July 20, 2014

July 20, 2014
“Mediating Peace”
[Philemon 1]
Pastor Kenny Lee

As we enter into the new building, I want to talk to you about something that is close to my heart. It is something that I think God wants our church to hear. Nothing ruins a church more then bad relationships or no relationships. It tears apart a church. Culturally, the reason why many Korean folks do not like Korean churches is because church splits are extremely common. “I am sick of it pastor. I’m sick of church splits.”  Church splits happen because there is no reconciliation. Christianity is about reconciliation. It is the reason why Jesus Christ came down to earth. We weren’t reconciled with God due to our sin. Jesus Christ had to pay 100 percent of everything so that he could reconcile with us. Now we are called to reconcile as well.

[[There is no greater book than filet mignon. Just kidding, Philemon.]]

Paul writes to a dear brother Philemon from a prison in Rome. While in prison, Paul meets a guy named Onesimus from Colosse. Paul knew Philemon was from Colosse. Come to find out Onesimus is a run away slave whose master was Philemon. Before we get started I want clarify certain things about slavery back then. When we think about slavery, we think about the Civil War. Slavery was different in Biblical times. They didn’t have a robust banking system in those days. As a result when you wanted to do business and take out a loan, you would borrow money from the local rich man. In this case, it was Philemon. Onesimus borrows money from Philemon and cannot pay Philemon back.  In order to pay Philemon back, Onesimus had to become his endured servant until his debt was fully paid off. Once his debt is paid, he is free. Onesimus must have been treated unfairly or thought he was treated unfairly because he runs away without paying Philemon back. Onesimus happens to meet Paul in prison. What are the chances? That is a miracle in itself. Long story short, Onesimus starts talking with Paul and believing in Christ. Paul used Onesimus to spread the gospel, probably to write letters to other churches.

Paul writes a letter to Philemon; the letter is not just to Philemon. Paul knows that this bondservant and his master need to reconcile. Onesimus has become a new creation and now they need to reconcile. Who does Paul write to? “1To Philemon our beloved fellow worker 2and Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier, and the church in your house…” He is writing to everyone: Philemon, Apphia -probably Philemon’s wife, Archippus- a pastor, and the whole church. It is matter of Philemon and Onesimus, but the whole church is involved. Reconciliation may be about two people, but it involves the church. When two people don’t get along it is not just about those two people. You think it will be solved if they just ‘talk it out.’  It affects the whole church. Paul knows that and writes to the whole church.

Paul is an apostle. What an apostle means is that he has perfect theology. He is able to write Scripture. He writes almost half of the New Testament. The man has authority. He has more authority than I do. I read and regurgitate what he says. That is my job. Paul doesn’t use his authority with Philemon. He can, but he doesn’t. He starts off by saying, “4I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, 5because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints, 6and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.” Paul is thankful to Philemon, Apphia, Archippus, and the church. He remembers them in his prayers and hears amazing things about them. He is interested in seeing how they are doing. He desires that they grow. He is almost like a Dad towards his son. “I thank God for my son. I remember him in my prayers. I hear the amazing things that you’re doing.”  Paul’s joy was Philemon’s success. Paul’s joy was that the church and Philemon were doing well. 7For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.”  Apostle Paul doesn’t command them to reconcile but says, “8Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, 9yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you- I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus.” He would rather talk and relate to them then command them.

He goes on through this argument. He is a wonderful arguer and says, “10I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment.”  He is saying, “Do you know once we accept Christ you are born again?” Born again means you are born into a new family. He calls Onesimus his child. He acknowledges that Onesimus was a thief in the past, but wants Philemon to see that Onesimus has become born again. He writes exercising a play on words, “11(Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.}”  Onesimus means useful. Paul is saying that Onesimus is living up to his name. Let me ask you. What’s your name? What’s your identity? Do you call yourself a Christian? Are you living up to your name? Or are you living up to the name of being a good dad, a good worker, etc? That’s useless. The only thing that matters is that you are a Christian. “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and everything will be given unto you.” I know that may sound cliché, but only God is good. What God cares about is reconciliation.

Paul sends Onesimus back. “12I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart. 13I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel, 14but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord.”  Paul could have given all the reasons in the world to keep Onesimus. “He is doing amazing work for God.”  He doesn’t use that argument. I am tempted every day to use that excuse. “Honey, I am doing the work of God. You got to leave me alone. The dishes will get done somehow.” “You want me to give other people rides? No, I have to do the work of God.” You can’t use that as an excuse. “I can’t reconcile with you because I have to go to church.” I prefer you not go to church and reconcile. That’s how valuable a person is to God.

Reconciliation wasn’t just important for Philemon and Onesimus, but it was necessary for the church. Are you guys not reconciled with a person in the church? You know that you are destroying the church? I am talking about full reconciliation. “16 no longer as a bondservant but more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother- especially to me, but how much more to you both in the flesh and in the Lord.”  Can you imagine if somebody stole a whole boatload of money or embarrassed you in front of everyone? I don’t want you to hang onto that bitterness. If he comes to you I want you to forgive him and to love him. I want you to love him like you love someone so dear to your heart. Paul doesn’t say to just forgive. In verse 18, “If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account.”  We are apt to saying, “You just got to forgive.” We can’t say that. Paul is acknowledging the hurt that Onesimus caused Philemon, and is telling Philemon that he himself will pay for it. Paul is willing to be Philemon’s slave until Onesimus’ debt is paid off.

How does Paul do that? Paul sees Onesimus truly as his son. Paul is able to pay someone else’s sin. Somebody has to pay for all sin. Let me give you an example. Just say I go to your house and completely destroy your nice, new lamp. I go leaving the broken lamp. There is one person who is not able to study because they are studying in the dark. I offer to give you my functional lamp, and take the broken one from you. Somebody is paying for the price of the broken lamp. Somebody has to pay the price of sin. We have this weird sense of justice, and say things aren’t fair. “That person owes me and hurt me. That person needs to pay!” Apostle Paul realized that there is so much sin he has done. You know that yourself. If I came up to and told you that you were a sinner you would agree. Maybe some of you would get defensive, but deep down you know that you are. We sin against each other. Jesus Christ loves us so much that he identifies himself with us. Each time we sin against one other he hurts. In other words, when you sin it goes directly against Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ says to give him all those broken lamps, all those sins. He takes them on himself. At the cost of himself, he gives a new lamp, a new life to us. He took all of that. Paul knows that. Paul is saying that because Jesus Christ forgave all his sins he is able to forgive. If somebody died for you to save your life, could you risk your life for another? Yeah, you could do that. Jesus Christ took all your sins away. Could you forgive the sins of someone else? That is what Paul is saying. Paul is telling Philemon to forgive because Philemon knows the extent to which Christ saved him. And if Philemon cannot forgive Onesimus, Paul will take on his debt because he knows what Christ has done. I pray as we go into the new church that we are people whom continually seek reconciliation. We submit to God’s authority. We submit to Scripture. That is why Paul is writing to Philemon. He is telling Philemon to submit to apostolic authority and seek reconciliation. If you truly know the gospel, you will see at its heart is reconciliation.

July 13, 2014

Jude 1: 1-25
Pastor Kenny Lee

I want to talk you about the church since we are moving into a new building in two weeks. Our church is experiencing growth, which is wonderful. I say that with some hesitation because in my heart of hearts I don’t really care about how many people come in. I care about forming relationship. I am interested in raising up disciples. I am crazy about getting to know you guys more. I pray that as our church grows we never loose sight of that. This week and next week we will be talking about Scripture’s convictions about the church. I thought long and hard, I talked with Pastor Kwon and Pastor Brendon, and I did some praying about what we need. This led me to Jude.

Who is Jude? He is the half brother of Jesus. “Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James.” We know James is the half-brother of Jesus, so that makes Jude one of the brothers of Jesus. Does Jude have something to say? Yes! He is desperate. He writes with a sense of urgency. I’d like to examine his urgency. Jude 1:3, “Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” Jude would love to talk about salvation and he would love to talk about how God loves us. He would love to focus only on these pleasant things. “You wanna go hang out, yeah? Let’s talk about sports! Let’s talk about shopping! That would be great.” Trust me I would love to talk about those things. I have hung out with you guys and talked about that stuff. But, there are things urgent that you need to hear. There are subjects that need to be talked about like hell, insecurity, death, and everything leading up to these things. I’m afraid we cannot avoid these issues. If we did, I wouldn’t be doing my job. Same thing with Jude, if he does not talk about this he wouldn’t be doing his job as a Christian. Not me just as a pastor, not Jude as one of the apostles, just as Christians we wouldn’t be doing our job.

What’s the urgency? “4For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” Certain people are coming to the church, including the leadership of the church, and are perverting the grace of God into sensuality. Back in those days and even now we hear, “There is freedom in Christ. We don’t have to keep up with those ten laws. God saved us once and for all. Jesus Christ died for all our sins- past, present, and future. It’s all right. We can do whatever we want.” Jude is asking, “Is that the reason Jesus Christ died?” These people who are infiltrating the church are perverting the grace of God into whatever they want. They were denying Jesus Christ. In other words, they were using Jesus Christ, and weren’t submitting under the teaching of Jesus Christ. They were taking advantage of God’s grace and setting aside God’s authority- picking and choosing whatever they like. Jude is talking about the leaders, but this applies to you too. You need to listen. You need to wake up. Jude is telling you that. I don’t care where you are in your spiritual walk. If you don’t have a spiritual walk, then you have issues. If you don’t have a spiritual walk I’d like to ask, why are you here? You’re not here because everything is going right in your life. The only reason why you are is because there is something not right in your life. “Oh well, my mom and dad forced me.” Yeah, there’s something not right because your mom and dad forced you to come. There is a reason why you’re here. For that reason alone, listen. I’m telling you, I’m not speaking out of my own authority. Just to prove it to you look at these words with me. Why is Jude talking to everyone here? If you are a Christian, you know that Jesus Christ is your Savior and saved you. Jude is reminding you, “5Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. 6And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day- 7just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, served as example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.” Why does Jude write something like this? Even though you come to church, doesn’t mean you’re a Christian. Your salvation has nothing to do with whether your mom or dad is on church leadership. Just because you’re a pastor that doesn’t mean you’re saved. There are many pastors and church members in this world that are not going to make it. Don’t assume that. Jude is talking about this. Right now this is #realtalk. 

What are the marks of these kinds of people? There has to be some tell tale signs. Jude gives them. In verse 8, “Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. 9But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you.’ But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively.” In our culture we see that as a reality. “I had a dream about you yesterday. Are you okay? God gave me a dream telling me you shouldn’t do this or that.” They go by their emotions and feelings. They somehow think that their feelings and emotions are okay. Don’t get me wrong emotions are not bad. God gave you these emotions. I’m an emotional guy. If I see a sad tale I might water up a little bit here and there. If you are led by your emotions and they guide your thoughts and actions, that’s not good. You hang out with your buddy 24/7 and it feels good, but it just ain’t good for you. Staying up late watching Youtube, it’s pretty pleasurable for some, but it ain’t good the next day when you have to go to school. They think that this flesh belongs to them somehow. If you are a Christian that means Jesus Christ owns you. Wake up! A lot of young people have pursuits of being a professional. I hope you get what you want. I would love to see your face then, because you’ll notice that it will be a bitter disappointment. Yesterday I saw a TED talk of this guy who wanted to tell you about your purpose in life. He graduated from Yale and had just gone to a 20th annual reunion. He had talked to his classmates and 80 percent of them were unhappy. All his classmates had their first career, second career, multiple houses, the perfect spouse, etc. At the end of it those classmates said, “I’m past midlife and I’m unhappy.” These people rely on their dreams and defile the flesh. They reject authority. They somehow think they know. They reject people God has placed in their life. They are contending with the devil. Eventually what happens is that they blaspheme God Himself, the ultimate authority. David Helm in his book says, “The message is clear when we succumb to the temptation of this world we find ourselves living however we like. We reject authority. We hate being told what to do. We won’t obey.” Look, I can’t force you to do anything. I’m a pastor. My job is to bless you, but I can’t bless you until you allow it.

C.S. Lewis in his book The Screwtape Letters writes about a senior demon talking to a junior demon. Uncle Screwtape talks to the younger demon and says, “Indeed, the safest road to hell is the gradual one. The gentle slopes, softer underfoot, without sudden turning, without milestone, without signpost… you’re affectionate Uncle Screwtape.” Do you know what that means? C.S. Lewis is saying the path to hell is very gradual. “It’s okay you don’t have to come to church on Sunday.” “You can skip Bible study.” “Yeah, those people are mean, you’re right.” “You don’t have to try, relax.” “You don’t feel like going, it’s just one Bible study.” These kinds of thoughts are infectious. That’s the reason why Jude writes this letter. These people are dangerous. We are dangerous!  In verse 12, “These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead uprooted.” We have love feasts every week. A love feast is fellowship. Jude is saying that these people are “hidden reefs”. When a ship hits a bunch of reefs, they catch the ship and put holes into it taking down the whole ship. He also describes them as “waterless clouds.” What’s so bad about waterless clouds? If you lived in the Sahara Dessert a waterless cloud would be the worst. You see the cloud in the sky, but in the end it is useless. You’re still looking for rain. These people are useless. They are like fruitless trees. Jude is reminding them that these people are in their midst. They are bold in their teaching. They are only concerned about themselves.

Jude is saying that they will be judge. I get a little scared when I see that. Jude is talking about leaders. I really think Jude is talking about Christians, because all Christians are leaders. Do you know that? All Christians are called to disciple. You are included in this. Listen! In verse 14 it says that God will judge, “It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied saying, ‘Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, 15 to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”  Who are these people? They are grumblers. They are never satisfied. They complain all the time. They are malcontent. I know around this time people are coming to your mind. Get that out of your head. The person I want you to see is your face. Take a selfie. I want you to picture yourself. “16following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouth boasters..” “Oh Look at me, I’m smart and amazing.” Stop doing that. Can we do that for you? Can you let the church brag about you? They show favoritism. In other words, they form cliques. You know why? They are so insecure. They have to feed themselves somehow. It’s so prominent that we have movies about it, Mean Girls. They have a genre of this because it’s so prominent. Their insecurities make them boast about themselves. Jude tells you to remember, “17But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  He is telling us to listen and remember the words of Scripture, the words of God. Lean not on your own understanding or emotions. Here is the way it doesn’t work. In the world, our emotions, dreams, and desires lead our actions, which forms our thinking. Scripture tells you to look at what God wants you to do and think about it. “God loves me so much that he would send his one and only Son to die for me.” You see how emotional that can be. What if somebody loved you so much that he would die for you? That has to cause some kind of emotion. It is your thinking about God and what He has done that causes your emotions to overflow and act. It is the very opposite of what the world tells you to do. Obey the word of the Lord. Stop leaning on your own thinking. God places leaders and people over your life. 

In verse 18, “They said to you, ‘In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” That’s not a surprise. God knows that there will be scoffers who do what they want. He knows what they will chase after. Does that describe you? Probably. Because of that I’m telling you they are divisions. There are people who are for God and are against God. “19It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.” Yet, Jude says this, “20But you, beloved building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. 22And have mercy on those who doubt; save other by snatching them out of the fire; to other show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.” In one word this all means to work. I understand in our theological position, in our reformed theology of “once saved always saved”, we might think we don’t have to do anything. That’s not what Jude is saying. He is saying to work towards your salvation. I am 43 years old. I hit middle-aged. I can’t believe it. I feel like I was 20 yesterday. I have lived half of my life. It goes quick. You think you are going to stay young? Most of y’all lived a quarter of your life and you don’t even remember it. Judgment is coming quickly. Wake up! You have to work. But Jude is saying “beloved build yourselves up.” It’s an urgent plea.

My dear beloved CCC, build yourselves up, keep yourselves in the love of God, wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.” You see those action words. Faith requires action. Obey. Build. Keep yourselves. Wait. Be patient. Have Mercy. We read “have mercy on those who doubt” and think we should all be nice, and become so tolerant to a fault. There are times when you have mercy. They are times when you look at a person and snatch them up because they are doing something so harmful for them. They are times when you show mercy with fear. “You better do it because you’re going to hell. You better obey because judgment is coming.” You even hate the garments stained by the flesh. How do we gage that? You have to know them and build a relationship with them. That takes love and wisdom.

I don’t want to leave you with just this and Jude doesn’t either. Jude redeems his status as the nice guy by saying one of the most beautiful words in all of Scripture, “24Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen” He ends with a glorious word. Do you know that Jesus is able to keep you from stumbling? He is the Christ. He will present us to God as blameless. He will do that with great joy. How is Jesus Christ able to do this? When you have a relationship with Christ, you know that he died for you? He didn’t die for everyone. He died for you by name. He elected you by name. Come back. Are you ruled by Him? If you believe, you’ll submit and trust. He will keep you from stumbling. He will present you as blameless. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to His authority.

July 6, 2014 Exodus 40:33-38

July 6, 2014
"Traveling With God"
[Exodus 40:33-38]
Pastor Brendon Wu

If you look at the verses in our passage today, there is a lot of talk about traveling. For example, in verse 36 it’s talking about the Israelites throughout their journey. Whenever the cloud of God was over the tabernacle and then the people would set out and move with the tabernacle. That’s when the people would continue journeying. In verse 37 there’s a “but”. I love “but”’s come up in scripture because it helps emphasize something. In verse 37 it said, “But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out till the day that it was taken up.” So if the cloud wasn’t over the tabernacle, they would not continue their travel. So in this whole thing, it talks about when the people would set out and when they would not set out. When God is ready to go, the Israelites are ready to go. When God wasn’t ready to go, the Israelites would stay put. In all their traveling, the Israelites weren’t deciding for themselves what they should do or where they should go. But they were extremely dependent upon God.

When I examined this, I was so touched by how Moses and the people were so patient in just waiting on God. They were so dependent on Him. When I thought about that in comparison to my life, initially I wanted to say, “Yes, I wait upon the Lord. I look to Him for what I should do in my life”. But the more and more I thought about it, that’s not naturally who I am. In our world, we are taught to be independent. As we grow older, somehow becoming an adult means that you’re independent. If you’re not independent, you’re still a kid. You’re still a child. That’s looked down upon in our society. As we grow older, we see that independence involves getting a drivers license, the right to vote, drinking alcohol at age 21. You get so many different privileges and eventually we leave our nests. We are expected to make it on our own. I’m not saying that making your own living is a bad thing. These privileges are good things. But I think we have an unhealthy mentality that it’s about us and taking care of ourselves. We apply this to everything in our lives. We are so self-sufficient and independent that when we go through troubles or hard times, it’s seems as a weakness to actually share those things with people. It’s seen as a bad thing to share those things with people. But throughout the Israelites’ travels, when the people looked to themselves and fashioned a golden calf, things are bad. But the times when the people cried out to God and shared their weakness with God, they knew they needed help and couldn’t do it on their own – that’s when things have been good in the Israelites’ lives. They knew they are not independent but dependent.

Consideration for God
I just thought it was so fitting that the author of Exodus would close out talking about God’s glory and how people are just waiting. In verse 33 it said,  And he erected the court around the tabernacle and the altar, and set up the screen of the gate of the court. So Moses finished the work.” They finally set up the tabernacle that God had instructed them to make. In the following verses in 34-38, which are the last verses of the book of Exodus, it doesn’t seem like the people are doing anything. The cloud covered the tent of meeting and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle – a kind of “heaven on earth” where God’s presence dwelled. In verse 35 it said, “And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.” It is amazing how much consideration Moses has for God. If I had to summarize this whole sermon in one word, it would the idea of “consideration”. Moses really considers who God is. He doesn’t tell God that it’s time to go. It doesn’t even seem like he asked God when it was time to go. But instead Moses is not making the focus all about Himself but on God. As He is outside the tent of meeting waiting on God, scripture shows that he couldn’t enter the tent of meeting because Moses knew that because God’s presence is so holy – completely different from all people on earth – that he would die if he entered.

God considers His people
Moses is so considerate of God. And yet in that relationship, God is also considerate of Moses. This almighty God – who shouldn’t have to think about anyone except for Himself, is also considerate of Moses. He has a purpose for Moses. He has a purpose for the Israelites. When I saw this, I saw how God really considers each and every single one of us - every person that He’s made in His image. He considered the people so much that He decided to dwell on earth. Before this, it never said that God dwelled on Earth unless you look back at the Garden of Eden. But even at the Garden where God shared a community with Adam and Eve, they sinned against God. Adam and Even abandoned God. They rebelled against God. God did not rebel abandon them. And ever since then, God never made a dwelling on Earth. But now He decides to make His dwelling on Earth among the Israelites that don’t deserve to be considered by Him. But He decides to travel with them. He decides to have a relationship with them.

What I saw in all this is that even when God has such a consideration for His people, the people just do not consider God. They did not think – “Wow God, it must have took a lot for you to split the Red Sea for us so that we could escape from Egypt. It must have took some kind of thought for you to think out ten plagues that would really push Pharaoh to let us go. It really took creativity for you to create manna and make it float out of the sky for us to eat. How did you make water come out of a rock?” The people were not considerate of God throughout Exodus. And yet God was faithfully and continually considering them. That pierced me a lot.

What I want to us to ask ourselves is – do we love the destination more than God sometimes? Are we just trying to get somewhere? A lot of times in the Israelites’ mind, they are just trying to get to the Promise land. Trying to get to a happy place, a secure place. They are not okay with uncomfortable situations. We see that the people grumble and complain. There is little thankfulness. What I love about God is how, He’s not focusing so much on somewhere He needs to go. Or some kind of great achievement that He needs to unlock. But in all of God’s workings, in all of God’s activities, He seems to look at us and say – “This is who I want to be with for eternity.” He’s focusing on the relationship. He’s considering the relationship more than anything else.

For myself, when I’m not doing spiritually well a lot of times, I see my mind drift off of people. I start to think about other things. Sometimes I care about soccer more than then people I’m playing with. I see myself think more about basketball more than the people I’m playing with. When we are not doing spiritually well, we tend to focus on things other than the people we are traveling with, journeying with. So what happens is, our consideration and care for other people go out the window. We start to hang out with people only because we want to see them same movie. Or we want to eat the same food, or go to the same concert, etc. But in all of God’s workings, the reason why God wants to spend time with people is because they are His people. They are made in His image. These are people with emotions, feelings, minds, souls. It’s more than just the activity that they are partaking in.

As I thought about how Moses and the Israelites are really considerate of God, I wondered if anything changed throughout the Bible. If Christ the word of God Himself became flesh, wouldn’t the people become even more considerate of God? Because He took everything to become a person. And when I saw this, the people were even less considerate. Sometimes the disciples of Jesus would think about, “What’s our glory?”. Thinking about what serves them, thinking about their own popularity. Thinking about their own success. There’s a part in Mark 9: 33 - 37, where it talks about Jesus Christ’s ministry. Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem. He’s on His way to die on the cross. And He tells the disciples that. He tells them that the leaders would He taken, flogged, taken up on the cross, and then finally raised on the third day. He tells the disciples this, to let them know what is the most important thing, how much He loves them. And Jesus told them this one, twice, three times. But even after the third time, the disciples did not understand what He was saying and started asking among themselves, “Who is the greatest? Rabbi, when you ascend into power, who is going to be able to sit at your right hand and left hand?” How did Jesus respond? “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” He tells them that, it’s not about considering ourselves. If we consider ourselves, we’ll lose everything. We’ll think about what we want, what we care about. And we’ll lose the most important thing, which is a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Let’s say that I was about to die and I shared with some of the men about it. What if one them asked, “Hey, can I get your car?” Or another person said, “Can I get your clothes?”. Or another person asked, “Can I get your books?” I would be like, did you not just hear what I said? I’m going to die soon. It would be a total slap to the face. A lot of times we think about what Jesus can do for us. Not what we are supposed to do for Jesus Christ. A lot of times, when we envision salvation, we think of it as God giving us rest. But then last week Pastor Kenny discussed how work is actually good. We should actually work for rest. Let’s say you slept for 36 hours. What would you do with your time after that? That’s probably where your God is. The same goes for this. If God considered us so much, that He would lay down His son to take care of all of our problems, and in 36 hours God took care of all of our problems and sin – what would we do after that? Everything is taken care of by Jesus Christ who considers us. Would we just sit back and say, “Let me just sit on my couch. Look at that, I’m saved by grace!” I don’t see a difference between that and just turning on the T.V. There’s no affect. No transformation of the heart. The fact that the almighty God would consider us, means that there has to be some kind of consideration in return. Not because it’s a religion. Not because we need to work for our salvation for pay God back. But because it’s a relationship. How does a husband, who does everything for his wife (or vice versa) – how can the other person just sit back and say – “Wow, the grace of God. I’m so blessed”. Let me ask – have you been sitting on your laurels? Have you been just thinking about what you want to do? When you wake up, do you just think about what you want to do? Or have you thought – “God, you consider me even today. You did everything for me in Jesus Christ. How can I serve you? How can I serve other people?

God considers you
What I want to close with is a passage from Philippians 2: “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” I want to emphasize how amazing that first verse is. If there is any comfort, any encouragement, any relationship that you have in the spirit, any affection and sympathy being shown to you – that says as a fact of the matter, that God considers you. That God cares about you. Was there a person in your life that asked, “How are you?” Is there a person in your life that took the time to go through some struggles with you? I recently shared this with some of you – I think for a long time and I am still going through this – a lot of times I would think about my own problems and my own issues. I would think about how I lack passion to serve God. I see a lack of motivation in my heart. “God, I just don’t know how to serve you or teach this Bible study. Or how to care for this person in my life”. It took people in this church to point out to me that, all these problems are just about myself. Even in my problems, even in my issues, I was looking to my own interests. Where’s my passion? Where’s my motivation? Where’s my this.. and my that? I didn’t look to the interests of God. I didn’t look to how interested, considerate, gracious God was being to me. I just shared that with you because – if you feel like you are struggling in any kind of way, it can’t just remain on you. We have to go to Christ together – all of us. And what I love in Philippians is that it doesn’t just say, “Yea, you have to consider others more than yourselves. You’re designed to do that. Just figure out a way to do that.” But after that, it talks about Jesus Christ. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,[a]who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[b] being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Moses and the Israelites dwelled outside the physical tent where God dwelled in. Exodus says over and over again that the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. That is the most glorious thing the Israelites could look at. But for us we have something even more glorious. We’re supposed to look at Jesus Christ who looked not only to his own interests but looked to the interests of us. He didn’t consider Himself but He considered us more. And that was how His joy was complete. He chose to die on the cross for God and for us. After Christ died, God exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name above all names. And Jesus Christ died on the cross for us. For our sins. For our concerns. So if we realize that, we’re not left it just – “Man, I have to figure it out on my own. I have to figure out how to be considerate on my own.” But as a community, let’s learn together how to consider each others’ interests above ourselves. And I just want to end with a verse from Romans 8:34. “Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” Even today, God is considering us. God is considering our families, our friendships. He is considering each and every single one of us. If the most amazing person, most powerful, most perfect person in the world is just even thinking about us for a little bit, wouldn’t that give us the courage and the passion and the excitement to want to love this God and get to know Him more. As we’re moving into the new church and starting a new chapter, continuing our travels with God, we have to remember that it’s all about Jesus Christ. Because He is the focus. It’s such an amazing thing to be considered by this perfect person.


June 22, 2014

Exodus 34:1-35
“A New Chance”
Pastor Brendon Wu

The main reason why this sermon is called “A New Chance” is because God is giving the Israelites a new chance. He is giving them a new start in this chapter. So far in the book of Exodus, we saw how God’s people, the Israelites, were in slavery and bondage to Egypt. God heard their cries for mercy, freed them, and rescued them in what is known as the Exodus. As God is leading the Israelites through the desert, God was faithful to them at all times. When they needed water, God gave them water. When they became hungry, God gave them manna and quail. When they needed shelter, God provided shelter for them. God provided everything for them. Yet, even though the Israelites weren’t in slavery anymore, internally they were still in slavery. They were enslaved to their own desires, temptations, and thinking. Lately, as I’ve been thinking more about us, our church, we are each still facing a lot of temptations. Our thinking is not quite in sync with God’s thinking. Maybe you believe that you think perfectly just like God. Let me know and I will come talk with you and see how that is possible. To my knowledge and in my experience so far I haven’t met anyone who thinks perfectly like God. The word of God is that amazing and that perfect.

Exodus 34 is the conclusion to a certain section in Exodus where God’s people had rebelled against God. When Moses went up to the top of Mt. Sinai to commune with God for 40 days and 40 nights, two million Israelites panicked at the foot of the mountain. They panicked because they didn’t know whether Moses was going to come back down or not. They thought, “God is gone and Moses is gone. Let’s just make an idol of sorts, a substitute god.” God found out about this- I mean He already knew. He knows everything. When God found out He was extremely upset- not because He is this angry, raging person, or that He expects everyone to blindly follow Him without emotions and do everything to the t.  But because God had entered into a relationship, where He called the Israelites His people. He called Himself their God, and they agreed to this relationship. Anyone here who’s been in a two-way relationship can somewhat relate to what it’s like when people go back on their word and break a friendship like that. Here in Exodus 34, we have what is called a covenant renewal, or in other words, God is renewing the relationship or agreement that He made with the people. Basically, God is giving the people a new chance. Today, what I want to concentrate on is the back end of chapter 34. It talks about how when Moses was talking with God, every single time he came back to the Israelites his face was shining and glowing. The only time I’ve seen people’s faces glow is after they talk with their crush. Be careful because if I see you and your face glows, I am going to look at the last person you talked with and I will assume that’s your crush. That works about 80 percent of the time. I’ve tested it before. This isn’t like that, maybe a tiny bit similar. We are going to concentrate on the question, why is Moses’ face glowing? Why did he have to wear a veil? Before we study Moses’ shining face I want us to note how there is something really amazing at the beginning of Exodus 34.

In the first verse God says to Moses, “Cut for yourself two sets of tablets of stone like the first, and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke.” When Moses came down the mountain after meeting with God, he saw the Israelites rebelling against God. He was so upset that he took the two tablets (the Ten Commandments) and broke them. Scripture says that he threw the tablets out of his hands and they broke at the foot of the mountain. I was kind of thinking that he broke them over his knee, but that is stupid because he’s an old man. He would have broken his knee. Anyway, he threw it and the tablets were destroyed at the bottom of the mountain. God here is giving the people a second chance, and is saying, “These two tablets, where I gave you these Ten Commandments on how to have a relationship with me and any person in this whole world, I will rewrite them for you on two new tablets.” What do this mean for us when God gives us a new chance? If we ever had a relationship with someone where we were really good buddies with them, that relationship seems perfect and spotless at the beginning. I picture Wizard of Oz style where you are frolicking down a path together and everything is really good. You and your homie be balling, and they never hurt you so you will always pass the ball to them. Or that girl never hurt you, so one purse for her and one purse for you. Everything is just perfect. Is that not what happens? But it’s not like the first moment you sin against that person your relationship is done or will never be the same. We always think in terms like that. “My relationship will never be the same or my life will never be the same. It will never be the same because I did x, y, and z in my life.” In human terms, not just Christian terms, we call that regret. Lately as I’ve been a part of this church and we’ve been fellowshipping together, I’ve been realizing that whatever age we are we have a sense of regret. I’m not sure about middle/high school, you guys have not admitted your regret to me yet; I’m still waiting. For those of us who are older than middle/high school, we share about our regrets. We share about, “Man, I wish I studied harder in high school. I would have gotten into a better college, but I didn’t do that so I got into this college. Then when I was in this college I squandered the opportunity to study well. I wish I could have gotten into this grad school, but now that I’m in grad school I have active regret.” It’s a frustrating thing. I think a lot of you can relate to me because when you mention things like that to me I can definitely relate to you. Whether we are in 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, I think there is always a sense of regret. “I wish this part of my life could have gone better.”

What I think is so amazing is that if we took the time to look throughout this whole chapter, God doesn’t view it like that. There is still something called redemption that is greater than regret. God’s relationship with us is not worse than before just because we’ve discovered more sin or we have sinned more against God or one another. It’s not like our relationship is becoming worse. Actually, in Christianity as we discover more mistakes and more weaknesses about us, it is supposed to bring us closer to God. In this chapter, what I am wrestling with is this idea that if I add up all my failures, all my weaknesses, and all my sins, those things haven’t tarnished my life. Those are things God has paid for, with His very life. God never made a mistake. God intrinsically possessed no weaknesses but he became a human being, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for every sin and every mistake- everything that we shouldn’t have done or should have done. God set up all that through Jesus Christ, His one and only Son. When it comes to a relationship with God, it’s not like, “God I failed you in 2006 and because of that my life will never be the same. My relationship with You will never be the same.” Instead, because of those failures and because of those weaknesses we see how Jesus Christ has saved us from those things. If we realize the grace and the forgiveness God has shown in light of these regrets it deepens our relationship with Him. There is a more intimate relationship with God. There is a more precious, more thankful, more grateful, more praise inducing relationship with God. It’s not like that old mentality we had with our homie or girl. These bad things that happen, that God helps to reconcile over, they make the relationship better. When I look at the relationship between the Israelites and God in Exodus 34, the relationship is actually better than it was three chapters ago. I see that theologically. When I look at my own life and whether I believe that or not, I can’t help but think what that one father in the gospels prayed, where he said to Jesus, “Jesus, I believe, but help my unbelief.” Do you feel like that? Are you like that? “Jesus, I believe, but help my unbelief.”

How does Moses’ shining face relate to what I just talked about? Remember the dumb analogy that I mentioned ten minutes ago about if you talk with your crush recently then your face glows? Throughout most of the chapter God tells Moses what the covenant and their relationship is supposed to be like, and it’s even better than before. At the end of Exodus 34, in verse 29 we see that Moses comes down from Mt. Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony, and his face is glowing. Moses himself didn’t know that his own face was shining, in the same way that a lot of us don’t know after a moment with a crush that our face is shining. Unless it’s really red cause you can feel it, but if it’s shining you don’t know it. Other people have to tell you it’s shining, it’s very Biblical because other people have to tell you. You can’t know that you’re shining. Moses doesn’t know his face is shining. All the other people know. Aaron can see it, the leaders can see it, and the people can see it. Scripture says that they were afraid to come near him. The reason why they were afraid to come near him is because when Moses was communing and having a relationship with God, the effect of God’s glory caused Moses face to shine. I wish I could say so much about this, but when we really look at the passage here it doesn’t explain too much about how the shining works. We know that Moses didn’t get to see God’s face because if he saw God’s face, God’s perfection holiness would kill him. Moses just saw His back. You see God’s back and your face will shine. That is as Biblical and safe as I can put it. We know that it was the effect of Moses being in a relationship with God. I think what is amazing here is we have Scripture elsewhere that talks about things related to this. Moses saw God or at least his back. There is someone else who saw God more intimately than Moses that was Jesus Christ. In John 1:18, it says that, “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, He has made Him known.” In other words, no one has ever seen God except for the one who is at God’s side. That is Jesus Christ, God’s very Son. This is like us in a sense that a lot of us here think there isn’t more to God or we are starting to experience a lot of boredom. We are starting to experience a lot of, “I think I keep hearing the same things over and over again. Is there anything more or new to God?” What God says is there is so much more and new to God. Moses face shown, but even that didn’t show the full glory of who God was. Instead, it wasn’t enough for just Moses to have a relationship with God, but when he came down he had to instruct and encourage the people to have a relationship with God. In Christianity, we always have to have a first hand experience and relationship with God. We are learning about God. We are hearing from other people what God is like. But we have to have a first hand experience with God. We can’t say that we know everything.

There is this one pastor and theologian from long ago, his name is Jonathan Edwards. To paraphrase this example that he used, he gave an example where he is talking about honey. I’ve been talking about honey a lot I don’t know why. I’ve been using it in my complements too. But, to put it in modern day lingo Edwards was saying, “Man, what you know about honey? You don’t know about honey! You think you know about honey. You don’t know. What do you know about the sweetness of honey?” He is saying that you can study about honey, you can look at honey, you can be in the same room as honey, you can read about it, you can look it up on the Internet, and watch Youtube videos about it. But unless honey passes through your lips, touches your tongue, and enters the vicinity of who you are, you don’t know what honey is. That is the kind of relationship God wants with us. With the word of God it can’t be something that touches just our ears, eyes, and mind. It has to be something that enters us. It is in a relationship with God where we admit to God, and know for ourselves that we know far from everything. I think a lot of times in our culture we feel like we know about something, but we really don’t. Meaning people will share about an experience with missions, and we will think that we know what going on missions is like because we have been on four short-term missions. That person who is talking about mission has been on missions for five years, and we don’t know what that is like. There is so much more to God then we realize.

To conclude everything that is going on here, I want to read a passage from 2 Corinthians 3. It will really put a nice wrapping to what is going on with Moses’ shining face. I will be reading verses here and there. It says,

7Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was brought to an end, 8will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? 9For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. 10Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. 11For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory. 12Since we have such hope, we are very bold, 13 not like Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. 14But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

Okay, that was a lot to process all at once. What this 2 Corinthians passage is explaining and fulfilling is what is happening with Moses. There is a reason why he put the veil over his face. It is because as time went on the radiance of Moses’ face from being with God for 40 days and 40 nights began to fade away slowly. He didn’t want the Israelites to be discouraged by that. He didn’t want the Israelites to look at his face and be like, “Your face is shining and full of God and that is what we are going to put our hope in.” The reason why he put a veil over his face is so that the people would not put their hope in him. What apostle Paul is saying in 2 Corinthians is that the old ways are old and we have a new way. We don’t have a person named Moses who goes up a mountain for 40 days and 40 nights and comes back down to tell us what to do. Instead we have Jesus Christ, who came down from heaven to earth, died on the cross. Moses never did that. Jesus died on the cross and rose again from the dead. When He went back to heave His spirit came down. More then just two tablets, or a pillar of fire or a cloud, His spirit lives in us and because of that we are a new creation. We always have the spirit of God. With Moses his face would just shine a little bit from being in the physical presence of God. With us, our relationship with God is dependent on the Holy Spirit and upon God’s word. Therefore, our trust is entirely on God and in His spirit. It is never dependent on anything else. It is never dependent on what we did in the past, what we do today, or what we do in the future. It is not dependent on your job, your career, your family, or your health. It is not dependent on any of those things. Scripture itself says to put a veil on that, just like Moses put a veil on his own face so the Israelites wouldn’t trust in that momentary experience, but instead to trust in the eternal God. All things in this world are fading except for Christ. That is the present reality.

To finish with this, I visited my dad for the past few days. Truth be told it was very challenging. Some of you might think I am a blind guy. How many times have I seen my dad, especially in the past three years? We see each other about once a month. This past week I’ve started to finally see his weakness, his fragility. I remember growing up; I wanted to beat him in arm wrestling. In fourth grade I failed.  In fifth grade I failed.  In sixth grade I looked to puberty, but still failed. In seventh grade I joined the track team and math club, still failed. In eighth I grade failed.  In ninth grade I saved my self-esteem. My dad was a really strong guy. Now days I don’t want to arm-wrestle him. I think there is huge part of me that has to realize he is growing old. He is looking to me for help. He is depending on me. Without Jesus Christ, we can’t love people in this world because all things without Christ are fading. All these things except Christ are not held up on its own. All things are momentary. All things are temporary. I don’t care how much you tell yourself, or God that some joy or bliss you’re receiving out of your job, girlfriend or boyfriend is going to last forever, it won’t. God who is eternal says that it is a fading glory compared to Christ. If you want true happiness and true completion, you have to go to Jesus Christ. Everything else in this world is fading. Jesus Christ desires to be the light of the world. He desires to be a light for us -a radiance, a completion that will never fail. If we have Jesus Christ, we can look at our dad’s, our mom’s, and one another and not feel crushed by the burdens we are struggling with. Instead we can know it is not up to us. We can take these burdens that people are sharing with us and place them on Christ. In that not only can that other person be saved, but we also can be saved. We won’t have to save people. Jesus Christ saves people.