June 26, 2016
Exodus 14:10-31
"Salvation and Judgement"
Chaplain Daniel Chung

Infant Baptism?
I think the question on everyone's mind, when it comes to infant baptism is "why do we do it and will baptism save the baby? Is it granting salvation to the baby?" No. Baptism does not grant salvation. Salvation comes through trusting in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Then why is my son, Dulos, and every other infant baptized? Because the Bible commands us, because we need to be obedient to the Lord. So if we were to trace the covenantal promise back to Abraham to the sign of circumcision, we see that this was a rite of passage to remind the Israelites of their covenant with God. It was a covenant of judgement, cutting off of the foreskin, that blood was shed and it was a warning... But it was also exclusive, that only men could receive the sign of the covenant, so it excluded the women. Only men could participate in this act of obedience and worship. Only men could honor God through circumcision. But in the New Testament after Jesus comes to fulfill the law and brings in a new covenant, we read what? We are commanded to repent and be baptized, everyone, in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins, that the promise is for you, and for your children and for all who are far off, for all whom the Lord our God calls to Himself" (Acts 2:38-39). The new sign for this new covenant becomes baptism. No longer is circumcision is needed, where the cutting off and the shedding of blood foreshadows that of Christ's sacrifice, but rather, baptism is a sign of what Christ's blood accomplishes: he washing away of sin, thus our union with Him in His death and in His resurrection. Now, everyone is included: male and female, that we can worship God, obey God together. The water itself, I don't know if it's tap water or Deer Park, who knows? But the water itself has no special properties, it's just water. The water, therefore, has no power to wash away sins, but it is a visible sign, a pledge of God, given to the Church. The promises of the covenant are theirs. By being Presbyterian, you won't see me dunk my child into a vat of water, so no need to call CPS. I will sprinkle and pour water on my child's head.

Seal of God's Covenant
If you look at our passage, the Israelites walk through the Red Sea, they were sprinkled with water as the waves were split, and they were baptized. But the Egyptians, they were dunked, they drowned and they died. If you're wondering why we sprinkle water, that's the reason why. I'm just being facetious. So, baptism is instituted by the Lord, it's not instituted by the Church, but it is the Lord Jesus Christ who commands us to be baptized. It's a sign and a seal of being in the covenant of grace, not a covenant of works. The covenant of grace, God makes a covenant with Jesus, His son, and says, "You do the work. You merit righteousness. If you do, I will give you reward, which is the Church." For us, the Church, we just receive grace, we receive the Lord's work, and that is what this sacrament symbolizes. We're looking at a passage where God saves His people in a powerful way, and after Israel gains their freedom, the Egyptians, filled with blood thirst, anger, revenge, corners Israel at the corners of the Red Sea. I want you to let that to sink in. You might be wondering, "Why did God lead them along the shore to begin with?" If you look at a map of their exodus and you trace it, traveling along the shore is a bad tactical move.. Israel gets trapped by the enemy. The Lord could have led Israel another way: He could have led them into Canaan before the Red Sea ever popped up, but He didn't. But with purpose in His mysterious will, the Lord leads Israel along the shore because eventually, He's going to reveal who He is. The Egyptians are probably smug, thinking, "Hah! Slaves! What do they know? Traveling along the shore! This is going to be too easy..." They trap Israel against the Red Sea and it seems as if Israel is set up for defeat. But God reverses the enemy plan. Instead of Israel being trapped, we find out that the Egyptians are trapped in the Red Sea and they drown and die. God brings about a great victory and we see that God is faithful, even in the midst of His people being unfaithful. An essential question I want to ask you this morning, how can I remain faithful to God when my livelihood and my expectations are threatened? We can answer this question by understanding three things: death, narcissism and judgement.

God Doesn't Owe You a Good Life
Death.. the threat of death.. The Israelites have been oppressed for over 400 years, and here comes Moses, God's servant and prophet, and he is used by God to free Israel from slavery, and as they are liberated, journeying to the promised land, they make camp at the Red Sea. The Egyptian army comes for them... When the Israelites are in camp and off on the horizon, they hear the sound of chariots and they see the dust rising up all up along the horizon.. this Egyptian horde. The strength in their knees gives way, fear comes chilling down their spine, and they are scared and frightened. A literal translation from Hebrew would be "scared witless". They lose their composure and they end up asking three questions, which weren't really questions at all, but accusations towards Moses and ultimately God. "Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us into the wilderness to die?" Instead of freedom, you have given us death! Second, "What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt?" Meaning, you are not a blessing, but you are a curse! Third, "Didn't we tell you to leave us alone and not cause trouble for us?" Meaning, I know what's best for me, not you. Fear revealed that the people needed a great reminder of who God is. When death threatens your livelihood, do you need to be reminded of who God is and what He has done for you in His son Jesus Christ? I work at the oncology ward at Walter Reed Medical Center and I get to visit and talk to a lot of cancer patients. A lot of them are angry at God and they accuse Him of not caring, being unfair... "Why did I have to get cancer?" "If I were to get cancer, why did it have to be this cancer with no cure?" "What about my family? Who's going to take care of my husband? Who's going to take care of my wife after I die?" They are afraid, because their expectations in life are not being met. A lot of my patients can echo Israel's painful cry of fear. If you think about it, I don't think any Israelite was planning on being hunted down by the Egyptians after leaving Egypt. They were probably thinking about a land flowing with milk and honey, they were thinking about freedom, thinking about raising a family without the bondage of slavery bearing down on their backs. So when the Egyptian army appears out of nowhere, that fear of death was greater than their faith in God. That is how they had the audacity to grumble against the Lord. Many of you may not have experienced a life threatening event, but you can relate to Israel in our passage. When was the last time you cried out to the Lord in desperation? When was the last time you felt as if your livelihood was being threatened? In that moment, did you need a reminder of who God is? Did you need a reminder of the Lord's faithfulness? Like Israel, when things don't go according to plan, when your life is threatened, do you lash out at God? Do you accuse Him of not caring, not being there, being abandoned? Do you think God owes you a good life? Think about it... if you complain in the end, you're saying that you don't deserve the situation. If you're bitter, then you're saying that God made a mistake, our perfect God made a mistake. If you think about it, we're not too different from Israel, are we? This brings us to our second point: narcissism and the problem of narcissism.

Look at God
When we look at our passage, we see a common imagery that unfolds and it gets repeated: to see, to look. Starting in verse 10, Israel lifts up their eyes and sees the Egyptians. In verse 24, the Lord looks down on the Egyptians. In verse 13, the people are commanded to see the Lord's salvation. Therefore, at the conclusion of our passage in verse 31, Israel saw God's salvation. So what't the point of this imagery? God is saying, "Death has threatened you, and you've responded by sinning, by accusing me and not believing that I would save you. But I will, so stand there and look. Stand there and witness my glory." So why is God saying that? It's because Israel had setting their eyes, stopped looking towards God, and instead, they were looking inside themselves and focusing on my life, my desires, my comfort, my dreams. The problem is that Israel's trust in God was conditional. If God serves my need, then I will trust him. So when Israel's needs weren't met, when fear invaded Israel's comfort, they lashed out on God as if the Lord was their servant, that the Lord was there for their every whimsical needs. That's why in verses 15-18, we read the Lord addressing them, to witness His glory, to stop looking at themselves and to look at someone greater, to see what He will do for them. It's funny that they needed the reminder of who God is because God was guiding them with a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire. God had shone His might in Egypt with the ten plagues. But because of fear, they forgot. Because they were looking within and thinking about what they needed, what they wanted, they forgot. Our inherent narcissism says it's all about me and what I want and how I want to believe. What I want to believe is that God is here for my benefit. So the question is, do I believe in God how I want to believe, or do I submit myself to scripture and believe how God wants to be believed and worshipped? I'm going to go out on a ledge and assume that most of you, at some point in your adult life want to get married, and for those of you who are already married, you must have done something right. As you have this desire to date and get married, and as you enter into romantic relationships, do you love someone how you want to love them, or do you love them how they want to be loved? Gary Chapman writes a book about this called The Five Love Languages and it flushes it out in greater detail. He writes that everyone has a love language, a particular way of receiving love that makes them feel appreciated and accepted. For example, if my love language was words of affirmation, meaning, if you tell me you love me, you compliment, you thank me for my actions, then I will feel loved and accepted by you. But if you don't use words of affirmation and instead, you use physical touch because that's how you love people, and so you hug me, you hold my hand, you pat my hand, you kiss me, then I'm not going to really feel loved and accepted. In fact, I might think you might be some kind of pervert, always wanting to touch me. So why is it important to consider how the other person wants to be treated? Because that's how a proper relationship grows. Now consider that in your relationship with God. Who is who in that relationship? Are you on equal terms and footing with God? Or is one greater than the other? Does one accommodate to the other's needs? Meaning, God is our creator and we are His creation. We can never go up to God because that's impossible. Rather, He accommodates our needs and He comes down to us. So who dictates the terms of this relationship that he graciously enters with us? It is the Lord. Where might those terms be found in scripture? It's only when we know who we are in our relationship with God that we can move away from our narcissistic tendencies. It's only when we acknowledge that God is greater, that He is the one who has come and stooped Himself to my level to be with me, that everything that He now does becomes glorious and wonderful. That leads me to worship because the focus isn't about me, it's about the object of my worship. That is why Israel is commanded to see the salvation of the Lord, to witness the glory of God. To be pulled out of looking inward and to now look outward. The focus is not about who's captured, but rather, the focus is always on the liberator, the one who frees the captured. This brings us to our last point then: judgement and the presence of judgement.

Judgement Points to Salvation
There are two sides to be on, one is life, the other is death. One is acceptance and the other is rejection. One is salvation and the other is judgement. Just because you're on the side of salvation, life and acceptance, doesn't negate the presence of judgement. it's still very real and still very there. When Israel was crossing the Red Sea on dry ground, they made it safely to the other side, but the Egyptians were drowned as the waves came crashing over them. So for Israel, as they see the wall of water to their right and to their left and they are walking down the middle, that presence of judgement is still there as it was for the Egyptians. So what's the significance of this story? The Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10 that the Israelites were baptized into Moses and the pillar of cloud as they crossed the Red Sea. We read in our passage in verse 15 that after the people grumbled against Moses, God rebuked Moses for sinning against Him. But if you look at scripture, Israel was the one who grumbled against the Lord. Israel was the one that lacked faith. Israel was the one that was accusing God of leading them to death and not freedom. So why was Mosses getting rebuked? This shows us Moses' role, not only was he a servant and prophet of God, but he was a mediator between God and His people. As mediator, he identified with Israel, and because he identified with Israel, because he represented Israel, he was also guilty of their sin. But he also identified with God, and that's why when they grumbled against Moses, they were actually grumbling against God because Moses also represented God. As mediator, he represented both Israel and God. That's why he's also able to connect Israel to God, by taking the punishment of their sins, receiving that rebuke on behalf of his people, and thus in turn, being used to provide salvation for Israel. So this passage gives us a great illustration of baptism, that we have a greater mediator, that the greater Moses in Jesus. Moses was rebuked by God for Israel's sin, Jesus was more than rebuked for our sin. He was crucified, paying the debt of sin fully with His life so that you and I might have life. If you look at what Israel did, they did nothing, they simply received the benefit of salvation. When you look at us, the church, we didn't have to do anything, we just received the benefit of salvation in Jesus. Therefore, being a Christian means not coming to church x amount of Sundays a year or giving x amount of dollars in offering or going on x amount of mission trips. Rather, being a Christian means trusting in Jesus for your salvation just as Israel had to trust in Moses. Israel's logic can be captured like this: death is bearing down on me, but if God is providing my salvation, I must follow him, because apart from Moses, there is only death. There's only destruction. There is only enslavement. That is what baptism says about Jesus: apart from Him, I will die. Apart from Jesus, there is only death, there is only damnation. There is only enslavement to sin. That's why in baptism, we are united in Jesus in His death and resurrection. That baptism becomes a symbolism of that truth. And so the presence of judgement becomes a powerful reminder that makes you into a witness of God's glory and what He has done for you through His son, much like the Red Sea became a powerful reminder for Israel. 

Judgement Has Passed Us Over
Oftentimes, Christians fear judgement and it comes out in the way they make sense of suffering, of bad times. You don't know how many times people will come up to men, and it breaks my heart every time this happens. They say to me: "This bad thing is happening to me because God is punishing me for my sins." "Chaps, the reason why my wife cheated on me, I'm sure is because God is punishing me for my sins." "The reason why I'm losing rank is because God is punishing me for my sins." But if that's true, then Jesus' death did not fully satisfy God's wrath, which would mean you and I would still be screwed, sitting here this morning. We're still going to be damned. Beloved, if you are in Christ, then judgement has passed over. The verdict has already been declared: you are righteous for Jesus' sake. You will never be punished again because Christ already received punishment on your behalf. So as a result, judgement isn't something that instills fear, but now it's presence is a reminder of what God has done for you, in Christ, and how the Holy Spirit applies the benefits of redemption to you. That is how God can declare that you are righteous, despite your sins, despite what you do or don't do, you live post judgement now. All those apart from Christ live in pre judgement. So baptism doesn't mean "I'm now good enough, I got my act together. I used to be like this, but I've amended my ways and now I am a changed man." Not at all, but rather, it says, "I'm a horrible sinner. I'm far from perfect, I'm dirty. I am unworthy, but Jesus, Jesus is good enough. He is perfect, He is clean, and I am in Him now." So what does that mean for my son and for every infant, every child that is baptized? We are saying that is our hope for this child, that just as they are holy, that we see them as such until proven otherwise. We are saying they are members of this covenant community saved by grace, and so they ought to receive the sign and seal of this covenant as well. As we close, beloved, do you belong to Jesus? Are you in Him? If you are, then be witnesses to His glory and power working in your life by doing three things. One, when fear grips you, when your livelihood is threatened, look to Jesus who died for you and be reminded of the depth of God's love, that He has not abandoned you. He had His son die for you, so why would He abandon you in the midst of life's threats? In the midst of losing your job, your family, losing your dreams and goals? If He had His son die for you, why would He abandon you half way? Be reminded of God's love for you. Second, as you are reminded of that truth, glorify our Triune God as you witness Him not just working in your life, but in the life of this church. Glorify God. Third, live in response to the truth of your baptism, meaning what? If baptism is a sign and seal of being united in Christ, then bear fruit. Show it. Your life must show it, and if your life is not bearing fruit for the Lord, then repent. Remember that you belong to Him now, you don't belong to yourself. That's why we are baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, not in the name your parents gave you. The first thing you can do deals with your thought, your soul. The second thing you can do deals with your heart, your passion when you glorify. The third thing you can do deals with your actions, your strength. Therefore, go and love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind. Only then, when you cling to Him, only then, when you focus on Him, only then, when you go to Him and give Him your whole life and being, only then, will you want to remain faithful to the Lord when your life is threatened. Let's pray.
May 8, 2016
Deuteronomy 5:16, Ephesians 6:1-4
"Children and Parents"
Pastor Brendon Wu

This was a hard message to prepare. A lot of times, you hear people say that, "Oh, man this paper was really hard to write" and they say that right before they submit it to their professors in hopes that the professors would hear that and extend some type of special grace or whatever. No, but I really mean it, this was hard to prepare. Why? Maybe it's too obvious.. I'm not a mom, so I cannot come to you as a mom today, sharing with you any maternal or motherly truths. I'm also not a woman, I've never given birth, never raised a child, never did a lot of things. Right off the bat, kudos, praise to all the moms out there. Today, I have three moms I really appreciate, my own mother, my grandmother and my sister too, the mother of my niece. This message is actually going to concentrate solely on what we're seeing here in Ephesians 6 and I'm going to talk about three actions that concern the interaction between children and parents, and touch a little on motherhood in the end. I think this is going to be more relatable to us, where we are as a church. The first action that we see the Apostle Paul say is to obey. Up to this point in his letters to the Ephesians, he's been writing to the church of Ephesus and for three chapters, he's been going heavy and deep and with a lot of joy about the Gospel, the fact that God loved us so much that He sent Jesus Christ to die in place of us so that we could become a part of His church.. it doesn't matter who we are, Jew or Gentiles, whatever. Because of the fact that God made this relationship even possible in Jesus, raising us from death to life, in chapter 4-6, the second half of this book, he talks a lot about how we could live for God. In this section, he's been talking about submitting to one another, out of a reverence for Christ. Because we submit to Christ, we submit to one another, and some of the ways we submit to one another.. wives are called to submit to their husbands, and right after that Paul gets into the section about how children are supposed to submit to their parents and how parents are supposed to raise up their kids. 

Here we are, with the first action: "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right"(Ephesians 6:1). Obedience was really important in the Old Testament. In Israel, if children did not obey their parents, the punishment was supposed to be death by stoning. This was how serious this commandment was to God. I think we see this especially in the life of our very savior Jesus Christ. If you ever read the Gospel of Luke, in chapter 2 there's this story where Jesus is about the age of what we would call a teenager. One time, He had been studying the scriptures and became so passionate that He went into the synagogue and started talking with different people and getting into these really cool arguments and debates about God's words. But lo and behold, what happened was that Joseph and Mary, His two parents had already left the synagogue and they had journeyed out about a day's journey. Back then, they didn't have Honda Civics or Toyotas or Subarus or whatever we drive.. they were very far out. It's like a Home Alone scene when they realize "Where's Jesus? We have all of our children, the normal born ones, but where's the one that God said would save us? His name means Salvation.. where's that one?!" They went back to the synagogue and when they finally see Jesus, they're like "Jesus, why did you not listen to your mother and father when we said we had to go?" What's so amazing to me is how Jesus didn't say, "Yo, mama, yo, papa.. you know who I am? You wanna know who I am? I'm God incarnate. Before you were, I was. I am who I say I am! If I wasn't who I said I am, then you wouldn't be anything! Ex nihilo! You know anything about ex nihilo? I was kind of a big part of that! Making Creation? Just a little bit of that! You know I could do whatever I want if I would like!" But He didn't say that. What scripture shows is that Jesus Christ, even as God incarnate, He submitted and obeyed and listened to His parents. What scripture says is that Jesus grew. It's weird to hear Jesus growing, since He's perfect. Even in His human form, he grew in statue, wisdom. When we see this commandment, I think there's something so beautiful about it. Obey your parents in the Lord, this is right. That's the reason, because it's right. Jesus knows that obeying His parents was good for Him. He trusted God, obeyed God's word. God's word had taught Him to obey His parents. One thing about obedience that I think is really important for us to touch upon: obedience does not require full understanding. I think in so many ways that in order to obey God, we have to have complete, perfect understanding. I wish I knew this man who lived centuries ago, a great man by the name of Augustine. One time, Augustine wrote "A child doesn't need to understand everything. Instead, the process of obeying brings forth understanding." I think in our generation kind of way that if we don't understand, then there's no way I'm doing any of that. We have to intellectually, cerebrally understand everything. What Augustine was saying one of the ways in which kids grow is that as we teach them to do certain things, through doing that they start to learn. We see parents teach kids acts of generosity, and through that they start to learn about generosity. Similar for us, how do we obey? I think our church really talks about hating our father and mother and following Jesus Christ. You know the common theme we come across is, "Am I supposed to hate my mother and father and never talk to them, never get to know them and give my whole life to Jesus and never have anything to do with them?" But that's not what scripture shows. Scripture shows children are placed under the guidance of their parents. Do children have to listen to their parents? They do. But then if we live past the age of 12, how do we continue to obey them? Do we obey them in everything to a T? What happens when we no longer live under our parents' roof and we start to be men and women, as most of us are, and we need to figure out how to live our own lives. 

This is where I think the action and teaching of honor comes in. The first action was to obey. The second action that the Apostle Paul teaches us is honor. He says "Honor your father and mother (this is the first commandment with a promise) that it may go well with you and that your may live long in the land" (Ephesians 6:2-3). To put this a certain way, when I was reading this, I was learning that obedience is straight up trust and it's a reactive response to a command. A parent or a greater authority commands us and our obedience is our response is to that. But whereas with honor, honor is a different beast. Honor is thoughtful service, it's a proactive initiative to love someone. Whereas with obedience, all of us here can act like a child or an infant, waiting for God or for someone to look at us and tell us what to do, then do it. But honor is even greater because it doesn't require God or someone telling us what to do, but in the context of a relationship where God is on our minds, there's thoughtful service. We take these steps to love people. Why would honoring our parents bring us a blessing? What kind of promise does it come with? Why did the Old Testament, and now Apostle Paul say that it would go well with us and that we would live long in the land? I think the first reason is that to honor someone is an extremely thoughtful action. One thing that we've been seeing ourselves in the book of Genesis, we see Esau plots to murder Jacob when he finds out Jacob stole his birthright. Through the sovereignty of God and Rebekah's schemes, she tells Isaac that she couldn't stand if Jacob married a Hittite or a Canaanite woman, a woman who was not of the same faith that she had. When Esau overheard this, he just heard "Don't marry a Canaanite woman." It wasn't very thoughtful because he saw Jacob going to his mother's side to marry a woman, and he thought "As long as I marry within the family, I'll go to the greater side, my father's side. I'll marry one of Ishmael's." We know Ishmael did not worship the one true God. Esau, in doing that, took this command and had no thought about it, obeyed it, and caused his father, mother and the rest of his life even more grief. Isn't that crazy? Somehow, shallowly and conveniently obeying God's command, it could lead to more grief and disaster. That's because there's no thought. What he thought he would obey his father and get back to his good graces, there was no honor. He had only thought about himself. Honor is thoughtful. Honor thinks about that other person before ourselves. It comes in the form of not only thinking about it, but acting about it. That's why honoring our parents is an action. We could think of them quite often, here and there, but if we don't act, is that really a relationship? It's a thoughtful service. Honoring our parents is a blessing, secondly because it's a service that calls us to not be selfish, and that itself is a blessing. To do something that causes us to not be selfish, that itself is a blessing. What we always do is look into what we can get out of it and our view is that serving itself is not a privilege, but what we get out of it. But to God, serving, giving, sacrificing, that's what God does. I think a few weeks ago, I hung out with my dad and my sister, and when I came back, I was kind of down because my dad is turning 70 very, very soon, and my mom is nearing 70 too. I was sad thinking of how old they were becoming. But as I was thinking about it and talking about it with some people, it made me see from a different perspective. The perspective that God so graciously gave was how He was been taking care of my dad for seven decades, that's amazing. My parents have been married together, not a perfect marriage, but married together for 47 years, what a blessing! I've had this privilege to be redeemed and get to know my dad in a new way and have had the privilege of knowing my dad for 28 years. These numbers show it all, that God is amazing. As I started thinking like that, I started thinking, "How could I appreciate and honor my dad?" My mom and other people.. We don't honor our parents to try to evangelize to them. I think a lot of the times, we honor our parents to get money, approval, or honoring them for the sake of them getting to know Jesus. There's something even greater in the balance of all this, and it's the fact that we see how much God loves them, it just causes us to want to honor them. What is the difference between obedience and honor? Obedience is what children can only do. Honor is what men and women can do

Discipline Requires Love
Do we just do things in our lives because we're told that we just leave it there, or is there a greater thought than that, where we have a relationship in mind? Where before anyone tells us to do these things, let me hear what God's saying. God's been saying at our church "grow up", God's been saying in our church, "Here's a chance to grow up." God's been saying, "How long do you want to be the baby or younger sibling, spoiled sibling, or the only child? Here's a chance to not only obey, but to honor." Even children learn what it means to honor as they learn what it means to obey. Beautiful. In order for us to obey and honor, God sends people in our lives. I know that when we get into this part, many of us don't come from Christian families or parents. I personally don't. Both my parents have gone to church before. My dad actually used to be a Bible study teach a long time ago. In a weird, comical way, I think of him as a Jedi master turned away, like Darth Vader. My mom went to church at one point too, and she brought me for the sake of discipline. Extremely ironic, given this verse. She stopped going. I know what it's like to have non Christian parents, to come from a non Christian family. If you hear these things, don't think that our parents are the end all, be all. God is the one in control, He has a special way of raising us up, and what He's saying is "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4). Discipline and instruction must come with love, not exasperation. It must come from a place that has deep affection, not red hot anger, not losing temper, not getting so frustrated to the point of cursing or beating. I think this is so important. I'm going to use a really trivial example. Apparently in dog training, they say that when you're in a really bad mood, don't use that time to train your dog. Take a chill pill, as they say.. take five, stay alive. Don't do it out of exasperation. While this is true with training dogs, I think this is so much more relevant for us where we are. In a good friendship, do you want to be talking to your friends when you're all hopped up on emotions? That could be very harmful in a friendship, at work, in a marriage.. That can be harmful in our relationship with our parents. I remember the other night, I called up my mother, haven't seen her in a while and just thought, "Man, I haven't heard my mother's voice in so long.. she's in Taiwan and taking care of my grandmother all by herself.. I'm her son and I just want to see how she's doing and get to know her and show her I really support her." When I got on the phone with her, she just went HAM, bologna, B-A-N-A-N-A-S... It was crazy. She just started asking me, "Hey, remember that thing I talked to you about two months ago, did you do it? Hey, remember the thing I shared with you the other day, did you call that person? Hey, this other thing...." I felt like I was talking to an Asian Eminem.. she's just rapping all these things to me and I don't care. All I wanted was to get to know her and see how she was doing, and I felt so right. In that moment when I was so annoyed and exasperated, I did the last thing that I would ever do. I started yelling at her, and as I was yelling at her, I knew that someday, not soon, but someday, I'll probably regret this, but right now, I have the scepter of justice and righteousness in both my hands! The phone in one hand and the scepter in the other.. I remember when that conversation ended and we split, I just thought, "What am I doing?" I just got out of a nasty, pointless yell session debate with a 68 year old woman.. what am I doing? This is how we go about relationships sometimes. This happens in ministry and in so many different things. But what God says is that when we go to have relationships with one another, it has to come with love, not exasperation. 

Discipline is God's Grace
It comes in these forms, and while He says this for parents, I think this is so true for our relationships with each other. Many times, it comes in the form of discipline. Discipline is a weird word. When I think of discipline, I think of how I grew up. I did something bad and my parents would just find the nearest, solid object and discipline me. I think it was Martin Luther who said, "If you spare the rod, you spoil the child." They were teaching me right from wrong. For the longest time, I thought that was discipline. But I remember being refreshed one time when I had the privilege a long while ago and I had really rebellious boy. When I look back at these boys back then, I thought, "Oh man, if I don't lay down the law, these boys are going to own me." Back then, I was a 22 year old and I didn't want to get owned by people half my age. One time these two boys were fighting and arguing and I brought them out to the hallway and I learned a lot. Gonna change their names to Peter and John, not Jesus' disciples and I was saying"You know why I brought you out here? Do you know what the difference between discipline and punishment is? For the longest time, I think whenever you guys get caught getting in trouble, you have parents, pastors and people who tell you not to do it again. Then you guys do it again and nothing changes. When nothing changes, you get exasperated, frustrated, annoyed.. I want to tell you guys the difference between discipline and punishment." What I told those two boys was, "When I talk with you guys like this, I'm not punishing you. You're in 5th grade. You need to grow up and learn what it means to be treated like young men." I talked with them and told them, "This behavior is not acceptable and here's why." I think that's the difference between discipline and punishment. It's so easy to resort to punishment, just giving these negative consequences. But discipline comes with instruction. It always comes with God taking the time out of His eternity to sit down and have a relationship with us. Can you imagine that? God that made everything by His very word, who is all powerful and all sufficient, would take the time to sit down with us and talk with us to go through things. Discipline is a form of His grace. Punishment is wrath. How do you see God? Even better, how do you see your parents as you were growing up? The vast majority of our parents now, minus certain exceptions, most of us are not within the age anymore where our parents really punish us. Many of us, when our parents punished us, how do you see that? I think what's happened so much, in our church where God is disciplining us and lovingly correcting us, we see that as hateful. We see that as brutal, mean, cold, hard. But for me and all of us, did God ever say that discipline was going to feel really good? How do we see God? Do we see God as a loving father or a hateful monster? I want to end with some verses with God's gentle, loving care. Scripture describes God like a mother at times. We know Him as God the Father. Please don't read books like The Shack and think that God can be pictured as an old, frumpy, jolly, big black woman. I think the author had semi good intentions, where he really wanted to show the maternal aspects of who God was, but I think it really did injustice. God is God the Father. Jesus Christ is the Son. I think there's a reason that scripture does that and I don't that we in any case should delineate from that. But God created mothers. 

God's Love For His People
In a lot of ways, He knows. "Can a mother forget her baby at her breast and have no compassion on a child she has born? Though she may forget, I will not forget you" (Isaiah 49:15). Even more than a mother's love, God will not forget you. God will love you perfectly. "As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you" (Isaiah 66:13). You will be comforted. My favorite, though I only picked three. This is a point in Jesus' life where I bet that Jesus Christ wasn't invincible from feeling exasperated, frustrated, maybe even a little hopeless, dare I say. He was sitting on a hill overlooking the city of Jerusalem, the city that He loved so much. It was near the end of His life and He had given His life to preaching, teaching, loving, caring for people and in this very moment, what Jesus said, "Jerusalem, Jerusalem! You who killed the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate, for I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, 'Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord'" (Matthew 23:37-39). I love these words so much because it shows how much Jesus Christ cares. In our world, we exalt fathers, mothers, especially mothers with sayings like "there's nothing like a mother's love". Have you heard that saying in your family? Scripture here shows us that there's nothing like Jesus' love, like God's love. He loves Jerusalem so much that when Jesus Christ died, He didn't even get to die in Jerusalem. He didn't even get to die in what should be His house. He didn't even get to die amongst His family. But Jesus loved His people so much that He was crucified outside the gates and walls of Jerusalem. For centuries, God had sent people to try to teach and get people to look to Jesus for their salvation. Even when they hadn't, Jesus Christ willingly went up on the cross and was crucified. It says that He did that just as a mother hen would long to gather her chicks under her wings. In the same way, God longs to bring us back to Him. That's the heart of God. That's why God disciplines. That's why we should obey, and learn what it means to honor. In all this, we can't do this without Jesus. When Christ died on the cross, He was under punishment. His love drove Him to die in place of us, so that now, He could discipline us with His grace and instruct us with His love. God loves us. Let's pray. 

April 24, 2016 [Genesis 27:30-46]

April 24, 2016
Genesis 27:30-46
“Cost of Disobedience”
Pastor Kenny Lee

The Cost of Discipleship
Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote a book called “The Cost of Discipleship.” Just to tell you a little bit about who Dietrich Bonhoeffer is all about, he’s a pastor, he’s German. And right before the war, he got out of Germany, he came to America, and as Germany is going into war and things that are going on in Germany. Dietrich Bonhoeffer saw the pain that his German brothers were suffering, so he himself decided to go back to Germany. He got put into a prison camp and in the prison camp, by the third reich Hitler’s army died. He wrote a book called “The Cost of Discipleship.” If you know the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer its amazing. How he encouraged so many people while in the prison camps. That’s one of his books; it’s a wonderful read. And that’s the reason why I put Cost of Disobedience. What’s the other side to that? There’s a cost to discipleship, cost of obedience, but there’s also a cost to disobedience as well. Before we begin, I’d like to say a certain thing. I’d like to have the right mindset before we begin and that’s this. Us in the Western world, for us to understand something we usually think that it starts with the mind. For the Jews, especially in the Bible, it’s not the mind that understands, and I think that as people when I go onto explain, you’ll understand it, as I explain a little bit further. For the Jews, their way of understanding is from the heart, it’s from the heart. You guys experience that all the time. Maybe your mom would say something like, or your friend will be like: “Why are you being so stubborn today? Why are we not agreeing on simple things? My goodness, what’s wrong with you? You’re so stubborn headed.” You know what I’m saying? The other night I’m talking with my wife and we’re agreeing on everything, we’re agreeing on all this. I can say something and we finish each other’s sentences, you know? You ever have that synergy? You know? And then the next morning, something happens and she’s disagreeing on everything or she thinks I’m disagreeing on everything. Depends what perspective. But she’s the one who said it first, and I was like “Argh! She beat me to the punch.” “Why are you being so stubborn?” And I was about to say the same thing to her. We have a heart of misunderstanding, a heart of misunderstanding. But today what I would like for you to do, for you to understand God’s word, I would like for you to have a heart of understanding. And what that requires is: settle down, breathe in and out, be comfortable in listening to God’s word.

Review of Genesis 27
We’re going through the book of Genesis. We’re on the 27th chapter of Genesis and we’re on part 2. In part 1, we’re talking about Isaac, Isaac, the famous son, the long awaited son of our father Abraham. And as we see Isaac’s life, we want the best thing because good things come to those who wait. We see his father Abraham. Abraham is like a superstar, like Michael Jordan. Who will be the heir of his heirness? Who will be the heir of Mr. Faith, of the father of faith, who will be that heir? And that happens to be the long awaited son Isaac. And Isaac comes into this world and we’re like “Oh my goodness this is great!” And we see that this superstar dad, it seems like so far he has a dud of a son, just a dud. Just doesn’t quite live up to that hype. And we’re kind of left “What’s going on?” This is the same son that was almost sacrificed and God intervened, an angel appeared and intervened! How can this be? Yet we see the realities of this family. Isaac, younger son of Abraham, Abraham had an older son, Ishmael, conceived out of sin. Isaac the younger brother grows up, marries, marries Rebekah and it’s a beautiful marriage. The marriage ends with Isaac loved Rebekah. Isaac has twins. That’s awesome. And there’s a prophecy given by God himself. The older shall serve the younger. And as they raise their children, the children grow up. The first son, Esau is a hairy man, he’s red and hairy, loves to hunt, and is very animalistic. The second son, Esau is a thinking man, he’s inside the house, cooks and cleans, is clean-shaven and all that. Esau, the older son, marries twice. Well he doesn’t get married and divorces and gets married again. He marries one woman and then marries another woman, two women, polygamy. He has two women, Hittite women. And because they look pretty good and everything seemed to be good in the eyes of Esau, he gets married without any regard for mom and dad, or anything like that. If you recall Isaac and how he got married, there was an ordeal. Abraham calls his favorite servant and has that servant put his hand under his thigh and says “Swear to me now, swear to me, that you will not take for my son a wife from around here. That you will get it from somewhere else, where I’m from, promise me that. Do it now!” There was this whole ordeal and Isaac got married in that way.

And all of a sudden, Esau just goes “Hey dad, I brought a girl. You like her? No? Well I’m going to get married anyway.” And this part of the story started off by saying that these Hittite women that Esau married brought grief, brought torment on Isaac and Rebekah. And if you’ve seen some mother-in-law relationships, you can kind of see that as a reality. You can kind of see that, you can kind of depict that. Midlife hell for Rebekah, the only reason why it was kind of bearable, it was kind of okay was because of the fact that she was still the matriarch because of her husband, Isaac. But Isaac is getting pretty old, and so Isaac tells his firstborn son something, “I’m getting old Esau and you’re my number one son and I’m going to bless you. I know I know I’m supposed to bless your little brother, but I just don’t like him. And I can’t see how God can work through that little hairless twerp, no hair whatsoever. He’s not a man. Regardless, I can’t see that. You’re a man Esau; you’re a man, like a man should be. You know what I’m going to do? I’m going to bless you!” And the mother’s thinking, those two Hittite women, my daughters in law is making my life miserable, what if my husband dies? What if those two become…oh my goodness? Remember it’s a patriarchal society; women were regarded just above a slave. So just imagine, if Isaac died, what would Rebekah feel. Can you just imagine, why was Rebekah and Isaac’s lives miserable? Its because of the fact, did Rebekah feel protected by Isaac? No, not at all and then all of a sudden she overhears that my husband is old and he might die and what would happen if these two Hittite women become the matriarch of the family. It would make my life miserable. Maybe they will kick me out, maybe ill die. No it can’t happen, it has to be my son, my son. And we see that, we see that Rebekah because a lot of times, when we look at this we think that the woman has it right, the woman knows what’s right, knows God’s blessing, knows God’s prophecy, knows that the older shall serve the younger, and look at the woman she has it right. But not really, it’s actually out of her greed, out of her wanting to save her own hide. It’s through emotions that she’s doing this. It only looks good because it happens to coincide with God’s will that’s all. And we’ll see that. We see that she uses her son that she loves. We’ll see the result of that. But no matter what, my first point and then I’m going to give you the points that I’m going to talk about. Is the fact that God’s will be done, no matter what, God’s will will be done. And number two is the blessings of the world, the blessings that the world will give you. And ultimately what is the cost of disobedience?

God’s will will be done
You know no matter how hard we try, we try to go against God’s will; we try to instill what we want to do in our world. In our world that’s what we try to do. We try to control, we try to make our life comfortable, and we try to do all of that. We disregard other people and we try to do whatever we like, based on our emotions because we want to avoid pain and seek pleasure. Even though we know that this is not right, this is not what we should do, we do it anyways. You know you could relate with that, I know that I should study instead of watching videos, but this video is so good, so you watch the video. I know that I shouldn’t be talking to this guy, I know I shouldn’t be talking to this girl because they’re kind of bad news and I know it, but ill do it anyways. And so on and so forth we do that, and so we know what the Bible says and for Christians we know what the Bible says, but who cares, I’m going to do this way and go this way anyways. But ill tell you something, there’s countless, countless examples in Scripture, multiple descriptions in Scripture, stories in Scripture, where God’s will, will prevail. God’s will, God’s will, will keep going on, all because you disobey what seems to be God’s will, or you obey God’s will, you think somehow that’s going to change? No it won’t, God’s will, will continue. No matter how hard, Isaac tried to not bless Jacob, because you know why? Because in his eyes, Jacob was not a man, Jacob was this boy who stayed home and cooked and cleaned, a real man went out and shot bows. And he thought God must be making a mistake, because I would never follow a guy like that, God’s out of his mind. No, I’m going to bless my firstborn son Esau, but in the end God’s word prevails. In the end, God’s word is true. No matter how you feel, no matter how you think, you think you’re right in your perspective. Your perspective is wrong. God’s perspective is right and ultimately it will prevail.

The curse of the world
Second thing is you know with Rebekah, she knew that Jacob, the younger son was supposed to get the blessing and she knew that. And how smug must she be, so many times she’d be like “God said this, God said that, and you should listen, you should listen.” And somehow Rebekah felt safe in that. And although she was in line with God’s word, her actions were not because it was driven by something else, it wasn’t driven by a love of God, it was driven by fear. It was driven by emotion, it was driven by selfishness, and it happened to coincide with God’s word. So what he does is she tries to control, tries to take control, and tries to finagle, tries to scheme her way to what she thinks is God’s will. And I’ll tell you ultimately, what the blessing that the world will provide and it’s so pointed because of this. Isaac loves Esau very much, Isaac loves Esau that’s why when Esau came and “Don’t you have a blessing for me?” And what Esau does, Esau weeps bitterly, Esau just weeps bitterly because he’s heartbroken because he knows that blessing is valid and it’s going to go to Jacob. So the only thing that Isaac has is one other blessing, but it’s really not a blessing, it’s not really a good word. It’s not a good benediction, its not a good word because without God this is the only thing that the world has to offer. If you do not have God this is the only thing that the world has to offer. Some of you might say, when I look at people in Glamour magazine that’s pretty nice, I wouldn’t mind if I get offered that. Or people who are famous, they’re riding on yachts, they’ve got all these nice cars; I don’t mind either. You may think that, you really may think that. But let me explain that. Esau begs Isaac for a blessing. The blessing that Esau receives from Isaac is pretty similar to Isaac’s brother. And this is the reason why, “Then Isaac his father answered and said to him: ‘Behold, away from the fatness of the earth shall your dwelling be, and away from the dew of heaven on high. By your sword you shall live, and you shall serve your brother; but when you grow restless you shall break his yoke from your neck.’ “ That doesn’t sound like a blessing, that’s not something that I really want, but without God that’s all that you’ll have. All you’ll realize is famine, all you’ll see is pain, all you’ll see is war, back-breaking work.

And you see, you’ll realize without God that’s the only reality. You don’t believe me? Talk to some non-Christians, or maybe I don’t know maybe test it out talk to your parents or something. And ask them what life is all about. I know that a lot of times with my parents, and my parents they do pretty okay, but they’re always acting like they’re in a time of famine, they’re always grabbing on. Or those people, the older people who went through a recession, I met some people who actually went through a recession and you know what’s common with people who went through a recession? They’re hoarders, they hoard everything, they keep everything, they never throw away, they act like they’re in a time of famine, they’re always in pain, they’re always fighting. They’re doing backbreaking work sometimes needlessly; they just can’t take a break. Even though they have plenty of money, plenty of everything, that’s what they do. Because without God you need to grab onto all the security you can get and the only thing that Isaac has to offer Esau is that. This so called blessing is coming from a loving father, “Behold, away from the fatness of the earth shall your dwelling be, and away from the dew of heaven on high. By your sword you shall live, and you shall serve your brother; but when you grow restless you shall break his yoke from your neck.” You see that is the cost of disobedience. Esau is consumed with bitterness.

And I love how Rebekah says it and you can kind of feel that and you can kind of understand it. Here’s the plan of Esau that Esau is going to kill his younger brother and he’s just waiting for the day that his dad is going to die. And on that day what he’s going to do, what he’s going to do is he’s going to raise a dagger and just stab him to death, And hear what Rebekah goes “Behold, your brother Esau comforts himself about you by planning to kill you.” Can you imagine being comforted by killing somebody? The funny thing is that most of us can, most of us would be like “hmmm, I can see that.” Esau is consumed with bitterness; he’s so consumed with bitterness that he just can’t wait for his father to die, the cost of disobedience. Hates his mother, hates his brother, cost of disobedience. How many of you are in that state now? That you are consumed with bitterness, especially with family and it extends onto the church and the world. How many of you are so bitter at your mom and dad? How many of you hold such grudges? Your brother, your sister, that’s the cost of disobedience you see. Jacob living in fear from his brother, living in fear of his dad, longing to be affirmed and get a true blessing under his own identity, just longing for that. Just living for someone’s affirmation, just living for dad’s affirmation, living for many affirmations. Listen to the mother at the cost of deceiving his father. Isaac spiritually blind, physically blind, he just doesn’t want to see, he just wants to pretend everything is all right, is distant from his wife, he’s distant from his sons, wants to live in his own little world. He’s not respected, but he’s by himself, he has his favorite son, he wants his favorite food, just blind, blind to the fact that his family is just in ruins. Rebekah, so insecure, doesn’t feel protected, doesn’t feel loved, to the point that she has to deceive her own husband to protect herself. And now separated, and now emotionally separate, not physically, physically they are together. Deceived her husband, bitterness towards her older son, and fear that she will lose her younger son, cost of disobedience. Cost of disobedience what is it? Separation. Listen you see how much God loves us because of the fact that God does not allow his will to be tossed and turned like the waves. God’s will is complete; God’s will is 100%.

Is there freedom in your Christianity?

What would happen if God allows us to do whatever we’d like? What would happen if God allows his will to be in the control of men? It’s funny when we see the life of Israel as a nation. We see that God alone protected Israel from invading armies, but God also protected Israel from domestic terrorism by us as well. And God does that because God loves us and God loves the world. And its because of the fact that we see Jacob, Esau, Isaac, Rebekah and I feel like that that whole family has so many things going on, it represents a lot of us and that’s the very reason why Jesus is needed. That’s the very reason why. Thank God, God’s will is not just easily tossed and turned, but God’s will is complete. That God does not bend to our will, but God requires us to bend to his will. And it’s because of God’s will that Jesus Christ came and do you know the reason why Jesus Christ came? Jesus Christ came because of this! Because of Esau, because of Jacob, because of Isaac, because of Rebekah, because of me, because of you! That we are such heinous sinners that the only thing that this world has to offer is famine, pain, war, disease, and if you lived a little bit you’d know that. And Jesus Christ comes and says “Come onto me all who are weak and weary and you will find rest for your soul.” Jesus comes to die for the death that I should’ve died. Died for me, died on my behalf. I should’ve died. But Jesus Christ comes to take away the sins of me, you, of all of us. And its not like as we start loving Jesus that in one sense we do become better, but in another sense we realize what our sin is all about. We also realize that our sin is paid for and because of that there is joy. Brothers and sisters, yes you are sinners, yes you are stubborn, yes you are all of that, but Jesus Christ died for us and because of that we are free! Is there a sense of freedom that you have in Christ? Is there a sense of freedom in your Christianity? No? I don’t know then you’re going to have to look a little deeper, dig a little deeper. Is there a sense of freedom; is there a sense of joy in your Christianity? No? Your theological perspective is different, it’s not right. There should be joy, there should be peace, and there should be freedom.

April 17, 2016 [Genesis 26:34-35- Genesis 27:1-29]

April 17, 2016
[Genesis 26:34-35- Genesis 27:1-29]
Pastor Brendon Wu

Isaac. Blind. Like father like son.. We see that when Esau was forty years old, he took two women who were Hittites. In other words, foreigners, to be his wives. The Bible says that these women, these daughters made life very bitter for Rebekah, Esau's mother. Where was Isaac in all this? I think we wonder that a lot of times too, when it comes to our families. Where was our father in this, or where was our mother, brother.. what were we doing? When we look at this first family of God, so to speak.. we have a first family of the United States, Barack, Michelle, and two little girls... When I was reading this story, I couldn't relate those two together, but for this chosen family of God, a lot of ways, I could relate it to myself and our families.. those times when we shared vulnerable moments of stories of our families, and here we see that Isaac is really old and near death. He's getting blind in his old age, like father like son. It's really his fault that his son Esau married two foreign women. If anyone knew about marriage, wouldn't it be Isaac? His father, Abraham, is the one who went to a servant and said, "Put your hand under my thigh, or I'm gonna die now!" What it signified was when the servant put his hand under Abraham's thigh, it's saying, "Make me a promise on your life that you would find for my son Isaac, not one of those Canaanite, Hittite, whatever ite women.. but instead, find one from the land which came from because it's about a woman of faith that my son must have, not a woman who follows after different pagan gods." Yet we see here that Isaac, even with the knowledge that his father had done something like this for him in the past, he can't see his son's sins. Isaac can't see his son's sins because he's blind to the grace that God has demonstrated in his life. 

Tolerance is not Love
Back then, when a man was about to die, he would give his blessing to his children, and this was always a public, family affair. In this case, Isaac said to Esau, "Simmer down now, shh. Don't tell your mom Rebekah, don't tell your brother Jacob.. just you and me, boy.. just you and me. Go hunt that game that I love so much. Mmmm. Hunt it. Cook it. Bring it, and I'll bless you...." Isaac, what are you doing? Don't you remember after so many years of infertility, not being able to have a child, that God had come through and listened to your prayers and He gave your wife Rebekah two lovely children, one hairy, one smoothy... But he's blind to this grace. Don't you know, Isaac, that when you wanted to go to Egypt during the famine that God told you to go to Gerar? Even when you were there, you lied and betrayed the trust of a good king? Yet, God had blessed you a hundredfold. You are rolling in the deep of water, with all your wells... You're a well mogul.. well off, God took care of your welfare and your wellbeing... Well, don't you see that? But just like Isaac, we are blind to sin, around us and in us when we are blind to God's grace. Do you know that it's by God's grace that you and I are here? It's easy for us to look around us and not assume any responsibility.. it's easier to tolerate what's going on around us. We have this mentality that we would learn to love by tolerating. But tolerance doesn't lead to love, it actually leads to a blind favoritism. Isaac loves Esau more than Jacob and he loves Esau because of the food and game that he hunts for him. He's blind to his son's sins and the havoc that it wreaks on his family and his own son's life. I think just like Isaac, we see friends make awful decisions, we see family members struggling on their own, we see fellow church members going through different things on their own, we see all this, and most of the time, we're okay with it. We're okay with it because the 21st century creed of Christianity is to "Love thy neighbor as yourself." We don't want people to get in our face because that's hatred, right? We don't want to get in anyone's faces. All of a sudden, in our church and in our lives everywhere, we have friendships that are based on tolerance and agreement, not friendships based on love and disagreement. We would think to have an argument with a friend, or for a friend to get in our face would be the worst thing to happen. We're so scared of it that we can't confront any of our issues, we're so scared of it that we would rather not know God. 

Blessed are the Wounds of a Friend
Proverbs says two things: "Raise up a child in the way he should grow, and he will not depart from it." As you all know, I have no obvious children, and I have no hidden children. But I do have a very obvious husky that sheds a lot. His name is Kazui and I have failed him. He hasn't failed me, but I've failed him. When I first got Kazui, my wife Rebecca and I just didn't want to crate him. One thing that you should know about huskies is that they need to learn to be crated and settle into a habitat. One time, a friend came up to me and said, "Hey, why aren't you crating him? What's wrong with you?" I was like "What's wrong with me? Why aren't I crating him?" I realized that every single time that he went into his crate, he would bark, whine and look at me all weird and angry.. I'd be like "I'm your master! Don't look at me like that! What's wrong with you dog?" He would look at me and be like, "Yo, what's wrong with you dawg?" Through that conversation with my friend, I was like "What's wrong with me, dawg?" I realized I needed to learn to crate him because that's what's good for him. By the grace of God, through an intervention of a friend, he is now crated and he's happy in there, even now. That's why I can preach right now without having to worry about him. Many times, we don't do that. But at the same time, it's the grace of God that corrects us many times, which saves us. When Isaac lied to the Philistine King of Gerar, he and his wife were doomed, but it was God who worked and showed Abimelech the true nature of what was going on, and through that correction, Isaac and his wife were saved. Do you fear correction? Do you fear discipline? Do you fear seeing sin in your life? If you fear seeing your sins, or the sins of others, it's because you do not know enough of God's grace, or God's grace at all. Proverbs says another thing: "Profuse many, are the kisses of an enemy, but blessed are the wounds of a friend." Do you have friends that are just okay with you living your life and never changing? Do you have friends that look at you when you have a spiritual zit growing and they're like "Yo, that's hot." Do they just see you in your way and you know you're not changing or wanting to changing, but you have these friends you go to because you know they won't push your buttons... They won't challenge you in any kind of way.. those are not friends, scripture says. Those are enemies, sent by Satan. That will lead to our eternal death, but what scripture says at the same time is "blessed are the wounds of a friend", that many times, us confronting and loving each other could be the most saving thing. 

Do You Hate Sin?
Are you affected by God's grace? Then you will be able to see and hate sin out of a love for God. If you love God, you won't tolerate people. The world says tolerate. Scripture says love. Two very different messages. If you love God, you don't tolerate people, ever. But you love them and radically hate any sin that you see in their life harm them. You won't just meet up or hang out with this person and be like "Yo, bring me that game! Yo, let's go eat at Chick Fil-a and let's just have a nice meet up without confronting any of our sins!" That is not God! Jesus hated our sins so much because of how much He loved us. How much do you hate sin? I think I am the one who has fallen to temptations so many times.. I've been confronted so many times, it's easier for me to slide into how things are, as described by a friend.. to be okay with sin and Satan destroying the lives of those around me, including my own. But Jesus hated our sins so much that He became sin. You know how in those movies and comic books, there's a hero that goes to a person that's about to explode with radioactive energy and they absorb all that energy, explode and die.. then you're like "Oh, that's cool." This is so much more than that. Scripture says that Jesus Christ hated sin so much that he took upon sin and died with it on the cross. While Isaac is the promised son of Genesis, Jesus is the promised son of Heaven. Isaac is the promised son of Abraham while Jesus is the promised son of God. While Isaac wound up destroying his family, just like we do, Jesus Christ rescues our families by being destroyed on the cross. Do you think that you could save your family, this church or anybody with your tolerance? Exchanging it for some temporary pleasure, or do you see that Jesus Christ offers a better way? 

The Ends Justifies the Means...
It's really funny because we could go three hours going HAM on Isaac. There are so many men in the Bible, and something a lot of us wonder about is that the less stories there are about women, the less stories about their sins. Let me tell you in great length who Rebekah was and what she did. It's so easy for us to blame the man, whether you're a man or a woman. At church, it's always a man's fault. It's always a pastors fault, it's always a leader's fault. In a marriage, it's always the husband's fault. Scripture shows that Isaac is to blame, but how about Rebekah? Enter Rebekah. In modern terms, she's a Tiger Mama. If Dwight Eisenhower was the supreme commander of the European theatre, she is the supreme commander of the first family of God. Step aside, Michelle Obama, it's Rebekah! Before Beyonce, Rebekah. She certainly lives up to her name in more ways than one, doesn't she? Her name means "ensnarer" While Isaac's name is "laughter", we certainly see Rebekah has the last laugh here. Isaac told Esau to privately hunt game so Isaac could privately bless him. But Rebekah, being a good desperate housewife, overhears this and she has plans of her own. It's easy to sympathize with Rebekah and see that Rebekah would want the best for her family.. she's a loving mother! Whereas our world has fallen tiger mamas, here's a tiger mama following scripture! It's easy for her to remember the prophesy given at the children's birth, that Jacob is the one that's to receive the blessing, that the older, Esau, is supposed to serve Jacob. What is Isaac doing? Her husband isn't just old and incompetent, he loves tasty game over spiritual game and the word of God. Reflect on that. Rinse and repeat. Recycle that thought through and through. She does, and we do too. What does Isaac think he is, going behind Rebekah's back? Blessing Esau secretly?! While Isaac favors Esau, Rebekah is justified in loving Jacob more. He stays at home, listens to mom, a good mama's boy, he takes care of the house. He's fun to hug because he's not the precursor to Chewbacca. He doesn't shed like a red husky and he doesn't smell all the time.. and he cooks for mama. What mama wouldn't like a mama's boy like this? Plus, just to show how wrong you are, Isaac, I, Rebekah, remembered God's word. I'm the one who gave birth to these two boys, not you, and I'm the one who remembers the prophesy given at the birth, not you. "Jacob, my son, go dress with this goat fur. Walk like Esau, smell like him. He hasn't showered and you need to catch up because you shower too much. Try to sound like him. Let me cook that famous Esau game like him, go into your father and get that blessing you deserve, that you rightfully deserve because God promised it, after all. I know we are tricking your father, but the ends justifies the means. Don't worry Jacob. The ends justifies the means." 3000 years later, in postmodern America, that's what people would say anyways. What I want to say is.. ladies, Satan approves. When men fail, y'all must do what we cannot. That's God's will, not to submit, but to supplant. Don't submit to men, but replace them. Men, just give up. This is a lie from the beginning, that the woman makes the man, and if the man can't do it, then the woman should. We see from the saving grace from scripture that Rebekah is not justified in her action. Ephesians says, "Let a wife submit to her husband, just as the church should submit to Christ." Romans says, "Shall we sin that grace shall abound?"If the ends is grace and the ends justifies the means, why not sin, right? Genesis points out that when Adam didn't take action in the Garden of Eden and look after his girl Eve next to Satan, someone had to take charge, so why not Eve? Back to Romans, God doesn't show partiality. 

Submission Personified
I think for myself and for us, I am amazed that, once again, it's Jesus. Once again, it's not Rebekah, or you or me, it's Jesus again who shows us how to be a perfect woman. Yes you heard me right. Jesus shows us how to be a perfect woman, not that He is or ever was a woman, but He's a better woman than Y'all or any of us men actually could be. How strange, but He is submission personified, incarnated. When He submits to God, he's glad to condescend. He's glad, He's happy, He's joyful to become a vulnerable, touchable, killable, frail man who dwells in this sinful, broken world so that He can glorify God who sits in Heaven. He does not sin, that grace may abound, but rather, He lays down His life so that grace may flow from Him. How many times do you or I think that we could do it better? We could do it better than a pastor, better than the church, better than our parents, the people we work with, friends, bosses, everybody! Jesus, what He sees is that when other people fail, He doesn't condemn. When Jesus sees that others have failed, He does not condemn you. Even though Jesus Christ is above the church, what He does is go lower than the church, dying on the cross, taking away our sins and raises the church up. Not only in His resurrection, but in His teachings, all the words of God. Not only in his teaching which are pretty and sit upright, but in His discipline. When God disciplines us, even then, He's raising us up, not trying to beat us down. Not only in His disciplines, but also in His prayers for us.. do you know that Jesus is praying for you, praying for me right now? Not only prayers, but His thoughts. He thinks about us all the time. You know that time when you think you're all alone and nobody thinks about you and no one cares? Jesus cares and Jesus is thinking of you. By the grace of God, I bet anything that He sent someone to think of you and care for you at that time, when you were doubting the most and all alone. Whereas Rebekah showed partiality and favoritism to Jacob, Jesus Christ shows no favoritism, but He loves the world instead. God so loved the world that He gave His one and only beloved son so that whoever would believe in Him, would not perish, but have eternal life. Do you know that because you are here, no matter what race, where you come from, that kind of broken family, what amount of sin that you're coming from, whatever thing your going through right now, that when God so loved the world, and that you're part of the world, and if you believe in Him, you can believe and have eternal life? That I, a complete failure, completely unfitting to be here, that I can have eternal life? Do you believe? Do you listen to God's word or are you trying to do it better than Him like Rebekah? Just like how Rebekah is wife to Isaac, our church is called to be bride and wife to Jesus. Are you listening to Jesus, your husband, who loves you and is trying to care for you so much? Or are you like Rebekah, trying to act apart from God because God has failed to keep His promises and you just can't see it, feel it or experience it and you just have to do it on your own? 

God Doesn't Need Our Help
Can I ask, does God really need your assistance? Before Pastor Kenny talked about the God matter, does God need you assistance to create light? How much did you help Him when He created Kilimanjaro and Mount McKinley and the Himalayas? How much did you help Him when He created the Atlantic, Pacific, Arctic and Indian Oceans? How much did you help Him when He made the sun, moon, stars and everything you see before yourself? Jesus is calling you today and everyday, to trust that He will fulfill God's promise. Isaac one, Rebekah one, Esau another one.. Esau is not here in our passage, but he's going to be mentioned in our next passage. Just to give you a little teaser, I think all the guys, we need to repent together. This is a little lighter now.. because we make fun of him a lot. We think that he's a brute, we think that he's a beast, we think that he's the stereotypical, "never leg day" meathead of the gym, he's the bully at school named Doyle in the movies, he's the offensive tackle on the football team who just has no though.. he's savage, ghetto, ratchet, unsanitary, all that stuff! But while we can make fun of him for an eternity's length, it's not the stereotypes of his appearances that matter, but rather his animalistic tendency to go by instinct and not by thought. He doesn't think, and therefore, he doesn't appreciate. Sadly, this is so many of  us because we live in a generation that emotionally experiences everything and we don't think through things, where there's no time to be convicted by this because it's not in our passage, so we will go to Jacob. We might think that Jacob is better than Esau, just like we might think we ourselves are better than Esau. But Jacob, for exactly Jacob, who he is, a falling being, he thinks and he is even cautious. Even in thinking, thinking itself does not save. I know our church talks about this a lot, that you can't just have emotions, there has to be thought behind the emotions and that's biblically taught and everything, but then we come up with stupid things like "I think, therefore, I must know what I'm doing." That's not true. Thinking itself does not save. Let's take a look at Jacob's thinking and our own. Jacob thinks and he's even cautious, so cautious that he knows that Esau is a hairy as a hairy situation and Jacob is as smooth as a newborn baby's skin. His father is blind and he knows his father will feel him, but Jacob, even with all this thinking, where's his thinking lead him? He did not think what it would mean for the curse to fall upon his mother, because it did. It happened. 

Selfish and Cursed
His mother's death is not mentioned, her burial, yes, in Genesis 49, but the author mentions Isaac's specific death, Rebekah's nurse's specific death, but it never mentions the death of Rebekah. If that's not convincing enough to us, worse than this, Jacob himself, after this incidence, was exiled from the family. He was exiled because when Esau learned and heard that Jacob stole his blessing, Esau wanted to kill him for stealing that blessing. So Jacob was exiled from his mother's presence and household because his mother could not bear to see him die. He was exiled from his mother's household for 20 plus years. Can you imagine what it would be like to your own mother for you to not be in her sight or presence for 20 plus years? The absence of her beloved son was death enough to Rebekah, before her death ever happened. Jacob did not think of Rebekah, Jacob did not think of Esau and the blind rage that would follow, the murderous liquid that would boil within to the melting point. The further damage he would inflict on a relationship that he already hurt when he stole Esau's birthright long ago... At least Jacob would think of his father, right? He's nursing home or retirement age? He would think of his legacy, his wishes, his respect, but while Isaac loved Esau more, Jacob did not consider his father in his weakness, old age and fragility, but he took advantage of the gullibility of his father rather than protecting him from harm and deceit. We all know, even if you're an indecent human being, we're supposed to protect blind people from deceit, from what they can't see, and yet, this is what Jacob did exactly to his father, deceive him. Jacob is good though, there is one person that he thinks of thoroughly, himself. Whereas Babe Ruth was a sultan of swat, Jacob is a sultan of selfishness. Babe Ruth hit homers out of the park, Jacob hit his father in the head with a misnomer and lied to and deceived him. Ins't it so easy to think of ourselves, so easy for me to think of myself. Why care about my family? Why care about the family that we have here in Christ? Scripture tells us that we are all Jacobs today.. deceivers. It's crazy because he is the one person in Genesis that I relate to the most, yet the last person I want to see make it. His deceit here is only the beginning of painful, yet relatable tale of a man who runs from God, who cheats God, who does everything despicable. He repents momentarily and uses God, then cries to God... In the end though, there is redemption for Jacob though. Just like Jacob, we have not thought about what is good for our mothers, but our brothers and sisters in Christ. We just don't realize that our actions that lead to our exile can cause such pain. Do you know, beloved, that many times, your actions can cause your parents, your family or this church, and really, the heart of God so much pain? We don't realize our cursed actions could impact others. We think of ourselves, not of others. The thoughtlessness that Jacob had concerning Esau is the same thoughtlessness that we have with each other. Already broken and bruised in our relationships, we can't help it.. it's easier to think about ourselves than the other person. 

He Who Knew No Sin Became Sin
While Jacob took advantage of a blind man, we take advantage of each other's blind spots. Rather than honor one another and love one another, we focus and we see how we have not been loved and not been blessed. This is why we are thieves. This is why we are robbers, why we are guilty of larceny, theft of personal property, embezzlement, everything. We are people who steal blessings for ourselves and fend for ourselves because we believe so strongly that we have not been loved, that there's not a single caring person in front of us. We, like Rebekah and Jacob, look at Isaac and focus on his blindness. "That person is foolish and blind, not me!" "That person is blind and selfish, never me!" But scripture says that we are blind like Isaac, controlling like Rebekah, instinctively emotional like Esau and thoughtfully selfish like Jacob. We act out of our selfishness because we are attempting, throughout our life, other and over to try to steal blessings that we think that we deserve. This is what scripture says: God's blessing is not taken, it is given. There's a whole book called Romans that says it's not about our works, that it's not something that we take from God, it's given by grace. It's not accomplished by our suicide, our working death, but it's a sacrifice on the part of Jesus! God's blessing is a gift, not a stolen item! It is more unfair though, than theft because we do not deserve this. Jesus died for Isaac, Rebekah and Jacob because they ultimately submitted to Him. However, regardless of their faith, Jesus went up the cross and died for them anyways. Do you know that even if you do not believe, that what Jesus did is true? Even in times when I do not believe, what Jesus did is still true? Whereas we attempt to steal blessings to avoid the curse of not being blessed in our lives, Jesus steals our curse and avoids blessing on the cross. He has stolen our curse because we would never give our sins to Him on our own. Not one of us would come up to Him and be like, "Jesus, take all my sin." The reason we wouldn't do that is because we think we are right. Jesus has stolen our curse because we would never give it to Him. We could never give it to Him, even if we tried. Only God can save and wipe away sin. Jesus has stolen our curse because we actually want to protect our way of doing things and do not want to change, rather than trust God's ways. We would rather hold on to our ways and our selfishness rather than give into God's selflessness. Jesus has also avoided all blessings on the cross. He didn't go up on the cross half and half, like half iced tea half lemonade, half blessing, half curse or anything. It was 50% curse, it wasn't 75% curse, it wasn't 98, 99%, it was 100%. Regardless of how we ever feel or doubt about it, Jesus Christ died 100% curse. He who knew no sin became sin. He who was never cursed, was hanged upon the tree of death and curses.

A Perfect Father, Mother, Brother 
It's so awful, that a historian by the name of Cicero, if I'm not getting it wrong, said that back during that day, whether you were Roman or Jewish, if you spoke the word cross, if you heard the word cross, even if you thought the word cross, go take a shower. That word was so nasty, so filthy, so despicable.. you get the point. It's Jesus Christ who went up on that cross for us. He took all our sins and curses and He's given us His righteousness and His blessings. In the end, after Jacob has tricked Isaac, Isaac says, "See, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field that the LORD has blessed! May God give you of the dew of heaven and of the fatness of the earth and plenty of grain and wine. Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may your mother's sons bow down to you. Cursed be everyone who curses you, and blessed be everyone who blesses you!" (Genesis 27: 27-29). It's crazy. Despite Isaac, Jacob, Rebekah, and Esau's sinful ways of going about things, Jacob is still blessed in the end. The book of Hebrews says that it was by faith, by God that Isaac evoked and gave the right blessings to Jacob and Esau. Do you think your sin is so great that you screwed up the blessings of God in your life? Do you think your sin is so great that the promise of God can't pertain to you anymore. Do you think your sin is etc... Wherever you're coming from, you can't do it, and your family cannot save you. During the past couple of years, we've seen that. Have you seen that? Have you seen your family members pass away, you've seen them fail? More than that, we've seen ourselves fail more than our families. But thankfully for us, God Himself is the perfect father. He is like a loving mother, Jesus Christ is the eldest brother who thinks of us before Him. So many times, it's Jesus who holds onto us and He knows His family. Jesus knows His family and He holds onto us. What are you holding on to? Is Jesus family to you? Is Jesus more of a family to you than the family that you came from? That family does not consist of anything that is born again. Only Jesus' family consists of something born again and has a truly eternally saving impact. Is God the father, Jesus Christ the son and the eldest brother, and us, adopted sons and daughters, this family is what matters to Jesus, and even in the midst of the most dysfunctionally family, Jesus picks out Isaac, Jesus picks out Rebekah, Jesus picks out even deceitful Jacob. Do you see how He's picked you out? Think about it. How did you get here to church? Think about it. How did you even come in front of God's word. Think about it. God has been loving so much and He will to the end of the age. We cannot cheat our way into heaven. I am full of lies, deceit, lots of bs, we all are. Do you know that you need accountability though, that you need a loving friend, loving pastor, brother, sister, a loving Jesus to save you from all that and to care for you and to love you? He's the truth that saves. Let's pray.