2015/3/22 Sermon “Our Renewal Comes From Dying” Pastor Tezenlo Thong

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Our Renewal Comes From Dying

(John 12:23-26)

 “Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.’”

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Spring is in the air, and you can feel it. I see farmers getting ready to plow and sow seeds. Soon the seeds will begin to germinate and the flowers will be blooming. The lectionary reading from John’s gospel could not be more appropriate for this time of year. Because we see signs of new life and growth all around us. The trees and flowers are beginning to bud.

Have you ever wondered why the death and resurrection of Jesus is celebrated during the season of sowing and germination of seeds every year? Jesus says to his disciples, “Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (v. 24). Jesus uses an example of a grain to convey spiritual truth. He is telling the disciples that if they wanted to bear fruit they must die to themselves first. Another way of saying this is “Deny yourself, take up your cross daily and follow.”

Denying the self or death to self is a painful thing. Some people call it the “ministry of fading”. We fade away so that God may be revealed in our lives. John the Baptist says, “I must decrease, so that he will increase.” If we want to bear fruit, he must die to ourselves first. We must swallow our pride at times. We must be willing to make sacrifices for God’s love to be revealed.

Tezenlo Thong, Pastor

Simpson United Methodist Church

2015/3/8 Sermon “The Ten Commandments for Today” Pastor Tezenlo Thong

The Ten Commandments for Today

(Exodus 20:1-17)

For so long, the Ten Commandments have been a source of controversy in the United States. The controversy mostly relates to public display of the Ten Commandments in public schools, court houses and other government property. To post or not to post has created wide divisions in several communities. Proponents of posting the commandments are often deeply religious people who accuse the opponents of being “anti-God” or “anti-Christian.” Is the relevance of the Ten Commandment limit to this controversy? Beyond this controversy, unfortunately, many people do not see their relevance today. It’s hard to imagine how much money or time has been wasted just on this issue – to post or not to post publicly. The commandments were not given for this purpose. That’s for sure.

The Ten Commandments are not as straightforward or simple as we think. For example, how to we interpret the oft quoted commandment: “Thou shall not kill.” What does it really mean by this? There are more times in the Old Testament when God is said to have commanded to kill than not to kill. For example, in Deuteronomy 20:17, it is said that God commanded Israelites to completely destroy the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. Could this be from the same God who said, “Thou shall not kill”? Could the two commandments be from two different gods? Or did God change God’s mind and decided to allow mass murder or genocide?

It all comes down to how we see the Bible. If we see the Bible as inerrant or infallible, we are likely to take the words of the Bible at face value. At the end what matters is not what we believe but how we act and how we treat each other in the name of God.

Tezenlo Thong, Pastor

Simpson United Methodist Church

2015/3/1 Messages received from Sermon “A New Name, A New Journey” Pastor Tezenlo Thong

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A New Name, A New Journey

 Messages received and meaning and history of names:

  • God changes names to give new vision and purpose, a new meaning to life.
  • We each have 2 names, our second name is “Christian”
  • Each of us lives up to 2 names, our given name and “Christian”
  • Tezenlo, beloved or please love him, my parents’ prayer for their first child
  • Nancy, full of grace
  • Chen, true happiness given to me by my grandfather, his wishes for his granddaughter
  • Teruko, shine or bright
  • Charlotte, named after my father Charley
  • Alisha, truth, named after my grandmother
  • Hondo, African for warrior
  • Molly, a happy Irish name for a little girl who is always smiling
  • Dante, from the Godfather movie and from the father of the Italian language
  • Soye, Little Jesus, from my parents
  • Eun Jung, right
  • Carla, wood cutter, given to me by my parents because they thought it sounded Japanese like Kara
  • Noel, I was born the day after Christmas
  • Paula, Latin for small (I was born prematurely) and named after my father’s best friend and well respected community leader who passed away shortly before I was born

2015/3/1 Sermon “A New Name, A New Journey” Pastor Tezenlo Thong

A New Name, A New Journey

(Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16; Mark 8:34-38)

What’s in a name? My name is given by parents, and it means “to be loved” or “beloved.” As their first child, my name carries my parents’ expectations, hope, prayers and wishes. Likewise, when my wife and I gave our children their names, we prayed and named them. The names we gave carry our hopes and wishes for their lives. So, names have meanings and significance.

The Bible is replete with examples of changed names. We see this fact in the reading from Genesis 17. Abram was changed to “Abraham,” which means “father of multitudes.” Sarai was changed to “Sarah,” which means “princess.” Also, Jacob becomes “Israel” (Genesis 35:10).

In the New Testament, we read in the gospels that Simon becomes “Peter, the rock.” Another familiar example is the changing of Saul to “Paul.” Saul who once persecuted the church is now changed into Paul – small or humble.

When we become Christians, we aren’t given new names as it used to be in olden days. But we are all given the name “Christian.” It comes from the Greek word Christianos, meaning followers of Christ. The word appeared only one time in the Bible – Acts 11:26.

You are given a new name – Christian. That is now your identity. That is who you are now. When God changes your name, your vision is also changed, and you gain a new perspective. You become a new person. Your priorities become difference. Your interest and desire become different. Your values become different. You have a new task or mission. And you are on a new journey for God.

Tezenlo Thong, Pastor

Simpson United Methodist Church

2015/2/22 Sermon “The Kingdom Values” Pastor Tezenlo Thong

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“The Kingdom Values”

(Mark 1:9-15)

 What comes to mind when you hear the word “kingdom”? Perhaps, you think of a country, a geographical location, royalty or grandeur. Now, what comes to mind when you hear the kingdom of God? Probably you’re thinking of a place, a heavenly zone but still a “place” with defined parameters. May be a place we can’t see now, but hope to realize hereafter.

In Matthew it says, “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe.” But I like the way the writer of Luke puts it. Luke 11:20 says, “But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come to you. In Luke 17:20-21, it writes, “Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, ‘The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.”

For Luke, the kingdom is already realized here and now. For him the kingdom of God does not appear with visible or material tokens, because it is within or inside a person or among the people. In other words, for Luke, Jesus is the kingdom of God. Jesus personifies the reign of God. The kingdom of God is not a place or a region, but a reign or dominion. Wherever God rules there is the kingdom of God. So when Jesus says, “Follow me,” he is saying, “Come and be a part of the kingdom.” In the gospels, the kingdom of God is not only a future reality. It is present – NOW – and will be fully revealed in the future. We see this tension throughout the Bible – “now” and “not yet.”

I’d like to focus on the values of the kingdom of God, and I must say that the values of the world are different from the values of the kingdom of God. Jesus often used paradoxes to teach the values of the kingdom of God. At one time he said, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:14). The world will ask you, “How many people serve you? What are your achievements? How wealthy are you?” But Jesus understands greatness the opposite. Jesus asks us, “How many people have you served?”

Tezenlo Thong, Pastor
Simpson United Methodist Church

 

2015/2/15 messages received from Sermon “Prejudice, Discrimination and Racism in the Bible: What Can We learn Today?” Pastor Tezenlo Thong

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Messages received:

  • “Where are you from? ” implies you don’t belong here.
  • Where are you from? You are not one of us.
  • If there is a kernal of faith and grace in you the Bible lets you see the message of love and grace.
  • If hatred is in you you’ll see the justification of that hatred you read through your self filter.
  • Consider whether or not you are practicing prejudice or discrimination.  Is it racial, skin color, religion, gender or something else?
  • The Bible should not be used as an excuse or justification for allowing barriers to exist between peoples.

2015/2/15 Sermon “Prejudice, Discrimination and Racism in the Bible: What Can We learn Today?” Pastor Tezenlo Thong

“Prejudice, Discrimination and Racism in the Bible: What Can We learn Today?”

(Galatians 3:26-28)

 If you have been to Israel, you will have noticed that there is a world of ethnoracial diversity among the Jews. The modern Israeli population comprise of people from all over the world, including from an unlikely place in India. Likewise, scholars have recognized ethnoracial diversity among the ancient Jews. So, anyone who describes “Jewish people” as a particular race or ethnic group cannot be farther from the truth.

In spite of the diversity, the Bible contains texts that reveal prejudice, discrimination and racism. Racism, however, should not be understood in terms of skin color. Today, whenever we hear the term “racism”, the first thing that comes to mind is skin color. Although the Bible has been used to justify racism in relation to skin color, it hardly mentions skin color. Racism based on the color of skin is a modern idea.

The Bible contains seemingly contradictory messages. For example, Paul who wrote, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28) had no qualms in saying, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ” (Ephesians 6:5). Passages like this and others have been cited to justify racism and discrimination. However, the Bible was not written and should not be used to create barriers in human relationships. However, those who are bent on practicing discrimination of any kind will always find biblical passages to support their beliefs or actions.

Richard Rohr has aptly summed up in his book, The Great Themes of Scripture: Old Testament: “Indeed, the Scriptures are both the best book in the world and the worst book in the world. They are the worst when they are used for bullying and self-satisfaction. They are the best when they are used for the healing of the world and for the transformation of the self. It all depends on how we read them and how we use them. The “who” that you bring to the Bible will determine “how” you understand it and how you use it.”

Tezenlo Thong, Pastor
Simpson United Methodist Church

2015-2-8 Messages received from Sermon “I Am Free, BUT….” , Pastor Tezenlo Thong

“I Am Free, BUT….”

Messages received:

  • Free speech is a privilege but as a Christian I must use my freedom with restraint and love to all, especially to my friends and family.
  • With freedom comes responsibility.
  • Identify the needs of others in service to God.
  • Identify and understand intolerance and conflict.
  • Is it more powerful to act with love and with grace?
  • Does the individual need the group?  Does the individual always represent the group?
  • Respect does not dishonor others.

2015-2-8 Sermon “I Am Free, BUT….” , Pastor Tezenlo Thong

“I Am Free, BUT….”

1 Corinthians 9:16-23

In 1993, Samuel P. Hungtington proposed a theory that in the post-Cold War, religious/cultural identities would be the major cause of conflict in the world. This seminal concept was first published as an article entitled A Clash of Civilizations. Are we, indeed, living in a period of a clash of civilizations? The recent killing of Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine staff and other Parisians by some religious extremists masquerading as “believers” has prompted condemnations around the world. Although there are some who believe that the killing was justified, most reasonable people across cultures and religious traditions condemn the taking of lives.

This unfortunate and atrocious event has triggered a crucial debate on freedom of speech. From prominent religious leaders (like the Pope) to political figures (such as the British Prime Minister), opinions are being raised in relation to freedom of expression and its responsibility. Does freedom of expression have responsibility? Is it acceptable to insult someone’s fundamental value in the exercise of my fundamental value?

The right to freedom of speech is often invoked as a fundamental right in the West. It is enshrined in the constitution or Bill of Rights. Many would go to the extent of arguing that free speech includes freedom to offend, mock, insult and provoke.

Do Christians have the right to freedom of speech? Yes, we do. Does it include the freedom to offend, insult or mock? Peter says, “Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God” (1 Peter 2:16). Paul knew that he was free, but he voluntarily and willingly constrained himself so that he might be able to “win” some for God. Christian freedom comes with responsibility and limitations.

The scripture says, “Speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). Our speech must be adorned with love always. Easer said than done, no doubt, but a principle worth trying. So, what does it mean to speak in love? Paul says, “Love does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Corinthians 13:5). On one hand, to love is to refrain from doing anything to “dishonor others” (unlike what Charlie Hebdo does). On the other hand, love is “not easily angered” to perpetrate violence (unlike what the extremists did).

Because the secular government allows us to do certain things does not mean that they are in agreement with the Christian or godly principle. If my free speech is going to hurt, or cause harm, violence or death, I need to exercise prudence. Words can kill. Words also can heal.

Tezenlo Thong, Pastor
Simpson United Methodist Church

 

2015-2-1 Messages received from Pastor Tezenlo Thong’s Sermon God’s Sufficient Grace

God’s Sufficient Grace

Messages Received:

  • I learned that I fall shamefully short when it comes to offering Grace to others. This week and beyond I will focus myself and consciously try to be the graceful person God wants me to be.
  • What is Grace? How have you experienced Grace?  How have you given Grace?
  • Grace is a gift from God.
  • Grace comes to us from faith.
  • Definition of Grace – God’s unmerited favor and as we receive Grace we are called to be gracious as well.
  • God has bestowed Grace to all of us. We are so fortunate, thus we need to in turn bestow the grace we have received to others.
  • Grace expressed (received from God, witnessed given by God, our gifts to others) through loving kindness, mercy, goodwill, redemption through faith and unmerited favor.
  • We receive Grace and have the ability to give Grace to others.
  • Our following God’s example and ministering Grace to the unlovely, unpleasant, undeserving and unlikeable may change their lives forever.
  • Our following God’s example and ministering Grace to the unlovely, unpleasant, undeserving and unlikeable may change our lives forever.