Pastoral Sharing 2018
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