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Happy Talk

+ 8.16.17

Addressing Charlottesville & Racism

Perhaps it was about 10 years ago. I was coming out of McDonald’s one day at a small isolated town in Los Angeles. Two little boys were standing by the cars. And as I approached, one of the boys called me with an Asian slur. I was flabbergasted. Of course, I was angry at first, but seeing this little mass of misguided hatred, I was sorry for him. Of course he must have learned it at home, or he was taught that by his racist friends and his parents didn’t correct him.

Racism is obviously evil. It’s evil because it’s hatred and divisive and it’s absolutely contrary to the heart of God. Racism hurts God at his core because God is the creator of all the people of the world. And as our Creator, he has no favoritism – and when he does favor one over against another, it’s to the ones who are rejected and marginalized, oppressed and beaten down. God’s heart goes out to the hurting and the discriminated against.

And that our God is the Creator means that we are all related, bound together as a global family. Others have said this better, and so let me introduce to you two articles:

Our denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA) issued an official statement that’s worth your time.

And I know that many of you enjoy Tim Keller, and he’s added his voice to it.

+ Pastor Jin +

+ 8.9.17

Having Good Intentions

Apostle Paul had his supporters, but he also had his haters. Some loved him because he was passionate, ambitious, head-strong, and driven. I think I just used four synonyms. But that was Paul. He was a scholar who could answer all the tough questions, and a fearless missionary that went out to unreached places for the Gospel.

But some hated him because he used to round up Christians for jail or for worse. But that was before he met Jesus Christ and his life went 180. But some never forgot his past. Some had lost their homes and some lives were ruined as a result of his past deeds. And so, as he became more and more important to the church, the more and more some despised him.

And even as praiseworthy stories arose about Paul’s successful church planting work, some people secretly, and openly, hoped that he would fail. And some took a more active stance and visited the churches Paul planted and created problems for him.

For instance, in Corinth, Paul was proud of the fact that he didn’t receive a pastor’s salary while planting and serving that church for 18 months. Rather, he worked as a tentmaker and he received support from other churches. He wrote in 1 Corinthians 9 how other pastors took salary as their right but that he chose to share the gospel free of charge, and that this was his boast. It looks like Paul’s enemies came to Corinth and questioned Paul’s motive in rejecting the fund. They suggested that Paul rejected their financial gift because he didn’t actually love them. Love was about sharing lives and giving and receiving of love gifts but that he had rejected theirs. In 2 Corinthians, Paul is incredulous, “And why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do!” (2 Cor 11:11). He must have thought – “How could they think that of me? Don’t they know me? I was with them for 18 months!” I am sure in those times, he turned to Jesus who understands him completely. I think Jesus would say to him, “and I was with mine for 3 years.”

There are times in our lives when our intention is good but it’s not received in the same light. We mean well, but others question our motive. We try to do what is best, but people doubt our hearts. In those times, look to Paul, look to Christ. And know that everything is going to all okay because our God knows and that’s good enough.

+ Pastor Jin +

+ 8.2.17

When Straight Way is Best

So, I finally got my Highlander “smog check” done (that's how we call it in CA – I believe it’s called emission test here). A long story, but in a nut shell, our car was giving us the red lights on the front panel that told us the car had an emission problem. This was on for some time, but with the impending mandated emission test, this became an issue. With those lights on, the MVC was definitely going to fail the test.

The diagnosis had declared the car had a catalytic converter problem and it needed to be replaced. But that’s a costly job. And so I wanted to pass the emission test without having to do so – you know, sneak by for another two years. I tried everything that google search recommended: I tried the detaching the battery to restart the car diagnostics a handful of times, I checked for loose fuel cap because that could trigger the red lights, I changed the air filter, I checked all the circuit breakers, et cetera and et cetera. Nothing worked. And the deadline was fast approaching.

And so guess what I did? I gave up trying to avoid the inevitable and went to my local mechanic and had the catalytic converter replaced. The lights disappeared, the car passed the test, and we are good, hopefully for the life of the car!

Of course, there is a spiritual lesson to be learned here. If there is a problem in life – especially if it is a spiritual one…a problem with God and you, there is no better solution than to face God straight on and get it fixed; get it resolved. There really is no other way around it. :)

+ Pastor Jin +

+ 7.26.17

Getting an Alignment

So on Monday morning, I went to Sears Auto Center at Wayne to get a set of new tires for our Toyota Highlander. I knew it also needed a four-wheel alignment, and so I got that done as well.

The wheel part of the automobile works like this: the tires need to be in good shape with enough tread to grip the road when the road gets wet or icy. And those tires are attached to the wheels and those are attached to the suspension. When the car hits pot hole, or goes over a bump, or hits a curb, or anything like that, the suspension can get out of alignment and they need to be corrected. Essentially, the tires are misaligned. If left uncorrected, the unaligned wheels offer a bumpy ride, an uneven wear on the tires, and lower gas mileage. Look at me, I write like I know what I’m talking about.

Anyway, our Highlander has been giving us a bumpy ride for some time. At first, I thought the roads were bad, but I had to admit that I needed it badly when I checked my old tires.

And so, with the new set of tires and the alignment done, I took my car from Sears and drove home on the 46 and 3. What a difference the alignment made! I was like, “Why didn’t I get this done earlier?!?!”

And there is a truth in there. Wheel alignment is one of those things that can be deferred – pushed off to a later time. The car is going to drive fine, and in most cases, it’s okay to drive with some misalignment. However, a misaligned car will not give you the smoothest ride, the tires will drive a little bit noisier, and the car is not at its most fuel efficient. But once you take time to get the alignment done, you and your car are happier for it.

That’s like that with our relationship with God. Because our God is so gracious and full of mercy and love towards us, he allows us space to practice faith in joy or to neglect faith and struggle through life. We all know that practicing faith is a good thing. It’s beneficial to us. It’s aligning ourselves with God. However, we can push it off to another day, another week, another month. And in the process, we don’t live in fullness of life. Rather, we live with a troubled spirit, a discontentment, frustration, regret, anxiety.

There is a fix to all of that. Get your spiritual life aligned with God today. How? Step aside from your computer and your smart phone. Get to a comfy chair, fold your hands together, close your eyes, and begin, “God, I am tired and I need an alignment.” Begin like that and enjoy God’s response to you.

+ Pastor Jin +

+ 7.24.17

Angry Man at Sears

I was at Sears Auto Center at Wayne this morning. I needed new tires and they had what I was looking for on sale. And Groupon had a wheel alignment deal that I needed, and so it all made sense. Replace the tires and then get an alignment. And I decided to wait there because they told me the job would take less than 2 hours. It took a hair less than 2.

While I was waiting, a gentleman came into the store and he wasn't happy camper. Apparently he got a brake job done there recently but the car was making squeaking noises and so he returned. That happens sometimes with new pads. Well, he wanted the brakes checked, and he let them know that it was still covered under warranty. The lady wrote up the order and told him, "it will take about an hour and a half."

And that triggered it. "An hour and a half?!?! Just to check my brakes? Why would it take an hour and a half!?!?" She responded, "Well, there are other customers and we need to take them in order." Not the answer he was looking for. "I could be here at 7:30 in the morning and wait 30 minutes for you guys to open this store. My car can be the first one, and you will still tell me it'll take an hour and a half! You guys are so lazy. You guys stand around and drink coffee and do small talk and don't work on the d*** cars!"

After about 30 minutes of this, he demanded his keys back and left, "I've been a customer here for 30 years! Never again! I'll never come here again!"

Aren't you glad that prayer doesn't work that way?

Our God declared in Isaiah 65:24, "I will answer them before they even call on me. While they are still talking about their needs, I will go ahead and answer their prayers" (New Living Translation).

We serve an amazing God! And so boldly and with expectation, let's pray for ourselves, let's pray for one another.

+ Pastor Jin +

+ 7.19.17

Is Love Your Faoundation Today?

I am reading 1 Corinthians these days and today, I stopped at chapter 13, the Love Chapter. It’s a popular reading at weddings and so most of us know it. But as I read it slowly, it washed and refreshed my soul. I think you will agree that the passage kind of cleans your soul and sets it right. Read it slowly and pause after each line. This is God’s Word. This is God’s love.

Love is patient.
Love is kind.
Love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude.
Love does not insist on its own way.
Love is not irritable or resentful.
Love does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
Love bears all things,
believes all things,
hope all things,
endures all things.
Love never ends.

The first five lines say that love is about caring for others. It’s others-centered living. That’s Jesus in a nutshell!

And then the next line is about doing right, love is about right and truthful living. I thought about the woman who was accused of adultery and how alone she felt and how Jesus sided with her against the injustice of the moment (John 8). Love it!

And then the passage goes on, love bears, believes, hopes, endures…love is about faith and hope that brings us on our knees before Jesus. The image of the woman bleeding for 12 years was about this (Luke 8).

And finally, love is eternal because God is eternal. Hatred and evil will cease one day. But love will triumph over all. What a great hope we have. Love it!

But this famous passage has an opening paragraph that goes, “If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” This love chapter is really a call for us to love as God loves. It’s a call to make this kind of love as the foundation of all our thoughts, words, and actions!

Take a large breath, in and out. And then read the above passage again with that perspective. Am I loving today?

+ Pastor Jin +

+ 7.12.17

inviting Friends to Church

I thought about a short film I watched when I was in youth group. It was titled, “Music Box.”

It’s a story of a man who lived a boring life of work and family until one day, he encounters a group of angels that lift up his heart with a song about Jesus and then leaves him a music box he could enjoy at his leisure. Opening it, the music once again fills his heart with joy and he dances on the street and greets his wife with a kiss and a smile. His wife notices the change and asks, “What’s wrong, Dear?” But he won’t tell anyone. Not even his wife. Day and night, alone with the music box, he dances and hums along. He won’t share his joy. And then…

Give yourself 30 minutes today and watch it on YouTube: Music Box

And let’s invite our family and friends, and our neighbors to church this Sunday – and stay together for the picnic!

+ Pastor Jin +

+ 7.5.17

A Long Road Trip

I don’t like a large crowd. I don’t enjoy going to places that’s crowded – concerts, sports events of winning teams (I used to enjoy going to the Los Angeles Clippers games when they were always losing because they were so poorly attended), New Year’s Eve at Time Square. And I don’t like driving in traffic.

And so when my wife suggested that we go on our planned road trip this past Monday-Tuesday, I was like, “The roads are going to be busiest! Traffic! And any place we go will be filled with people! Crowded! Let’s stay home!” Of course, my wife won out, and so we woke up early on Monday morning and headed out. Our planned destination? The Finger Lakes of northern New York and then drive into Niagara Falls on the Canadian side.

And so I prayed Sunday night. I asked for less traffic – I admit it, I visualized the parting of the Red Sea and asked God if that’s possible. And then told him it was a silly request. But less traffic would be great!

We left home at 7 AM with a plan to visit three state parks in one day – Robert Tremen State Park, Watkins Glen State Park, and Letchworth State Park. The plan arose out of my reading of the USA Today’s 2015 Readers Choice on the “Ten Best State Parks in the USA” – Letchworth was #1 and Watkins Glen was #3 (as for Robert Tremen, my friend posted great photos on Facebook). And so we drove 4 hours to Tremen, another 30 minutes to Watkins Glen and another 2 hours to Letchworth. And then drove 2 hours into Niagara Falls on the Canadian side to sleep. What an amazing trip! We managed to visit all three state parks in one day!

When we returned after spending a day at Niagara-on-the-Lake, it was exactly midnight, Tuesday night – a very long two day trip.

And I want to let you know…there was NO TRAFFIC at all on any part of our trip. Amazing. Even at the border crossing, we waited about 7-8 minutes entering Canada (like 7 cars ahead of us) and like 30 seconds entering the US (one car ahead of us)! I was flabbergasted, and I don’t know how many times I told my wife about my prayer being answered.

I know it’s kind of silly that I am writing about praying for clear traffic and getting it – but I must tell you, I felt quite special to God. It was the long holiday weekend! And no traffic? Just wow.

+ Pastor Jin +

+ 6.21.17

Having a Sunday Mindset

“Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone.” (Colossians 4:5-6)

Some time ago, I was at a church in Maryland when a mother with two children entered the church doors. The little children pushed the two doors forward and then ran in. The mother behind them yelled, “Stop! You don’t run inside the church!” And to that the children stopped, turned around with a grin, and then both walked fast past me.

We do behave differently at church, don’t we? We might be having a bad week, but when we enter the church doors, we greet one another with smiles. Inside the church, we are a loving couple, a loving family. We don’t curse. We don’t yell. We are at our best behaviors. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Our God is the God of peace and love. In God’s house, we are reminded to face life with eyes of faith as God’s beloved children. We are challenged to look beyond ourselves to love God and to love others. We confess our sins and wrongful behaviors and make promises to God to correct them. Church is a great place. It’s a safe place.

It’s when you leave God’s house that life becomes difficult once more. The stresses of life, the conflict of relationships, the burden of responsibilities all come at you once more. Once outside the church, it’s hard to look with eyes of faith and practice love. God knows that. And that is why He reminds you to have a Sunday mindset throughout the week. Read the above passage again.

In conduct, in speech, be wise, be gracious, seasoned with salt. That pleases the Father. And that brings you peace that surpasses all understanding – you can enjoy every day like it’s Sunday with God.

+ Pastor Jin +

+ 6.14.17

Finding Peace in Confession

“While I kept silence, my body wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not hide my iniquity;
I said ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’
and you forgave the guilt of my sin.”
(Psalm 32:3-4)

There is a story about a pastor who was invited to speak at his friend’s church one Sunday. When he arrived, his friend told him privately, “You can preach about anything you want, but don’t mention the blood of Jesus. Our people don’t like to hear about how bad they are and what kind of sinners they are. Preach about God’s love and blessing.” And so this pastor got up and preached about their need for the blood of Jesus. They stopped being friends after that.

I’m sure the preacher could have been more gracious and wise in the way he went about it all. However, it’s also important that the church regularly teach the real reason why Jesus came to us – while he has set an example for us to follow, and while he has revealed to us the loving God of the Bible, his main purpose was to come and die for our sins. We need Jesus because he has washed away our sins at the cross. And so our salvation is bound to our admission that we are sinners.

In the above passage, the Psalmist recounts a time when he tried to hide his sins away. He claimed he was good and righteous; he was certainly better than most. He acted like everything was fine. But it wasn’t all right and the Holy Spirit bothered him. And he tried to wave off the inner voice. He tried keeping busy. But the voice of God grew louder, and as he refused to deal with it, he grew sickly. And finally, he approached God. He acknowledged his sins before him and confessed them. And without another word, God forgave him and removed his guilt! Just like that!

But it begins with acknowledgement of our sins. Can we stop what we are doing today and ask of God to point out sins in our lives so that we can confess them? We will feel better for it!

+ Pastor Jin +

+ 6.8.17

God Enthroned Over the Flood

“The Lord sits enthroned over the flood.” (Psalm 29:10)

I tend to be an avid reader of news. That’s partly because of my role as a pastor – I want to be prepared to offer a Christian response to local and global happenings, but also because personally, I liked staying informed.

But positive news gets so little press. Rather, we are drowned in negativity: It makes news when someone does something wrong. It’s the DUI. It’s the kidnap and murder. It’s the violence. And the social and political commentary are angry and bitter. And every week, we read about another terrorist attack. The latest coming from England, France, Afghanistan, and Iran. These are anxious times.

In the ancient world, they called them waters. Worries of life. Fears of death. For them, the sea represented their greatest fears. Many sailors and merchants were lost at sea through ship wrecks and drownings. And so when a loved one left the port on one of those trips, the family that stayed behind listened for news on the latest ship wrecks, anxiously – and they remained on edge until their loved one returned safely. And so waters and anything associated with it, the sea, the flood, came to symbolize all manners of fears of life.

And our psalmist writes, “The Lord sits enthroned over the flood.” We can visualize this: There is this flood—brooding and threatening roaring mass of violent water. And riding on top of this flood is a throne and God is sitting on it. And we gaze at his face and notice that He is not overwhelmed by it. He isn’t afraid of it. No, calmly he sits on top of it. But he isn’t smiling and laughing. And that’s because there’s nothing funny about a flood that threatens to kill and destroy. But riding it, he shows how almighty he is.

And knowing this, the psalmist ends with this line, “May the Lord give strength to his people! May the Lord bless his people with peace!” (v.11). When you feel like there is a flood in your life and you feel overwhelmed by it, go to the one who rides it and ask for strength and ask for peace.

+ Pastor Jin +

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