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.

2015-2-1 Sermon God’s Sufficient Grace, Pastor Tezenlo Thong

God’s Sufficient Grace

Mark 1:21-28

The man in today’s gospel text was healed by Jesus. He was not the only person with physical trouble or illness. There were thousands of people who wanted to be healed. Out of so many sick people, Jesus chose him to show his grace and healed him. The sick man did not deserve the favor. But he did receive grace on that day.

Should we ask, “Why him and not others?” Who are we to ask or question the provision of God’s grace? Has any one who received your blessing ever stopped you and asked, “Why are you doing this to me out of so many people who need your help?” Paul says in Romans, “[God] will have mercy on whom God will have mercy, and compassion on whom God will have compassion.”

The word “grace” has a wide range of meaning. It could mean different things depending on context and situation. It could mean loving-kindness, mercy, delight, favor, affection, sweetness, attractiveness, goodwill, and so on. The Greek word for grace is kharis (χαρις). In the New Testament, “grace” appeared 156 times. It appeared mostly in the epistles, especially in Paul’s letter. Kharis (grace) appeared only a few times in the gospels. In the gospels kharis simply means favor. For example, in Luke 2:52, it says, “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”

Kharis or grace is often described as God’s unmerited favor. In its limited sense, kharis (grace) means God’s redemptive grace. But in its general sense, we experience God’s unmerited favor every day in our life. We are what we are because of God’s unmerited favor toward us. Grace is not earned. Grace excludes merit or action. Grace is therefore defined as God’s unmerited favor.

Tezenlo Thong, Pastor
Simpson United Methodist Church

 

Messages received from sermon “God at Work in You”by Tezenlo Thong

Here are some of the comments received from the congregation describing the message received from the sermon “God at Work in You” :

  • Service of God without judgment.
  • Leaders are ministers too.
  • God gives us energy so we may extend kindness, forgiveness, grace, love and humility.
  • We the congregation are the church.
  • God is our bond to each other.
  • Christian love sometimes requires sacrifice.
  • Serve each other with a humble spirit.
  • We all have the desire to do what is good and God gives us the will, power, courage and energy to do what is good!

Special note to Tezenlo, our thoughts and prayers are with you and Eun Jung and your family during this time of loss.

 

2014-09-28 Sermon at Simpson UMC “God At Work In You”

“God At Work In You”  (Philippians 2:1-13)

What are signs of God at work in you?

How do we know that God is at work, enabling us both to will and to work for good?

The past few Sundays, we have been talking about reconciliation, forgiveness and acting graciously toward one another. These are signs of God at work in you. Whenever we experience an act of reconciliation or forgiveness among God’s people, we know that God is at work among us.

How often do we feel a desire to reconcile with a family member, a friend or coworker? How frequently do we feel the urge to forgive and ask for forgiveness? In all these circumstances, how often do we feel a lack of power or energy to act?

It is not always enough to will something. Good intentions are not always carried out.

Paul sees believers as their will energized by God and then also having the power to work supplied by God. God furnishes the enablement to carry out both the desire to will what is good and the energy to do it.

God is the one working in you, both the willing and the working.

Tezenlo Thong, Pastor

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2014-09-21 Sermon at Simpson UMC “Grace Is Not Fair”

“Grace Is Not Fair”

Matthew 20:1-16

Today’s passage will make you want to shake your head and say, “That’s not fair.” It is because grace is not fair. God’s grace is indeed not fair. Grace means unmerited favor. It means extending favor to someone who doesn’t deserve it, who hasn’t earned it, and can never repay it.

The scandal of the parable is that God doesn’t give us what we deserve. God gives us what we need, whether we deserve it or not. The point of the parable is that God’s grace is amazing. That God’s grace is beyond our comprehension. That it encompasses everyone, welcomes everyone, forgives everyone, and loves everyone.

The second part of the parable is about us. If you observed the parable carefully, it was not the landowner who distributed the silver coins. He asked the foreman/worker to give the silver coins. The owner of the vineyard has selected you to dispense the silver coins. That’s what the parable is about. God wants you to dispense grace on God’s behalf. As God representatives, we are asked to show God’s grace to others. God calls us to enlarge the margin of grace in our lives. If our grace margin is small, we become exclusionary, judgmental and self-righteous. We become rigid, legalistic and impatient with others. But if or when our margin of grace is wide and big, we overlook each other’s mistakes. We begin to see our own weakness in other people’s failures. We don’t take things too seriously. Enlarge your margin of grace to accommodate people who don’t think or believe like you, people who are different from you. That’s the reason why we are show grace by God. Freely receive, freely give!

Tezenlo Thong, Pastor Simpson UMC