Sermon Summary • April 23, 2017
Mark 5:1-20 • Pastor Chris Liu
After Jesus and His disciples crosses the Sea of Galilee, they came to a town called Gerasenes where they were met by a man who was demon possessed. If we cross-reference The Gospel of Matthew, we find out that there were actually 2 demon possessed men, but Mark and Luke only focused on the main demoniac.
The demoniac fell on his knees before Jesus, and the demons inside of the man begged Jesus not to torture them because He was going to cast them out of these men. What we see here is that these demons recognized who Jesus was. He was the Son of God and He has authority over them.
The demons asked Jesus not to cast them out of the country. If we cross-reference Luke, we find out that they were afraid of Jesus casting them into “the abyss”. This is a place (according to Rev. 20 and Jude 1) where demons are exiled. Jesus actually has mercy on them and allowed them to go into a herd of pigs instead. Jesus casts out the legion of demons from the men and the demons go into the herd of pigs and they run off the cliff and drowned.
What we see next is something amazing! These men have been completely transformed. They are in their right mind, clothed, no longer hurting themselves, and free from the demons that were tormenting them. When the townspeople came to see what happened, they were afraid of Jesus and asked Him to leave. So, Jesus and His disciples left. Jesus tells the previously demon possessed men to go tell others what He has done for them and they do so, and many people were amazed.
There are two main takeaways from this passage. First, Jesus has the authority to free us from our sins. We as Christians cannot be demon-possessed, but we do have our addictions, idols, and sins that can bind us and keep us from fully following after Christ. The great news is that Jesus can free us from those chains.
Secondly, we need to go and tell others of what He has done for us. We might not have a dramatic story (like being freed from demons), but that shouldn’t stop us from sharing about what Christ has done for us. We just need to tell others about His love for us and that in itself is a powerful witness that can be exactly what someone needs to here. God wants to use you so share your story with those around you!
Sermon Summary – April 16, 2017
Mark 4:35-41 • Pastor Tim Tseng
Main Point: “God is bigger than the boogie man, He’s bigger than Godzilla and the monsters on TV. God is bigger than the boogie man, he’s watching out for you and me.” — Bob the Tomato to Junior
Happy Easter! The Lord is Risen!
Thanks to all who participated in and helped out with Good Friday service. God has blessed us with gifted worship leaders. During Easter, let us renew our faith and our confidence in Jesus Christ!
Let’s Cross to the Other Side (Mark 4:35-36, NLT)
Jesus finished giving his disciples some basic training. He had been teaching the crowds with stories that were hard to understand. So Jesus explained the meanings of the parables to his disciples.
Jesus now wanted to go to a region called the Decapolis (i.e., ten Greek cities) on East side of the Lake of Galilee. He is ready to minister to Greek-speaking Gentiles. We’ll find out more about this next
The disciples’ fear
What do you think was going on in the minds of Jesus disciples? I’m not certain they felt fully confident in Jesus as their leader and Messiah. After all, right after Jesus appointed them to be disciples, he was challenged and attacked by his family and the scribes. They accused him of out of his mind and even possessed. His family tried to get him under control out of fear of embarrassment while the respected religious leaders dismissed him as a spawn of Satan. So a huge question was whether “Jesus was credible.” [Mark 3:20-35] Jesus answered that a “divided household” cannot win; Jesus’ family is those who do God’s will.
But that gave little comfort because is Jesus’ movement was so small and so few people understood him [Mark 4:1-34] Was Jesus promise of the Kingdom of God big enough to change the world? Jesus answered that the disciples were to cultivate good soil, or, the kingdom of God, and that they should be confident that God will provide the growth. The kingdom of God will inevitably flourish even though it may start small. Well, the evidence still seemed a bit flimsy. And now,,,
Jesus was sound asleep, apparently, and without a care in the world (Mark 4:37-39a). They shook him awake: “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” It seemed that their worst fears were confirmed: Jesus was crazy and unreliable! It was a mistake to follow him. Jesus was going get us all killed!
What are your fears? Are they so strong that Jesus gets discounted, ignored, or dismissed? I’m guessing that most of our fears are focused on this life – on this side of eternity. Such as fear of failure, disappointment, and death. Unresolvable conflicts or relationship impasses. And Jesus doesn’t really matter during the storms of your life because he only matters for us in heaven or in the afterlife.
Where is Jesus in the midst of life’s storms? Is he sleeping? Sleeping is symbolic of death – so is Jesus dead and buried in our lives, like he was after Good Friday?
I admit that I’ve been scared recently. When people think I’m misleading our community; when people distrust my leadership; indeed, the current storm at Canaan’s English Ministry where I am being called into question are all very frightening and uncomfortable. The ship is casting about, tossed around by conflict. Water is getting into the boat. All my life in ministry, I’ve sought to encourage God’s people to be missional, be prepared for a world that is rapidly changing and challenging Christian faith. Yet, a stubborn resistance to be faithful to the way of Jesus became a life-threatening storm. Through it all, Jesus appears to be sleeping.
Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?
But then Jesus woke up. He rebuked the wind and commanded the waves to be silent; to be still! (Mark 4:39b-41). And suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm.
Then Jesus turned to his disciples, almost scolding them: “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” At this point, I realized that the opposite of faith is not necessarily doubt. The opposite of faith is fear. Fear of uncertainty, fear of the loss of control of which death is the ultimate loss of control. Fear is the inability to trust anyone else other than yourself. It is the inability to have faith in someone else. It is what causes churches and families to tear each other apart.
So despite spending a significant amount of time with Jesus, the disciples still found it difficult to fully trust him. And instead of winning their trust, Jesus’ demonstration of authority and power over the storms sent the disciples into absolute terror. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!”
The disciples may have been afraid of the storm, but now they were terrified about Jesus. They may have had doubts about Jesus. Even though he healed people and cast out demons. Even though he promised to bring the Kingdom of God. But now he has demonstrated that he is even bigger than all that.
Can we trust Jesus now – in this life?
It comes full circle: can we trust Jesus when we really know who he is – God incarnate? Can we trust Jesus in the storms of this life when it is easier to trust him to save our souls and bring us to eternal life. Can we have faith in Jesus when we can’t find work? when we are at an impasse with our relationships? when we wait for colleges to respond to our applications? when we face financial struggle? when we worry about our children’s development? when there is distrust and disunity in the church?
So faith in Jesus is learning how to hang on to, to trust Jesus, when our lives now are threatened and so uncertain. And on Easter, his resurrection is confirmation that he has triumphed over sin and death (1 Cor. 15), so this life is worth living!
Mark 4:26-32 • April 9, 2017 • Pastor Tim Tseng
Main Point: God’s kingdom, which promises material and spiritual nourishment and protection, gradually and inevitably will triumph over this world.
It’s Palm Sunday! Let’s rejoice because Jesus and a small group of disciples led a revolution that has changed the world – and is still changing the world. This is the gospel of the kingdom of God!
The King Who Speaks in Parables
Let’s begin by looking at the last two verses of today’s scripture (Mark 4:33-34). Even though he is a king, Jesus doesn’t rule by issuing laws. He doesn’t seem interested in creating a check list of sins or a check list of things to do to prove one is saved. Instead, Jesus prefers to rule by telling parables.
But Jesus also interprets and explains his parables to his disciples even if the crowd doesn’t quite understand them. So Jesus is a King who not only speaks in parables, he explains and interprets the parables, too.
The quick lesson for is us this: we cannot listen to Jesus’ parables or read the bible without help from an interpreter. Note also the Ethiopian Eunuch who needed Philip’s help to understand Isaiah 53 (Acts 8). The Catholic church has a tradition of teachings that help them interpret Scripture. For Protestants and evangelicals, Scripture is a priority, but that doesn’t mean that we do not seek help from tradition, reason, and personal experience. But for all Christians, Jesus’ interpretation always comes first. How many Christians only know that Jesus died for their sins and gave them salvation, but don’t know the Jesus of the Gospel? How many believers ignore Jesus’ teachings against legalism and Pharisaism? Jesus doesn’t just die to save us for everlasting life, he interprets the Word of God and how life is to be lived for us.
What the Kingdom of God is Like
So as we turn to Mark 4:26-32, Jesus explains to us what the Kingdom of God is like. And the main point about the kingdom that Jesus makes is this: it will gradually and inevitably triumph over this world, which is a wilderness bereft of resources. But with the coming of Jesus Christ and his disciples, the kingdom has grown slowly in this world and will provide spiritual and material nourishment and protection for all.
For many Christians who do not pay attention to Jesus’ teachings, the Kingdom of God is about a war of survival. It’s about protecting ourselves against evil in a variety of forms. Islamic terrorism, for example, is one of the most concrete enemies that many Christians are willing to take up arms against. And Christians in the past did fight Muslims in the “crusades.” No doubt, this is a very real conflict. Earlier today, two Coptic churches in Egypt were bombed during their Palm Sunday services. More than 37 people were killed and over 100 injured. ISIS claimed responsibility. Please note that mainstream Islamic leaders condemned the attacks. The bombings add to Christian fear about Islamic extremists, who are, indeed, targeting Christians.
In the U.S., another example is secular humanism and its cousin liberalism, which scares many Christians. Indeed, the changes in our culture are frightening to those who are used to the Christian American way of life of forty years ago. So many Christians have rallied politically against these evils through what is called “culture wars.”
It’s important to recognize that crusades and culture wars are driven by two emotional forces: (1) fear and (2) desire for conquest, or, desire to be dominant. Not surprisingly, many evangelicals who do not pay close attention to Jesus, support authoritarian spiritual and political leaders.
Culture Care, Not Culture War
But Jesus and authentic Christians reject fear and a desire for conquest. Whenever the bible uses battle image, it is an internal spiritual battle or a fight against principalities and powers (not humans). It is a battle that uses love, truth, and grace as its weapon, not fear and lust for conquest, control, or dominance.
So consider these two parable again. What is the final result? The Kingdom of God eventually produces a harvest that provides nourishment; it is a tiny mustard seed that becomes a mighty tree that provides protection and shade. Jesus’ kingdom conquers by slowly growing new life within this barren world, thus providing much needed nourishment and protection for all creation.
Yesterday, my family celebrated my dad’s 90th birthday. A number of our relatives came from NYC to celebrate. We had a great time. It was exhausting, but fun. I believe that families are a good thing, even though there is often idolatry, exclusion, and misunderstandings. Families provide nourishment and protection. Indeed, the Kingdom of God is like a family that never stops growing! The Kingdom of God is about extending this vision of healthy families to the entire world – to invite all people into God’s family so that all people may be nourished and protected – spiritually and materially. Furthermore, like my family, Canaan’s English ministry is small. But Jesus assures us that no matter how small, the kingdom of God will grow and become incredibly impactful.
Finally, consider the bird in Jesus’ parables in chapter 4. Once the bird was considered the enemy because it swiped the seed from the path and destroyed any opportunity for the seed to grow. But, in this parable, the bird is not the enemy, but one protected by the trees. Without making too much of these illustrations, I suggest that the kingdom of God is about turning enemies into friends, brothers, and sisters.
In sum, the kingdom of God will inevitably grow, remake, and redeem God’s fallen creation. But it won’t do this by the world’s use of fear and conquest. We can be confident in Jesus and renounce culture wars. Rather, let us use culture care, for we were called to tend God’s creation (Gen. 2:15). Let us cultivate what is good in this world by showing it how much God loves us in our brokenness. Let us show in our actions that Jesus was willing to die for sinners. This is the gospel.
Sermon Summary (April 2, 2017)
Mark 4:1-25 • Pastor Tim Tseng
Main Point: Fruitful disciples strive to B.F.A.T.
In Mark 3:6-6:13, Jesus calls and trains his disciples. In the parable of the sower, he reveals many important lessons.
After teaching the large crowd that gathered around him in parables, Jesus said to his disciples, The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that, They may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never under-standing; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven! (Mark 4:11-12)
— Jesus identified with Isaiah the prophet was called to proclaim God’s word to the people of Israel who are incapable of understanding the message (Isaiah 6). Jesus uses parables to explain why we have selective hearing. Human nature is prejudiced. For example, when I taught at Denver Seminary, a student gave me a negative review. He said that he didn’t understand me because of my thick Chinese accent, which struck me as very strange.
— Then Jesus explained the parable of the sower to his disciples. Each of the soils represent a response to hearing God’s voice (the word).
1. THE PATH (v. 15) Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them
Some people are predisposed against hearing the full gospel. One time, a visitor came to our church and then approached me. “Why doesn’t your church have a doctrinal statement about whether you believe that the rapture will come before the tribulation or afterwards” Another time, a guest asked me, “Why does your church allow women to be elders?” It didn’t matter what answer I gave, these individuals were not going to listen to my theological or biblical explanation. Why? Because they were predisposed to only hearing what they wanted to hear. Like the path where the soil is packed so hard, they could not listen. What is the implied solution?
—> To be BROKEN. The soil on the path needs to be broken, i.e., our hearts and minds need to repent and, therefore, be open to hearing God’s word.
2. THE ROCKY SOIL. 16 Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. 17 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.
My denomination, the American Baptists, has a long history and about 2 million members. Unlike the Southern Baptists, American Baptists took a stand against slavery. Today, it is a very broad and diverse denomination. Our General Board, the governing body of the denomination, includes fundamentalists, evangelicals, progressives, and liberals. When I served on the General Board, I made friends with everyone. Overall, we were a friendly group. But when I told people that I was an evangelical, some of the liberals and progressives stopped talking to me. When I told people that I was a Democrat, some of the evangelicals and fundamentalists stopped talking to me. Our relationship remained shallow because of the rocks of prejudice. The same thing can be said about our relationships with God and people in church. As we go deeper into relationships. we discover things about each other that we may not like, initially. So the relationship never gets deeper because we stop trusting each other.
—> Solution: Be FAITHFUL. Remaining committed to each other and to God – that’s what it means to be faithful. Faithful people remain committed even after finding stuff we don’t like beneath the surface. Faithful people will continue to dig deeper and clear away the rocks of prejudice. The word cannot grow relationships with God and our fellow humans unless we remove the rocks of prejudice from our hearts. Because of a commitment to the good of the American Baptist denomination, many of our General Board members were able to overcome our mistrust and differences and became good friends.
But what if your family disagrees with your pastor? When that happened at our home church, we were determined to first show our children that we trusted and respected our spiritual leaders even though we disagreed. We also showed our children that we recognized that we have prejudices, too. We can be corrected. And we never made negative accusations. In the end, we wanted to show our children that faithfulness meant commitment to the good of all people and a good relationship with God.
3. THE WEEDY SOIL 18 Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19 but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.
This is most familiar of the problem soil. We wrestle with controlling our desires for what this world has to offer. And this struggle often hinders us from hearing God’s word and from making his purpose and his people our priority. You’ve heard it all before – sometimes we have to choose between Chinese school and Everglow fellowship on Friday nights; seeking comfort and convenience versus sacrifice and service; being a consumer of spiritual “products” versus a contributor to the church’s mission. And when we try to choose everything, we get choked by busy-ness and become unavailable for the most important things.
—> Solution: Be AVAILABLE. Remove the weed and thorns – prioritize the soil.
4. THE GOOD SOIL 20 Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.
The good soil differs from the other three soils in one simple way – it is clean and soft. It is not hard, like the path, so that seeds can actually take root in it. It is not filled with rocks and weeds, so the seed is not crowded out can therefore flourish.
—> Goal: Be TEACHABLE. Real disciples are challenged to become good soil. They display attitudes of humility and readiness to learn.
So in order to to bear fruit, Jesus teaches us that we must undergo an unlearning and learning process: Brokenness, Faithfulness, Available, and Teachable (BFAT). This is the way to discipleship. When we pray, let us ask God to help us BFAT.
Jesus has one last thing to say about this to his disciples…
21 He said to them, “Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don’t you put it on its stand? 22 For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. 23 If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear.
In other words, the secrets of the kingdom of God are not meant to be kept secret. Why? So that those whose ears are opened by the Holy Spirit can hear the gospel of Jesus’ kingdom. Yes, there will be many who cannot hear, there will be many who are not yet good soil, but we are responsible for bringing the gospel to the public. But this puts a big responsibility on us…
24 “Consider carefully what you hear,” he continued.
Reflect carefully on what we hear to be the gospel, the word of God. Don’t rely on formulas or simplistic presentations. Don’t just google for answers. Disciples are serious about listening to God’s word through sermons, bible studies, theological reflection, and life practices. We are challenged to go deeper. Why?
“With the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and even more. 25 Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.”
The more we aspire to become good soil, the more fruitfulness we’ll experience in this life. Disciples will invest time and effort into removing prejudices, remaining faithful, being available and teachable (B.F.A.T.), so that God’s word can grow within us.
On the other hand, if we don’t try to BFAT, the less we try to become good soil, the less our lives will feel fruitful. Indeed, we simply may not experience the joy of fruitfulness in our lives.
This is not about the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. It a simple principe of reaping what one sows. Paul says, Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. (Gal 6:8).
So let’s learn how to be authentic followers of Jesus Christ and invest in our making lives bear fruit for him!
Mark 3:20-35 • Pastor Chris Liu
Many people didn’t believe that Jesus was the Messiah that He claimed to be. Most of His doubters were the Pharisees, Scribes, and Teachers of the Law, but here in Mark 3:20-22, even His family members didn’t believe that He was the Messiah. They thought that He was crazy. But Jesus never backed down from His claims.
In Mark 3:23-30, the Scribes again tried to undermine Jesus’ ministry. They started telling people that Jesus was only able to cast out demons because He was possessed by the Devil! This was a huge accusation. Jesus didn’t take it lightly and His response was serious. He told them that their argument makes no complete sense because why would the Satan cast out his own demons? And Jesus points to the heart of the Scribes. He basically tells them that they have committed this unpardonable sin which is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.
I know many Christians may worry that they have committed this unforgivable sin, but if you have accepted Christ into your hearts and Lord and Savior, then you cannot commit this sin. Basically, this blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is a continual conscious decision to reject the work of the Holy Spirit in your life. It is not listening the Holy Spirit’s convictions of your heart to humble and repent and turn your life over to Christ. The Scribes had hardened their hearts from the work of the Holy Spirit. They rejected the work of the Holy Spirit and claimed it to be of the devil. Obviously, if they would not listen and let the Holy Spirit work in their hearts, they will not come to a place where they will ask God for forgiveness, and that is why God won’t forgive them.
However, whoever does listen to the Holy Spirit and allows the conviction of the Holy Spirit to move them to repentance, God will forgive anyone who asks for it. But that only happens when they let the Holy Spirit work in their hearts. The main takeaway from this section is for us to have a humble heart and allow the Holy Spirit to do it’s work in our hearts and lives. Listen to the Holy Spirit. Let the Holy Spirit work and do not harden your hearts against it.
At the end of this passage, Jesus was told that His family members were looking for Him. However, His response is that His family members are with Him already. His family members are His disciples. His family members are those who He is serving with.
We who have families need to be wise in how we handle our family and our serving at church. Yes, God needs to be number 1 in our lives and He is above all other relationships we have (including our family). But, putting God first doesn’t mean only serving the church and neglecting your family. At the same time, we can’t put family first and make them an excuse for not serving God and God’s people.
My challenge is for parents and children to model their faith at home and in their lifestyles. Be a good example to what it means to be a disciple of Christ and get your family involved in that lifestyle. From how we spend our time, our energy, our money, our resources to our attitudes and words and actions, let us lead our families to be disciples of Christ. Spend time together, take care of your responsibilities, and serve together.
Sermon Summary • March 19, 2017
Mark 3:7-19 • Pastor Tim Tseng
13 Jesus went up on a mountain-side and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him.14 He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach 15 and to have authority to drive out demons.
KEY POINT: As disciples, we should have a desire to be Jesus’ apprentice and a heart for sharing in his mission to the world.
1. Jesus called those he wanted:
First, we do not choose him, he chooses us. Let us not fall under the illusion that we can simply pick and choose when, where, and how we are disciples. An attitude of humility and waiting for the Lord will help us to allow him the choice. All we can do is respond to his calling.
Second, because disciples are Jesus’ choice, we should expect to be in a community of people who are very different from one another. Just looking at the twelve that Jesus called (and this doesn’t include the women and other disciples who where not part of the circle of twelve), one would not expect them to be a team since they had so little in common: 16These are the twelve he ap-pointed: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter), 17James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means “sons of thunder”), 18Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot 19and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
2. Jesus calls disciples to be with him:
Most of the time we think about being with Jesus as an encounter of intimacy, friendship, and love. While this is true, within the context of Mark 3, this is not what it means for disciples to be with Jesus.
In fact, the disciples are with Jesus to be his apprentice. It is a life-long experience of learning that takes place in a relationship matrix. It is not information dump, nor is it an assembly line approach to preparing people to do God’s work. Thus, we need to invest time with Jesus and people with more experience with Jesus to be our mentors and teachers.
3. Jesus calls disciples to be sent into the mission field:
Verses 7-12 show us the great need in the world for Jesus, his message of hope, and work of healing and demon-cleansing. Jesus calls disciples to share in this work and go into the world with his message.
When we gather in our small groups, youth fellowship, Sunday school, worship service, let us remember that these meetings ought to inspire us to become disciples. We don’t meet simply to socialize, support one another, and gain more information about the bible. We meet, first, to be apprentices in mission.
Therefore, I invite more people to join Team Barnabas, a small group of Canaan people who are committed to putting discipleship first.
Therefore, I invite more people to take opportunities to explore their callings through programs like Pathway to Ministry.
Therefore, I encourage couples to see the purpose of their marriage and their roles as parents to be making and growing disciples.
Sermon Summary (March 12, 2017
Mark 2:23-3:6 • Pastor Tim Tseng
KEY POINT: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
— 24 The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”
When Jesus’ disciples plucked the heads of grain on a sabbath, the Pharisees criticized them for doing illegal work. After all, the Sabbath was meant to be a day of rest (Deut. 5:14). But Jesus had a different interpretation.
— 25 He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need?”
Jesus referenced 1 Sam. 21:1-16, where David and his loyal companions were fleeing from a hostile King Saul. They were hungry and begged for food in a temple. Only consecrated bread, which was reserved for priests, was available. But they were allowed to eat the bread – a clear violation of Jewish law. Were the priests bending the rules for David? Did Jesus endorse this? No. Jesus was making this point:
— 27 “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
We don’t hear a response from the Pharisees. In fact, they maintained a silent anger into the next chapter where Jesus demonstrates this point by healing a man with a shriveled hand in a synagogue on another sabbath (Mark 3:1-5). We are told that some of the Pharisees “were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus,” (v. 2). Jesus, anticipating this hostility, reiterates his point another way by asking “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” (v. 4) At their silence,
— 5 He looked around at [the Pharisees] in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored.
And afterwards, “the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.” (v. 6). The die was cast. Jesus was now on the way to the cross.
How do we apply this very important scripture?
First, beware! It is very easy (almost natural) to become Pharisees. God gave Israel his law – which was meant to be used for the good of the people. But instead of worshiping and loving God, they worshiped their own power, security, and morality. And the result of is that Pharisees turned their interpretation of the law into a way to control people, neglect those in need, exclude those who are different. We’re no different, especially those of us who believe that we’re saved. Legalism always starts with good intentions, but it ends up distorting God’s purpose and becomes one of the worst sins since we are blind to it.
Second, know that Phariseeism imprisons us from true faith. Jesus was angry at how it made people with good intentions stubborn. It prevents us from understanding grace and forgiveness. We have a hard time forgiving ourselves, too. So what do we do?
Third, never forget Jesus’ two principles: (1) People are priority. God’s laws are meant for human flourishing, they are meant for good – not to prevent good from happening. (2) Jesus comes first in our interpretation of the bible. He supersedes legalistic interpretation of the bible and therefore, grace and mercy supersedes legalism and exclusion.
I invite us all to come to Jesus, repent of our Phariseeism, and pursue the path of grace and mercy in Christ!
Sermon Summary (Feb 26, 2017)
Mark 2:18-22 • Pastor Tim Tseng
— 18 “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours [Jesus’] are not?” Fasting is to abstain from food or the period in which the abstinence takes place to show humility and repentance before God. It may be that Jesus’ disciples were fasting, but not showing it publicly. After all, Jesus did criticize fasting for show in Matthew 6:16-18. Maybe Jesus’ disciples were fasting according to Isaiah 58, where God criticizes Israel for fake fasting. It’s likely that Jesus and his disciples were part of a prophetic spirituality.
— 20 “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them.” Jesus’ response indicated that his disciples did not fast while he was on earth. But they would again when he leaves them. For us, who do not have physical contact with Jesus, we ought to yearn deeply for him. So strong is our yearning that when we are worshiping, studying the bible, or praying, we actually get a foretaste of the joy of the Lord.
— One of the reasons why Christians yearn to be with Jesus is because he is too new, too different, for the old world to comfortably contain. In verses 21-22, Jesus talks again about himself and his kingdom. But this time, he uses different metaphors. 21 “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. 22 And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.” Jesus and his kingdom are the unshrunk cloth and the new wine. The religion of the Pharisees and maybe fake fasting are represented by old garment and the old wineskins.
— My decision to accept the invitation to renew my service as your pastor was very difficult. Here’s why. Throughout my ministry – from theological education to leadership equipment, I’ve always thought about my ministry as being part of a “super hero” team of dedicated, self-sacrificing, eager activists for Jesus Christ. Sort of like the X-men. I always thought of myself to be like Professor Xavier. Even until now that image is what makes me most happy about ministry. But, after six years at Canaan, I started to feel like my ministry was more like the Huang family of the TV show “Fresh Off the Boat” and that my role was like Grandma Huang who is also wheel chair bound. So just as Professor X would not be a goof fit for “Fresh Off the Boat,” I have never felt that I “fit” into Canaan. But I realized that it’s possible that not “fitting” is actually good. It’s actually how Jesus saw his role. Rather, all of us should see ourselves as old garments and wineskins. Jesus is too new for us. So, we need to ask God to transform us to newness. Not to reject and replace the old us, but to renew and restore us to newness so that he can fit. So I agreed to renew my contract in hopes living with “misfits” may actually help us all seek to be transformed – transfigured!
— How do we apply this? (1) By unlearning what we have been taught. I have to unlearn the image of being Xavier of the X-men in order to be your pastor. And I hope you’ll unlearn the image of being the Huang family. We all have to unlearn in order to be transformed into newness. (2) Rethink and break old routines and be open to uncertainty. This allows us to embrace the new. So try something different in your daily spiritual practice! Let us be transfigured into new wineskins for the new wine of Jesus!
Sermon Summary from Feb. 19, 2017
Mark 2:13-17 • Pastor Tim Tseng
Main point: Jesus’ conflict with the Pharisees shows us the behavior and attitudes to avoid in His Kingdom, i.e., a sanctimonious hypocrisy. Rather, we should identify with and reach out to the brokenness of the world’s marginalized and despised people, just as Jesus did.
In Mark 2 Pharisees begin to question who Jesus is and what he is doing. “Who can forgive sins but God?” (v 6). “Why does Jesus eat with tax collectors and sinners?” (v 16). In today’s passage, Jesus calls Levi, a tax collector, to be his disciple. Tax collectors were viewed as traitors who serve the Roman enemy of the Jewish people. Then he hangs out with Levi’s crowd – other tax collectors and sinners. The Pharisees objected, so they questioned Jesus, who responded, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (v 17). This backhanded compliment of the Pharisees actually revealed three things:
1 Jesus makes us (and the Pharisees) realize that our vision of reality is broken
The teachers of the law (who were Pharisees) were confounded. How could the Liberator of Israel hang out with the enemy tax collector? How could the Righteous Messiah hang out with sinners? Jesus made them realize that something about their sense of what was right was misplaced and their vision of reality was broken.
What happens when people with a broken vision of reality use their power? They label people sinners and enemies. They create nationalism and legalism which excludes and punishes people who are labeled enemies, traitors, and sinners because of fear and pride
Indeed, 75 years ago today, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Democrat, issued Executive Order 9066 which incarcerated 120,000 Japanese-Americans – half of them U.S. citizens – during World War II. The rationale was to protect Americans against the Japanese who had attacked Pearl Harbor and drew the U.S. into the war. Therefore Japanese American families, most of whom lived on the West Coast, were uprooted from their homes and required to move to the inland desert into barracks for the duration of the war. It was later discovered that racism was the main reason for the violation of Japanese American civil rights. For many American Christians, the reality of this type of racism shattered their image of the United States as as land of freedom and equal opportunity. American racism is a broken reality. And this is something that the Kingdom of God is reversing.
2 Jesus invites us to reach into our brokenness
When Jesus said in verse 17 “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners,” he challenged the Pharisees to see their self-righteous hypocrisy. Indeed, throughout the gospels, Jesus seems to believe that the sanctimonious attitudes and practices of the Pharisees were worse than the sins of ordinary people. The definition of sanctimonious: making a show of being morally superior to other people. Some synonyms: self-righteous, holier-than-thou, pious, pietistic, churchy, moralizing, preachy, smug, superior, priggish, hypocritical, insincere.
This is why Pharisaic Christians are so disliked. When sanctimonious and legalistic Christians share the gospel, they point to their behavior, their success, and their morality as being better than others. In truth, the only people who are drawn to this gospel are other Pharisees. That is why, even though I believe that every Christian’s speech should be seasoned with grace and love, to focus on external behavior such as avoiding profanity, is a misplaced way of bearing witness to Christ. Furthermore, I really hope that when our teens graduate from high school that they think of Christianity as nothing more than a code of external behavior and a list of practices to avoid. That kind of Pharisaic faith will crumble within a year of college life.
So if the Pharisees really listened carefully to Jesus, they would understand that he is encouraging them to reach deep into their own brokenness. The Pharisees might have thought that they were healthy and righteous. If so, Jesus did not come for them. But if they were honest with themselves, they would see in their sanctimonious behavior their true inner brokenness.
What about those of us who have professed faith in Christ? Are we truly healthy and righteous? Yes, we are declared righteous (justified) because of the cross, but we are not made perfect. We are still broken even after we decide to follow Jesus. Many Christians forget this and think that once we are in the Church club, we are more blessed and better than others. This is incorrect teaching.
Rather, we need to admit that we are not made perfect in this life. Once we confess this, we can dig into our brokenness and allow the Holy Spirit of Jesus to continue to heal us each day that we live. So how can sanctimonious people reach into their brokenness? Three simple rules:
a. Don’t be afraid (1 John 4:18). Facing brokenness within us and in the world is scary. But Jesus is guiding us. In God’s sovereignty, all things will be made right. Don’t be afraid.
b. Other people are also created in God’s image. Recognize that no matter how different other people are, no matter how much they hate us, no matter how much they fear us, every person is created in God’s image. Therefore, we must never forget to see them as equally worthy of God’s love and compassion.
c. We need Christ’s healing every day. The Holy Spirit is moving us toward maturity, fruitfulness, and healing each day by revealing our brokenness and showing the way to healing and restoration. Thus, we need to be open to whatever the Spirit shows us.
3 Jesus leads us to reach out to a broken world through our brokenness
So before we reach out to others for Christ, let us work on our inner brokenness. This is the only way we can reach people without being perceived as sanctimonious. Let us approach people as one beggar showing another where to find food.
So in the Kingdom of grace tax collectors (traitors and enemies) and sinners are invited in. In fact, Jesus reaches out and eats with them. He embraced their brokenness with his brokenness, for in his crucifixion, his body was broken and his blood was shed to heal and forgive the many. So as we follow and imitate Jesus, may the only thing that is visible as we reach out to our neighbors, relatives, and the world is not our own goodness, but Jesus Christ’s love alone.
Mark 2:1-12 • Pastor Chris Liu
In Mark 2:1-12, we see 4 friends go out of their way to bring their paralyzed friend to Jesus. Since they couldn’t get into the house that Jesus was at because it was too full of people, they went up onto the roof, made a hole, and lowered their paralyzed friend down to Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith in Him, He told the paralyzed man that his sins were forgiven. These friends and the paralyzed man were expecting Jesus to physically heal him, but Jesus gave him something greater. He saved forgave his sins and saved his soul.
Some scribes were present and questioned how Jesus could forgive someone’s sin. To them, only God could forgive sins, so in a sense, Jesus was claiming to be God. That was blasphemous to them. But, Jesus proved that He has authority to forgive sins by physically healing this paralyzed man as well. He did what the scribes thought was more difficult (healing a paralyzed man) and showed that He has power and authority to heal and to forgive.
There are two things I wanted us to learn from this passage. First, Jesus is more than a miracle worker. While Jesus does do some pretty amazing miracles and heals people physically, His ministry was about calling people to repent and believe that He is the Messiah. It is important for us to see Jesus as our Savior and not just a miracle worker because it changes how we perceive Him.
If Jesus is just a miracle worker, than we only call on Him when we need help. He becomes our personal genie and our servant. But, if we see Jesus as our Messiah and Savior, then the opposite is true. We serve God, not the other way around. Our lives belong to Him. We live our lives for God and will strive to do what He desires us to do.
The second thing I wanted us to learn is to have the same heart as these four friends had. Although they only saw Jesus as a miracle worker, they went above and beyond to make sure their friend met Jesus. They only had a partial view of Jesus, but had faith in Him. We, have a more full view of Jesus, and so we should do the same is going above and beyond to bring others to Christ. We have people in our lives that don’t yet know Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior. What are we doing to make sure we bring them to Him. Let’s have boldness and not give up in sharing the Good News of God’s love with them.