January 18, 2014 [1 Peter 1:13-25]

January 18, 2014
"Prepare Your Mind"
[1 Peter 1:13-25]
Pastor Kenny Lee

We’re going through a series on 1 Peter and we’re still in the 1st chapter. Can you believe it? This thing is so jammed packed, we can’t get out of it even after three weeks. But I think it’s really important for us to know what Christianity is all about. Peter wrote this letter about 20 to 30 years after the death of Jesus. That means that people who have seen Jesus are still around. People are interested in Christianity and want to know what it’s all about. The problem is this, there’s a tyrant named Nero who burned Rome and later on blamed the Christians for burning Rome. So the environment for Christianity was not a popular religion. And that’s just putting it very mildly. Christians were being persecuted for their faith. And that was weird because it came out of a Jewish religion and the Jews thought that they were the real chosen ones. We today don’t face blatant persecution but today in our society Christianity is kind of frowned upon. I think it comes out of a Judeo-Christian background. We all know what Christianity is all about because we grew up hearing about it. Or your parents may be uber Christian so you grow up in a quasi-Christian environment. So you think that you know! You don’t. So because Peter is in this environment, we wonder how Peter confronts this issue and talks to these Christians. We see that it worked because of us. Look at all of you – you are the fruit of Peter’s ministry. Do you get that? If Peter and these apostles did not write these letters, the movement would’ve just died right then and none of us would be here. So obviously this letter worked. We’re going to check out the anatomy of this letter.

The reality of who you are
To confront this issue, Peter starts off with a very theological instruction. It’s not like, “Come on, you can do it. Keep a stiff upper lip. We can win.” Rather, he gives very theological introduction. Peter wants to you to have the right understanding, to see the realities of this world. And what he says, is that we have the wrong reality. He offers a true reality to us. In our society, it’s about keeping it real. Keeping it real is synonymous with being mad all the time. Is being real really about being pissed off all the time? If you were really keeping it real, sometimes you would cry, sometimes you are happy, and sometimes you are mad. Peter wants to you to be real. He wants to tell you what the reality is. The reason why you don’t know is because we all have this amazing ability to be delusional. Look at reality shows like American Idol. Some of those people think they are amazing singers but … you’re not. When I was younger, I thought I could cut a rug or two but when I met people in Zumba I realized, not so much. I began to see the reality of it.

And that’s what Peter wants you to do. Peter acknowledges that Christianity is not that popular. In fact, the people at that time are being scrutinized for it. They feel like rejects and may be suffering. But Peter says that’s good because they are rejects. They are exiles. But he says, “Don’t worry, you’re chosen”. Huh? So they are chosen rejects? So Peter is confronting you with the question, “Who am I accepted by and who am I rejected by?” Peter says, you are rejected by the world but accepted by God. Chosen by God. Elected by God. So my question for you today is, “Do you want to be an enemy of the state but elected by God? Or do you want to be an enemy of God and chosen by the state? I am telling you, 10 times out of 10, you want to be on God’s side. What Peter goes on to say is how amazing God is. And how amazing it is to be chosen by God.

Prophecies written to us
But to what degree are we chosen? Peter says this in verse 12, It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you,”. Peter is saying, the reason why the Old Testament prophets wrote these things was for you guys. They were talking about Jesus Christ and were really talking to you guys. Prophets like Moses, Isaiah, Ezekiel, all these people had you in mind! Peter goes on in verse 12, “when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.” Do you know how amazing salvation is? That God would choose me. That God would choose you. Do you know one of the reasons why you’re not a Christian? Do you know why you don’t think God is important? It’s because you don’t know the nature of who you are. You don’t care about anything. The only thing you care is about yourself. That’s how we all are. You don’t know the nature of who you are. You think you’re okay. You’re delusional. We’re all delusional. But if we really think about ourselves, we know that we’re not. And if you knew how much Jesus loves you, if you knew how much God loves you, you would not be where you are now. I wouldn’t be where I am now. In the light of all that, so what do we do with all that? What do we do with all of this information?

When I was younger I would ask questions like, “When will I ever use algebra? What good is it?”. But one time in a seminary class I was learning about Nepal and I asked myself the same question. Why would Nepal ever matter to me? But what was cool was a couple of months ago, there were these people from Nepal that came to our church! So I busted out everything I knew about Nepal to them. There I used it! My point is, we all think that knowing is about familiarity. We have this notion that we google something, and then we know it. You think you can read the cliff notes of War and Peace and “know” the book? But in Christianity, that is not it. See, it starts with your mind.

“Being sober-minded”
In verse thirteen it says, “Therefore, preparing your minds for action,[a] and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” It starts with “therefore”. Meaning, because of everything that came before, prepare your mind. When my son has practice I tell him, “Hey, get ready for practice”. When there’s a game I tell him, “You better prepare your mind now. You better get your mind ready to win.” What Peter is saying is, “Prepare your mind.” It all starts with preparing your mind. But there’s a purpose in your preparation. The purpose is for action. What you know has to be translated into action. Don’t think you know what Christianity is all about. You don’t understand how important Christianity is. You don’t understand that. You prepare for action and one of the main things Christianity enables you to do is to have a sober-mind. In other words, you get to see the reality of who you really are. That’s the only way you can exist in the world in the right way. Don’t you get annoyed at people that don’t know the reality of who they are? People who are socially out of place because they think of themselves too highly or low. What the Bible does is it allows you to be sober-minded. Why aren’t we sober-minded? It’s because of the fact that we are insecure. We have so many defense mechanisms up that you have to kind of like tell yourself that you’re okay. You have to convince yourself that you’re kind of alright. For example, you go into a group and you’re afraid that they won’t accept you. So you act like you won’t accept them. You separate yourself from them. But in your heart, you wish that they would accept you. And what Peter says is, prepare your mind - know the reality of who you are. If you are accepted by Jesus, Jesus loves you so much. He wants you so much. And because of that, you can have the comfort of realizing who you really are. Because that’s the gospel you know.

Peter is saying, understand what the gospel is saying. The fact of the matter is, we’re all sinners. I don’t need to judge you. People don’t need to judge you. The Bible does a great job at judging all of us. It says, “All have sinned”. The more that I become a Christian, the more I realize how heinous I am. At this point, you realize this and beat yourself to death. “I’m awful! I’m terrible”. But the Bible says you can’t do that either. So what am I allowed to do? You’re allowed to know that even though you are that much of a sinner, boy does God love you. My, he adores you. He thinks you’re precious. You’re chosen by Him. And God guarantees you success in the end. And that success is in Him. He guarantees you heaven. A place with Him where you will not go hungry. It’s the ultimate retirement plan. A lot of people are uncertain about their retirement. But for Christianity, the end is guaranteed! You don’t have to worry about your future. I’m not saying you don’t have to worry about school, things like that. But you don’t have to obsess over it.

Obedient children
So what should your mindset be? Peter says, have the mind of a child. Not just any child but the mind of an obedient child. What’s the difference? One listens and one doesn’t. I tell my children wonderful things. I tell them hold daddy’s hand before crossing the road. This is how you should study. Don’t talk to strangers. These things I tell them because it’s just good for them. There were many times I didn’t listen to my mother and I have a lot of scars to show it off. My son has a scar right above his eyebrow because he didn’t listen to me. I told him, “Don’t be rough with your brother and spin on a chair or you’ll fall off and hit your head on the corner of a table”. But of course they don’t listen. What Peter says is, “Prepare your mind for action and be like an obedient child”. Obedient to what? Obedient to God’s word. We all think that we know the Bible. I made my career as a minister but I myself don’t know. When I do Bible study I just don’t know God’s word. I need to be reminded all the time. The Bible instructs us on how to live in all aspects of life. Why does God want us to be like obedient children? We’re a reflection of God. When my sons do something not so good, I personally get so hurt because they are a reflection of me. We’re a reflection of God. You shall be holy as I am holy.

Ransomed from the futile ways of our fathers
In verse 17 it says this, “ And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile,”. All the times that you are here on Earth as an exile, act accordingly. You call yourself a Christian? Then act accordingly. How are we to do this? This is important. When I was reading this, I was like “This is the verse!”. You know how Jesus says, “Hate your mother and father and come follow me”. It doesn’t really mean you go up to your parents and say, “Mom and Dad, Pastor Kenny said to hate you and follow Jesus.” That’s not it!! That’s not what Jesus means and that’s not what I mean. It means this – learn from scripture. You’re born again into a new family! That family is the church. Learn the culture of the church, learn the culture of scripture and bring that back to your family. Here’s the support text,  knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers,”. Do you know what that means? Those who are married or about to get married, listen to this. If you don’t have Christ, your future will be your mother and father. if you do not have Christ, if you do not learn Christianity, your marriage will be just like your mother and father. Seriously even for me, when I argue with my life or say something to my son, I would be like, “Where did my dad come from??”. When I argue, “Woa, my dad .. my mom!”. I grew up saying that I would be like them when I raise my own children or get married. I thought I was going to have a Korean miniseries-like experience. But it’s not like that. Why?  knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefather”. That would be a fun conversation to have with your mom and dad. It may be kind of awkward but it would be fun though. Listen. Listen. Listen. Jesus came to free you from that.
He came into this world to free you from that. If you guys are married or think you know who it is, it’s not too late. God came to change that too. God came to redeem all that. He came to redeem your relationship with your mother and father. God came to redeem your relationship with each other. knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” My parents are so gung-ho with success. They tell me, “Do you know your cousins a doctor? He went to Yale. Your other cousin won a Grammy for playing cello.  You know one of these days, Yale will perish. Harvard will be destroyed. One of these days, Hollywood will be gone too. But the precious blood of Jesus will be there forever. For an eternity. Past the grave. Stop following the ways of your forefathers. They’re futile. They will be destroyed. Know the imperishable love of God. We all have an ideology. And you can inherit the ideology of your parents and the world. Everyone has an ideology. Those people that believe in “coexist” are the most closed minded. They won’t hang out with people that accept only one thing. That’s being closed-minded. Everyone has an ideology. Are you going to take one by the world or one given by God Himself?

What’s the difference between Christianity or any kind of ideology? Did you know Christianity is the only religion that you don’t have to work for to get to heaven? Every other religion, you have to work really hard for it. You have to pray five times to mecca everyday all your life. You have to keep all these laws. You can’t eat certain foods. Any kind of “ology” requires you to do something. Christianity is the only one that gives you an identity. You are my child. I have adopted you into my family. And because of that identity, go. That’s what I tell my children because I learn from the Bible. I may not act it perfectly but that’s it. What I tell them is, “Son, you’re my child. Can you act accordingly?”. Is it, “You must be perfect. You gotta be awesome, and then you can be my child”. No. No. No. Christianity says, “Because you are my child, act accordingly.” Christianity is the only religion that gives you the reward first and then tells you to act upon it. Are you a chosen child? Do you want to be? You may be unsure or not want to be but don’t be so quick to say that. You’re here for a reason. You could be anywhere in the world right now but you happen to be here where there’s a middle aged man talking to you and asking you, “Do you want to be a Christian? Do you want to know Christ?” Maybe God is talking to you right now. He probably is. Why? Because the Holy Spirit lives is in me. I’m guided by the Holy Spirit, talking about scripture. Will you choose Christ? It’s a choice. You can learn about the consequences of that choice later but make a choice. Will you commit? For those who are already a Christian, commit. Come back to Christ now. Is it easy? Yeah it’s easy. You say, “I turn my life to you, Lord”. Jesus Christ loves you so much. God adores you so much. I don’t know what God is made up of. There’s this stuff that God is made up of. But Jesus Christ humbled Himself and became man. Became like me. Can you imagine giving up all that power? Jesus Christ became man for me. What is He now? Still a man. He’s 100% God yes. But He’s still a man. He still has the scars. But He became a human and that’s extremely humble. He could’ve been the king of this world. But rather, He was born to common lower-middle class people (Mary and Joseph). He didn’t have to die. But He did die. And He could’ve died in a very spectacular way like in a field of battle. But He didn’t do that. He died like a common criminal at the hands of men whom He created before the foundation of this world. And He did that because He loves you and I so much. That has to do something to you. If you don’t, I feel sorry for you. What kind of life will you live if that doesn’t move you?

January 11, 2015 [1 Peter 1:3-12]

“The Best is Yet to Come”
[1 Peter 1:3-12]
Pastor Brendon Wu

The sermon was originally entitled, “The Hardest Thing”, but then I thought that was too down. I changed it to, “The Best is Yet to Come.” I don’t know where I heard this expression or who came up with it, but I found myself saying it a lot. I want to start with asking, what’s the hardest thing you’ve ever been through? Or, what’s the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do? I think it’s funny how at different points in our lives we think we are going through the most difficult thing. I remember at one time in my life, in eighth grade, it was getting over a break up. I vividly remember sleeping 13 hours a day, listening to emo music such as Dashboard Confessional, eating so much that I gained 16 pounds in one month, and putting all my identity into tennis so I wouldn’t have to think about her. Another point in my life, the hardest thing for me to do was get into college and I felt like I failed at that. Another point in my life, it was another breakup. Another moment in my life, it was overcoming that weird time that comes right after college. If you’ve finished college you know what I’m saying, where you step into the real world and realize that it is really lonely, without a church that is. So again, what’s the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do in your life? Maybe right now, you feel like you are going through the hardest time in your life or you think or feel that way. In this book, 1 Peter, God thought about you and he thought about me. That is why he wrote it for us, for when we go through these hard times. I’m standing here right now and I feel so inadequate. I feel so insufficient. I have to mentally snap myself into reality and remember that there is nothing that comes from me, no kind of thought that I have on my own, where I can say to myself or you that helps put away all the hardship that you go through. The only hope we have is in God and God’s word. When I read this, I am searching for hope. I am still digging for hope, even right now. I know the sermon has been prepared, but I’m still wrestling. Please, put your faith in God. Put you faith in Christ. Wrestle with me and look to Him right now. Listen to Him.

Jesus Christ uses an imperfect man from long ago called the apostle Peter. The apostle Peter was writing to elect exiles, like we heard from last week. This is almost like an oxymoron. Elect means chosen. Exile means you are rejected, you are banished. Elect exile is oxymoronic. You are an elected reject. You are chosen, but you are also banished. We are elect. We are chosen by God. We belong to God. That is really good news. We are also exiled. We are not chosen by this world. We are rejected by this world many times.  We don’t belong in this world. We are exiled. Actually, in Jesus Christ that is good news times. At times, we feel miserable because of it. We experience different hardships and think, “How come I am not doing well in this world?” It might be a fractured relationship or the fact that we didn’t succeed academically or professionally. But we don’t belong in this world, so at times there is rejection like that. Even in Christ those are good things.

Just when we begin to think about how things are already hard in our life, we come into the section of 1 Peter 1:3, where Peter starts talking about the hardest thing, the most impossible thing- and that is to be born again. Peter says, “3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,” It sounds crazy, this idea of being born again. I don’t know how many of us have heard of this phrase “born again”. It is a really popular description for Christians now days. According to one poll that came out in 2012, out of the people asked, 66 percent of people said there were ‘born again Christian.’ That’s a lot. Many people think that they are born again. Many people think that they are Christian. But what does it mean to be born again? I think it is really important that we remember when Peter is talking about being born again, he is thinking back to this time when a man named Nicodemus approached Jesus Christ. Nicodemus was a Pharisee. He was a teacher in his life. He was very renowned and successful. He was ashamed and embarrassed to ask Jesus Christ for help. He snuck in the middle of night to Jesus. It was pitch black in the dark, and made his way to where Jesus was. He found Jesus at night and was like, “Hey Rabbi, what do I have to do to get into the kingdom of God?” Jesus Christ told Nicodemus that no one could enter the kingdom of God unless they were born again. In other words, Jesus Christ was telling him that he had to be born again spiritually. Nicodemus’ first reaction was, “Wait, how can I be born again? How can I enter my mother’s womb a second time?” Jesus is saying to be born again means a spiritual rebirth. According to Scripture, we have to be born again. We have to start a life over. For those of us familiar with philosophy or the TV show Lost, we have to have a tabula rasa, a blank slate.  That is from John Locke. I’m so nerdy I had to put that in there. This is bad news for those of us who take so much pride in everything we have accomplished in our life. This is good news for those of us who realize that no matter what we have accomplished or no matter where we have gone in our whole life, it is just empty and nothing without Jesus Christ. We have to be born again. Our identity cannot be found in what we did in elementary school, middle school, high school, college, after college, in marriage, in our kids, and even in the way we die.

The reason why I say this is because when we struggle in life, we always look backwards. We look at middle school and think life was so much better in middle school. We think like that we when are in high school. Then when we are in college, we look back at high school. Then after college, we look back at college and think, “Wow, that was a time when life was so much simpler. I felt like I was living like a Hobbit in the Shire from Lord of the Rings. We were living in this large vegetable looking house and hearing stories. It was really happy and really nice.” We wonder, “Why isn’t my life going the way I want it to go right now?” Peter is saying that God has caused us to be born again to a living hope. We are not supposed to look at our life. We are born again. We start a new slate, “to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Jesus Christ died for us because our lives are not perfect. Jesus Christ died and rose again, not only to save us from our sins, but also to set us free from the past and point us to a future in God. That is what we struggle with in our faith so much at times. In Scripture it says, “..he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,4 to an inheritance.” That means there is something coming in the future. The best is yet to come. It is “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,5who by God’s power are being guarded, through faith for a salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time.” God sets us free from the past by pointing us to the future that we have in Him. So many times we are jaded, blocked, or spiritually constipated. You ever experience that? Or writer’s block, but it’s more like spiritual block. Our minds are so blocked. Our hearts are so blocked. We are jaded by what we are going through or what we have been through. We think church is the same old, same old. We think things like, “Bible study at one point in my life was so relevant and so poignant. It really did something for me, but now it doesn’t do anything for me anymore.” We create these expectations of God based on our experiences. God is showing us that He has something in store for us, it is His relationship with us. His inheritance for us is not something that can become tarnished, corrupted, influenced or affected by us. We have to get out of the mentality that somehow things are lost or that things are hopeless. In God’s mind, because of how perfect He is, it is not hopeless, it is actually hopeful. In God’s mind, because He knows exactly what He is doing, things are not fading. There is something that He has in store for us that is unfading. That is the salvation and the relationship that He gives to us.

It brings us to a question, “If God is so good and so loving then why does God put us in such hard, difficult, and seemingly hopeless situations sometimes?” According to Scripture it is becomes God loves us and because of that He allows us to go through these things. Listen to Peter in verses 6-7, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7so that the tested genuineness of your faith-more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire- may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” God allows us to go through hard times. God purposely knows the difficult times we are going to go through. The reason for that is because it is in these things that we truly rejoice.

There is one example that has really stuck in my life, it is not my own. One time I was having a really hard time seeing any kind of joy or light, and I heard this one pastor share a story. One night he went to bed. While he was sleeping, he had a dream. In that dream, he woke up from a dream and rushed to his kids’ rooms. He heard them yelling and crying for help. By the time he got there it was too late to save them. His kids were gone. This pastor woke up from the dream. It was reality now. He walked to his kids’ rooms. He found them one by one. He was grabbing them, holding onto them and loving them. He was saying, “I’m so glad that was a dream! I thought you guys were gone! I thought you guys were lost for good!” I thought it was a really strange story. I thought, “Where is this pastor going?” The pastor was saying how in our Christian lives suffering doesn’t obliterate or dampen our joy, but actually suffering enhances our joy. Through the dream and through the thought of potentially loosing his loved ones, and then realizing he didn’t loose his loose ones, that mental suffering made him have more joy. It made him appreciate more the people that he had in his life. When Scripture is speaking right now to us, God is saying that our joy is not destroyed by our suffering. Our joy is enhanced by our suffering. It is only possibly when our joy is in Jesus Christ.

Why do we have a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead? We have a living hope from the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead because God promises from eternity and even right now that no matter what happens in our lives we cannot loose Jesus Christ. We can loose everything we worked for, we can loose things wrongly taken from us, we can loose our health, we can loose our loved ones, and even our bodies but the one thing we cannot loose is Jesus Christ. He died once and for all for our sins. He is never to die again. We have a living hope because of Jesus Christ. When I look at Jesus Christ and see that He has such a great grasp on me and of our church that brings me so much hope and so much joy. To be in Jesus Christ hands is so much more hopeful than if we were in control of our own life. Jesus Christ knows what He is doing.

Along with this, a lot of times we have to get through the hard things to get to the good things. Peter makes that aware to us in verse 10, “Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully,11inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.” In this, we see that Jesus Christ also suffered in His life. We are not the only ones who have gone through hard times or are going through hard times. Jesus Christ suffered beyond belief. He was God who became man. He was rejected by His own creation. At least for us, we didn’t create each other, so when we get rejected by each other, it is just creation rejecting creation. He was the Creator who was rejected by creation. Jesus Christ went through suffering. At the same time, He also entered into the glory of His Father. In other words, in Jesus Christ no matter how much of a hardship or suffering we go through, we find our ultimate salvation and glory in Him. These were things that prophets in the Old Testament were talking about, but didn’t have. They didn’t get to see Jesus Christ or read about how Jesus Christ died and rose again for them. They were inquiring and wondering about what person would be the Messiah to save them and when he would come. We know from where we are, being 2000 years after the cross that Jesus Christ came. He is the person who came to save us.  He came at the right time. Because of that, every time we go through hardship and suffering, we can look to Jesus Christ.  Christ went through the ultimate suffering of dying for our sins on the cross and having to undergo God’s wrath, that’s how much he loved us and that’s how much he went through. He rose again from the dead to love and care for us. Now, we can always have joy and hope because of that kind of Savior. He is a Savior who loves us to go through all of that.

As a practical application, I thought about two things that I took away from here. The first thing is this: rejoice in God through both sufferings and glory. We need to rejoice in God in both the hard times and the good times. As a church, we need to make this a reflection in our life. “God, you’ve brought me through both the hard times and the good times. Many times you actually brought me through the hard times in order to get to the good times. Lord, just thank you for what you’re bringing me through. Because whatever I’m going through right now is for the sake of my faith so that I can trust and look to You more. If I wasn’t going through this right now I probably wouldn’t be looking at You. I probably wouldn’t even be at church. God, thank you that I’m going through a hard time. Lord, I pray that I would see what you are doing in this hard time and go to You and other people more. That is why I am going through a hard time, it is for the tested genuineness of my faith. Is my relationship with You real? This hard time is helping me become closer to you. Thank you for this hard time. Thank you for the good times too. Thank you for the good times where I can spiritually talk about how I am not alone and Jesus Christ cares about me. You truly love me.” That’s the first thing that I want us as a church to do.

The second thing is something I am still desperately trying to cement more in my life. I think I shared this numerous times, but I’m still affected by this pastor. He was ordained and was a pastor for 57 years. I always think of him as the Gandalf of pastors. What he says still sticks in my mind and challenges me. He said, “The way to make it in ministry and life over all these years is to focus on the positives, not the negatives. The negatives will always be there, but the positives are God’s grace and what He is doing.” In our passage what Peter is aiming to show and what he is saying that the Old Testament prophets wish they could do, and the angels can somewhat do is look to Jesus Christ. For every look that we have towards our sin or suffering, we need to focus on God’s grace 100 times more. This is why we are so judgmental and jaded at times. We can only see each other’s faults. Or we can only see the downsides of our relationships. As Christians, we need to have a glance at sin, I’m not saying to overlook it, in comparison to how much we look at the cross. We need to gaze at the cross more. There is no point in us coming to a realization of what our sins are if that realization doesn’t lead us to the cross and to Christ. When we look at the cross, even when we are mad and frustrated, we need to see that Christ died for our sins and maybe even for that other person’s sins. Even during times like that, we should rejoice. “Jesus, thank you that you died for me. Jesus, who I am? But thank you that you would die for my relationships. Thank you that you would die for my relationship with my friends, family, and church.” Stare at the cross. Draw upon the cross. Mediate on the cross. That is something we need to do more and more. The cross is where we find our hope. The cross is where we find our joy. Let’s pray together.

January 4, 2014 [1 Peter 1:1-12]

January 4, 2014
"Hope in the Hopeless"
[1 Peter 1: 1-12]
Pastor Kenny Lee

When we do bible study, we make fun of Peter.  Peter is someone who puts his foot in his mouth.  Sometimes he gets it right sometimes he gets it wrong.  He’s kind of that personality.  But when we read this letter, boy he grew up.  Boy did he mature.  In Rome he’s around 60 years old.  25-30 years after Jesus’ death.  In our day and age, when someone is writing a letter, depending on who the letter is from, it can have an impact or it can have no impact.  Macy’s? Forget it.  A mother? Ooo… well, who is this from? Well it’s from Peter.  Peter is someone who actually slept and lived with Jesus.  Peter is someone who had things kind of rough, who had things kind of good.  Got rebuked by Jesus a couple.  As he denied Jesus, he learned a lot of things.  At that time Jesus told him “do you love me Peter, then feed my sheep” and that is what he is doing now.  Why is he doing this? Because he loves the Church.  Because he loves Jesus Christ.  Now that I got that out of the way, who is this letter written to? To those who are of the elect exiles.  If we knew history a little bit, we would know that it was the elect exile of the dispersion.  The only dispersion that Peter knew was of Diaspora.  What happened was that long ago Assyria came in and took over Israel and relocated them.  Had them learn a new language, a new culture.  They kind of gentrified the place.  And so these people that were relocated, things were awkward.  They have a different ideology, a different culture.  They longed to go back home.  But Peter is not writing to those people.  So what’s Peter saying?  Peter’s trying to make you think here.  So I want you to put your thinking caps on.  So Peter is saying, if you are elect, if you are a Christian, if you are in Christ, you are like an exile.  You are dispersed.  You are not home. You are somehow in a foreign land.  If you are a Christian, this place is uncomfortable.  It’s strange.  The majority of the people are not like you.  My question for you today is, are you in Christ? Do you quite not fit in? Are you uncomfortable where you are? Depending on what it is, it’s a good thing! My son comes to me and says “Dad it’s weird.  I go to the cafeteria and talk about Jesus and everyone’s like ‘huh? what?’” and when we go to Chik-fil-a and we’re eating our sandwich and they are playing Christian music in the background and he goes “Hey! These people are Christian! Just like me!”  That should be the norm.  If we are Christian, we are born again.  Born again in the spirit.  And so we have to live a new ideology, a new culture.  Which stems from scripture.  So, no longer are you a Korean American, white black, doctor, lawyer, and student.  You are a Christian, which happens to be a lawyer, doctor, and student.  You’re identity is Christ.  

You know, I’m going to talk about election a little bit.  When we read this letter, it’s to those elect exiles.  If we were to look at a map, it’s scattered all over the place.  It makes no rhyme or reason why Peter would write to those places.  If you look at the book of revelations, the seven churches are all in a line.  There’s a pattern.  But if you look at Peter, it’s no reason why Bithynia, Cappadocia, and Pontus, Asia, and Galatia are named.  And I think that’s the nature of election.   Do you know that it is God’s nature to love?  To love in the sense that he elects people to salvation.  There’s general love.  God gives us air; he gives us parents, etc.  But election is that God loves us in a special way and that is part of salvation.  What does God do in Romans?  Jacob I have loved, Esau I have hated.  And the natural question is, am I elected? Am I part of the revelatory grace?  Now listen to me, as you are hearing my voice, as I’m talking and as you’re listening, do you realize that God is talking to you?  When pastors come up here and preach the word of God, what does Calvin say, that the church is the mouth house of God.  And that’s part of the miracle; that God would use a sinful man like me.  Like Pastor Brendon.  Like us.  God is calling you.  God is challenging you, will you make a commitment?  Regardless, some people go, “Well, if I make this commitment, does that mean I can’t do this, can’t do that” instead of looking at what God is actually saying.  God is saying that you are a sinner in need of his grace.  God loves you so much that he sent his one and only son and now Jesus hangs on the cross and is making you choose.  Will you choose to commit to him?  

He is talking to the elect exiles of the dispersion according to the foreknowledge of God.  Some people have a hard time coming to church because they feel like they are too bad.  They say, “I am a bad dude.  Wait until I shape up a bit until I can show my face to God.”  Do you know what the word foreknowledge means?  It’s not like how we know people.  It’s not like you see someone in junior high and now you know them.  In the bible, it’s that you know someone intimately, and that’s what it means.  According to the foreknowledge of God the father, it means that God knows you! Through and through.  Even before you were born!  He knows you intimately. 

Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

How does he know us?

Isaiah 49:15 “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.”

Do you get what God just said? God is looking at a mother, a new mother.  Breastfeeding her child.  God is looking at that intimate moment and says “I love you more.  I love you more than a mother feeding her young”.  God knows you.  God knows you completely.  And if we were honest with ourselves, we would kind of be embarrassed, don’t we? And that’s why God knew that we needed to be sanctified.  WE needed to become cleansed.  We think that as we grow in Christ, we become cleaner, better, what not.  I want us to drop that terminology, because I don’t think that’s true.  And the reason why I don’t think that’s true, is because as I grow in Christ, sometimes I become cleaner, but as I become more mature, I realize, MY I’m a wretch.  MY I’m a sinner.  MY why would God use a wretch like me.  And I realize that I’m so dirty.  And I need to cling on to the cross even more.  When I first became a Christian I thought I was on the top of the world, but as I’m maturing, I start realizing how much of a sinner I am.  Imagine you’re a window washer.  You clean the first floor, and it’s like “ok, not bad.” Third story, you clip the buckle, and it’s not bad.  But once you get to the tenth, twentieth floor, and it’s like “my I’m a wretch.  God I need you.  I need you to control my life, because every moment of my life I control I screw up 100% of the time.” As you are sanctified in God, that’s what I start realizing.  And that’s what apostle Paul realizes when he says, “I am the chief of sinner”.  And that’s a good theology.  Don’t be like me, be like Christ.  Be like Christ.  And as we are sanctified, you have no choice but to be obedient to Christ.  Why? Because you are thankful.  So thankful that God would save a wretch like me.  

Don’t get me wrong, life is hard.  Life isn’t smooth, it isn’t good.  But this world is not our home you see.  Our home belongs with Christ.  The author and perfector of our faith.  And as we obey, as we are sanctified in our life.  When you live, don’t live by emotions, live by the world of God.  Obey.  Biblically, we are told to read scripture, when we read scripture, we realize how God loves, and we are moved by scripture and we are told that God loves us, and that is how we act.  CCC, be moved by scripture, know what scripture is all about.  More than physical health, know the word of God.   Know what God is trying to say.  And that’s not you reading it by itself.  You have to read in the context of the church.  You can’t pick and choose what the bible says, you have to obey everything.  That’s what you got to do.  It was Jesus’ obedience to God, that led him to death.  So that our obedience to God would lead us to life.  For Jesus, his obedience led to his death.  And now in Christ, our obedience to God will lead us to life.  When we are sprinkled by his blood and are cleansed. 

Transcribed by Andrew Chung 

December 28, 2014 [1 Samuel 7:12]

December 28, 2014
1 Samuel 7:12
Pastor Kenny – Ebenezer (A New Beginning)

Before I came up with today’s sermon title, I came up with another title – “A year in review”. Has a nice ring to it right? But you get the gist of what I am trying to say. Today’s sermon is going to be a little bit different. One, it’s only one verse. I’m going to talk to you a little bit about what happened during this time. And then, I am going to do a little recap of this year. And then I am going to give you two charges to start concentrating this year.

In 1 Samuel 7, what going on in this chapter? For a long time – over a decade, Israel has been gradually falling away from God. Israel is Israel because of God but they stopped depending on God. They would depend on idols just like the other nations would. So Israel lost its Israelness by acting like other nations. They starting forsaking the whole reason they became Israel. And what would happen is, is the other nations would threaten to attack them. They would usually turn to the Lord but now they turn these idols. They turn to power, wealth, prestige. And there was a time when the Philistines were coming to destroy them. And as a last resort, they went to Samuel for help. One of the first things Samuel tells them to do is to throw away their idols. Throw away the things that you lean on. Throw away the things that you depend on. Throw away even the thoughts – “This makes sense to me”. Turn to the Lord. So what happened? Israel, out of desperation, threw away everything! They threw away all these lucky charms. Then they gathered and Samuel came to them. He knows the Bible since he is a prophet. So what he does is, he looks for an innocent animal. It says:

And Samuel said to all the house of Israel, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your heart to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” So the people of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtaroth, and they served the Lord only. Then Samuel said, “Gather all Israel at Mizpah, and I will pray to the Lord for you.” So they gathered at Mizpah and drew water and poured it out before the Lord and fasted on that day and said there, “We have sinned against the Lord.” And Samuel judged the people of Israel at Mizpah. Now when the Philistines heard that the people of Israel had gathered at Mizpah, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And when the people of Israel heard of it, they were afraid of the Philistines. And the people of Israel said to Samuel, “Do not cease to cry out to the Lord our God for us, that he may save us from the hand of the Philistines.” So Samuel took a nursing lamb and offered it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. And Samuel cried out to the Lord for Israel, and the Lordanswered him. 10 As Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to attack Israel. But the Lord thundered with a mighty sound that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion, and they were defeated before Israel. 11 And the men of Israel went out from Mizpah and pursued the Philistines and struck them, as far as below Beth-car. 12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen[a] and called its name Ebenezer;[b] for he said, “Till now the Lord has helped us.” 13 So the Philistines were subdued and did not again enter the territory of Israel. And the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel. 14 The cities that the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron to Gath, and Israel delivered their territory from the hand of the Philistines. There was peace also between Israel and the Amorites.

Constant and consistent renewal
So what Samuel did was take a nursing lamb, and sacrificed it to the Lord. Why? Because the Lord told him to. The Lord required a sacrifice that would take away their sins. They realized they were sinners and went back to the Lord. Samuel then sets up a statue and called it an Ebenezer. It’s a monument, declaring what the Lord had done on that day. It represented something – a beginning of a restoration. The faithfulness of God. And what’s more applicable today is that it represents a new beginning. A fresh start. We all need a fresh start. A lot of us think of new years as almost like a new beginning. But practically it doesn’t really work out well. New years resolutions like working out. The first week your really determined, work out for an hour. The following week, work out for 20 minutes. Cool. But a month passes, and you’ve done very little. So we need something more practical than that don’t we? We need a January 1st every day of our lives. We need a renewel that is constant, consistent. And Jesus does exactly that. I’m giving you this message now because it’s the end of the year. But this message could be for any day. We’re all nostalgic around this time of year. What I want to do is set up a reminder. Set up a thought.

So let me ask you this. How is your life? How is it going? Are you doing alright? are you living? Are you satisfied with your life? I would think if you had contentment in your life, you wouldn’t be here. If your life was okay, you would not be here. Because people that come to church and people that know that they’re not okay. If you’re here because of your parents, even that’s not okay. Because you can’t say what you want to your parents, you’re here and that’s a problem. The fact of the matter is, we’re all sinners. We’re all not content. We go on through life trying to be content. We go on trying to get by. And what you’ll soon realize is that as you get older, you either have to defend yourself more or life just batters you. When you were younger, you had to prove yourself. But as life goes on and hardships come, you say – “That’s just life. Life sucks”. This is what it is. And somehow you get hardened by that thought. You ever see people like that? You may be one of them. Or are you in the process of that? See, you need a renewal. You need to be renewed. You need a fresh start. You need a new beginning. What you need is to turn to the Lord. What is need is to turn away from your idols. Turn away from the things that you think will make you happy – wealth, a wonderful family, a good job. You need to turn away. Turn away to what? Turn away to a new thought where you are not at the center and God is at the center. You need to know 1) that you cannot do it. You know why? Because you’re a sinner. You’re not that good. And that ultimately that sin will lead you to some place. Where is that? It’ll lead you to death. Think about what sin has done in our lives, how it has wreaked havoc. Sin causes us to look down on people, judge other people. And ultimately sin will murder. Sin will kill. That’s the reason why there needs be something or someone to take away our sin. And that’s what God commanded Israel to sacrifice a sheep. An innocent lamb that will take away the sin, that will absorb our sin. Take away our sin.

The cross, our Ebenezer
We all know that a lamb can’t actually do that. Even the Israelites knew that. But that lamb represented a promise. That God will provide a sacrifice that can and will take away my sin and your sin! So God tells Israel, “Because of that, sacrifice that lamb. Because I will provide you a perfect sacrifice.” What’s that sacrifice? It’s not what. It’s who? The sacrifice is this. And only child. A child that belongs to God. Jesus Christ. You can’t get any more perfect than that. That God would sacrifice His one and only sacrifice for us. And he does it in an amazing fashion. He does it on a cross so that if we listen to Jesus, commanded by the father in the scriptures, where he says, “I am the way the truth and the life. No one can go to God except through me.” So that you and I can be free and be born again. And what God does is places that cross, that image of the cross, the thought of that cross, an Ebenzer. As a symbol of a new beginning. A new start. And every time that we repent, every time we admit to God, “I can’t do it. Lord, I need you. I need you to forgive my sin. Lord, I need to come back to the cross and be reminded once again that you had died for me. The perfect spotless lamb has died for me”. You can begin again. And again. And again. And again. You don’t have to wait for January 1st. Jesus is the spotless lamb of God. The cross is our Ebenezer.

Looking back at 2014
With that in mind, I want to change gears a little bit. Personally, this year was hard. I thought beginning a church three years ago was tough. I thought that was hard. Can I tell you something? This year was hard. It’s exciting. But it was really hard. This year, I saw God do some amazing things. People being transformed. People starting new chapters of their lives. Our CCC gave birth to a new church. A Korean church. What??! A Korean church?? All these rumors were going around. As we started praying about, we asked questions why we didn’t want to start a new church. It would be uncomfortable. Accountability? Ugh, it’s gonna be tough! Any Biblical reasons for why we didn’t want to start a new church? Couldn’t find any. We were faithful to God’s word. And for me as a pastor, I was so proud of our church. And I’m still so proud of you guys. Even in our discomfort. We came up with a great title for our summer retreat thanks to our dear sister, Trina. She wanted to learn how to be “comfortable in my holy discomfort”. Bingo! Being comfortable in the holy discomfort of God. And we did that didn’t we? LWC came in. Had wonderful moments. After we filled that little room in Phelps Luck, we had to look for another building. We searched and searched and finally found this place. Went to the retreat, came back, started PACE Academy. And throughout all that we faced growing pains, personal pains. Church pains. Everything. But what’s amazing is the fact that until now, the Lord has helped us. Even now, the Lord has helped us.

Trusting in God, into the unknown
This coming retreat will be themed: “A journey into the unknown”. The reason we did that is because we al try to make sense of life. Our parents tells us, “Oh yeah, I went through that this way and you should do the same thing. That made sense in my life.” And we go to school consider engineering, or auditing, or law because it makes sense in our life. So somehow we try to make sense of our life. Can I tell you young people and the older people will confirm this – As I go through life, there are times when I’m like “Aha!!”. Now I go it. I got life. And then next thing I know life comes back at me and slaps upside the head. What just happened? I thought I had it all set and figured out. But this thing comes into my life and throws it into disarray. That happened to me 100% of the time. Which leads me to believe, maybe I should do that!! I don’t think life was meant to be figured out. I think there are so many variables in life that I don’t think we’re meant to figure out life. I don’t think we are meant to control our lives. The proverbs depict our life as a journey. A journey where there are forks in the road. There are situations that come. And the question proverbs has to ask you is, “Who’s your king? Who’s your daddy”. It depends on who your father is, who your idol is, who your king is, that will define your choice. Meaning, is your father or king God? Or is your father or king, the person you listen to, you? Or other systems of thought.

The natural response would be, “Okay, then can you give me some kind of solution please? Can you give me a different thought?”. Yes. The Bible says that God is the author and perfector of our lives. What I know is that God loves me. God loves us so much. He’s identified with love. And that would send and sacrifice His one and only Son for you. If I love people enough that I would send my one and only son to die for you, that’s a person I can trust. He’s the person I can trust. Why don’t you trust Him? Because you’re so hooked on feelings. You don’t believe that’s why. You haven’t committed. Will you commit to Christ? Will you experience the love of God? And it’s in the Lord that God will guide you. God will guide all the way through your life. In Proverbs 3 it says:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.
Be not wise in your own eyes;
    fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.

Two Charges for 2015
Practically what am I trying to say? Don’t say, “Oh yeah, I know.” Jesus loves you. “Yeah, I know”. No you don’t! If you did, then why do you act I the way you do? Because of the fact that you don’t know! Because you don’t realize. You don’t know. This year, I want that verbage to be out of this church. Because I don’t know either. You don’t know. And that’s the joy in life. The fact that we don’t know and we depend on God. It’s a journey folks. We trust the Lord to guide us. We gotta change our verbage.

Here’s another verbage I’d like to change. “I’m not doing spiritually well.” We kind of use that to our advantage. We don’t really want to tell our problems so we say “Oh, I’m not doing that spiritually well. My relationship with God and I are so so”. So what do we say instead of this? I want you to know that God is challenging you. Your identity is that fact that you’re a Christian. The fact that God guides you in every step of the way. God is challenging you. God is molding you. He is transforming you. Does God mold you in happy times? Not at all. You start changing when things start getting rough. When things are not that good. That’s when you start grabbing onto God. Learn to grab onto the Lord. Learn to turn to the Lord. Learn to lean not on your own understanding, thinking that you know. Thinking that your wise. See how those are closely connected? Knowing that God loves you so much, that He will make your paths straight. God’s challenging you. He’s molding you. So that’s what we say. “Oh, I’m not doing spiritually well. I gotta do quiet time.” No. Rather its, “I got to turn to the Lord. I need to repent. I’m being challenged here”. What you need is the cross. What you need is to be renewed again and again and again. I need to be born again and again. You’re only born again once so I want to be theologically correct. But we go back to the cross and say, “God, I soild my clothes. Could you wash me anew?” Jesus will come and say, “Here, your new set of clothes. Go my son. Go my daughter.” God will renew you. Look at the cross! Is God challenging you? is God molding you? I want this year to take the focus off of ourselves. Take the focus off of our church and I want us to be able to go out. I want us to be bold. I want our church to be on the offensive, not on the defensive. We got the truth, ya know? Let’s act upon. To know that God is molding us. God is taking care of us. God has led the charge on the cross. And what we’re going to do is love offensively. We’re going to love knowing that God is loving us. God is molding us. God is challenging us. Your life is getting tougher? Well good. God is challenging you even more. Great. So you know what we do? Pray “Lord, I’m just going to trust you. And I’m going to lean on you even more until I put all of my weight on you. I’m going to trust you more than you trust me.”