September 20, 2021

Spiritual Blessings in Christ 11-07-2021

11th July 2021 Pentecost 7 (Seventh Sunday after Pentecost)
Spiritual Blessings in Christ
(Scripture Reading: Ephesians 1:3-13)
By Heeyoung Lim

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 1:2) This is Paul’s greeting for the saints of Ephesians. Our daily greeting can be transformed into a godly greeting of grace and peace when we are in Christ. May we have peace and comfort in Christ even though we are surrounded by the negative reality of the world.
We are confronted with so many things in the world that seem to be out of order. Many parts of it are broken and torn by human being. Reordering and fixing are necessary in God’s hands. God is at work, calls and uses us for His great ministry.
We have been born into and grown up in a fallen world, so we have learned the ways of the world, but we are in Christ when we become a Christian. We are no longer who we once were, but we often do not see who we really are. Ephesians1 helps us see who we truly are as Christians. If we could see ourselves more clearly as who we are in Christ, we would be able to live more consistently like Him.
May we live by the inclusive love and ways of Jesus Christ even in new forms of life. The prophetic words and actions that resists against injustice, on the other, works for communities of peace and justice, in the name of a gracious, righteous, and loving Christ, has led Christians to ministries and worship that witness reconciliation and restoration.
Paul tells the Ephesian Christians about praise be to God. God the Father chose us and adopted us as his spiritual children. (5) God the Son redeemed us, forgave us of our sins, enlightened us to know His will, and has given us an eternal inheritance. (7) God the Spirit sealed us, made us secure in Christ, and led us for our redemption. (13)
Christians need to be spiritually enlightened so they may understand the glorious plan of God for the whole world and the greatness of God’s power. God reorders and renews the universe through His encompassing plan of salvation. Everything is in His unconditional love and powerful control. Through the ministries of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Christians have been given every necessary spiritual blessing. God promised the riches of their inheritance in Christ.
Spiritual blessings lie on the will of God to provide grace and peace to His people, but we sometimes do not remember His grace or miss out His blessings. We have received the blessing of being chosen by God and adopted by Him as his spiritual children. An adopted child who is brought into a family has the same rights as a child born into that family. God did this through Jesus. All our sins are forgiven in Jesus because we have believed in Jesus as our Saviour.
However, this does not mean that true Christians never sin. It means our sin is paid for by the death of Christ. His death paid the price for our release from sin and death. This is our spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. This redemption and the forgiveness were accomplished by the death of Christ on the cross where He shed his blood and died to save us. Making forgiveness possible was a major accomplishment in God’s eyes, since it required the sacrifice of blood and the death of his Son, Jesus. (7) This decision for us came out of God’s grace which He lavished on us with all wisdom and insight. (8)
We are predestined to become Christian believers, but responsible for our action because of free will at the same time. We can take both rather than choosing or following one between these two theological perspectives.
Here we have some Bible verses about God’s salvation and human election.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
“First of all, I urge that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone. (1 Tim. 2:1)
“This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth”. (1 Tim. 2: 3-4).
“The Lord is not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).
This is God’s will towards people and the world revealed throughout some Bible verses and spiritual blessings in Christ. The blessings need to be shared in our lives. We do not know the result, but we can commit ourselves to the spread of the gospel message. May we participate in the God’s plan of redemption for those who still do not believe in Jesus and forgive someone who has mistreated us in the love of Christ. Making it possible would be difficult, but I am sure it is time to lavish on others with all our wisdom and love God has given us.
God wants us to be holy and blameless in His sight as in verse 4. We are in Jesus who is holy and blameless. May we be holy and blameless in God’s sight.
In the Holy Spirit, we are sealed until the day of salvation if we believe in Jesus until the very end. This will be for when we are still alive on earth, after we die, or at Christ’s return. This spiritual blessing is to bring praise to God for His grace in our lives (12). We can see ourselves as someone very precious because of all God has done for us.
As we shared, the Bible tells us to praise God the Father who chose us and adopted us as His spiritual children according to God’s plan to receive an inheritance which will possess in full when we stand before God in heaven. In Christ, we have redemption, the forgiveness of sin; we have been spiritually enlightened and enriched. In the Holy Spirit, we were sealed and made secure. May we be enlightened to understand the significance of these spiritual blessings in Christ. I pray we who are the first to hope in Christ may be to the praise of glory.
How blessed we are! God has given us spiritual blessings in Christ. We do not always feel spiritually blessed, but we need to remember that we are truly blessed. God is to be praised by His creation. As in verse 6 and 12, may we be the praise of His glory. Our fellowship and love for God will be reflected in intimate love and complete unity among other believers. Our efforts through loving and caring in our relationship with God’s creation will be a good way to participate in what God wants us to do. It would be one of ways to share spiritual blessings.
I believe that we are glad and happy to live our lives as Christians. May we enjoy the Christian life more completely and to live like Christ more consistently. At the fulfillment of God’s plan, all that exists will live in the relationship with God. May we enjoy the fact that we belong to God and the family of God, participate in God’s loving plan for all creation. I hope we be grateful that God has forgiven our sins and given us eternal life. May we praise God, love others, take good care of God’s creation in the appreciation for spiritual blessings in Christ.
The church will always be challenged by God’s revelation in Jesus Christ to love and serve God and people to renew herself in worship, life, and mission. We are chosen for praise to God, destined for worship God, and appointed to the glory of God. Let us remember we have received the lavish blessings from God. It is time to share it with others. God is the one who is giver of all blessings and source of life.
May God’s abundant blessings will be shared in Christ.
Thanks be to God! Amen. 

(Ref. Bible, commentaries, theological books, UCA materials)

Jesus Shares His Ministry 04-07-2021

4th July 2021 Pentecost 6 (Sixth Sunday after Pentecost)
Jesus Shares His Ministry
(Scripture Reading: Mark 6:11-13)
By Heeyoung Lim
Mark 6 tells the story of Jesus’ hometown rejection and God’s mission through disciples’ teamwork. We are all individuals as well as members of groups or communities. A team player is someone who actively contributes to their group to complete tasks, achieve goals or win the games. Teamwork and team spirit are essential for all groups, communities, sports games, and nations. In many sports games, a good match or a win occurred when a team played well together, not when an individual does well alone. Team players listen to their co-workers and help other team members to achieve their common goals. They understand that their team’s success is their own success, and they share responsibility even when their team experiences difficulties.
Jesus spent most of his time in Nazareth before his public ministry. He went home to Nazareth with His disciples after many ministries, but he was rejected and mocked by his own people. It was not just family visiting, He was invited by a synagogue to teach. The listeners were offended, not at what Jesus said or what he did but at who he was. (3)
The people in his hometown considered Him as just Mary’s son, elder son, and carpenter’s son rather than the one who God sent. The power of God which Jesus possessed required the receptivity of faith, but they were in the absence of faith. It caused the hardening of people’s hearts against God. Verse 5 says, “He could do no mighty work there.” Lack of faith hinders Jesus’ power. Mark tells us about faith as a critical element in the healing mission of Jesus, but Jesus’s power and freedom cannot be limited by human faith. Jesus himself chooses when and how to use his power. He healed people through compassion not on demand or popularity. (5) One of theologian, Hendriksen said, “The spread of the gospel has the priority over personal likes and dislikes.” God’s mission has nothing to do with human popularity or demands, it has been given by God’s grace and love.
In Mark 6, Jesus sends out his disciples to travel the countryside and moves on the Gentile areas, to heal the sick, and to proclaim the need for repentance for the forgiveness of sins. In today’s text, Jesus tells His 12 disciples what not to take with them on their mission, rather than telling them what to take. The disciples were recognised for what they do not take with them on their journey. How about us? Many of us are probably interested in what we do take or possess rather than “lightness”. Jesus adds instructions on how they are to travel for their mission of testifying and healing. He tells them to travel light without bread, traveller’s bag, and money. The lightness of travel will show trust in the divine authority. (8-9)
If they meet the risk of hospitality and rejection in any place, they are requested to shake the dust from under their feet and then move on in accordance with Jesus’ commands. The experience of rejection from Jesus’ hometown could be a signal of what was to be faced in their work and ministry. Jesus prepared his disciples for potential rejection and extended His ministry first by sharing it with the disciples.
Jesus had already chosen the Twelve to be with Him, and to be sent out to proclaim the gospel, and to have authority to cast out demons. Now, he sends them out in pairs to be witnesses. Jesus sent them out in teams of two. The reason may be that in Israel, the law demanded two witnesses for any testimony. (Deut. 17:6) The sharing of a common mission by two people would help bind the disciples into a more cohesive group. The strength of two is more than doubled. They were Jesus’ beautiful teams.
Jesus gave the disciples authority over evil spirits. They did not go under their own authority but the power and authority of Jesus. The missions Jesus has given to them are inbreaking of the kingdom, empowering with Jesus’ authority to cast out demons, and anointing and healing the sick. Anointing with oil signifies the presence of the Holy Spirit. (12) It was a symbol of God’s grace being poured on them. It also signified that the one who applied the oil was a mouthpiece of God’s grace and healing power. The disciples’ mission was successful. (12-13) They carried out the command of Jesus. They brought first a message of repentance, forgiveness of sins, and the need for the people to turn to God. The second message they brought was that of physical healing. It was possible with Jesus.
Jesus calls us to follow Him. We go wherever He leads because He is leading us to a place where He is with us. And he has promised his presence even in the dark at times. The darkness, whether it be through difficulties or suffering, can be connected to the growth and the beauty of the life and faith within us. Jesus wants us to follow Him individually and collectively.
Jesus is aware of our needs and comes to us in our distress and our provisions always come from Him. Jesus calls us to be a part of His ministry to the world; He watches over us and prays for us. We may face the storms of life, but the waves will not overtake us because Jesus is with us. May we do not depend on worldly view but be confident in God’s power as Christians, disciples, leaders, stewards, and most importantly team members. Good stewardship demands that we do not waste God’s resources.
Our priority of mission is to tell people to repent and turn to God. May we also bind their wounds, feed their hunger, satisfy their thirst, and cast out demons. Do we have a “quiet place” to be with Jesus so He can restore our soul and help us cope with the burdens of ministry? There are hard decisions to make when we travel. How much luggage can we take? Some of us take too much luggage while we are traveling and living. But do we really need all that stuff? Do we have “lightness” on our faith journey? We are surrounded by the lack of faith and struggled between lightness and heaviness in our lives, but we do our roles and mission by taking care of people’s physical needs as well as their spiritual needs as team members.
Jesus extended his ministry by sending out the twelve disciples. Now, Jesus is on the move, and he calls us to move with Him. He is aware of our needs and comes to us in our suffering; He watches over us and prays for us. Jesus calls us to follow Him. May we be confident in God’s power as Christians, disciples, leaders, and team players.
God’s mission has given to us under God’s timetable, though crisis comes, and challenge is ongoing. Jesus is sharing of His mission with us, but if we are trapped by our past and current challenges, we will not be free to move forward into new ways of following Jesus. I expect Leighmoor Congregation can be identified as “Team Jesus” in the eyes of Jesus. May we be more beautiful and powerful team for the Lord. May we also rely on the strength and love of God in our all circumstances and always walk with Jesus with the name of “Team Jesus”.
Thanks be to God. Amen.
(Ref. Bible, commentaries, theological books, UCA materials)

Time to Get Up 27-06-2021

27th June 2021 Pentecost 5 (Fifth Sunday after Pentecost)
Time to Get up
(Scripture Reading: Mark 5:21 – 43)
By Heeyoung Lim

Jesus is our healer; He will always be by our side. He frees us from all sins and evil, and he tells us to go back and spread the gospel of God. Just like people who were healed in faith and obedience by the power of Christ, it is important that we too “go and tell”, share the words of Jesus, and live-in worship and gratitude. We can tell people how much Jesus had done for us.
Another gift of Jesus offers is consolation, and we are the ones receiving consolation and comfort by Jesus. The passage of Mark chapter 5 tells the story of Jesus’ compassion, genuine love, and healing. It tells us about a girl restored to life and a woman healed.
Crowds were gathered when Jesus and his disciples crossed back across Lake Galilee. One group asked Jesus to leave, while the other welcomed Him. Some denied and rejected Him, but some welcomed and followed Him.
Jairus was a synagogue ruler. This was a respected and honored position in the community. In the first story, Jairus threw himself down at Jesus’ feet for Jesus to save his daughter. Jesus went with Jairus to his house so that his daughter may be healed.
A woman touched Jesus’ clothes whilst Jesus was on the way. The woman said to herself, “If I can only touch his clothes, I will be rescued.” Immediately the flow of blood ceased, and she felt healing in her body from her disease. (29) The bleeding stopped when she touched Jesus in faith. Jesus was immediately aware the power had gone out of Him. (30) Only the woman knew what had happened to her when Jesus asked the crowd, “Who touched my clothes?” She came in fear and trembling, fell down before Him, and told Him everything. Fear and anxiety may accompany in our lives, but most important thing is “coming to Jesus” in faith anywhere, anytime. When our lives crowd in with all their pressures and uncertainty, there is still room for us to look at Jesus and lean on Him. One of the most remarkable things is the way in which the healing happened even when the healer was not expecting it.
Jesus did not rebuke the woman for touching Him. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you, go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” Jesus called her daughter and said that her faith made her well though itself powerless. Her faith was recognised by Jesus. He healed her and restored her to community. Jesus wants us to be made whole by His healing power; He wants us to be restored to our faith community and society. Jesus calls us daughters and sons in faith and peace.
While He was still speaking, some people came from Jairus’ house to say, “Your daughter is dead.” Imagine Jairus’ sudden grief and doubts at these words, but in verse 36, Jesus said to Jairus, “Do not be afraid, only believe.” Jesus comforted and encouraged Jairus, and He told him to just believe. Likewise, Jesus is telling us to have a continuous and ongoing faith.
Jairus walked to his house in faith with Jesus and three disciples, Peter, James, and John. These three disciples are also mentioned at the Transfiguration and in Gethsemane. (Mark 5) Jesus said, “She is not dead, she is asleep.” The crowd laughed at Him, but Jesus got on with what had to be done. Taking only six people, he went into the room where the dead girl lay. Jesus took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” Immediately the girl got up and began walking around the room. Jesus strictly ordered them that no one should know about this and told them to give her something to eat. Jesus is concerned about the physical dimension of her and our lives.
When I first read this, I was so impressed by the last verse that Jesus told them to give her something to eat. Life-giving moments were not the end but rather the beginning. Jesus showed His compassion, genuine love, and continuous care for the healed woman, resurrected chid, and grieving man. The words of Christ give us hope and strength in the reality that he does really lead us to go the extra mile in looking after others in His name. Wherever we are living, in a caring community or uncaring society, may we be people that can take the extra step in faith and obedience, by blessing and loving others one more time. I believe it can be one of ways to extend the kingdom of God.
We do not exactly know the reasons why He only raise Jairus’ daughter, the widow’s son in Nain (Luke 7), and Lazarus (John 11), or why He tells them not to tell anyone, but we know His aim goes much deeper; these things are some of His signs of salvation and healing through His death and resurrection.
It is time to get up from the darkness, emotional difficulties, and spiritual stagnation. The life-giving power of God is breaking into our lives, and the unconditional love of God is working through the world we face even in our suffering from illness, anxiety from uncertainty, and depression from long-term isolation or loneliness. May we turn on the switch of Jesus’ light by coming to Jesus and leaning on Him. Jesus is with us. May we get up and begin to walk with Jesus together.
Jairus who had a very sick 12-year-old daughter rushed off to Jesus and the woman who suffered for 12 years from severe bleeding touched Jesus’ clothes. They had faith in Jesus and Christ gave healing. Two stories are about fear and faith. Jesus turned fear into faith, showed His unconditional love for the sick and outcasts, and proved his authority over disease and death. Truly, Jesus is our healer and comforter. For Christians, even death is passage to eternal life.
We are often in all sorts of emotional, physical, social, and spiritual pain. But God is quick to comfort, and he always knows what we are going through. May we be people that search for the Spirit’s voice and listen out when He speaks. There are times in life, especially in our past that we are ashamed of. However, may we be people that continues to show love and faith towards Christ Jesus who gives us a peace of mind and comfort.
We live by the word of Jesus Christ, and it is what gives us strength and comfort. We read the word “immediately” three times in today’s text. Let us not postpone our love and action towards God and others. I believe our lives will be restored by Jesus’ healing and life-giving power. Our life cannot be the way it was before if we are with Jesus. May we live today as a gift from God, like it is the first day of our lives but could also be the last day too.
God has given us the gift of life, with the responsibility to look after the church. May we all be people that allow God to work within us by keeping a good balance with Church and our lives, to wisely mature through and to love one another by the love of Christ. It is time to get up in accordance with Jesus’ word! Let us spread Gospel so that more people can meet and believe in Jesus, and they will become Christians and more like Christ, believing that Jesus is our healer, comforter, lover, and Savior.

Thanks be to God. Amen.
(Ref. Bible, commentaries, theological books, UCA materials)

God’s Plan and The Kingdom of God 13-06-2021

13th June 2021 Pentecost 3 (Third Sunday after Pentecost)
God’s Plan and The Kingdom of God
(Scripture Readings: 1 Samuel 16:1-13; Mark 4: 26-34)
By Heeyoung Lim

Our pride, arrogance, and self-centeredness often hinder our trust in God. Today’s text invites us to ask God to show us where our pride and self-centeredness are and repent of it so that God can use us in His service.
God had rejected Saul’s leadership because Saul had rejected the word of the Lord. Saul’s disobedience grieved God that He had made Saul the first king, but Samuel mourned for him. One day God had a special plan and job for Samuel. God said to him, “I want you to find a new king.” It was the time for Samuel to stop mourning and start new task given by God in accordance with God’s commands.
When Jesse and his sons arrived at the sacrifice, Samuel was ready to anoint the new king of Israel, but he made a mistake. Samuel was impressed and was sure this was the LORD’s anointed when he saw the tall and handsome oldest Eliab. But he was wrong. Samuel struggled to perceive God’s choice for the one who will succeed Saul in his view, but He obeyed God’s word.
The Lord rejected 7 sons of Jesse. In verse 11-12, Samuel asked Jesse, are these all the sons you have? No, there was one who was tending the sheep. God provided Israel a king for the future through a child shepherd, David. The king should be the man after the Lord’s own heart but, Samuel did not know the intent of God’s heart. Samuel’s mistake leads us to consider that faithful leaders must have the right kind of heart.
Immediately, the Lord told Samuel to arise and anoint David, Jesse’s youngest son was the one. David is selected by the Lord through Samuel as the new king of Israel. Ancient Near Eastern societies generally gave special inheritance rights and leadership roles to the firstborn son. However, God often chose those overlooked and ignored in the society and culture. Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and Solomon were younger brothers whom God blessed. The young David was selected from among all Jesse’s sons to be the new king After God rejected Saul as king; God told Samuel to go and anoint a new king, one after God’s own heart. Samuel took the horn of oil and poured its contents on David’s head in the presence of his brothers. (13) David’s anointing is reported in just one verse. David had an extended period of waiting and serving before he begins the reign as king, because there was already a king named Saul. David waited until it was his turn to be king for a long time even after the anointing.
God was not concerned with height or appearance; God’s ways are not our ways. God wants us to have the right kind of heart. God looks at our heart instead of appearance; He chooses us and has plans for our lives. God’s sight does not settle for appearances but looks at the heart. Everything belongs to the Lord. I hope we can trust God’s plans and seek the Lord’s heart on all matters.
Samuel did what the Lord had commanded him. I hope we can all listen to God’s word and live out the gospel. In fulfilling the vocation God has given us, we also have a time of waiting and service, but our sight needs to focus on the reign of God in all our circumstances.
In Mark 4, Jesus tells us the beginning of God’s realm that are like mustard seeds; He teaches a fact that God’s realm grows from the smallest like mustard-seed. Great potential resides in even the smallest. As we live in faith, we are invited to look upon ourselves and the world with spiritual eyes. Trust and faith result in growth.
This story is about a parable of the automatically growing seed and the mustard seed. The parable of the mustard seed is found also in Luke 13:18–19 and Matthew 13:31–32, but the parable of the growing seed is found only in Mark. The “seed” has been defined as “the word” in verse 14 and the expression of “on the ground” occurs three times in these two parables. It is also translated with three different phrases that are “on the soil”, “on earth”, and “throughout the world”. (26, 31, 31) That is, the meaning of God’s realm is deeply connected to our lives in the world. In verse 27, the verbs “sleeps” and “rises” signify a long process, but the one who scatters seeds does not understand the process and can only wait patiently. We do not know how the seed sprouts and grows because the seed grows in secret. Sleeping and getting up in the soil are hidden between seed time and harvest. It is unseen and unobserved but exists and grows.
In today’s text, Jesus describes what the kingdom of God is like. (26) The kingdom of God will come in its fullness when God reigns over the earth. We can also remind of a Bible verse, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). Like the parable of the Sower, this story about the kingdom of God also encourages those who will be sowing God’s word. God is working when we are sowing and scattering God’s word.
Mark insists that while humans are called to “sow” or to “scatter the seed,” the growth is completely up to God. We can be sure that growth is taking place by God’s amazing grace and that his harvest will eventually bear fruit. Verse 30-32 describes what the reign of God is like. The mustard seed was the smallest of all the seeds in Palestine, but it will grow until birds can take shelter in its branches. Small beginnings can yield great outcomes in the view of the kingdom of God. Even if it is small, our faith and love will grow wherever God reigns.
We live in a blessed place where God is found and works in unexpected ways and through unlikely people. Jesus continually revealed His divine power in the Bible, but the purposes and the reasons were totally different with humans. For instance, Jesus proclaimed the kingdom of God when people expected that Jesus would overcome Roman’s rule and establish His kingdom on earth. Jesus wanted us to be saved and taught us about the kingdom of God. I pray that the kingdom of God is expanding through all of us.
I believe that we can all learn to trust that all our battle and struggles belong to the Lord. In Christ, strong wind is replaced by great calm and peace in the presence of God. We can ask God for courage to overcome unexpected difficulties we face today. I believe God’s work is happening all around us wherever we can faithfully sow the seed of Christ and where we repent our pride, arrogance, and self-centeredness.
The Word of God continues its dynamic work between individuals and communities. The world sees our appearances and conditions, but God looks at our heart. We can be rejected by the world, but we are chosen by God. That is our happiness and comfort. Let us worship God who looks at the human heart and through Christ Jesus makes all things new.

Thanks be to God. Amen.
(Ref. Bible, commentaries, theological books, UCA materials)

God’s Will and Jesus’ Family 06-06-2021

6th June 2021 Pentecost 2 (Second Sunday after Pentecost)
Title: God’s Will and Jesus’ Family
(Scripture Readings: 1 Samuel 8:4-11; Mark 3: 31-35)
By Heeyoung Lim

We live in arduous times and try our best to discern how to be faithful to God. The Holy Spirit sometimes comes to us in unfamiliar forms. God’s will is achieved in unexpected ways. First thing we can do is asking God and bringing the matters to God in our all circumstances. In today’s text, we can figure out that Samuel asked God His will when Israel did not seek God’s will.
Samuel warns the people about the problems they can expect with an earthly king as their leader. Their immoral behaviour was a departure from God’s will, and the faithless seemed to deny the Samuels leadership. This might hurt Samuel’s feelings and he was unhappy. Complaints must have reached the ears of the elders who gathered in a ruling council, but there was no praying and seeking of the Lord’s face. There was no crying out to God. The elders just demanded that Samuel appoint a king to lead the nation just like the surrounding nations. They wanted a political monarch who would defeat oppressive enemies and a visible and tangible leadership.
The request of the elders for a king displeased Samuel, but he wisely brought it to the Lord. God’s response to Samuel’s prayer in verse 8 shows that the request of the elders was wrong, but God told Samuel to listen to the voice of the people. God wanted Samuel to know that Israel had not rejected him as judge, but they had rejected God as king. Israel had continuously rejected God from the day He rescued them out of Egypt until then. Despite Israel’s rejection of God’s plan for leading them, God’s grace was continued. Samuel did just what God asked and proclaimed the words of the LORD to the people. (10) Samuel anointed Saul as the first king of Israel because God allowed their demands. The Israelites under Saul’s leadership defeat the Ammonites. God gave them a king, but He did it in His way.
God wants us to grow spiritually so that we do not follow the crowd or worldly desires such as power, fame, and fortune. Sometimes people follow a collective unconsciousness without hesitation and blindly jumping on the worldly desires without reflection. There are lots of leaderships we need to follow or respect in our lives, but we can surrender completely to God as King and Jesus as Lord in our lives. The covenant of kingship is achieved through Jesus the Messiah.
God is working through His people. I hope we can ask God to show us God’s will every area of our lives and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to us God’s way on our faith journey. We can list our worldly desires in our diary or journal and repent of the sin of rejecting God’s will even though God’s leading may not visible, audible, or tangible. Do we pray for the reign of God in our daily prayers? Do we still have many prayer topics regarding worldly desires? God listens to our prayers, but He also hears our praises. We can list ways we can praise God as King and share the ways with others. We can also ask God for the grace and love whenever we try to serve God and others. I hope we can pray more about the kingdom of God and the reign of God. God’s will be done when we choose to follow God’s lead in our lives. It can be started from our family and communities.
Family is the place where we feel safe and secure, where we learn to love and grow as a human being. But not all families are loving, and nurturing. Not all families are safe and secure. When I had a short-mission trip to Thailand, I met about 300 homeless people in a station, visited slum village and met many children who were suffering from their parents’ drug addiction and their various unsafe environment, and went to a refugee site there. On the other hand, I also met some missionaries and Thai Christians who so much loved and helped them regularly and dedicatedly. They did not have secure place or loving family, but they were with extended family with the name of Christians.
In John’s Gospel, when Jesus is dying on the cross, he looks at his mother and says to her, “Woman, here is your son.” And then Jesus says to the beloved disciple, “Here is your mother.” Even on the cross Jesus was building His family of followers. So, he gave His mother a new son, and his beloved disciple a new mother. We know that Jesus loved and cared for his mother, even on the cross. (John 19:27) In Matthew 3 and Mark 3, Jesus showed and taught us a new priority in family that transcend the normal blood relations known as “family”.
Jesus established a new family where all people can belong. His family is a group of people who believe in Him and follow Him in today’s text. When Jesus asked, “Who are my family,” He looked around him at the people sitting there in a ring and said that all who do will of God are his family. Jesus’ family is doing everything in the Holy Spirit who is connects the reign of God. God’s leadership seems to be a reversal of human ways, but the reign of God is always the best even in our torn environment with suffering and vulnerability. One of important messages of the Gospel is about the reign of God that displaces satanic reign or wrong worldly power. God’s work through Christ entails deliverance and mercy all the time. Jesus’ life and mission always revolved around the will of God. Jesus’ family is defined by commitment to doing God’s will. We are called to be around Jesus listening to Him. God wants us to cling to Jesus and stick with Him whatever the cost. I pray we can all be Jesus’ true family living from deep sense of love and belonging in Jesus.
There are big differences between God’s unconditional love and human limited love, but we can offer love and compassion to people in the love of God. We can ask for God’s wisdom and strength to enable us to do His will and submit our life to Christ. Jesus’ family is the one who does the will of God and those who believe in Jesus. Those who do God’s will are the true family of Jesus. I hope that we will come closer to Christ more and more, and I pray that God will prepare and offer close and intimate friendship in our faith communities. I believe we can discern God’s will in our faith and life with the grace of God’s kingdom and become Jesus’ family under the reign of God. Let us thank God and praise Him for His existence and awesome majesty.
What do we do when we cannot discern where God is leading? Surely, the longing for the word of the Lord and prayer to ask God’s will must be continued in our lives as Jesus’ family.

Thanks be to God. Amen.
(Ref. Bible, commentaries, theological books, UCA materials)

God’s Presence and Glory 30-05-2021

30th May 2021 Trinity Sunday
Title: God’s Presence and Glory
(Scripture Readings: Isaiah 6:1-8; John 3: 1-17)
By Heeyoung Lim
God is our creator who invites us into relationship and calls us to lives of faithfulness in accordance with God’s plan. We respond to God with love and celebrate the wonder of God’s presence represented in our lives.
Isaiah experiences God’s presence at the temple that is cultural, national, and religious centre at a time when the Assyrians were threatening the Hebrew people. His experience of God’s presence is filled with mystery and power. God called his prophet to confront a faithless king and declare judgment for the present but hope for the future in His glory.
The Hebrew word for “glory” means “weight” or “heavy.” It refers to the importance or weight people carry in their lives. We can give glory to God, that is, acknowledge His importance and reputation by honouring Him. We are invited to glorify God. God’s people have no reason to fear worldly powers but need to fear God alone.
In today’s text, when God asked, “Who will go for us?”, Isaiah responded, “here I am, send me!” (Isaiah 6:8) I hope we can all respond and participate in God’s work as God-fearing people. God’s promise and His work are revealed in Christ, the Father’s gift of the Son for the eternal life and salvation of the world.
In John 3, Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night, approaches Jesus with what he knows about Jesus, and focuses on signs. Jesus accepts Nicodemus, but He immediately teaches the necessity of being born from above to see the kingdom of God. (3) This term “above” is also translated as both “anew” and “again” in Greek meaning.
He asks about the biological possibility of being born again. His misunderstanding continues time and again across Jesus’ word and ministry, but he has openness to come, approach, and listen to Jesus’ words. Jesus’ answer is that he needs to be born of the spirit. (3-4) It means that eternal life only comes through personal faith in the cross and the spirit. (9-15) The cross implies the meaning of both a physical lifting and a spiritual exaltation; it was for our salvation and the recovery of relationship with God. The promise for eternal life is connected and fulfilled in the Spirit brought by Jesus. The message about “being born again” written in the gospel of John invites us to be transformed towards new lives in the relationships with God the Father, God the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We are new existence empowered by the grace of God and made manifest in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.
We can find Jesus’ communal language, “We” Testimony in verse 11, it is related to faith community. We are one in Christ. The creative love of God, the redemptive offering of Christ, and the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit; these Three are One. The Trinity represents God in loving relationships. The Trinity is a Christian belief where God is one in three persons (theological term, it does not mean just person): God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. It is difficult to find the right words to explain the Trinity well, that is why many people struggle with the fact of how God can be three distinct parts yet still be one. However, the position or relationship of the Trinity is not hierarchical or scale down version, it is very dynamic and inter relational. The Trinity can be described as a sign and metaphor for our ways of living together, being different and yet being a part of the same life.
We need to relate the divine life of the Trinity, that is the life of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, with the life of the earth. I hope we can relate, live, and love together without division just like that God is very relational. John 3.16 says “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life.” It is about God’s love and salvation for the world, and the eternal life promised by Jesus relates to the life we live now and here. We need to gain a new awareness of the Spirit as well as of the world, so that we can understand the eternal love of God for the world.
I pray we can show others that we are a lover of light when people come to us at night just like Nicodemus. We are all precious, but we will never forget our own sinfulness and unworthiness when compared to Jesus. In Isaiah, God called a sinful man as His prophet to announce his judgment to his sinful people, in John, Jesus gave Nicodemus who came to Him at night with his own knowledge opportunities to be born again through His living words. I hope we can all accept, proclaim, and live out the gospel certifying that God is truth.
Salvation is the work of God and the gift of God’s grace internally through the Holy Spirit, but salvation-promised faith and spirit-filled life can be demonstrated outwardly through faith and godly living. Anyone who is in Christ is a new creation. As in John 3, believers possess eternal life, but unbelievers do not. Believers are not condemned, but unbelievers are condemned already. Believers live in the light while unbelievers live in the darkness. What can we do when many people reject the gospel because they love darkness and worldly life?
I hope we can ask God to forgive us for the times we have refused to listen to Him and obey His word. I believe we will experience more love of God whenever we are closer to God because God is love. In John, God is love in action, and the John’s gospel is the Gospel of Love; the gospel of John represents the experience of a loving life-giving relationship with God. I hope we can convey the love of God to our neighbours and nature through our faithful response in God’s presence and glory. 

Faith is gracefully given gift from God; it is God’s command for His salvation, not His request. If we accept the gospel as God’s command, the gospel is simple, yet profound enough to amaze all kinds of people in the power of the Holy Spirit. Our faith is about the way we experience our loving relationship with the living God. Today’s message invites us to change and grow our faith and life in our community. Can we more gladly live, love, serve, and share together? Our relationships need to be more dynamic and inter relational in our community.
God rules over all the world’s powers, so we are safe when we are in the presence of God. We can ask God to remove all fear and anxiety from our lives. God will help us to make our all decisions in the Holy Spirit, He will lead us to obey in accordance with God’s words, and He will save us if we believe in Jesus. God calls us to be a part of His mission; He wants us to go where He wants to send us. I believe we can listen for God’s call, go on His mission, and experience His presence and glory. I pray we can all become closer and closer to God and can more beautifully live and more faithfully serve together in the relationship with God and others.

Thanks be to God. Amen.
(Ref. Bible, commentaries, theological books, UCA materials)

The Coming of the Holy Spirit 23-05-2021

23rd May 2021 The Day of Pentecost
Title: The Coming of the Holy Spirit
(Scripture Readings: Ezekiel 37:1-14; Acts 2: 1-21)
By Heeyoung Lim

We know God’s Spirit is at work; it is for the world, the church, and all people. From the very beginning, Christ calls individuals into community as the church, and the Holy Spirit comes to us in different ways. Pentecost is the festival day marking the birth of the church; it is a good time to reaffirm congregants’ participation as disciples in the body of Christ. God is speaking to individuals who do not feel that belonging to the body of Christ, those who feel discouraged or excluded by the church. He is also giving us the renewal of creation, the liberation from oppression, and the recovery of the torn and broken things. I hope we can discern where and how God is active in the past, present, and the future through the Holy Spirit.
In Ezekiel’s vision, God led the prophet back and forth among scattered dry bones. His vision of the dry bones shows the power of God’s Spirit to bring life from death. (Ezekiel 37:1-14) God will revive and unite His people and will defeat those who seek to destroy them. When Ezekiel prophesied as God commanded him, the bones came together. He looked at those bones that were attached, but they did not breathe. God commanded Ezekiel to prophesy a second time, this time to the breath. When the very dried bones are everywhere God restored them. As a result, the bones came to life and stood up on their feet. This message was about resurrection, restoration, and revival of very dried bones which means Israel, but it was not after death. They will be renewed spiritually when God places His Spirit within them in keeping with the new covenant.
There are tough times when we are physically struggling, emotionally being exhausted, and spiritually stagnant like scattered dry bones. However, God can do the impossible when our bones are dried up and our hope is gone. God restores us when we live here on earth as God’s restoration was not after death in the text. We know that God is the LORD in our all circumstances. Its emphasis is placed on the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit that can give life to dry bones is giving us strength to live lives of faithful obedience pleasing to the Lord. (11)
Regarding Acts 2, this is not the first time that the Holy Spirit appeared in the New Testament. Luke introduced him (Luke 1:15) as a witness to the coming of Christ at the incarnation. He also recorded the role of the Holy Spirit in the virgin birth (1:35) and the descending of the Spirit upon Jesus at the time of his baptism (3:22). At the end of chapter 1 the believers gathered in silence and prayer. Obediently, they awaited the promise of the Holy Spirit’s coming and the Lord’s command for them to do nothing until that event occurred.
They heard a sound like the blowing of a violent wind. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire. (3) The fire started as one and then separately came upon them. Wind or fire is associated with the presence of God in the Bible. Symbols of the Spirit’s coming were sound of wind and appearance of flame. On the Day of Pentecost, God sent the Holy Spirit upon 120 believers in Jerusalem, and they began to proclaim the gospel in different languages. They did not need to translate because everyone understood in their own language.
The experience on the Day of Pentecost was the use of different languages; it seems to happen once without repetition, but other experiences of the Holy Spirit occur with frequency as believers allow God’s Spirit to work through them. (4) Sometimes Pentecost is seen as the reversal of the impacts of the tower of Babel, when the languages of the world were confused, and people were scattered. The Holy Spirit enabled communication possible in Acts 2, but human pride made the communication impossible in the Genesis 11 in which the people of Babel were building a tower and thinking arrogantly. God showed His response to the human arrogance by confusing their languages so that they cannot understand one another and cannot work together in their lives.
Genesis 12, God said to Abraham, “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you”. The blessing and promise given to Abraham came directly after the Babel tower story which represents confusion, curse, and arrogance. God led His people and fulfilled His promise; He continued His work in and through Jesus and the Holy Spirit even though they were sinners. Luke is implying that the curse of confusion and miscommunication are overturned with the coming of the Holy Spirit. That is a special gift and blessing from God.
Everyone’s second language was Greek at that time. Many have seen ‘the gift of tongues’ as the gift of a heavenly sound. 3,000 people trusted Christ through Peter’s preaching and the first church was born. God acted by His Spirit in a new way when Peter connected his preaching directly with the promise of Joel that God would pour out His Spirit among His people. God’s spirit has been poured out upon many people at once and the crowds have witnessed. There are no discriminations and barriers between genders, ages, and social classes. There is no division in God’s salvation, it is just focused on all who call on the name of the Lord. (21) The Lord which in Luke indicates Jesus; all who call on the Lord’s name will be saved. Being saved does not just mean going to heaven when people die, it also means God’s rescuing power revealed in Jesus is in our present lives. The salvation has already begun for everyone who calls on the Lord and believes in Jesus. I hope we can discover how it can happen.
Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Christians can proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, and people will believe and become a part of His body, the church. The presence of the Holy Spirit is the church’s guide to living as faithful servants of God in the world and faithful witnesses to Jesus Christ. God can do whatever God wants to do through Jesus and the Holy Spirit. God empowers His church for His work through the coming of the Holy Spirit. God will revive and unite us through the power of the Holy Spirit, He will lead and transform us from the dried and scattered status. Especially God will give us words of power, words of comfort, and words of life. Luke recorded the togetherness the early Christians enjoyed.
After a voice from heaven spoken down at them on the day of Pentecost, Jesus’ followers were inspired to speak. Jesus sent down the gift of the Holy Spirit and they prayed to Him. They preached the Good News about Jesus Christ crucified and risen, and testified what God was doing among them. The first actions done on the first birthday of the church were listening and speaking. The Holy Spirit enabled the both-sided communication. We are surrounded with lots of words, sounds, and signs, but we sometimes do not hear the voice of God in our daily lives. I hope the two-way communication with God and others would be one of our priorities in the power of the Holy Spirit.
God’s desire for redemption, new creation, and salvation are continued regardless of any barriers we create. Do we really listen to God’s words whenever God is speaking to us through the power of the Holy Spirit? Are we spreading the gospel and living out Spirit-driven life? I pray that we will be filled with the creative, regenerative, and transforming power of the Holy Spirit.

Thanks be to God. Amen.
(Ref. Bible, commentaries, theological books, UCA materials)

Jesus Farewell Prayer for his People 16-05-2021

16th May 2021 Seventh Sunday of Easter
Title: Jesus’ Farewell Prayer for His People
(Scripture Readings: Psalm1; John 17:6-19)
By Heeyoung Lim
We live on earth, which is God’s creation and a gift from God, but India COVID-19 crisis, violence by Myanmar coup, serious conflict between the Israeli Army and Palestinian militants, and many kinds of problems and sufferings are continued in the world. For instance, the airstrikes by both sides continued to kill civilians including children, it raised alarm across the world. I expect that we can pray together for our sisters and brothers who are facing violence and conflict in the Middle East, and I hope God of the nations will give to all people the blessings of well-being, peace, freedom, harmony, and unity.
Psalm1 described God-blessed life. The godly does not walk in the counsel of the wicked; the righteous person does not stand in the way of sinners, and the person does not sit in the seat of mockers. In the text, the delight of the godly is in the law of the LORD, the person who knows genuine joy reads and meditates God’s Word day and night. (1-2) The person who delights in God’s law will be like a tree planted by streams of water. The godly are abundantly blessed because they are deeply rooted in God’s Word.
Verse 6 summarizes the two ways in life; the way of the righteous and the way of the wicked. The Lord watches over the way of the righteous, which means that the Lord has a personal relationship with the godly and is involved with them to guide, protect, and bless them. Blessed are the righteous who do not participate in the deceptions and defilements of this world and who internalize God’s Word. Psalm 1 invites us into the blessed life through God’s words. I hope we will be satisfied in the Lord and will be like a tree that yields its fruit in season. The joy and transformation through God’s Word are also seen in Jesus’ farewell prayer from the gospel of John.
John 17 verses 6 -19 focuses on Jesus’ concerns for the disciples. This passage is a part of the ‘High Priestly Prayer’ that Jesus offers up in his role as mediator between God and humanity. But Jesus is not portrayed in a priestly role in today’s text, this prayer shows the proximity of the end of Jesus’ ministry. It seems that Jesus is wrapping up his ministry by telling God what will be needed as the disciples move forward.
The first act of the Son was to tell disciples and show them what the Father is like. The disciples heard about God and his plan through the Son. Jesus identified his task in the world to His disciples.
Jesus prayed for His disciples; this prayer focuses on those believers God has given Him. In verse 10 Jesus says that glory has come to me through them. In Jesus’ prayer His disciples and believers represent the glory of the Son of God even though they are sinning human beings. In verse 13 Jesus said, “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world.” Jesus has come from God, and he is returning to God. This is Jesus’ farewell prayer for His disciples and us. In praying for them, Jesus entrusted His people to the Father when Jesus prepares to depart from the world.
God watch over Christ’s people who live in the world though they are not of the world. He wanted us as Jesus’ followers to be kept from evil; Jesus was asking the Father to preserve His people from the tricks and traps of the world. Living in the world does not mean being part of the world. The disciples were able to go into the world because they were not of the world. We are also not of the world; we are God’s people who belong to God the Creator, and through faith in Christ, we have become children of God. We are gifts from the Father to the Son and relate to Him by faith. For Christians who have faith and obedience, infiltration is a better strategy than isolation in the world. I hope we can all be God’s instruments to change the world in accordance with God’s will.
Jesus told his followers that they should be one in this world. Jesus said that they may be one, as we are one. Jesus wanted us to be one in our communities and witnesses to the world. There is no excuse for Christians not to passionately and newly work towards the unity Jesus prayed for, even though unity cannot be forced in any relationships. As we know being the same is not the basis of unity. Unity does not mean uniformity or a single standard, it is based on peace and love. We do not need to wait for someone else to make peace, we can be the first to try for reconciliation with love as a peacemaker. It will be a necessary process for us to be one in Christ.
The Father sent the Son into the world and now the Son was sending the believers into the world. (18) Jesus is praying that God protect for the disciples with the loving care that Jesus himself has received; this is God’s paternal care that will not leave us but prevents us everywhere. Jesus prayed for their protection and sanctification. Jesus wanted us to sanctify by the truth which is God’s word. God gave us the living words and opportunities to sanctify. The meaning of sanctification is that of being set apart for God’s special purpose rather than just doing of good deeds or pretending to be holy. Jesus prays for the disciples to be “set apart” when they live in the world, since they do not belong to the world. It is not a way of being taken out of the world but being sent into it. Jesus prays that his followers will be sanctified so that they may be witnesses of the Lord and bring the good news to the world.
Realistically, true peace and reconciliation are necessary between individuals and nations with conflict and violence. Prayerfully I hope the newly faced COVID risks in India, violence and tragedy in Myanmar coup, and the serious conflict between Israel and Palestine will disappear.
We live in a world where human dignity is tremendously broken, but hopefully the peace of the Lord will be upon all the people and relationships. We are called to love. In our faith we promise to respect the dignity of every human being. We share our love and praise of God with others and invite them to believe in Jesus with us. We are also sent by Jesus to transform this darkness and sadness of the world by being His witnesses and spreading the gospel to the world in faith and life.
How can our church be more faithful to Jesus’ demands? A sense of Christ’s presence that will allow us to live more faithfully in the world will influence us to be transformed and energized by the truth of God’s word. I believe that God will lead us to an act of dedication as Jesus has dedicated himself to God’s work. I hope we can trust God’s protection for our spiritual and physical life all the time and I pray that we can fulfill God’s will for the church by working to keep its unity. I expect that we can be the godly and peacemakers for the kingdom of God and disciples and leaders for the transformation of the world by our prayers, sanctification, and love.
If we are one in Jesus, there can be no reason why we may not be one in our lives and communities. I believe that unity and harmony in the church serve as a witness to the world. I hope that we can try to make a beautiful community and the world that pleases God by love, unity, and sanctification remembering Jesus’ farewell prayer.
Thanks be to God. Amen.
(Ref. Bible, commentaries, theological books, UCA materials)

You Are My Friends 09-05-2021

9th May 2021 Sixth Sunday of Easter
Title: You Are My Friends
(Scripture Readings: Acts 10:44-48; John 15:9-17)
By Heeyoung Lim
Happy Mother’s Day! May the Lord bless your home and the places of your work with His grace and blessing. I hope that today will be a day of blessing for all mothers, and God’s special grace and comfort will be with those who have parted with their mother on earth.
We saw and heard the cries that Black Lives Matter or All Lives Matter in the mid-2020 and witnessed hatred and violence against Asian in many nations and across the globe recently. Many people and protesters tried to call for equality, justice, and peace, but some of them had already died undeservedly, and many people around the world are still suffering from domestic violence and abuse. We cannot find love in all these pains, but today the Lord is telling us to love one another, follow my commands, and be my friends.
In Acts 10, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word while Peter was still speaking. (Acts 10:44) It happened before Peter had a chance to baptize Cornelius and his family, before he heard their confession of faith. Acts 10:44-48 refers to the ‘gentile Pentecost’. This is the fourth pouring out of the Spirit in Acts, this time prior to water baptism and upon even to the gentile. Peter exemplifies the transformation under power of the Holy Spirit. God is the subject of salvation; Peter was an instrument, not the source of salvation. The salvation has been through the inbreaking of the Holy Spirit even to the Gentiles. The Gentile believers also belong to the household of God because God accepts them as they are.
This accounts for the constant relational importance under the help of the Holy Spirit. Anyone who trusts in the name of Jesus for salvation receives the Holy Spirit and the privilege of baptism. Anyone who believes in Jesus needs to be welcomed to His body, the church, for God shows no boundaries and prejudices in the invitation of the gospel. (47) The gospel makes salvation in Jesus available to anyone who believes in Him.
Have you ever imagined that the Holy Spirit may have a hard time getting through our stubborn desire to stay the way we are? I think that the Holy Spirit is sometimes trying to break through our unnecessary boundaries and prejudices that have become rock hard in our lives. We can continue to pass on the good tradition from one generation to another, but we also need to open to the Holy Spirit that brings new message in accordance with God’s will.
The Holy Spirit broke the barriers between Jew and Gentile and propelled the witness of the resurrection beyond the boundaries of Jerusalem and Galilee. What seems clear is that Christians can rejoice and love in the Lord even in the difficulties of the world’s hatred and injustice. We live in the world full of boundaries, but Jesus’ invitation towards the salvation and the gospel is for everyone. Therefore, the boundaries of prejudice and exclusion need to be broken in the love of God.
John 15:9-17 continues Jesus’ teaching on abiding in love and the command to love one another; it tells us to keep the connection between Jesus and us so the relationship will never be broken. The quality of relationships is related to the life, message, and commands of our Lord Jesus Christ. If we remain in Jesus, our lives will be filled with joy and a lasting friendship with the Lord. Love is an absolute command for believers and the chief fruit of the Spirit. (Gal. 5:22-23). It is also the essential factor in our relationships.
John 15 emphasises the great love six times in today’s text the disciples will be told to love one another. The Father loves first; then the Son shows that love by obeying God’s will; remaining in the Lord’s love also requires obedience and brings joy. God is pleased when we obey Christ’s commands and follow His examples.
The Lord told the disciples he wanted them to experience the joy he had already found in obedience. He said to them, “I have told you this to make you as completely happy as I am.” Jesus wants us to rejoice in the Lord. It is a blessing that Jesus calls his followers into joy. Christian life is characterized by ‘unexhausted passion for the Lord and unconditional love for others.
Jesus’ command is to love each other as He has loved us. He taught us that the greatest way to show love for friends is to die for one’s friends. Jesus said that you are my friends if you do what I command. (12-14) Only Abraham had been called ‘God’s friend’ in the Old Testament; but now the scope widened, and the Lord invited His disciples in. We are Jesus’ friends if we obey Him.
But we sometimes forget the fact that friendship is connected to obedience to Jesus’ command to love. A genuine love for one another is one of ways to show love for God; it can be a way to become Jesus’ friend. The disciples were Jesus’ servants, but Jesus taught them the way to become His friends. We need to remember Romans 5:8: “God demonstrates His own love for us in this; while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” God finds and loves us first. Loving each other is central to bearing fruit of life and will be a significant defence against the evil world. Jesus wants us to love others faithfully and fervently.
In Matthew 7, Jesus said that “every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit, by their fruit you will recognize them” Christians can glorify God by producing fruits as a spiritual character and a lifestyle as long as they remain in the vine our Lord Jesus. God wants us to enjoy being loved and to joyfully bear the fruits of love, He wishes us to take pleasure in living in love. I hope we can love each other as Jesus has loved us and choose unity instead of conflict, trust instead of mistrust, and obedience instead of disobedience in Jesus.
As we abide in the vine as branches, we have opportunities to relate to the other branches in right way. Many of us are vulnerable, but we can be a strength and comfort by our sacrifice for each other, sincere interaction in our communities, and respecting one another until everyone feel like blessed one.
The love God offers us in Jesus is unconditional and overwhelming. It is not leftover love tossed to us; it is life-giving love for us. Jesus says, “I love you in the same way that I am loved by the Father. We are being invited to share in the full depths of love that exist in the relationships within God, the relationships of sincere love between the Father, the Son and the Spirit. Jesus points out that there is no greater expression of love than to lay down your life for your friends, and then he does just that. He lays down his life for us!
In John 15, Friends of Jesus remain in His love (15:9-11); Friends of Jesus obey his commands (15:12-14); Friends of Jesus love one another. (15:15-17) Remaining in the Lord’s love also requires obedience and brings joy. I pray we can abide in Jesus’ love, and I believe Jesus is in us and we are in the fullness of Jesus’ love. I hope His joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.
I hope that we can reflect on the process of growing into the words of Christ, discover how the life of a faithful community leads it into the joy, love, friendship, and being saved by Christ. We are all Jesus’ friends if we love each other as Jesus has loved us. Jesus calls us His friends if we do what He commands. I pray that we will love one another by understanding sympathetically, appreciating often, praying fervently, listening carefully, and sharing generously.
Being Jesus’ friends is truly a special blessing. I believe that God will renew us and transform our church by His steadfast love.

Thanks be to God. Amen.
(Ref. Bible, commentaries, theological books, UCA materials)

The Vine and the Branches 02-05=2021

2nd May 2021 Fifth Sunday of Easter
Title: The Vine and the Branches
(Scripture Readings: Acts 8:26-40; John 15:1-8)
By Heeyoung Lim
Philip was sent by an angel from Samaria to the desert, and he was empowered by the Holy Spirit. The lay disciple Philip went wherever God sent. (Acts 8:26) Philip was in God’s plan and ministering through the Holy Spirit. (27) When Philip was doing his missionary work among the Samaritans, he received a divine invitation to broaden the boundaries of the Christian message from the familiar surroundings. (40) The mission field has been extended to the desert for everyone’s salvation.
God led him to meet an Ethiopian eunuch, treasurer to the queen. The man was on his way home from temple worship, and he was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet. The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.” (29) Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked. The man invited Philip to come up and sit with him; he asked the questions that lead to an introduction of the Saviour. (34) The Ethiopian man was baptised and continued his journey home, “rejoicing.” The joyful return is introduced throughout Luke’s gospel many times.
Philip listened to God’s voice through the angel of the Lord, ran to the chariot by the Holy Spirit, and explained the meaning of the Scripture with joy. Leading other people to Christ requires that we be ready, unafraid, able to use God’s Word, and filled with the Holy Spirit. (39)
Philip may have felt mixed emotions of the loneliness in the desert and the regret of leaving Samaria where he put his efforts; he would have hoped that this stranger could really understand the Messiah written by the prophet.
We know that the Holy Spirit takes place when a willing Christian spread the gospel to a prepared listener. (30) There was a willing servant, living Scripture, and the empowering Spirit in the desert. (39) What a combination.
So many Christians own Bibles, but they usually struggle to use them effectively in family worship, personal spiritual growth, and spreading gospel. I hope many more people can come to Christ through our prayers and efforts. Philip is called to share the good news revealed in Jesus without any prejudice. (40) God does amazing things through lay people just like Philip. Luke emphasises that the good news about Jesus is for everyone through the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts.
I hope we can also be ready to go any place for God at any time just like Philip. There would be lots of unknown deserts and possible chariots in our lives. We do not know when and how God will send us for others in a cooperation of servant, Scripture, and the Holy Spirit, but I believe we need to be ready to catch our chariot whenever and wherever it comes along. Sometimes we need to go to others who still do not know Jesus instead of holding back. To do this, believers need to be ready to spread and explain the gospel after knowing the Bible well. I believe our ability to use the knowledge of the Bible needs to be grow in faith. All service for the Lord must be empowered by His Spirit and seeking Christ in our lives as often as possible.
In John 15, Jesus said that I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener: God cuts off every branch of mine that does not bear fruit. He says, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. The branch cannot bear fruit by itself, but only if it remains in the vine.” (4) I am the vine; you are the branches. Without me, you cannot do anything. (5)
In today’s text, we listened to one of the “I Am” statements of Jesus. We have to go beyond the actual words and discover the meaning because Jesus sometimes spoke in allegories and images. We are grafted to Jesus and so can receive our strength from Him as His followers. If we break away from Him, and fail to live his ways, we will be like unproductive branches and die and bear no fruit.
Branches that remain in the vine, and submit to the pruner’s knife when necessary, live and bear fruit. How do we remain in Him? We must have faith in our community that believes in Him and celebrates Him as its Lord. We can bear good quality fruit by God’s pruning knife. Though it hurts, we need to be in front of God’s pruning knife. However, within the faith community, we must abandon our own pruning knife because we are not qualified as a gardener. We all belong to Jesus; we are all in God’s beautiful garden as His branches. We cannot go it alone; we need to remain in Jesus and our lovely faith community by worship, prayer, and fellowship. It can be the ways to remain in Jesus. Verse 7 says, “If you remain in me, and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want, and it will happen for you. My father is glorified in this: that you bear plenty of fruit, and so become my disciples.” What a blessing.
There are extraordinary promises about prayer and bearing fruit; our personal relationship with the Lord by prayer and our divinely appointed mission by bearing fruit will be our true blessings in our faith communities. Remaining in the Lord is not a temporary work, it is related to long-term health and productivity. It has nothing to do with our age, gender, and situations. We are members of God’s true people and Jesus’ disciples if we are belong to Him and remain in Him. The vine and the branches are about who Jesus and His people really are, and what is going to happen to them.
We can bear fruit by living a productive life as we follow Jesus. Whenever we are faced with situations of need in our lives, we can also ask ourselves the question “What and how would Jesus do?” We can be fruitful through helping and serving others because we are taking the opportunity to serve the Christ who is already beside people.
We need to cultivate our relationship with Him. How can we strengthen our relationship with Jesus Christ? How can we remain connected to Him? I believe that we can do it by participating in worship, serving the Lord and others, celebrating the Holy Communion, reading the Bible, and living out the gospel in our lives. I hope and pray we can all be productive and healthy branches, grafted to the true vine Jesus.
Abiding in the Lord is our blessing and happiness. Our saviour Jesus can be expressed as our home where we can be loved and nurtured, lifeline that leads to salvation, the source of peace and security where we can live to our full potential, and the place of spiritual nourishment. Our spiritual address we should live is Jesus. That is why we can live fruitful and productive lives in Jesus. When we allow Christ to live in us then we can bear fruit, because we are evidence of God’s love, deeply joined to Him, and dedicated to Him. Bearing fruit means engaging for ourselves as individuals and as the church in God’s work.
Fruitful branches need to be pruned and cleansed so they may bear more fruit. May we continue to live and grow as fruitful branches all grafted to Jesus our true vine. May we continue to let Christ live in us as we live in Him. For then we will be fruitful followers of Jesus. Jesus is the true vine, and we are the branches and disciples. No branch can bear fruit by itself. I hope we can all glorify God by abiding in the Lord, and I pray we can remain in Christ and His word to be fruitful.
Thanks be to God. Amen.
(Ref. Bible, commentaries, theological books, UCA materials)