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

2015/2/15 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