Monday, May 16, 2016

Show Mercy International

Chicago HBF is partnering with Show Mercy International for our Uganda trip this summer. Can't wait to see what God will do!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

I Want To Know Christ - John Lee

Philippians 3:1-21
Key Verse: 10-11
“I want to know Christ-yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.”

Hey guys! We are finally here! The last message of this wonderful 2016 Easter Conference! So have you guys been enjoying the conference so far? What has been your guys’ favorite part so far? Personally for me, I have actually enjoyed the meetings more than the free time this year. These last few days, we have been blessed to be able to listen to five wonderful messages. So what have you guys learned in these last few days? Becky’s, Mary’s, David Won’s, Wolff’s, Kim’s? In Becky’s message we learned that Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. In Mary’s message we learned about the reckless spending of grace God pours out on us. In David Won’s message we learned about how both sons were lost because they did not have a relationship with the God the father. In David Wolff’s message we learned about Jesus, our true older brother, who came down to earth to lead us back to God. And in David Kim’s message we learned that through Christ’s death on the cross, anyone and everyone can be forgiven.  In this passage we will come to what it means to know Christ. From Paul, we can learn three things. FIRST: Knowing Christ is to put our confidence in Him; SECOND: Knowing Christ is to share in His death and life; THIRD: Knowing Christ is worth it all.

Part I: Knowing Christ is to put our confidence in Him (1-9)
At this time, Paul had been put in prison because of his faith. He was most likely in a dirty cell with rats crawling around, food crumbs everywhere, and it also probably reeked of pee and poop. On top of all that he was isolated from people and must have started to feel very lonely. Given his circumstances, it could have been very easy for Paul to just complain or become angry with God. Yet rather than complain, Paul was a source of encouragement for the people in Philippi. We have all been in a difficult or unfavorable condition before, and if you haven’t, you’re either lying or you’re just a baby who hasn’t really experienced life. Haha…jk. Here for example, maybe you aren’t satisfied with a certain grade you have in school, even though you insist that you have been studying as hard as you possibly could; or maybe, you’ve been having trouble with a certain relationship in your life and feel that the person is being unjust and treating you unfairly; or maybe, life itself just seems to be so meaningless or stressful. Paul, who was suffering in prison, teaches us to rejoice. He encouraged the Philippians to do the same. Verse 1 reads, “Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you.” Paul was genuinely happy and was able to rejoice because he knew that Christ was right beside him even in his time of trial. He had confidence in Christ. And because he was able to rejoice, the Philippians could also rejoice. Even though it may not be easy, I pray that we can rejoice in all circumstances, putting our hope in Christ, and doing so, we are able to genuinely become happy.

While in prison, Paul was trying to encourage the Philippians, and warn them about people that would hinder their faith. In verse 2 Paul says, “Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh.” Paul was referring to those that believed that followers of Christ must be circumcised, and that those that didn’t could not receive salvation. Like the Pharisees in Jesus’ time, this mindset was very legalistic. Rather than focus on the redeeming power of Jesus, some Jews wanted to focus and hold onto traditions, minimizing Jesus’ death on the cross. However, Paul warns us of those that are mutilators of flesh. These “Christians” were very lost. They did not really know Christ because they put their confidence in the flesh. We cannot gain salvation through our actions or through holding onto traditions. Rather it is solely through God’s one sided grace that we can be saved and redeemed. Paul says in verse 3, “For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh-“Now, I am not saying that doing good deeds or holding onto some sort of tradition is bad. I think it is good for us as Christians to write and share testimonies, profess our faith through baptism, go fishing to spread the gospel message, and to partake in fellowship through attending Sunday service. If you do these things, great, it can really help you grow in faith. However, let me ask you a question, if you do do these things, why do you do them? If we do these things just because our parents make us do them to because we think that it’s good for us, aren’t we just being like the older son in the parable of the prodigal son? Doing these actions should be out of love for God, not because we “should” do them.  It is because of God’s grace on us that we are saved and can inherit eternal life. And because of this, we are able to rejoice and in our happiness we can gladly and willingly serve God by his Spirit.

The grace that we receive from God also enables us to have a new identity in Christ Jesus. Before Paul had become a Christian, he was a Pharisee. And he was not just any ordinary Pharisee, no; you see Paul was a perfect Jew. In verses 4-6, Paul says, “..though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.” Before he had met Jesus, Paul had done all these things to try to gain his salvation. Paul’s attitude in a sense was pretty similar to the older brother. As we learned in David Won’s message, the older brother was just as lost as the younger brother, in the sense that he had no relationship with the father. He viewed himself as a slave, and was only working so that he could receive the inheritance. Both sons cared nothing about their relationship with God, but rather were only looking to try and gain some sort of reward. Likewise, Paul had no relationship with God the father, and instead was only looking to see what he could gain from keeping all the laws.

On the way to Damascus, Jesus turned Paul’s life around to use him to proclaim the gospel message. Paul, who was hopelessly wandering around, persecuting Christians, believed that he was doing God’s work and that through this he could gain some sort of salvation. However, Jesus came to save him and showed him how he could really serve God. Through this conversion, Paul’s identity changed from being a law-abiding Jew into becoming a follower of Christ. He didn’t put his confidence in his Jewish identity anymore, rather he put his confidence in Jesus who gave him a new identity.  That is why in verses 7-9 Paul says, “But whatever were gains to me, I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ-the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.” Ultimately, we cannot do anything to gain our salvation. Our confidence can only be in Jesus. It is through His grace we receive salvation. And in that grace we can also come to have a clear identity as Christians who put our faith in Christ.

Part II: To Know Christ is to share in His death and His life (10-14)
Now what does it really mean, “to follow Christ?” To be completely honest with you guys, I had a very difficult time understanding what this meant. Most of us here have all grown up in UBF or in a Christian household, learning about Jesus from when we were very young. We know that God sent him down to be with us, to show us how we can please God, and ultimately to die for our sins. But then, what does it mean to really know Christ? Paul says in verses 10 and 11, our key verse for this passage, “I want to know Christ-yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” Paul, largely considered the most influential Christian of all time, said that he wanted to know Christ more. How is this even possible? How is it that someone like Paul who devoted His life to Christ could still say “I want to know Christ?” It is because when we really meet God, we see how great the grace of Jesus is on our lives. And the closer we come to God, the more we realize how much we sin. However, we can also come to see how much more God’s grace increases on our lives. That is why Paul says I want to know Christ, so that he can constantly be reminded of God’s grace on his life, and in that way his passion and love for Christ can be stirred up newly.

It may seem that I have everything figured it out. But to be completely honest with you guys, I don’t even fully know what it means to know Christ. When I first received this passage, I didn’t really know how this passage could apply to me. At first I was angry and thought that I was just given a filler passage totally unrelated to the conference. However, after studying this passage, I was really humbled to see how little that I actually know. For my entire life, I have obeyed my parents and just gone with the flow of things. Unlike most of my peers, who in my opinion are very intelligent and observant asked many questions during Bible Studies to see if they could accept Jesus as their own savior, I never really questioned whether or not I actually believe in Christ. And it started to get me thinking, do I really know who Jesus is? I was baptized in the eighth grade, but how much did I really know him, and did I even love him? These feelings of doubt and uncertainty made me feel frustrated and realize how inadequate I am to deliver this message. However, through a lot of prayer, and I mean a lot of prayer, from my parents, from you all, and especially the HBF leaders as well as my fellow seniors, I was able to come to understand, that no I don’t know everything there is to know about my faith. But one thing I do know is that God is surely alive. And I can say this with certainty. When I look, I can see how much God has worked in my life. I really should not be here today. There have been many points in my life where I should’ve died. When I was born, my mom had complications during her delivery, which had put both her and I at risk of losing our lives. Shortly after, doctors had found that I was born with a birth defect and that I couldn’t digest any of my food because my esophagus was not connected to my stomach. Even later on in my life, I had chronic pneumonia as many of you know and have even been hospitalized several times. There are many other things that I can name where I can see that God has worked in my life, but then we would be here all day.. and I know some of you guys want to get back home ASAP. Yes, I may look like a weak and helpless person, but really that’s where I have been able to see how gracious God has been on my life and that he is indeed alive. What is more, I know that Jesus came to save me, a worthless sinner who was lost in his sins of pride, lust, jealousy, and self-centeredness. Jesus died on the cross for my sins and in that way was able to forgive me for all of my shortcomings. But the real beauty is in his resurrection. Because Jesus rose again from the dead, I can be alive in him and really have a new identity in him and by coming to him I can develop a new relationship with him. I am also coming to see that knowing Christ is not something that happens once in our lifetime. Rather it is something that we must constantly and daily do, so that our love for Jesus can continually be renewed. I pray that as I continue onto college in the next year, that I may be able to hold onto my faith and come to know Christ more.

Now let me ask you guys a question, do you know Christ? Have you ever met the risen Christ, or are you leaning on someone else’s faith? Or let me ask this, how do we get to know a person, and what is the best way to get to know a person? Isn’t the best way to get to know someone by spending time with them? Then isn’t also the best way to get to know Jesus, by spending more time with him? However, there is only one problem, Jesus is no longer alive and here on earth. We can’t just go over to Jesus’ house and chill on his couch or mooch off of his family by eating lunch with them every day. So then, how can we really come to know Christ if we can’t physically spend time with him? I truly believe that the only way that we can know Christ is reading the Bible, prayer, and sharing in Christ’s sufferings. Can we all read the key verse again? “I want to know Christ-yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” In order to know Christ, we need to participate in Christ’s sufferings. Paul says this is like dying. What this means is that, as Christians, we must die to ourselves daily just as Jesus died so that we may experience the power of the resurrection from when we were spiritually dead. Through denying ourselves, we can partake in Christ’s sufferings, but even greater, we can experience his resurrection power which frees us from the bondages of slavery to sin. Can someone read Romans 6:4-5: “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.” To know Christ is to share in His sufferings so that we also share in His resurrection power.  Through Jesus, we can be found again and brought back to the Father. We are no longer dead in sin, but alive in Christ. To know Christ is to realize God’s grace on our lives and to want to follow him.

Part III: Following Christ is worth it all (15-21)
Following Christ is not easy because we have to partake in his sufferings. But through partaking in Christ’s sufferings, we gain something even greater--we can experience his resurrection power which frees us from the bondage of sin. Again, I say, participating in Christ’s sufferings is not easy. It could require us to miss out on some experiences that life has to offer. One of my friends recently told me that he believed in God, but did not want to follow him, because he wanted to be able to whatever he wanted and to be the master of his own life. I, myself, struggle with this mindset and for a while regretted being born into a Christian household, and especially into UBF. Having to go to CBF every Saturday morning and eventually Praise nights on Friday, and service on Sunday’s, I was not able to participate in many club sports, hang out with friends, or even go to certain school events. I felt like I missed out on a lot of fun experiences and had many regrets. But through this passage, Paul teaches us that Jesus has so much more to offer than what the world has to offer us. He gives us His resurrection life. As a good-standing Jew in community, Paul was highly respected and also had a lot of influence. However, he says that he considered everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus. Paul was also not living for this world but rather was looking forward to his reward in heaven. In verses 13-14, Paul says, “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Paul knew that Jesus had so much more to offer, which is eternal life with God in heaven. And because of this, Paul had no regrets because through Jesus he could find true joy and meaning in his life. William Whiting Borden was born into affluence in Chicago, Illinois, on November 1, 1887. Borden's family was wealthy and his father prominent in Chicago, making his money in silver mining in Colorado. After his mother converted to Christianity in 1894, she began taking him to Chicago Avenue Church (now the Moody Church). He soon responded to the gospel, turned to Christ, and was baptized. Borden’s father wanted him to take care of the family company and even offered to give him $1 million dollars as an inheritance. However, to his father’s dismay, Borden decided to become a missionary to the Muslims of northern China, and donated that $1 million to the China Inland Mission as well as other Christian agencies. But before Borden could even make it to China, he died of cerebral meningitis in Egypt during his training at age 25. From a worldly and human perspective, Borden’s death was tragic and his life was cut short. However, soon after his death, his Bible was recovered, with three things written inside. In it were the words, "No Reserve" and a date placing the note shortly after he renounced his fortune in favor of missions. At a later point, he had written "No Retreat", dated shortly after his father told him that he would never let him work in the company ever again. Shortly before he died in Egypt, he added the phrase "No Regrets." Borden’s message of not living for this world shows just how much of a better experience Jesus offers to us when we live our life for him. Even though we may suffer and face difficult situations, ultimately, the life that we have following Christ gives us the most joy and meaning in life. When I look back upon my experiences of growing up in a Christian household, I can really see how blessed that I am, and how gracious God has been to me with enabling me to know and meet him from such a young age. I pray that we all may become like Paul and be able to consider everything garbage compared to knowing Christ more.

This leads me toward the end of my message. So how has everything that we’ve learned over the last few days apply to us today? At the beginning of this passage, Paul warns us of evildoers who put confidence in the flesh. But who are these people? Whether we like it or not, these people are actually us. We are all lost because of our sin. We have all fallen short of the glory of God, and have been separated from him because of our sin. Some of us are like the younger son, who only want to seek pleasure and indulge in the world, without any regard to God’s calling. Others of us are like the older brother, who do many works, but not because we genuinely love God, and have become like slaves, thinking that we can gain our own salvation. However, there will come a point in our lives, where nothing that we do can fully satisfy us and life becomes so bleak. Our hearts long for something more. And like the welcoming father, our God lavishes his love on us trying to lead us back to him. And the great thing is that God has already done this for us, and is continuing to pour out his love on us. He sent Jesus to us to be our true older brother and lead us back to him. However, Jesus had to go through so much pain and suffering to bring us back to the Father. He gave up his glory in heaven to become a human like us. He was our true older brother by teaching us how to live a life that pleased God. He spent time with the social rejects, the lonely, and the sick. And ultimately he paid the ultimate price by dying on that brutal cross for our sins. But even while on that cross, he was spat on, mocked, beaten, and worst of all, he was isolated from God in order to bear my sin and your sin. How painful it must have been for him! But the one thing that really moved him to fully obey God was his great unconditional love for us. Jesus knew the heart of the father, and came to seek us and bring us home. Jesus could only do this because like God the father, he loves us so much! You know, last night for the first time in my life I really came to see how much God loves me, and thinking about his love for me really brought me to tears. And the only thing that I kept asking myself was why? Why does Jesus love someone like me? I am like both the older brother and the younger brother. I can’t fully commit to God’s plan for me and am afraid to give into whatever God has in store for me. However, I am also so self-righteous and in order to feel right with God, I do numerous sorts of things to try to gain redemption. So why would God love such a terrible sinner like me who is not even capable of reciprocating the love that he shows for me? And the beauty of it is that Jesus loves us because we are who we are. What is more, we are his God’s precious children, and because of that God is willing to go to any lengths to bring us back to him. If Jesus was just an ordinary man, his death would’ve just been another tragic story. However, we know that this is not true. Through his resurrection from the dead, we can have full assurance that Jesus has defeated death and forgiven us of our sins. What is more, we can be brought back to God, if we just believe! So what are we waiting for? Do you want to know Christ and be brought back to the father? Then let us come to know Christ and love him, growing in a deeper relationship with him.

At the Cross - David Kim

Key verse: Luke 23:34a – “Jesus said, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”
        Good evening! How’s everybody? How’s the conference?
        Today, we will be making a connection with David Wolff’s message and talk about what Jesus did for us as our true older brother…
This passage, which deals with the death of Jesus, contains much more significance than reading it like a historical event.
Now you know the story of the Prodigal son. The two sons who were loved by their father and treated with the best luxuries the father could provide. That was the father’s plan, in which he would provide his sons with the fullest of his ability. His main purpose was to have a relationship with his sons; a relationship which would bond them together and live happily. But that’s not how the story goes does it? The younger son treats the father like crap and the older son later shows that he was only in it for the wealth. But unlike other fathers, their father was different; and he reacted differently. OUR father was different.
Because of our actions like the younger and older brother, we have been separated from God and couldn’t be near him since we were imperfect and full of sin. But in this story we see that this unbreakable rule is broken through an event we can’t imagine to purposely take part in and an idea no human would have possibly thought of. This crazy idea, the crucifixion, planned out by God was the way and only way that we and God could be together again. But this plan was of course, not simple. It had to weigh against all of our sins! This plan was long and painful in which no human could volunteer or even be paid for to do such things.
This, in fact, could have only been done through Christ and his blood. Through this passage, I hope we can see the true meaning and power of the crucifixion not as pain or suffering, but as a new hope and connection with God.
        Verse 26 says “As the solders led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus.” How painful and tiring would this have been for Jesus? We can see that he couldn’t even hold the cross. He was so weak that someone else had to hold the cross for him.
        In the previous passages, we can see just how brutal this was. Now after Jesus was tried in court, condemned guilty of blasphemy, and brutally beaten almost to the point of death, they put the cross on him and took him to a hill to be crucified. At this point, Jesus could have only been in unexplainable pain. Before this, he had been beaten and brutally whipped by Roman soldiers. Now I don’t know about you but I’m pretty sure those soldiers weren’t ordinary citizens. They were the leading military force in the world at the time. Imagine the strongest kid in your school. That buff guy who always lifts weights and drinks protein shakes. Now imagine five or more of those guys beating you up afterschool. It’s not pretty is it? This wasn’t even the beginning. After being beaten, Jesus was then whipped dozens of times, and this was no ordinary whip. It had a piece of bone at the end of the rope which would rip chunks of skin off from your body. It was so harsh that many criminals die due to whip alone before even facing the cross.
After going through all this, Jesus was then forced to carry the cross from where he was to the hill called the Skull. Historians say this distance his was about 0.3 kilometers, which is 300 meters. What’s that… a block or two? This seems like a short distance to us but to Jesus, it would have felt like miserably long. Not only being flogged, he was forced to carry the crossbeam which was about 100lb. (The total weight of the cross was well over 300lb. I mean, if Jesus was forced to carry 300lb, it would have been a little overrated. The average load of a U.S. soldier carries was about 95lb)
Even with all this, Jesus was not only carrying the weight of physical suffering but also the extreme weight of everyone’s sin as well.
1.    Daughters of Jerusalem
        Now that you know what Jesus went through, look at these verses. Let’s read verses 27-28: A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children.”
Now the women were probably in shock at this time. The person they served, loved and shared everything with was beaten, spit on, mocked, and was now being dragged to an execution site. When people that you know, go through hard times, such as a friend, or a loved one, it’s hard to watch them suffer, let alone leave them be. Normally we try to comfort them, share their grief with them, and provide what they need in order for them to get back on their feet. But in this situation the women couldn’t do such a thing. Instead they did what they only could do: they followed him and mourned for him.
        But Jesus tells them not to weep for him. He tells them of the future when they will face something so great, and so devastating to the point where they wouldn’t want to bear children.
        Verse 30 says “Then “’they will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!” and to the hills, “Cover us!”
What was Jesus talking about? How could having offspring be so bad (other than paying for their college tuition)? He was talking about the attack on Israel which would happen 40 years later when Romans would completely destroy Jerusalem and its temple. The romans would wipe out everything on sight; mercilessly kill men, women, and children, leaving Jerusalem devastated. Jesus was talking about at this point the women would be in such great pain that they would have wished that the mountains and hills would have covered them because of the death of their children.
 Why was Jesus saying this? Why was he saying it now? He can barely stand on his two feet but he gives the time to comfort the women around him. He was in so much pain and surrounded by so much evil and darkness. Well, this was because of Jesus’ love and compassion. Even at this dark moment, even in the darkest moment of his life on earth where everything seemed to be going wrong and towards the losing side, and Jesus showed compassion for them. Jesus showed compassion for US. And through this we can see that this love was no ordinary love.
        We can face hard times; times where we feel utter hopelessness. When it feels like nothing more can go wrong. But we can see that through Jesus’ love, and the love he showed on the way to the cross can give us hope that no human on earth can give.
2.    Father forgive them
        Verse 32 to 33: Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals- one on his right, the other on his left.
        Jesus was being treated like a criminal. During the Roman Empire, when a criminal was put on the cross, it meant that he did something horribly wrong, such as treason or murder. Jesus was an innocent man. Pilate knew that but let Barnabas go. The Pharisees knew this because of their jealousy. We all know that Jesus was an innocent man. Jesus himself knew this but continued his journey down the path of suffering, continuing his plan. The Skull was a hill which could be seen from many directions close and far. This was to announce the punishment to the public so that the people could see that these men were criminals and people would know what type of crime he or she committed. This was their way of humiliating and shaming the criminal as they died.
        But here we can see Jesus didn’t feel shame, or humiliation. Let’s read verse 34a. “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.
Incredible don’t you think? Jesus went through so much pain and is still suffering on the cross, but he says “Father forgive them.” How is that possible? Even the little thingsget us sometimes. As human beings, we have a difficult time forgiving others. Weather they did something big or small, our anger or frustration towards them causes our judgments to be blinded by our emotions. Of course this is a natural human reaction but in this situation, we can clearly see that Jesus was no ordinary human. He’s God’s son, revealing the supernatural power of God’s forgiveness. From the beginning of his ministry to his death on the cross, Jesus never stops showing his compassion towards us; his unending compassion which still continues on to this day. Jesus’ compassion for us made him to pray “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” It looks like the people doing it on purpose but Jesus said “they did not know what they are doing.” He saw them blinded by their own sins and their ignorance. The forgiving love of Jesus is more than a justice. It is the most powerful and only love that covers all our sins.
But still the people didn’t see this. They didn’t understand the situation. The people surrounded Jesus with criminals, they continued to mock him, hurt him, and we can see that they] killed him. Verse 35-37 says “The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” The solders also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself”
Even as the rulers and soldiers mocked him, Jesus said “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”Everyone’s still mocking him on the cross but Jesus is still asking God to forgive them.
No human can forgive another through natural judgment in situations like this. You and I cannot do this by ourselves. It’s impossible. We can’t do it. But Jesus did.
Jesus asked God to forgive them because he didn’t lookand judge them by their current rebellious actions. He didn’t ask God to forgive them because they deserved it. No, no. He asked God to forgive them because of his grace and love for them; his unconditional grace, his unconditional love. Jesus knew and saw our spiritual blindness. He knew how filled with sin we were and how desperately we needed a true older brother.
Have you ever been in a situation like Jesus? When people accuse you of doing a certain thing? When people dislike what you do, what you say? When people you’re close to, or distant from hate you when you didn’t do anything wrong? What do you say? What do you do? Here we can see what Jesus did. He forgave them. Now, of course it’s easier said than done. Our natural emotions fight with what’s right and wrong.  We can see that forgiveness is costly and seeming impossible at times. But with Jesus’ love, we can choose to forgive them.
When Stephen was being beaten to death with stones, he asked God to forgive them. When the disciples were hated and chased by the law, they showed compassion and forgiveness even to the point of their deaths.Are you having a hard time forgiving someone who hurt you?If so, what would you do? Would you confront them? Get even with them?
In the passage, when the people hurt Jesus, when WE hurt Jesus and offended God’s son, he didn’t punish us, he didn’t blow us up, he didn’t show anger, he chose to forgive us; he chose to forget our sins. I pray that God may help usto understand this and keep it in our heart. Let’s think about the power of forgiveness.
(The essence of Christian faith is in forgiveness of sins. Unless we accept His forgiveness, we don’t have relationship with Him. )
Here we can see two things. The first is the grace of God. And the second is the love of God.
Let’s talk about grace first. What is grace? It’s something we can’t work for but rather given to us as a gift. Something we definitely don’t deserve. If we were to get what we deserved, it wouldn’t be grace, but would be eternal punishment in hell because that’s what we deserve. The only reason we are alive and doing what we do is because of the grace of God. Just by looking around, we can see just how much grace God has given to us. Look at your life; your family, friends, Christian family, heck even look at your hands. If it weren’t for God, you wouldn’t have them. These are the things that God provided for us and something he chose to do himself. He wasn’t forced to do so, he’s God! No one can force God to do anything. Neither did he feel a need to. This grace, a free gift, was given purely through his willingness.Ephesians 2:8 says: For it is by grace that you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.God doesn’t limit his grace. In the song “How He Loves”, there’s a verse saying “If grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.” God gives us so much grace, that we can’t even handle it. And he won’t hesitate to give us more.
Even while Jesus was being crucified, God’s grace can be shown. In verses 39 to 43, a murderer who committed crime all his life, is saved at the last moment through faith.
In this passage, God showed grace to the people by sending his son to the world. He showed grace to mankind. He showed grace to US, sinners. Even when we rejected him, even when we eventually murdered his beloved son, his grace, his unconditional grace didn’t change. Beautiful, right?
Now let’s talk about love. Not the kind of love where you start feeling weird and you get a tingling sensation in your chest when you see that girl or boy. No, not that kind of human love. I’m talking about God’s love; true love; the love defined in the Bible through the life of Jesus. What’s the difference? That’s easy; one is perfect and one is not. Now I’m going to talk about the God’s love, the perfect one. The other “love”, you guys can discuss it later.
Now this true love is incredible. In the Bible, it shows just how powerful this love can be. And this love is shown right here, in Luke 23; the most incredible love story of all time. So incredible that it completely destroyed the power of sin. Do you know what that means? Do you know how powerful sin is? Did you know that it can overtake you without you even noticing it? It’s so powerful that even influential legit Christians have sometimes overcome by Satan. It’s inevitable because of our imperfection. No one can avoid sin. No science, no money, no good deed will allow us to avoid sin, let alone clear it. But through God’s love, he cleared it for us. And he cleared it ALL. The power of sin and death was defeated by God’s unconditional love for us, and by sending his SON, his ONLY SON, as he was praying for our forgiveness on the cross, we were saved right then.
So through this we can learn the grace and love of God.
But sometimes, we forget this, we put this behind us and start to think and judge through our own instincts. I lived most of my life alone since my father was in Korea, My mother usually worked and my sister lived in a completely different state. This caused me to be independent. Although I learned this passage every year, I didn’t understand it fully and I didn’t care. Why did I need to know this? I was living my life fine. Even today, I continue to have a hard time going back and forth. But, a deeper study of God for the past few weeks and by reading the passage in a deeper meaningful way, I could learn deeper about what Jesus did for me on the cross.
So what was the result of this significant event? Let’s look at verse 44 and 45. It says “It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.”
What was the curtain of the Temple? As you guys know, it was the boundary between us and God; the boundary where holiness and unholiness divided. On the other side of the curtain was the presence of God. Normal people couldn’t pass this curtain. Only the High Priest could enter this place once a year to make a sacrifice. They had to tie a rope around his waist so that if he didn’t come out within a certain period, his body would be dragged out from outside.
But this curtain was torn in half and the most holy place was visible for everyone to see. The old way was broken through the blood and body of Jesus. The place which couldn’t be approached by man was now open through the death of Jesus. This was no accident. It wasn’t a maintenance issue. If it was, it wouldn’t have been recorded in the gospel. Rather, it showed the significance of our reconnection with God. Now we can talk to him anywhere. You can talk to him in a car, while walking, heck even when we’re in the school bathroom pooping. But what does this mean?
It means that we, sinners, through our true big brother, can be in the presence of God freely without any fear of death or guilt. Thank God for Christ did for us on the cross. I pray that we can understand this deeply and keep it in our hearts.
What can we do with this enormous gift given to us? What should we do with this great privilege?
Well John’s going to tell that to us tomorrow.

Let’s pray.
Please help us to understand your forgiveness on the cross and even though it’s hard and sometimes seem impossible, help us to keep this in our hearts and show you through us to others.
 How could people do such a thing to a man who had done nothing towards them? This was because of our sinful nature. The very reason why we can’t be with God.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The True Older Brother - David Wolff

Luke 15:11-31
Key Verses: 15:28-30 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

How was dinner? I hope you guys are enjoying the conference so far!

In this message, I will be covering who a real older brother is and what he does when this parable is played out in our lives today. This is the third part to Jesus’s parable of the Lost Son. First, Mary taught us how much God loves us, then David talked about how both of the sons were lost, and Me David is going to talk about the older brother. So what is and who is a true older brother? For anyone who has or is an older brother, think about qualities and relationship dynamic that an older brother has. Is an older brother just someone who is blood related and who happened to be born before you? Is he a bully or a role model? A regular old brother would probably treat his younger siblings with dominance, with a power struggle and competitiveness for the love of the father/mother. But a true older brother loves us unconditionally like our parents, seeking to help and guide us rather than compete. This true older brother is Jesus. While this isn’t surprising, Jesus is most often viewed as God incarnate who bore our sins on the cross acting as a mediator for us rather than as an older brother for us. But as God’s children, Jesus is our true older brother who we can look up to and ask for help and advice.

When I was preparing for this message, I didn’t know what a true older brother was as I have three strong and independent older sisters. My closest experience to being an older brother or even understanding how it felt to be one was probably with my family’s dog, Asher. My family adopted Asher when he was just two months old, and as a cute husky-lab puppy, he was the center of attention. As I was the youngest and only son in my family for 15 years, I wasn’t used to everyone not giving me attention or anything else I so desired, because it was all about Asher. It was and still is especially annoying whenever my sisters ‘accidentally’ mix-up my name with Asher’s. While I played with Asher and took care of him, I bullied him a bit, making sure he knew that I was Alpha Wolff. I imagine if I had an older brother, our relationship would be similar. He would teach my hard math, take me out on his motorcycle, and beat up anyone who messed with me, but he would also find me annoying sometimes and put me in my place.

Obviously, my experience and relationship with Asher doesn’t follow the same sibling dynamic a human older brother would have, so I decided to defer to my friend, the Urban Dictionary. When I searched “true older brother,” the top definition was: “A close friend that you consider a brother that won’t keep you hanging or dog you at any time or in any circumstance”. It came with an example of: You:get a detention at school. True brother: takes the blame. Surprisingly, this definition is accurate. Notice how an older brother isn’t necessarily blood related and can be anyone who has a bond as secure and lasting as a family member. Jesus is not necessarily blood related to us but he is someone who transcends above and beyond blood relation. Jesus is someone who we can consider as a brother, who won’t leave us hanging or dog us anytime, unlike us and how we let him hang on the cross. And the example provided by Urban Dictionary is perfect. Just as an older brother would take the blame if you got detention in school, Jesus bore the blame and our sins and served them as if in detention.

The older brother does not take happiness in the younger brother’s return. Lets read verse 28 together: “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him”. From the passage, it is clear that the older brother is disappointed that his brother returned to the father. He would’ve preferred for his younger brother to stay out in the open country and live as far as he can away. This may be because the younger brother took half of the estate, where as in that culture, younger sons in total get one third of the estate while the oldest gets two thirds. In a way, he was cheated of his inheritance from the father and his future. And the boy who cheated him is back in town, so wouldn’t be salty? This relates to us as well, where we may not be forgiving to people who did us wrong, even though they are our brothers and sisters in Christ. Who here has ever worked hard but had someone else get the credit? Who here has ever felt cheated out of recognition or love? Although there are some that identify as the younger son, we all have some older brother in us. In response, our “father went out and pleaded with him (us)”.

Jesus on the other hand would not only attend the feast, but see his young sibling even before the father does. He is always on the lookout for the younger son to come home, being even more worried than the father. Just like how when a sinner repents, all of heaven rejoices, Jesus is the one who leads the toast and makes the best-man speech.

Jealousy is found in the Older Brother’s heart Let’s read verse 29 together: “But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders”. There are many instances in the bible where there is a brotherly relationship, there is jealousy which leads to hate which leads to some violent gesture. This may be due to insecurities when comparing themselves to their other brother/brothers in either the eyes of the world and/or the eyes of God. Just like how Yoda warned us, “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” Truth, it is. How Cain suffered after murdering his brother over God’s pleasure in gifts. He was punished by God and marked as an outcast. Or like how Joseph’s brothers couldn’t forgive themselves in the eyes of their father, Jacob and God. But this parable is different than what happens in the bible (mostly old testament), where both of the brothers are reinstated under the father’s wing and nobody was killed. Happy ending huh?

Jesus does not look towards the Father’s belongings like the older brother did, but rather he anticipates and goes out to do the Father’s will. He does not do it out of command but, love for us and respect for the father.

The older brother worries more about physical property of the Father than the younger brother’s safety. Let’s read verse 30 together “But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!” The older son does not rejoice with the Father at the return of his brother because of the psychology term called the just-world phenomenon. The Just-World phenomenon is that we have a tendency to believe that the world is just and fair as it is and that people get what they deserve. If something bad happens to you, then you probably deserve it. In this case, the older brother thinks that the younger brother deserves not be reinstated into the household, but rather kept out to yearn the pods the pigs were eating. He is self-righteous in that he considers himself and his ideas just. He values a fattened calf as his reward for working hard over his bond between his brother. But physical property can be regained and lost, and is trivial to what is important and eternal in God.

Jesus could care less about physical material if his younger brother is on the line. He puts away everything off to the side and puts his younger brother on top-priority. Spoiler ALERT for those who haven’t watched Slumdog Millionaire: In the movie, Jamal (the main character) lived his early life as an orphan. He then grew up with his older brother and little sister who isn’t blood-related. Eventually, they were separated never to see again. Jamal then aired on “Who wants to be a Millionaire?” and got every question right. At the last question which was worth 20 million rupees, he left the show to find his lost little sister. To Jamal, his little sister is worth more than anything money can amount to, even a Supreme Taco Party Pack from Taco Bell. To Jesus, you and I are worth more than anything the world has to offer, even his life.

Where this older brother basically did not care what happened to his younger brother, the true older brother would go out and retrieve the younger brother back to the father. Do you remember earlier how I thought my true older brother would teach me hard math, take me out on his rad motorcycle, and pop anyone’s noses who was mean to me? Unfortunately, Jesus doesn’t have the maddest baddest-raddest motorcycle in all heaven and earth and he isn’t a math teacher like Mr. Toh, but he has something greater.He has a compassionate heart that fights for us. He goes out to the open, lawless wilderness to get us when we stray from the father. Not out of obligation, but out of his own love and will. This is proven true when Jesus accepted the cup God offered when he fully could’ve rejected it. He brings us back to our father and into salvation and wins the war against the devil that Satan has waged on us through sin. For “Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.” Hebrews 2:11

Jesus is not only the lamb of sacrifice, holy and almost untouchable in comparison to our sin as we learn about every worship service. But he is also our brother, who walks and talks with us. Just like how he was not the “king” of the 12 disciples, but more of an older brother. Jesus to me, is my true older brother that I never had physically on earth. I used to think I could do everything through my own power. Getting good grades, being able to keep relationships, and make it through life without thinking twice on relying on God or religion that at times I thought didn’t even exist. I have been denying the existence of my own God and savior just so that I could carry on my sin and try not to think twice. Recently, I have been trying to run away from my parents. Not literally, but in a way that I won’t have to see them for a long periods of time, especially when I advance college. That’s one of the reasons why I am dorming at NU. I have resented my parents most of my life because I don’t agree with many of their views and opinions. Arguments at home are a daily matter, only to be not resolved. Just like the younger brother, I wanted my superior gone so I can live my own life without being told what to do. All I cared about was what my parents can physically provide for me, instead of accepting their love. I wanted to go on to the next part of my life without looking back or rely again on my parents. As I go on to the next chapter of life, I know I will try to seek independence, but Jesus is always going to be with me whether I like it or not. He is the older brother that I never had that lives with me throughout my best and worst times. I know this because he paid the price of my sin as if he was the one yearning for the pods the pigs were eating. I know he brought me and will continue to bring me back at his own expense through his death. Moving forward, I pray that I can live my life knowing I have an older brother I had, Jesus. And to turn to him who is desperately trying to turn me back to my father in heaven.

A true older brother would go out to the country and bring us back, just like how Jesus came down from Heaven to earth to find us. He conceded more than just an inheritance and fattened calf, he gave up his own life and shed his own blood. We are so blessed to have such an awesome true older brother! I pray that as we prepare to hear the message of the cross by David Kim, we can see that Jesus is our true older brother. Let’s pray.