2015-5-3 Fear Factor vs. Love Factor, Sermon by Tezenlo Thong

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Fear Factor vs. Love Factor

(1 John 4:7-21)

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

“This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

“We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.”

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What drives your life? What drives our church? What drive our society or the world? Is it love? Or is it fear? Probably, most of us would say that it is definitely fear that drives everything. We are living under constant fear. We are being bombarded with news that drives us to live in fear. We fear for another economic collapse, terrorist attack, cyber attack or scam, religious extremism, political and social unrest, hyper partisanship, extreme weather patterns, etc.

The feeling of fear can be a good thing. It can help us to avoid dangerous situations. Or help us to be cautious in life. However, fear can also be incapacitating. It can inhibit us from achieving our goal or attaining our potential. Fear can strain our relationship with others. The writer of first John invites us to live a life that’s driven not by fear but by love.

What drives your life – love or fear? In other words, is your life driven by fear factor or love factor? There are some people whose lives are driven by the fear of the other. The fear of people of a different religion. The fear of people who do not think or believe like us. The fear of people with different skin color. The fear of people of different ethnic origin. The fear of “illegal” immigrants. The fear of conservatives or liberals. Even in our religious belief, it is possible to live in fear. The fear of being punished by God. The fear of going to hell. The fear of God not loving or forgiving us.

The scriptures this morning call us to live not in fear of others but to love one another. Love and abiding in Christ go hand in hand. If we say we love God but do not love others we do not abide in God. For love comes from God. “If we love one another, God lives in us,” writes John.

Tezenlo Thong, Pastor
Simpson United Methodist Church

2015-4-26 Messages received from Sermon “Following the Shepherd, Loving the Sheep” Pastor Tezenlo Thong

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Following the Shepherd, Loving the Sheep

John 10:7-18

Messages Received:

  • We need to live God’s love.
  • Community is Love – take care of those in need.
  • Self-giving and mutual concern, the mission of all Christians.
  • Caring church members make it easier to know God is a presence in our lives.
  • God = Love
  • Life and lessons of the congregation is explaning the love of God.
  • SUMC is a “resting place of love”.  We are sheltered by God’s love.
  • Your fellow Christians need your attention.
  • Humankind needs your attention.

Tezenlo Thong, Pastor
Simpson United Methodist Church

2015-4-26 “Following the Shepherd, Loving the Sheep” Pastor Tezenlo Thong

shepherd and sheep2

Following the Shepherd, Loving the Sheep

John 10:7-18

So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.”

The fourth Sunday of Easter is known as Good Shepherd Sunday. As a result, each year on the third Sunday after Easter we read from the tenth chapter of John’s gospel. The other passage from the Old Testament that goes with the gospel of John is Psalm 23. The Good Shepherd Sunday texts, as I see them, has two parts. The first talks about the shepherd’s love for the sheep, and the second part contains loving the sheep.

The shepherd so loves and is so devoted to his sheep that he would give his life for the sheep. In other words, the good shepherd’s love is self giving and sacrificial. And the shepherd commanded us to love one another in the same way that he has loved the sheep.

You cannot follow the shepherd without loving the sheep. This assertion is stated over and over again in the Bible. To follow the shepherd is to care for and love the sheep. In John 13:35, it says, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” At another time, Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?” To which, Peter answered, “Yes. I do love you.” Jesus responded, “Then, feed my sheep.” Following the shepherd and caring and loving the sheep always go hand in hand.

Tezenlo Thong, Pastor
Simpson United Methodist Church

2015-4-19 Messages received from Called to Enhance Life, Pastor Tezenlo Thong

 

Called to Enhance Life

Acts 3:3-15

Messages received:

  • Bring healing to others and heal yourself.
  • One person can make a difference by good deeds and actions.
  • One person can make a difference with ill conceived deeds and actions.
  • Small acts of kindness can be powerful.

Simpson United Methodist Church

 

2015-4-19 Called to Enhance Life, Pastor Tezenlo Thong

sumc

Called to Enhance Life

Acts 3:3-15

 When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked them for alms. Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. Jumping up, he stood and began to walk, and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. All the people saw him walking and praising God, and they recognized him as the one who used to sit and ask for alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. While he clung to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s Portico, utterly astonished. When Peter saw it, he addressed the people, “You Israelites, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we had made him walk? The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our ancestors has glorified his servant Jesus, whom you handed over and rejected in the presence of Pilate, though he had decided to release him. But you rejected the Holy and Righteous One and asked to have a murderer given to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.

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Today’s text in the book of Acts begins with the healing of a man who was lame from birth. We see two groups of people in the text: one group kills life; another group restores life. The religious leaders killed “the author of life” who came to provide abundant life. But God raised him from the dead. Following the resurrection, Peter and John healed a handicapped person. By doing so, they enhanced his life and restored his social status.

The story begins with a place called Beautiful in the gate area of the Jewish temple. In that place called Beautiful, there is someone whom society considers not so beautiful, because he was born handicapped. He is considered by others as an eye sore in a temple entrance. He is considered a burden to society. Life does not seem to have much value.

Peter’s healing not only makes the man to walk, but more importantly restores him fully to society. Here is a man whose life was considered worthless and a sore in the eye by society. By healing the man Peter and John enhanced the quality of his life. Healing brought wholeness to this once discarded man. It raised his social status and value in the eyes of others. He is no longer a second-class citizen, but a fully functioning member, equal to everyone.

In your action, word and attitude you either enrich life or diminish it. You either kill life or add meaning and purpose to life. You enrich life by visiting a sick or bereaved friend or church member. You enhance life when you bring joy and comfort to someone who is feeling lonely or hopeless. You enrich life when you enable someone to experience God’s love by your love and kindness.

Everyone is a child deeply loved by God who created her or him. Whether poor or rich, young or old, female or male, everyone carries God’s image. And everyone deserves respect and dignity. We are called not to kill or destroy life but to enrich and nurture life. In your word, action and attitude, don’t diminish life, but enrich the god-given life.

Tezenlo Thong, Pastor
Simpson United Methodist Church

 

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

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Our Renewal Comes From Dying

Messages received.

Our renewal comes from using the big and especially the small opportunities God provides us:

  • sacrifice
  • acts of kindness to those less fortunate
  • giving of blessings to all in need
  • not ignore but do good
  • be generous of all we possess
  • let God’s love flow through us
  • Follow Jesus, follow God, let your soul rejoice and be happy!

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