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ThanksLiving: Being Thankful vs. Doing Thankful (Col 3:15-17)

151202_Thanksgiving_newAs we celebrate Thanksgiving, our thoughts naturally turn to the things and people for which we are thankful. But for this message I thought that I would focus more on actions that show we are thankful rather than just an encouragement to be thankful. One author dubs that "ThanksLiving." I think that the scripture passage that best describes that is Colossians 3:15-17. The letter to Colossians is all about saying thank you. Throughout the Apostle Paul's letter, he encourages the Colossians to give thanks. In this particular passage, we find three ways we can live out our thanks to God: 1) by putting God as a priority in our lives through worship (v.16); 2) by forgiving others (v.13); and 3) by working with integrity and excellence (v.17).

This holiday season will you not only be thankful but do thankful to the Lord and to those around you?

 

After You Have Suffered a Little While (1 Peter 5:5-11)

151112_SufferingWe have come to the end of our series on 1 Peter. Throughout this letter, Peter has been encouraging his readers. The persecution and suffering they are going through isn't something strange and it isn't because they have done something wrong. Peter writes over and over again that God is with them, that they are privileged to follow in Jesus' footsteps and what they are going through can actually help point people to Christ. Many times when we are suffering we respond by doing everything we can to prevent it, doing everything we can to fix it, or doing everything we can to deny it. In our passage today, Peter gives better direction in how to respond to suffering.

One way to respond to suffering is with humility (v.5). Humility doesn't say "I'm a terrible person and I deserve this suffering," but humility says, "I am suffering and I need help from outside of myself." It is surrendering to what you are going through and relying on God's mighty hand.

The second way to respond to suffering is to cast all your anxiety on God (v.7). Anxiety is a common feeling because we value control. How do I prevent this, fix this, avoid dealing with this? When we suffer, it is an invitation to remember that there is a sovereign God who is in control and He cares for us! Our goal is not a comfortable life free from suffering, but our goal instead is to seek first the kingdom of God whatever that might entail.

The third way to respond to suffering to be aware of the fact that we have an enemy who is actively trying to destroy our faith (v.8). Peter admonishes his readers that they need to be alert, to resist and to stand firm in the faith because they are not going through this alone.

Lastly, Peter ends the letter with his greatest comfort: And 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. To him be the power forever and ever. Amen (v.10).

Everything they have gone through has been under God's watchful eye. He is the one who chose them and called them into his eternal kingdom. And yes, they will suffer for a little while. But He Himself will restore, strengthen and establish them.

Will you hold to that sure and certain hope deep in your heart this week?

To Everyone Who Asks (1 Peter 3:13-17)

20151025Last week we saw that in the beginning of 1 Peter 3, Peter's main concern is that no matter what his readers are going through, the goal is to point people to Christ. This will happen in their marriages as believing wives and husbands love and respect their non-believing spouses, as brothers and sisters in Christ care for each other, and as they do good and bless others, especially the non-believers who are persecuting them. In today's passage, Peter gives more instruction in what to do when they face opposition, how to respond to it and why they should respond in the way that they do.

Peter's first instruction is simply: do good! (1 Peter 3:13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.)

Sometimes in our zeal to share the good news, we stop being good people. But if we want to be able to share the good news, we need to be good news. Peter encourages his readers to be a blessing in their families, in their workplaces and in their community.

Secondly, Peter tells his readers how to respond to those who oppose them. (1 Peter 3:15-16 Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.)

What I'd like to highlight in this verse is Peter's statement "to everyone who asks." In many commentaries, they emphasize that believers need to be prepared to defend the faith, to give answer. And just as many emphasize that it needs to be done with gentleness and respect. While I wholeheartedly agree with both points, if we forget that part of the reason why they should be prepared to give an answer is that people are asking them the reason for the hope that they have.

Do believers live their lives in a way that non-believers ask about that hope? Or do non-believers sometimes feel like evangelism targets and objects of judgement?

Lastly Peter tells his readers even if they do good and share about the hope that they have, they may still get persecuted. But in a way it is an honor because "Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God." (1 Peter 3:18)

This week, will you take courage and do good in the name of Christ? Will you live a life of hope in the good news and be a good news person? Will you equip yourself to be able to answer everyone who asks the reason for the hope that you have?

They'll Know We Are Christians By Our... (1 Peter 3:1-12)

151022_They Will KnowWe are continuing in our series on 1 Peter, this week focusing on 3:1-12. From this passage, Peter gives his readers 3 ways the people around them will know they are Christians: 1) by how they treat their significant others; 2) by how they treat brothers and sisters in Christ; and 3) by how they treat those who are not believers.

First let's look at how Peter encourages husbands and wives. Our first inclination when reading this passage is to think that it is about marriage. But actually Peter is talking more about evangelism and witness more than about the marriage relationship itself.

Most commentators believe that Peter gives these specific instructions to wives because a large proportion of women in the congregation had become Christian but their husbands had not. In the Roman world, wives usually took the religion of their husbands and Christianity was unusual in that women were encouraged to commit to Jesus whether or not their husbands approved. But in order to help show their non-believing husbands the nature of the gospel, Peter exhorts them to not only use words but also to use the witness of their lives. And Peter doesn't leave out husbands. In the same way, husbands are to be considerate and treat their wives with respect as fellow heirs with them (v.7).

Secondly Peter briefly addresses how Christians are to treat one another in v.8. In John 13, after Jesus washed the disciples feet, he told them in v.35 "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

Thirdly, Peter shows them how to treat people who are not believers, even those who hate and persecute them (v.9-12). Peter encourages them to repay evil with blessing, keep their tongue from evil and do good, to seek peace and pursue it. Just as their Savior Jesus Christ did not retaliate but entrusted Himself to God under suffering, they are to model His way.

God wants us to share the good news with those closest to us, but not just with words but with our loving actions and respect.

God wants Christians to show the good news by their loving relationships with one another.

God wants us to shine the good news by how we love those who are not believers.

How will you share, show and shine the good news this week?

You Are Not Alone (1 Peter 2:4-10)

Normally I write a brief summary of the week's sermon, but Susan Tang gave me a beautiful letter about the sermon I preached on 10/4 and I asked her permission to print it here (edited): Presentation1On Sunday 10/4/15, I attended service at the San Francisco Evangelical Free Church. Service was conducted by Rev. Chris Otani. The sermon was entitled "You Are Not Alone" about 1 Peter 2:5-10. There were so many things covered in the sermon but the key things I want to write about are similar to some things that I've been journaling and asking God and maybe you are too, because as titled, "you are not alone."

Sometimes as a believer in God, I feel very alone; however from the sermon and in scripture we are told that we are not alone as God, the personhood of Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit continually watch over us. In claiming faith we are comforted, warned, and reminded of our responsibilities and duties to the faith we adhere to.

It's so easy to recommend books, movies, or television shows to watch; or suggest a restaurant, coffee shop or store to explore and check out. And especially during the holidays, the day after Thanksgiving or for a premier of a new toy, tennis show, book or movie, people are quite willing to stand in line for hours to get "it," whatever "it" is. But in asking friends and family to attend religious service I hear comments like, "Oh, not my cup of tea," or "I don't believe," or no comment. Rejection and loneliness - everyone has experienced it, but in or among family, groups, or at a party, it seems like no one else is lonely. Are others simply pretending or acting confident and secure?

The sermon referenced the story of Martin Pistorius from a recent TED talk online, who in 1988 at the age of 12 suffered brain damage and as a result was mentally aware, but physically unresponsive. However in this state of being, he somehow became instinctively aware of God, yet unable to intellectually communicate his understanding.

Personally for me, I wonder if we've also felt this kind of brain damage - trapped in our bodies but unable to speak out. Whatever the circumstances, I'm glad to know that our Father in Heaven knows and understands how we feel, and empowers us with wisdom to be discerning. I wonder even more about our aging, bed-ridden, loved ones. What do they think or feel about us when we visit or don't visit them while they are alive or dying? What do they instinctively know about us or God? What final points would they want to make sure we know and understand about them and God?

So many dreadful and sad things are happening in the world. In my heart and mind, I wonder if this is the beginning of the end times. It's not our job to question the date of the end but to proclaim and share faith to the end. Some religions or families might make us feel like we're not deserving or worthy enough to worship or be a part of important conversations. But with Christ, we are pursued, reminded and wooed that in any problem we face, he calls us to meet him, talk to him, ask him and consider the goodness of his blessings and sacrifice. Regardless of what path we choose to serve God and others, God's plans will not be defeated or thwarted.

In the second part of the sermon, I am challenged to learn that the Bible is also a warning - an either/or proposition in how God honors our choice to believe in Him or not.  It's so hard to convey this concept because it requires each person to really examine their lives and consider personal introspection of who they are and how they might be perceived. How often do we practice being honest and self-aware, open to criticism and rebuke?

I can see how I can be labelled as a hypocrite. How can we talk about God's great love for each of us, when people wrongly blame Him and cut themselves off from understanding the nature of their own flaws and faults? It's so important to recognize our own shortcomings, admit them, confess them, repent of them and find forgiveness in God.

Bottom line and challenge - by God's grace we are empowered to see the truth and forgive. We do have responsibilities for our faith. In the most desperate and despairing times of my life when I know I have received undeserved mercy and grace, I so want to share it with others who might feel the same hurts.

I'm grateful to be reminded that it's not my job or anyone else's to convince others. Life is so uncertain but by faith we can be certain that God loves us, wants to spend time with us, wants to share and help us understand our struggles. Maybe the questions we need to ask of ourselves is do we see the need to spend time with God, ask for help in understanding our struggles, are we willing to honestly explain our thoughts to the Creator of the universe, and in return trust and obey the opinions He renders in His Word or His people?

On a personal note, with all the senseless crime that's happening, I would carry a sign reading: No Jesus, No peace; Know Jesus, know peace. Or stated more elegantly and eloquently: "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish by have eternal life." (John 3:16)

I'm not very good at chit chat, so after service I quietly leave, remaining prayerfully thankful and grateful to leaders/shepherds who are dedicated to directing, equipping, re-igniting and challenging the hearts and minds of questioning "sheeple" (sheep/people) like me. To conclude, I simply wish to reflect upon a love and encouragement that is far greater than yours or mine: "And we know in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28)

By Grace,

Susan Tang

Living Out Our Living Hope (1 Peter 1:13-21)

150924_Living HopeWe are continuing our series on 1 Peter. I really encourage you to sit down and read through the whole book of 1 Peter this week. By getting familiar with the book, it may help prepare your spirit to hear what God is speaking through His Word to you! In the first part of this letter, Peter talked about the living hope they have in Christ (v.3). But this is not something just to "believe" but it is something to live out! In this passage, Peter gives us three principles for living out this living hope.

The first principle is in 1 Peter 1:13 "Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming." We need to actively strive to keep our mind focused. We can define focus as "paying attention, being alert and staying in control of your thoughts and actions."

So what do we need to pay attention to? Peter tells his readers to "set their hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming" (v.13).  When we think about the word "hope," I believe there are two types. There is worldly hope - this is more like wishful thinking and blind faith about the future.

Peter is not talking about that but about an eternal, certain, living hope. This is hope that is focused on what our faithful God and Father has promised us through the resurrection of Christ! We need to keep our mind focused on our hope in Christ.

The second principal for living out our living hope is to live as children of God. When we received Christ, it was not just about "going to heaven when you die." It is that and more! We have been adopted into God's family. We now have a perfect, heavenly Father. The Bible tells us that He gives good gifts to His children. He is powerful and yet gentle, present and attentive and wise. But Peter reminds his readers that God is also impartial and fair. Just because you are His child, He doesn't let you get away with anything (v.17).

Another implication of being adopted into God's family is that we are called to be like Him. 1 Peter 1:14 "As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written, 'Be holy, because I am holy.'"

Talk about high expectations! I'm sure we've all felt the guilt and pressure of knowing that we are supposed to be holy but failing miserably. How is this good news? What does it mean to be holy as God is holy?

One main thing to remember is that the focus cannot be on our efforts to be holy. Only God is holy. Our living hope is not in our ability to be holy, righteous or morally pure but in the fact that Jesus Christ is. Yes we are to live in Christ's footsteps, but as we walk in this world and stumble, we confess our sins and He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

So what does it mean to be holy or to live in holiness? One author wrote that holiness is loving God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength and loving our neighbor as ourselves. Obedience springs from love, thus holiness is perfect love.

Obedience is doing things that show that we love and respect God and honestly when we do that, it truly results in actions and words that love and respect others.  But the good news is that this kind of holiness and obedience doesn't come merely from trying harder. It comes from spending time in the presence of Christ.

Another way of looking at this is, instead of confessing that you haven't done your devotions, confess the behavior that manifests because you haven't been spending time in God's presence (anxiety, greed, fear, anger, gossip, dishonesty, self-centeredness, etc).

Lastly, the third principal for living out our living hope is to be thankful and have a truly grateful heart for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. (v.18-21)

How will you live out your living hope this week?

Bitter or Better (1 Peter 1:1-12)

150913_Bitter or BetterWe are starting a new series on 1 Peter this Sunday. Peter is one of the disciples that we really get to know in the gospels. What endears us to Peter is that, like many of us, Peter swings from extreme highs of faith to extreme lows. One minute he's walking on the water toward Jesus, the next he's sinking. One minute Jesus is praising him for proclaiming Jesus to be the Messiah and the next Jesus is rebuking him for forbidding Jesus to talk about his death. One minute Peter is claiming he will never abandon Jesus and the next he's swearing that he never knew the man. But when Peter witnesses the power of God in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, his life and ministry is forever changed. In Christ's grace and power, Peter is restored (John 21:15-19) and through the Holy Spirit he is eventually elevated to leadership in the Jerusalem church.

Peter writes this letter, many years after Christ's resurrection and ascension, to struggling churches in Asia Minor. In today's passage (1 Peter 1:1-12) Peter covers 3 topics: their identity, their trials and their salvation.

In the introduction of the letter, Peter roots them in their identity. First he describes how the world may see them: "exiles scattered" (v.1) But then Peter describes how God sees them in three ways: 1) they are God's elect, chosen by Him (v.2); 2) they have been given a new birth and a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ (v.3) 3) they have an inheritance that is kept in heaven for them that can never be taken away. (v.4)

Their identity is very important because of the 2nd topic of this passage, which is the trials they are going through. (v.6-7). 1 Peter 4 gives us the clue that these trials they are facing are because of their faith in Christ.

But Peter's assurance to them is that these trials can actually accomplish a greater good. 1 Peter 1:7  "These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith - of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire - may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed."

In a paradoxical way, trials are a blessing because they strip away and lay bare who/what your faith is really about. Genuine faith makes you better - counterfeit faith makes you bitter. Are your trials making you bitter or better?

If trials are making you bitter, it may be a sign that your faith is all about you. An entitled expectation that if you give God your devotion then God is supposed to give you a comfortable, happy life.

If your faith is built on such a shaky foundation, then trials are a "severe mercy" because that is not a saving faith. Faith that makes you better is a a faith that trusts in Christ no matter you are enduring. It is a hope not merely in the here and now but hope in the not yet/yet to come.

Lastly the third topic Peter addresses is their salvation (v.8-12). We have to remember that the end result of our faith is not a comfortable, happy life here in this world but an eternal life with God, secured by faith in Christ. That is what brings us an inexpressible and glorious joy not matter what they are facing. One commentator said it best: "Peter wrote to help them to focus on where they're going to, not what they are going through."

Peter's first letter is addressed to people who feel like scattered exiles. But he reminds them of their identity - they are chosen by God in Christ and have been given a new birth and a living hope and an inheritance that can never be taken away. He knows the trials they are facing and gives them a new perspective on them. The end result of their faith is salvation. Something the prophets wrote about and sought to understand but has now been made known to them!

This week, will you focus on who you are in Christ and where your hope is secure rather than what you are going through? Will you allow your trials to make you better instead of bitter?

Focused Faith (Matthew 14:22-36)

150904_Stay FocusedThis Sunday marks the last message in our miracles of Jesus series. Jesus' miracles serve to remind us of His power, His presence and His purpose in all the circumstances of our life. In Matthew 14:22-36, the setting for this story is the Sea of Galilee.  After the miraculous feeding of over 5000 men, women and children, Jesus sends the disciples in a boat to go ahead of Him to the other side. Meanwhile, Jesus dismisses the crowd and then goes up on a mountain to pray.

While Jesus is praying the disciples are rowing furiously through a storm and not making much headway. Because of its geographical features, severe storms could be generated by strong winds across the waters of the Sea of Galilee. Sometime between 3-6am Jesus comes to them, walking across the water.

The exhausted disciples think it is a ghost! Jesus reassures them of His identity by saying, "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid." (v.27) "It is I" is better translated as "I AM" the name that God uses for Himself when He speaks to Moses in Exodus 3:13.

But the story doesn't end there. For some crazy reason Peter says, "Lord, if it is you, tell me to come to you on the water." Isn't Jesus walking on water proof enough? What's interesting to me is that Jesus doesn't say to Peter - "if you believe, then come and walk out to me." Peter is the one saying, "if it is you, tell me to come to you." The highlight is not Peter's courage in getting out of the boat, but in the power is the word of Christ that enables Peter to walk on the water.

And through the miracle of Christ, Peter is able to walk on the water! However when Peter starts to focus on the winds and the waves, he starts to sink and cries out for the Lord to save him. This is what Jesus has come to do - to rescue those who know they are drowning in their helplessness against sin.

After rescuing Peter, Jesus adds, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?" Jesus had proved to them over and over again His power and love and purpose and yet they continued to struggle with their faith. In Matthew 17:20 Jesus says that even a mustard seed of faith can move mountains. It is not the amount of faith that makes the difference but who their faith is in.

When they get back into the boat, the wind dies down and the disciples begin to worship Jesus saying "Truly you are the Son of God." This is the first time in the gospels that the disciples acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God. The first time Jesus calmed the storm, He was in the boat with them sleeping. That time they said, "Who is this?" This time they say, "Truly you are the Son of God."

And with that pronouncement, we learn that everything Jesus has been doing is pointing to this - Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah, the King over all creation.

How can we have a focused faith regarding this truth? Focus = what you are paying attention to. How can you pay attention to Christ in the midst of all that is going on?

Don't doubt: 1) God's power and love; 2) God's presence - even when Jesus wasn't with them, He was praying for them; 3) God's purpose - Jesus was the one who sent them across the sea in the first place; He knew what would happen; Jesus was teaching them that even when He wasn't with them, He would rescue them.

Do doubt: 1) your perception of things - the disciples thought they saw a ghost! Many times we don't see things correctly and we make wrong assumptions about God, about others; 2) your fears - are you afraid of what people think? afraid of loss of security? why are you afraid? 3) your failures - failing and making mistakes are not a sign of God's punishment or disapproval. Sometimes we need to fail to learn, to humble ourselves and a way to gain perseverance.

How will you stay focused this week? What will you pay attention to? Your circumstances and fears or the God who overcomes and prevails and is present with you?

 

 

Are You Willing? (Part 2) John 5:1-15

15.08.23 Are You WillingLast week we saw that a man with leprosy approached Jesus and begged for help (Mark 1:40-45). Basically the leper was asking Jesus, "Are you willing to help me?" And our take away was, "Yes!" Jesus is willing, more than willing to bring help and healing. In fact, that is why Jesus was sent. This week in John 5:1-15, Jesus is the one asking, "Are you willing to be helped?"

John 5 tells us the story of an invalid lying by a pool that is known for its healing powers. When Jesus comes across the man, He learns that the man has been there for 38 years. Then Jesus asks him an interesting, question (John 5:6), "Do you want to get well?"

In some senses, this could be a cruel statement or a cynical judgmental remark. And maybe the invalid takes it this way. Because instead of saying "Yes! Please help me!" he gives an excuse. "I have no one to help me..."

But in Jesus there is power and hope and help. He is the One who has come to help him. "Then Jesus said to him, 'Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.' At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked."

Before we get too hasty and think that the application is that we need to be willing to stop lying around and "get up!" we need to look at the rest of the story. "The day on which this took place was  a Sabbath...So because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him." (John 5:9,16)

The religious leaders had taken the good law of Sabbath and turned it into a bunch of rules and regulations. They made a list of 39 tasks that were prohibited on the Sabbath and carrying an object from one place to another was a violation. Instead of rejoicing in the miracle of healing, they condemned the invalid for violating a man-made rule.

If you think about it, Jesus could have come on any day to heal this man. But He chose the Sabbath and Jesus told the man to pick up his mat and walk, knowing that it would get the attention of the religious leaders. In John 5:18 we see why the religious leaders had such a problem with Jesus: "For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God."

That is also why the application of this passage is not "Get up and walk!" as if the effort is on you to try harder, do better or be more motivated. We must remember that it is the power of the Word of Christ that enables the man to walk, not Jesus' encouragement for the man to get up on his own power.

We are all like the invalid - helpless to overcome our sin, with no one who can truly help us. In His grace and mercy Christ comes to us and says, "Do you want to get well?" Are you willing to receive the help and hope that only belief in Christ can offer?

This is the first and most important invitation of Christ. But then Christ calls us to continue standing in Him and walking with Him. Our human nature compels us to lie down by the pool again. But this is where we need to be filled with the Holy Spirit to continue growing in Christ and being proactive about our faith.

However, if this becomes a matter of willpower or discipline, we will either fail or become proud. Just as Christ's command enables the invalid to stand up, it will be the Holy Spirit of God that enables us to keep walking  with Christ.

Are you willing?

Are You Willing? (Part 1) Mark 1:40-45

15.08.16Today marks the 5th message in our series on the miracles of Jesus. So far we've looked at how Jesus healed the paralytic, a man born blind, delivered a demon-possessed man, paid the temple tax with a coin found in a fish and raised up three people who had died! We've been making the point that all of these miracles are meant to show that Jesus is the Son of God and what the kingdom of God is all about (John 10:24-38). The miracle we will be looking at this time is Jesus healing a man with leprosy as told in Mark 1:40-45. (This miracle is also mentioned in Matthew 8 and Luke 5). A man with leprosy falls down at Jesus's feet and begs him saying "If you are willing, you can make me clean." What is interesting in the gospel of Mark is Jesus' reaction. The NIV reads, "Jesus was indignant. He reached out his hand and touched the man. 'I am willing,' he said. 'Be clean!' Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed."

Why was Jesus indignant? I believe that Jesus was indignant with the leper's perception of Jesus. I can just imagine Jesus thinking "What do you mean, IF I am willing?"

When we read the Bible, we learn who God is, what God is like and what God asks of us. Sometimes the Old Testament stories make it seem like God is angry and judgmental. God can come across like that because He is holy and we are not, but often we forget that God is angry because He cares, because He loves us. And God never failed in His promise to His people in all of their unfaithfulness.

God loved the world so much that He sent His Son to save us (John 3:16) and Romans 8:31 reminds us that God is for us and did not even spare His Son for us.  God wills our good but in His time and in His way.

So Jesus reaches out and touches the leper and the man is healed and cleansed! Usually when a person touches a leper, they become unclean, but when Jesus touches the leper, the leper is made clean!

The leper approached Jesus with a desperate hope, a humble boldness - "if you are willing, you can help me." How do you approach Jesus? What do you think He is like? Hebrews 4:16 encourages us to approach God's throne of grace with confidence so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

This week will you approach Christ with the same desperate hope and humble boldness in your time of need? More, importantly, are you willing to come before Jesus with your greatest need? It is not better grades, more money, a significant other, or even purpose in life. Your greatest need is to be right with God. And Jesus is willing! In fact that is why He came - to bring you forgiveness and relationship with God through His death and resurrection.

May you receive all that God has for you this week in Christ!

 

 

[CCU Basketball] Iron Sharpens Iron

Although our guys did not win Thursday night's Bronze Championship game, nothing can take away what they accomplished this past season. Going from 1-6 last year to 6-2 this year is a huge achievement. They did it with grit, hard work, sacrifice and team work. As a fan, I can't say enough about how fun it was to see our guys play every week. I'm sorry to see the season end but we can only look forward to what they will do next year! DSCN0622Kudos to Coach Jimmy Chan who had to manage a roster of 15 players. I can't imagine how difficult it was to balance playing time, talent, and strategy every week. Also props to spiritual leaders Jason Ching and Tony Wong who did their best to keep the focus on the Lord.

DSCN0619Hours before the game Jason posted this on Facebook:

I think it says it all.

Jason Ching
July 23 at 4:49pm
Today is day everyone. Let's all remember who has brought us here and has given us the opportunity to play in the CCU Bronze Division Championship Game. God has been gracious to us by providing a gym, such an amazing fan base, and for everything really. Tonight we will lay everything out there win or lose. At the end of the day, glorifying God is the main objective. Please keep your composure and I know that emotions will definitely run high today. Hope to see you all later on tonight.-Jason Ching

DSC_3574 (2)Highlights of the game: Yulin Deng had a terrific game with 8 points and one rebound. Zihao Zhen (Alex) and Jonathan Ching both sunk 3-point shots. Zihao also had one rebound and one steal and Jonathan grabbed one rebound.

Tony Wong hit two free throws and a bucket for a total of 4 points with one rebound. Kevin Bowman hit a bucket and one free throw contributing 3 points with 2 rebounds, one steal and a monster blocked shot. Matthew Kwong hit a bucket with 2 steals and 2 rebounds and Jason Ching also scored 2 points with one rebound and one assist.DSC_3533 (2)

Defensively, Kevin Chow grabbed 4 rebounds, Emmu Zhou,Jacky Guan and Avery Kwan had 3 rebounds each and Avery also had one steal.

What a season! Here are the SEASON TOTAL STATS:

DSC_3527 (2)

 

TOP SCORERS
Kevin Bowman 46
Jonathan Ching 34
Yulin Deng 33
Tony Wong 30
Jason Ching 28
Jacky Guan 23
Matt Kwong 20
Jason Chen 15
Kevin Chow 14
Zihao Zhen (Alex) 11
Emmu Zhou 10
Calvin Ho 9
Tao Huang 6
Avery Kwan 2

 

DSC_3569 (2)3 POINT CHAMP: Jonathan Ching hit 8 three pointers this season

REBOUND CHAMP:

Jacky Guan 25
Avery Kwan 21
Kevin Bowman 16
Tony Wong 15
Emmu Zhou 14

tony (2)

STEALS: Avery Kwan 11
Zihao Zhen 7
Jason Ching 7
Tao Huang 5
Kevin Bowman 5
ASSISTS Avery Kwan 4
Calvin Ho 3
Tao Huang 3
Jacky Guan 3
Free Thows Kevin Bowman 14
Tony Wong 12
Jason Ching 9

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A big thank you to all the fans who made an effort to come and cheer on the team. See you all next year!

Photos by John Tom

Light Shines in the Darkness (Mark 5:1-20)

150719_LightWe are in the 3rd message in a series on the miracles of Jesus. Today's miracle is the power of light over darkness as seen in Mark 5:1-20. In this passage there are three characters: a demon possessed man, the demons themselves, and the crowd who saw and heard about the miracle. We will see how the light of Jesus shines in the darkness and how each responded to the light.

This message won't address the details of demon possession but instead lets first look at the emotional, physical and spiritual state of this man. He lived in a graveyard, he had been chained hand and foot but kept breaking free, night and day he would cry out and cut himself with stones. What a painful life!

In some senses I think we see this on the streets of San Francisco every day in the people who look and smell homeless, talking and shouting to themselves. But if you look deeper, this state can also describe the people near and dear to us in our family, friends and even ourselves. Those who feel isolated and lonely, chained with addictions, trying to relieve pain with self-destructive behaviors.

Into this dark story steps Jesus. When Jesus sees this man, he doesn't say, "Take heart, your sins are forgiven" or "What do you want me to do for you?" Instead Jesus goes right to heart of the issue "Come out of this man you impure spirit." The light of Jesus cannot help but dispel the darkness.

Now let's look at the demons themselves. There are two mistakes we can make regarding spiritual warfare. One mistake is to be obsessed and fearful and the other mistake is to take it too lightly. The main point in this story is that the demons know who Jesus is (the Son of the Most High God) and they are afraid of Him. The legion of demons beg Jesus to send them into some nearby pigs and when Jesus agrees, the pigs stampede into the into the lake and drowned.

The purpose of demonic possession is made clear by what happened to the pigs. The demons were bent on destruction but Jesus' power and authority over the demons points to the victory of the Kingdom of God! The strong man is bound, in Christ we are delivered from the dominion of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of light.

Lastly, the third character in this story is the crowd. When the crowd hears about what has happened to the pigs and sees the previously crazy man sitting peacefully by Jesus' side, they have a strange response. Instead of being overjoyed in the man's deliverance, the people are afraid and ask Jesus to leave.

What is going on here? John 3:19 says it best, "This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.  But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God."

This story ends with Jesus leaving. Jesus will never force Himself where He is not wanted. But the man who had been demon possessed wants to follow Jesus. Instead of agreeing to the request, Jesus sends the man back to his people, his family. His mission: "Tell them how much the Lord has done for you."

How will you respond to the light of Christ this week? Will you ask Jesus to leave you alone? Or will you allow the light to bring healing and wholeness and forgiveness? Will you tell people how much the Lord has done for you?