Pastoral Sharing 2018
October 14, 2018 - Who Am I?
While many people are worried about identity theft nowadays, it’s also interesting that some of us would ask: “Who am I?” Many among us would also make it our goal in life trying to answer this “personal identity” question. We would study philosophy, consult psychologists, and even travel to faraway places for different cultural immersions to help us find the answer.
In the Bible, Exodus records that the messenger of God appeared to Moses in the flame of burning bush on Mount Horeb more than 3,000 years ago. Moses, who was eighty years old, saw the burning bush and yet the bush did not burn up. Moses took off his sandals because he was told he was standing on holy ground. Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11 NIV). God did not answer Moses’ question about his identity, but told Moses that He would be with Moses; then God said, “I AM WHO I AM”. It’s important for us to know who God is first before we seek our own identities. Once we have understood who God is, our own identities become trivial and insignificant.
Two thousand years ago, when the Lord Jesus entered into the third year of His ministry, it was also His last year on world. “Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, ‘Who do the crowds say I am?’ They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.’ ‘But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’ Peter answered, ‘God’s Messiah.’” (Luke 9:18-20).
If the Lord Jesus asks you, “Who do you say I am?” Would you be as ready as Peter to respond? What is your answer?
Rev. Bernie Chung
October 7, 2018 - The Decalogue
My how time flies. I just finished writing my sharing for the 40th anniversary newsletter. It is a bit daunting to see how long I’ve been at this church. Almost ten years! In the Bible, ten is viewed as a perfect number, as are 3, 6 and 12. It is made up of 4 and 6, physical creation and the number of man, respectively. Due to this, ten signifies testimony, law, responsibility and completely of order. Wow!
There are ten plagues to rescue the Hebrews out of Egypt and later Ten Commandments. From the conference I just attended, the speaker taught us how the 10 Commandments (Exodus 20, Deuteronomy 5) should not be seen as laws so much as they are statements by which to live by. In fact, they are named the Decalogue by the Greek fathers, seen more as “words”, which in Greek is logue. Thus “ten words” literally translated is: Deca-logue. The meaning behind the “ten words” is really the 10 principles of covenant relationship. And the way we show our love to God is by obeying them. Not because he wants us to follow rules, but because these rules will help us in our life on earth. The Lord wants us to circumcise our hearts. We see this in Deuteronomy 10:12-22, with the culminating verse in 11:1, “You shall therefore love the LORD your God and keep his charge, his statutes, his rules, and his commandments always.”
You see, God doesn’t want to only hear us say that we love Him. He wants us to also show it. This means by faith and action. Just as I desire my sons to follow my instructions so that they can avoid mistakes and injury, our Lord desires the same from us. Let us understand how these “words” are really for our benefit and relationship with the Almighty God of the Universe. You see, knowledge of His statutes doesn’t please the Lord. Knowledge puffs up. Instead, as we obey and follow, we mature in spiritual understanding and understand the ways of the Lord even more. So let us desire to show God our love through obedience and as we do so, or relationship with Him grows and He will reveal His heart to us!
Rev. Benjamin Chung
September 30, 2018 – Hunger and Thirst for the Word of God
After Jesus finished telling the parable of sowing seeds, He called out: “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear” (Luke 8:8 NIV). Later Jesus continued: “Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they think they have will be taken from them” (Luke 8:18).
Jesus said to remind us that when we hear the truth from the Word of God, we must do our best to understand its meaning. This is important because it will lead us to learn more about God’s truth and His grace. If our understanding to the teachings of the Bible is superficial and limited, then we can’t fully benefit from listening to the Word of God and apply its teachings in our lives; and we are also in danger of losing the blessings we already have. Our spiritual lives will go backward as well.
We need to have the hunger and thirst for God’s Word similar to how a healthy baby will hunger and thirst for milk—the basic nourishment for growth. Otherwise, a malnourished baby would be underdeveloped and may die. A reborn Christian should have the yearning for Biblical truth. Unless he takes in the “spiritual milk” of the Bible, his spiritual life will not grow but wither away. Therefore, we need to listen to God’s Word with a sense of urgency and upmost yearning. The Apostle Paul has exhorted us by saying: “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation” (1 Peter 2:2).
Rev. Bernie Chung
September 23, 2018 - If God is a Police Officer
I received this from a fellow Christian recently on WhatsApp. This is a humorous take on if God is a police officer. I agree with most of it, although I don’t quite understand the fire extinguisher part, as I don’t carry one in my car and have never heard of doing so. I do strive to carry my Bible with me everywhere, especially to church or Christian functions. As a pastor, I also carry it to work every day! Even though my Bible is big and heavy, I like to know that I can read it without having to worry that my battery is going to run out. It is also quite often the case that when I have my phone near me or I’m reading a passage of the Bible on my phone, I get distracted with a notification or something else. As such, I have made it a habit to access my Bible app on my smartphone is a secondary option.
The bottom of this “chain-message” also encourages the recipient to share with others. In addition, I do believe these statements to be beneficial for us to consider, so I will share this chain-message. (If you are wondering, I don’t often forward these.) Please take time to really consider the statements because they do address the heart and life of the Christian. Furthermore, the purpose of following God’s ways isn’t to prevent us from having fun, but to help us live in harmony with others, love the LORD and as the message says, “live a life of righteousness”. So let us stop and reflect if we are on the “wrong side of the law”. If we are, let’s make changes so that we are on the right side and therefore righteous! Knowing the law doesn’t benefit us if we break it. We need to live it out. Paul tells the Roman church in the same way, “For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified” (Romans 2:13 ESV). (Read Ch. 2-4 for more context. This is not about salvation, but justification.)
So put on your “Seat Belt” and ask your “Driver’s License” and see how you can live a more righteous life. After all, the Police Officer isn’t your enemy. His purpose is to protect and to serve. If you are “righteously driving”, there will be no need to pull you over and you can drive worry free!
*If God is a Police Officer*
· How many times would you have been arrested & fined for *parking
· your life wrongly*?
· Over loading yourself with *Lusts* and *Pleasures* of the world?
· Not carrying the *Fire Extinguisher* *(Bible)*always?
· Over Speeding *(Going Ahead and out of God’s Plans for you)*?
· Driving without a valid Driver’s License *(The Holy Spirit)*?
· Not observing *Traffic Lights (commandments of God)*?
· And forgetting to put on your *Safety/Seat Belt (Prayer)*?
· Think about it… Is God not merciful? He is calling you. He wants you
· to live a life of righteousness.
*SPREAD THE GOSPEL* TO OTHERS AS I HAVE DONE TO YOU. MAY YOU REALLY BE BLESSED IN JESUS NAME.
Rev. Benjamin Chung
September 16, 2018 - Why Do We Love Our Lord In Various Degrees?
Someone once said: “Conquering sin is a lifelong process, but it is not a process we cannot face alone.” I believe this means we are doomed for failure if we only rely on our own strength to overcome the temptation of sins that have the greatest destructive power, especially when we are ignorant about the sins we have committed. It is not possible to rely on others to point out our mistakes because we have often concealed from them what is truly in our hearts.
“When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them” Luke 7:36-38 (NIV). At that time, the Pharisee Simon who invited Jesus to feast was confused. He wondered why Jesus would allow this woman, a well-known sinner, to touch his feet. The Lord Jesus knew what the Pharisee was thinking, and He brought up the parable of the “two borrowers”. One borrower was in debt ten times more than the other. Without any regard to the amount of debts they owed, the creditor forgave the debts of the two men. Jesus asked Simon who among the two borrowers would love the creditor more? Simon answered correctly by saying that it must be the one who had more debt. Obviously, the creditor in this parable is God, but who are the two people who are in debt so deep that cannot be repaid? The two borrowers in the parable would be you and me, and all of mankind. The real question here is, “Do I really know that I am also a sinner?” Otherwise, how can we really confess and say how much we have sinned against God if we are not even aware of our trespassing in the first place? The woman who was discriminated against by the Pharisees realized that she was a sinner who needed repentance and salvation. On the other hand, Simon, the Pharisee who shared Jesus’ table, did not consider himself a sinner. He doubted who the Lord Jesus was and His authority to forgive sins. In reality, he did not sin any less than others! This is precisely the reason why our love of the Lord is limited to only a few degrees! Have we come to the realization that we are sinners who need to be saved? If we have such awareness, what needs to be done?
First, we must keep ourselves far away from the sins that separate us from God. Second, we should humble ourselves before the cross, confess, repent, and accept the salvation grace from the Lord Jesus Christ. Third, having reconciled our relationship with God, we serve Him without looking back.
The sinful woman mentioned here in the Gospel of Luke knew the depth of her sin, and she also knew how much she has been forgiven! She expressed her love of the Lord Jesus Christ through her action. The more we understand our sinfulness, the more we understand the love of Christ, and it is only natural that we will love our Lord more!
Rev. Bernie Chung
September 9, 2018 – The Protection of God
Do you know what scares me sometimes? Uncased phones; naked phones. Why? Because I’ve seen so many phones with cracks in them. It puzzles me that we can buy phones that sometimes reach the 4-digit price tag and then the buyer does not add a 2-digit case to protect the phone in case of an accident. And accidents do happen. This is why they’re called accidents. You might drop the phone, or it falls out of your pocket, or your tablet gets bumped off the table, or your child drops it… Yes, I know there are freak accidents, like when a friend accidentally closed the car door on the phone and broke it in half. No case is going to protect its smartphone from that type of force and pressure.
Personally, I do have cases on my electronics to protect them from damage. And it has worked out well. Even after accidentally dropping my phone and Surface recently, neither broke. I do not believe it was my ability to drop the devices nicely but because of the protective cases on both of them.
This is how it is when we are with God and we rely on Him. Even though life’s trials, troubles and temptations might come our way, He is there to help us through the difficulties. We might not even see it, but there are angels around us. When we see how Elisha opened the eyes of his worried servant to see the army of horses and chariots of fire surrounding Elisha, there is obviously little to worry about (2 Kings 6:17). This means we need to be in tune with the Spirit so we are aware of His presence and leading. He’s not just a protector, but an intercessor and guide. There is no need to walk around in this life without the Shield of Faith and the Sword of the Spirit and the rest of the armor of God, found in Ephesians 6:10-20 (the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes with the readiness of the gospel of peace, the helmet of salvation). But are you protected? Knowing is half the battle. Take action and make sure you are protected by God!
Rev. Benjamin Chung
September 2, 2018 – Consistent Outside and Inside
For some Christians, Leviticus is a book they seldom read, nor are they inclined to read. Leviticus contains Old Testament laws and commands about slaughtering animals, descriptions on priesthood, and restrictions on clothing and food consumption. All these seem to have no direct applications for today’s believers living under God’s grace. Our church pastoral staff regularly meets every Thursday for our Weekly Staff Meeting, and for the past few months we have studied the Book of Leviticus. This week we’ve reached Chapter 21. Our Almighty God has often revealed Himself as a Holy God. The Book of Leviticus tells us what we need to know in order to be close to God, and how we should properly prepare ourselves with cleanliness in order to be worthy of worshipping Him. Through our shared devotions and study of the scriptures, we constantly remind each other the importance of sanctification when carrying out God’s ministry. Leviticus chapter 21 emphasizes the sacred nature of ministerial positions. A question for us to ponder: If we were still living in the Old Testament era, would we be qualified to serve our Almighty God?
In both the morning and evening prayer meetings on Wednesday, we’ve studied and shared our thoughts on the Gospel of Luke in the New Testament. This week we read the so-called “Teachings on the Plains” in Chapter 6. The Lord Jesus talks about the pride and absurdity of those who are self-righteous, having the perils like the blind man leads the blind. “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into a pit?” (Luke 6:39 NIV).
Jesus points out that an ungodly person is a hypocrite who outwardly appears pure, but his heart is full of filth; and he would say unrighteous words and judge others.
Brothers and Sisters, indeed we are not qualified to serve in God’s ministries if we are held to God’s standards that He revealed to us through Moses. However, we should never ignore God’s calling by forsaking the mission He has entrusted to us individually. The prerequisite to serve is that our faith must be as strong as God’s truth, and our spiritual life must be like a house built on a rock that will not be shaken by the “wind of paganism”. At the end of Chapter 6 in the Gospel of Luke, after the parable the Lord Jesus says, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like” (Luke 6:46-47). The Lord Jesus Christ affirms that if a person can listen and act on His words, that person is pleasing to Him because he is consistent outside and inside. In Romans 12:1, the Apostle Paul exhorts us by saying: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”
Brothers and Sisters, may our loving God accept our outward service to Him that is totally consistent with our hearts.
Rev. Bernie Chung
August 26, 2018 - Voting Like a Member of the Royal Priesthood
Because our annual vote on church committee members is coming up, I thought I’d share a little about Baptist polity and Congregational Church Governance. What does Congregational Church Governance even mean? Baptist church structure operates through the system where “each member of the church has the right to vote on matters at church business meetings” (https://www.baptistdistinctives.org/resources/articles/congregational-church-governance/). This is very different from other denominations. Does this mean that we, as members, are allowed to vote in any way that we want? Of course not! This would be “people rule” which is un-Biblical. (As Baptists, we stick to being very Biblical.)
Then how ought we to understand this democratic way of polity? By understanding that Jesus is the Lord of the church. If Jesus is Lord, which He is, then we must go to Him in prayer when questions come up in life. We must also go to Him also when there are decisions to be made regarding the church. We also go to the Scriptures to confirm if our understanding is clear regarding certain actions and attitudes. This is the love letter of God, and the Bible also holds invaluable instructions. As Baptists, we also accept the understanding that each follower of Jesus is a saint—a priest in the royal priesthood that has been called “out of darkness into his marvelous light” (2 Peter 2:9 ESV).
This means that what we do, even when we vote, has spiritual significance and requires the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We ought not to simply vote a person into a position only because we recognize their name. We vote them in because we believe the person is qualified and has the determination to fulfill his/her responsibilities for the role. If, after praying, you are led by the Spirit to believe a particular person is not ready for the role, that is completely acceptable. Do not simply vote a person in because you recognize their name. This becomes a popularity contest! Instead, seek to find out who the other person is. The person could be highly qualified, but overlooked simply because he/she has only been in our church a short time. (But let me also say, even if someone isn’t voted in doesn’t mean they aren’t allowed to help and assist in a committee’s role. They are simply not the name overseers.)
Lastly, the article also illuminates the pastor and deacon’s role. The pastor role is one of servant and spiritual leadership so as to not domineer “over those in charge, but [by] being examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:3). Likewise, the Bible also sets high standards for deacons (1 Timothy 3:8-13), where the deacon is also to be a servant and not governor of the church. Both are vital roles that also require spiritual maturity.
Please also view the following website, which describes the Challenges that come with Congregational Church Governance. https://www.baptistdistinctives.org/resources/articles/baptist-congregational-church-governance-a-challenge/ And if you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to confer with the pastors and deacons of the church.
Rev. Benjamin Chung
August 19, 2018 - Incompatibility of New and Old
Property prices in Hong Kong have hit record highs, and in the Bay Area real estate market has the same buying frenzy. In mid-April, the media reported that there was a run-down house built in 1905. Although the paint was peeling off, the ceiling was not repaired, and the floor was cracked, that house was sold for $755,000, more than $200,000 above the asking price. More recently, a detached house built in 1976 in the high-tech Silicon Valley was for sale. The listing real estate company said they cannot show the inside of the house because it was mostly burned. That did not deter the successful buyer who paid $938,000 for it. This price was $140,000 over asking. That house is beyond repair, and the buyer intends to raze it to the ground and replace it with a new building.
Jesus tells this parable in Luke 5:36: “No one tears a piece out of a new garment to patch an old one. Otherwise, they will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old one.” This metaphor emphasizes that the new and the old are not compatible as the fabrics of the new and the old clothes might be different, and it is also unreasonable to cut up a piece of completely new cloth to patch a piece of old cloth. The wise and sensible thing to do is to completely replace the old cloth with new. Just like a house damaged by fire, if only new materials are added to the charred wood, the structural integrity and load capacity of the house may not be fully restored. The repairs may not meet the building code requirements for safe occupancy as well. Likewise, as we look into the Gospel ministry of Christian churches, old traditional methods are not necessarily able to support the needs in the new era, and the power to spread the Gospel may be greatly diminished as a result.
Finally, the Lord Jesus says: “And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better’” (Luke 5:39). These passages illustrate the resistance the Pharisees and scribes have towards the coming of the New Testament era. It is in their human nature to prefer the complacency of tradition. On the other hand, it also shows their unwillingness to give up their chance to outwardly display their devoutness to others, while totally neglecting the needs for inner awe and repentance towards God. Of course, we should not blindly abandon the old in order to innovate. For example, the content of the Gospel is a truth that cannot be altered, but the method of evangelism can vary from person to person. In order to expand God’s Kingdom, we must be decisive to let go of impractical man-made traditions and methods. May God grant us the courage to discard ineffective old methods of evangelism, and the wisdom to discover new ways to fulfill His will. May His name be glorified. Amen!
Rev. Bernie Chung
August 12, 2018 - What are We Waiting For?
Just over two years ago, Tesla Motors revealed their Model 3 car and gave consumers the opportunity to buy the car by making a reservation and putting down $1,000. Many people waited in long lines to make a reservation. Some even camped out. Many who made reservations are still waiting for the car to arrive. A relative of mine just received delivery of their car in May of this year. Still others have canceled their reservation because the wait has been too long (and some are still waiting to get their money back).
This waiting phenomenon isn’t new. We see people waiting in lines to purchase items. We see the long lines at stores on Black Friday and such. But for these people, their purchase transaction will have completed much sooner than several years. Usually, within several hours and the item they’ve come to purchase will be in their hands and they can head home with it.
One thing that we as Christians might forget about, is that we will one day be in heaven with new imperishable bodies and we will be with the Father and the Son for all eternity. This is what Articles #11-12 state in the Apostle’s Creed: “[I believe in] the resurrection of the body: and the life everlasting. Amen”. Perhaps, because the cost of salvation is free, not even $1,000, we forget that there was a cost to our salvation. It was Jesus’s death on the cross. And the result is a body that will not decay and a life that will never end (1 Corinthians 15:35-58). What a transaction! Let’s not forget this wonderful gift that we will receive. Let us wait in anticipation for this wonderful gift! As 2 Corinthians 4:18 says, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” And let’s also labor with all our might to tell others of this good news, because we know that our “labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).
Rev. Benjamin Chung
August 5, 2018 - Coming From the Spirit of God
We must understand the origin of faith because we are saved by faith in accepting Jesus Christ as our Savior. We also need to act by faith in our daily lives to get through life’s difficulties. “Heresy” refers to the false and deceptive teaching that deviates from the truth. There were many heresies in the early church. Paul says in 1 Timothy 4:1-2: “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.” Indeed, there are many multi-faceted heresies departing from Biblical truth exist today. We must do our best to learn about the truth in order to identify heresy.
1 John 4:1-2 says: “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.” In other words, if there is no acknowledgement that Jesus Christ is The Incarnate Lord, the spirit is obviously not from God. It will help us recognize the Spirit of God by believing that the Lord Jesus Christ is the only one who obeys the Father’s will and offers Himself to the cross. Hebrews 9:28 says: “… so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many.”
The Apostle John fears that today’s believers ignore the arrival of the Antichrist. He says: “…..but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:3-4).
We thank God for the inspiration of the Bible, and the revelation that He has prepared a salvation plan for us through the ages. Therefore, the so-called truth that is contrary to God’s revelation to us is heresy. Brothers and sisters, we should be vigilant and carefully study the Word of God. More or less, every kind of heresy degrades the deity of Christ and does not accept the Holy Spirit, who are part of the Holy Trinity. We pray that God will grant us the wisdom to recognize the truth and to discern the Spirit of God.
Rev. Bernie Chung
July 29, 2018 - An Appeal for Spiritual Discernment
1 Corinthians 2:14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.
There are scary passages in the Bible. Yes, Matthew 25:31-46 is scarier. This is the parable of Jesus describing some people who think they are believers, but in the end, instead of being chosen, they are rejected. Instead of being sheep, they are classified as goats.
But this is also scary, because we can also see the truth in it. I joined LoveSF 2.0 for outreach the last few days. As we went about the city of San Francisco this week, we crossed paths with people who did and didn’t want to acknowledge Jesus. Some stopped, spoke to us, and allowed us to pray for them.
Others were the opposite. They knew the words to say, and they even said, “Jesus, is LORD” out loud! But they did not truly believe it. The Spirit was not in them. They actually spoke in a mocking tone. My heart goes out to these who are not filled with the Holy Spirit. The Great Advocate and Guide, work in their hearts so that they may know you! May they not turn away from eternal salvation, which is true foolishness but turn towards Jesus!
I also implore you, reader, to consider your own life and walk. Do you have the Spirit with you? Or are you lost regarding what is spiritual? Do not be! Ask the LORD to reveal His person to you. For what is spiritual is spiritually discerned. And if one does not have the spirit, then what is spiritually good and wise will only appear to be foolish. May the Spirit fall upon you and give you spiritual gifts. Be filled with the one who is holy so that you might experience and trust in the LORD Jesus even more, the guarantor of eternal life. Amen!
Rev. Benjamin Chung
July 22, 2018 – Proclaiming God’s Salvation
Do we often seize the opportunity to tell others about the redemption of the Lord Jesus Christ? A sister from our church has done that to the mother of her old classmate, who is very old and confined in a nursing home. Our church sister took the opportunity to read the Bible to this old lady and share the gospel with her. To her surprise, the old lady not only listened attentively when she read God’s words to her, she actually looked forward to her visits so that she can learn more about our Savior. We thank God for this sister who is willing to spread the redemptive gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to others.
Luke 2:36-38 tells us about a female prophet named Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was eighty-four and still served God in the temple night and day, fasting and praying. Who was Asher? Asher was the eighth of Jacob’s twelve sons (Genesis 30:13 NIV). When Jacob blessed his twelve sons before his death, he said: “Asher’s food will be rich; he will provide delicacies fit for a king” (Genesis 49:20). Moses also said this about Asher: “Most blessed of sons is Asher; let him be favored by his brothers, and let him bathe his feet in oil” (Deuteronomy 33:24). When Joshua divided the Promised Land to the tribes of Israel, the land of Asher was in the far north, adjacent to the Mediterranean Sea, and the land was fertile (Joshua 19:24-31). However, the tribe of Asher did not have the courage to obey the command of God to drive out the Canaanites who were there (Judges 1:31); instead, they lived in the land with the Canaanites. A few years later, when the Prophet Deborah called on all Israelites to unite against King Jabin of Canaan, the Bible records: “… Asher remained on the coast and stayed in his coves” (Judges 5:17). The tribe of Asher at the time was more interested in self-preservation and did not help the brethren of Israel. Eventually, Sennacherib king of Assyria came and invaded Judah. He captured and took the tribe of Asher to the Assyria. Everything possessed by Asher was looted and vanished.
According to Luke 2:37, the elderly Anna of the Asher tribe “did not leave the temple”. That does not necessarily mean that she lived in the temple. However, she did spend a lot of time there, fasting and praying, living a godly life without interruption. Since Anna belonged to the tribe of Asher, she was supposed to be the remnant people of Israel. Anna was able to show God’s faithfulness and grace in the temple by “serving God night and day.” The Book of Luke also points out that Anna “talked to all who hoped that Jerusalem would be redeemed.” The elderly Anna did not give up seeking God and prayed to Him for many years, expecting the redemption of God to come. She would tell the people who listened about the child Jesus who will come and bring redemption and salvation to all of Jerusalem. God’s blessings to us rival the blessings the tribe of Asher had received. Being God’s people that have accepted His salvation grace, how can we not seize the chance to proclaim the gospel of God’s redemption to others?
Rev. Bernie Chung
July 15, 2018 – The Apostle’s Creed
The Apostle’s Creed is a statement of beliefs that a Christian is supposed to believe. It is not found anywhere in the Bible (then again nor is the designation, Trinity) but has shown to be vital to the Christian faith. As such, I will be presenting a sermon series on this creed. The early church’s purpose of creating this creed is to present what is vital and fundamental to what the individual Christian is to know and believe. In a time when there was not much structure in which books of our current Bible were “official” and which were heretical, the early church discovered many Christians were being misled by many different schools of philosophy and cults. In order to combat the lies, the disciples of the apostles knew they needed to put together a list of what is basic to our Christian faith.
For myself, when I had the opportunity to study the creeds in seminary, I found it eye opening to see what the early church deemed as important and vital to the Christian faith. It was also my responsibility to compare and consider my own personal creed and how it might have been flawed by leaving out important points that the creeds contained. Please take a look at the 12 articles of the Apostle’s Creed below and consider for yourself where your own creed stands in terms of authentic Christian belief. You might be surprised to see that there are important points in the creed that you consider superfluous and vice versa. I know I did when I first studied the creeds! Let’s take the opportunity to be responsible for our faith by making sure that the faith we hold onto is correct and without error.
If you’re wondering why there aren’t scripture references in the creed, this is because there were no such things! What you can clearly see, is the Christological emphasis of the creed. Articles 2-7, which comprises of half of the creed, is about Jesus. This keeps in step with 1 John 4:15, which states, “ If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God.”
1. I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth:
2. And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord:
3. Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary:
4. Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried: He descended into hell:
5. The third day he rose again from the dead:
6. He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty:
7. From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead:
8. I believe in the Holy Ghost:
9. I believe in the holy catholic church: the communion of saints:
10. The forgiveness of sins:
1l. The resurrection of the body:
12. And the life everlasting. Amen.
Rev. Benjamin Chung
July 8, 2018 – Highly Favored
The angel Gabriel went to Mary and said: “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you… 31You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus” (Luke 1:28, 31). “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34). The Virgin Mary who grew up in the city of Nazareth had lived an ordinary life, and she could not understand why God would send the angel Gabriel to find her. But God is full of grace and faithful. God sometimes allows us to feel His presence and receive grace from Him unexpectedly through someone we have met or through things we have experienced in life.
As Mary repeated her thoughts, 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. 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” (Luke 1:35-36). Six months ago, the angel Gabriel did tell Zechariah, the priest and husband of Elizabeth, that his prayers had been answered. Even though both Zechariah and Elizabeth were old, God would give them a son and to name him John. Zechariah did not believe it before, so he would not be able to speak until after John the Baptist was born. After Gabriel told Mary about Zechariah and Elizabeth, he continued: “For no word from God will ever fail.” Mary answered submissively: “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled” (Luke 1:37, 38).
As foretold by Prophet Isaiah, John the Baptist was born to perform baptism in the wilderness and to prepare the road for Jesus The Messiah. Meanwhile, Jesus The Incarnated Lord is our only way to the Father through Him. As God’s highly favored children, we should witness Jesus to others as our Redeemer, “The Way, the Truth, and the Life”. When we prepare for the discipleship training that is coming up, we need to focus on important things. The church is our spiritual family that helps us foster our personal relationship with Christ. May we learn from Mary to have humble heart and receptive spirit, and may we have the desire to rebuild our faith, reclaim lost ground, and repair breaches. As disciples of Christ, may we have the fervent hearts and renewed visions to live our lives that would positively impact the lives of others. Amen.
Rev. Bernie Chung
June 24, 2018 - Comfort From God
In April this year, the U.S. Department of Justice ordered border prosecutors to implement the “zero-tolerance” policy in order to reduce the number of families crossing the border illegally. According to the US Department of Homeland Security, there were more than 2,000 children illegally crossed the Southern border of the United States with their parents since the beginning of May this year. The enforcement policy would not allow parents and children who were detained to stay together. This separation of the parents and their children has caused major objections and protests. Last Tuesday, the Republican Party tried to defuse this political crisis by proposing a legislation that would allow families with children to stay together while they wait for their illegal entry judgement. However, this proposal failed to reach an agreement with other parties to modify President Trump’s order to address illegal entry of immigrants and the resulting separation of parents and children.
According to the CBS poll, two-thirds of Americans said the separation of children and their parents is unacceptable. Among the Democrats and Independents (16% of this group) who participated in the survey, 90% opposed the separation. In contrast, 39% of Republicans were in opposition, and 20% said that they did not have enough knowledge on this matter to make a determination. Older and conservative Republicans said it was acceptable, while young and moderate Republicans did not support the separation policy. Finally, President Trump signed an executive order that would end the separation of family members during detention. As the debates on how to handle illegal immigration rage on, one thing is certain: trust that God is always near. We should not have any separation anxiety as His children.
“For you will nurse and be satisfied at her comforting breasts; you will drink deeply and delight in her overflowing abundance. As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem” (Isaiah 66:11, 13 NIV).
The Prophet Isaiah preaches that God comforts those who fear Him—just like a mother would. The smile of a loving mother calms a panicked child. A child who is often held by parents would feel safe. It might be just enough to hear the comforting voices of parents for a child to get the assurance that all is well. We all must have experienced the comfort of being held in the arms of our parents. Recently our church joyfully celebrated Mother’s Day and Father’s Day to commemorate our parents’ hard work in raising us. When we were young and encountered self-inflicted predicaments, we had to face them ourselves with the knowledge that our parents were always behind us. No wonder those who are saved by God’s grace can always find comfort in God our Father. What a privilege this is! In 2 Corinthians 1:4, the apostle Paul describes our merciful God as one “who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” This is a unique comfort that only our Creator and Redeemer can give.
Rev. Bernie Chung
June 17, 2018 - Jesus is the Answer
In food and culture last week, we experienced two famous celebrities committing suicide. First it was fashion designer Kate Spade. Just a few days later chef and food critic Anthony Bourdain took his life. Mental illness, depression and suicide are serious topics and they do not discriminate on race, social class or income. In fact, 49 out of 50 U.S. states have seen a rise in suicides. In some states the increase is as much as 30%, according to the C.D.C. It’s twice the number of homicides in the US.
And the US isn’t alone. When praying for the nations of the world during prayer meeting a few weeks ago, www.prayercast.com/hong-kong.html noted that Hong Kong has one of the highest suicide rates of elderly people in the world, even though the city is not under Japanese occupation, and there is no famine or poverty. During one of the most peaceful, vibrant and prosperous times, the narrator asks, “What is causing them to feel so hopeless?”
I want to say that if you are dealing with thoughts of suicide then please speak to a pastor and we can find ways to help you both spiritual and mentally. We want to pray for you, because there is power in prayer and miracles happen with prayer! Do not be ashamed, that is the devil speaking lies. I say this because we must also not ignore the fact that as much as we might claim mental illness as psychological, we are also spiritual beings and so we are dealing with the spiritual realm. Satan is at work and he doesn’t play around. He will as much as attempt to get you addicted to a substance as he will try to prevent you from knowing and experiencing God through the finality of death on earth, which leads to eternal death if one does not know Jesus. This is Satan’s ultimate goal and he is always on the attack because he doesn’t need to rest (1 Peter 5:8). He is not of flesh and blood but operates in the world’s darkness and is a spiritual force of evil (Eph. 6:12). Beware his attempts at your life! He wants your life and he’s not playing around!
The Good News is, Jesus does love us and doesn’t want us to die, but to live forever! So, run to the one who wants you to LIVE. He is the fount of life. Jesus is the answer. Go to Him, my brother or sister. Run to Him! He will give you the ultimate rest.
SFCBC family, let us pray for one another and be watchful of our fellow siblings who might have depression and have lost hope. Let us memorize and put into practice what Paul instructs us in 1 Thessalonians 5:11, “Therefore encourage and build one another up, just as you are already doing.”
Rev. Benjamin Chung
June 10, 2018 - Waiting
No one likes to wait. People addicted to coffee can’t wait to drink freshly brewed coffee. Children don’t like to wait for their birthday or Christmas Day to open gifts. No one wants to wait for treatment in the hospital emergency room. We all want instant gratifications or to have our problems resolved immediately. Consider this: haven’t Christians of the past and present have waited for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ for more than 2,000 years since His birth? At the beginning of Chapter 64 of the Book of Isaiah, Isaiah prayed that God would come down from heaven and make the enemies aware of His name, and that the nations would tremble before Him, especially the Assyrians and the Babylonians. Once Isaiah realized that he had just asked the awesome, holy, and righteous God to do this for the Israelites who were sinful with their righteousness shriveled like dry leaves, he stopped his plead.
About twenty years or so after the Lord Jesus’s birth, somewhere along the upstream of the Jordan River, the Holy Spirit descended like a dove upon Lord Jesus. The voice of God the Father declared that Jesus was His Son and our Redeemer. Finally, God validates that the waiting was over for our Messiah.
When we see the cruelty of war, political turmoil, and people’s corruption, we feel the same indignation and impatience that Isaiah experienced. The waiting for Jesus’s return requires patience. And yet, like a doctor in an emergency room, His services are sorely needed now! Even though we do not know when Christ will return, He surely will because He is faithful. 2 Peter 3:9 says: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance”.
Isaiah acknowledged that judgement is inevitable. It is a consequence of our sins. God is angry with us because we’ve turned away from Him and become sinful. In prayer, Isaiah addressed God as a father and a potter. Isaiah appealed to the people of Israel to surrender to God completely and asked the Lord not to remember their sins forever. As sinful people, shouldn’t we do the same while we wait for Christ’s return?
“Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. Do not be angry beyond measure, Lord; do not remember our sins forever. Oh, look on us, we pray, for we are all your people” (Isaiah 64:8-9).
Rev. Bernie Chung
June 3, 2018 - Just Ask
I think many of us have heard the old saying, “It doesn’t hurt to ask.” This is true. Sometimes, we might be looking to purchase an item in the store and if we had just asked, the extra items in the stock-room would have been pulled out. All we needed to do was ask. And, if they didn’t have the item, “no harm, no foul”. On the other hand, we can sometimes ask for things that don’t even exist, hoping they did. If the store does not have any more in stock or the item is sold out, we need to be content with that answer.
That said, if we forget to ask, or we choose not to ask, then it is completely reasonable and even Biblical that we do not receive. I am not even speaking about James 4:3, which says, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions”. Yes, we need to ask rightly, for God’s desires. But even more so, some choose to not even ask the LORD! At the Homeless Outreach this month, I managed to meet two men who happened to speak with me. Surprisingly, the two had very different requests. The first man was encouraged that we were out there and was reminded that he needed to go to church and spend time with God. Our conversation was brief and he allowed me to pray for him before heading off to his appointment. The second man and I had a much longer conversation, and yet, he deflected every attempt to pray for him. Each time I suggested it, he said that God knows everything and therefore also knew his needs. How strange it is, that we can acknowledge God but not go to Him with our needs! And yet, it truly happens.
I believe this is why Jesus tells us, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7). Let us not be fearful of speaking to the LORD. He is a personal God that wants to hear from us and to be in conversation with Him. Let us “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5.17), and be confident in this, “that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us” (1 John 5:14). Let us remember to ask in forgiveness, for 1 John 1:9 affirms, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”.
The LORD truly loves us. Believe this, brothers and sisters! Let us come before Him in both joy and healthy fear (for He is the LORD). It is ok to ask for help, for this is what the LORD wants. Plus, we can acknowledge and shout Hallelujah when the prayer is answered!
Rev. Benjamin Chung
May 27, 2018 - Lord, Revive Us!
Isaiah 61:1-2 says, “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord “ has anointed a person “to proclaim good news to the poor, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, [and] to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor”. “The year of the Lord’s favor“ is similar to the “jubilee year” mentioned in the Book of Leviticus—the fiftieth year consecrated for proclaiming liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. Everyone is to return to their family property and to their own clan. (See Leviticus 25:10.)
About seven hundred years after The Prophet Isaiah gave his prophecy, the Gospel of Luke records that in a synagogue in Nazareth, someone gave the scroll of Isaiah to the young Lord Jesus. Jesus unrolled the scroll and read Isaiah 61:1-2 in portions. The “year of the Jubilee” mentioned in Luke Chapter 4 is the “year of Lord’s favor” in Isaiah 61:2. This was the good news many Israelites were hoping for in those days.
Last Tuesday morning at eight, we received some good news by phone. The police reported that our stolen Honda Civic, parked right in front of our house, had been found after having been missing for four days. We are very happy because this car has faithfully served us for 18 years. It took me six hours to visit two different police stations, sign three documents, pay 340 dollars in fees, and finally end up in a storage yard in Pacifica. When I saw the car and I immediately thanked God for what He has provided. Although some of the parts under the car’s steering wheel have been destroyed or removed, I was still able to drive the car home safely. The next step is to find a repair shop to get it fixed. A rejuvenation is surely required to restore it back to its original safe driving condition, but it will be well worth it.
When the Israelites heard good news again in Isaiah 61:3: “… and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” The Israelites must also put in some hard work themselves. Isaiah 61:4 says, “They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.” In other words, they need to rebuild Jerusalem and restore its past glory and significance. This is revival in action! Dear Brothers and Sisters, are your spiritual lives in disrepair similar to my Honda? Have you lost faith? Are your prayers ineffective? Are you indifferent to God’s righteousness? Is your passion for His ministries needing rejuvenation? If some of these are true, we must repent and ask the Lord to revive us.
Dear Lord, please revive us! Help us restore our relationship with you and reignite our love for you.
Rev. Bernie Chung
May 20, 2018 - Be Specific About Your Sins
As Christian believers we have a joy that the world does not have. We have Jesus! Hallelujah! Yet, we also know that as much as we are children of God—as much as we are saints—we are also sinners. This means that must be vigilant in the steps we take in our spiritual walk. Following the correct path will bring us closer to Him while taking the wrong path will lead us away from Him, regardless of whether we “call” ourselves Christians.
When one follows the correct path, one must also acknowledge the sin in one’s life. We must not only refrain from sin but consider sin as abhorrent the way God does. Some synonyms of sin are: wrongdoing, acts of evil/wickedness, lawlessness, transgression, and crime. These words do not sound good, because sin is not good.
Therefore, we need to be cautious of what we do so that we do not fall into acts of wickedness. “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23). Then, during the times we do fail, we must also learn to specifically address our own sins. If we do not, we are taking the path that leads to destruction.
What I have seen in my years as a pastor is how many Christians choose to deny their sin by comparing to someone who has done worse, making their sin appear “not as bad” or not really sin. Sin is sin is sin. I, too, am guilty of comparing. And if it is not removed from us early, it will only grow and will be more difficult to remove. And finally, when we choose to remove it, it will be all the more strenuous and painful to remove.
Another issue is how some Christians are not humble enough to receive direction but assume that their thoughts and actions are proper. When confronted with their sin, they choose to reject the advice and hold onto their sin. Some Christians are not even able to understand that they are even being confronted! LORD, help us! Help us all to be humble and to not look at the sin of others without also looking at our own.
Then, help us to define and be specific about our sin so that it can be removed. If we are vague about our transgressions, then they will not be removed because we were not clear about what needed to be removed from our lives in the first place. Unclear objectives lead to undefinable results, which is failure. May we identify, admit (privately and publicly to a Christian brother or sister) and then pray that the specific sin be removed as we strive in the Spirit towards the goal of Christ-like holiness.
How about our church? I will also be specific. Our church doesn’t struggle with stealing or murder or adultery. We are too shrewd for that. Our church’s sins include: lukewarm-ness, gossip, nepotism and disunity/mistrust. And yet, we are excellent in welcoming and serving! But if all the pistons are not firing on all cylinders, we will not be a healthy church. Let us pray and act to overcome these specific sins as a church so that we can be healthy!
James 1.21-22 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. 22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
Rev. Benjamin Chung
May 13, 2018 - Mother’s Day
Today is Mother’s Day. Congratulations to every mother and Happy Mother’s Day to everyone! Proverbs 14:1 says, “The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.”
How does a wise woman establish a family? Proverbs Chapter 31 provides many good examples. The woman who is wise has the source of her wisdom coming from the fear of the Lord.
In early days of our society, the wives were expected to stay home to care for the daily life of family members. With children, a mother’s work would never end. The husband, on the other hand, would concentrate to provide for the family’s livelihood. Nowadays, there are changes in the roles of wives and mothers. Today’s women are better educated and often required to offer their talents in the workforce. If things in the family cannot be fully taken care of, the working moms can entrust some of the tasks at home to others.
However, mothers, along with fathers, must rely on themselves to establish spiritual families so that their children will be set in God’s way. “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6 NIV). In terms of family education, mothers often have more profound influence on their children, especially on the spiritual level. Mothers should teach children to walk in accordance to God’s will, and to serve God for His purpose. For example, as recorded in the Bible, Hannah took the first step to educate Samuel by offering him to the Lord. Some of the parents among us worry about our children not being close to God as we would like. It is never too late to pray and ask God to accept them even they are grown-ups. Don’t be discouraged. One thing the Bible teaches us is that it’s never too late with God if we repent. Our God is always near no matter how far we have drifted away from Him. God will forgive those who would humble themselves before Him. God keeps His promise for He is faithful.
The young preacher Timothy knew about God’s salvation because of the godly examples set by his mother and grandmother and their reverent teachings. All mothers should seek opportunities to share the good news of God’s salvation with their children and let them know about God’s sovereignty and righteousness. Timothy’s mother and grandmother taught Timothy about God’s great love and salvation plan for men. This is why Timothy became a firm believer of the Lord Jesus.
Mothers, we need to have the determination to do the same today. Pray for ourselves and our children and promise to be a mother who will share her faith in God and cultivate and teach the next generation to serve God. Wise mothers build up families as Proverbs says. That is why we strive to be the wise mothers. Even if our children have moved away, it’s not too late to share our beliefs with them and we should do it without further delay.
Rev. Bernie Chung
May 6, 2018 – Revival
Throughout the decades and centuries, we’ve seen great revivals in the US and even across the world. Revivals are nothing new. And yet, I am still waiting for one for the SF Bay Area. As much as revivals have happened, there has not been one in the SF Bay Area. And we surely need it.
But what is a revival? What does it mean? I know that we often hear of revival meetings that happen here in SF. But, we haven’t seen anything of the magnitude of the Great Awakenings of the US. I pray that there is such a change and that those around us can understand that darkness that they are living in—for we are in SF and this is a very dark and lost city.
What does revival mean? In the religious context, it means a reawakening of religious fervor, typically by means of evangelistic meetings. And the way they always start, is when believers come together and pray. Let us not forget that there is power in prayer! And through that, may believer and even un-believer truly come to the Father and the Son in repentance and confession so that land might be reconciled to the LORD.
In fact, my youngest son’s name, Ignatius, means revival! Ignatius comes from the word, ignite. You see, when Angelia and I were trying to find a name, Angelia mentioned that she had a student whose parents named him Revival and that she really liked that name. (I also know of a missionary couple who are planning to name their future child, Revival Fire. Wow!) Still wanting to find a Christian name from history, I found Ignatius of Antioch who spoke against false teachings in the church. Then, when I discovered the meaning of the name, I was more encouraged to name #3, Ignatius.
So, just as my son’s name stands for revival, may there truly be revival in SF in my lifetime. Therefore, let us come together in unity and pray for the Lord to reveal His truth and glory to us! LORD, hear us and heal us!!!
2 Chronicles 7:14 If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
Rev. Benjamin Chung
April 29, 2018 - Drain the Swamp
Isaiah 57:1-13 says that the Israelites, God’s chosen people, became rebellious because they had forsaken Jehovah and righteousness, and their actions would be judged. God warned that the righteous among them will suffer because of their misdeeds, but the Israelites were indifferent and oblivious to God’s promise when He said that “whoever takes refuge in me will inherit the land and possess my holy mountain” (Isaiah 57:13b). They continued idol worship and were not faithful to the covenant they had made with God. Isaiah 15:14 says: “Build up, build up, prepare the road! Remove the obstacles out of the way of my people.” For more than 100 years, the slogan “Drain the Swamp” that appeared in United States politics from time to time has similar meanings to “build the road and remove obstacles”. The purpose of draining the swamp is to make the marshes dry, reduce the growth of mosquitoes and control malaria. This phrase in a political sense means to bring about radical changes by getting rid of bad habits and adopt new ones. If God’s chosen people, the Israelites, do not eradicate the root cause of their sinfulness, whatever they do would be futile, and their energy would be wasted—as it is written: “But the wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud” (Isaiah 57:20 NIV).
The Book of Isaiah still speaks to us today. Those of us who believe in God must deal with the “filth and mud” of our lives. Before our spiritual lives can be healed and rejuvenated by God, we must remove obstacles that prevent us to experience peace from heaven. We all have different obstacles. Being prideful could be one. Inflated ego is another. We often try to find faults in others while ignoring our own because we feel insecure. Dear Brothers and Sisters, if we want God to heal us with His mercy, we must examine ourselves and identify all the obstacles. Let’s repent and humbly pray in the presence of the Lord for He is faithful, and His anger will not last forever. “For this is what the high and exalted One says— he who lives forever, whose name is holy: “I live in a high and holy place, but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite” (Isaiah 57:15 NIV). This is God’s promise. May God have mercy on us by helping us drain our swamps and grant us comfort and peace along the way.
And make effort to attend the National Day of Prayer this Thursday!
Rev. Bernie Chung
April 22, 2018 - Humility Wanted
In the Parable of the Wicked Tenants (Matthew 21:33-46), which is one of Jesus’ many powerful parables, Jesus tells the story of how the tenants of a vineyard did not receive the master’s servants and even his son. In fact, the tenants abused and killed many of the servants and they also killed the son. The irony of the story is that, after Jesus tells the story and asks what should be done with the tenants, the Jewish leaders respond that the master “will bring those wretches to a wretched end” … “and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crops at harvest time” (v.41). By saying this they wrote their own death sentence.
In short, the master is the Father, the Son is the Lord Jesus and the servants are the prophets of God. Who were the tenants then? His own brethren, God’s chosen people, the Jews. Time and time again, the Jews would rebel against the prophets of God—killing them—who were sent to guide the people of Israel. The Jews chose to be their own leaders by obeying their own desires rather than the Lord’s will. By their own judgment, the Jews would be brought to a wretched end for what they did.
Then in v.43, Jesus states, “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce fruit.” Who then, are the new tenants who will work the vineyard? The Gentiles. That’s us! We are now given the vineyard to produce fruit. But, there is still a responsibility as a follower of Christ. We need to produce fruit! But if we have more pride than humility, we can fall into the same pit as the Jews and be removed from the vineyard because we are not producing fruit.
Paul also teaches in Romans 11:17-24: “Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. 23And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. 24After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree!”
What this says is, we can just as easily be removed and the Jews grafted back in to the tree, as the Jews were removed and we were grafted into the tree. Likewise, the Jews were not foolish enough to misunderstand Jesus’ lesson (v.45). They understood completely, but their pride caused them to ignore the warning all the more (v.46). As believers, let us not make the same mistake. The first step we must take to producing fruit is to be humble and listen to Christ and the leaders that that Lord has sent us. Otherwise, not only will we not have fruit, we will not even be grafted in!
Rev. Benjamin Chung
April 15, 2018 – Respond to God’s Call
Whenever we feel deficient or in need, we will try our best to meet our own needs. In the morning if the weather suddenly turns cold, we put on an extra layer of clothing before going out. If rain is in the weather forecast for tonight, we naturally bring rain gear before going out in the evening. When we are hungry we look for food. Similarly, even babies who cannot talk will cry to their mothers when they are hungry or uncomfortable. Under normal circumstances, we make our needs known and even willingly to pay for food or items that are lacking. Curiously, Chapter 55 of Isaiah says that all those who are thirsty and hungry do not need to spend money to buy food and drink. It also points out that people often misuse their money because they do not know what their real needs are. Besides, hard currency has no value in the spiritual realm. In other words, if we are to satisfy spiritual hunger and thirst, we must pay with something of spiritual value. When we lack things of spiritual value, how can we meet our spiritual needs? Isaiah 55:1 says “you who have no money, come…” because Jesus has paid the spiritual price for us.
Isaiah 55:3 says, “Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David.” This means that we need to listen carefully. If we want to live spiritually, we must rely on the everlasting covenant that has been established for us. This everlasting covenant is also the assured gift of grace that has already been promised to David. This is why we celebrate the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ because He has offered Himself on the Cross and has paid for the ultimate spiritual cost that we have no way of paying. All the people who are thirsty and hungry spiritually can receive God’s grace of forgiveness freely through Jesus’ redemption of our sins. What a pity if we “spend money on what is not bread, and (our) labor on what does not satisfy?” (Isaiah 55:2). When God proclaimed the ignorance of the Israelites through the Prophet Isaiah, the Israelites should have heeded God’s call to meet their real needs in life. Isaiah 55 tells us that God has called you! What is your response?
Rev. Bernie Chung
April 08, 2018 - Face to Face
My! What our emotions can do to us! Recently, a young man (who is not at SFCBC) inquired with me about how he should proceed with his relationship with his ex-girlfriend. He still has feelings for her and he wants to make things right and restore the relationship. He even showed me their correspondences on his phone. But as I reviewed the text messages he had with his ex, it was obvious that she didn’t want anything to do with him. When he pointed out the good things he did and how he did them with love and care towards her, the responses he received were not of appreciation but disdain and animosity. What was to be taken as a positive defense, was interpreted as offensive rubbish by the ex-girlfriend. I could see that the conversations were heading nowhere good.
I likened what was happening to the young man to a jar in which from his point of view, it was labeled as “Awesome Proof of Being a Good Boyfriend”. His attempts to prove how his many actions were honestly done out of love were interpreted negatively. The responses were along the lines of, “should I put out a parade for you?”, “do you want a cookie for your efforts?”, or even the rebuttal, “what about all the good things ‘I’ did here, here, and here?” In short, on her side of the jar was “Failed Attempts of my Ex-Boyfriend Trying to Get Me to Like Him” and the relationship was over.
Why such a discrepancy? One reason is this conversation was over text. And texting is one of the worst ways to communicate if there is an argument. (Email and other digital forms are equally poor methods.) The reason is that we cannot hear the tones of the speaker and our brains must then imagine what the other person is stating. If we have a negative view of the person, the tone will come out negatively. And if we have a positive view of the person, the tone will come out positively.
One thing I’ve learned in life is to have a positive view of everyone and give them the benefit of the doubt, especially if there is a disagreement. Titus 3:2 says, “slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.” And James 1:19 also instructs us all to: “be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” In so doing, we are able to see the brother or sister that God made in His own image. At the same time, we can be reminded that the person, even if he/she has wronged us, is no worse a sinner than the person we see in the mirror every day. The sooner we face this truth, the sooner conflicts can be resolved.
Rev. Benjamin Chung
April 01, 2018 – Why be Surprised?
Recently, brothers and sisters at our Wednesday morning prayer meetings would often visit senior centers afterward and have lunch and fellowship with the retired seniors. One time we sat with an elderly lady who had immigrated to the United States for many years. When we invited her to come to the church at her convenience, she answered by saying that she had already been baptized. However, when we mentioned Easter to her, she appeared extremely surprised as if she had never heard of Easter before. After C-Mo Katie explained Easter to her, suddenly she seemed to recall it. Isaiah 52:14 says: “Just as there were many who were appalled at him — his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being and his form marred beyond human likeness—”. This passage is the fourth time that Prophet Isaiah described this “servant” and is the longest description yet. Refer to Isaiah 42:1-9; 49:1-6; 50:4-9; &52:13-53:12 also. All these descriptions were written in poetic form. The “servant” described in the Book of Isaiah is the Lord Jesus.
There is no doubt that the Book of Isaiah contains the most abundant and unmistakable prophecy about Christ in the Bible. We all have read Chapter 53 of Isaiah and may even have sought comfort from it. When many of us hear Handel’s Messianic chorus of the Messiah, immediately we think of Isaiah 53:3-8. As we study more about these chapters, we can feel vividly the description of the Lord Jesus Christ comes to life even though this prophecy was made more than 700 years before Christ. In fact, one writer described this passage this way: “If someone does not know that this is from the Old Testament, they will probably say that this is a passage from the New Testament Gospel.”
Do we really “see” the penalties and sufferings the Lord Jesus has borne for us? The key is to “see” all the sufferings He has endured—the punishments of the body, mind, and spirit. Christ did not come to us in “beauty or majesty” that attract us to Him, but instead Jesus appeared full of humility of a servant as God has planned. Does Easter jar our memory? This may cause us to be “surprised” at Jesus’ willingness to be despised and rejected by men as the Lamb of Redemption. We need to “see” this as no surprise at all because only then can we understand the price Jesus has paid for our sins. When we’ve understood what happened on the cross, we can “stand” before His feet and say: “…to Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” (Revelation 5:13 NIV)
Rev. Bernie Chung
March 25, 2018 – A Time to Reflect, Repent and Rejoice!
As you walked into church this morning, did you notice anything different as you entered into the Sanctuary or Chapel today? Today is Palm Sunday! Today is a commemoration of the day our Lord Jesus Christ was welcomed triumphally into Jerusalem. Imagine the palm branches on the walls being placed on the ground and waved in the air to welcome the King into the city. There is the sense of excitement and celebration as God is going to do something great for the Jews because the King has entered.
But in just four short (yet eventful) days all that celebration changed. Jesus turns the temple upside down by kicking out the moneylenders, visits the Mount of Olives, and has His Last Supper Thursday night with the disciples in the Upper Room. Jesus even WASHES THEIR FEET! Jesus foretells of Peters three denials. After dinner (in which Jesus does not finish the Seder meal, we learned from the Jews for Jesus speaker two weeks ago), He and three of his disciples go to the Garden of Gethsemane. The disciples fall asleep 3 times as Jesus asks them to stay up and pray. He’s betrayed and arrested by Judas Iscariot, brought before Pilate, and sentenced to death on the cross. (During this short duration, Peter denies Jesus three times.) Then, on Good Friday, Jesus was crucified on the cross for our sins. Then, three days later, on what we call Resurrection Sunday, Jesus arose from the grave. Hooray! Hallelujah!
I hope you have been preparing your heart, mind and soul the last few weeks and will also use this upcoming week to reflect and consider your own salvation and relationship with Jesus. What have you done to nail Jesus upon the cross? What do you need to ask the LORD forgiveness of? This is a unique time for you to seriously reflect on your life and walk with Jesus. There might even be brothers or sisters for you to apologize to for sins and wrongs you might have committed against them. And, you may also consider who you might need to forgive, because they have wronged you. Think about it, Jesus forgave your sins by dying on the cross. What joy ought to fill our hearts because of the Amazing Grace Jesus bestows upon us! Thank the LORD. Now is the time. Now is the season. Repent and thank the LORD today!
And take some time and review the Passion Week. Refer to Matthew 21:1-17 (The Triumphal Entry) and Matthew 26:1-28:20 and see how the change wasn’t just for the Jews. Jesus came so that all of humanity might be saved and have eternal life! He shed his blood on the cross to wash away our sins and make us white as snow. Thank you for this great and wonderful gift, Lord Jesus! You turned our mourning into dancing! We rejoice in you! We worship you and praise you, forever and ever! Amen!
Rev. Benjamin Chung
March 18, 2018 - Peace Like a River
There are many choices in life we have yet to make. Some are insignificant while others may affect our lives and the people we know including our family, friends, colleagues, and brothers and sisters of the church. Making the right decision is not always easy based on our experience. We can ask, “Why can’t we rely on a navigation system to guide us to go through our life journey from start to finish?” After all, when we drive a car the navigation system will help us avoid traffic jams by suggesting alternate routes and short cuts, and this keeps us from getting lost and guides us to the right destination. The navigation system is more superior than us in finding the correct route because it has access to the real-time traffic conditions.
From time to time, we have to decide on how to raise our children, how to advance our careers, whom to marry, how to manage personal finances, and our commitments to church ministry, etc. Do you realize that The Bible is our ultimate navigation system? One of the greatest benefits of belonging to God’s Kingdom is that we no longer have to make decisions solely based on our limited perspectives and wisdom; and we mustn’t be stubborn when things do not go according to plan. Isaiah 48:17 says: “This is what the Lord says— your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: ‘I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.’”
The Israelites were very stubborn. They did not heed God’s many warnings and they refused to listen to His voice. In Isaiah 48:4, God says: “For I knew how stubborn you were; your neck muscles were iron, your forehead was bronze.” The Israelites’ stubbornness came from their hardened hearts. Psalm 81:11-12 says: “But my people would not listen to me; Israel would not submit to me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices.”
Because of their sinfulness, God called these Israelites wicked. They belonged to the world and did not have peace. If there is no peace in our lives, we cannot blame others but ourselves. The only correct solution to our woe is to follow God’s will and obey His decrees and commands. Do we have to state the obvious by saying that we ought to participate in church worship and fellowship, offer dedicated service, and provide monetary supports to The Lord’s ministries? Needless to say that all these should be done!
Isaiah 48:18 says: “If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your well-being like the waves of the sea.” Indeed, if we listen to the words and teachings of The Lord, our peace is like a river, and our righteousness is like waves. What the Lord has said He will carry out. He guided the people of Israel through the desert and made the water flow from rock so that they would thirst no more. In similar fashion, He will redeem us today. Amen!
Rev. Bernie Chung
March 11, 2018 - Encourage Today
During this time of Lent, we have the opportunity to reflect more closely on our life and our relationship with God. It is a time to come clean on the things that are preventing us from drawing closer to Him. This is also a time to see how much we’ve grown in our spiritual walk WITH Him!
Lest we forget, everything is interconnected and impacts the other. This means, our interactions with others can also tell us how much we relate to the LORD and how we really understand God’s love.
Watching a documentary on Netflix about how boys grow up in America to be men, it was a reminder of how we’re taught by this culture and society certain ideals. These include, but is not an exhaustive list, that real men: are not allowed to cry (or have much emotions), are to be aggressive, and should be athletically gifted. This is depicted by what goes on in media, to what boys are taught at school, to even what is asserted at home.
What the video pointed out is how boys were not encouraged much, if at all, except to do better; meaning, their short-comings were pointed out. They were not seen as beings with emotions, but rather beings that shouldn’t have emotions and still need to perform to a standard, when in fact, both women AND men have emotions! This can cause anxiety and depression in males, and in some cases suicide or even as we’ve seen recently in a high school in Florida and Central Michigan University, the desire to murder others.
This causes me to wonder if a young man or even an adult man (or for that matter, anyone) in our church could pull off something as tragic as this? I surely hope not! This verse then comes to mind.
Hebrews 3:13 “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”
Christ calls His people to love one another. This means a positive view of one another is necessary. This is why we are told to encourage one another daily, while we are here on earth. Otherwise, we can fall prey and harden our hearts “by sin’s deceitfulness”. We can conclude in our hearts that people are failures and have no good in them. And yet, that is exactly why Jesus came to earth. To save us all! Jesus saved you and me, not to condemn others, but to spur them on and “encourage one another daily”. This doesn’t mean that we completely forget their mistakes, but that we don’t hold it over them so that when they try to get back up, we are the ones who are pushing them back down. This is another way for sin to deceive us. Until Jesus returns “Tomorrow” let us not forget to encourage one another “Today”.
Rev. Benjamin Chung
March 4, 2018 - Make Decisions by Faith Without Fear
buy, where or when? Among other life journey milestones, does God tell us when to retire or when and how to serve Him in His Kingdom? How can we know what is in God’s mind? Many Christians pray before they make their choices and then take action, believing that this must be the will of God. The Prophet Isaiah described God as the God who concealed Himself (Isaiah 45:15). When God moved the heart of King Cyrus of Persia to proclaim and allow the Jews to return to the desolate land of Jerusalem, He gave no indication as to why such an important change was not initiated by the Jews instead of a pagan king. God’s heart was hidden. However, He is not an incomprehensible God. Moses said in Deuteronomy 29:29, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.” Likewise, God does not tell us where we should live, or what kind of house for us to rent or to buy. It is obvious that God does not want our living environment to stifle our spiritual growth.
If we understand the difference between things from God that are either concealed and revealed, we would not be afraid of making the wrong decision based on faith. Suppose we have two occupations to choose from, and one of them is not our favorite and there is no opportunity to glorify God in that line of work. We should reject such occupation on Biblical principles. What happens if we are confronted with two job choices that are both ideal and can enable us to bring glory to God? Take our pick! God gives us the freedom to choose. In other words, God does not ask us to speculate on any hidden meaning God has in our choice of profession.
Therefore, dear Brothers and Sisters, let us continue to seek God’s will. We ought to understand what He hides from us is irrelevant to our current situation. Some brothers and sisters told me this about their cruise ship experience. As passengers they do not need to know how the captain handles the cruise ship navigation, nor do they care how the chef prepares the meals. Once aboard, everyone should enjoy the scenery of the sea, the meals onboard and amenities to make the journey memorable. Let’s continue to seek and be mindful of God’s revelations, and do not be preoccupied with hidden things. Make decisions by faith without fear. Amen!
Rev. Bernie Chung
February 25, 2018 – The Warning Siren
Last month, a siren went off in Hawaii warning of an imminent missile attack on the Island State. This wasn’t a drill. It was an official warning. With a missile attack those on the island know they would likely be dead within the hour. Thankfully, there was no missile attack. The warning went out due to “human error” when an employee incorrectly pressed the wrong button. What was supposed to be a practice test ended up appearing to be the real thing.
Some interesting news did come up in the aftermath. Many residents and vacationers did seek shelter, while others did not heed or even hear the warning. At the University of Hawaii, the Baptist Collegiate Ministries director led students to a sheltered area partially underground until the all-clear was given. His thoughts shared a different concern. The director had recalled a Japanese friend who agreed to studying the Bible with him, just the day before. Knowing that this friend still did not know Jesus, he prayed, “Lord, don’t let him die, so he can still hear about Jesus”. It was only after the missile threat that was made did the issue feel so immediately real to the director.
Those of us who live in San Francisco can hear the siren that sounds every Tuesdays at noon to test the advanced warning system. For me, it is a reminder that death can come all too sudden. We might not have frigid winters, tornadoes or hurricanes in our temperate climate. But the Bay Area is still prone to natural disasters or attack. A tsunami could be on the way to San Francisco or we could also be under missile attack. A large and catastrophic earthquake is predicted to occur soon by geologists. Does this mean we need to get more insurance? (That’s up to you and may not be a bad idea.) More importantly, we need to remember that there are still many who don’t know the saving gospel of Jesus. Do not delay! Who do you know that doesn’t know about Jesus? Who is not a believer in your circle of friends? Take some time to write their names down below. Then start praying for them to come to faith. And keep praying for them. We don’t know when the siren might sound for us and be the real thing.
PS. You can also use the Tuesday siren as a reminder to pray for pre-Christian friends.
Jude 22-23a Be merciful to those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them from the fire.
Rev. Benjamin Chung
February 18, 2018 - Making a Way in the Wilderness and Streams in the Wasteland
As recorded in the Book of Isaiah, The Lord has spoken several times that He is the Redeemer and The Holy One of Israel. This was made very clear starting with Isaiah Chapter 41. Jehovah Himself would first proclaim what will happen and then He would act on it in due time. The Lord also reminded the Israelites that He Himself was The Mighty One who delivered them from the bondage of Egypt and led them crossing the Red Sea. The Lord says: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:18-19 NIV). God is reminding us that seemingly impossible feats will happen according to His will, for God is faithful.
Today is February 13th. Leslie and Nancy Wong of Chinese Christian Mission, who also are members of our church, led a mission team comprised of eight persons—Leslie, Nancy, CMo Katie, myself, and four others from the East Coast. We came to Ecuador’s largest city, Guayaquil. This is our eleventh day here participating in the ministry of a local Chinese evangelical church. We supported Rev. and Mrs. Cheng and three other missionaries with their outreach ministries by making home visits; contacting seekers, business owners, and new families. We also helped to provide an early Spring Gala for the Chinese community. Other activities included socializing with Spanish class students, giving sermon, leading Bible studies, and teaching Sunday school for adults and children, etc…
Everyone of the mission team and our local hosts are eager to seize the opportunity to share the Gospel. We passed out leaflets, gave testimonies, and helped the seekers we met to experience and understand salvation and the power of the Gospel. We prayed and encouraged them to repent and accept Christ as their Savior.
It is often very difficult to schedule for home visits because everyone has to work very hard and long hours to earn a living in Ecuador. “Making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” are no easy tasks indeed, but our faithful God has provided the way. By the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, CMo Katie and I were able help Mr. and Mrs. Zheng and their 12-year-old daughter to accept Christ. We are grateful for God’s grace. We will be leaving tomorrow at noon for San Francisco and we are determined to use what little time we have to make more outreach visits before departure.
Dear God, please continue to use all of us to make way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland, and bless the outreach ministry in Ecuador. We thank you and praise your name, Lord. Hallelujah!
Rev. Bernie Chung
February 11, 2018 – Living as Servants of God
1 Peter 2:13-17 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. 17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.
As believers, we know we have chosen to follow Christ. And by doing so, we belong to Jesus and are dead “to the law through the body of Christ” (Romans 7:4). we know that we have been freed from the condemnation that comes from the law. This does not mean that we are “free” to do as we please. We still have a responsibility to this world. Peter tells us to be SUBJECT to every human institution so “that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people”.
I almost had the opportunity to do so a few weeks ago when I was called in to be a juror. God blessed me with a fellow ally. Pastor Gordon Ling was also called as a juror to the same case! Although I wasn’t called up to the juror’s box, I did get a chance to listen in and consider the judge’s two requirements for a juror. 1, can you follow instructions? 2, can you be unbiased? We heard the judge ask jurors those two questions over and over again. And it caused me to ask myself what I would say, were the judge to ask me those same two questions.
I know what I would NOT have said. Another pastor-friend told me of his time at the courthouse, where he also ended up waiting, and there happened to be another pastor. As soon as the attorney asked, “Who does not think they should be here and be dismissed”, the other pastor stood up and said, “I am a pastor and I will not be able to stay unbiased for the court case”. Upon hearing that, the attorney said, “anyone else here a pastor?” My pastor-friend rose his hand and then they attorney said that they were both dismissed. I get that sometimes you don’t want to be there because it is inconvenient, but at the same time, I believe the pastor who spoke up did a great dis-service to our Christian testimony. Instead of living as servants, he told the audience there that Christians were biased people and unfit for juror duty, especially pastors! (FYI, my pastor-friend did want to stay.)
Armed with this story, I knew that if I was called up to the juror’s box, I would state the opposite. I was ready to say, “Your Honor, I am a pastor. As such, I am also put in the position as a judge to review incidents in the church. Similar to the court, I abide by laws, except they are the truth found in the Bible. I also have to consider the evidence and come to a fair verdict, with grace and mercy. I know I can follow the instructions and be unbiased.”
Not just pastors, but all of us are called to “be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution” unless it conflicts with our fundamental beliefs. Being a juror and being unbiased does not conflict with our faith. And if you think you cannot be unbiased, ask the LORD to help you to do so. For v.17 also states: “Fear God. Honor the emperor.” We might not have an emperor, but the government takes on that role. So, in all things, let us live as Servants of God!
Rev. Benjamin Chung
February 4, 2018 - Do Not Be Afraid
What are you afraid of? Are you fearful of the darkness of night? Are you fearful of heights or the sight of a snake? Many years ago, a friend of mine who was afraid of dogs came to my house for a visit. We purposely confined our German shepherd to one corner of our house in advance. To this day, I still do not know how she got out, but escape she did! The dog ran into the living room while we were chatting. My friend who was fearful of canines suddenly panicked, jumped onto her seat and started to cry for help. What makes this is especially funny is the fact that her son is a veterinarian.
I believe we all have different fears. Just because we might feel embarrassed to admit that we are scared, doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with being fearful. To help us cope with fears, Isaiah 41:10 says: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
First and foremost, we are able to live “fearlessly” because our God is with us! God helps us be strong and courageous. He helps us stand firm and not to be shaken. Knowing that we have a close relation with our Lord, we need not to be afraid of anything. The key to keep us from being panicking is our certainty that The Almighty God is our God. We become “strong” when we place our trust in Him. King David had this experience: “David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David found strength in the Lord his God” (1 Samuel 30:6).
The Apostle Paul shares his apostolic insight with us by saying: “But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it…” (2 Timothy 4:17). Paul explains that being with the Lord gives him power.
“Jesus Love Sunset” is a joint evangelical outreach effort of six churches in the Sunset District. The training and hands on experience for evangelism will take place from February 9th through 11th. With encouragement from one another, twenty brothers and sisters from our church have enrolled. Brothers and sisters from the English congregation had also participated in similar outreach activities last year, and there will be an evangelism training from February 22nd through 24th for them as well.
When we talk to others about saving grace for the very first time, it is normal to feel timid. We must prepare and equip ourselves. 1 Peter 3:15 says: “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” As long as we truly and openly admit that God is our God and place our trust in Him, His grace and strength will be given to us.
Rev. Bernie Chung
January 28, 2018 - The Purpose of the Church
For any organization, be it a company, a school, a country, even a church, it needs to keep at its heart the purpose for its existence. If the purpose gets confused, lost, or forgotten, it will not be operating according to its original design. This is not healthy. This will cause confusion, arguments, and increase distrust. This can spell disaster for the organization.
This is why even something like confirming the context of a passage during a sermon is so important. Theologian D.A. Carson’s shares an oft mentioned quote of his father’s: “a dictum in our home when I was growing up was ‘a text without context becomes a pretext for a prooftext’”. It’s similar to the sermon I gave on Christmas, “The Main Thing is to Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing”. The text is what we want to learn from. The context is the reason for the text and gives a greater understanding of the meaning behind the original text. The danger is (as Carson points out) if the context is not understood, the prooftext (out-of-context quotation) becomes the pretext (or excuse) of the argument.
For instance, the theme for this year is, Life Changing Life in Christ. And the passage is, Hebrews 10:24 (see below for reference). If we do not know the context, we could easily say, “the goal for SFCBC (and perhaps all churches) is to figure out how to encourage everyone to be loving and do good deeds”. But to what end? This could easily develop into a works-based purpose to simply be loving and do good deeds.
Now, let’s consider the context of the passage by looking at a verse before and after the selected verse. Hebrews 10:23-25,
“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching”.
The purpose is because the day of the LORD (Jesus’s return) is approaching. Therefore, we should continue to meet together, to encourage and spur one another on from stumbling, so that we are found to be without fault on THAT day. Let’s nor forget the underlying purpose of why we are a church, because Jesus is returning!
Rev. Benjamin Chung
January 21, 2018 – Those Who Hope in the Lord Will Renew Their Strength
Do you like to wait? Honestly, I will try my best to avoid waiting if there is a chance. When you buy food at the supermarket, how often have you set your eyes on the quickest line to pay? Sometimes anxiety causes us to make wrong choices. Some of us are willing to pay extra for online purchases in order for them to arrive faster to our front door. We want to get our food fast too. No wonder we see the proliferation of so many fast food restaurants. Some things have to wait for though. No matter how anxious we are, we cannot have tomorrow today. Another example is the need for a single person to wait patiently to find a suitable spouse because it is a lifetime commitment. Couples without children may also need to wait patiently for a newborn$B!G(Bs arrival. Those who are willing to wait and heed God’s call are destined for lives of fulfillment.
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:28-31 NIV
Let’s ponder on why God wants us to wait? Recently, both Northern and Southern California suffered catastrophic mountain fires. Afterward, the rainy season brought heavy torrential rain of recent record. In just a few hours the downpour caused landslides in South California, resulting in dozens of casualties. If instead the same amount of rain falls slowly and continuously over several days or even a week to allow absorption, the landslide disasters may be averted. The rainfalls are beneficial to help fighting forest fire and drought if, and only if the timing is right.
God has impeccable timing when He bestows upon us the spiritual gifts of love, joy, peace and so forth. These gifts would not come to us overnight on expedited delivery. We need to be patient and act in concert with the Holy Spirit as the Bible has taught us. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; … Psalm 37:7 NIV
God calls us to wait and to obey Him. Waiting on The Lord does not mean we can sit and do nothing. We should have the minds of the children looking forward to Christmas with great anticipation. We must work for God diligently. With God’s peace and joy in us, we would be energized to run and not grow weary, walk and not be faint. May we experience God’s presence and His faithfulness in this new year.
Rev. Bernie Chung
January 14, 2018 - Life Changing Life in Christ
Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.
Brothers and sisters, the 2018 theme for SFCBC is “Life Changing Life in Christ”. And Hebrews 10:24 is SFCBC’s theme verse for the year. After much time deliberating and praying over the passage, SFCBC’s deacon board was led to this verse. It is important that you know it. It might even be wise to memorize it. Why? The first reason is because we believe that as the spiritual leaders of the church, we’ve been led by the spirit to this passage. The second is so that we can strive together as a family towards a common purpose.
Consider what would happen if we were going on a trip as a church and only a few people knew the address of the destination. A lot of us would be lost and upset. And I know we would be making a lot of phone calls because it is everyone’s intent to be at the destination together. This is why it is so important for each of us to know the theme and verse.
But let us also consider the theme and the meaning of “Life Changing Life in Christ”. What does this mean? Discipleship. Plain and simple. It is the active relationship of one believer (mentor/discipler) with another believer (mentee/disciple) to train up the younger to be more mature and Christ-like. This is the spurring on “one another toward love and good deeds” means. Discipleship is not simply sitting back and considering giving instructions. Actions needs to be taken! Relationships need to be made and built! There is no time like the present! 2 Thessalonians 3:7 incites us in the same way by saying, “For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you.
Lastly, who is to receive the love and good deeds of the disciple? Yes, the mentor will receive some. But it cannot be him only. If the mentee is not trained up to become a mentor himself, the life cycle will end because no further disciples are being raised up. This goes against Christ’s Matthew 28:19-20a command: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you”. This command is for all Christians to follow. Let’s do it in the name of Jesus!
Rev. Benjamin Chung
January 7, 2018 - Put Your House in Order
When preparing for the coming of New Year 2018, the valued Chinese tradition of “welcoming the new year by getting rid of old things at the end of the year” comes to my mind. Although Chinese New Year is still a month and a half away, I made a head start to clear one side of my office during Christmas. This was something I wanted to do for a long time. As I put away books and cleared some debris, I recovered some lost items unexpectedly. I should find time to continue cleaning the other side of the office soon. Who is to say that I would not find some more lost treasures?
Christmas and New Year is really a time of caring, joy, and celebration. It is also a time for new beginning and having a sense of renewal. For some, it is time to reflect on past gains or losses, dreams realized or opportunities lost, and being grateful or being remorseful. Nevertheless, God has His purpose and good intentions as we go through all the ups and downs in life. What matters most is whether we can justify the way we live as having the same mindset as Jesus Christ. Whenever things do not go well, it is easy to get discouraged; but we should not lose faith because even in times of adversity and suffering, our loving God will care for us. Those of us who truly know our Lord Jesus Christ can understand the Redeemer’s mindset. We can judge our own life journeys with Jesus’ point of view. When we find things seemingly impossible, we need to remember what Jesus said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God” (Luke 18:27 NIV). When we are down, we know Jesus also said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
We may not be able to fully understand the work of God. The Bible says, “In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.” Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, “Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. Then the word of the Lord came to Isaiah: “Go and tell Hezekiah, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will add fifteen years to your life” (Isaiah 38:1-5).
The LORD did give fifteen more years to King Hezekiah who escaped death. We may not have the same experience as Hezekiah’s, but we should get ourselves ready by putting our house in order just the same. We should be mindful that our days on earth are also numbered. Our spring cleaning should not be limited to getting rid of or rearranging physical things. We should also rid ourselves of unclean thoughts and deeds. With clean hands and pure hearts, let’s welcome and experience God’s grace and presence anew.
Rev. Bernie Chung