Sunday, May 21, 2017

“See You at the Finish Line!” (Heb 12:1-3)

Keep on Swimming
Florence Chadwick was the first woman to swim the English Channel in both directions. On the Fourth of July in 1951, she attempted to swim from Catalina Island to the California coast. The challenge was not so much the distance, but the bone-chilling waters of the Pacific. To complicate matters, a dense fog lay over the entire area, making it impossible for her to see land. After about 15 hours in the water, and within a half mile of her goal, Chadwick gave up. Later she told a reporter, "Look, I'm not excusing myself. But if I could have seen land, I might have made it." Not long afterward she attempted the feat again. Once more a misty veil obscured the coastline and she couldn't see the shore. But this time she made it because she kept reminding herself that land was there. With that confidence she bravely swam on and achieved her goal. In fact, she broke the men's record by 2 hours!

Today’s passage says that our spiritual journey is like running a race. But it’s not a 100 yard dash. It is a marathon. In the short distance race, speed is important. In the long distance race, endurance is what leads to success. That is why Hebrews 12:1 says, “Let us run with endurance…” Victory in the Christian life comes through endurance. Since our race set before us is like a marathon, we don’t see the whole path. We don’t see the finish line. So oftentimes, on the journey we may feel like we make no progress and will never make it. We may feel like the loneliness and hopelessness will settle like a foggy mist upon us forever. But praise God! Thankfully, we are not left jogging in the dark. The author of Hebrews provides two or three proven ways to stay the course and to finish the race.

Look to the Cloud of Witnesses

First, we are to look to the cloud of witnesses. We are to remember that we’re not alone in our race. Today’s passage begins in this way: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses…” (12:1a) We’re not the only ones to take this journey. In the previous chapter, Hebrews 11, often called the “hall of faith,” we meet so great a cloud of witnesses who have run this race before us. Our spiritual ancestors did live by faith, not by sight. Think about Abraham! By faith Abraham answered God’s call and went out when he was 75, not knowing where he was going. He had to wait for another 25 years until he had a son of promise. By faith, Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. Think about Noah, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, David! All of them have fought the good fight, have finished the race, and kept the faith! Their example gives us encouragement. And now, like spectators watching an athletic contest in an arena, these heroes of the faith are watching our race and cheer us on!

But we don’t have to look back to OT to find “heroes of the faith.” We can find them today right around us— right in our family, right in our small groups, right in the pews on any given Sunday morning. We Christians are meant to make this journey together. We fight the same good fight and run the same race set before us. As we see the powerful examples of faithfulness around us, we are encouraged and empowered. For me personally, I am so grateful and blessed to have a good dad and a good pastor who are running the same race before me and with me. One time his church faced the time of greatest trial in the process of the church growth. I was so upset watching him suffer. So I said to him, “Dad, why don’t you just move on and serve another church?” He said, “No, we need to endure this trial and opposition. If we move now, the sheep will be scattered. If we have to move, let us move when the church becomes strong and prosperous.” The time passed, and he has been serving that church for 26 years up to this day. All of us in this room are surrounded by the cloud of witnesses. And we are called to be “witnesses” to one another. The author of Hebrews says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (10:24-25, ESV) Let us encourage one another. Let us run our race with endurance!

Look to Jesus, the Beginner of Faith

Second, we are to look to Jesus as the Author of our faith. Hebrews 12:2 says, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith” (NIV). The word “author” comes from the Greek word, ἀρχηγὸν which means founder, captain, leader, or pioneer. The idea of this word refers to someone who makes a new track through wild country, someone who blazes a trail for others to follow. I would say Jesus is the Trailblazer of our faith. Then, what does it mean by that? How did Jesus blaze a trail for us? The answer is described in these words: “Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame.” Jesus has endured the suffering and shame which were due to us. We can never even start on the race to heaven unless we do look to Jesus who “endured the cross” on our behalf.

Look to Jesus, the Beginner of our race of faith! By his suffering Jesus removed our heaviest weights – all our shame and guilt and anxious conscience. By his death he destroyed our entangling sin. By his resurrection he can renew our nature. By looking to Jesus, we start well. Jesus is the beginner of our faith. All our righteousness, good works, morality mean nothing unless we begin by looking to Jesus. In John Bunyan’s book, Pilgrim’s Progress, we often meet those who tumbled over the wall, or came in by other irregular ways, but they all missed the end. As they came in without Christ, so they went out without hope. At the end of the story, Christian and Hopeful meet another pilgrim, whose name is Ignorance right before the Celestial City. When he knocked on the gate, the men asked for his certificate which he should have received at the beginning of the narrow gate. But since Ignorance didn’t start his journey at the narrow gate, he didn’t have a certificate. So the King said, “Take him out, bind him hand and foot and take him away.” Let us start our race of faith well by looking to Jesus, the Beginner of our faith!

Look to Jesus, the Finisher of Faith
Third, we are to look to Jesus as the Finisher of our faith. Hebrews 12:2 says, “Look to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.” He “endured the cross” and now “is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” The shame of Christ was our shame, and the triumph of Christ is our triumph. Jesus doesn’t just pave a road and say, “Come on.” Instead, he leads us, he helps us, he sustains us, and most importantly he walks alongside us from the beginning to the end. In Philippians 1:6 Paul says to his fellow Christians, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Jesus is the Beginner and Finisher of our race of faith. It is Jesus who began our faith journey. It is Jesus who will finish our race. Jesus came and blazed a salvation road for us, and now he is walking along with us. Let us run, looking to Jesus. Let us finish well by looking to Jesus, the Perfecter of our faith!

In 1992 the Summer Olympic Games were held in Barcelona, Spain. One of the runners in the 400-meter race was an English athlete named Derek Redmond. He had trained for years to compete in the Olympics. But while sprinting in a qualifying heat, he suddenly pulled a hamstring and crumpled to the track in pain. Determined to go on, Derek struggled to his feet. He was hobbling toward the finish line when his father scaled the retaining wall and jumped onto the track. Before anyone could stop him, Jim Redmond reached his son. The young runner leaned on his father's shoulder as he staggered to complete the race. The entire crowd stood and cheered the two men on. When they crossed the finish line, it was as if the runner, his father, and the spectators had done it together. The writer of Hebrews encourages us to run the race of faith with endurance to the end, following the example of those who have gone before us. It takes all of our spiritual stamina to complete it, but we don't run the course alone. Christ Himself helps us toward the finish line.

Until You See His Face 

We do not know how near to Jesus on the throne we may now be. The sea fog is around our vessel. Some of our brothers and sisters are already with our King. Some of us perhaps will spend next Sunday in heaven! Then, all our sweat and tears of the race will be wiped away, and the joy of the triumph will begin. He will crown us and say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” Now we are much nearer the finish line than we think. Therefore, let us not grow weary. Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. Let us keep on looking and running until we see Jesus face to face! Amen.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

“Jesus Christ in You” (2 Corinthians 13:5) - Living in the Kingdom of God II –

The Mother Love of God

It’s Mother’s Day. Our hearts and minds are filled with thoughts about the love of mothers and our love for mothers. I still remember when I newly got assigned to Ministry of National Defense in Seoul, Korea, as a military police after boot camp training. At that time I was 20. Everything was new, and I was kind of nervous. In the early days I had hard times to adjust to a totally new environment. One Saturday afternoon I got notice that I had a visitor. I was surprised because I didn’t expect any visitors. I went to the visiting room. Guess who? It was my mom who was waiting and waving her hands. She just got her driver’s license at that time and had never driven out of town. But her love for the son compelled her to drive that far without fear or reservation, in order to encourage her son and deliver special homemade food. This is mother’s love!

A mother gives life. She goes through so much to give birth to a child. She gives food from her own body. She gives of herself for the sake of the child. In many ways God’s love is like a mother’s love. In Isaiah 66:13 God says, “As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you!” And he even goes further, saying, “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” (49:15) God promised, “I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand!” (41:10) He also promised, “I will dwell in you and walk in you; and I will be your God and you will be my people!” (Lev 26:11-12; 2 Cor 6:16) I will be your father/mother and you will be my children! (2 Cor 6:18) Here is a question. How is God going to be my father and my mother? How is he going to strengthen me and help me? Many Christians believe God as Almighty and distant God, outside of me and separate from me, who lives somewhere in the heaven above and helps them from time to time. Is it true? How is God going to be our father and our mother? How is He going to be our God? We can find the answer in the one of God’s promises that we have just read: “God said, “I will dwell in you, and walk in you; and I will be your God, and you will be my people!” (2 Cor 6:6 KJV). The indwelling of God! This is how He will be our God. This is God’s divine plan for us before the foundation of the world.

The Indwelling of God

God created man and woman in his own image. God made them not because he needed them. God made the human beings because he wanted them to taste and see his holiness and his goodness. He wanted them as holy and as good as He is.

He wanted to give them all he had himself. He wanted them to share his divine nature, his life, and his joy (cf. 2 Peter 1:4). How could it be possible? How could He do that? There is no other way for God to do this than dwelling in them. But during the Old Testament times the indwelling of God was spoken of and promised, but it had not happened yet. God dwelt in the midst of his people, the camp, but he didn’t dwell within the people in general. God’s Spirit worked in certain people – priest, prophets, and kings – for certain period of time for special purposes. In Ezekiel 36: 27 God promised, “I will place my Spirit within you, empowering you to live according to my regulations and to keep my just decrees” (ISV). This promise was fulfilled at Pentecost. On the night Jesus was betrayed, he said to his disciples, “I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you!” (John 14:18) And on the day of Pentecost Jesus did come back to them in the Spirit, now to dwell in them, not just with them. In the Book of Acts we read of the wondrous change that happened to the disciples. They were so selfish, childish and proud, but now they are selfless, humble and mature. They were afraid, feeble and doubtful, but now they are full of faith, joy and power, because of one thing, one change, that is, now Christ Jesus himself dwells within them as their life! For many Christians, this promise, “I will live in you” has never been understood, or believed, or claimed. So I ask you: Have you claimed this promise? Do you seek to live it out?

Examine Yourselves!

Today’s scripture is 2 Corinthians 13:5: “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? – unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (ESV) At that time the church of Corinth was filled with all kinds of problems. They were divided over many issues, judged each other harshly, committed adultery, initiated lawsuits, divorced without biblical grounds, and some of them even accused Paul of being a false apostle. At the end of his second letter to them, Paul sums up all his exhortations in this verse: “Do you not know? I am afraid you do not, or you would live differently. Do you not know that if you are not entirely backslider, Jesus Christ is in you?” Why are so many Christians fail and live a powerless life? It is because they do not know or believe aright that Jesus Christ is actually in them! If they did, they would think differently, act differently, live differently!

So Paul commends this great truth to the people of Corinthian church and all of us in this room today: Believe in and accept the indwelling Christ. And believe this truth not as a doctrine, but as an experience – Jesus Christ is in me! On April 5, 2010 as I was reading E.M. Bounds’ Power through Prayer, I was struck by one sentence. That was the statement of David Brainerd, who was an American missionary to the Native Americans. He said, “I love to be alone in my cottage, where I can spend much time in prayer.”[1] Then, I saw myself. I was afraid of being alone, because I was often tempted when I was alone. So I asked myself, “What is the difference between him and me?” Later I realized the difference between the two was the knowledge, the consciousness that Jesus Christ is in me. So I prayed, “Lord, let me love to be alone and spend much time with you. Let it not be the time of temptation!” My prayer was answered. Now I came to believe and experience Jesus Christ who has become my life and lives in me. And all my thoughts and tempers and dispositions and actions now have his life! And how about you? Do you really believe in the indwelling Christ?

Believe in “whole” Jesus!

The Apostle Paul also exhorts us to accept the “whole” Christ, not to be content with only half a Christ. What does it mean by that? Many Christians believe in and accept Christ who lived and died for their sins, but they never think of giving up their own will wholly and entirely to him as their king. They come to Christ for comfort and happiness, but not for holiness and transformation. Let us believe and accept the whole Christ! First, believe in the incarnate Christ, who became human and lived among us. Christ emptied himself for you. But do you know that you are called to humble yourself and give yourself for others? Second, believe in the crucified Christ, who died on Calvary for our sins. Yes, it is true. Christ was crucified for you, but do you believe that you are crucified with Christ? Third, believe in the risen and glorified Christ, who was raised from the dead and now is sitting on the throne of heaven. Jesus was exalted and declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead. But do you believe that you are also sons and daughters of God and called to live the resurrected, powerful, victorious life? Lastly, believe in the indwelling Christ, who is in us all the time. When he comes to dwell in us, he cannot change his nature. His redeeming love, his love for souls, his willingness to give up all, has taken possession of us! So listen to him who speaks to your heart with a gentle and soft voice. Yield yourself to him. Trust in him. Let him lead!

Jesus Christ in You!

When Paul was writing his first and second letter to the church of Corinth, the church was still a mess. But Paul had hope. He had confidence that the church would pass the test. His confidence, his hope was from one great truth – Jesus Christ in you! So he closes his letter with these last words: “Beloved brothers and sisters, remember that Jesus Christ is in you! And you will rejoice, aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, and live in peace!” (5, 11)

As we look around – our own personal life, our family, our church, our nation, our world, we may feel like we are troubled on every side. And we may ask, “Where is Jesus?” “Where is the kingdom of God?” The Apostle Paul says to us in the Spirit. “Jesus Christ is within you. Where there is Jesus, there is hope. Where there is Jesus, there is the kingdom of God. So the kingdom of God is among you and within you!” And now let me close today’s message with Charles F. Butler’s “Where Jesus Is, Tis Heaven.” If you know this song, please feel free to sing with me:

What matters where on earth we dwell?
On mountain top, or in the dell,
In cottage, or a mansion fair,
Where Jesus is, ‘tis Heaven there.

O hallelujah, yes, ’tis Heaven,
‘Tis Heaven to know my sins forgiven;
On land or sea, what matters where?
Where Jesus is, ‘tis Heaven there!

[1] E.M. Bounds, Power through Prayer (Whitaker House: New Kensington, 1982), 61.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

“Here and Now” (Acts 1:1-3) - Living in the Kingdom of God I -

The Kingdom of God
The kingdom of God. This is the central message of Jesus from beginning to end. Jesus begins his ministry with this message: “Change your life. The kingdom of God is here!” (Matt 4:17, MSG) He travels to town after town, village to village, preaching the Good News about the kingdom of God (Luke 8:1). Then he sends his twelve disciples to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal (9:2). After his death, he appears to his disciples during forty days and talks to them about the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3). The expression “the kingdom of God” is used at least 68 times in the New Testament. Apparently, the kingdom of God was a central part of Jesus Christ’s message. He came to tell us about the good news of the kingdom of God.

What Is the Kingdom of God?
So the question we must first ask is: what is the kingdom of God? By definition the kingdom of God means the reign of God. It means the spiritual state that God reigns. It means that evil is controlled and defeated. It means the coming of righteousness, peace and joy (Rom 14:17). It means that we are set free from our slavery to sin and become children and heirs of God with a hope of everlasting bliss. During the Old Testament times the kingdom of God had been spoken of and promised, but it had not come. But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, the fulfillment of God’s promise (Gal 4:4). And Jesus said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near” (Mark 1:15 NRSV). Here Jesus does not mean that it is about to come. He says the kingdom of God has come! It has arrived among you! In his early ministry Jesus went as usual to the synagogue on the Sabbath day and stoop up to read the Scriptures. He read Isaiah 61, the coming of the kingdom of God: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim the good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Then he began to say to people there, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing!” (Luke 4:21) Here Jesus is saying, “The kingdom of God has come, and now it is accessible to everyone!

Living in the kingdom of God
Now we know the kingdom of God has already come and among us by the first coming of Jesus Christ. And it is accessible to everyone. Then, our next question to ask ourselves is: “Has the kingdom of God come in me? How can God’s kingdom come in me?” One of the important Bible verses to answer this question is Mark 10:15. Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” I want to draw your attention to the two verves used in this verse: receiving the kingdom and entering the kingdom. One is passive and the other is active. One is God’s part, and the other is our part.

First, we receive the kingdom of God as God’s gift. What does it mean to receive the kingdom? Negatively, it means that we cannot create or make the kingdom of God. It is not just an addition to something we already have. It is not a little bit of improvement on what we were before. Self-effort, self-help, self-improvement does not work. Positively, it means that the kingdom of God must come from outside. It has to be given to us. Before we can enter the kingdom, it must first enter into us. Martin Luther wanted to be a good man, he wanted to be a Christian. He didn’t want to go to hell. He thought he had to do it himself, trying hard, giving up, denying, fasting, giving alms, studying the Bible, confessing everyday, finally going to Rome and kissing the steps of Saint Peter’s Church. But no joy, no freedom, no peace, no happiness! Instead, he was hopeless and even angry with God. But as he was reading Romans, the words “the righteousness of God” stood out. He realized all he had been doing was man’s righteousness – just filthy rags. Then, he realized there is another kind of righteousness, completely apart from, different from man’s righteousness. It is “passive” righteousness from outside, from God, that is given to all who believe. Romans 3:22 says, “We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are” (NLT). The righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ alone! Luther believed this good news. He received the kingdom of God as God’s gift. And all the burdens in his soul were removed. Unspeakable joy and peace just flooded his soul. “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom 14:17). Have you received the kingdom of God?

Second, we enter the kingdom of God by faith. What does mean to enter the kingdom? From God’s side, he makes his kingdom accessible to everyone. From our side, we must enter it by faith. Entering the kingdom is our response to God’s grace. Entering the kingdom means coming into full possession, full enjoyment of it. We Christians, who received Jesus, may know about the kingdom, we may taste some of its powers, we may work for it and occasionally rejoice in it. But God wants us to enter in fully and entirely, not just partially and occasionally. There are many Christians who are content with a heaven after death. Their understanding of salvation is mere forgiveness of sins, leading to heaven beyond this life. A ticket to heaven. Their understanding of God’s kingdom is to live with him in heaven after death. But Jesus died for our sins not just for us to get to heaven after death, but that we might live in his kingdom here and now! Colossians 1:13 says, “For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son” (NLT). We are saved, so that we may live in a different world, different kingdom now. Salvation is not just forgiveness of sins, but it is a life, new life, new way of life, new order of life now.

So how do we enter the kingdom? How can we live in God’s kingdom now? 2000 years ago there was a man named Nicodemus, a good man and religious leader of Israel. Although he was a teacher of Israel, he felt something was missing. Then, he saw Jesus who was something different. So Nicodemus came to see Jesus and said something like this, “Teacher, I have admired you. You are in a class above us What is it? I want to have what you have. Tell me what do to!” Jesus said to him, “You must be born again!” Here Jesus is saying, “You need to tear down completely what you are and what you have. Demolition! Then, erection! You need an entirely new start. You need a new foundation. You need an absolutely new nature. It is like a birth.” What we need to live in God’s kingdom today is life, a new nature. Martin Lloyd-Jones said, “God does not renovate us. He does not improve us or make a little bit better. Instead, he puts new life into us. He infuses a principle of life, a new disposition.”[1] 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (NIV) To enter the kingdom we need to die with Christ first. We need to crucify our sinful nature – self-will, self-effort, self-confidence, self-righteousness, our old self (cf. Gal 5:24). And with men this is impossible. But with God all things are possible!

A Parable of the Twins
I want to share the story of the twins to help our understanding of the mystery of “born again.” One day a mother conceived twins. One child was a girl; the other a boy. Months passed, and they developed. As they grew they sang for joy: “Isn’t it great to be alive!” Together they explored their mother’s womb. When they found their mother’s life cord, They shouted for joy: “How great is our mother’s love, That she shares her life with us!” Soon the twins began to change drastically. “What does this mean?: asked the boy. “It means that our life in the womb Is coming to an end,” said the girl. “But I don’t want to leave the womb,” said the boy. “I want to stay here forever.” “We have no choice,” said the girl. “But maybe there is life after birth.” “How can there be?” asked the boy. “We will shed our mother’s cord, and how is life possible without it? Besides, there’s evidence in the womb that others were here before us, and none of them ever came back to tell us that there is life after birth. No, this is the end.” And so the boy fell into despair, saying, “If life in the womb ends in death, What’s its purpose? What’s its meaning? Maybe we don’t even have a mother. Maybe we made her up just to feel good.” “But we must have a mother,” said the girl. “How else did we get here? How else do we stay alive?” And so the last days in the womb were filled with deep questioning and fear. Finally, the moment of birth arrived. When the twins opened their eyes, They cried for joy. What they saw exceeded their wildest dreams.

Here and Now
We don’t need to wait to experience this unspeakable joy until we get to heaven. The kingdom of God has come and now is accessible to everyone. How do we live in his kingdom now? There is only one way. The Son of Man must come down and must be lifted up as the serpent was lifted up in the wilderness (John 3:14). There is nothing we can add. There is nothing we can do. All we can do is to look to Jesus, the originator and perfecter of our faith. Every morning, receive God’s kingdom as his gift. Every morning, enter his kingdom by faith. Repent and believe the good news of the kingdom of God. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life now and forever. Amen.  

[1] Martin Lloyd-Jones, “Born Again,” The Kingdom of God (Crossway Books: Wheaton, Illinois, 2010), 194. 

Sunday, April 16, 2017

“Mary Magdalene: I Have Seen the Lord” (John 20:11-18) - God’s Story, Our Story VI -

Four-Minute Mile 
Have you heard of “4 Minute Mile”? In the sport of athletics, the four-minute mile means running a mile in less than four minutes. According to legend, experts said for years that the human body was simply not capable of a 4-minute mile. Since 1864, for almost a century, numerous athletes had tried to run 1 mile in 4 minutes, but no one could make it. So, people began to believe that it is impossible for human beings to run 1 mile within 4 minutes. But, in 1945 one physician released a paper that said the human body is capable of running 1 mile in 4 minutes. Few years later, on May 6, 1954 Roger Bannister broke the 4-minute barrier. Then some more runners did. Now, it’s almost routine. Even strong high-schoolers today run 4-minute miles. Our Lord Jesus Christ broke the barrier, the wall that had divided the possible from the impossible, the wall that had divided eternal life from death. The Bible says, “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1Co 15:20). Jesus Christ our Lord has conquered death, has broken down every wall, and opened the door to eternal life so that we may follow him.

The Women at Jesus’ Tomb

In today’s gospel lesson we meet Mary Magdalene and the other women. Those are faithful ones. When Jesus was on the cross, they didn’t abandon him but were standing by the cross of Jesus (John 19:25). After Jesus was placed in a tomb, they waited until the Sabbath was past. Early the next morning, they came to the tomb with spices while it was still dark, hoping they might anoint him. That was all they could do. They loved Jesus very much, but now he’s gone. They must have felt hopeless and powerless. They didn’t know what to do next. Although they were going to the tomb early in the morning, they didn’t even know what to say to the tomb guards. They didn’t have the strength to roll the tomb stone away for themselves. On the way they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away for us?” (Mark 16:4) They were filled with all kinds of worry and fear. But to their surprise, as they arrived, they looked up and saw that the huge stone had “already” been rolled away! Jesus already did everything. It was Jesus who conquered death. It was Jesus who rolled the stone away. It was Jesus who first came to see these women. In fact, all the problems and concerns that the women had had already been solved. They didn’t need to roll the stone away. They didn’t need to find and anoint Jesus’ body. Jesus already did everything for them. That is why Jesus was able to say on the cross, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). “It’s done… complete!” (MSG). Do you any burden of life – guilt, shame, wound, pain – something in your heart like a large stone that you cannot just role away for yourself? You have good news! Jesus has already rolled away that stone. For you. For me.

The Resurrection at Houlton/Hodgdon 

That’s why we are here today to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. Some of us in this room may still wonder what does Jesus resurrection have to do with me. Why the resurrection of Jesus matters? It matters because it tells us that this life is not everything, and there will be a resurrection of all the dead, including you and me. We will be resurrected. 1 Corinthians 15:23 says, “But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 says that when our Lord Jesus Christ returns with the trumpet call, the dead in Christ will rise first and then we will also be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever!” By his suffering, death, and resurrection, Jesus did open the gate to eternal life. So now everyone who believes in him has eternal life. In Christ you have eternal life!

Imagine the Day of the Lord! Imagine that your loved ones are raised from the grave at the Evergreen Cemetery or Hodgdon Cemetery. How would you feel? In fact, artist Stanley Spencer had this experience of revelation. He lived in the small English village of Cookham and attended a small Methodist church. There was a small cemetery in his churchyard. He passed through it numerous times, perhaps several times a week. One day as he was passing through this churchyard, Spencer had a sudden awakening experience. He perceived the great resurrection of the dead in his humble churchyard. He wrote his experience in this way: “Quite suddenly I became aware that everything was full of special meaning, and this made everything holy. The instinct of Moses to take his shoes off when he saw the burning bush was very similar to my feelings. I saw many burning bushes in Cookham. I observed the sacred quality in the most unexpected quarters.”[1] In his painting, The Resurrection at Cookham, we see not only the Son Jesus and the Father in the center, but also his loved ones – his family and friends, and Spencer himself. When we believe in the resurrection of Jesus and all the dead, our local churchyard, this place, becomes a new Garden of Eden. In a sense Houlton/ Hodgdon becomes what Spencer called “a holy suburb of heaven.” The resurrection of Jesus tells us that on the Day of the Lord we will be resurrected. As Bonhoeffer says, in Jesus Christ all of us will be eternally united with him, and with one another, and with our loved ones.

He Lives!

But there is more! The resurrection of Jesus gives us not only hope for tomorrow, but also it gives us power to live our new life today. Jesus promised, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18). He also promised, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt 28:20). Believing in resurrection is at the core of Christianity. And the most important truth of the resurrection is that the Risen Christ lives in us today. In this respect, John Wesley cried out as his last words, “The best of all is, God (the Risen Christ) is with us!” Today we are not here to honor a good teacher Jesus, who taught the truth and died two thousand years ago. We are here to worship and celebrate a risen King and Savior, Jesus Christ, who lives in the world and in us today! There are many evidences of Jesus’ resurrection, but perhaps the greatest evidence of all is the transformation of the disciples of Jesus. All of them were transformed from cowards to martyrs because of the resurrection. They met the Risen Christ. Eventually, 11 of the 12 men died for their faith in Christ. Saul was transformed from a passionate persecutor of Christian to the world’s greatest missionary for Christ. He was sold out for Christ. How can this be possible? Only the resurrection. Saul met the Risen Christ. Not only in Jesus’ time, but also even today we know it is true by our own experience. There were times in my college years, I found no meaning or purpose of life. But after I met the Risen Christ, my life changed. Everything became new and meaningful. Even in small things – whether I ate a meal, took a nap, or took a walk, I could find a sense of purpose and meaning and feel joy, contentment, and peace! The risen Christ gives us power to live a new life in him and makes us more like him.

Perhaps one of the most beloved Easter hymns is “He Lives” written by Alfred Ackley. There is a story behind this hymn. In fact, there were two events that gave Pastor Ackley fresh insight to write this hymn. One day he was holding an evangelistic meeting. A young sincere Jewish student asked the question, “Why should I worship a dead Jew?” Ackley answered, ““He Lives! I tell you; He is not dead, but lives here and now! Jesus Christ is more alive today than ever before. I can prove it by my own experience, as well as the testimony of countless thousands.” The young Jewish student eventually accepted the living Christ as his own personal Savior. Few days later, Easter Sunday came. On that Easter Day morning Ackley turned on his radio. He was then shocked to hear a preacher say something like this, “You know, it really doesn’t matter to me if Christ be risen or not. His body could have turned to dust long ago in some Palestinian tomb. But what’s important is that His truth goes marching on!” Ackley was so upset. That Sunday he preached with great fervency on the resurrection of Jesus based on the Scripture: “He is not here; for He is risen, as He said.” But later that night, he still could not shake the question of that young Jewish student and the words of that preacher. Then, his wife said, “Why don’t you write a song about it?. Then you will have something that will go on telling the story.” That very night Ackley wrote out the words, and then composed the melody:

I serve a risen Saviour, He’s in the world today;
I know that He is living, whatever men may say;
I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer,
And just the time I need Him, He’s always near.

He lives, he lives Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.
He lives, He lives, salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart!

Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!


[1] Terry Glaspey, 75 Master Pieces Every Christian Should Know (Grand Rapids: Michigan, 2015), 214-15. 

Sunday, April 9, 2017

“Pontius Pilate: What Is Truth?” (John 18:33-38a) - God’s Story, Our Story V -

Who Is Pontius Pilate?
Probably, the name Pontius Pilate is one of the most notorious names in history. Pontius Pilate was the Roman governor of Judea from A.D. 26-36, serving under Emperor Tiberius. Pilate is best known today for trial and crucifixion of Jesus. Although Pilate was responsible for Jesus’ death, in fact three times he declared Jesus to be innocent (John 18:38; 19:4, 6). Pilate’s conscience was already bothering him when his wife sent him an urgent message concerning Jesus, saying, “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him” (Matt 27:19). As he was interrogating Jesus, he intuited the light, but blinded by darkness he was not able to see it, recognize it or submit to it. The story of Pontius Pilate is indeed a story of tragedy. But we can learn a very important lesson from his story.

Are You the King of the Jews?
In today’s story Pilate asks all the right questions, but for all the wrong reasons. Frist, he asks Jesus, “Are you the King of the Jews?” (John 18:33) Pilate asked this question, simply because he wanted to know whether Jesus was a threat to Rome’s power, a threat to his power. Unlike Pilate, there was another group of people who asked the same question for the right reason. After Jesus was born in Bethlehem, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem and asked King Herod, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?” (Matt 2:2a). Then, why is this question important? It is because the King of the Jews refers to God’s Promised One, Messiah, the Christ. The Lord God appeared to Abraham and promised, “To your seed I will give this land” (Gen 12:7). “And your seed will possess the gates of his enemies, and through your seed all nations on earth will be blessed…” (22:17-18). The Scripture does not say, “your seeds,” meaning many people, but “seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ! (Gal 3:16) Again God made the covenant with David and promised, “… I will raise up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He will build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (2 Sam 7:12b-13). Who is the seed whose kingdom will last forever? Who is the seed? Solomon? No! The seed refers to the Promised One, the King of the Jews, the Christ! And now, standing before Pilate, Jesus declares, “Yes, I am the One. I am the son of Abraham. I am the son of David. I am the King of the Jews. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world…” (cf. John 18:37). Pilate heard this, but he didn’t get it; the wise men saw the king of the Jews, recognized him, and worshiped him.  

What Is Truth?
Pilate also asks another important question to Jesus: “What is truth?” (v. 38) We don’t know exactly what was behind the question. But based on the context we can assume that Pilate was being sarcastic rather than asking a sincere truth-seeking question. In fact, today we live in a society that has great difficulty answering to this question: “What is truth?” Charles Colson in his book, Being the Body describes four characteristics of the contemporary approach to truth in this way:[1]
  • Contemporary society is secular. It has no thought about things eternal . . the focus is only on the "here and now".
  • Prevailing society is naturalistic. They believe all nature is equal in value. The animals should have the same "rights" as humans. Earth Day gets more attention than Easter.
  • Our contemporary society is utopian. They believe human beings are good by nature and in time are only getting better.
  • The prevailing society is pragmatic. People don’t ask, “What is truth?” any more. Today the only question is: "Does it work?" “Does it make me feel good?” “Does it get me what I want?”

For the Pilates of our world today everything is in the eye of the beholder. For them there is no absolute truth. But the Bible proclaims there is truth – truth that is absolute and unchanging, truth that everyone should seek for and submit to and believe. More directly, Jesus said, “I am the truth” (John 14:6). He also said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (8:32). But the Pilates of the world grumbled and said, “We have never been slaves to anybody.” Jesus said the truth No.1: “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” So the first step to know the truth is to admit that we are slaves to sin. We are darkness. But the Pilates of the world claim they can see. Unlike Pilate, there was a man who came to Jesus by night. His name was Nicodemus. He admitted something was missing in his life. He admitted his blindness, his ignorance, and humbly asked Jesus, “Teacher, what is truth?” Pilate asked the same question, but he didn’t want to hear. He saw the truth, heard the truth right before him. But anyway he chose to compromise truth to maintain peace and expediency of his world; Nicodemus came to the truth, listened to it, believed it and was set free!

What Will You Do with Jesus?
And finally, Pilate asked the Jews this question: “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called the Christ?” (cf. Matt 27:22) That’s the crucial question that every one of us in this room must answer. We can’t remain neutral about Christ. We have two choices. We can either reject him or accept him. Christian apologist C.S. Lewis rightly said, “…People often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic… or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”[2]

Pilate and his soldiers chose the option No.1. They flogged Jesus, mocked him, spat on him, killed him. Pilate knew Jesus was innocent. He knew Jesus was not a threat to Rome’s power. He had nothing against Jesus. But he rejected and crucified Jesus. Why? It was because he couldn’t remain neutral about Jesus. It was because to recognize Jesus and follow him would cost him everything. He knew the Jewish leaders held the upper hand over him, Caesar. They said, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend” (19:12) The Bible says, “So when Pilate heard these words, he decided to deliver Jesus over to them to be crucified” (13-16). Pilate rejected Jesus thinking that he was protecting his own interests and his way of life.

To follow Jesus costs us everything. It requires us to restructure our life. It requires us to change our allegiance, our values, our priorities, our lifelong goals and mission. Let me tell you another parable of C.S. Lewis: Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what he is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on. You knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts enormously and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is he up to? The explanation is that he is building quite a different house from the one you thought of -- throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage, but he is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it himself.

Jesus is the King of the Jews, the Promised One, the Christ, the Son of God. He is the truth and came to bear witness of the truth. He was beaten and crushed and wounded, so that we might be healed. He suffered and died in our place, so that we might be forgiven and have peace with God. He was raised from the dead in power, so that we may have eternal life. So now I ask you: “What will you do with Jesus, who is called the Christ?”

[1] “Moment of Truth,”
[2] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (Harper One: New York, 2015), 53-54. 

Sunday, April 2, 2017

“Peter: Are You His Disciple?” (John 18:15-18, 25-27) - God’s Story, Our Story IV -

Les Miserables and Gospel Story
The story of Jean Valjean in Les Miserables is a great example of the gospel story. The main character, Jean Valjean, is a convict without hope. Sentenced to a 19 year term of hard labor for the crime of stealing bread, Jean Valjean gradually hardened into a tough convict... At last he earned his release. But, no innkeeper would let a dangerous felon spend the night. For four days he wandered the village roads, seeking shelter against the weather, until finally a kindly bishop had mercy on him. That night, Jean Valjean rose from bed, stole valuables, and crept off into the darkness. The next morning three policemen knocked on the bishop's door with Valjean in tow. They had caught the convict with the stolen silver and were ready to put him in chains for life. But the bishop said to the policemen, “This silver was my gift to him.” Then, he said to Valjean, “I'm delighted to see you. Had you forgotten that I gave you the candlesticks as well?” Valjean was no thief, the bishop assured the police. Jean Valjean experiences undeserved grace from the bishop, and it transforms his life forever. He becomes a hero, a man who adopts and loves and cares for a young girl who loses her mother. For me personally, particularly I love how the author Victor Hugo describes the bishop's gracious acceptance of Jean Valjean when they first met that night. The bishop said, "You need not tell me who you are. This is not my house, it is the house of Christ. It does not ask any comer whether he has a name, but whether he has an affliction. You are suffering, you are hungry and thirsty; be welcome... What need have I to know your name? Besides, before you told me, I knew it... your name is brother."

My Name Is Simon Peter
In today’s passage we meet Simon Peter. We see so much of ourselves in Peter. Peter was a common man. He is full of inconsistencies. He struggles between faith and doubt, between the carnal man and the spiritual man. At one time Peter was the first to boldly get out of the boat and walk on water, but in a few seconds, he was terrified by the strong wind and sank. Peter was the first to confess the divine nature of Jesus. He boldly said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” But, in a few minutes, he rebuked Jesus when Jesus began to explain that he must suffer and die. Peter was the first to draw a sword to defend his Master, but within a few hours, he denied his Lord three times. Peter is not always like this. As we know, in the New Testament there are two letters written by Peter. They were written about thirty years after these earlier events of his life. In the letters Peter is solid and steady like a rock. He is no longer easily moved. He does not fluctuate. Even in the midst of severe persecution he stands firm and takes up his positions and writes the messages of encouragement to his fellow believers. Simon Peter has matured. He is no longer a man of many moods. Peter is the conqueror of inconsistency.

Love: “You Will Be Called Peter!”
So what happened to Peter? It certainly was not an accident. There are two things that changes Peter’s life forever – one is love and the other is power. First of all, the love of Christ transformed Peter’s heart. When Jesus met Simon Peter for the first time, he said to him, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which means “Peter”; Peter means “rock”; John 1:42). Here Jesus was saying, “Simon, you are a man of inconsistency now, but I know you will be a man like a rock!” When Jesus had the last supper with his disciples, he knew within a few hours all of the disciples would abandon him, including Peter. But Jesus prayed for Peter and gave him a mission. Jesus said, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers" (Luke 22:31-32). Again Jesus was saying, “Simon, you will be a man like a rock.” After the resurrection Peter goes back to his old life. But Jesus comes to him and asks the same question three times, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Jesus reinstates Peter and says. “… When you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go” (John 21:18b). Jesus is saying, “Simon, you will be a man like a rock. You will live for me. You will die for me.” The love of Christ transforms Peter, and eventually he has become a man like a rock indeed!

Power: “You Will Receive Power!”
The second phase of Peter’s transformation came at Pentecost. This meant “power.” On the day of Pentecost the disciples were all filled with the Holy Spirit. They became different persons. Look Peter after Pentecost! How different he is! He was scared to death to acknowledge Jesus in front of people, but now in the midst of a mocking mob he stands up and speaks out with boldness. He proclaims, “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ." Then he continues, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” After this, Peter is arrested, and the Jewish leaders give threats to him. But he says to them, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” Pentecost completed Peter’s transformation.

Tim Hansel, Christian writer, once met his old friend for the first time in 10 years. He was very impressed by how his friend was wonderfully changed. She was still a Christian 10 years ago, but now she was something different. She was filled with joy and confidence. So Tim couldn’t help asking, “Can you tell me what happened?” And she answered, “Sure, in the past every time I fell, I cursed myself and was tormented by guilt. But, as I was reading the Epistle to the Romans, I realized the truth that I am a sinner, and there is nothing good in me. From that moment, every time I fell, I just confessed my weakness and kept going. But, there is more! I realized that if I do something good, it is not from me, but from the Holy Spirit within me. And now I live for the joy of watching how the Holy Spirit is at work in my life.” Tim concludes as follows, “My friend has changed not from bad to good, but from good to great. She was a moral person before, but now she is a contagious Christian on fire.”

Simon to Peter
In Mark 14:54, shortly after Jesus’ arrest, we read that Peter followed Jesus “at a distance.” Before he experienced undeserved grace and forgiveness at the seashore of Galilee, before he was filled with the Holy Spirit, he was able to follow Jesus at a distance. But persecution came because of Jesus, Peter quickly fell away. Without experiencing the love and power of Christ, we are able to follow Jesus “at a distance” with our own strength and wisdom. But when trouble or suffering comes because of the word, we quickly fall away. We need the love of Christ. We need the power of the Holy Spirit. We need God’s grace. Max Lucado defines God’s grace in this way: "Grace is simply another word for God's tumbling, rumbling reservoir of strength and protection. It comes at us not occasionally or miserly but constantly and aggressively, wave upon wave.” God’s grace is like an ocean wave which constantly crashes against the beach. Before we finish saying, “Lord, I fell again,” the huge wave of God’s love sweeps into us. Before we finish saying, “Lord, I am weak. I am unqualified,” another massive wave of God’s power just sweeps over us.

Are you struggling between faith and doubt, between ups and downs? Then, remember Simon Peter. The One who changed Simon’s name to Peter is here with us today. As I close, I want to share RJ Butler’s hymn I Will Change Your Name:

I will change your name
You shall no longer be called
Wounded, Outcast, Lonely or afraid

I will change your name
Your new name shall be
Confidence, Joyfulness, Overcoming One
Faithfulness, Friend of God, One who seeks my face.

Confidence, Joyfulness, Overcoming One
Faithfulness, Friend of God, One who seeks my face!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

“Thomas: Don’t Stop Until You Meet Jesus” (John 14:1-7) - God’s Story Our Story III -

God of My Ancestors to My God
Have you ever felt like talking to a brick wall when you prayed? I do. I was born into a pastor’s family and grew up in the church all the time. But when I was in my senior year in high school, I felt like there was no point to practice religion. When I prayed, I felt like talking to a wall. When I read the Bible, I felt like reading fairy tales. I was not sure whether God is really alive and cares about me. I had so many questions. One day I shared my struggle with my mother. She gently listened to me and shared her story how she met Jesus. She was also born into a pastor’s family and grew up in the church. After she got married to my father, she had to live with her parents for a while because my dad had to fulfill his military duty. At that time, my grandfather’s church was experiencing revival and spiritual awakening. But at the same time, Satan’s counter attack was also severe. There was slandering, gossiping, and sabotage. One day my mother was alone in the parsonage, and one church member came in a drunken stupor. Cursing and swearing, he was violent. After this, she was so upset, so angry with him. But God gave my mother compassion and burden to pray for that person. Reluctantly, she began to pray. As she was praying, God showed her a vision. In the vision, at first she saw that man’s ugly face, but then as she began to pray, the man’s face was turned into Jesus’ smiling face. That was the moment my mother met Jesus. After hearing her story, I thought, “Ok. Right now I don’t feel God. But because the person I love and respect most says so, I guess I will keep searching!” So I did keep on going, keep seeking. And finally, I met my God, my Jesus.

Quo Vadis?
In today’s passage we meet Thomas. He is often called, “doubting” Thomas. He had many questions. He had the spirit of inquiry. He wanted to know how and why. He had been with Jesus and known him for about three years. But still Thomas just knew Jesus from a human point of view (cf. 2 Co 5:16). He didn’t know who Jesus really is. He didn’t know why Jesus must suffer and die. He didn’t know why Jesus had to leave him and the other disciples. So he asked Jesus, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” (v. 5) Jesus replied, “I AM the way.” He didn’t say, “I will show the way.” The answer to Thomas’ inquiry was the person of Christ.

There are times when we feel lost and our hearts are troubled. There are times when we are not sure whether we are on the right track. So we ask Jesus, “Lord, what is your will in this situation? I don’t know the way. Which way should I take? Show me the way!” But Jesus says to us, “You already know the way (v. 4), for I am the way. Believe in me. Trust me. Just stay close to me.” In the wilderness what we need is not a map, but a compass because the territory constantly changes. In the wilderness of life what we need to complete our journey is not religion, but the person, Jesus Christ – the way, the truth, and the life. When we meet this Jesus, we change from inside out permanently.

According to a Christian tradition (the apocryphal Acts of Peter), Peter is fleeing from likely crucifixion at the hands of the Roman government. And along the road outside the city he meets the risen Jesus. In the Latin translation, Peter asks Jesus “Quo vadis?” which means, “Where are you going?” Jesus replies, “I am going to Rome to be crucified again.” Peter thereby regains the courage to continue his ministry and returns to the city and dies a martyr by being crucified upside-down. Jesus is always with us. But the question is, “Am I with Jesus?” “Am I following him closely?” “Do I know him personally?” If we have Jesus, if we know Jesus, we don’t need to worry about the way or the destination.

The Holy Spirit, God with Us
We know God best through Jesus. Then, how can we know and experience Jesus best? Through the Holy Spirit! Jesus’ disciples had privilege to dine with him, talk with him, work with him. How about us? Actually, we have the same privilege just as they had! Through the Holy Spirit, we can know and commune with Jesus 24/7. Jesus said to the disciples, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever!” (John 14:16) He also said, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (v. 26). The Holy Spirit is the Helper (ESV, NASB, NKJV), the Counselor (NIV), the Advocate (NRSV), the Comforter (KJV), and the Friend (MSG). How can we describe this beautiful relationship between the Holy Spirit and us? As I was pondering about this, the story of Dick and Rick Hoyt came to my mind. Rick was born with an umbilical cord around his neck. He was born with cerebral palsy. He is unable to walk or talk. At age 15, he asked his father if he could run in a race to support a friend. Dick agreed to push Rick in his wheelchair and they finished all 5 miles together. That night, Rick told his father, “Dad, when I’m running, it feels like I’m not handicapped.” Since that first race, they have competed in multiple marathons and triathlons.[1] Now we will watch their brief moving clip together. [Moving Clip]

Neither Dick or Rick are ready to retire yet. For me personally, as I hear and watch their story, I see myself in Rick, the Holy Spirit in his father, Dick. We don’t know what to say, what to pray, but the Spirit himself intercedes for with groaning too deep for words (Romans 8:26). Although we may know what is right, we don’t have power to do it. But the Holy Spirit empowers us to live a victorious life in Jesus Christ (Romans 7:15-8:2). He dwells with us and within us (John 14:17). And the amazing thing is that not only does he push us in our wheelchair and keep us going, but also he makes us rise and walk – walk with him, run with him!

By God’s grace Thomas kept seeking until he met Jesus. Since Thomas met the person Jesus, and especially since he was filled with the Holy Spirit, he stopped wandering and questing the way. Instead, he was willing to suffer and die for his faith. According to tradition, Thomas preached the good news in India and was martyred there. Have you met Jesus? Do you walk with the Holy Spirit? Why don’t we express the desire of our hearts with the following prayer:

Jesus, I need you and I want to know you personally.
Thank you for dying on the cross for my sin.
I now invite Christ to again take His place 
on the throne of my life.
Fill me with the Holy Spirit!
Please empower me and direct my life.
Help me be the kind of person you want me to be!
I pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

[1] Team Hoyt,