Happy Talk is Pastor Jin’s weekly blog written to encourage those who love God in Christ Jesus to live with hope and always in love.
Yet another communion Sunday is before us. And that means the plate with the matzo pieces will be passed around along with small cups of grape juice. And some of you may cringe at the sight of children grabbing them and eating and drinking without proper understanding of what they are doing. I think our loving God has a big enough heart of understanding for our little ones when they don’t quite know what they are doing. However, it is also true that parents and adults must teach their young ones as early as possible about the reason why we do what we do.
To help with this, here’s a story told by Helen Roseveare in her book, Enough!:
Miss Candy asked me to go to the locker by her bedside and bring her the photo that was there. As I gave it to her she said, “This is my father.” I knew at once what she was saying. Her father had been dead for many years. The photo reminded her of her father. Likewise the bread and wine were to be reminders to us of what Jesus had done for us on the cross.
What a great illustration we can use to teach our children about communion! You can even make it personal by showing your children a photo of their own grandparents to them them!
When Jesus said to his disciples, and to us, “do this in remembrance of me,” certainly he had this in mind – like a photograph of our beloved in our hands. We are to remember Jesus, that God became flesh and blood for us. And that on the cross, his body was broken and his blood shed for us. That is what we are holding in our hands.
And what about the concept of eating and drinking?
I went to a famous donut shop in the city with my wife. There were a lot of unique donuts inside the display case and from it, we chose three to eat. And they were yummy.
Now, when I tell friends about this donut shop, I don’t tell them about all the donuts we saw in the display case, I tell them about the three we ate – because we ate them and so we know them. Other donuts, they looked good, but we don’t know much else. With those three, we ate them and they tasted so good.
And so we see the bread and the grape juice at the Table. And then we take them into our hands and we consume them. In so doing, we know Jesus inside of us.
In Psalm 68, there is a line that excites me. It goes, “Father of orphans and protector of widows is God” (NRSV).
Other deities want to claim that they are gods of champions and the mighty. They want to be gods to kings and the wealthy. But surprisingly, the God of the Bible chooses to be associated with the downtrodden, the defeated and the powerless, the social outcasts. And that surprises me.
If I am a farmer, I want to be associated with the best produce. After growing the most delicious fruits and the freshest vegetables, I want to stand right next to my work as the shoppers stop to marvel at the bright colors of my large fruits and the freshness of the green vegetables. And I will be there to soak it all in, receiving the glory that is due me as the expert farmer. I think deities are like that. They want to be linked with victory and winning. They want to be associated with lottery winners and winners of elections, they want to be backing the one that was crowned the monarch. That way, gods can claim they had given them success. They want to claim that their power had done it.
And our God certainly can do all of that and more. He is there with those who succeed in life and proclaim God’s glory, and he is with those that win gold medals and with those who score touchdowns and point upwards to God.
But our God wants to be associated with those that didn’t win, those that weren’t successful, those who lost loved ones and feel abandoned by the world. They don’t have anyone to turn to, but God chooses to be there in their midst. And God wants them to know that fact.
In the ancient times, the orphans had nothing. They had no homes, no money, no line they could grab to succeed. And so they lived in the streets, and they fought for every meal, every penny. And the widows were the same. With their husbands dead, and no means of support (because women were not allowed to work outside the home), they had very little. Maybe nothing. And the society passed by them and did nothing to help. No one cared. But God is saying to them, “I choose to be your God.” That’s just amazing.
Who are the orphans and widows of our day? God says to them, “I am your Father and your protector.” As I think this, I am overcome with pride that I worship an amazing, just amazing God who cares so much about us – I mean, every one of us, that not one person is beyond his reach and care.
This past Sunday, the sermon was about finding joy in the midst of suffering. In order to do that, we need to believe that God is near and that he listens to our prayer and does what is best. That’s the way we get rid of our anxiety and replace it with peace. And in that peace, we are to fill our mind with good thoughts, and fill our lives with good actions. Remember?
And I encouraged you to read a good book, or watch an uplifting movie. And of course, read the Bible that fills our mind with the best thoughts.
Here’s a story that I had been following for some time. It’s a story about Jake Olson, a student at University of Southern California. Eight years ago, when Olson was 12, then coach Pete Carroll heard about a boy who lost his left eye to retinoblastoma (rare eye cancer) when he was 10 months old, and then was about to lose his right eye, rendering him completely blind for life. The boy was a big fan of USC football and always dreamed of playing for them. Hearing about his story, Pete Carroll invited Olson to visit the team and he was able to rub shoulders with the players. In fact, the day before the surgery, as the last thing he would see, he asked to go and watch his favorite team practice. The next day, he lost sight of his remaining eye.
But he still wanted to play; he didn’t want blindness to kill his dream. And he realized that the only way a blind player could possibly enter a football game was if he could be a long snapper for kickers. And so he practiced and practiced and made his way to become a starting long snapper for his high school varsity team for two years. And then he entered his dream school two years ago.
In his freshman year, he walked onto the football field, and for two years, he has been long snapping for the kickers during practices.
And last Saturday, in the first game of the season, he entered a game against Western Michigan as a long snapper for USC and snapped a ball perfectly for the extra point try. And with that, the stadium erupted.
There is a quote by him after the game in LA Times,
“There’s a beauty in it. If you can’t see how God works things out, then I think you’re the blind one.”
The latest headline at USA Today took me by surprise. “Harvey to be costliest natural disaster in U.S. history, with an estimated cost of $160 billion.” – this estimate coming from AccuWeather which went on to say the final cost of Harvey will equal the sum of the costs inflicted by Hurricane Katrina AND Sandy. They are calling this a 1,000-year flood. For the city of Houston alone, the cost could rise to $50 billion in losses according to Houston Chronicle.
And personally, I think that my surprise was in part due to my lack of attention to the latest news these days, and the false alarms we’ve had in the past concerning destructive storms. However, it seems I wasn’t the only one. Another article headline reads, “Hurricane Harvey developed so fast it took national forecasters by surprise.” A major reason the damage was so extensive was because the after it made landfall, the storm stalled and remained in one location rather than continuing on its path.
Here are some of the reports: In one rainfall reading in Houston, they recorded 51.88 inches (that’s more than four feet!). As of today, the death count stands at 31 and many more injured. Houston Police Department alone has rescued more than 3,500 people. Harris County which includes Houston reported that up to 30% of the land had flooded. The mayor of Port Arthur wrote on his Facebook, “Our whole city is underwater.” In all, so far, about 30,000 to 40,000 homes have been destroyed, and USA Today is reporting that about 80% do not have flood insurance.
Let’s keep the affected people in our prayers. And let’s converse about how we can help.
I write today about a fascinating young lady named Lady Jane Grey. She is also referred to as the “Nine Days Queen.”
Lady Jane was born in 1537 during the tumultuous time in England. She was great-grand daughter of Henry VII, niece to Henry VIII, and relative of Edward VI who happened to be the king of England and Ireland at the time.
When King Edward was only 15 years old, and she was only 16, he became deathly ill, and on his deathbed, drafted a will declaring Lady Jane to be his successor. There were two possible candidates to the throne, both women – Lady Jane, aged 16 and King Edward’s half-sister Mary I, aged 37. But King Edward was staunchly Protestant while Mary was a Roman Catholic. And so he chose Lady Jane who shared the same faith. And so after Edward’s death, according to his will and by the agreement of the court, Jane, aged 16, was officially proclaimed Queen on July 10, 1553.
However, Mary rejected Jane’s coronation and decided to mount a challenge to the throne. And within a few days, her support base grew so that on July 19, 9 days later, the government changed their position and rejected King Edward’s will and Mary was proclaimed the new Queen. Those who supported Jane changed sides or was met with death.
We get the term “Bloody Mary” from her – she was so upset by the Protestants that in her five-year reign, she burned 280 protestants at the stake and many more were exiled.
Lady Jane herself was kept in confinement so that she could not rally people around her, and Queen Mary sent her own priest to try to convert her so that her life could at least be spared. However, Lady Jane wouldn’t do it. Even though she was so young, she was quite educated and strong in her reformed faith. And so on February 12, 1554, at the age of 16, Lady Jane was executed by beheading.
Now, here’s the part that gave me goosebumps.
As she was led up to her execution, she gave her final speech toward the people, again I emphasize, she’s only 16:
I pray you all good Christian people to bear me witness that I die a true Christian woman and that I do look to be saved by no other mean, but only by the mercy of God, in the merits of the blood of his only son Jesus Christ. I confess when I did know the word of God I neglected the same and loved myself and the world, and therefore this plague or punishment is happily and worthily happened unto me for my sins. I thank God of his goodness that he has given me a time and respite to repent.
Now good people, I pray you to assist me with your prayers. Now good people, while I am alive, I pray you to assist me with your prayers.”
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.
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.
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. 🙂
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.
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.
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?
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!