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Friday, May 5, 2017
““Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) ”
Since last August’s flood, many people have worked so hard to rebuild our church facilities from replacing new floor carpet to installing new doors and equipment. We are so blessed to even have available funding to remodel our fellowship room with beautiful ceiling lights. But the more I view our new church buildings, the more I think about the real temple that is not this building, but the body and heart in each church member here. The more the Holy Spirit convicts me that as we have worked so hard to fix this beautiful church, we should work even harder to rebuild our bodies as the temples where God truly resides. I am not talking about a “cosmetic facelift make-over” of this body, but a new heart dedicated totally to God, just as king David once prayed in Psalm 51:10 – “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”
In the Scriptures, we read this morning, the apostle Paul reminded the Christians about the real temple of God and that is our body. Since the day that we repented of our sins and placed our trust in Jesus Christ, we are saved and the Spirit of God resides in our body and heart, and from there on we become the temples of God. Why did the holy God choose to reside in our body? Simply, because we have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. Jesus bought us with a great price of His own sinless blood pouring down from the cross. We become righteous before the perfectly holy God because of everything Jesus, God’s Son had done for us on the cross. And since we are holy before God, His Spirit resides in us, God lives inside of us. Each Sunday, we come here to this location ‘7133 Greenwell Springs Road,’ called the VHBC to worship God, but the true temple where we worship God is our body, heart and mind.
What is a temple for? It is a place of worship where people get connected with God. It is a house of prayer where people communicate with God. It is a location where we serve God and fulfill our duties as priests to God. In the Old Testament and to the Jewish people, they believe the Holy of holies, the most inner part of their temple which had the ark of covenant with a mercy seat above, it was where God sat. But after Jesus died and took His last breath on the cross, the curtain separated the Holy and the Holy of holies places torn apart from top to the bottom; This means now we can access directly and boldly approach the throne of God through Jesus Christ. Today, we do not have to be bounded to a certain physical location to meet and worship God, but we are connected with God everywhere we go, because our body is now the temple of God where His Spirit resides. We can say that our bodies are the walking temples 24/7, and always have the presence of His Spirit. So many Christians have miss-conceptions to still believe that God ONLY resides in the physical buildings called the church, and not in our body, heart, and mind; For that reason, some people can praise God with their lips, sing loudly “Alleluia” inside the church, but when they get out of the church, they live a life as “enemies of the cross,” because they don’t see God out there anymore. But the more we understand that we are the walking temples of God, the more our lifestyle, our words, and our actions would be different than the old ways of the flesh everywhere we go.
Paul also reminded us that our bodies are no longer belong to us, but are free to God. In the Bible, Paul’s image about Christianity’s freedom does not picture a slave being sold to be free of doing whatever he wants, but being transferred from one owner to another, to God Who paid a great price. We are free under the Lordship of Jesus Christ because our body is His and not ours; Jesus bought it with His own blood. We are no longer the master of our mouth, lips, hands, eyes, feet, heart and mind. So, we should not any longer use our body for an instrument of sin, but an instrument to bring glory to God. Our body is now for showing off God, to make Him look good, and not for satisfying our flesh and its desires.
If our body is the temple of God, then how should we keep it? First, we must keep it clean for God’s Spirit to reside. If you bought a brand-new house, how would you take care of it? You choose the perfect colors for the curtains and walls, plus the beautiful decorations in each room must reflect your own tastes? The expensive furniture must go with the values of your new house? You clean, sweep, mop and dust every day, especially when you have guests come and visit? What’s about the temple of your body where God’s Spirit lives? Do you keep it clean and fresh all the times? Is our temple clean under the carpet, in the closets, inside TV cables, in your computer, in the refrigerator…? Is there any bitterness, lust, greed, jealousy, hatred, unforgiving attitude living in it? Secondly, what are you storing in the temple of your body? Is it full of junkies, or healthy food from the words of God? If we store these junkies in our temples, then how can our life illuminate God’s goodness and holiness?
Why the church of God (His people) has not done much great things for the Lord? I am sure because His church lacks His power. Why the church of God lacks of power? May be because God is not present there? But why? May be because our temples have so many junkies that need to be clean out first? So, it is time for us to cleanse our temples and to regain the full presence and power of God’s Spirit. People usually do “Spring cleaning” of their houses about this time of the year. Do you desire to do a “Soul cleaning” of your temple? Few questions for each of us to self-exam: • How do we watch TV shows and movies? Are there any uncleaned things in them? • How do I use Internet? • What kind of music do I listen to? • What kind of video games I like to play? How much time I spend with it? • Do I work too much and put off the priority of worship and daily devotion? • Am I faithful to my calling to serve God? • Is any thought of jealousy, bitterness, unforgiving in our mind? • Does our mouth speak evils to anyone? • Are we living in a hypocrite lifestyle? • Are we keeping our promises to God and to His church? • Do we behave in opposite ways of what we pledge to do according to God’s words?
After recognizing these sins, we need to confess them to God. After confessing our sins to God, we need to re-dedicate our body to God, to be separated for God’s use.
Do you have a desire for a new heart, mind and body to dedicate to God? We don’t have an official day of dedicating these new repaired buildings of VHBC to God, but why not today, April 30, 2017. Dedicate not just the buildings, but more important our heart, mind and body as the walking temples of God, to illuminate His goodness and holiness everywhere we go and in everything we do. Amen!
Sunday, December 25, 2016
““Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” (Luke 2:14)”
What is your dreamed Christmas present… that you have been anxiously waiting for until this morning? May be a new Lexus? If you are not being content yet, then add to that a diamond ring. But we all know that these things will not last forever; even if they do, you will not. A present that you and I must seek for Christmas… must be a present that has an eternal value; and wherever you go, it goes with you. That eternal present is PEACE. In fact, that is the reason of the Christmas season, when Jesus came and gave peace on earth. We read the Christmas story – when Jesus was born more than 2,000 years ago, a host of angels sung their song, bringing the message of peace to the world – “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”
First, it is NOT easy to find peace in this world. Today, look around you and read the daily news, there are chaos, corruptions, wars and rumors of wars everywhere. Wars in the Middle East by the ISIS group, persecuting Christians with the policy of chopping the heads of all who do not submit to Islam. Russia involves in the wars of Syria. The constant conflict between North and South Korea. Even in the most prosperous and safe country liked US, there are daily shooting and murdering. After 911, America finds a new enemy, called homegrown Islamist terrorism that constantly cause fears of bomb attacks; Now, they use big trucks as weapons to run over and kill people. Bitter conflicts between Democrats and Republicans parties, making many people worry about the future of this country. Racism issues of white policemen shot black people incidents just cause divisions in our country. Conflicts between US and Russia on computer hacking wars. Conflicts between US and China on the trading wars. Not to mention many broken homes, even among our Vietnamese society. Why can’t we have peace? First, we need to understand that there are three kinds of peace: 1) Peace among men, 2) inner Peace, and 3) Peace given from Above. The reason the world cannot find true peace among each other, because we do not have the inner peace. And the reason we do not yet have the inner peace, because there are still conflicts between men and God. So, to find true peace, a person must first have the peace from Above, that produces an inner peace, and from that he can experience the peace among men with each other. That’s why we have Christmas, when Jesus, God’s Son came into this world to bring peace from Above between God and men on earth.
You may wonder – so what is the cause that mankind does not have peace with God? This cause can be summarized in one word – “Sin.” Sin separates us from God and makes us becoming His enemies, breaking the bond of peace between mankind and God. The Bible said sin begun at the first man and woman, named Adam & Eve. They disobeyed God in the beautiful garden of life by eating the forbidden fruits. Since that day, the whole mankind became the enemies of God. But “sin” does not stop there, it produces all kinds of evil acts. Today, many of these evil acts happen in front of our eyes because the root of sin, and because mankind no longer has peace with God. Worse than that, the terrible consequence of sin is the eternal death. Mankind will not have peace because their greatest enemy of death always chases after them. The fear of death itself steals away our peace. We all have no peace because the Bible said after death, there comes judgment of the eternal punishment in the lake of fire. But God is gracious and loving, He promised to send a Savior, and God fulfilled His promise, at the right time, a Child was born from a virgin on the first Christmas. Through God’s Son, Jesus Christ, we can have peace from Above again, because we are reconciled to God, no longer His enemies, as said in Romans 5:1 – “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” What does this peace reconciliation mean? First, all your sins are forgiven, washed away, erased forever, because Jesus took, swapped and paid in full for your sins on the cross almost 2,000 years ago. Secondly, you are redeemed, meaning that you are now set free from the judgment and punishment of sin, and you now have the power becoming the children of God; no longer His enemies. And thirdly, you are now waiting for your eternal inheritance – a home in heaven that has been secured and prepared by Jesus Who will return one day to bring us there with Him. You cannot find true, inner and eternal peace without the reconciliation with God in Christ Jesus, His Son. You cannot find true peace until you have the “Prince of Peace” Who lives inside you, making peace between you and the holy God, and between you and others.
So what do you seek this Christmas? Christmas was the beginning of time when God, in the Person of Jesus Christ, Who came and offers peace to the world, making reconciliation between Himself to every one of us. Do you want a Christmas of peace? Come to the “Prince of Peace,” and invite Jesus into your heart today. I truly wish all of us will experience a Christmas of Peace from Above this year, because we have been reconciled with God in Christ Jesus, our Lord!
Sunday, December 11, 2016
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 5:1 & 12:18) ”
Christmas of 2016 is coming near us. What blessing are you seeking for this Christmas other than more gifts, some best deals and good times? You know all of these things will pass away one day. The real thing that you and I need to seek for is PEACE. It is NOT easy to find peace. Why? Because our human heart is hostile and full of greed, and pride. In the beginning, after Adam & Eve sinned, their children – Cain (older brother) killed Abel (younger brother) because of his jealousy. Today, look around you and read the daily news, there are chaos, corruptions, wars and rumors of wars everywhere. Wars in the Middle East by the ISIS group against Christians with the policy of “chopping the heads” of all who do not submit to Islam. Russia is involving in the wars in Ukraine, and now Syria. The constant conflict between North and South Korea. Even in the most prosperous and safe country liked US, there are daily shooting and murdering. Racism issues of white policemen shot black people just cause divisions in our country. Many broken homes and churches, even among our Vietnamese people. Why do we have these conflicts? One of main reasons is because the heart of mankind is full of “bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice” as said in Ephesians 4:31. We need peace that can surpass all these life troubles and worries. So how can I find peace?
First, we need to understand what peace is. It’s NOT the absence of wars or conflicts that none of us can avoid, but the inner peace of the soul. It is the inner peace that does NOT depend on the outside circumstances. In this world, everything is shaky with times; there is no sure and safe anchor. The recent flood witnesses by many of people living in Louisiana. The recent forest fire in Gatlinburg witnesses by many people living in Tennessee. We want true peace, we need an un-movable foundation that we can stand on and trust. That foundation is the un-changeable promises of God and how He would fulfill them.
Christmas witnesses how God has fulfilled of His promises to save the world from the judgment and punishment of sins. After Adam & Eve sinned, mankind became the enemies of God. Mankind has no peace because their greatest enemy of death always chases after them. We all have no peace because the Bible said after death, there comes judgment of the eternal punishment in the lake of fire. But God is gracious and loving, He promised to send a Savior, and God fulfilled His promise, at the right time, a Child was born of a virgin on first Christmas. Through God’s Son, Jesus Christ, we can have peace, because we are reconciled to God, no longer His enemies. Christmas is a part of this plan of salvation when God offers peace to the world, making reconciliation between Himself and every one of us.
Peace with God has even greater impacts, not just vertically but also in horizontal relationships. Don’t you know that God’s will is that we should live peacefully with each other, according to Romans 12:18 – “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” God is happy when we live in harmony with one another. As parents, we are happy when we see our children get along and care for one another; so does God when He sees His children live together in harmony. While on earth, Jesus taught His disciples a lot about being a peace maker. This is one of the key traits of a true Christian. In Matthew 5:23-24, Jesus emphasized true worship that involves in making peace with others first - “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” This means that if we keep on living in conflicts with one another, God would not accept our worship, praises, and offerings. Bible teaches that to make peace with others, we must be willing to forgive them, as God has forgiven us in Christ Jesus. You may say – “It’s not fair to forgive others; they hurt me so bad;” but if Jesus forgives you every day when you confess your sins to Him – then is that fair? Forgiveness is never fair. How many times do we pray the Lord’s Prayer - “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors,” and really mean it? When you forgive someone, you will find the inner peace, not just with the other person, but to yourself; that’s why someone said correctly: “When you forgive, just like you set a prisoner goes free, and that prisoner is YOU.” Even more difficult than that, to make peace, we must initially pray for our enemies as Jesus taught in Matthew 5:43-45a - “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”
How to make a reconciliation with your enemies? 1) Always remember that God has forgiven ALL your sins. We were once God’s enemy; but now He has reconciled with us, and sets us free. In order to remember this, we need to draw nearer to the cross daily, where we once received the forgiveness of sins. 2) Pray for yourself and the others, your debtors. If you have hurt someone, pray that God gives you the “guts,” to set aside your pride, and say “I am sorry.” Allow God reign your heart and mind, because having a kind heart liked Jesus, we can forgive our debtors. 3) Pay attention for an opportunity to initiate the conversation with the other, and to mend broken relationship. May be some opportunities that you can help them dealing with difficulties; because you have experienced the freedom, power and peace in Jesus. 4) Be kind, show respect and be gentle to one another, even if you still cannot get along. The Bible teaches in Ephesians that we must always use gentle words in reconciliation with each other to keep the unity – “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”
So what do you seek this Christmas? Christmas is when God brought peace to the world through the reconciliation made by His Son Jesus. Do you want a Christmas of peace? It all depends on you and me. I truly wish all of us will experience a “shalom” Christmas this year, because we have been reconciled with God in Christ and are making peace with others. Amen
Sunday, December 4, 2016
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7)”
Our life is full of troubles and pains: Broken relationships, lost business opportunities, bad lucks, accidents, sickness, and failures in reaching our goals. These life troubles rob our sleep, and stranglehold our life. We become fearful, worried, anxious, insecure, feeling lonely, trusting no one, and wanting to give up. Do you want to find peace in the midst of life troubles? You know that you cannot ignore these life troubles, because they are real and will not just go away. You will need some help or life troubles will get even worse. How can I find peace for my soul then?
First, you must seek the right Source for help. Who can then understand and has the ability to rescue us from life troubles? That great source of help is God’s Son, Jesus Christ. The apostle Peter said: “Cast all your anxiety on Him (God in Jesus) because He cares for you.” But you must first learn to know Who Jesus is to cast your life troubles to Him for help. Because no one dares to cast all his life troubles to someone he doesn’t know? In verse 6, the apostle Peter claimed that Jesus is the almighty God; this means that there is nothing is impossible for Him to do. The mighty hand of God in Jesus Who created the heavens and the earth. When Peter spoke of the “mighty hands”, he echoed back through history to the time when God freed His people from slavery in Egypt by His awesome power. That is the SAME almighty power that we are relying on for our delivery from all kinds of life troubles today. There is no burden is too big, too long, or too difficult for God Almighty to carry for us. To understand Jesus is God almighty, we need to know that there is nothing Jesus does not know. Jesus really knows and understands your tears, because once the Roman soldiers whipped 39 slashes on His back and spitted on His face. Jesus knows and understands your loneliness, because once all of His friends at the garden Gethsemane deserted Him at the moment He needed them most. Jesus knows and understands your sadness of broken relationships, because once on the cross He carried the sins of the world and His Father left Him. Jesus cares and understands your pains, because he was once nailed on the cross besides two criminals. Not just His awesome power, but the main reason you should seek Jesus for help because He cares for you. Other religions are always preoccupied with ceremonies and rites hoping those acts will “make their gods care for them,” but Christianity starts at an amazing truth that God Himself in Jesus cares for you and me for not what we have done.
You now know that the almighty Jesus can help and cares for you; but that knowledge is not enough to deliver you from all life troubles, until you are willing to cast all your cares to Him. Casting your anxiety on God involves “taking an effort,” this part is not up to God, you must take this action. The help is coming as soon as you cast your first care to Him. Your life troubles will stay with you, no matter how many times you go to church, until you cast to Jesus Who can carry for your burdens. You must cast ALL your cares to Jesus. How many of us have experienced the problem of casting only some of our cares to Jesus; we first got better a little, then the burdens returned and got worse? You cannot cast some of your life troubles to Jesus and still keep the rest for yourself, or seek help from other gods? Stop depending on your own strength and wisdom of others, but totally trusting in God as said in Proverbs 3:5-6 - “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and he will make your paths straight.” If you cast all your cares to Jesus, then do not take back your troubles, but just be patient and wait for His deliverance. Practically, how do you cast your cares to Jesus? 1) Draw nearer to God in prayer. When you face a burden, first find a quiet place to pray to Jesus. The Bible said that we have the Holy Spirit, Who understands our groaning in prayer and He would make it clear to the Father of our heart and needs – “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans” (Romans 8:26). 2) Trust that God will answer and be ready to obey. 3) Pay attention to many different ways God brings help and healings to lift up our burdens. Many families in Louisiana have faced the difficulties of the recent historic flood, including our church. We seek God in prayer with all our heart. Although we didn’t see God appeared and rescued us, but do you see that God has sent many people who came and helped us from all over the U.S.? Pay attention to God’s help through others, experience the deliverance, be thankful to God, and trust Him more by casting all our cares to Jesus.
What burdens do you bear today? Are you willing to cast all your burdens to Jesus Who is powerful, understands all your needs, and cares for you? Just come to Jesus, lay your burdens at His feet, experience deliverance and find rest. Just come to Jesus
Sunday, November 6, 2016
Giving Thanks to God
“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name. 2 Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits; 3 Who pardons all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases; 4 Who redeems your life from the pit, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion; 5 Who satisfies your years with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle. (Psalm 103:1-5)”
One of the important holidays in America is “Thanksgiving” which happens on the last Thursday of each November month. Its history begun in 1620, when the Pilgrims from England who came to this land to find religious freedom. Although the first year was a hardship because of the cold Winter months, but the following year they reaped good harvests. In the Fall of 1621, the Pilgrims begun a special tradition to give thanks to God. This tradition continues until 1941, US Congress official declared a special day reserved in the November month to give thanks to God, and called it “Thanksgiving.”
Not just Americans have this attitude of giving thanks, but naturally all people would know to express gratitude to those who help them. Gratitude should be one of the natural moral virtues of mankind. We, as human, are created higher than animals and we should have a greater dimension of gratitude to give thanks even to our Creator. How? To give thanks to God, we must first believe that He existed and has created life. In Genesis 1:1, the Bible said: “In the beginning God (mighty Elohim) created the heavens and the earth.” And in His creations, He created mankind. Not just created life, God provides all resources for our life to be sustained. Light from the enormous and faraway sun provides energy for life. Air to breath that costs us nothing. Have you wondered where do the oil and natural gas reservoirs come from to provide us fuels? Life and its provisions come from the great Creator that we cannot deny His existence and must give Him thanks.
In Psalm 103 (first 5 verses) lists at least three blessings that God gives us. In verse 5 – God gives us good things that we can enjoy life with. If any nation ought to be thankful to God and grateful for his goodness, it ought to be America. We are so blessed in this country with food that the problem is not hunger, but obesity, and everyone seems trying to lose weights. In verse 3 – God heals all our diseases; and the worst of them is our sin. Sin destroys both our body and soul to the eternal perishment in the pit of hell; but God came near, took our sins and placed them on His Son, Jesus - so that all who believe in Him will no longer be condemned. In verse 4 – God deals with us, not based on fairness, but with His lovingkindness and compassion. Just think - what if God began to just treat us like we so often treat Him? What if God met our needs to the same extent that we give Him thanks, then how would that be? What if He wouldn’t bless us today because we didn’t thank Him yesterday? The author of Psalm 103:10 said correctly that we should never forget His mercy and love because He does "not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us accordingly to our iniquities." His greatest act of kindness is shown by inviting us to live in His kingdom of heaven. It’s a great charity act when we stop and give food to a homeless; but even the supreme charity act when we invite that homeless person to come and live in our house so he can now have a home. That is exactly the kindness God redeems our life with.
Knowing God’s blessings, how can we express our thanks to Him? When we want to express our gratitude to a donor, what do we usually do? We would first find out what that person likes, go and buy a gift to give it to our giver. You want to give thanks to God then find out what God likes. For sure, God does not need material things because everything on this earth that He created belong to Him. But let me suggest to you few things: First, have faith in God, because “without faith it is impossible to please Him…” What is faith? Faith means to believe that His words are true no matter what the world says. Believing in God means to believe God will do what He says He will do. Faith in God is also willing to wait until God’s promises come true. Secondly, God likes offerings with a heart of worship. It begins with a contrite heart. We will not please God with a covered-up heart. If you want to express your gratitude to God, then carefully do a good preparation to worship Him each Sunday. Have you searched your heart before coming into this place of worship? Is your life has been sanctified to offer the gift that God likes? In worship, God likes our praises to Him from the inner soul and not just from our lips. Thirdly, God likes an obedient life. Obeying God means to obey Jesus Christ’s teachings. Remember in Matthew 17:5, God said - “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” Jesus truly was the Son of God, and there is no one who has pleased God more! We should all hear Jesus, obey His teachings and do His will. How can I know Jesus’ teachings to obey? Read the Gospels.
Do not become a people of blindness and forget all of God’s benefits. But offer God our best thanksgiving gift that is ourselves as said in Romans 12:1 – “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” Thanksgiving is not just the time to eat turkey and wait in line for “black Friday” sales, but to re-dedicate our life before the Lord for sanctification and for His service. Are you willing to do that today?