Bethany Presbyterian Church
Who We Are Our Programs Outreach The Word

Happy Talk

+ 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 +

+ 5.31.17

Our Response to God's Love

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)

This past Sunday, I mentioned the importance of Psalm 19. It begins with “The heavens declare the glory of God!” and then goes on to teach that the Bible is given to us so that we have a clear understanding of who this Creator God is – this glorious, awesome God that has called us out of darkness and into the light of his love. The psalm concludes with the above line. It’s our response to the truth that has been revealed to us.

We live in an amazing world and when we look up into the sky, the first heaven greets us with sunlight and rain, the random cloud formations and lightning and thunder to remind us that we are not the lords of this world, there is a Creator who formed all the beauty around us. And then at night, if we are fortunate enough to climb to the mountains for a better view, we see the display of God’s glory in the second heavens – the planets and the countless stars spread apart and clustered together, galaxies and shooting stars. The handiwork of our great Creator! And we feel smaller still, just a speck in the awesomeness that surrounds us! And then we imagine the third heaven and the glorious angelic choir, the beauty and the pageantry and pure and sinless worship, gazing up to see the Almighty face to face! Truly, the heavens declare the glory of God!

And Psalm declare that the Bible is given to us to reveal our God behind the curtains. We see his masterpieces. The Bible reveals the master creator. And then notes that this amazingly creative and all-powerful God has extended his loving arms out toward us to gather us as his own. Can you believe it?!? Despite ourselves, we are declared the children of this Almighty God! How are we to respond to this great news? How are we to react to such blessing?

We respond to God’s love by living as God’s children – upright and holy. And so “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” Or said again, we have a Heavenly Father whom we want to please – we hope that our lives are acceptable to our God – and the Psalmist knows, the hardest part is controlling the heart and the mouth. That’s just the truth.

For this week, let’s check our words as they leave our mouths – are they negative or positive, do they build up or tear down? And our heart – let’s think of good things, positive things, hopeful things, loving things. And then come Sunday, we can declare this before God with confidence – “I hope that the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart was acceptable to you, O Lord.”

+ Pastor Jin +

+ 5.24.17

God's Presence In Our Lives

“Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;
you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.”

This quote comes from Psalm 16:5-6, a Psalm of David. I spent time meditating upon this passage because this line caught my eye, “boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places.”

In David’s time, the wealth of a person was measured, not in bank accounts, but on the amount of land one owned. And this land could be taken by others who are stronger. Or it could prove to be worthless if it’s rocky or if it’s too dry and produces nothing.

And in this Psalm, David looks at his land and observes God’s hand in it. David has lived his life in trust of his God, “my portion and my cup.” And in turn, his God has made his land secure. Unlike other land owners who had to deal with regular attacks, constant headaches, in most cases, David’s land was at peace with others. He didn’t have to deal with a lot of problems. And he attributes it to God.

And his land has been quite fruitful. It’s been “pleasant” to own, a “delightful inheritance.” He’s probably had down years as weather can be dry at times, or other times, there was too much rain and thunder and his crops were destroyed. But generally speaking, by and large, he’s had a lot of good years, a lot of rich produce and plenty of grass fields for his animals.

And he looks at his life as a whole, the welfare of his land, and smiles. God has been faithful.

And I thought to myself, that’s how we think about our lives with God. Everything didn’t work out perfectly for us. There were disappointments, some down years. It didn’t always work out in the way we wanted, and life got complicated at times. Maybe there was a health scare here and there. But generally speaking, when we observe our lives as a whole, it’s been a good life, a fruitful life. Our God has been faithful. We’ve felt his presence. Our lot has been secure. Our life has been pleasant, a “delightful inheritance.”

Don’t you agree? If you agree with David, then you should do what he did,

“I will praise the Lord…I keep my eyes always on the Lord. I will not be shaken. My heart is glad and my tongue rejoices.”


+ Pastor Jin +

[ back to the top ]