolish I was to give the Lord such an ultimatum!   I will continue my story later in the sermon, because it is connected to Philippians 4:6-7.
  • This morning, we are going to think about prayer.  If the Word of God is the food to our soul, prayer is the breathing to our soul.  Our soul depends on it.  Without prayer, our soul will perish.  If you think your soul will be fine without prayer, you are gravely mistaken.  When you don’t pray, your soul dies deprived of spiritual breathing.  When you don’t pray, your soul would pant for prayer, like our body would pant for the air if we don’t breathe even for a minute.  Consider all the people of God in the Bible.  Did they pray?  Yes, in fact, every one of them prayed to God:  Abraham did.  So did Moses.  So did King David.  All the prophets did.  Even Jesus did.  God revealed to them and communicated with them in prayer.  He answers those who call upon His name (Ps. 99:6).
  • Let’s listen to what Jesus says about prayer.    First, John 15:7.

John 15:7

  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
  • If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
  • If you abide in me:  Jesus lays out here two conditions to answered prayers.  First, we need to abide in Jesus.  What’s that mean?  It means to remain in Jesus.  Remember, my sermon point in the past few weeks?  The sign of a believer in Christ is to remain in Him.  To remain in Jesus means to be in Him.  To be in Christ means that whatever happened to Christ also happened to you.  When Christ was crucified, so were you.  That means, your old self is dead when Christ was dead.  When Christ resurrected, so did you as a new creation.  Your old boss, that is you, is gone and the new master has come, that is, Christ.  He reigns in you.  You no longer live for your selfish interests.  Rather, you live for Christ to bring glory to His name.  You no longer pursue your selfish desires.  You rather serve Christ and others.  Don’t forget: no prayer based on selfish desires and motives is affirmatively answered.
  • If my words abide in you:  this is the second condition to answered prayers: let Christ’s words abide in you.  This means that when you pray, you must cling to the word of God and to the promise that God has given you.  It will make your prayer life very effective.  What is Christ’s words to prayer?  It is like the nail on the wall to the clothes.  Let’s say you want to hang your coat on the wall, you need something to hang onto such as a nail.  No sane person keeps trying to hang the coat on the flat surface.  It’s the same with prayer.  You pray to God with the backup of God’s promise.  For instance, if I ask for peace in my heart, instead of saying, “Lord, grant me your peace,” I would say, “Lord, you promise that you will give me peace that the world cannot give nor take away from me (John14:27).  You are the author and giver of peace.  So, Lord, please grant me that peace.”  It has a much better chance of being answered.
  • Ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you: Christ wants us to expect great things from God in our prayers: ask for whatever you wish.  Wow!   When we seek God’s glory and do what He is pleased with, and when we cling to His promise in the Word, we can ask whatever we wish and it will be answered: E.g. My experience with my brother who was involved in a motor cycle accident.  Serious head injury- blood clot in his brain, a size of tennis ball–doctor told the family, 50-50 chance of survival after surgery–family opted out–in comatose for 15 days–woke up on Day 15, after another two weeks he walked out of hospital on foot without having any surgery.   God gave his life back to me after I asked for a miracle in prayer and fasting.

Philippians 4:6-7

  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
  • Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
  • Many of us are familiar with this verse.  In fact, it is one of my favorite verses in the Bible.
  • Do not worry about anything: It literally means to stop worrying.  Worries won’t do anything, will they?  Actually, they do one thing.  They keep us awake at night; they keep our prayers from reaching God’s throne room.  They also choke up our prayers. They are the enemy of prayers.   So, stop worrying.
  • But in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving:   The key word here is thanksgiving.  We must wrap every prayer with thanksgiving to God.  Thanksgiving is a key to the answered prayers.  Many of us, though, don’t bring thanksgiving in prayers and wonder why God doesn’t answer our prayers.  In fact, some of us bring in the opposite of thanksgiving to our prayers: grumbling.  From now on, be sure to bring thanksgiving into your prayers and see how your prayer life changes.  E.g.  A child asks for her favorite candy from her mother.  She wouldn’t start with grumbling.  She would have a far better chance if she starts with words of gratitude.  It works the same way with our heavenly Father.  Wrap your prayers with thanksgiving.
  • On Petitions: be specific.  Don’t ask God for general things: E.g. Lord, give me a good day today.  Lots of people who don’t believe in God have a great day, too.  This kind of prayer is too general.  Here’s another one: Lord, give me good health.  A lot of people who don’t say a prayer enjoy excellent health as well.  Whatever you pray for, be very specific that once answered you cannot deny that it is from God.  E.g. Gideon and the wool test.   E.g.2: Blind men and lepers asked for a specific healing from Jesus: “I want to see, I want to be cleansed.”
  • Peace of God will keep your heart and mind in Christ Jesus: E.g. The second half of my story “New Year’s Eve Prayer.”  Remember I gave God a foolish ultimatum that night?  Well, my prayer time was over and nothing happened.  I didn’t hear anything from God saying either way.  So, I said to God, “All right, then.  This is it.”  And, I went home and had a midnight snack.  While I was eating, the Holy Spirit in me said to me, “My child, everything is going to be all right.”  Then, for the first time in my life, I had a peace overflowing in my heart that surpasses all understanding.  The end result?  My teacher reluctantly allowed me to apply to my dream college.  And, I took another entrance exam and I made it!  Praise God!  Then, one day not long after, I went to the school to thank my teacher for his support.  I saw him working at his desk.  As soon as he saw me, he stood up and literally ran up to me.  He grabbed my hand and said, “Congratulations!  Kyewoon, you saved my face!  Thanks a million!”  Later, I discovered that out of 54 students in his home room who all applied to college at the same time I did, I was the only one who made it into any college.  The others all failed.  Praise God who does things beyond our imaginations!

Action Points:

  • Start your own prayer journal today:  Three columns: first column is for the date when you started your prayer.  Second column is for description of the prayer: what you pray for.  The third column is for the date when your prayer was answered.  E.g. During my first year in college, I kept my prayer journal for six months.  96 entries were all answered (Yes, No, and Wait).  That convinced me that the Lord answers my prayers.  Prayer is real.
  • Never assume that prayer won’t work until you try it.  God wants you to discover the power of prayer by yourself by experimenting with it.
  • Don’t expect that God will always answer your requests immediately.  Sometimes He does.  But, other times, the answer is to wait.  God answers our prayers in His time.
  • Don’t assume that God will always say yes to every request of yours.  Sometimes He says no, like any other loving parent, especially when He knows it would hurt you rather than help you by granting your wishes.
  • Don’t assume that God will say no all the time, either.  He will surprise you with answers beyond your imagination.
  • One thing is for sure: once you experience the power of prayers firsthand, you will never depart from it.  We cannot live without prayer.
  • Start praying today.

 

Today Pastor Choi talks about the importance of getting into God’s Word daily.  He expounds on 2 Timothy 3:16-17 and Joshua 1:8 followed by his challenge for the congregation, that is, to finish reading the entire Bible in a year.  Several people took up this challenge today.

 Live the New Life (3)

 

Following is a summary of the sermon:

Live the New Life (3)    2 Timothy 3:16-17, Joshua 1:8

  • 2 Timothy 3:16-17
  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
  • 16 All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.
  • Joshua 1:8
  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
  • This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to act in accordance with all that is written in it. For then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall be successful.

Introduction

  • Story: A youth group leader, in front of the youth group one night, threw a Bible on the ground saying, “This Bible is useless, unless you use it!
  • None of us would throw the Bible to the ground; most of us would get offended with the way the youth leader treated the Bible even for the sake of illustrating his point, but it surely makes us think about the way we treat our Bible.
  • What is the Bible to you?  I believe all of us have a healthy dose of respect for the Bible:  we readily acknowledge that it is more important than any other ordinary book.  We also know that it is the best-selling book in human history.  No book ever broke that record or will.  Some of us are even proud to have family heirloom–antique bibles that dated 200 years back, printed in the 19th century, so and so on.
  • However, when it comes down to using it, to many of us, it is a useless book since it is a closed book.  I heard about some churches in the medieval times that literally locked the bible in chains so that no one would dare to steal or open it, but today doesn’t seem much different from those times: the Bible is rarely opened, although it is never kept in chains.  The Word of God rarely gets our attention except on Sunday morning services; except on weddings and funerals; except at Sunday school.  To be painfully honest with yourself, when was the last time that you actually opened it for the sheer joy of reading it, studying it, and finding God’s will for you?
  • Someone told me this joke: a pastor once visited a family and asked them to bring a bible.  In no time, a child went in and brought out Sears-Roebuck catalogue!  Some of us spend more time in watching TV, surfing the internet, reading newspapers, magazines, and shopping catalogs than spending time with God’s word.    Welcome to the spiritual reality in America!
  • I am not merely interested in pointing out how poorly we the believers do in terms of getting into God’s Word.  However, if we believe that the church is the hope of the world, if we claim that we are the agents for the transformation of the world, and if we preach that we can cure many of the societal maladies, then we must start with our own malady first.  Before we dare to fix all the problems of our society, we need to go back to our basics so that we start with a right foot.
  • Do not believe in Satan’s lies: 1) The Bible is too difficult to understand.  2) The Bible is a myth.  3) The Bible is not relevant in today’s world.
  • It is sad that we don’t get into the Word of God, even though Jesus said that man cannot live by bread alone but by the Word of God.
  • Yes, it is equally tragic that the vast majority of the believers in America don’t even try to open the Bible of their own volition.  In my humble opinion, though, the greatest tragedy of all is that we don’t even know what we are missing in our life journey.  We are holding the Bible in our hands, yet we don’t even know the worth of the Bible in our lives: the Bible, the greatest tool God has made available for His children for their life journey.  E.g. Like a beggar holding a $100 bill in his hands not knowing what it is worth.
  • So, today, as part three of my series, “Live the New Life,” I am going to focus on the importance of getting into God’s Word.  Anyone who takes his/her faith seriously also takes God’s Word, the Bible, very seriously.
  •  2 Timothy 3:16-17
  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
  • 16 All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work. 
  • Let me unpack this verse sentence by sentence.
  • All scripture is inspired by God: All means everything: every scroll of the Bible.  Every passage.  Every chapter in the Bible.  From cover to cover.  Every single book in the Bible.  From Genesis to Revelation.  Every single of them was inspired by God.  The meaning of “Inspired by God” is God-breathed.”  E.g. God created Adam out of dirt [Hebrew word for dirt is ‘adama’] and “breathed” into him “life.”  That is, the Scripture is God-initiated, God-planned and God-completed.  It is not human-made or a myth.  God is the author using human hands and minds to write down His words.  The Bible is the compilation of words that God has spoken to humanity through prophets over centuries.  For your information, there are 66 books altogether (39 books in the Old Testament and 27 books in the New Testament) and over 40 authors.  It took centuries to complete, yet there’s one consistent theme underlying the Bible, that is, God’s covenantal relationship with humanity (from Genesis 2:16-17 to Revelation 21:3).  The Bible is not a book for science nor for history (although there are some elements and references to them), but it is a book about God’s salvation plan for humanity.  So, naturally, anyone who is serious about salvation also needs to take it seriously.  Let’s pay attention to the next phrase in the verse.
  • useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness:
  • The Bible is good for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.
  • My own translation: The Word of God is useful for teaching, conviction, improvement, and learning through discipline in righteousness.
  • Who doesn’t need wisdom from God?  Who doesn’t need conviction from God once in a while?  Who doesn’t need improvement in character which God is specialized in?  Who doesn’t need discipline?  For all these benefits in life, God has given us the Bible.  It is the best tool for teachers and parents, the best tool for repentance, the best tool for improvement, and the best tool for learning through discipline.
  • so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work: This explains why we need God’s Word.  God has called us for good works.  He has called us to be the changing agents of the world.  And, God uses the Bible to equip us so that we may be proficient and be effective in every good work.
  • Out of so many things He could’ve given us for the preparation for our life, He has chosen the Bible.  This leads us to the next verse.
  • Joshua 1:8
  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
  • This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to act in accordance with all that is written in it. For then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall be successful.
  • Background information on this verse: Moses passed away after leading the congregation of Israel for 40 years in the wilderness.  Joshua was chosen to be the next leader.  This verse is a part of God’s command to Joshua.  As God commanded him to lead the congregation of Israel into the Promised Land, He commanded him to be strong and courageous –4 times in one chapter! (v. 6, 7, 9 and 18).  Be strong (firm) and be a man (Greek translation).  As God sent Joshua and Israel on the road, He promised that He would be with them (v. 9).   He commanded Joshua not to be afraid of anything but rather be careful to act on God’s Word.  Then, He gave this verse to Him.
  • Have you ever wondered what makes a person strong and courageous?  It is not the muscles of Mr. Universe that make us strong (maybe physically but not spiritually).  You don’t have to be a man of steel (Superman), either, to be courageous.  What makes a person strong and courageous?  God’s Word.
  • Think again.  For the great task of conquering the Promised Land, the LORD gave Joshua two things: assurance of presence, and the Word of God: not a million soldiers, not an army of angels, but the Word of God.
  • What would you ask God for your life tasks that await you?  More money, more education, more technology, more troops?  Let me tell you what God would give you: His promise that He is with you and His Word—the Bible.
  • Once I read a book of a man who claimed that he had been to Heaven.  One of the questions Jesus asked him in Heaven was: Have you read my Book?  I hope all of us would answer, “Yes, I have.”
  • I thought about myself the reasons for knowing God’s Word.  It is always good to ask questions like “Why do I need the Word of God?”  Here’s my answer: first, I read the Bible to know God and His plan for me.  God reveals Himself to me through the Bible.  That’s why I want to read the Bible.  Next, I want to have a life fulfilled (connected, balanced, and meaningful).  God’s Word always gives me the right perspective and makes me wise.
  • Challenge: Read the entire Bible from cover to cover in a year.  Then, I will record your name in my book “The Book Club” (like your names are recorded in the Book of Life in heaven).
  • The Book Club: at Embury (previous congregation that I served as pastor), 27 people in 16 years completed the challenge and their names were recorded in the Book Club (hall of fame).  Can Manahawkin beat that?
  • Let us pray.

 

 

 

 

 

As part 2 of his new series on “Live the New Life,” Pastor Choi talks about the meaning of worship and the meaning of love of Jesus.  The marks of a believer in Christ are to worship the Lord in spirit and in truth and to keep Jesus’ commandments.

Live the New Life (2)

 

 

Following is the sermon script in its entirety:

Live the New Life (2): Worship and Obedience to Jesus

Romans 12:1, John 14:21

  • Romans 12:1
  • The New Life in Christ
  • 12 I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
  • John 14:21
  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
  • 21 They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”

Introduction:

My story in 1980 in R.O.K. (Republic of Korea) Army:  A superior of mine hated me for no reason from the day one and persecuted me for the next year to the point where one night he humiliated me in front of everyone.  He landed his fist on my chest several times that night….  To be continued later in the sermon.

Recap: 

  • I spoke last Sunday about us the Christians being in Christ.  If Christ is the book, we are the bookmark.  Whatever happened to Christ, in God’s eyes, it also happened to us.
  • That’s why the Bible says that when Christ died on the cross we our old self died, too.  When Christ resurrected from the dead, we were resurrected, too: being born again as a new creation in Christ.  I said that it is the Christ who makes us a new creation, not us changing our behavior.
  • If you consider yourself a new creation in Christ, check out whom do you serve in your life: Do you serve your selfish desires, your old master?  Or, do you serve the new master Jesus Christ?
  • Remember you are in Christ.  You serve only Christ, not yourself.
  • Let’s go to our first verse Romans 12:1.
  • 12 I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters,by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Present Your Bodies:

  • Apostle Paul makes a plea for us here in Romans 12:1.  Present your bodies as a living sacrifice to God, holy and acceptable.     He exhorts you and me to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice to God.  The new life in Christ means to worship God every day.
  • Present your bodies:  Do you do that?  Most of us don’t, because we didn’t hear about it before, right?  Do I do that?  Yes, I do.  Why?  First, God commands me to do so.  Next, I think it is a great way to start the day.   It works much better than a morning coffee for me. This is what I do every morning in my bed.   Every morning as soon as I wake up, I say to God, “Lord, I offer myself to you today as an instrument of righteousness, joy, and peace.  Use me for your glory.”
  • Living Sacrifice: Sacrifices had been an integral part of worship.  Where there was worship, there were sacrifices.  We can use a historical understanding of worship here.
  • In the Old Testament days, no one would ever go to God’s temple without sacrifices/offerings.  Of course, you go there to pray and worship; however, you always bring something to God, either animals or grains in the form of sin offering, or peace offering, or even thank offering.  We the people of God in the past two thousand years, inherited and we still continue the tradition; no more animal sacrifices but we bring offerings to God in worship.
  • Offerings were more than bringing animal sacrifices to God back then.  Today, offerings mean more than just dropping a couple of dollars on the plate on Sunday.   It means to give all you have—yourself.  E.g. A missionary to Korea, Horace Grant Underwood: when he was a child, he had no money to give, so he wanted to give himself on the offering plate.
  • Holy and acceptable to God: You don’t want to give God anything that isn’t the best.  You want to present yourself as holy and acceptable to God.  That means, you examine yourself before you give yourself to God.  You repent any sins you have committed and ask God to forgive your sins.

Spiritual Worship:

  • What is worship? Is it to show up, sit up, sing up, listen up, pay up, and stand up?  No, it is much more than that.  Worship is an encounter with God where you offer yourself to God.  That’s why even though you can’t sing, even though you have no money to give, and even though you don’t get a thing from the pastor’s sermon, you still join others to worship God.  The main purpose of worship is for you to come and offer yourself to God.  It seems, though, we do everything in worship but the offering ourselves part.
  • Paul talks about spiritual worship.  What is spiritual worship, then?  It means for us to offer ourselves to God in spirit and in truth.  In spirit means we are not limited to space and time.  Although it is important to worship God with other believers at church, we don’t have to limit our worship services only to Sundays.  We can worship God more than once a week.  God wants us to worship anytime and wherever we are; we can worship in nature (note: it doesn’t replace the regular corporate worship at sanctuary).  We can worship in the car.  We can worship in our private room while praying.  We worship God in spirit, because God is spirit.
  • Spiritual worship also means that we worship God in truth.  In other words, we don’t worship with our feelings alone.  We worship God with God’s Word the truth.  That’s why in the Protestant tradition, the Word of God is so important that it takes up about 1/3 of the worship time.  We Methodists take this tradition of proclaiming God’s Word very seriously.  I will speak more about how important God’s Word is in our life next week.  Let’s move on to the next verse, John 14:21.
  • 21 They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”

Love of Jesus:

  • Does everyone love Jesus?  No, not really.  I got that.   What about you?  Do you love Jesus?  If you say, “Yes, I do,” have you thought about what you mean by that?  Is it that fuzzy and cozy feeling that you have toward Him?  Is the love of Jesus arbitrary that it changes often depending on whose definition of love we go by?  E.g.  A popular song I used to hear on radio in 1970s:  “Love is feeling, feeling is love.”
  • Let’s hear what Jesus says about the love of Him.  He says, if anyone loves Me, s/he will know My commandments and keep them.  His love language is action, not just words.  E.g. Gary Chapman’s “5 Love Languages”: words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, acts of service, and physical touch.  Obviously, the love language for Jesus is action.  Love is a verb.  Jesus says, “Show your love through keeping my commands.”  We would be a hypocrite if we confess that we love Jesus and yet don’t keep His commands.  E.g. “I love Jesus to death, yet I will not forgive John Doe.”

Revelation of Jesus:

Remember when Jesus revealed Himself to you?  I do.  I am sure you too can share with everyone how Jesus appeared to you.  Of course, Jesus can use different venues to appear to us; dreams, visions, written words, prayers, and circumstances; however, there’s a common denominator:  Jesus reveals Himself to those who obey Him (differently put, to those who keep His commandments)—that coincides with the Bible:  E.g. My experience in the ROK Army (Part 2).  On the following day after this private lynching in front of everyone, he came up with a bad gum infection that made his mouth swollen twice bigger than normal.  He couldn’t eat or chew anything.  He was lying down in his bed that day.  As soon as I heard the news, I said, “Hallelujah!  Praise the Lord!  The Lord finally avenges for me!”  Well, that joy didn’t last long.  A minute or two after the celebration, the Lord quietly spoke to me saying, “Go and pray for him.”  I said, “No, I don’t want to!”  Of course, you know who won.  The Lord convicted me with the verse where He says, “Love your enemy (Matthew 5:43) and “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” (Romans 12:20).  So, that afternoon, I visited him with a loaf of soft bread and a carton of milk.  I also prayed for his healing.  After he got better, he changed 180 degrees!  My worst enemy became my best friend.  From then on, every Sunday morning, he ordered everyone under him to go to church.  I couldn’t have dreamed of any other better way!  I have experienced God’s promise fulfilled here: When a man’s ways please the Lord,
He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.
 New King James Version (Proverbs 16:7). Jesus also revealed to me through my obedience to His commands.

  • All of us want to experience Jesus in a real way, not a superficial way, don’t we? In reality, though, many of us know Jesus only through our head knowledge: we read devotionals and commentaries or we hear someone else’s testimonies.  Jesus too wants you to know Him in person.  He wants you to experience the living God, the Almighty God, in a tangible way so you can say to everyone that you know God and Jesus.
  • So, how do we fulfill our desire to know Jesus personally?  By fulfilling the prerequisite first, that is keeping His words.  Let’s say you want to take a course “Economics 201” in college.  Now, you are told that you have to take Economics 101 first before you take this class.  Same with experiencing God.  You have to love Jesus first through keeping His commandments before you expect Him to appear to you.  When you love Him, He promises that He will love you back and reveal Himself to you.
  • Remember: To love Jesus boils down to know Jesus’ commandments and keeping them.  I will speak about this more next Sunday.

Action Points:

  • Say a daily prayer to offer yourself to God as a living sacrifice.
  • Dust out your Bible and put it in the most visible place.  Start using it.  Download the Bible on your smart phone.  In fact, next Sunday, I want everyone to bring your personal Bible to church.  Invite your friend to bring the Bible to church, too.
  • Amen.

 

 

Pastor Choi started a new sermon series today “Live the New Life”:  Today he talks about what and who makes a person a new creation.  It is not what we do or say that makes us a new creation in Christ.  It is “being in Christ” that makes a person a new creation.

Live the New Life

 

Following is the sermon script in its entirety:

Live the New Life                            2 Corinthians 5:17, Galatians 2:20

2 Corinthians 5:17

New King James Version (NKJV)

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

Galatians 2:19-20

New King James Version (NKJV)

19 For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

Let me begin my sermon with a definition of Christian: a follower of Christ.  This definition comes from Christ’s own words in Matthew 10:38: He said, “and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (New Revised Standard Version).   In Mark 8:34, Christ said to the crowd and His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me” (New American Standard Bible) .

  • You are not a Christian if you don’t follow Jesus.  And, you can’t be a true follower of Jesus until you deny yourself, take up your cross, and live a life where your old self is dead.  Neither can you claim that you are a new creation until your old self is dead and gone.  Without the old self passing away, there’s no new creation.
  • Irony: A vast majority of Americans claim that they believe in Christ.  Today I see so many crosses that are abandoned by so-called “believers” and strewn along the path to heaven.  There are so many “church goers” who never deny themselves, either, that means, their self is still well alive and kicking, yet they all claim that they are Christians.   Are we not kidding ourselves?
  • Listen to the Bible truth: it says that your old self is already dead, because you too were crucified with Christ.  “Wait a minute,” you might say, “I have never died, let alone being crucified!”  Yes, you heard me right.  Let me say it again: your old self is dead, because you have been crucified with Christ.  Yes, you too died when Christ had died two thousand years ago at the cross.  Hard to understand?  Let me explain to you what I mean by that.  I must go back to today’s verse: 2 Corinthians 5:17.
  • Listen again what it says: if anyone is in Christ, s/he is a new creation, behold the old has passed away (like people passing away) and the new has come.  It is absolutely crucial for you to understand this verse so that you may realize what makes you a new creation in Christ.  It is not what you do and say that makes you a new creation.
  • The Bible doesn’t say: if anyone prays, s/he is a new creation.  It doesn’t say: if anyone goes to church, s/he is a new creation.  It doesn’t say: if anyone reads the Bible, s/he is a new creation.  It, rather, says: If anyone is in Christ, s/he is a new creation.  The old has passed away and, behold, the new has come.  What’s that supposed to mean?
  • The key phrase here is “in Christ.”  Let me explain the meaning of being “in Christ”—bookmark (I owe this understanding to Watchman Nee, the late Christian leader in China).  Consider that Christ is the book and that we are the bookmark in the book.  Whatever happens to the book also happens to the bookmark: if it goes in the water, the bookmark too gets wet.   If the book goes through fire, so does the bookmark.  Everything that happens to the book also happens to the bookmark.  Same way with Christ and you: since you are in Christ, whatever happened to Christ, it too happened to you in God’s eyes.  Therefore, when Christ died to pay the wages of your sin, since you were in Him, you too died.  When Christ resurrected three days later, since you were hidden in Christ, you too were resurrected as a new creation.  That’s what it means in Christ you become a new creation.
  • Now, with that understanding, let’s go to Galatians 2:20.  Paul says here that he has been crucified with Christ.  Do you understand now what he’s saying here?  He’s in Christ, therefore, when Christ was crucified, so was he.  When Christ resurrected from the dead, so did Paul.  No longer is it I who lives, he declares, but Christ who lives in me.  He recognizes the very important spiritual truth here that his old self is dead.  His old self, his old master, is dead and gone forever.  And, behold, the new master, Christ, has arrived.   The old master has passed away and the new has come.
  • Let me reiterate what it means that your old self is dead.  It means it is dead.  It means it’s gone forever.  It means you are no longer in charge of your life.  You no longer serve the selfish desires of your old self.  Your old self no longer calls the shots.  Instead, you now listen to your new boss who’s in you (remember Christ is in you?  Revelation 3:20).  His name is Christ.  He calls the shots in your life: in all you do and say.  Not you.  But He.  By the way, don’t worry.  He is not a cruel dictator who takes advantage of you and serves His own needs at your expenses.  Some of us have that kind of misunderstanding of Jesus (E.g. my high school friend).
  • Listen to me again.  You never meet such a wonderful person as Jesus.  He, the new boss, is the Savior who loves you so much that He died for you.  He laid down His life for you.  He always means nothing but the best for you: both in this life and in the life to come.  That’s what Paul means when he says Christ lives in him and he lives for Christ.  Do you hear him here?  He says, he wants to serve his new boss voluntarily and willingly, not reluctantly or under compulsion.
  • Remember this spiritual truth: the selfish old master is out and the benevolent new master is in.  You’d better celebrate this change of ownership in your life.  E.g.  A certain prison inmate hated himself all his life.  His trouble began as soon as he was born.  His mother was involved in adulterous relationship and gave birth to him.  Discovering that the boy wasn’t his own, the husband always hated the boy, although he never divorced his wife.  As the boy was growing up, his stepfather would abuse him both verbally and emotionally everyday by calling him “You carry the dirty blood in you, you son of a bitch!”  All his life, the man desired to replace his “dirty” blood if possible.  He actually did when he met the Lord Jesus.  He replaced his dirty blood with Christ’ blood and replaced his old master with the new one.  He had a complete transformation and became a new creation in Christ.  E.g. 2.  Imagine at the center of your heart, there’s a throne: whoever sits on it calls the shots in your life.  When Christ sits on the throne, and you listen to Him, everything is in order.  When your old self sits on the throne, and Christ serves as a “Genie in a bottle,” everything in your life is in chaos.
  • Closing: Who makes a person a new creation?  Christ.  There’s no other way for you to become a new creation but being in Christ.  You must deny yourself.  Your old self must be crucified.  If your old self is still alive and kicking, you are not “in Christ,” then Galatians 2:20 doesn’t mean anything to you.  2 Corinthians 5:17 doesn’t apply to you, either.  If your old self is still alive and kicking, you still serve the old master, you.
  • If you want a new life, listen to what Jesus is saying: deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Me.  Your old self, your old master, must pass away so that a new master may arrive.  It is only possible in Christ.  There’s no other way.  Amen.

 

 

Today Pastor Choi concludes his mini-sermon series on basic Christian beliefs: in today’s sermon he talks about what it means to be a child of God, believing and receiving Christ, and having daily communion with Christ.

What We Believe (4)

 

 

Following is his sermon script in its entirety:

What We Believe (4)                                                    John 1:12, Revelation 3:20

 

  • John 1:12 (NRSV: New Revised Standard Version)
  • 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God,

 

Revelation 3:20 (NRSV)

  • 20 Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.

 

Recap

  • Jesus came to call the sinners to repentance.  He didn’t come for those who consider themselves righteous enough that they don’t need a Savior.
  • We cannot earn our salvation no matter how hard we try.  Salvation is a gift of God, given to us absolutely free, by God’s grace.  We receive God’s salvation through our faith alone.
  • Faith and works are inseparable. Faith goes first, works follow. Faith is the only thing required for salvation.  Works is not.  What is works, then?  It is not the condition for salvation but the fruit of our faith. We are called to demonstrate our faith through good works not to gain salvation but to bring glory to God and His name.

Child of God

  • One of the misused phrases among people today (both in the church and outside the church) is: child of God.  Without a proper understanding of the Scriptures, we tend to say that everyone is a child of God.  Sounds wonderful and very inclusive.  Yet, if you listen to what God’s Word says, it is a quite different story.  The Bible is very clear on this: Not everyone is a child of God. In fact, God doesn’t mind calling some folks children of wrath, children of darkness, and even children of the devil (1 John 3:10).  E.g. Jesus called some Pharisees children of the devil (John 8:39, 44).
  • Yes, everyone is created in the image of God, but that doesn’t mean that everyone is a child of God. God loves them all, He’s gracious to all even to the evil ones (by giving them life, health, and etc.), and He wants everyone to come to repentance, yet when it comes down to who’s a child of God, God is very peculiar.
  • Who are the children of God?  Only those who are born into God’s family through faith.  Born again, born anew, and born from above mean the same of spiritual rebirth.  Only those who satisfy the condition of spiritual rebirth in Christ are His children.  E.g. I love children, however, that doesn’t mean that every child in the world is mine.  Only the one that was born into my family through either natural birth or adoption is my child.  Same with God and His children.  Becoming children of God requires birth into God’s family.
  • So, how can one be born into God’s family?  By believing in Jesus and by receiving Him as Savior and Lord.  Only those who believe in the name of Jesus and what He has done for humanity (John 1:12) and only those who receive Jesus as Savior and Lord become God’s children.

Believing and Receiving

  • Let’s talk about believing and receiving business.  To believe in Jesus means to receive Him as the Lord and Savior.  They are one thing.  Two are the same.  Yet, not everyone does believe/practice so.  In fact, some believers think and treat believing and receiving as two separate things.  In other words, they intellectually agree what Jesus has done (that is believing), yet in real life, they take Jesus not as Lord and Savior but rather as a servant or even an insurance policy (this is receiving).
  • E.g. Calling Jesus Lord (intellectual agreement) yet not doing what He commands (not taking Him seriously): 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ 23 Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’” (Matthew 7:21-23).
  • E.g.2. Charles Blondin–a French acrobat walking on a tight rope over Niagara Falls.   —-“crossing the Niagara Gorge (located on the American-Canadian border) on a tightrope, 1,100 ft (340 m) long, 3.25 in (8.3 cm) in diameter and 160 ft (49 m) above the water, near the location of the current Rainbow Bridge. This he did on 30 June 1859, and a number of times thereafter, always with different theatrical variations: blindfolded, in a sack, trundling a wheelbarrow, on stilts, carrying a man (his manager, Harry Colcord) on his back, sitting down midway while he cooked and ate an omelet and standing on a chair with only one chair leg on the rope.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Blondin
  • Story goes on when the acrobat asked if anyone was willing to ride in the wheelbarrow, no one wanted to take a chance.

Dine with Jesus

  • Imagine: Jesus standing at the door and knocks.  We hear His voice and open the door.
  • He’s still knocking:  Do you hear His voice?  Not many of us hear His quiet voice speaking to us.  Why?  Because, there are too many distractions and too much noise going on in our lives that drown Christ’s voice.  We need a routine for your soul to catch Christ’s calling.  E.g. Worship on Sunday mornings is a good start.  E.g. 2.  Spend time with God’s word and in prayer (15 minutes a day means 1/100th of time given to Jesus).
  • If anyone: everyone is invited to salvation.  No exception.  No discrimination against any personal background.  Jesus knocks at everyone’s heart.  God invites them all.
  • Opens the door is to ask Him in.  If you invite Him in, He will come in.  If you don’t invite Him in, He will not come into your life.  Jesus is very gentle and mild.  He is so polite that He never forces us to do anything that we don’t wish to do.
  • Once you invite Him in, He comes in and dines with you:  Dining with Him means to commune with Him.  It means a close relationship with Him.  It means to talk to Him, listen to Him, and to walk with Him.
  • Communion with Him is a daily thing: not weekly, not monthly, not even yearly thing.  Yet, to some of us, it’s been years since we talked with Him.  Having Jesus in our heart and yet never talking to Him is like inviting a guest to dinner; once the guest is seated at the table, you never talk to him/her and never pay attention to the guest.  Worse, you even don’t know that the guest is still there.  It is time to restart our communication with Jesus.  Every day.  More than once a day.
  • You will never be disappointed.
  • Once the salvation is given, it is not taken away from us, unless we ask God to do so.  You have eternal life in Christ.  John 5:24: 24 Very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgment, but has passed from death to life (NRSV).  Amen.

 

Pastor Choi explains that no human merits can buy or earn God’s gift–salvation.  We are saved by God’s grace through our faith alone.

 

  What We Believe (3)

 

Following is the sermon script in its entirety:

What We Believe (3)                            Ephesians 2:8-9, Titus 3:5

 

  • Ephesians 2:8-9
  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
  • For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast.
  • Titus 3:5
  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
  • he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.

Recap:

  • Repentance is the beginning of our relationship with God.
  • All have sinned and need salvation.
  • Definition of sin: violation of any God’s commandments.
  • Wages (consequences) of our sin were paid by Christ that proves God’s love for us.

Saved not by works but by faith:

  • We are saved through Christ’s merits not by our own.  Let me tell you a story of a man whose name was Martin Luther: He hoped that his act of penance (through climbing stairs on his bare knees) would count something in his salvation.  Later he realized that that’s not the case.  He also said that the practice of buying indulgences for loved ones in purgatory was unscriptural.  He declared that salvation is not earned by his good deeds, in fact, by any human good deeds. Nor can it be bought with money.  Salvation is, rather, a gift of God attainable only through faith not through our works.  It is our faith in Christ, not our own good deeds that counts in our salvation.  “Luther wrote to Melanchthon on the same theme: “Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong, but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world. We will commit sins while we are here, for this life is not a place where justice resides.”(Martin Luther, “Let Your Sins Be Strong,” a Letter From Luther to Melanchthon, August 1521, Project Wittenberg, retrieved 1 October 2006).
  • Indeed, that’s what the Bible says: we are saved by God’s mercy and grace not by our own deeds.
  • What about James, then, some might argue, who says that faith without works is dead? (James 2:26) If faith is all we need in our salvation, then, we don’t have to be good, right?  No, you still ought to be good and will be, not for the salvation but for the glory of God. The fact that we don’t need human works or good deeds for our salvation, or the truth that human merits is not the necessary condition for our salvation, doesn’t mean that we are exempt from living a moral life.  Let me repeat what I have said: works don’t get us into heaven; they are not the necessary condition for salvation, either.  What are they, then?  They are a result of our faith and a fruit of our salvation.  E.g. Horse and a cart: they go together, yet, you always put the horse before the cart, not the other way around.  The horse here is faith and the cart is works.  Faith goes first, and works follow.  Anyone who claims to be a believer in Christ will demonstrate good works as a fruit of his/her faith.   In other words, God only requires us to bring faith into salvation, yet He expects us to live out our faith through our good works to bring glory to His name.
  • When it comes down to salvation, I am so glad that God doesn’t require us to bring any human merits to the salvation table.  Any human merits such as education (B.A.), money (million dollars), physical condition (6 foot tall), beauty, age, race, sex, can never buy salvation.  We can’t fully satisfy any of them, either.  So, God came up with another perfect solution: faith that believes in Jesus and what He has done on the cross.  In my humble opinion, that’s the perfect and the fairest solution for all to satisfy in salvation.  E.g. A street vendor who accepted Christ.  E.g. 2. Criminal crucified at the same time with Christ.

Created for Good Works

  • So, do we still have to be good even after we believe?  Yes, we still need to live the moral life.  We are the children of God, created for good works in Christ (Ephesians 2:10).  We are the salt and light of the world (Matthew 5:13, 14).  We are the children of light.  We are to demonstrate how great our God is through our good deeds (Matthew 5:16).  Works are not the condition for salvation but they are the demonstration of your faith in Jesus (E.g. helping the homeless, helping Sandy relief).

Closing:

  • Freedom from God’s punishment cannot be purchased with money.  God’s grace cannot be earned.  No one is justified with his/her own works and merits.  Salvation is by God’s grace through faith alone.
  •   For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8,9).
  • he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy” (Titus 3:5).
  • Amen.

 

Pastor Choi continues his series on basic beliefs of Christian faith: Christ paid the penalty of our sins–this proves God’s love for us all!

  What We Believe (2)

 

Also, following is the sermon script in its entirety.

Title: What We Believe (2)

Scripture Lessons:

Romans 6:23

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 5:8

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.

 

 

Consequences:

Imagine this: you want to hang a nice picture on the wall.  You need a tool to do that.  So, you bring in a hammer and a nail.  You choose a spot that seems perfect for the picture.  You put the nail in and hang the picture frame.  When you are done, you step back to see if it looks alright.  Then, you realize that you made a mistake.  It was hung too low and too far to the right.  You need to move the picture up a little bit and about a foot to the left.  Well, what you do?  You need to pull the nail out, right?  When you do, there’s a hole on the wall now.  You made the hole on the wall. You realize that next time, you want to measure twice before you start hammering.

If the hammering of the nail on the wall is the act of sin, then the hole, the nail mark on the wall, is the consequences of our sin.  We regret what we’ve done and later pull the nail out, yet there is still the mark on the wall.  We live with the consequences of our sin.  We reap what we sow.  We cannot harvest corn from soy beans.  We harvest soy beans only if we planted soy beans.  We harvest corn only when we planted corn.  We reap what we sow.  That’s a spiritual law.

Wages of sin:

Same with the sin: When we commit a sin either against God or against people, we always harvest the consequences of our iniquities.

Recap of sin: anything that violates any of God’s commandments either against God or against people.

There are always consequences of our sin.  The Bible calls the consequences of sin the wages of sin (Romans 6:23). And, the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).  In fact, the same Bible explains that’s how the physical death came into our lives after our forefathers have sinned against God.  E.g. Adam and Eve’s disobedience—eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge, not apple.

Some of us wonder how and when we pay the wages of our sin.  The Bible says that we pay the wages of sin when we die (Heb. 9:27) Hebrews 9:27 “And just as it is appointed for mortals to die once, and after that the judgment”(NRSV)

God of Justice and God of Mercy:

Let’s face it.  It is we who made a bad choice to sin, and therefore, it is we who should pay the wages of sin through our own death.  However, our God, the God of love, loves us so much that He wanted to spare us from the judgment.  So, He came up with a solution for our sin problems.  Particularly, the end result, the consequences of sin, and the wages of sin: who’s going to pay for the wages of sin.

His plan: let someone else take care of that so that we may go free.  And, who was that individual of God’s choice?  It was Jesus known as the Christ or the Messiah.  E.g. story of a king and his son who had a bad habit of stealing.  Even though everyone else in the palace knew about it, none dared to tell the king.  One day, the prince was caught again red-handed by one of the king’s servants.  This time it was different, though.  The servant was a new hire but a man of integrity and he wanted to stop this problem.  So, he reported to the king.  Soon the prince was summoned.  The king asked his son if it was true that he stole someone’s property.  The prince said yes.  The dilemma king faced was: to uphold the law and to spare the prince.  Then, the king ordered the executioner to bring in the sword to cut the hand of the perpetrator (it was the law of the kingdom)…..  In the end, to make the long story short, the king both kept the law and saved the perpetrator.

Same way, it was God’s solution for the wages of our sin: let the sinless pay the wages of sin for the sinful once and for all.  That’s why Christ went to the cross.  To pay the wages of our sins.  Then, the God of justice kept His law and the God of love also saved us from eternal punishment.

Shadows in the Old Testament:

In fact, the Old Testament already gives away plenty hints of how God was going to save the humanity from their sins.  For instance, Isaiah 53, the chapter known as suffering servant chapter, which prophesied on what the Messiah was going to do.  Also, Leviticus shows the shadow of what Christ Jesus would do for us.  E.g.  In the Old Testament times, when people sinned against God and against people, they would bring a sin offering to the priest– animal without blemish for their sins committed.  Then, the priest declares the forgiveness of sins by the death of the innocent lamb.

Jesus the Lamb of God:

Did you know that Jesus was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world? (John the Baptist—John 1:29)

By sending His own son Jesus to the cross to pay the wages of sin on our behalf, God demonstrated His love for us.  Christ’s death on the cross paid the wages of our sin once and for all, forever and ever, and we go free of punishment.

I would call such act of God, that is, to let His son die on the cross on our behalf the greatest mystery of all.  God’s love saves us despite all we have done.  On the cross, in Christ, God’s justice and God’s mercy were fully fulfilled.  We are spared from the wages of sin.  I would call such love: Amazing.  Marvelous.  Awesome.

I will continue next Sunday.

Let us pray.

 

 

Pastor Choi explains the spiritual reality of America where people shun certain words such as sin, sinner, or repentance.  To hear his message in audio, click here:

     What We Believe

 

Pastor Choi talks about who Jesus is to people, to His disciples, and to you.  Your confession of who Jesus is makes a world of difference in your walk with God.

Who do you say Jesus is?

Pastor Choi’s first sermon at Manahawkin UMC talks about who he is:
Not a Messiah, but a messenger of God and His Word.

Each month we offer a new member class entitled “Methodism 101” on the third Sunday of the month at 9:45 a.m. (see church calendar for any changes due to holidays).

This class is an overview of the origins of The United Methodist Church, an introduction to our local church and a general discussion time.

If interested in attending simply stop in.  All are welcome.

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Sunday school students of the Manahawkin United Methodist Church help fight the spread of Meningitis in Africa.  Meningitis is an infection of the meninges, the thin lining that surrounds the brain and spinal cord.  Though rarely seen here in the United States, Meningitis is ravaging the child population in sub-Saharan Africa.  Each year thousands of children die from this disease and approximately 10 to 20 percent of survivors are left with permanent aftereffects such as mental retardation, deafness, epilepsy, or other neurological disorders.

The World Health Organization in partnership with PATH created the Meningitis Vaccine Project (MVP).  The mission of the MVP is to eliminate meningitis as a public health problem in sub-Saharan Africa through the development, testing, introduction, and widespread use of conjugate meningococcal vaccines.  From this partnership MenAfriVac™ was created, a vaccine to be delivered to the children in Africa.  The cost of each vaccine is around fifty cents.  It is projected that MenAfriVac™,  in sub-Saharan Africa use could prevent more than 1 million new cases of Meningitis.

Motivated by the prospects of saving lives, the students committed to try and raise $200 to donate to MVP.  Penny by penny students added to the collection.  Some students performed extra chores to gather funds, others created and sold artwork for their donation and some emptied their piggy banks.  Within three months the students raised $498, well over doubling their goal!  This donation provided just under 1000 vaccines.

For more information on MVP and how you can donate go to www.meningvax.org.

For those interested in receiving prayer from our Prayer Group please fill out our online form.

Prayer requests can be submitted during Sunday Worship as well.  Prayer Request cards are located on the back of each  pew and collected by the Ushers.

 

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