My Finale

I think it’s safe to say that the younger we were, the more exciting and out there our dreams were. We didn’t really care or think about logistics or reality. We just thought, man that would be cool to do that or be that.

But life does something to us. As we grow, as we experience life, reality sets in like, one can be too tall to be an astronaut. Or for instance, did you know that in order to be a comic book artist, you need to know how to draw really well? I learned that the hard way.

Sometimes, people tell us that our dreams are too big for us. Or that we’re not good enough for that dream, to settle for something less. And if we hear it enough, we can start believing them.

Other times, life just deals us crappy hands, one after the other.

And our thoughts are consumed with just surviving. So all our time, energy and effort is focused on how to make ends meet, how to pay this month’s bills. We have no strength or time left to dream about anything else.

Dreaming gets harder.

But that doesn’t change the fact that God has a dream for you in your life. A dream that not only can transform your life, but also the lives of those around you.

God has and knows the plans he has for you- plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

But some of us shy away from God’s plan, from God’s promise. And in my short experience, for many (if not most) it’s because of something about them and their story line; fear of something that happen in their past has imprisoned them.

And I know that there are many in this room who know what I’m talking about.

For those of us who are shackled by our history:

My friends, whatever weight you have, they don’t need to be there no more. God is not only the God of yesterdays, but God is a God of today and a God of days to come.

Whatever weight is holding you down, Jesus stands before you and says, “I do not condemn you, Go now and leave your of sin.”

Or if I may, Christ is saying to you, “I do not condemn you. Leave that life behind. Leave the past in the past and live this new life that I have for you.”

Because, remember, our history is only a story of how we got here today. It is a description. It only describes our journey to this moment. It does not dictate where we are going or who we may become. Our history is only informative. History describes us, it does not define us.

Here’s another story, a reminder that God has a dream for you despite where you’ve been, what you’ve seen and/or what you’ve done.

In today’s passage, Jacob falls asleep in Bethel and God appears to him in a dream and says:
I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and I will watch over you wherever you go and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

Talk about a plan of hope and a future!

If you’re not familiar with the story, Jacob is at Bethel because he’s on the lam.
He’s running because his twin brother, Esau, wants to kill him. And not in a figurative way, because for those who have siblings, we’ve all thought something like, “Ugh, I’m going to KILL him!” But we’d never really harm our siblings. Esau was dead serious in wanting to kill Jacob, his twin.

You see, Jacob was named Jacob, because he came out holding on to his brother’s heel and that’s what Jacob means: He grasps the heel. But it’s also a Hebrew idiom for “he deceives”. A trickster. A con-man. A liar. A used car salesman… no offense… And he lived up to that name more than once.

When they were much older, Esau came home from a hunting trip, one day. Now, it doesn’t say this in the scripture, but I like to think that Jacob set everything up. Jacob knew that his brother was a bit of an impatient and brash man. He knew that Esau would be hungry after coming home. So I like to think that Jacob was cooking this stew where he knew Esau would smell it. And I’m sure Jacob did everything he could to make sure that the aroma of the stew was reaching as far as it possibly could.

And it worked. Esau saw that Jacob was cooking and asked for some stew. Jacob said, “Sure… but only if you give me your birthright.”

“Dude, I’m like starving to death. Just give me some stew. Why do you want with my birthright?”

“No birthright, no soup for you!”

So, Esau ended up selling his birthright.

Later in the story, we learn that Isaac, the twins’ father is near the end of his life, and old age had caused him to go blind. He wanted Esau to go hunt for some wild game, cook it for him so that he may eat it in Esau’s presence and give Esau the birthright blessing.

Esau went out to hunt.

In the mean time, Rebekah, their mother, and Isaac’s wife, hears all this and runs to Jacob and says, “Here let me cook some goats the way your dad likes them and take it to him, pretending to be Esau so that you may receive the blessing.”

So she cooked the goat, grabbed Esau’s best clothing to put on Jacob (so that he smells like Esau) and she put goat hair on the back of Jacob’s hand and the back and front of his neck as well, because Esau was a hairy man, and Jacob was apparently not.

If you think your family’s messed up… I think these four will give you a run for your money. Now parents, I know that you have your favorites. I know this because I’m my parents’ favorite. But you would never go and say it in public which one you favored. But the narrator made sure that we knew Isaac favored Esau and Rebekah favored Jacob. I’m sure that caused some awkward family moments… like this one right now.

So, Jacob went to Isaac, deceiving him by pretending to be Esau and received the birthright blessing

As soon as Jacob left, Esau came in with his cooked meal. Isaac was confused, asking, “Who did I just bless then?” To which Esau replied, “Isn’t he rightly named Jacob?”

Esau then pleaded, “Haven’t you reserved any blessings for me?” And Isaac replied, “I have made him lord over you and have made all his relatives his servants and I have sustained him with grain and new wine. So what can I possibly do for you my son?”

And Esau held a grudge against Jacob and vowed that when his father dies, he will kill Jacob. Not only would that be revenge, but it will make the birthright his, once more.

Rebekah learned of this plot and urged Jacob to run.

And it’s in this situation, where God comes to Jacob with a dream of a future and hope.

Jacob had just deceived and stole from his family and is running for his life. His past isn’t the best, and yet, God finds him and tells him that all peoples of the earth will be blessed by you.

God is not only the God of yesterday. God is a God of today and days to come.

So for you to be stuck in yesterday… well, you’re the only one dwelling there. And because you’re dwelling there, you’re missing out on a future filled with hope and blessing – not only blessings for you, but how you will be used to bring blessings to others.

No matter where you have been, what you have seen or what you have done, God has a dream for you.

Your past has been crucified with Christ and now, Christ lives in you! You are a new creation. The old has gone! And Christ, who gives you new life has a dream and plan for you.

I now know that God had a dream for me pretty much from birth. It just took me 23 years to see it.

When I was 8 or 9 my dad took me to the ordination ceremony during the South Carolina Annual conference. We saw the candidates being ordained by the Bishop and clergy on stage, and my dad told me that one day, that would be me up there on that stage with the Bishop.

Of course, I don’t remember any of this. It’s probably blacked out of my memory because I found Annual Conference just as boring and unbearable back then as I find it today.

But my parents told me stories like this throughout my life: how my mom prayed that Hannah prayer from Samuel when she was pregnant with me. Basically praying to God, “If I have a son, I’ll dedicate him to you and raise him to be a pastor.” I mean, that’s really uncool and unfair. I asked my parents once if they prayed like that for my brother and they simply said, “Nope.” Which is even more uncool.

Or how, at the age of 4, I told my parents I wanted to be a pastor, just like my dad. And he would show pictures of me at the age of 4, standing in front of the pulpit with my hands raised and an intense expression on my face and tell me that I was pretending to give the benediction. Or, at the age of 5, in Korea, when we’d ride the bus, I’d march up and down that bus telling everyone that “Y’all need Jesus!”

But, as I grew older, I realized that this was more my dad’s dream for me, than mine. I had dreams and aspirations to be and do different things than be a pastor and deal with toxic people who claim to have the love of Jesus flowing through them.

Little did I know that this dream belonged to someone bigger than both my dad and myself. It’s just that my dad saw it first.

So there I was, last weekend, on the stage with the Bishop, my wife and my dad standing behind me, being ordained. And during that service, I thought to myself, “Dang. My dad was right.” But more importantly that this was God’s plans for me. This is God’s dream for me.

And, my life has been easier living for God’s dream instead of trying so hard to live for myself. By easier, I don’t mean that it’s been a walk in the park. Being a pastor is a lot harder than you think. I mean, I know lots of you only see us once a week and think that’s what we do.

But, as in any job where you have to deal with people … well y’all know how people can get. It’s often stressful. But in our line of work, there’s this pesky thing called the Bible where it talks about this annoying idea of grace and forgiveness… And that Christ died for everyone, even the people I wish he didn’t die for, you know? And as a Christ follower, I need to at least try to be Christ-like and be patient, grace-filled, graceful and loving to the people that Christ died for.

But by easier, I mean that … it’s been fulfilling. I find peace in God’s promise. I find assurance in my faith in God. I find joy in God’s calling and I find purpose in chasing after God’s heart and not my own.

Chasing after God’s heart has brought me incredible blessings throughout my journey. It gave me 2.5 years here in Valencia with a staff that I’ve learned tremendously from. A staff who inspired me, challenged me, and pushed me to be who I could be and not settle for who I am right now. God’s dream led me to work under a senior pastor who was… decent (kidding). A senior pastor who I could trust and depend on, a pastor who looked out for me and took care of me and a pastor who genuinely liked me. Either that, or he’s an extremely great actor and is in the wrong business. God’s dream for me has led me to meet amazing people of the church – people who inspired me, who challenged me with their generosity, sacrificial living and sacrificial loving. I got to work with kids who were for the most part… well, just alright. I’m kidding. They are great and I am honored to have worked with them. God’s dream for me allowed me to work with unpaid servants whose hearts seemed bigger than their bodies. It has led to friendships and relationships that will last a life time, like with our small groups.

And to hear that God has used me somehow, someway to bring some sort of blessings to you… it simply doesn’t make sense, and I am humbled by your encouragements and support.

Now, God’s dream is taking us elsewhere and as hard as it is and as saddening it is for the both of us, we find peace and assurance that this is God’s plan for us. That God is calling us to trust in Him as we start a new chapter in our lives. And as we get fixin’ to move, I hear God’s voice through Jacob’s dream speak to me, telling me: I am with you. I will watch over you wherever you go. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised.

So, on behalf of my wife, sincerely, truly, thank you from the bottom of our hearts for taking us in, opening your lives to us and letting us minister to you and with you. Thank you for loving us.

My dad has always told me that if I focus on living out God’s dream for me, if I seek God and God’s Kingdom first and foremost, everything else will fall into place and everything will work out.

In my short life and even shorter career, that has been my experience. When I seek God first, everything else seems to fall into place.

So, may you seek to live out God’s dream for you.

I have no idea what’s in store for Valencia UMC. But I know that God is moving and God has big plans for this church and for you.

I have no idea what’s in store for my family as we move. In fact, to be honest, I have no idea what the hell I’m doing.

But I know that God is saying to each and every single one of us, “I am with you. I will watch you wherever you go. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised.”

May that give us strength and courage to boldly live out God’s dream for us.

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