Pastoral Sharing 2017
December 31, 2017 – Stench or Fragrance?
As the New Year approaches once again, I can imagine many possibilities SFCBC has for the gospel and the increase in the eternally saved. We can reach our neighbors in our church’s neighborhood, connect with students at SFSU (through ISI), or assist a Baptist church in another state. I’m also thinking about missions to college students in China! Wouldn’t that be a wonderful fragrance unto the LORD? Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 9:37-38, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
What I don’t want to see is complaining and in-fighting which leads to roadblocks and missed opportunities. It makes me wonder if the old Turkish adage is true: “The fish stinks first from the head.” If we use a country as the model for this illustration, it means that the country is in disarray not because of the people but because the leadership is inept at its responsibility of leading the country and caring for its citizens. Actually, having done some research, this statement isn’t even biologically accurate. The fish stinks from the guts first, not the head.
Truth be told, it doesn’t really where the fish stinks from because if the fish stinks, it’s because it’s dead. And a smelly-dead fish is not even good for eating because the fish is rotting from the inside-out. My hope is that our church becomes healthier and does not end up as a dead fish. This means we need to change! Church, if change is good, even if painful or difficult, it must be done! And the New Year is a good time for us to get into the mindset of change. Let us take care that the direction of change is towards life and not death. Galatians 6:7-8 says, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
This will be my tenth year at SFCBC. Can you believe it?! I really want to see our church growing in evangelism/mission and discipleship/leadership. There is more to be done. Let us not be bogged down by complacency, gossip, nepotism, and other sins. In 2018, let the battle not be amongst those of flesh and blood, as Ephesians 6:12 elaborates, for this is Satan’s distraction. Instead, let the battle in 2018 be over the winning of souls and the growth of the believer, where the true battle exists. This is the good and sweet fragrance that the LORD wants and what the truly spiritual can discern as holy!
Rev. Benjamin Chung
December 24, 2017 – Take Root Below and Bear Fruit Above
When we as sinners understand salvation and repent, our sins are forgiven by Christ’s redemption. We are justified by faith and reconciled to God through the power of God’s gospel (Romans 3:24). We also possess the status of being “holy” because we are “sanctified “in Christ Jesus. We receive this sanctification at the same time when we are justified by faith. Therefore, Paul referred to Christians who lived in Corinth and Rome as “saints” even though they were still involved in sins of jealousy, contempt, arrogance, immorality and frivolous litigation. As Christians, we also know that we should not sin. However, when we succumb to the lust of the body, the power of sin often reigns in our lives (Romans 6:12). We must rely on the Holy Spirit to free us from the bondage of sin and to help us enter into the life of “sanctification” that takes a lifetime to master.
All of us begin the process of “sanctification” in our lives through the resurrection of the Lord Jesus when we choose the “narrow gate” for our entrance (Matthew 7: 13-14). Isaiah 37:31 depicts the process of sanctification in life as “take root below and bear fruit above.” This passage also exhorts us to be patient and persevering. When children are able to stand by themselves, the very first thing their parents would do is to record their heights on the door frame. Medical staff would do similar and other measurements to monitor the children’s overall development at various stages of their growth. All parents would hope for normal growth for their children, and any abnormality would be a cause for concerns. However, “sanctification” in life is more complex and the process of spiritual development is not so easy to measure.
As the sanctified life continues to grow, the born-again life becomes more and more Christ-like by gaining spiritual maturity along the way. The growth of a sanctified life differs from the growth and development of a child in this way: While a child only grows upward, the life of sanctification needs to take root below as well—a phenomenon we can understand from observing the growth of a fruit tree. This is how God speaks to us when He spoke to the Israelites through the Prophet Isaiah. May God have mercy on us. As we look forward to 2018, may the sanctification of Christ in our lives be evident to us all. Let us not respond in a worldly manner to the trials, difficulties and dilemmas that will come our way but with spiritual discernment and wisdom that comes from the mysteries of the Bible and guidance from the Holy Spirit. This is how each of us will know if we are deeply rooted in the words of God and of Jesus Christ.
Rev. Bernie Chung
December 17, 2017 – The Advents
Advent actually means, the arrival of a notable, thing or event. Therefore, as Christians, this current Advent season is the time in which we anxiously await the coming of Christ in the Christmas story and celebrate the arrival of the baby King. This is to be a time of joy and excitement.
There is another time of Advent for Christians, and this is Easter/Resurrection Sunday. It is a more subdued season as we reflect on the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of our LORD Jesus Christ, which is more formally known as Lent. We are called to internally reflect on our sins, repent and acknowledge the propitiation of our sins by Christ, the justification we receive because our due penalty is death, the sanctification of our souls by the blood of Christ, and even the future glorification we will receive in heaven.
Let me also ask this 2-part question, which season in church history do you think was celebrated first? And why was it celebrated first?
Here’s the answers. Easter was celebrated first. The reason being, the early church assumed that Jesus was going to return very soon. There was no incentive to celebrate Christ’s birth, even with the acceptance of the miraculous pregnancy of Mary through the Holy Spirit. This is because He would be returning soon in glory to judge the living and the dead, while ushering in a new heaven and new earth. This has much more significance for us eternally! Amen! The theologian Origen even spoke against celebrating Christ’s birth because of the practice of pagan rulers killing people on their birthdays. We know this is true with Herod Antipas, who on his birthday had John the Baptist beheaded. Only after several centuries did it appear that Christ was tarrying in his return did the circumstances around Jesus’ birth gained new interest and became a feast.
Knowing all this, let’s not worry about whether we should or shouldn’t celebrate our Lord’s birth. Instead, like a cherished friend’s birthday, let us come together in joyful preparation and planning for the day of celebration. And when the day comes, may it be full of singing and glorious praises. For Jesus truly is our Great God. Acknowledge Him with the titles the prophet Isaiah gave him in Isaiah 9:6: “Wonderful Counselor, Might God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”. Take time to read the accounts of Christ’s birth in Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2 during Advent and also on Christmas day with family and friends. What better story is there to share with those you love? And who knows? They may even choose to follow Jesus as their personal Lord because of it!
Rev. Benjamin Chung
December 10, 2017 – The Fear of the Lord is the Key to His Treasure
As we look around today, the whole world seems to be heading for turmoil. Natural disasters and man-made calamities are common place, and disputes between nations have escalated to dangerous levels. Just like the wild fires that are raging out of control in the mountains of Southern California, so are the cannabis trafficking and sales in our neighborhoods. The sexual harassment misconducts of many in the entertainment world are being revealed. As we are bombarded by news of random killings, fake broadcasts, along with growing tensions in North Korea and the Middle East, we feel that we are hopelessly trapped in darkness and turmoil.
When we take pictures, if the hand holding the camera or the smart phone moves slightly, the image will be blurred. Fortunately, with the advance of science and technology, today’s cameras and even our smart phones are equipped with stabilizers. Any vibration caused by the movement of your hand can be compensated by the stabilizer. With the vibration under control, we are able to take good pictures for keeps. But where are the stabilizers of our lives when we are in darkness and turmoil?
We need to reflect on what our society has become. Many countries were once established based on a belief in God. In the early stage of forming nations, the essential ingredients were the fairness and justice of God. Unfortunately, the governments and people did not keep their faith in God, and have disobeyed God’s laws and commandments. As our society suffers from moral decay and social instability, we need to get back on track. The prodigal son in our Lord Jesus Christ’s parable squandered his inheritance and was forced to tend pigs for a living. He realized his mistake and said to himself: “I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you” (Luke 15:18 NIV). It was a major turning point in his life. He gained acceptance and forgiveness from his father. With their father and son relationship restored, the prodigal son was able to enjoy a stable and secure life.
The Prophet Isaiah reminded the frightened people of Judah, the Southern Kingdom, the imminent destruction of their arch-enemy, the nation of Assyria. He prayed to God by saying: “Lord, be gracious to us; we long for you. Be our strength every morning, our salvation in time of distress” (Isaiah 33:2 NIV). Isaiah purposely led his people with this prayer of hope and of submission to God. He also prayed and urged the people of Judah to turn back to God and rely on God’s promise: “He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure” (Isaiah 33:6). The fear of the Lord is the precondition to His treasure. Apostle Paul valued God’s treasure more than anything else. He put it this way: “What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8). This is the key for every individual, nation, and society to feel secure. May God have mercy on us!
Rev. Bernie Chung
December 3, 2017 – Good-byes with Love
Recently was a very happy day in the Chung family. There was a new addition to the family, Ignatius Chung. Some of that joy was cut short when a close friend’s father passed away the very next day. This put a very strange feeling on my heart. Angelia and I went from celebrating to considering how to comfort a saddened heart.
As a pastor, one’s time is always in flux. Even on my vacation time last Sunday, as I cared for my family, I had the opportunity to assist with my friend’s father’s funeral as Emcee. An encouraging perspective is how many of those at the funeral were Christians. Sadly, the friend’s father was not a believer. From many of the testimonies shared, the father has heard the gospel presented to him many times. He has even repeated the Sinner’s Prayer multiple times, not because he believed, but because he was tired of family, friends, and friends of friends sharing the gospel with him.
There was one strong testimony that I want to share with you. My friend’s brother shared how even though his father was not an easy man to understand and love, as a Christian he still chose to love his father these last 10 years by saying, “I love you, dad” before saying good-bye and parting ways. This is because the son reflected on the fact of how his dad was getting older and each time he said good-bye to his father might be his last. Therefore, he didn’t want there to be any broken relationship with his father before passing.
This is a very important reflection for us all. It would have been a wonderful story if the father received Jesus as LORD. Sadly, this is not the case. The other lesson for us as believers is to also love those who are difficult to love, even our own family. For Paul gave the example in 1 Cor. 9.20 that he “became like a Jew, to win the Jews”. This isn’t an act of deception, but an act of love so that they might also receive the eternal gift of life and experience the love that comes from Christ Jesus our Lord. May we always have love for one another in all circumstances and bid one another a loving farewell, too.
Rev. Benjamin Chung
November 26, 2017 – Blessed Are All Who Wait for Him
Why did God wait 400 years before delivering the Israelites from the bondage of slavery in the land of Egypt? The answer was quite simple: God wanted the people of Israel to persevere in oppression and misery while they continued to increase in numbers and to further experience God’s divine protection during this time. In addition, God wanted the Israelites to be fully prepared in their hearts to worship God in the wilderness. When the LORD God appeared to Moses in flaming bush, God indeed saw the misery of His people in Egypt. He heard them crying out because of their slave drivers and was concerned about their suffering. God came down to rescue the Israelites from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey. (Refer to Exodus 3:7-8.)
Similarly, God knows about our circumstances, the dilemmas we have, and also our needs. We wish our plight can be solved immediately, but sometimes God wants to change us first before helping us to resolve our problems. Isaiah 30:18 says: “Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!”
Have we ever really thought that God might be waiting for us? God gives us time to assess our circumstances and provides us the opportunity to fully trust in His leadership. Premature intervention can undermine the entire process of change. For example, excessive intervention in the life of the prodigal son would prevent him from experiencing the plight he needed. He finally came to his senses and said: “I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you” (Luke 15:18 NIV). Jonah had the same experience by saying: “In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry” (Jonah 2:2). Indeed, God heard Jonah’s cry of desperation and saved him. God not only prepared a big fish and calmed the storm, but above all He enabled Jonah to do good work for Him. Why did God take His time to answer Jonah’s prayer in the first place? Certainly God could have saved him right away. It’s because God wanted Jonah to come to his senses when he was inside the fish, realizing that he needs to change and repent.
Dire situations require prompt solutions, but are we making the right decisions when we are in a hurry? Are we having great immediate difficulties? Our situation may turn out to be a blessing in disguise if we are willing to turn to God for answers. We should kneel before God in His presence. Repent and ask God to change us if that is needed. God knows our needs and He has the solutions within our sight. With this perspective, we can easily understand why “blessed are all who waited for Him.”
“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
Rev. Bernie Chung
November 19, 2017 – The only Audience
The Philadelphia Eagles NFL football team is playing very well right now. They’ve won 8 games and only lost 1. Very few teams have ever completed this feat. Football is not an easy sport on the field and off the field. You can be playing one moment, and injured the next. You could be on one team, and then traded to another. When you are away from your family and friends for days on end, it can be difficult. What is even more inspiring is what is happening between the players in the Eagle’s locker-room. First off, the quarterback, Carson Wentz is a Christian who has the motto “Audience of One.” What this means is, when he plays football, or anything else, he is doing it for God’s glory. It is faith first, football second. He is so serious about this concept that he tattooed the initials “AO1” on his right wrist.
This lifestyle has spread into the other players’ lives. Many of the players have a strong bond with one another, attend church together, and have bible study together. This has caused this team to be very humble and share a special bond of Christian brotherhood. Moreover, when the team’s record was just 5-1 a few weeks ago, there was excitement regarding the baptism of one of their wide receivers in the hotel pool! In fact, the year before, one of the Tight Ends was the pastor of the team and he baptized 5 players, with 15 other players in the team’s pool, celebrating with them.
I am not going to suggest that teams who have more Christians players on it will have winning records or that they reach the Super Bowl because God is helping them win games. Instead, I want us to consider how these football players, whose work is to play a sport, still merge their faith with their work. This is faith in action. This is the gospel at work! This is the Christ-filled life affecting the lives of others for eternity!
The quarterback’s theme verse is Romans 5:8 NIV: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”. Yes, Jesus did. Jesus died for us, and he died for those who don’t know Him yet. Who in your work or school doesn’t know the loving grace of Jesus yet? Which one of your neighbors on the left or right of your home doesn’t know Jesus yet? A football player can find ways to baptize people at his work because he is not playing football primarily for money, fame, or to win, but because he is playing for Jesus, the Savior of the world—is the Audience of One!
Rev. Benjamin Chung
November 12, 2017 – Fake Worship
Isaiah 29:13 NIV: The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.”
Does this passage from Isaiah 29:13 describe our relationship with God now? We should also ask: “How could God’s people have fallen into such situation?”
There was no lack of praises uttered by the Israelites toward God. For some of us who openly proclaim that “we understand salvation, we have been saved, and we have decided to follow Jesus wholeheartedly”, there are hardly any differences between us and the Israelites. If we do not have the fear of God in our hearts, our utterance of praise to Him would be a disgrace indeed. God knows when our hearts are far from Him. He would not accept our fake worship, nor praises of deceits.
The following inscription appeared in the Lubeck Cathedral in Germany:
Ye call Me Master and obey me not,
Ye call Me Light and see Me not,
Ye call Me Way and walk not,
Ye call Me Life and desire Me not,
Ye call Me wise and follow Me not,
Ye call Me fair and love Me not,
Ye call Me rich and ask Me not,
Ye call Me eternal and seek Me not,
Ye call Me gracious and trust Me not,
Ye call Me noble and serve Me not,
Ye call Me mighty and honor Me not,
Ye call Me just and fear Me not,
If I condemn you, blame me not
The Prophet Ezekiel also warned the worshiper whose hearts are far away from God saying, “My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to hear your words, but they do not put them into practice. Their mouths speak of love, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. 32Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice” (Ezekiel 33:31-32).
Dear Lord, please help us examine ourselves in the light of Isaiah 29:13 to see where our relationship with You falls short. May we have a fearful heart towards You. Keep us away from honoring You with our mouths and lips only. Instead, help us to worship You in our words, and in spirit and in truth.
Rev. Bernie Chung
November 5, 2017 – Day and Night
Here’s what WE do: so often, when it is time to pray, pastors are given the honor to pray. To be honest it’s not often. It’s actually every time. What discourages me is not that I am asked to pray, but that others do NOT WANT to pray. When it is time to begin a meeting, the pastor is asked to pray. When it is time to end a meeting, the pastor is asked to pray. When an event starts, the pastor is asked to pray. When the event ends, the pastor is asked to pray. When it’s time for luncheon, the pastor is asked to pray. When it is time for dinner, the pastor is asked to pray.
What’s happening here? Only the pastor is activated to pray. Others are not encouraged to inquire of the LORD. Yet, when we read the Scriptures, who is instructed to pray?
Jesus calls His FOLLOWERS to pray.
Here’s what I’ve seen Christians this week do: Christians who are a part of PIHOP (Pasadena International House of Prayer) and LoveLA are showing an inspiring and encouraging attitude of what we should do. They WANT to pray. They WANT to speak to God. They WANT to CALL on the name of the LORD for miracles, salvations, and healings. And they ASK for His name to be made known to the people of the nations. They CRY OUT for Jesus’ hand to pave the way before them. And many have come to faith. MANY, have come to faith. Praise the LORD!
In fact, prayer and worship is happening 24/8 during LoveLA, while outreaches are also occurring at the same time. The reason for this is the desire to adhere to the examples in the Bible. Psalm 88:1 says, “Lord, you are the God who saves me; day and night I cry out to you.” King Solomon in 1 Kings 8:59 speaks of praying before the LORD day and night, as does Nehemiah (1:6). King David hired 288 prophetic singers and 4,000 musicians to play before the Ark of the LORD in 1 Chronicles 15-17. 1 Thessalonians 3:9-10 says, “How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? 10 Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.”
Let us raise up our voices to the LORD through prayer and music. For worship and praise is not just to be done at church once a week, but daily. Let us also come to the LORD both privately and corporately, for this is the wonderful example that has been given to us. We rejoice in LORD, day and night. Yes, we do!
Rev. Benjamin Chung
October 29, 2017 – The Rock Eternal
“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD himself, is the Rock eternal.” Isaiah 26:3-4 NIV
The world we live in is ever-changing and multi-faceted. It is a world that has everything except real peace. We are surrounded by anxiety and turmoil, and afflicted by both man-made and natural disasters. Many people have turned to drugs to quell their fears and to deal with their emotional issues. Drug abuse has reached epidemic levels in large cities and rural towns. Even youth of Christian families are not immune from this worrisome problem. If we do not deal with this problem properly, it would be like thorns that choke off the growth of our spiritual lives. We need to ask: “How can we solve this persistent distressful and worrisome problem?”
We may want to gain a peace of mind by methods and knowledge. Someone may suggest prayer. But, do we pray routinely just for the purpose of escaping our guilty conscience? Sadly, there are very few of us who are willing to spare what little time we have to pray to God earnestly. Isaiah 26 reminds us that perfect peace come from our faith in our Lord as we sincerely trust in Him. How strong is our faith in our Lord? Do we connect with God only when it’s not time consuming or inconvenient? Do we truly believe in the power of prayer?
Do we treat prayer on an as-needed basis? We often thank God for answering our prayers, and then we would stop praying to Him altogether. We may resume our conversation with God when we have new difficulties, or when we have regrets. In other words, we sometimes treat God as if He were an object in a tool box that we can summon at will. Brothers and sisters, we must keep our Lord in our hearts at all times and rely heavily on Him. Only then can God truly become our Rock eternal.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
Rev. Bernie Chung
October 22, 2017 – Don’t be Speechless? Be Clothed!
What would you tell God tonight if you appeared before Him in heaven and he asks you, “What right do you have to come into My heaven?” Pause right now and think about it for a moment.
According to missionary Donald Grey Barnhouse, he would frequently ask people this question and he discovered there are only 3 general answers. The first is an appeal to their own good works. “I’ve done the best I can. I haven’t done anything bad.” Except, we are not good in the eyes of God. We are sinners in His eyes. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We can’t get into heaven on our own efforts. It’s through God’s grace.
The second response is what Barnhouse heard from a woman when he asked her the same question, “What right do you have to come into My heaven?” Her response was, “I would have nothing to say”. This is exactly what happened in the Parable of the Wedding Banquet (Matthew 22:1-14), when a man is found at the banquet without the proper clothing. In v.12, God asks the man, “‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless.”
The problem is, the man thought all he had to do was “get in”. But getting in requires understanding that Jesus is LORD and Savior. The man in the parable did not acknowledge this and therefore did not come to a desirable end. He was tied hand and foot, thrown outside, into the darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth (v.13).
You see, the last and correct answer is to say, “I do not have any right to come in. Jesus died for my sins and has given me the covering of righteousness”. Saying Jesus is your Savior versus truly believing that you are a sinner and need God’s grace are very different. For the man was not clothed with the wedding garments that represent the Righteousness of Jesus. When you are clothed in Christ, you are not only invited, but “chosen” (v.14). Be ready when the time comes. And don’t just know the answer, believe it truly in your heart. Otherwise, you might still not have on the wedding garment of Jesus!
Rev. Benjamin Chung
October 15, 2017 – In the Midst of Calamity
Have we ever thought that God might be deliberately embarrass and teas us? Have we ever experienced one of those bad days and asked, “Why does everything always go wrong for me, Lord?” Over the past month, natural disasters have occurred one after another. In early September hurricanes repeatedly hit the southeastern United States, Costa Rica and the Caribbean Islands. Mexico suffered two strong earthquakes. In Las Vegas, the deadliest massacre in modern US history took place on 10/1, 59 people were killed. Northern California wine country fires started on 10/8. They are still burning with casualties increasing, hundreds
missing, over 2 thousand homes and business structures burned, 20 thousand plus people were forced to evacuate. In our weekly prayer, we pray for the victims earnestly.
Isaiah 25 forewarned that the nations will be destroyed, the city will be demolished, and the people will suffer greatly. But this chapter does not explain why God allows calamity. Isaiah 25 can be described as a poem that they use for praising God, especially the first eight verses. In the other books by different prophets, “I will be your God, you will be my people” has been repeated many times. Unless we declare Isaiah 25:1, “Lord, you are my God”, otherwise, this fact in our daily life bears no significant meaning.
A television reporter noted that some of the houses in the Northern California fire were burned down completely, yet there was one house just next to it and was not consumed by the fire. When the owner returned, he was utterly amazed in disbelief. And it also happened in some tornado stricken area that a single house still stood firm while others around were totally destroyed. This is beyond our comprehension. Only God knows the final outcome and will receive glory in the end. Isaiah revealed what the Lord has said in 55:8: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.”
There is one thing we can all agree: disaster can cause people to focus on the true meaning of life. Many people have learned what is really important, certainly not material possessions. Brothers and sisters, let us continue to pray for the victims and lend them a helping hand to supply some daily necessity they urgently need. They are truly our real neighbors (Luke 10: 25-37).
Rev. Bernie Chung
October 8, 2017 – Come Celebrate Who I’ve Found!
Having studied the parables of the lost being found (Luke 15) many times, it surprises me to see how much we can get from such simple story lessons of Jesus’s teaching. We see that God, as depicted as a shepherd, woman with a lamp, and father, cherishes what is lost. And what was lost in the 3 parables? A sheep, a silver coin, and a son. Of the three, we know which is most valuable. Obviously, the son is most valuable!
This is the crux of our Christian faith. God loves us! Hallelujah! Amen! Praise the Lord! This parable is one of many of the salvation genre. And what stands out is not only the father’s love, as described by the actions of the father as he seeks, runs, embraces and kisses his son, but that there is tremendous joy when the son comes home! As the father says in v.24, “my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.” What was believed to be dead is now alive! The father’s response then, is to celebrate!
As I reflect on the final actions in all three parables, there is a celebration going on, but heaven is also described. This tells us the truth of what is happening in heaven, there is a celebration going on each time a son or a daughter is brought back into the arms of God. The joy in heaven being mentioned is not in regards to someone passing away on earth and entering heaven, but someone who has chosen to follow Christ as their Lord and Savior.
Brothers and sisters, if the LORD is celebrating, then it would make sense that we also celebrate! If there is a party going on in heaven, should there not be some level of celebration by us for the saved as well? For the LORD is good and what he loves we should love and what he hates we should hate. So, I encourage everyone to congratulate and celebrate the four new children of God’s kingdom in our church. If you see them, give them a hug or a hand shake because they are no longer lost but found!
Mrs. Wong (May Chau’s mother), Susana Li, Candy Liu, and Millie Fong, we congratulate and welcome you for the Lord has found you!
Rev. Benjamin Chung
October 1, 2017 – The Valley of Vision—Isaiah 22
The Southern Kingdom of Judah was as far away from God as some of its neighboring nations. Hence, the Prophet Isaiah included Judah on of the list of nations to be punished by God. The Prophet Isaiah prophesied that Jerusalem would be under attack by its enemies, establishing battle formations of formidable chariots and horsemen in front of the city gates. While the city people prepared for warfare by collecting weapons, strengthening the city walls,
and ensuring adequate water storage and supply etc. to defend against the siege, they would only think of relying on their own strength, and never once would they turn to God for help. On the other hand, there was a sense of futility and hopelessness in some of the people’s mind. “‘Let us eat and drink,’ you (the people) say, ‘for tomorrow we die!’” (Isaiah 22:13 NIV).
The city people would perch on rooftops to assess the situation with the enemies. At the bottom of the Valley of Vision the Prophet Isaiah saw the people of Jerusalem (The City of Joy) [bc1] being killed, not by swords or in battle but, by famine resulting from the siege of Jerusalem. The city leaders would be captured not in heroic defenses, but while they were fleeing for their lives. God said that Shebna, the palace administrator, who guards the city treasures would be digging his own “grave on the height” [bc2] because he relied on his own chariots (Isaiah 22:2-3,16-18).
There are peaks and valleys in our life journeys. God lets us experience prosperities and adversities. When we revel at the peak, the good times can blur our vision leading to catastrophic failures. Conversely, when we are in the valley facing difficulties, it may be God’s way to let us face reality, clarify our vision, and affirm our life’s purpose.
When we are living a good life full of God’s grace, we should praise God and give thanks for our family, salvation, health and other good fortunes. What happens when our lives are full of sadness and difficulties? We must accept the fact that God has control over what happens to us, and that He has allowed it to happen. We must learn to be submissive and be thankful under all circumstances. We should take comfort that tears can make our burry vision bright and clear. Don’t be discouraged by misfortunes and sad things. In the Bible, there are many examples of people triumphing over adversities–as in the lives of Jacob, David, Joseph, and many others. Dear Brothers and Sisters, if you are in the midst of a life trial, ask God to give you strength and help you not be discouraged. David said: “It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees” (Psalm 119:71).
Rev. Bernie Chung
September 24, 2017 – How do you spell it? Mammon or mammon?
This month, as the English ministry continues in the sermon series of wise and foolish parables of Jesus, we learn that having material possessions does not constitute that one has sin. Rather, it depends on how one treats those material possessions. (Review Luke 12:13-21). Inherently, material possessions are just stuff. Material possessions are also known as mammon in the Bible. We can have material possessions which control and own us, because we put our trust in the material possessions. In this case, they are our idols and should be capitalized because we worship the Mammon as gods. The Pharisees themselves would identify this as “Mammon of Unrighteousness”. If we truly see mammon as simply mammon, material possessions that God has entrusted to us, no capitalization is needed.
In fact, if we see that we can use mammon as a tool for God, what a wonderful tool this is! We can use mammon for God’s glorification. We can use mammon shrewdly to make more mammon and glorify the LORD some more! Instead of thinking of hospitality as something we only do by visiting people in the hospital when they are sick, we can show hospitality to guests at church or new acquaintances by inviting them into our houses or to do activities that we enjoy doing. We can use our mammon to make friends and usher them towards an inheritance in the heavenly kingdom!
Know that nowhere in the bible does it say that apostles, pastors, evangelists and missionaries are to use mammon while other Christians can have Mammon. We all need to refrain and even run away from Mammon because Mammon is our undoing. We are Christ-ians because we are “little Christs” and must only possess mammon. Otherwise, if your Mammon is money, then you’re a Wealth-ian (or greedy). If your Mammon is to satisfy your stomach’s appetite, you’re a Flavor-ian (or glutton). If you Mammon is sensual, you’re a Lust-ian (or sex addict). If your Mammon is desiring what others have, you’re an Envy-ian (or jealous). If your Mammon is to enjoy life, you’re a Hedon-ian (or hedonistic). The list goes on.
If you allow God to control your appetites and share the mammon with others, not only do you get to enjoy the mammon, you are also building up for yourself treasures in heaven! In fact, God wants to give YOU his heavenly kingdom (Luke 12:32). Plus, God won’t be calling you “a fool!” as we find God saying to the man in parable in Luke 12:20. (Who wants God calling them a fool?) When you use mammon wisely, you are truly being RICH towards God (v.21) because you have been able to distinguish the true Savior, which means Christ, from all the false Mammons. Make sure to spell mammon with a lower-case, unless you’re using it at the beginning of a sentence.
Rev. Benjamin Chung
September 17, 2017 – Crazy For Christ
In the early part of the sixth century BC, Egypt and Cush quietly formed a coalition with Ashdod of the Philistines to fight against Assyria. Sargon king of Assyria sent his supreme commander to attack Ashdod and captured it. Egypt and Assyria were two powerful countries, and the Southern Kingdom of Judah was situated between them. When the Assyrian army arrived at the city gate, the different political parties in Judah were debating whether to surrender to Assyria, or to rely on Egypt to fight the Assyrians. The Prophet Isaiah believed that relying on Egypt instead of God to oppose Assyria was foolish. At that time the LORD spoke through Isaiah son of Amoz. He said to him, “Take off the sackcloth from your body and the sandals from your feet.” And he did so, going around stripped and barefoot” (Isaiah 20:1-2 NIV). It was God’s purpose to have Isaiah appear as a prisoner of war, reminding the people of Judah that if they rely on Egypt and Cush, they would become war prisoners like the Egyptians and the people of Cush when they were defeated by Assyria, walking around barefoot and stripped.
We might ask God on Isaiah’s behalf: “Lord, why should Isaiah deliver this simple message barefoot and naked? Isn’t it sufficient to tell the Southern Kingdom of Judah of its impending demise without having people perceiving Isaiah as being insane?” These questions were never raised by Isaiah. He followed God’s instruction even others might think of him crazy. Isaiah was crazy indeed–he was crazy about God’s words. When The Lord commanded Noah to build an ark, “Noah did everything just as God commanded him” (Genesis 6:22 NIV).
It would be strange if the people of the corrupt generation did not consider Noah mad. When Apostle Paul declared “that the Messiah would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would bring the message of light to his own people and to the Gentiles.” At this point Festus interrupted Paul’s defense. “You are out of your mind, Paul!” he shouted. “Your great learning is driving you insane” (Acts 26:23-24 NIV). Evidently, the Apostle Paul has an insane fervor for the words of God. The Apostle Paul would go the extra mile for the sake of the Gospel. Paul said: “Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again” (2 Corinthians 11:23 NIV). Read also verses 22-30.
We all need to be mad about Jesus. Although the Gospel we preach may not be easy for some to comprehend, we must tell the salvation truth to everyone so that they can decide wisely. Dear Brothers and Sisters, it’s time to be crazy for Christ!
Rev. Bernie Chung
September 10, 2017 – I Pity the Fool
For those of us who grew up in 80s America, we probably recall a certain African American actor with an African Mandinka mohawk hair-style and gold jewelry around his neck. Mr. T. A statement he also famously coined is, “I pity the fool!” He would say this with a gruffy and intimidating tone. It was his way of pointing out what he believed to be wise and foolish. This was clear. Jesus was no different in his words (and maybe even tone). He did not mince his words and spoke directly to the issues at hand. He spoke to everyone, calling them to follow his wise instructions to love the LORD and follow His ways. He prophesied that the kingdom of heaven is near. If the listener wants to be wise, then he needs to heed Jesus Christ’s words, otherwise he is foolish.
I doubt anyone wants to be labeled foolish. But this is exactly what Jesus said. Some will be wise and some will be foolish. Furthermore, a foolish person is defined as someone who acts without thinking, empty-headed. Here are some other synonyms in English: dull, flat, moronic (Strong’s Concordance) and clown, idiot, nitwit (Thesaurus.com). Jesus is not attempting to be insulting. He is teaching a very important point, which is, being a spiritual fool will affect your life negatively and for eternity. Consider Jesus’s parables: the wise/foolish Bridesmaids (Matthew 25:1-13), the Rich Fool (Luke 12:13-21), the Shrewd Man of the World (Luke 16:1-9), and the wise/foolish Builders (Luke 6:46-49). All reveal the differing actions of the wise and the foolish. The wise lived for the LORD while the foolish lived for themselves. The foolish may even appear to be of Christ and be members of the church, but the final test will determine the individual’s final destination. At the final judgment, as Christ reviews the Book of Life, He will either welcome you and allow you entrance through the gates of heaven (the way of eternal life), or say “I never knew you!” and direct you towards the gates of hell (eternal damnation) where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Reader, live for Jesus! We need to prepare the way of the LORD, as John the Baptist did. If we humble ourselves, live with a repentant and humble heart, forgiving our brother/sister, seek the needs of the poor and needy, and proclaim the LORD’s return, we are will indeed be in the camp of the wise. I pray that our entire church can live and work together as a spiritual family in wisdom, while spurring “one another on toward love and good deeds… meeting together… encourage one another… all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-5). Those who choose not to obey are not following Jesus and are not of Jesus. They are by definition, foolish. In the end, those who are wise cannot do much else but pity those who chose not to obey the LORD’s command. Don’t be foolish, but wise!
Rev. Benjamin Chung
September 3, 2017 – Let us be Vigilant and Pray
More than a week ago, when Hurricane Harvey was gathering strength in the Gulf of Mexico at the southern part of the United States, the National Weather Service forecasted that Harvey would make landfall in Texas with wind speeds of up to 125 miles per hour, and widespread damage from the storm and flooding can be expected. The state of Texas urged the public who live in the low-lying areas to flee, and free transports would be provided for those who are willing to evacuate. However, the mayor of Houston, the fourth largest city in the United States, told its residents to stay put and prepare to wait out the storm. The mayor’s main concern was that with 2.5 million people evacuating in such a short notice would lead to uncontrollable chaos and even casualties. The mayor’s decision not to evacuate was based on the lesson learned from an evacuation order due to a Hurricane Rita in 2005.
On August 25th, Hurricane Harvey finally hit East Texas, bringing four days of heavy rain totaled more than 51 inches accompanied with catastrophic flooding. From TV news reports we can see flooded roadways with cars floating away, and houses submerged with only their roofs visible above the flood water. At least 37 people were killed among the millions of victims. President Trump has declared Texas and the neighboring state of Louisiana as federal disaster areas. The state of Texas has dispatched the national guards to assist with the rescue. There are many support groups from other states working hard on the relief efforts as well. As the situation continues to deteriorate, let’s pray that the rescue and relief efforts can be effectively carried out. We also need to pray for the homeless victims and those who have lost their loved ones in the disaster.
Inadvertently, the flood in Noah’s time enters our minds. With the earth becoming increasingly decadent, God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth…I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish”. But God established a covenant with Noah, and Noah’s family of eight survived, (Genesis 6:13-18 NIV). We are not here to discuss the cause of the current flooding disaster nor the merit of evacuation or not. The issue here is whether the residents were serious about the approaching hurricane. It is written in the Gospel of Matthew: “The days before the flood comes, people eat and drink as usual “. Obviously, during the days of Noah flood, people were not prepared. We studied Chapter 19 of Isaiah in last week’s prayer meeting. It says that Israel will receive all the blessings of God with Egypt and Assyria. In other words, both the house of Israel and the gentiles of Egypt and Assyria will experience “blessings” and “admonishments” that will bring them to the Lord. Dear Brothers and Sisters, the days of the Lord are near. Let us be vigilant and pray diligently. September 6th is our church wide Day of Prayer. Please participate and pray with each other, and experience God’s faithfulness in all eventualities.
Rev. Bernie Chung
August 27, 2017 – Friendship with the King of Kings
Disharmony. Discord. Animosity. Prejudice. Prejudging. Bias. Favoritism. Nepotism. The list goes on. This is a list of negative emotions and attitudes we as humans can fall prey to—even in the family. For instance, Jacob’s favoring of Joseph over Joseph’s other brothers sowed discord among his own children! The jealousy of the older brothers caused them to throw Joseph into the pit and sell him into slavery.
Group mentality and cliques can also form amongst Christians in the church. At my old church, in Seattle, a mother told me many years later that she was part of a clique, a group in the church, where this group of female friends chose not to be nice and welcoming to my mom. And this did not happen among Christians in the church who were in elementary school, in middle school, in high school, not even in college… This happened among 30-40 year old people with families in the church. They chose FRIEND-ship over be-FRIENDING others in the name of Jesus. Even though it took many years, thankfully Jesus worked in this mother’s heart to see her SIN and prejudice against my mother.
In essence, the favoritism of Acts 6 happened all over again. There, one group of Jews favored and neglected another group of Jews, strictly because they were of a different culture. They chose not to share food with the Hellenistic Jewish widows. Not only were they not nice, but they did not share what is necessary for the physical body to live. What a petty thing to do! Were they of the same “spiritual family”? Yes, but were they acting spiritually? Not at all. SIN rearing its ugly head again.
As a pastor of SFCBC, my prayer is for unity and for an understanding of God’s will in All THINGS. Christians are to be open and loving to those who enter our church. If we are mean, biased, and unfriendly to newcomers, choosing to side with friends, then no wonder we are not retaining new people! We have SIN! Let us seek to do the will of God. We ought to be cautious of whether we are choosing to do our own will, for we are sinful beings. Oftentimes, it is our own will. Abiding in Christ means we truly understand, rejoice and seize the treasure and pearl of great value, as the men did in Matthew 13:44-46. If we do the same, a Jesus-like character will be clearly apparent in our lives, proving we have friendship with the King of Kings.
Rev. Benjamin Chung
August 20, 2017 – History Lessons
Someone had said: “The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history.” The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:1-13 warned the saints of the local church not to ignore the teachings and warnings they have learned through the history of Israel. In the Book of Isaiah Ch. 17, the Prophet Isaiah said that Israel has become “thin” from “obesity” and that good harvest has not been well harvested because the Israelites have forgotten God, their rock and fortress, who has saved them. Even though Isaiah warned the Israelites about the enemies such as Babylon, Moab, and Damascus that were around the Southern Kingdom of Judah, the Israelites clung to their false sense of security because they had Aram in the North serving as a buffer between them and Assyria. But Isaiah 17:10-11 clearly states: “You have forgotten God your Savior; you have not remembered the Rock, your fortress. Therefore, though you set out the finest plants and plant imported vines, though on the day you set them out, you make them grow, and on the morning when you plant them, you bring them to bud, yet the harvest will be as nothing in the day of disease and incurable pain”. As Isaiah warned Damascus of the demise and judgment that were about to come to them, he also turned his attention to Israel, prophesying that the “day” of God’s judgment is imminent, and that everything that they’ve built according to their own devices will perish.
If such prophecy is still valid for the people of God today, we need to pay close attention to God’s teachings and warnings. Our society tends to worship celebrities in sports and movies. We emulate their behavior and envy their success. We shouldn’t be surprised that many of us accept and follow their undesirable morals and ethics. Unfortunately, some of these decadent “Hollywood” and “sport figures” standards and attitudes have permeated today’s churches. Many believers who practice strict adherence to the principles of the Bible are considered foolish and outdated. 1 Corinthians 1:18 says: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
May the power of God help us triumph over the influence of this rebellious generation.
Rev. Bernie Chung
August 13, 2017 – God Do, I Do
At a recent conference, I heard the speaker point out the fundamentals to training people. You are teaching people to do what you do so that more people know how to do what you do. As more are trained, more know how to do what you do and can train others to do what you do. The process is 4 simple steps and it works in the church, just as it does in other places of work, religious or otherwise.
- I Do, You Watch
- I Do, You Help
- You Do, I Watch
- You Do, I Do Something Else
This is discipleship. This is how we are to teach in order to have a healthy church; whether we are a Sunday School teacher, fellowship leader, Bible study leader, mission team member, or even cooking and cleaning the church kitchen! For instance, we have new Sunday School teachers train by being an assistant teacher. As time progresses and the teacher understands his/her responsibilities, then he/she can take on a class without assistance and even teach another person how to be a Sunday School teacher.
What happens when we don’t follow this process? The church stagnates and doesn’t grow. A wall is erected instead. Every church will fall victim to the death cycle if the attitude is we must hire from outside, rather than from within. There are quite a few Cantonese churches in the predicament where the pastor is well beyond retirement age, but he cannot retire because there is no one to take his place. The problem? They’re stuck at step #1.
Recently, I heard a pastor speak on this very topic and he challenged the congregation to consider encouraging their children into fulltime ministry. When the pastor addressed a specific church member to encourage his son into considering serving the Jesus in some sort of ministry capacity, the response was, “No,” as the father shook his head. That’s the wrong answer!
Please understand, not everyone is called into full-time ministry. However, if we have not given over our lives and families—yes, even our own children—into the LORD’s ministry, then this shows that God does not have Lordship over every aspect of our lives. Every church and every aspect needs to have an urgency to train up new leaders in the church. We need to be willing personally, and also for our family to serve. This is what God the Father did with His Son Jesus on the cross. Our love for the LORD is not proved only by words, but with action! For if we call ourselves Christians, we must be Christ-like. Are you?
Luke 6:40 A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.
Rev. Benjamin Chung
August 6, 2017 – The Day of the LORD
In Chapter 13 of the Book of Isaiah, Isaiah prophesied that Babylon would gather the army of the multinationals to prepare for war, and those ferocious warriors summoned would soon become Jehovah’s “weapons of His wrath”. They were what His chosen people, the Israelites, would have to reckon with. As verses 1-5 state, the whole Jewish country would be destroyed as part of God’s righteous judgement. Babylon rose into prominence in Seventh Century BC and obliterated the Assyrian empire that destroyed the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Isaiah continued to prophesy what would happen in the day of the Lord as the Southern Kingdom of Judah would be destroyed by the Babylonians because they did not turn to God and worship Him. Babylon did not fare well either as it was eventually destroyed by the Medes, according to Isaiah 13:6-17.
History has witnessed the despair of the inhabitants of Jerusalem when they were invaded by the Babylonians. Isaiah 13:7 says: “Because of this, all hands will go limp, every heart will melt with fear”. God says in 13:11: “I will punish the world for its evil, the wicked for their sins. I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty and will humble the pride of the ruthless”. As a result, Jerusalem fell into the hands of the Babylonian army in 587 BC.
A few years back at the home of Katie C-Mo’s uncle, we shared the gospel with her uncle and his family. Four of our relatives were willing to receive salvation through the Holy Spirit, while the uncle listened but was indifferent, and he alone went away from the gathering. This uncle became seriously ill two weeks ago. Katie C-Mo and I went to Sacramento to visit him. That day turned out to be the last Thursday of her uncle’s life. When he was in bed and recognized us, he called out, “The Lord … Jehovah … “. He paused for a moment and continued: “Jesus Christ … Jesus Christ … “. He repeated a few times and then said:” Pastor … Pastor … “. At that moment, I understood his meaning. Immediately I stood on his left side and simply went through the essential gospel message with him.
Finally, when I asked him if he was willing to accept salvation, he did not hesitate and said: “I am willing”. When asked if he was willing to confess his sins to God and to ask for His forgiveness, uncle replied with conviction–“I’m willing”. For our uncle, that day was his “Day of the Lord”. Our uncle understood the righteousness and feared the reproach of the LORD God, and he also knew and accepted the salvation grace of the Lord Jesus. His family saw the peace that appeared on his face after he had affirmed his faith in Christ. That day our uncle was confronted with divine righteousness, and he also sensed the Day of the LORD was imminent. It was a joyous day for all of us because he seized the opportunity to receive the Lord as his Savior. Our uncle passed away peacefully a few days later, after finding eternal solace in our Lord.
Rev. Bernie Chung
July 30, 2017 – Leaning into the Cross
When I go to the gym, I like to end with a ten minute sweat in the sauna. Back when the heating machine was not working as well, I could go in and not have a problem with the heat. Then, when the gym fixed the heating machine, I knew it immediately because my neck was on fire. Not literally on fire, but the necklace with the cross that I have around my neck would get so hot that I had to run out and take the necklace off. And so my solution was to take off my necklace before going into the sauna from then on.
A few weeks later I saw another man with his necklace on and he had no problem with it heating up in the sauna. His neck wasn’t on fire! Amazing! I had to ask him what the trick was and he said, “do not to lean forward but sit up straight so the air doesn’t heat up the necklace”. And that was my mistake. I was leaning forward which allowed the cross to get hotter and heat up all of the necklace. And what was my solution? Take the cross off. No!
How often we do the same to Jesus. When the world pushes against the cross, we often opt to run from the heat and distance ourselves from Jesus by leaning away from the Lord. Instead, we must to take courage, sit or even stand up straight, and trust in the Lord by leaning into Him. Brothers and sisters, keep Christ near to your heart and He will lead you on the straight path.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
Rev. Benjamin Chung
July 23, 2017 – His Hand Is Still Upraised
The first five chapters of the Book of Isaiah records the serious accusations levied by the Prophet Isaiah against the Southern Kingdom of Judah because its people had forsaken God. Isaiah warned them about God’s impending judgement by saying: “Therefore the LORD’s anger burns against His people; His hand is raised and He strikes them down… His anger is not turned away, His hand is still upraised” (Isaiah 5:25 NIV). Would people admit faults and willing to be corrected? Would self-righteous people accept admonishments? Evidently not! Most people would behave like the people of Judah. From Chapter 9 through 12, Isaiah repeated this message four times: “God’s anger is not turned away. His hand is still upraised”. In spite of God’s warnings, the people of Judah would remain stubbornly unrepentant even after God had pointed out their faults. Unfortunately, not much has changed after 2700 years in terms of human behavior. We still sin against God in similar fashion. In order to change we must evaluate our actions, understand what makes God angry, and strive to make the corrections that God wants in our lives.
Isaiah declared that the people of Judah were not righteous because they did not treat others fairly, especially those who were weak and in need. A public planning hearing was held on July 13 to consider the application to open a medicinal marijuana retail store at 2505 Noriega Street in San Francisco. More than 700 residents showed up in opposition, and the vast majority of them were elders. We thank God for several young people from our church who stood up and spoke on behalf of the residents during the hearing. Unfortunately, despite overwhelming oppositions from those in attendance, the Planning Commission approved the application by a five to one vote. The Planning Commission ignored the wishes of the majority of the residents and made a mockery of the democratic decision-making process. While this is extremely disappointing, we have truly witnessed the follies and arrogance in human nature through this experience.
When we look back to the time of Prophet Isaiah, God in fact used Assyria as a tool to punish the Kingdom of Judah. God said: “Woe to the Assyrian, the rod of my anger, in whose hand is the club of my wrath!” (Isaiah 10:5). However, the king of Assyria was over confident and arrogant. He boasted by saying: “By the strength of my hand I have done this, and by my wisdom, because I have understanding. I removed the boundaries of nations, I plundered their treasures; like a mighty one I subdued their kings” (Isaiah 10:13). This should remind us not to be too prideful, and especially not to claim spiritual superiority over others in church. God will not use arrogant people, and they may get punished by God instead.
After God punished Assyria for its arrogance, the people of Judah that remained were eventually saved from the yoke of Assyria as God had promised. Similarly, if we do not admit our own sins and inequities, and do not change our evil ways, God’s whip and spur will surely be upon us. The situation would be completely different if we confess and repent. For “the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast” (1 Peter 5:10).
Rev. Bernie Chung
July 16, 2017 – For the Common Good
At our annual retreat 2 weeks ago, we learned in the English Track of how we can worship the LORD and see our Triune God in a new light. The Holy Spirit is present for our benefit. And He is here to assist, heal, testify of the LORD-ship of our God. We were also taught to pray and ask of the Holy Spirit to bestow upon us the gifts of the Spirit.
Last Sunday, I further addressed and clarified some confusions through my sermon. For instance, the gifts of the spirit include helping and guidance, found in 1 Corinthians 12:28. Then, in the same breath, the gifts of healing and different kinds of tongues are also mentioned. Are these gifts of the miraculous nature, or are the gifts of healing referring to doctors and medicine, and different kinds of tongues in regards to the number of world languages one can speak? (I am assuming the miraculous nature.)
In Romans 12:6-8, the gifts are mentioned again. They are: prophesying, serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, leading and showing mercy. Not all of these are of the miraculous nature either. And it causes us to beg the question again, “As a Christian, do I have some or any of these gifts?” For prophesying is mentioned in the same sentence as serving, teaching, and showing mercy! And so I ask you all, my fellow Christian brothers and sisters, to consider if the Holy Spirit is in you by the fruit of these gifts of the Spirit. Are they evident? Some of us may not be able to prophesy (I have not), but I hope our life’s testimonies shows the other gifts which are also beneficial to the body of believers. For the gifts of the Spirit are for the express purpose of edifying the church. The gifts of the Spirit are for the “common good”.
Therefore, let us be brothers and sisters that are generous and giving to those in need, to testify that the spiritual gift of giving is within the walls of SFCBC. May there be stories of teaching being done throughout our church, recalling how the older generation gave great spiritual insight and wisdom to the younger generation. Allow our church, O LORD, to show mercy to one another when we stumble and transgress, as this is for the common good of the spiritual family here. In this way, it is evident that the Holy Spirit is in us and working through us!
1 Corinthians 12:7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
Rev. Benjamin Chung
July 9, 2017 – Jehovah’s Anger
Last Tuesday was the United States’ Independence Day. When I think about the history of the world, there were only two countries founded with Jehovah, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. These two countries are Israel and the United States of America. When Moses entered the Promised Land, he solemnly said to the children of Israel: “See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess” (Deuteronomy 30:15-16 NIV). Moses affirmed not only the promises of the LORD God before the children of Israel, but also made the Israelites promise to follow and obey his guidance before entering the Promised Land. When King Solomon held a sacrifice at the temple, he prayed by saying: ” And now, LORD, the God of Israel, let your word that you promised your servant David come true” (2 Chronicles 6:16-17). Clearly the children of Israel should fulfill their previous commitment to God with their obedience. Unfortunately, soon after they began to turn to the idols of the gentiles, such as Baal, Molech, etc. They had forgotten the decisions and commitments they made to God when they founded their nation, and had drifted further and further away from Him.
The Prophet Isaiah repeatedly warned the Northern Kingdom of Israel of its impending demise. Even so, the prophet’s message could not reach the callous hearts and dull ears. The arrogant Israelites would not turn from their evil ways but boasted instead: “The bricks have fallen down, but we will rebuild with dressed stone; the fig trees have been felled, but we will replace them with cedars” (Isaiah 9:10). While they disdained the prophets and their messages from The Lord, the Israelites believed that by building bigger, taller, and stronger city walls would protect them from further enemy attacks. They ignored their root problem of turning away from God and left this unresolved. It was God’s way to awaken Israel through defeats by its enemies, but the Israelites still would not repent. They fiercely opposed the Prophet’s advice and turned away from God. Ultimately, God allowed the Assyrians to destroy the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 722 B.C.
If we look closely at the country where we live today, we find striking similarities between the United States and the Northern Kingdom of Israel that did not heed warnings from the prophets. Today we are further away from God than ever before. Even though we do not worship idols with images, we adore the invisible ones. Our moral decay is at its peak, and many of our people have openly refused to repent and return to the Lord. God’s wrath and punishment would surely be upon us soon if we do not turn back from our evil ways. Let us pray for our country’s and our own repentance so that God would turn away His anger.
Rev. Bernie Chung
June 25, 2017 – Who Are We Afraid Of?
Whether we admit it or not, every one of us has some fear in us. Martin Luther put fear into two categories. The first kind of fear is what a slave has toward his/her master when submitting to the master’s authority. The second category is the fear from filial piety. As children, we are afraid of our parents when we disobey them. The fear of letting our parents who love us down is often greater than the fear of getting punished. Who do we fear? Is it God, people, or simply our own failures?
Isaiah 8:12-13 (NIV) says, “Do not call conspiracy everything this people calls a conspiracy; do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it. The LORD Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread.” And the LORD continued to speak through the Prophet Isaiah and comfort the Kingdom of the South, saying that the nations of the North, and Assyria, were all ready to fight against the Kingdom of Judah. Even though the king of Assyria is like a river of churning water, his mighty power will submerge Judah as if it has lost all its defense. However, the Southern Kingdom of Judah will get through this disaster as the flood swept “on into Judah, swirling over it, passing through it and reaching up to the neck. Its outspread wings will cover the breadth of your land, Immanuel!” (Isa. 8:8). There is nothing to fear, for Isaiah proclaims in v.10, “God is with us!”
Does our fear of people come from our own insecurity? Are we scared of being rejected and not accepted by others? Do we worry about how we are being judged, and are we petrified when we have made a negative impression? As Christians, we will inevitably face all kinds of challenges, succumb to fear, and make some wrong decisions. If we know that we are children of God, we should not be afraid of people, especially our enemies. Although our enemies may want to harm us, they cannot really hurt us if we rely on God. In difficult times, ask the Lord to help us to make the wise decision and pick the right choice without fear.
“So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?’” (Heb. 13:6).
Rev. Bernie Chung
June 18, 2017 – 9 to 1
Here’s a quote: “People don’t resist change, they resist being changed”. This is so true! Once we have a system setup it’s difficult for us to change even if it is for the better. In fact, here is the eerie truth: the chances of us actually changing in a life and death situation are very low. The ratio is 9:1. The 9 isn’t for us but against us. The 9 is the likelihood of us not choosing change, compared to the 1 where we will change. This means the chances are stacked against us. For instance, if we are told that we need to change our diet and exercise because our arteries are clogged, in the end most will not change and need to get life-saving heart surgery. Less than a year later, the person’s arteries are no better now than they were before the surgery because they didn’t change!
This also translates quite well into the business word. I know the title might be a bit off-putting, but there is actually a book titled, Change or Die. The book’s main focus is in regards to the mindset business owners need to have if they want to succeed. Here’s an example: think of brick & mortar stores that have closed because online retailers have put them out of business. They didn’t change or they might have tried to change, but it was too late! Now they’re gone. This mindset is also applicable in the church. I spoke to a member of another church where the mindset was just to “maintain” the youth in the church. They knew the trend: the children would automatically leave once they went off to college and they would not return after. That’s true if we don’t make any changes.
Here’s the “secret”, which isn’t really a secret. We CAN change! People CAN change! The church CAN change! Why? Because the human brain isn’t as rigid as we once thought. The human mind is actually very malleable not only as children, but even as we get older, if we put our mind to it. The neural networks are still adjusting, growing, and making new connections and this is called, plasticity. Plasticity doesn’t stop with age. And if we want the church to grow, then we cannot be caught using the statements, “we’ve tried that before and it didn’t work”, “we’ve never done that before (and have no intention of trying something different)”, or “well this is how we’ve always done it (so why change?)”.
This mindset/attitude will have us ending up like Barnes & Noble and Sports Authority. Gone. And this is happening in churches, too. Denomination in Europe have predicted their ends within 1-2 decades. All the members are grey-haired and will be passing on soon. They held onto old practices and traditions that did not help with the spiritual growth of the younger generation. All is not lost! New churches will be planted in places where old churches once stood. If we heed the warning towards churches, then we need to accept change as a church and even personally. As a church, we must change. Furthermore, what about you? Are you willing to change? What are your chances? Are you a 1 or the 9?
Matthew 18:3 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Rev. Benjamin Chung
June 11, 2017 – Spiritual Revival
When Rev. Billy Graham completed half a century of evangelical ministry, someone asked him: “What is the greatest need for the church today?” Brothers and Sisters, what answer would you expect from Rev. Graham? Could it be that: “The greatest need of the church is to be relevant or the church must take up more social issues or we need sound preaching or we need to see the holiness of God”? Rev. Graham simply replied, “The greatest need in the church today is Spiritual Revival.”
One item remains on our weekly prayer list now, for over a year. We have been praying for a brother’s spiritual rejuvenation and his ministry at his request. So far he has humbly asked us to continue to pray for him. Are we aware of a similar need for ourselves? Has our heart for the love of Christ gradually turned cold? Do we feel burned out? Has the church ministry started to become boring, or have we lost the original fervor and joy in serving our Lord? Are there any hidden sins in our lives?
In Isaiah 6:1-5, the Prophet Isaiah “saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory”. In front of the Holy God, Isaiah felt he was ruined because he had unclean lips. After Isaiah’s repentance, God sent a seraphim with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched Isaiah’s mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” Isaiah’s repentance, God’s forgiveness of his sins, and the restoration of his relationship with God represent Isaiah’s spiritual revival. Not only was Isaiah able to hear the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”, he immediately replied, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:6-8).
Dear Brothers and Sisters, let us self-examine ourselves. If our relationship with the Lord has turned cold, we need to plead guilty and restore our relationship with Him. If we have lost our heart of passion in His ministries, we must ask God’s mercy to lift our spirit, grant us wisdom and power to fulfill His mission. This is the spiritual revival that Rev. Graham wishes for today’s churches. May God shine on us and give us a renewed spirit of righteousness.
Rev. Bernie Chung
June 4, 2017 – Are You Hungry?
The word Fellowship is a complex word. Fundamentally, fellowship has nothing to do with food. Instead, we fellowship as Christians by coming together and getting to know one another better. We get together to learn from each other how to do life Biblically. We come together to pray in unity so that the LORD’s will might be revealed to us. And yet, we still have areas in the church that are labeled as the Fellowship Hall and Social Hall. Our church has both!
And what do we do in both of these areas on a regular basis? Meet and eat. This is not a knock on our church. Rather, it is a revelation of how food is an important of interaction in our church and most people groups. In his Daniel series, Mr. Sau Wing Lam pointed out to us in Daniel 1 of how food was the root of the Jewish person’s identity (over language and even adopting Babylonian names). For Chinese, we are known for asking people how they’re doing with the question, “Have you eaten?” Food is a way to show love and concern. Breaking bread with others breaks down barriers even between enemies because it brings to focus the intrinsic necessities of life. We need air, food, and water for our physical bodies to function.
Romans 12:20-21 says, “Rather, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in doing this you will be heaping burning coals on his head. 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Even Elisha showed such wisdom before Paul penned his words. In 2 Kings 6:18-23, after blinding the enemy army and capturing them, Elisha chooses not to kill the soldiers even after the king pleads for the opportunity to do so. Instead, Elisha calls for a feast with eating and drinking. Afterwards, the soldiers returned to their masters. What happens next? The enemy stopped attacking and raiding the people in Israelite territory. All it took was a meal!
I believe this is why Jesus calls us to break bread together and to acknowledge Him and His eventual return. That’s the power of eating together. Let’s not forget it as brothers and sisters in the faith. Let us take the opportunity to eat not just with those we eat with regularly, but even with those we don’t often get to eat with—or even those we don’t want to eat with. This is one more way in which we can promote peace and unity in the church. And this is what the Father wants.
Are you hungry? Is there someone you need to eat with?
In addition, as a pastor of this church (and I know Pastor Bernie would agree), I want to get to know the people who come to our church. Please let me know if I’ve unintentionally overlooked you and you’d like to get coffee or a meal. Don’t worry, it’s on us!
Rev. Benjamin Chung
May 28, 2017 – Two Kinds of Return
We work hard to establish our careers. Besides monetary rewards, we gain a sense of accomplishment when we have succeeded. We attain satisfaction and joy when what we have hoped for become reality. The ways we treat others and how we deal with everyday matters according to our principles define our character. We may end up with different fruits for our labor, but overall there can only be two kinds of return. Isaiah 3:10-11 (NIV) says: “Tell the righteous it will be well with them, for they will enjoy the fruit of their deeds. Woe to the wicked! Disaster is upon them! They will be paid back for what their hands have done.” This shows that everyone of us has two paths to choose, and the final outcome depends on our choices. The righteous path is blessed, and the wicked path leads to disasters. We reap what we sow–the righteous enjoy the fruits of the harvest, and the wicked suffer the consequences of their evil deeds.
“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows” (Galatians 6:7). There is a saying that planting melon seeds will give us only melons, and planting green bean seeds will give us only green beans. The harvests are not by chance and indeed “we reap what we sow”. The Lord judges us on our hearts, not on our appearance. “The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). The Lord of the heavenly hosts is aware of every man’s inner intentions and He will not be deceived. “The look on their faces testifies against them; they parade their sin like Sodom; they do not hide it. Woe to them! They have brought disaster upon themselves” (Isaiah 3:9). God’s judgement is righteous so that we get what we deserved.
Deuteronomy 28:1-13 says that the righteous will be able to enjoy God’s blessings provided that they listen to the voice of God, obey His laws and ordinances, and stay away from idols. We would not be able to determine what kind of return we will get by following our own standards. It is also highly unlikely that we can meet God’s prerequisites of a blessed life by relying on our own device. We should know that the righteous are those who delight and meditate on the law of the Lord day and night according to Psalm 1:1-3. “Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against them” (Romans 4:7-8). The righteous should also have “the same mindset as our Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 2:5-8). We become righteous not by virtue of our own strength, but by the faith we have in our Savior Jesus Christ, Romans 4:13. We can only rely on God to determine the outcome of our harvest. God will have mercy on those who would turn to Him by forsaking their wickedness, Isaiah 55:7.
Rev. Bernie Chung
May 21, 2017 – What a Brain Teaser! (Please read 1 Corinthians 8:1-13)
Paul says, “knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” (1 Corinthians 8:1b). What does Paul mean by this? He means, we are to respond with love, patience, and forgiveness. But what is the exact situation Paul is speaking about? In his context, meat was normally sacrificed to idols and then sold to people to eat. The dilemma of the Christians then became, “do we eat this meat, the only meat available, since it was sacrificed to idols?” Paul’s response was, eat it. However, what do we do if someone does object, due to conscience? Then, we are to consent and refrain from eating the meat. Even though nothing is actually wrong, we give in to the weaker brother or sister because “their conscience is weak, it is defiled” (v.7).
This is a very difficult lesson to teach. What a conundrum we are in! What a riddle we are to solve! Even Paul admits this. He knows that “food does not bring us near to God” (v.8b). The logical response would then be to eat as I want. After all, “why should I allow someone else’s conscience to affect me? They are the ignorant ones.” The danger is our knowledge causes us to become puffed up like the “older brother” of the prodigal son story and look down at our “younger brother” (Luke 15:11-32). We cannot look down at others with pride because this is a sin.
Here is the crux of the situation: if we embolden the weaker brother to eat of the “meat sacrificed to idols”, we weaken their weak conscience more and we are sinning against Christ, according to v.12. This is the danger. Isn’t this even more mind boggling? If I were to eat meat sacrificed to idols, there’s no problem and no sin. Strangely, if there is someone who has a problem with me eating sacrificed meat to idols, then I am sinning. Therefore, Paul responds in what sounds illogical and yet is the correct response. If need be, he says in v.13, he will choose to avoid eating meat altogether so that he does not cause his brother’s fall.
Identically, a friend’s father who is a missionary was sold an old but well cared for BMW for a discount because the friend wanted to be generous to a servant of God. The missionary regrets buying the car because of all the people who do not approve of a missionary driving a BMW. Silly? Yes. In the end, the BMW was sold for the sake of the “weak” Christians, so as to not cause them to stumble.
The lesson is, we must not fall prey to our flesh, but respond with love to our fellow brothers and sisters. How difficult this is to do! Whether it is horsing around, joking, or even doing what is considered “safe” and not a sin, we can be penalized. Don’t get confused! (In juxtaposition, you might be the weaker brother in certain situations. How are you judging your fellow Christians?)
Rev. Benjamin Chung
May 14, 2017 – Happy Mothers’ Day!
God knows that our mother’s love will make us, the children, feel the sweetness of her care by saying, “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne?” God also knows that some mothers may encounter difficulties in providing for their babies, or neglect to feed them. So He continues: “Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” Isaiah 49:15 (NIV). Indeed, God’s love is greater than the mother’s love because it’s wider, higher, deeper, better, purer and everlasting. God is clearly the source of maternal love. The mother and child relationship is not only the love relationship of flesh and blood among descendants, but God uses mother’s love to express His own love for us. Through mother’s love we can understand and experience true love, and it enables us to comprehend the eternal love of God as well.
Motherhood is God’s complete plan for us. Because our ancestors had sinned, in Genesis God curses the snake by saying, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” Genesis 3:15 (NIV). In Isaiah God predicts another important role for a mother. “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel (means God is with us)” Isaiah 7:14 (NIV). The incarnated Lord Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born to Virgin Mary, and dwelled among us.
Could we understand the Virgin Mary’s worries when she first realized that she was chosen? Not only would she have the responsibility of giving birth to the Messiah, she must also raise God’s only begotten Son. She was arranged to marry Joseph, David’s descendant. Even though she was a Jewish maiden who reveres God in the highest, she cannot avoid the harsh judgement and discrimination from others. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her” Luke 1:28, 38 (NIV). The angel said that Mary is truly blessed.
God shows His love through a mother, and the role the mother of Jesus demonstrates the importance in the salvation of the world. If your mother is still around, I am particularly happy for you. You can show your love and appreciation for her unbounded love of raising you. Enjoy Mother’s Day with your mother today.
Rev. Bernie Chung
May 7, 2017 – The A Grade
We all know the ABC grading system. We can get As, Bs, Cs, Ds and Fs. Certain letter grades are assigned for passing, and others for failing. In the church, there are also different “grades”. When I explained to a friend the ABC definitions, of Advocate, Bystander and Critic, and their roles in the church, he said he was a Bystander. I half-jokingly told him, “Bro, you don’t even go to church! You’re a non-practicing Catholic. You get a D for doubter.” He agreed.
First, please read 3 John. Now, here’s the ABCs. Advocates will take the proposed ideas and consider if they adhere to the Bible. This means, the ideas are beneficial to: the church, the members, and to the proclamation of the gospel for the sake of the lost. If so, we are to push advocate and speak up to further these ideas. They are good and right! Advocate! This is a passing grade!
Let’s skip to the Critics, next. Critics are locked in to a certain framework and anything outside of it is wrong. They will only build up walls of resistance while giving only negative comments to the good ideas. This is evil! The one whom Jesus loved—the Apostle John—has this problem, too. He writes against Diotrephes, who appears to be a (deceive) leader in a church. The Apostle John tells Gaius to be cautious of Diotrephes, who: gossips, prevents missionaries from doing God’s work, and puts himself in a leadership position by rejecting John’s authority. This is notright! It’s EVIL! (Read vv.9-11) Don’t be like Diotrephes. Don’t be a Criticlike Diotrephes! This is a failing grade.
The last role is the Bystander. They also receive a failing grade, because don’t advocate for what is right. They literally “stand on the side” of issues/ideas. It is true, Bystanders are often in a pickle. Bystanders are those who know the Critics quite well. They can be long-time friends or relatives of the Critics and have simply gotten used to the Critics. In their minds, they say, “I know what is right, and I should advocate for this good idea. But I don’t want to argue against a person I trust.” Thinking some more, “I know, I won’t say anything. Then I’m innocent! Perfect!” The problem is, Bystanders are not innocent, but guilty. Why? Because the good and right ideas are not being promoted and developed. Instead, they are being hampered first by the Critics, and not advocating as they ought to. This is also a failing grade. The Apostle John knows what’s right. He knows he cannot be a Bystander and is prepared to confront the Critic. He stays an Advocate of what is good and right.
Finally, all of us can and all of us should be Advocates of what is good and right. We get the passing grade (not the evil grade), we are advancing the Kingdom, and we are heeding God’s direction. This is how we live as Christ followers, living and working in unity with one another. Advocate!
Rev. Benjamin Chung
April 30, 2017 – The Lord’s Admonishment
Have we ever heard about God’s annoyance and His displeasure? When the Israelites, who lived in Southern Judah, were openly rebellious, ungrateful, and evil; God was greatly disturbed. Isaiah 1:2-4 (NIV) records what God said: “Hear me, you heavens! Listen, earth! For the LORD has spoken: ‘I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me. 3The ox knows its master, the donkey its owner’s manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand. 4Woe to the sinful nation, a people whose guilt is great, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption! They have forsaken the LORD; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him.’ ” God continued to show his displeasure in a humorous tone from verse 5 through verse 8. Then in verse 9 Isaiah is compelled to tell God’s people: “Unless the LORD Almighty had left us some survivors, we would have become like Sodom, we would have been like Gomorrah.”
I think we all have been admonished at one time or another. Unless the admonishment was accompanied by undeniable accusations and stern words, I don’t think we would have the same experience or feeling as the Israelites had when they were rebuked directly by The Lord. Isaiah 1: 10-11 says, “Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom; listen to the instruction of our God, you people of Gomorrah! 11‘The multitude of your sacrifices— what are they to me?’ says the LORD. ‘I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.’ ” These following verses tell us of the Israelites’ sins and disobedience, and help us understand why God was so deeply saddened. The Israelites thought that they were observing the law and worshiping God according to the law by offering many sacrifices in the temple. But the LORD said, “Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals I hate with all my being. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. 15When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening. Your hands are full of blood!” (Isaiah 1:14-15). Obviously, God wanted them to repent, stop being rebellious and evil, and listen to God’s teaching. But the hearts of the Israelites were hard.
In context, let us reflect on our own worship to see if we lack a repentant heart and do not truly love God. Dear Lord, have mercy on us. Please admonish us for our iniquities, and remind us to seek your help for spiritual revival. May You renew our hearts and minds, and accept our devout worship in spirit and in truth.
Rev. Bernie Chung
April 23, 2017 – Do you want to be Right… or Well?
There is a conference room with a sign with the saying: “Do you want to be right… or well?” It is a very wise statement when it comes to how we think, because I know that even for myself, I will assume that I am right. But the fact of the matter is, I may not be. I could be selfish, prideful, inconsiderate, or stubborn. Even when I don’t want to be, I could still be all this and more! Isn’t it shocking when we finally come to the realization that our thoughts and actions might be influenced by our own desires, rather than God’s will?
I think so! Yet, we still fall into the trap of believing we are right all the time. We could even think of things this way: How often do we know the path to staying healthy and yet when we tell someone else, they choose to ignore our advice and then that person gets sick? “Make sure to wash your hands when you get home!” Or, “Put on your jacket, it is cold outside!” For now, Athanasius is obedient when we ask him to put on his jacket. We are thankful for that! And even when we change his diaper, he cooperates much more than before. But there were times in the past where he fought Angelia and myself when we were trying to change his dirty diapers. He’d cry, arch his back, roll over or even lock his legs around our arms. Isn’t it silly when we are trying to help him be “well” by changing his dirty diaper to a clean diaper on and he fights us and wants to keep the dirty diaper on? He literally wants to sit in his own poo!
This is what happens to us when we choose to be “right” rather than be well. I thought I’d also mention the location of the sign. It is not hidden behind a fake plant, but visible for every person to see as they enter the conference room. It is a reminder that where a discussion of ideas happens, there will be differing thoughts. This is true inside and also outside the conference room. There are differing ideas in every type of relationship, between: friends, relatives, spouses, dating couples, or the believer and God. If every person assumes their idea is right, there are going to be a lot of unnecessary arguments that could be avoided if we had stepped into the meeting with a humble heart that seeks to be open apply wisdom and understanding to the topic of discussion. Let’s all be WELL!
Romans 12:16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
Proverbs 4:7 The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.
Rev. Benjamin Chung
April 16, 2017 – It’s quite simple…
In the story of Naaman and his leprosy, we come to see how following a simple instruction can cure a man of his sickness. But being a Syrian general, he was tripped
up in his own pride in several ways. First, the prophet Elisha instructed Naaman to bathe in the Jordan River seven times to cure his leprosy, but he was reluctant to do so. Next, he was insulted that Elisha’s servant and not Elisha himself came out to speak to him in person. In 2 Kings 5:11, Naaman was expecting Elisha to “call on the name of the LORD his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure” him of his leprosy. Lastly, he boasted in the cleaner rivers of his homeland in Syria over the Jordan. If not for Naaman’s servants who ask him in verse 13, “If the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed!’” he may not have been healed. But he did wash and he was healed!
What can we learn from this? God wants us to follow His instructions—even the simple ones. We might want to do something that will bring us glamour and acclaim, even in the Christian world, but that isn’t what God wants. He wants us to obey Him. The water of the Jordan River did not heal Naaman, but the act of obedience to God did. I think we are sometimes like Naaman, looking for the difficult challenges to face because the easy tasks are just that—too easy.
Other times, we might choose to not do what we’re called to do! When we baptize, we are fulfilling the Great Commandment, which is also really quite simple. Matthew 28:19 states, “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”. There are three verbs here: go, makedisciples and baptize. Right now, we’re fulfilling the last of the three. Let’s also continue to go and make disciples as we are called to do.
Finally, I’m thankful for the three who are getting baptized today: Rakery Cheng, Elisa Chow and Anthony Chow. They have accepted the instruction of to be immersed through water baptism, which is a public confession of faith in the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Also, the imagery represents a life that has died to the old self and is resurrected in the new spiritual life of the believer. Baptism itself does not heal us on the outside, but it does everything for us on the inside when we obey. This is an ordinance (a command) from the Great Prophet himself, Christ Jesus. These three have wisely chosen to obey Him. Furthermore, baptism acknowledges our faith in God, as Colossians 2:12 states, “having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.” Let us encourage our newly baptized brothers and sister this day and what a special day it is, indeed! For Easter is the celebration of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the grave and unto new body and life. Hallelujah, Praise the LORD!
Rev. Benjamin Chung
April 9, 2017 – The Costly Ticket
A few weeks ago, I was at home during the time the street cleaner comes by. I didn’t hear the street cleaning vehicle go by the house yet, but I noticed my neighbor driving back and parking on the street… on the cleaning side! I quickly ran out the house to warn him that he needed to move his car. I knocked on my neighbor’s door. No answer. I rang the doorbell. Finally, his parents, who only speak Chinese, answer the door and then the meter maid shows up. The neighbor’s parents frantically ask the meter maid to wait but she’s already got the ticketing device out. Finally the neighbor shows up and he quickly moves his car before his ticket is fully issued. What a lot of effort to avoid a $72 ticket!
Conversely, I’ve seen neighbors near the church building stand outside and watch as their neighbor’s cars get parking tickets for forgetting to move their cars. It puzzles and saddens me. Why don’t the neighbors inform each other about moving the cars, unless they don’t know their neighbors or they don’t care?
There is something more costly than a street cleaning ticket. It is the neighbor’s life. And we as Christians must seriously care for this! Less than 10% of the population of California knows Jesus. Do you know what this means? A lot of people in our state are currently holding tickets with “Hell” as their destination. This is not a laughing matter! They need to get the priceless ticket of salvation, which is stamped with Jesus’ name on it, in their hands. And sometimes the only way to do it is to go and talk to our neighbors—the ones that live on our street—and see how they’re doing and if they have anything to pray for. Are you up for this? If so, let me know. We want to get this started in SFCBC! We need to let people know who Jesus is before it’s too late and time is up. For this is what we know to be true: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Many want the priceless ticket but don’t know where to get it. We do, let’s give them the name of Jesus!
The bonus ticket for us is, we store up for ourselves treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:21) as we love God and do the ministry of the kingdom.
Rev. Benjamin Chung
April 2, 2017 – The Other “MCD”
For most of us, McD stands for McDonalds—where the food tastes good but we know the food isn’t good for our bodies. Others know M.C.D. also stands for Medicinal Cannabis Dispensary. I thought I’d share some of the research I’ve found (which is in no way exhaustive) and my perspective on why my stance is against the MCD’s move into the empty pharmacy across from ABC Restaurant.
Drugs in all forms should be treated with great care. Legal and illegal drugs can be addictive and harm our bodies physically. Yes, it is not what we put in our bodies that makes us unclean (Matt. 15:11), but our bodies are still temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19) and while “I have the right do anything … but not everything is beneficial… I will not be mastered by anything” (1 Cor. 6:12), aside from our LORD!
I did not agree with the legalization of recreational MJ, but it is now legal. This doesn’t mean that we should overlook the ramifications MJ can have on the community or that we must accept the MCD’s move onto Noriega St. MJ is not simply an herb. It is a drug. I do believe good research needs to be done and that MJ is ill-classified as a Schedule 1 drug. It is not like heroin or PCPs, also Schedule 1 drugs, which have a high potential for abuse and no legitimate therapeutic uses. MJ can provide pain relief for some ailments according Journal of American Medical Association. However, compared to other states with strict medical guidelines, our state’s medical requirements were very lax where basically any adult can apply for a MCD card. We’ve basically had recreational MJ in CA the entire time!
There are also many dangers. Addiction rates as high as 25% for youth and 10% for adults. Memory is affected, with IQ loss, temporary psychosis and possibly even schizophrenia for some. The number of fatal car accidents in Washington state alone doubled after recreational use was legalized. On a positive note, teen usage did not increase once MJ became recreationally legal in WA state.
MJ also has an inherent connection to the spiritual realm, where it is connected to the “acts of the flesh” listed in Galatians 5:19-21 (just before the Fruit of the Spirit). The specific the word witchcraft in v.20, comes from the Greek word pharmakeia. This is where we get the word for pharmacy, but in ancient times this had to do with sorcerers administrating drugs, poisons, idolatry, and the magic arts for the specific purpose of stimulating hallucinations or visions. This undoubtedly delves into the spiritual realm, where Paul is warning us of its dangers and we should not attempt to engaged with for our own safety. It’s not beneficial!
Lastly, at the last hearing at city hall, I heard the argument of how there the Sunset and Richmond districts of SF do not have any MCDs. The counter to this argument is that orders can be phoned in and delivered. The city has enough MCDs. And as a community, we can voice dissent towards certain stores and companies. There are few Targets or McDonalds in our neighborhood and city. In fact, the spiritual battle rages on when we consider how very few Christian movies are released in SF and San Mateo county and not a single Chick-fil-A (owned by a Southern Baptist Christian) is in either county, too! Would we want a bar, club, or strip joint moving in? No, they aren’t beneficial. An MCD in our neighborhood is not beneficial either. Please continue to pray over this situation, too!
Rev. Benjamin Chung
March 26, 2017 – Adoption Equals Chosen
Can you imagine being chosen to be the child of a king? It doesn’t happen! Unless you’re a descendant of the monarch, you have no claim to the throne. The king will never choose a successor that is not related to him biologically. You need royal blood. This is how royal succession works.
Counter to royal succession is the idea of adoption and Foster Care. A pastor friend of mine in Tampa, Florida has fostered a total of 8 kids so far, with numbers 7 and 8, two brothers, still in his care. What’s beautiful about this is my friend does not care about the things the brothers did. He cares for them because they are people, with needs. Foster children are not easy. They bring with them baggage that many of us can’t fathom or imagine. Well, maybe a few are foreseeable. Some of our children would not have a problem not showering for a week or never brushing their teeth. But imagine having to ration your toilet paper or having to lock up your sugar and other sweets in a closet. Some kids cannot read and they are already 8 or 9 years old. Others need to be on prescription drugs because their parents were drug addicts and the drugs affect the development of their brain while still in the womb and even after. What’s more, my pastor-friend is Korean, single, middle-aged, and grew up in Africa and Brazil. Crazy? Maybe. Why does he desire to do what he’s doing? To show the Father’s love to children who have no one else to love and care for them.
Identically, our Father in heaven does the same to us. We are sinful messed up people and the Almighty God of the heavens deliberately chooses to adopt us as his sons and daughters. Stop here, reread the last sentence and meditate on this fact for a few moments. We were not born to Him that we have any rightful claim to the throne. We did not earn our way into heaven, through our actions and deeds. Nor was the Father forced to adopt us. He chooses us—adopts us—to be children because He is love. And a deep deep love at that, which was completed through the sacrifice of His Son on the cross—His blood shed so we might be freed, cleansed and made holy. What a magnificent God we have, indeed! Consider the following passage and two lines from verse 1 of Stuart Townend’s song, How Deep the Father’s Love for Us:
Isaiah 59:2 But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you.
John 3:2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
Verse 1: How deep the Father’s love for us how vast beyond all measure that He should give His only Son to make a wretch His treasure. Thank you, LORD Jesus, for choosing us to be your children!
Rev. Benjamin Chung
March 19, 2017 – Time of Essence
The implementation of daylight saving time is mainly to save energy and resource. The US Congress, with the adoption of the Energy Act in 2005, moved up daylight saving time which usually starts at 2 am on the first Sunday of April to the second Sunday of March. Daylight saving time which usually ends on the last Sunday of October now ends on the first Sunday of November. Since 2007, the time period was extended by four weeks. Every time when daylight saving starts, we have the feeling that a whole hour is lost after we have advanced the clock by an hour. Similarly, we think we have gained back the lost hour when standard time resumes. It’s an illusion of course–time doesn’t go backward.
The church bulletin on March 5th contains an announcement to remind everyone that daylight saving time will start on March 12th so advancing the clock by an hour would be necessary on the Saturday night prior. One of our church friends made it to the eleven o’clock worship even though he neglected to change the time. Why? He intended to attend the 9:45 a.m. Sunday school, and he had to settle to just stay for the worship service when he missed the opportunity for Sunday school.
As time passes, can anyone actually gain back the time lost? Our days on earth are numbered. Don’t we realize that time is more valuable than gold? Jesus told the crowd saying, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going. Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light” (John 12:35-36 NIV.) Our Lord Jesus is the true light, and in this passage He hints that He is about to be crucified on the cross, and he doesn’t have much time left. Secondly, He says that the day will be done and the night is fast approaching. We should seize the opportunity and utilize the time that God has given us to leave the darkness and enter into the light. While we still have the breath of life in us, we should seek the redemption offered by the Lord Jesus on the cross, repent, be saved, and live a life abiding in Him.
Ephesians 5:15-16 NIV “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”
Rev. Bernie Chung
March 12, 2017 – Keep Forgiving As You’ve Been Forgiven
Pastor Daniel Pak shared with me about how it is very easy for him to forgive. The reason is, so much was forgiven of him and his past sins. He lives by the statement, “He who has been forgiven much, much is forgiven.” This is analogous to the sinful woman who wiped Jesus’ feet with her tears, seeking the Son’s forgiveness from Luke 7:36-50.
Furthermore, your soul depends on you forgiving your brother (or sister) as our Father in heaven will not forgive you unless you do. Matthew 6:14-5 says, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
I know I’ve made mistakes as a pastor. And I’ve tried to own up to them. But here’s the thing, when you harbor something against me or someone else because of what was done and you don’t forgive, you’re being petty and you lack forgiveness. If there is a wrong, hash it out with me or with the person who wronged you. If the trespass isn’t serious enough, forgive the person. If the grievance is of a more serious nature, address the person as Matthew 18:15-17 states to do: “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”
On the flip-side, I have had to forgive others for their transgressions against me. For instance, when I accidentally make a mistake in a sermon and it’s brought up to me, I apologize. When there isn’t a mistake but I’m told there is, I’ve learned it is good to still apologize, for Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:7, “Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?” What Paul is instructing us to do is end a dispute before the disagreement gets out of hand. After all, Paul says later in v.11 that we have been washed, sanctified, and “justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of God”. Let us forgive, for we have already been forgiven! Hallelujah!
Rev. Benjamin Chung
March 5, 2017 – Taxes and Offerings
More than a decade ago the brothers and sisters of our church began to provide income tax service for low-income families and to utilize the opportunity to pass on the Gospel to them. We thank God for the faithfulness of these brothers and sisters who would spend their valuable time to serve the people who need help in our community. Luke 10: 25-37 describes how we should love our “neighbors”, and these brothers and sisters have set the examples as well. Over the years, many “neighbors” have returned in the tax filing season to let us continue to prepare tax returns for them. After the tax returns, have been completed and tax liability determined, those who owe tax must pay their taxes on time whether they are willing or not.
In the Chinese service last week, we studied 1 John 3: 11-20. When I gave some more thought on chapter 3 verse 12, I discovered that Cain did not kill his brother Abel before he was labeled as the “devil’s child”. He was actually the first child of the devil before he committed the heinous act. When the two brothers offered to the Lord, God saw favor with Abel’s but not with Cain’s offering, and Cain killed his brother out of jealousy (Genesis 4: 3-5).
There are distinct differences between the taxes levied by the government and the offerings we make to God. The taxes we pay the government are to support governmental operations such as maintaining law and order, and the tax rates are set by the government.
The first mention of the offering in the Bible is found in the Book of Genesis: “And praise be to God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.” Then Abram gave him (Melchizedek) a tenth of everything” (Genesis 14:20 NIV). Abram recognized that God rewarded him the victory due to the intercession of the high priest Melchizedek. As believers, we should also express our gratitude for the love and the salvation of God through our offerings.
Near the end of worship service, it is customary for the presider to quote 2 Corinthians 9: 7 (NIV) by saying: “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” The purpose of this is to avoid non -believers from mistakenly believing that offerings are compulsory, or feel embarrassed for they may not understand the true meaning of offering. On the other hand, it is to encourage Christians who have received God’s grace to offer to the Lord willingly according to their faith and financial situations. Willingness, faithfulness, and the ability to give are the three factors the givers should use to determine the amount of their offerings. May God accept our offerings and grant us the wisdom to utilize the resource to extend God’s Kingdom and to glorify His name.
Rev. Bernie Chung
February 26, 2017 – What’s Stopping You? Go, Go, Go!
I want you to imagine there’s a famine and you have a house stocked with food—filled to the brim. You discover there are hungry and starving people outside. What is your response to the people outside your house? Would you invite them in and share your food? One SEND conference speaker posed this idea for us to consider. The answer is quite obvious. We welcome the people in and share our food with them!
The illustration was to get us to consider the good news that we have in Christ Jesus. Are we going to tell others about his saving grace? The answer is a resounding, Yes! There are those of us who are sharing the gospel already. We have greeters during tax prep. The CIA children’s program. Here are several other opportunities this year to be missional. Please pray and consider one or more of the following:
Venezuela: The church leadership wants to send you to the Venezuelan Chinese churches who need encouraging and counseling. The trip in May specifically needs Cantonese speakers. Who is up for this trip? The mission trip in August will be geared towards VBS and English speakers.
Vacation Bible School: Speaking of VBS, if Venezuela sounds too daunting, you can save yourself the fears and headaches of: traveling to a foreign country, spending money on airfare and lodging, not speaking the language, getting lost, etc. Instead, consider taking a week off from work for missions in your own backyard… church VBS! We’ve schedule 7/17-8/11 for VBS this year. We’re asking all adults (English or Cantonese speakers) to take time off, just as you would to travel internationally, but to do missions locally. Just one week sharing the gospel. Guess what? You even get to sleep in your own bed every night!
LoveLA: Like LoveSF last year, we’re going to team up with other churches and Christians to share the gospel as a large collective group in SoCal. There will be a Messenger Bootcamp to learn and train from before going to LA. Please also mark your calendars for 10/28-11/4 and pray for this event.
LoveSF: Our church will be the Firebase for the St. Patrick’s Day outreach on 3/18. We’ll be going into our church’s neighborhood
Please check your calendar, pray, and ask the LORD to give you the courage to preach the gospel to “Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth”. The question isn’t whether or not we are supposed to go. If the Holy Spirit has come upon you, then the question is what’s stopping you? Let’s be witnesses and go share the gospel!
Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
Rev. Benjamin Chung
February 19, 2017 – Self-Awareness
“I say this because many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist.” 2 John 1:7 NIV
One of the biggest problems facing believers today is the heresy promoted by deceivers and antichrists. Heretical thinking of the past did not accept the truth of the incarnation of Jesus Christ because people believed that God is a holy spirit and the flesh is unclean. Today, there are people who call themselves Christians but still do not accept Jesus Christ as “the Word who became flesh”. They are self-centered and would not accept this truth by calling it unscientific, or a miracle that never happened. Apostle John witnessed for the Lord Jesus by saying: “He is in the world, the world is created by Him, and the world does not know Him.” John tells us that the world is ignorant and cannot know Christ. In such a degenerate and chaotic environment, people with blind eyes cannot separate fiction from truth. A few days ago Pastor Ben and I attended a Northern California Baptist Association meeting. We heard that deceivers spreading heresy have come back in droves and are very active in some churches. We must be aware of their presence and be vigilant so that we don’t get confused and deviate from the truth.
The Apostle John reminds us that there are many deceivers in the world, and we ourselves as well as others can become one if we are not serious in seeking the truth. Our ignorance can become a stumbling block for others, and cause them to be further away from God’s truth. Inadvertently, we become heretics.
At the end of his letter, Apostle John concludes: “I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete. The children of your chosen sister send their greetings” (2 John 1:12-13 NIV). John’s ministry reminds us the importance of evangelism, and the elder Apostle John still plans to see the believers in person and to share with them Jesus Christ’s salvation truth. The letter was written to a chosen lady (2 John 1), and in the last passage we see that the chosen lady had a chosen sister. It is thus clear that the gospel spreads through families. When we accepted Christ, we also accepted the responsibility of spreading the Gospel. We shall do our upmost to testify for Christ, lead our brothers and sisters and their families to the Lord, and help them stay away from heresy. We also must first develop self-awareness to keep ourselves away from going astray with God’s truth.
Rev. Bernie Chung
February 12, 2017 – I Want an Organist at My Celebration!
Recently, a pastor-friend went to his church member’s funeral and he concluded two things. The first conclusion is: he wants a harpist at his funeral. Soon after, I also went to a funeral, but of an African American pastor. After attending the 2 hour funeral, my conclusion is this, I want an organist! His skill on the organ created an atmosphere of celebration and fun making the 2 hour service pass by quickly.
What also astounded me greatly is the content of the African American funeral. There was shouting and there was screaming. People stood up and clapped their hands. You see, these acclamations were in acknowledgement of the truth the pastor preached and were accompanied by “Amen” and “preach it”! The pastor did not pull any punches and emphasized the importance of knowing and receiving Jesus as LORD and Savior. There was even an altar call! At a funeral!
All this also confirms my pastor-friend’s second conclusion: every person on earth is going to pass away one day. And we usually don’t know how or when. Yes, we are sad inside when our loved ones are no longer around for us to love and for them to love us in return. But as Christians, there is a reason we can celebrate at a funeral. There is a reason our mourning is to be turned into rejoicing and celebration. This is because our loved ones are no longer under the grips of sin and their flesh. The sting of death no longer has a hold on them through the victory we are promised through Jesus Christ. Nor does the sting of death have a hold on us. Hallelujah, amen! (And I do want an organist at my life celebration.)
1 Corinthians 15:54-58 (NIV) When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” 55 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
Rev. Benjamin Chung
February 5, 2017 – Keep His Commands and Do What Pleases Him
“Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from Him anything we ask, because we keep His commands and do what pleases Him” (1 John 3:21-22 NIV).
The Apostle John tells us that as long as we come to our Lord with cleansed hearts, obey His commands, and do what pleases Him; God will grant our wishes. Shouldn’t this be our successful prayer principle and method? In other words, so long as we know how to apply this principle of successful prayer, and keep doing what pleases God, the good outcome of our prayer is assured. Aren’t we being manipulative by thinking that we can control our God who performs miracles by Himself by our deeds alone? We must remember that God’s will takes priority.
Psalm 66:18 (NIV) says, ““If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” 1 Peter 3:12 (NIV) says, “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
Both verses from the Old and New Testaments tell us that God clearly does not accept the prayers of evil doers and sinners. Of course the Almighty God knows when not to answer our prayers. If by following the principle of “doing what pleases Him” can change God’s will so easily, would our God still be the one who alone can perform wonders?
James 5:16 (NIV) says: “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
Why is the prayer of the righteous so effective? Is God to be at the mercy of the righteous? And why are the prayers from those who obey His command and do what pleases Him effective as well? When we were young and naive, wise parents would reject our demands of delusions. But when we ask for exactly what we need, would our parents still refuse our request? Jesus says: “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?” Matthew 7:9-10 (NIV). “Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:8 NIV). Our God is the same! In fact, Matthew 6:8 tells us that before we pray for our needs, our God, The Father, already knew.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, let’s obey God’s commands and do what pleases Him. Indeed, the prayers of the righteous and pure in heart will be in keeping with the will and pleasure of God. Therefore, when we pray, we pray for the fulfillment of His will, not ours.
January 29, 2017 – The ‘Stache
Oh, how the wives/girl-friends of men dislike the facial hair of their husbands/boy-friends! I have a friend who has also grown out his facial hair and he has told me that his wife does not prefer his facial hair. Angelia does not like mine either. And our wives are not alone in their opinion. Upon asking my friend if he saw any trends from those who commented on his facial hair, he agreed that older Asians tend to dislike his facial hair while younger Asians encourage it. People from other cultures were also more open to facial hair. Blacks and whites only compliment and never disapprove of our facial hair. Some of the pastors I met during my sabbatical also have thick bushy-beards. (To be true, one younger Chinese male saw my facial hair and could only say, “waaaahhhhhhh?” for 15 seconds.)
This makes me wonder if the acceptance of facial hair is a cultural topic, and then I recalled how even at CCGC, which is my dad’s prior Mandarin-speaking church, the responses were similar to what my friend and I have faced (pun intended). The younger generation complimented my dad when he had a moustache. The older generation was strikingly different. Not only to my dad, but even CCGC’s new Chinese Pastor has some in the Chinese Ministry reprimanded him for having facial hair. They scolded him, “pastors cannot have facial hair, especially MY pastor!” Really? Is this biblical? This is like the time I was conversing with a middle-aged woman who vehemently told me pastors cannot have ear rings and she would never go to a church where a pastor wore an ear ring. Where do these ideas come from?! Does what a pastor have on his head really cause such an enormous offense to so many?
This is not a rebuke towards anyone who commented on my facial hair the last few months. You have the right to your own opinion, as do I. However, we should be aware how we deliver our opinions or if it is helpful. As Christians, we are to be careful with our words. Romans 16:17 says, “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.” Rather, as Proverbs 25:11 says, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver” (ESV).
So in this Lunar New Year, let us consider how we can slow to speak and quick to listen in the coming year, knowing that the LORD loves those who obey his Scriptures.
January 22, 2017 – To Face God Without Fear
God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. The Almighty God is the creator of the universe. His wisdom and thoughts are far greater than ours. In the Old Testament, the Israelites were afraid of God most of the time. They did not dare to approach God or to hear His voice directly. They said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die” (Exodus 20:19 NIV). Do we fear God in the same way as the Israelites feared God? Certainly some of us are not that much different from them.
When we read 1 John 3: 18-24 we see how we can approach God,
“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.”
First, in verse 18, John does not define “love” just as an attitude. He says that we love each other not only through words from our mouths, but must also express love in our deeds. In other words, if there is no substantive act of “love”, we will wonder whether the “love” conveyed by the tongue is true or not.
When we wait in the boarding area at the airport, we can observe the difference in levels of anxiety between passengers holding their boarding passes and those without boarding passes. Stand by passengers hope for some reason that the fully booked flight would have vacant seats. The stark contrast is quite evident. The passengers with secured seats can leisurely read publications, talk to their friends, or take a nap, while the anxiety of the standby passengers can be seen on their faces, hoping for the coveted boarding pass to ensure a seat on the flight.
Do we have assurance in facing God without fear? Obeying God’s commands of believing in Jesus’ name and loving one another would give us such an assurance. 1 John 3:23 reminds us that believing in the name of His Son Jesus Christ only fulfills half of God’s command; we must obey the second half of this command, which is to love one another. We hope everyone who comes before God will know they belong to Him. With His assurance that our sins are forgiven when we repent, God has given us a boarding pass to His Kingdom. What else can prevent us to come before God without fear?
Rev. Bernie Chung
January 15, 2017 – Caught Unaware
For 2017, one area of emphasis the pastoral team is emphasizing is the Christian’s weaknesses to sin. We do focus on what sin is, but we often lack the awareness of it in our own lives. We may not abuse alcohol or be physical abusive to our spouses, but we might gossip or be judgmental in a prideful way. It is the application part, where even when an application is explicitly stated, it is still not applied because we are caught unaware! Consider the parables of the Pharisee and Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14) and the Wise and Foolish Builders (Matthew 7:24-27).
This became more apparently when Pastor Daniel Pak invited me to help and observe the Celebrate Recovery meeting at his church. My own eyes were opened by how the women in this women only program have no shame in admitting their addictions. Even the names of the small groups were surprising. You see, in church when we divide into smaller groups we will identify the group by the group leader’s name. However, at Celebrate Recovery, the groups were celebrated by addictions. There were three this week: alcohol, methamphetamines and heroin. Can you imagine this sort of identification in our church? What if we split up into the groups of: lust, uncontrolled shopping, addiction to technology and entertainment, gluttony, gossip, idolatry, thievery or an unforgiving heart?
This candidness in acknowledging their addiction was encouraging. Now, some were forced to come because the state required them to. Others came on their own free will. In the end, they all knew that they had a form of addiction that was harming themselves and their families and opened up to it. Of course, many could not see the effects of their addictions at first. Only when their children taken away or they lost their jobs, did they realize their weakness.
This is the power of sin over a person’s life, Christian or non-Christian. Even in the church, we all succumb to some form of sin. So many, when asked if there is sin they need to overcome, will answer, “Everything is fine.” But everything isn’t fine. 1 John 1:8 says, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” Don’t be fooled! Take the time to reflect, pray for revelation, and then repent to the LORD. Then share with an accountability partner to help encourage you to walk in Christ’s likeness. If this new to you, don’t worry. We will be preaching on the 12 Step of Recovery for the next few weeks so we can all reflect and repent!