Sermon Summary from June 18, 2017
Mark 8:22-9:1 (NIV) • Pastor Tim Tseng
I. But what about you? Who do you say I am?
We are at the literal center of the gospel of Mark. From this point on, Jesus prepares to be crucified. But his disciples still didn’t understand.
Jesus’ disciples had a first hand look at Jesus. They saw him confront the Pharisees for building walls to protect the purity and national greatness of Israel and to insulate the Jews from the Gentiles. Instead, Jesus wanted to open the doors of these walls (maybe even tear them down) to welcome Gentiles and sinners. So, after spending all this time with him, who did the disciples themselves think Jesus was?
Impetuous Peter answered for them: “You are the Messiah.” So, the disciples confessed that Jesus was the Christ (Messiah), sent by God to save Israel and become its king. But did they really understand what that meant? It’s likely Peter believed, like his Jewish peers, that the Messiah would be a powerful, avenging ruler who would liberate and vindicate the nation of Israel (see Psalm 18:47).
But when Jesus began to talk about the necessity of his own suffering, death, and resurrection (v. 31-32), Peter was upset and rebuked Jesus. Jesus, in turn, rebuked Peter as one who was an obstacle to God’s plan – so long as he continued to misunderstand the Messiah’s true purpose (v. 33). In Mark, the disciples always misunderstood Jesus. This is why the previous episode (vv. 22-26) where a blind man needed Jesus to touch him twice to see clearly is an encouragement for the disciples and for those of us who fail to fully comprehend Jesus.
After clarifying the necessity of his death and resurrection, Jesus then invites everyone to understand what it means to follow Jesus (vv. 34-28):
II. Discipleship is our answer to Jesus’ question “who do you say I am?” It is the way we live, make choices, and practice our faith. Therefore…
— If I’m willing to deny myself and carry my cross, it means I believe and am showing the world that Jesus is the Messiah who was willing to suffer for us.
— If I’m willing to give up my life for the sake of the gospel, I am showing the world that Jesus is the King who gave up his life to save the entire world.
Here are some questions and examples:
—- Suffering inconvenience to build up my church. Ask yourselves:
– Do I study the assigned passage before coming to worship? If I do, then I can be prepared to help young believers or visitors to better understand the sermon.
– Am I willing to be inconvenienced to be a consistent participant in small group?
– When I see a ministry need (e.g., returning college students, young adults who are searching for a spiritual home), am I willing to help them build a community at Canaan?
– Do I care enough about our EM website to want to improve it so that others can get a better idea of what Canaan is all about?
– As parents are we exposing our kids to the needs of the world, the need for justice, for people to know God and to follow Jesus?
—- Example of hard work and sacrifice for the gospel to impact our neighbors, co-workers, and community:
– The Young Adults of Emmanuel Korean Presbyterian Church organized two concerts over the past six months to support International Justice Mission (an anti-trafficking ministry) and Compassion.
– Pastor Brian Leong and Lord’s Grace Chinese Christian Church leads Move Mountain View, a coalition of churches that collaborate with businesses and the City of Mountain View to improve community life there. Brian has also received a multi-million dollar grant to start a community service to the poor. One of the programs is called Lots of Love, a service to homeless people who need a place to park their cars overnight. Lots of Love will start this fall and is looking for churches that will open up their parking lots to these homeless people.
III. The joy of carrying the cross
Now if carrying the cross and denying ourselves sounds like obedience, works, and guilt, I promise you that it is not. Here’s why: We don’t suffer for Christ just because we are told to obey him. Obedience is for beginners. Obedience is for the immature who need a mature person to prod, remind, and nudge.
The joy of carrying the cross is the vision for the better country, a.k.a. Kingdom of God, eternity, heaven (Heb 11:13-16). The people of faith in Hebrews “were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” (v. 16).
We are willing to suffer, bear our cross, be inconvenienced because we love Jesus and seek his Kingdom. We want to see the greatness of God prevail in the world. We want to see the new creation, i.e., heaven on earth. We want to see the end of human misery, injustice and suffering. We are willing to put up with our personal inconveniences and suffering because we are looking forward to the end of suffering for the world!
The joy of carrying the cross is also about a life that well-lived. Psalms shows us a good example of life as discipleship, if we don’t focus on a single chapter, but the whole book.
Psalm 1, if read alone will teach us that Christian life is all about obedience. The danger is to read the entire Psalms through this lens. If so, then carrying our crosses is all about blind obedience.
But note Psalm 150. What is theme of this final chapter? Praise and worship! If we read the entire Psalms (a.k.a. the Psalter), what we discover is that the life of faith starts in obedience, but ends in joy, praise and worship. And the middle Psalms are filled with ups and downs, struggle and victory, anguish and joy, darkness and light, boredom and weariness. The life that carries the cross will be filled with ups and downs, but the ultimate hope is praise, worship, and joy! In Christ, we have a foretaste. If Christ triumphed over the difficulties of life and faced his suffering with hope, we can too! (Heb 12:1-3)
IV. People, Carry that Cross!
“And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb. 12:1-2)
Let us be willing to suffer and bear our crosses because we love Jesus and seek his Kingdom, not because of obedience alone. Let us be willing to put up inconveniences because we look forward to the end of misery, injustice and suffering for the whole world! Because we want to see the greatness of God prevail. Because we want to worship and praise God in the new creation, the new heaven on earth! May it be so! Amen.
Sermon Summary from June 11, 2017
Mark 8:1-21 (NIV) • Pastor Tim Tseng
1. A sign from heaven? (v. 11)
After the second feeding miracles among Gentiles, the Pharisees came to test Jesus. They asked him for a sign from heaven (cf. 1 Cor 1:21-23). What is this sign from heaven? In the ancient Judaic worldview, heaven is God’s realm, but it’s not somewhere distantly remote and hopelessly removed from human reality. N.T. Wright notes that the two dimensions intersect and overlap so that the divine bleeds over into this world. So the Pharisees are asking, “show us a sign that God’s reign is coming through you, that you are the Messiah.
2. The sign of Jonah (v. 12)
Jesus was exasperated by the Pharisees. They couldn’t see and recognize all the signs that Jesus had already revealed. They were looking for something specific. I believe they wanted Jesus to focus exclusively on the chosen nation of Israel and to exclude sinners, outcasts, and Gentiles. So in Mark, Jesus refused to give them an answer. In Matthew and Luke’s accounts, however, Jesus says that he would only share “the sign of Jonah” (Matt 12:30, 14:4; Luke 11:29). What does that mean?
In the story about Jonah, we learn that God wanted the hated enemies of Israel, the Ninevites, to repent. So he sent Jonah to warn them. Jonah, however, was reluctant to share this message since he preferred for God to punish the Ninevites. But after the failed attempt to run away from his calling, which included being swallowed by a large fish, Jonah finally relented and obeyed God. To his horror, the people and animals of Ninevah repented and God showed mercy to them.
When Jesus pointed out the sign of Jonah, he was saying that the Pharisees needed to learn from Jonah’s experience. God is merciful to all people, even Israel’s enemies, and wants to give all people the opportunity to repent and enter his kingdom.
3. The Yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod (v 15)
So when Jesus warned his disciples about the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod he was warning them against (1) their unbelief, i.e., they could not believe Jesus was the Messiah and (2) the teachings of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.(Matt 16:12). Their teaching would cause the wrong kind of growth. We read Mark 7:1-23 a couple of weeks ago, where Jesus teaches that the Pharisees misunderstood holiness and purity. To be holy and pure is not about separating oneself from what is dirty outside for “Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.” (7:15) So true holiness and purity comes from cleansing the filth within. In Acts 10, Peter learned this lesson again when God called him to share the gospel with Cornelius, a Roman centurion who was a Gentile.
Indeed, the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod promoted a religious nationalism that sought to make Israel great again at the expense of Gentiles and others who were considered lawfully unclean (lepers, the sick, demon-possessed, sinners). And this was what Jesus was opposed to.
4. Challenge: Be the Yeast of the Kingdom of God.
Instead, Jesus demonstrated that the kingdom of God was for Gentiles and outcasts as well as for the Jews (Mark 6-8). Jesus restores the daughter of the Syrophoencian woman and the Greek deaf-mute. He performs a second feeding miracle, but this time he included many Gentiles. And Jesus calls us, his disciples, to be yeast of his kingdom – one that grows beyond our comfort and into our Gentile world. So let us be disciple-makers with the heart and character of missionaries!
Pastor Tim’s Charge to Promoted and Graduating Students • June 4, 2017
—> To our 6th graders:
You may be physically smaller than everyone else in Everglow and our worship service, but you are growing. That’s awesome and awk-ward. Relish these moments to grow. And as 7th graders, I encourage you to love and encourage the new ones joining us because you walked in their shoes this past year.
—> To our 8th graders
We celebrate this short time when life felt like a crazy, mixed up time of emotional and physical growth. Some of you may have grown six to seven inches! Thanks for being vulnerable and being leaders. You are now entering a new chapter where you’ll once again be the young ones (that’s good)! We promise to pray for and walk with you as you continue to grow in faith, with your families, and with deep friendships with each other.
—> To our High School graduates (Annabelle, Alina, Darrell, Stephanie):
It has been a wonderful time, hasn’t it? We’ve all watched you transform into young adults. As you prepare for college life, make new friends! But we promise to always be available if you want someone to talk to. Most importantly, I encourage you to explore your faith more deeply. Be unafraid to ask the tough questions, but also surround yourselves with faithful and mature Christians throughout your college years.
—> To our College graduates (Monica, Erika, Cindy, Amy, and Kimberly):
Welcome back to our worship service! At last, it is time to move into full-blow adulthood! This will be a time where you’ll face feelings of uncertainty and excitement. You’ll both be very busy, yet have more control of your time than any other time in your lives. You’ll have so much freedom to make choices and discover that too many choices also robs you of real freedom. Which ever church you finally choose to be part of (hopefully Canaan), I pray that you’ll choose to build up others and not just look to receive. In the end – and this is most important – we encourage you to always consider Christ first in all your choices.
Sermon Summary from May 21, 2017
Mark 6:30-56 • Pastor Tim Tseng
When you are nudged by Jesus, say “yes!”
I. “You give them something to eat.” (Mark 6:37)
A large crowd of people had gathered around Jesus and his disciples. It was getting late and Jesus’ disciples wanted Jesus to send the people away so they could “go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” (36)
But Jesus nudged them: “you give them something to eat” (37)
“That would take more than half a year’s wages!” the disciples responded, “are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?” (37)
This was a very practical and reasonable response, wouldn’t you say? It is indeed far too expensive to pay for all these people! There’s no money in the budget.
But, behind this reaction I also sense weariness. Maybe burn out? Let’s take a quick
In last week’s message, we learned that Jesus sent his disciples out two-by-two into different villages. He gave them authority to proclaim the good news, the power to heal and drive out impure spirits, heal (6:7, 12-13). When they returned, they gathered around and reported to Jesus what they had done. But so many people were there that they didn’t have a chance to eat. So Jesus encouraged them to go to a quite place to rest (30-31)
But gosh, darn-it!! The crowd saw them leave and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them (33). When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things (34).
Instead of eating and resting, Jesus and his disciples continued ministering to the crowd late into the evening. So it is completely understandable that Jesus’ hungry, tired disciples wanted to rest and eat and send away the crowd.
Yet, Jesus nudges them. Go feed them!
II. Please don’t nudge me!
Has Jesus ever nudged you? I know I have. It’s not fun to be the nudger. People don’t like to be nudged. Some people I’ve nudged resented it and hold grudges against me. Others have decided simply to ignore me. Nicer people usually give very reasonable explanations why they don’t want to be nudged. “We don’t have the resources to accomplish what you want. We are at max capability and can’t do any more!”
Indeed, life in the Bay Area creates a lot of resistance to being nudged, doesn’t it?
Isn’t this because we think we know better than Jesus what we must do in order to thrive here? I imagine many students thinking, “I must do well in my studies and requirements in order to get a good paying job and please my parents. I can’t go to Everglow Fellowship on Fridays. Many couples worry that if one of stops working, it wouldn’t take long before they’d have to cut back on vacations, eating out, shopping, maintaining the house. And yet when both work, and when there are children, most believe they don’t have time to serve others and do ministry. Parents are often overwhelmed with so many obligations. We have to take care of our kids, honor our parents and in-laws; we barely have time for each other! How can we go to a Sunday School class? Then there are many of us who simply feel inadequate or don’t care. Maybe we’re not interested in growing spiritually? Maybe other hobbies and social activities are more exciting? Maybe climbing our career ladders is more rewarding? Responding to Jesus’ nudging just doesn’t feel as rewarding – it’s more like a duty or obligation.
I especially can relate to the disciples – having responded to Jesus’ call to ministry and often times wanting to rest, Jesus nudges me: “Tim, there’s more to do!”
III. The Miracle of the Nudge
But thank goodness Jesus didn’t back down when his disciples gave their reasons to resist. He doubled down and nudged them further: “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” (38) They had five loaves of bread and two fish. And from these five loaves and two fish, Jesus provided a miracle! Everyone was satisfied – 5,000 men and their wives and kids. Twelve basketfuls of fish sandwiches were left over, one for each of the disciples (39-44).
There is so much that we can learn from this miracle, but let me just suggest three:
1. Jesus multiplies what we give
No matter how maxed out we feel, no matter how worried we are about not having enough, Jesus will take what we give to him in faith and multiply it. Are we willing to give him what we have?
2. There will always be more than enough.
The disciples enjoyed a surplus of bread and fish. So, if we invest in a disciple-making group (or a small group that emphasizes making disciples), in the long run, we’ll experience more blessings than we give. A lonely person who decides to be a disciple-maker will gain the social skills to connect with people and make friends. Isn’t this a cool message? We may think we don’t have enough, but if we give Jesus what we have, we will always receive more than enough!
3. God will provide!
Jesus teaches us that God will ultimately provide and protect. After God stopped Abraham from sacrificing Isaac, God provided a ram. So Abraham called that place, Jehovah-jireh [i.e.,The Lord Will Provide]. “And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided” (Gen 22:14). The same can be seen in this chapter.
IV. Learn from the Nudge: Do not harden your heart.
But unfortunately, the disciples didn’t quite learn this lesson. After the feeding, Jesus sent his disciples in a boat to go to Bethsaida (45-46). That night, the boat was in the middle of the lake and strong wind came up against the boat. As the disciples strained at the oars, Jesus walked on water to them. We are told that the disciples cried out in terror because they thought he was a ghost. (47-50).
Jesus said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid” and climbed into the boat. The wind died down. The disciples were completely amazed. Mark says that “they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.” (51-52)
Invitation: Let us allow ourselves to be nudged by Jesus and your spiritual leaders. Great things can happen! Let us soften our hearts and understand the meaning of the loaves. The next time we sail against the wind in the boats of our lives, let’s recognize Jesus when he comes. Let’s have faith that he will multiply our efforts and provide more than we need.
Sermon Summary from May 28, 2017
Mark 7:1-23 • Pastor Chris Liu
Traditions are great! Many families and churches have certain traditions that they hold on to and these traditions can help bring people together and is something that people can look forward to and be a part of. However, we can’t make it where turn the traditions into law and become too stubborn to change or hear what God wants us to do.
In Mark 7:1-23, we see the Pharisees question Jesus’ disciples regarding the washing of their hands before they ate. However, it wasn’t that the disciples didn’t wash their hands, it was that they didn’t wash it “properly” as according to tradition. Jesus responds to them by showing the hypocrisy of their hearts.
The Pharisees would often act holy and do “holy things” (like pray or tithe), but their hearts were in the wrong place. It wasn’t an act of worship to God, but it was a show and it was to lift themselves up. So when we serve God or do the good things that God desires us to do, we should serve Him and do them with a pure heart. It shouldn’t be about us, but about worshiping and give God honor and glory.
Another thing the pharisees would do is that they would also try and find loopholes in God’s law for their own benefit. An example Jesus gave was that they would claim that certain things are “corban” (that means dedicated to God). By doing that they could keep those things for themselves and not give it away to those who are in need (like their parents or others who are in need). The deeper issue was that they were making up excuses so that they didn’t have to do certain things that God wants us to do. In the same way, we can often come up with excuses so that we don’t have to serve God or do the things He desires us to do. Hopefully, we won’t be like the pharisees and make up excuses.
Jesus ultimately points to the heart of the matter… which is all about the heart. Our hearts have been corrupted by sin and it is those areas in our lives that need to be addressed. Mark 7:21-23 says, “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” If we have any of these issues that we are struggling with, let’s repent and ask God for forgiveness. Let’s work to have a pure heart and serve God with that clean heart.
Sermon Summary (May 14, 2017)
Mark 6:1-29 • Pastor Tim Tseng
Be a stepping stone, not a stumbling block.
Mark 6:1-29 describe two types of people who knew Jesus: stumbling blocks and stepping stones.
v. 3 “And they took offense at him.” The people in Jesus’ hometown had watched Jesus grow up and could not imagine that he could be someone more than what they knew of him when he was younger – Mary and Joseph’s boy – a carpenter. So when he returned with authority and power, they could not see him as anything else and were offended by him.
v. 4 “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” And the really strange thing in verses 5-6 is that Jesus could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at the lack of faith. In contrast, Jairus’ daughter and the bleeding woman from the previous chapter experienced healing because of faith. This lack of faith is a stumbling block to God’s work.
Today, let’s call this lack of faith the stuck-stack syndrome, where we remain stuck with a Veggie-tales version of Jesus (Jesus 1.0). As we grow up and face difficult challenges and questions about our faith, instead of moving forward, we keep piling rocks on Jesus 1.0. What do you think will happen if we keep making this stack of rocks higher and higher? It’ll come crashing down because only a more mature understanding of Jesus can respond to today’s challenges. But why do people get stuck-stack faith? Maybe fear of change? And even if the stack doesn’t fall down, it can become a stumbling block and trip up other people – especially our children as they grow intellectually.
The worst thing that moms or parents can do is become a stumbling block to their children’s spiritual growth. How? I believe there are two ways:
1. Teaching our kids that life is about stacking up achievements. Jesus 1.0 is just the first rock that we stack other achievements on top of. And when our children learn the truth about the gospel of grace and mercy, they will turn around and accuse parents (and our church) of hypocrisy and Pharisaism.
2. When moms and parents themselves don’t continue to grow their faith. Spiritually stunted parents will lead to immature kids will either lose their faith or accuse us of not really caring about Christian faith.
I propose that our moms start a fellowship called Mothers Against Stumbling Blocks (MASB). This fellowship will vow to avoid gossiping (before sharing about people ask “is it kind? is it true? is it necessary?), comparing, bullying, shaming, over-controlling. Also MASB will vow to grow personally (i.e., to go deeper into the bible and theology) so that we can help our children grow. In the end, MASB vow to become stepping stones into the Kingdom of God for our children and new Christians.
The author of Hebrews says in chapter 6, verse 1, “Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God.”
If we want to not be a stumbling block, it is urgent that we move forward to Jesus 2.0 and not be stuck in Jesus 1.0. We must be stepping stones to help others move forward with Jesus. What is needed? Not just humility, but a genuine desire to learn and grow.
This desire to move forward and grow has always been a part of my faith. When I was invited to provide some historical background about Asian American Christian engagement into social justice at the Asian American alum conference at my seminary in New York City a few weeks ago, it forced me to study and teach. Two Saturdays ago at Menlo Church, I was part of a panel to talk about discipleship in today’s political climate. These speaking engagements give me the opportunity to help others deepen their faith.
I put effort into these endeavors because I want to be a stepping stone for Canaan and other Christians to become mature Kingdom-minded believers. I continue to grow to help create paths for our church members to follow me and also grow.
So, in the next part of Mark 6, Jesus send out his disciples two by two, preaching repentance and gave them authority over impure spirits. In short, Jesus’ disciples were to become stepping stones, not stumbling blocks, for others to God’s Kingdom.
The most important quality that the disciples are to embody is fearlessness.
1. Fearless disciples allow their lives demonstrate dependency on God (vv 8-10) “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town.” Jesus wants his disciples to be on the road and travel light. They should not invest in too many things. They shouldn’t buy homes, rather they should depend on the hospitality of others. Jesus encourages us to this most radical type of discipleship. But most of us cannot live this way.
But we can cultivate this mindset: “I will not settle for and depend on the things of this life, especially if they prevent me from bearing witness to Jesus and his kingdom. I want people to see in my life that I really make Jesus and his kingdom my priority.”
2. Okay with rejection (v. 11): “And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” Sometimes we cling so tightly to our families and friends, we cannot let them go. Well, what happens if they don’t welcome or listen to us when we talk to them about Jesus and his Kingdom? Should we abandon them and move on? Yes, sort of. Our purpose in life is to share Jesus with people who have not heard. So I think we should encourage those who reject Jesus to reduce their footprint in our lives so that others can use us as stepping stones to Jesus. This is a big sacrifice, but it requires a fearless trust that God is sovereign over our relationships.
3. John the Baptist was a shiny example of a stepping stone to Jesus (vv. 14-29) King Herod beheaded him; he gave up his life so that Jesus could shine. He was not the Messiah, but a messenger who helped others go to Jesus. Let’s look to him as our example.
CONCLUSION: Be a stepping stone, not a stumbling block.
God is inviting us to metanoia (repentance). Let us change our thoughts and behavior that cause our children, friends, neighbors, and enemies to stumble. Let’s let go of Jesus 1.0. Let’s break down our stuck-stack. Let’s repent of our lack of desire to grow closer to Jesus and deeper in our knowledge of our faith. Let’s repent of times when we are resistant to change.
Instead, let us become fearless stepping stones for the gospel of God’s Kingdom! Let us disciple our children, friends, neighbors and enemies to grow closer to the Savior and to mature their character and faith. Let us grow in grace and mercy, and truth and love.
Sermon Summary from May 7, 2017
Mark 5:21-43 • Pastor Chris Liu
This is the definition of faith, according to the Bible. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” In Mark 5:21-43, we see two examples of people who put their faith in Jesus. The first was Jairus (a ruler of the Synagogue) who’s daughter was deathly ill and the other a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years.
The first thing that we see in this passage is that both Jairus and the woman took steps of faith. In their distress and troubled times, they went out of their way to find and seek Jesus. It is one thing to know that Jesus can help them, but it is another thing to take those steps to seek Him out. In the same way, we too need to take steps of faith and give our lives over to Jesus. It isn’t enough just to come to church every week and learn about Him, but we need to take that next step and actually confess and commit our lives to Christ.
This also applies when we have a clear calling from God. Sometimes we know what God is prompting us to do (maybe sharing your faith with someone or calling you to serve somewhere), but we are afraid and ignore that calling. But, if we really believe in Him, we need to obey and move forward in faith. Even if it is something that might be difficult or uncomfortable for us, if God is calling us to do it, then we should obey.
The second thing we see in this passage is that even when we put our faith in God, sometimes things don’t always go as smoothly as planned. Jairus went out of his way, took steps of faith, to find Jesus, but along the way to his home, he found out that his daughter had died. However, Jesus wasn’t done with this story. He told Jairus to “not fear, but believe” (have faith) and Jesus went to Jairus’ home and raised his daughter from the dead. As we have seen, Jesus has authority over everything… the demons, the weather, sickness, and even death!
Sometimes in our lives, we will have uncertainties and hardships. And even when we pray to God and seek Him out in faith, there still might be bumps in the road.
But, my prayer for us is that we would hold on to the character of God and trust that He is faithful, good, and sovereign over all things. I want to remind us that this faith is not a blind faith, but it is a certain faith. Jesus is the object of our faith. He is the one we put our faith and hope in. And we know the bigger picture and story that He has already overcome Satan and death and one day we will get to rejoice with Him forever.
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.