Check back each day for a new devotional
straight from our pastoral staff!
June 1, 2020
Outrageous, unacceptable, intolerable
Good morning, Immanuel.
Genesis 4 records the first murder in the bible. God’s responded to Cain’s brutal act against Abel by saying “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground”.
We’ve been hearing our brother’s blood crying out ever since.
As I speak, our national fabric is being torn apart by racism. The incident, shown on video of the police officer killing George Floyd is outrageous, acceptable and intolerable and mars the reputation of most police officers. The passivity of the fellow police offers make them complicit to this crime as well.
Did you know that George Floyd was a Christian brother? Before moving to Minneapolis for a job opportunity through a Christian work program, he spent almost his entire life in the historically black Third Ward in Houston where he was called “Big Floyd”. Floyd worked with young people, helping to break the cycle of violence and used his influence to bring outside ministries to the area to do discipleship and outreach. He was seen as a leader in the community and an elder statesmen, his ministry partners say.
But his death is just the latest in racial discrimination. Recently, Amy Cooper blatantly lied on a 911 call, while walking her dog in Central Park, saying her life was being threatened by a black man named Christian Cooper, who only asked her to put her dog on a leash. It’s all caught on video—you can watch it.
And then there’s Ahmaud Arbery shooting a few weeks ago caught on camera as well.
What can we do as Christians to fight racism?
I want to share with you a couple of thoughts.
1. Speak up—As a Christ follower and condemn all acts of racism as wrong and sinful. Don’t let anyone in your family or friend system wonder where you stand.
2. Do something about it—As Christians we should advocate against any government or institutional system that discriminates against another while standing with the oppressed and downtrodden.
3. Check your heart. To see if you look at another people group negatively or with suspicion. Then we must confess and repent of it and make sure we don’t pass it on to our children, because so much racism is generational.
4. Acknowledge the frustration and anger. As Christ followers, violence is never the answer in response to violence and the looting and destruction of property that’s taking place is wrong. There are many people who are using George Floyd’s death as an excuse to be violent. But that shouldn’t stop us from hearing the pain, frustration and anger that people feel because it’s real and the anger is justified.
5. Pray—prayer is the greatest tool for transformation. What should we pray for? We should pray for justice to be done. We should pray for God to reveal our own subtle attitudes of racism that are easily hidden or rationalized away. We should pray for our leaders to model righteous behavior. We should pray for the healing of the deep wound of racism. Basically, we should pray the prayer Jesus taught us to prayer “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” That’s a great prayer to start with.
Have a great Monday.
May 31, 2020
1. Can you share about a time that God was working behind the scenes on your behalf and only later did you realize it?
2. Explore the idea more that we are microwave people serving a crock pot God.
3. How has God used crisis to reshape your life?
4. How are you dancing during this difficult time?
May 30, 2020
Happy Saturday Immanuel Church!
Two Sunday services ago, the sermon series was finishing up the “How Happiness Happens” series, and our connect group met to talk about Love. We talked about loving those in our life who we are close to, but also talked about how Jesus says in John 13:35 that his Disciples will be known by their love for one another. From there we talked about the parable of the Good Samaritan and how loving others is also about one of action, and crossing uncomfortable barriers to show mercy to others, but also Jesus tells them to take their love even a step further and that we are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
Then this week I was reading in Romans 12: 9-21 about what it means to be a Christian. The title in my Bible literally says the “Marks of the True Christian”.
9 Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10 love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
And this passage reminded me about one of my favorite books I read in one of my Ordination classes to be an ordained elder in the Church of the Nazarene, called “3 Simple Rules: A Wesleyan Way of Living”. The 3 simple rules really are simple: Do No Harm, Do Good and Stay in Love with God.
The first category some might say – yeah, I’m really good at NOT doing harm. Looking at this Romans passage, I don’t curse others, I’m not haughty, nor do I claim to be wiser than others. I don’t repay evil for evil.
Certainly the 2nd rule is not that hard, right? Doing good unto others? I find ways to bless others and like Romans says, I try to outdo another in showing honor – help them to know how important they are; I life them up. I extend hospitality. I feel good about the amount of good I’m doing.
Yet the paradox is in this book and really in the Romans passage, and really that underlies the whole LOVE conversation as a Christian, is that we can’t do #1 or #2, without #3. So, we have to work backwards. When Jesus met and challenged the Pharisees in his time, he was actually was exposing that their “good ways of following the law” as keeping them from truly having compassion for others. Love the Lord Your God with your Heart, Soul and Mind, and then, only then, is #1 and #2 possible in spiritual ways. When we Stay in love with God, we learn to love the way God loves us, we love with the strength of God not our own, we love with God’s motives, not our own failed motives, and with the guidance of God.
All throughout the New Testament we are invited to be connected to Jesus, because he is the vine. We need to be connected to the source of all love, if we have any hope of being loving bearers, we need to be connected to Jesus.. And earlier in Romans, and I’ll end here, we read that when we know who we belong to, when we recognize that we are children of God, and have been adopted by God, and accept the love of our adopted Father, the Spirit, who dwells in us because of Christ, intercedes on our behalf in our weaknesses. The scripture literally says the Spirit speaks words to our souls, even words we cannot understand. We have a soul connection with the one who is the creator of love. So, today would you allow yourself to be filled with the love of God? I encourage you to stay in love with God, and He will show you the way to love others.
May 29, 2020
Striving Forward and Reacting to the Curveball
Growing up an athlete has caused me to see life differently. I find I am constantly competitive. Whether I am facing an opponent, or I am my own opponent, I am constantly making a competition out of things. I love this idea of striving towards something, and knowing that every moment is an opportunity to get closer to reaching my goal. As a college baseball player it was preached to me often that every moment was an opportunity. My favorite baseball player of all time, Derek Jeter, said this “There may be people who have more talent than you, but there's no excuse for anyone to work harder than you do.” I took that to heart. I did not have the talent to become a college baseball players, but I had the work ethic and the attitude. Those two were the defining factors of me playing baseball past high school.
Through the life I lived as an athlete, I learned some lessons that I believe are central to life. One of them being this: you are always moving in life, you get to decide whether it is forward or backward. I was surrounded my teammates who viewed their opportunity to play baseball differently. Some took it for granted, they enjoyed being part of a team and getting some free gear every year, but they never pushed themselves to become the best they could be, and oh what could have been. Some players took that mantra of movement seriously, very seriously, like my teammate Tim. Tim was one of those rare people who was blessed with talent and work ethic. I have no idea how he ended up playing with us at Eastern University, but we were thankful for his presence. In the locker room, in the classroom, and on the field, Tim was a worker. I remember one Saturday morning we had a road trip to go play a noon doubleheader. We probably had about a 2 hour bus ride ahead so we were leaving early that morning. Tim decided to get up extra early and go to the field to get some extra practice in. Tim had already won rookie of the year his freshman year, he was one of the best players in our conference and would eventually win player of the year in his Junior year. In the eyes of the rest of the team Tim did not need extra work, but in the eyes of Tim, there was always room for improvement.
I believe that same motivation to be better, is behind these words written by Paul in Philippians 3:12-14.
“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Paul was constantly striving, in this same letter he refers to life as a race, and here he talks about continuing to strive forward in this race. Being an athlete has certainly taught me a lot, but the mantra of movement is perhaps the most valuable. We get to decide daily whether we will move forward in life or backward, whether we will strive towards Jesus Christ, or move further away. There is no such thing as standing still, if you are standing still you are moving backwards.
Some people may think this time has caused our striving to become more difficult, that an unexpected turn has been added to our race. But another thing I’ve learned from baseball, is always be ready to react to the curveball. Curveballs WILL come in life, if I only received fastballs in baseball there is a good chance I would still be playing somewhere. But that is not the way baseball works, and that is not the way life works. Unexpected situations will come our way, we just have to be ready to adjust and crush. In baseball when I was expecting a fastball and got a curveball there was only one thing I could do to adjust, pause. I had to wait an extra couple milliseconds so I could adjust and hit the pitch. The pitch that I did not expect but nonetheless had to hit.
I hope you have had enough time to pause. I hope you have had enough time to adjust, because we need to keep moving forward. We have to continue to strive towards the prize that is ahead. And the prize ahead is way better than a base hit up the middle, the prize ahead is the greatest prize we could ever strive for. We have an incredible opportunity to get to know Jesus, and the fact that we GET to strive towards Him is a blessing to begin with. There is satisfaction in the striving, knowing that we are moving closer to the savior of our life. It’s an opportunity I pray we never take for granted, not when life is “normal”, not when we’re in the middle of a curveball. It’s all an opportunity, it’s all a blessing. So I pray you are striving towards what is ahead, and if you need advice on how, come back next week. Or talk to my teens, because that’s what we’re talking about together on Wednesday nights. I love all of you Immanuel, I am blessed that we get to strive towards Christ together, even if we have to be 6 feet apart during this particular part of the race.
May 28, 2020
My three children were all born in the States, and they grew up here. At their school and church, basically everywhere, they use English for communications. So, it's natural for them to feel more comfortable using English than Korean.
Although my kids try to speak in Korean at home, they soon frustrated to use it because they find it's harder to express what they intended to say.
However, my kids know that their parents like to talk in Korean with them. So, when they NEED something, I see them use Hangul, which means the Korean language. It's when our four-year-old daughter Minha wants a lollipop, when Saeah needs help for her math homework, or when Ian wants some more game time. They come and ask in Hangul
Looking at children trying hard to use Hangul, they are adorable from the parent's viewpoint. Then, as a parent, I see myself who wants to allow what they desire more quickly. Here, Minha you can have more lollipops than you even asked. I think my kids are smart! Ha! Ha!
I brought this example of my story to encourage you to pray.
God wants to communicate with us. So, He has created a window of spiritual dialogue called prayer. However, I see many Christians view prayer as a difficult thing to do, while they have no hard time talking with family and friends. At least, that is how I feel.
People become easily frustrated even before trying prayers, just as my children do so while they try talking in Korean.
Yes, I understand! Prayer could be one of the hard spiritual disciplines. We don't know what to say. Maybe it's because we consider prayer as a totally different language to learn. We think it's not our preferred language(랭귀지) that we use everywhere else.
But don't give up. Try prayer is essential in Christian's life.
Through prayer, we can communicate with our God, our Creator, and Redeemer. We ask God for our needs. Through prayer, we not only experience God's answer but also experience God himself, who is pleased to talk to us.
In the beginning, prayer sounds awkward, but soon we will get used to praying as one of our life. You will find yourself doing a prayer of conversation, and your prayer will grow up to a prayer of relationship with God.
Jeremiah 29:12 In those days, when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly(홀할들리), you will find me.
So, as an application for today’s devotional, why don’t we pray the Lord’s prayer together? Shall we?
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and forever.
May 27, 2020
Happy Wednesday everyone!
For those who don’t know, before we arrived at Immanuel 10 months ago, we were missionaries in Europe for 10 years.
For our last five years in Croatia, we had the privilege of working with migrants and asylum seekers. What an amazing opportunity to be on the front lines of God’s work!
Many of the people we got to meet through the years are from countries that are often times “closed” to the work of the church. Meaning, missionaries aren’t allowed to go into those countries to share about Jesus.
Well, because of the refugee crisis, those people who were previously unreachable, came right to our font doors!
So we began to share Jesus with people who had never really had the chance to hear about him.
Guess what happened?
Over and over, people began giving their lives to Christ!!
It was honestly amazing to see God working in peoples lives.
Well, often times, what happens when you’re hard at work on the front lines for God, the enemy rises up to fight against the good work that is happening.
It became so regular that our team began predicting when the enemy would strike. It was almost every Saturday or Sunday, one of our team would have a REALLY hard day! Everything from marital fights to car accidents.
We knew it was coming.
1 Peter 4:12-13 gives us a great perspective on the trials that come from following Jesus -
4:12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.
4:13 But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ's sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed.
During our weekly team meetings, we would talk about the trial that had come up, and prayed about the one that was to come. We recognized that the enemy was working, only because he HAD to! He was AFRAID!
When the enemy is afraid, we can rejoice, because we are working hand in hand with God.
So this week, I encourage you, find a new way to get to the front lines of where God wants you to go.
Don’t be surprised if trials rise up to thwart your endeavors.
In fact - REJOICE!!
Because you’re in the battle with Christ.
Be encouraged in your trials today. You’re in the right place and you’re not alone.
You are loved.
May 26, 2020
The Story of Our Lives is Still Being Written…
Scripture Reading: Psalm 139:13-17 (The Voice)
13 For You shaped me, inside and out. You knitted me together in my mother’s womb long before I took my first breath.14 I will offer You my grateful heart, for I am Your unique creation, filled with wonder and awe. You have approached even the smallest details with excellence; Your works are wonderful; I carry this knowledge deep within my soul. 15 You see all things; nothing about me was hidden from You as I took shape in secret, carefully crafted in the heart of the earth before I was born from its womb. 16 You see all things; You saw me growing, changing in my mother’s womb; Every detail of my life was already written in Your book; You established the length of my life before I ever tasted the sweetness of it. 17 Your thoughts and plans are treasures to me, O God! I cherish each and every one of them!
One of the ways that I really find that I can ‘unwind’ is to read a good book. Though I’m regularly reading non-fiction books with the intent to learn something, it’s always a goal for vacation or after a particularly busy season to take some time to relax and read a good fiction book or a book about a real person or situation that I don’t really know much about. I love when authors have well developed characters and they can really weave together a story where I can just get lost in what’s unfolding in their lives. In fact, I know it’s a great book when I find myself so caught up into the lives and personalities of the characters that I actually can forget they these aren’t real people in my life and I find myself thinking about their stories even when I’m not reading the book. In fact, I sure hope that I’m not the only person out there that has so bonded with the “characters” in a great story that I’ve found myself on more than one occasion . . . um . . . actually including them in my prayer conversations with the Lord and then I’ve had to literally laugh out loud when it hits me that these - aren’t - real - people!!
Recently, I’ve found myself thinking about how God is actually in the process of writing my own story. And your story. But these stories actually do contain real people with real lives and real problems. Real joys and real sorrows. Real decisions to make… Real consequences to untangle and honestly, real history in the making. Remembering that God and I are partners in the writing of my story is both sobering and, quite frankly, a tremendous comfort.
When reading verse 16 in today’s passage - You saw me growing, changing in my mother’s womb; Every detail of my life was already written in Your book; You established the length of
my life before I ever tasted the sweetness of it - I can’t help but envision God, the Divine Author with pen in hand, writing out the story of my life. He doesn’t write it as a cold narrative with step-by-step instructions like the manual that comes with a new appliance or a cookbook (J), but like the Master Storyteller the He is, He weaves in the events and circumstances and the characters that shape me; some for my good and others that break my heart or leave scars on my soul and He miraculously and mysteriously interplays the decisions I make - or ignore - the positive or negative interactions with people that are written into my story - some that become main characters and others that just come in and out playing small cameo roles while still leaving their imprints on how I see the world and myself - and others - and how I then interact with the Author of my story.
God is doing the same in you - and for you. I’ll never quite understand how He could have ‘written every detail of our lives before one came to pass’ and yet at the same time still be writing our story out….today.
Our stories are not yet final. The mystery is that as long as we have breath, God never slams the book shut and leave us without the hope of a new chapter. In fact, the very greatest comfort to us is that God does know us and cares for us - He thinks well of us and we’re regularly on His mind. He eagerly offers us the chance to climb up into His lap as He writes the next chapter, inviting us to live into all that He longs to do to bring healing, wholeness and freedom.
The question is do we trust Him enough to do that? As the plot thickens in the most complex stories, His great promise is that as we surrender our lives into His hands, we will undoubtedly be pleased with how our story ultimately ends.
Next Sunday, we’ll close the service with a beautifully simple song that reminds us of this: I lean not on my own understanding, my life is in the hands of the Maker of Heaven. So, I give it all to you, God, trusting that you’ll make something beautiful out of me.
Today, take a moment to look over the chapters already written in the book of your life and ask God to help you trust Him so that together as you write the next chapters, your life will read like a book that people can get lost in - - and when the story is over will actually find themselves celebrating that the Real Hero of the Story was the Author Himself. The One who - in the end - made something beautiful that maybe no one even saw coming!
Nothing I Hold On To, by Will Reagan
Until we sing together again in person….
May 25, 2020
It’s time to start singing again.
Are you finding it hard to be stay positive, sing praise songs and worship our great God with an open and full heart? Some of you may be thinking, “How can I be happy when there is so much disruption around me?
If you feel that way, you’re not alone. Psalm 137 was written by Jewish exiles who had lost everything and were forcibly removed from their normal life in Israel to the strange new land of Babylon. They were devastated asking questions like “Where is God in all this”’ “Why did he allow this to happen”; “Has God thrown us away for good?” and “What’s going to happen to us, now”.
Listen to the first sentences of Psalm 137: “Alongside Babylon’s rivers we sat on the banks; we cried and cried, remembering the good old days of Zion. Alongside the quaking trees we stacked our unplayed harps; That’s where our captors demanded songs, sarcastic and mocking: “Sing us a happy Zion song!” Oh, how could we ever sing God’s song in this wasteland?”
And yet that’s not the end of the story. God hadn’t forgotten them. In fact, he told the Israelites to make the most of their time in Babylon; to marry, have children, even to pray for the Babylonians to prosper, because if they did, they would; and one day God promised that he would bring them back to the land of Israel and things would return to normal.
While the Israelites were crying their eyes out on Babylon’s riverbanks, God gave them one of the most beautiful promises in all the bible. “For
I know the plans I have for you”, says the Lord, “plans to prosper you, not to harm you; plans to give you hope and a future.”
In the middle of this great disruption, keep singing and praising God for being good and faithful. Like the Israelites of old, God hasn’t forgotten you, he’s with you now and he promises good things to come.
Remember, if Immanuel can be of assistance to you, we’re here to help in any way we can. Call me directly on my cell at 267-377-7684 or contact the church office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a great Monday in the Lord.
May 24, 2020
1. How has your family of origin and life experiences shaped your understanding of love?
2. How do your feelings help or hurt your understanding of agape love being “giving” love (the love of the will)?
3. What are practical ways you can love this week?
a. A family member
b. A neighbor
c. A co-worker
d. A person from church
May 23, 2020
Hey there Immanuel. So, we are in the thick of it, aren’t we? There is a lot of suffering going on in the world today, and it’s hitting people hard in a variety of ways. This week I was reading what kind of advice the Apostle Peter gives to the Christians in the 1st Century, who were also suffering. Their suffering resulted from being persecuted for being Christians. They didn’t seem to fit in anywhere, and were really struggling with how to live with a kingdom mentality that has come and is “not yet” fully here. Here are the lessons I saw this week from the book of 1 Peter about suffering that I wanted to share with you…
We should not be surprised when we suffer. 1 Peter 4:12, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” Suffering and trials are a part of this world. It’s what we do in them and with them, that determines how we get through them.
When we suffer, Peter acknowledges that we will be tempted to make bad decisions, in fact we will be tempted to repeat patterns of our former lives. Peter reminds the early Christians they are now called to a higher standard of living. Peter warns them – don’t suffer for now making stupid decisions; it’s hard enough to suffer for making the right decisions. In fact he tells the early Christians who are suffering to do as Christ did when he suffered. What is that?
Well we read in 1 Peter 2:22
“He committed no sin,
and no deceit was found in his mouth.”
Oooo. That’s hard. Let’s keep reading… 1 Peter 2:23-25 says,
23 When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.”
Lofty yet worthy goals to aim for in suffering. Why though, is this important?
Peter acknowledges that we won’t always get along, that we will be mistreated and that those in authority will abuse their power. So, when we strive for this new way of being, we become a better Christ centered community in the midst of suffering, and we can impact the world for His glory when we are a Christ centered community.
Peter says in 1 Peter 3:8, “Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. 9 Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called—that you might inherit a blessing.”
So, yes, we are in the thick of it. In the thick of it, Peter says we can maintain constant love for one another, be hospitable to one another and be good stewards of God’s grace. This allows us to see the other and serve them not with our own strength, but with the strength that God supplies. May you feel God’s strength this week.
May 22, 2020
What You Seek Is What You Get
There’s a phrase that goes “what you see is what you get” and I resonate with that. I’m a pretty straight up kind of guy. I’m not good at hiding my emotions or the things I’m passionate about. I wear it all on my sleeve for all to see. As a matter of fact if I did so literally, my arms would be filled with tattoos dedicated to Jesus, Zac Brown Band, and Philly sports. A quick look on my Instagram page will show you all of this (follow me @j_bunjo). So for me, what you see is what you get, but in the Bible it says what you SEEK is what you get.
Let me explain, in Matthew 6:21 it is written “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” The things you treasure are what you receive, so what you seek is what you get. But what is that exactly? If what you are seeking is of the world, what you receive will never be fulfilling. Many people have lived through this same mistake, living for things of the world and never being fully fulfilled in them. Getting drunk might make a Friday night fun, but you’ll wake up on Saturday feeling empty again. Chasing a career might bring you a lot of things, but one day that career will end and what will you be left with then? If we are going to chase something in life, let’s chase something worth attaining. Something that will bring fulfillment. There is only one thing that I can think of that fills those requirements, Jesus.
Matthew 6:31 says “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you.” If what we are seeking is the kingdom of God, fulfillment becomes possible! And not just Friday night fulfillment, no this is a 24/7, 365, eternal fulfillment. One that goes as far as time can stretch because it comes from something that’s nature is eternal. Jesus is the only thing that can fill the hole in your heart and keep it that way. And when that becomes your aim, those things that you thought were important, they work themselves out anyway. So we seek God, we get fulfilled, and He gives us those things we needed in the meantime. I’m waiting for the catch in this deal but I still haven’t found it. According to my research God is good all the time, and all the time God is good!
What you see is what you get may not always be true, it may be true in my life, but I’m one of a kind (that’s what my mom tells me). Regardless of that, there is 100% biblical truth in what you SEEK is what you get. So decide today what you are going to run after. We all spend our lives chasing something. The real question is, was it worth the chase all along? If you are chasing after Jesus and the kingdom of God, that answer will always be yes. For now and all of eternity.
May 21, 2020
Are you familiar with the story of Jonah?
Book of Jonah ch1 verse 1 says…. The Lord gave Jonah this message, "Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh."
But what did he do?
Verse 3, Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the Lord.
He bought a ticket to Tarshish, hoping to escape from the Lord.
Although Jonah did his best to flee from God, he realized that it is impossible. It is because God was chasing after him wherever he went.
Yes, God was chasing after Jonah on the ship to Tarshish.
Even if Jonah was thrown into the raging water, he could not flee from the Lord.
God arranged for a big fish to be there when Jonah was in danger of drowning.
God also was watching over Jonah in the fish three days and three nights.
God went with Jonah to Nineveh and God was with Jonah while he was finally preaching in the city. God was still with Jonah when he got angry.
God was everywhere with Jonah.
It was always God who initiated a conversation with the upset Jonah.
Even if he was disobedient, rebellious, and selfish.
God never abandoned him.
Here is a question. Does not God have any self-respect?
Why does he chase after and after // someone who refused to do anything for him?
Have you had a date with your loved ones?
If someone rejects you over and over, will you still want to chase after that person? Think of God's aching heart, having been rejected by Jonah.
Is there only Jonah, who could go to the city of Nineveh?
How about us?
Dear Immanuel family,
Our father God do the same thing for you and me.
He is right there, even though we all have been confined to homes alone, God is still with you. You are not alone.
Here and there, he is knocking on the door of your heart even right now during this virtual devotional. Are you in danger of drowning? Are you struggling with fear from isolation as Jonah was in the fish? Let me tell you the truth, even if you are upset or depressed or when you doubt for the future, He is still with you.
Even when you don't make Him as your priority, He is still chasing after you so that he can bless you and show his favor on you.
I remembered Psalm 139. Let me read part of it.
I can never escape from your Spirit!
I can never get away from your presence!
If I go up to heaven, you are there;
If I go down to the grave, you are there.
If I ride the wings of the morning,
if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
even there your hand will guide me………..
Like Jonah, King David tried to escape from God's presence, but he discovered that he can never never get away from God's presence, because he loves David so much!
Do you see what I am seeing? I see….. God, who never gives up on you and me.
Today I want you to find His presence. I pray that you have full of expectation how God will reveal himself to you so that you can experience His faithfulness, grace, mercy, patience, forgiveness, and unconditional love upon you.
Blessings and Love you all.
May 20, 2020
This morning, like most mornings, the kids pile into our bed, where we just hang out, goof off, and spend some awesome moments together. Inevitably, the question comes up, did you have any dreams? Whenever it gets to Emma, she always answers, "Yes!" Then I ask her if she can tell me about them and she says, "I don't remember."
My dreams are the same. Most times I can't remember what was rattling around in my brain while I was sleeping. But I began to wonder, what if in the craziness of my dreams, God gave me a vision?
What would I do?
Would I tell anyone?
Would I do anything about it?
Would I even remember!?
In Acts 16:9-10 it says this,
“9 That night Paul had a vision: A man from Macedonia in northern Greece was standing there, pleading with him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” 10 So we decided to leave for Macedonia at once, having concluded that God was calling us to preach the Good News there.”
Can you imagine that for a minute?
Come and help us!
What a powerful, straight forward, and difficult request. Come and help us.
This passage contain layers of beauty and faithfulness that we need to pay attention to. First of all, Paul was so in tune with God that he knew right away when God was speaking to him. Do you think he had moments of doubt? Do you think he questioned his own sanity? Or do you think he jumped up and said, "The Lord is calling and I need to go!!"
Well, not only did he go, but he went immediately!
Isn't this the kind of relationship we want with our Creator. Isn't this the kind of trust we want to have with one another? I think this is how God envisions life for us; complete faith and trust. Complete submission to the Missio Dei, the Mission of God. God's mission is love, no matter where it takes us. It may be next door; it may be to another continent. God is calling. God is giving visions. God is on the move.
Let us live lives SO in tune with God that we are ready to act at a moment's notice.
Let's dream dreams, and live for our Lord.
Let us seek God first and then all these things will be given to us.
May 19, 2020
The Miracle of the Coin, The Fish, & The Garage Door Opener
Scripture Reading: Matthew 17:24-27(The Message); Romans 13:7(NLT)
“When they arrived at Capernaum, the tax men came to Peter and asked, “Does your teacher pay taxes?” Peter said, “Of course.” But as soon as they were in the house, Jesus confronted him. “Simon, what do you think? When a king levies taxes, who pays—his children or his subjects?” He answered, “His subjects.” Jesus said, “Then the children get off free, right? But so we don’t upset them needlessly, go down to the lake, cast a hook, and pull in the first fish that bites. Open its mouth and you’ll find a coin. Take it and give it to the tax men. It will be enough for both of us.”
“Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and government fees to those who collect them, and give respect and honor to those who are in authority.”
A crazy little thing happened this week - the remote control that opens our garage door stopped working. Even after putting a new battery in, it still wouldn’t open the door. I figured that the garage door opener had to be at least 15 years old or more - so it probably didn’t owe us anything and we can certainly just lift the door - but the convenience of pushing the button from inside the house to open or close it was something that I always appreciated!
But that’s not the crazy part! The crazy part is that my next door neighbor, Don, just happened to walk across the yard the next day and while we were chatting, I mentioned about the door opener no longer working. He quickly said, “Hmm…let me take a look at it”, and after he did he went back across the yard to his place and said he’d be right back. Sure enough. Within a minute or two, here came Don with a remote that he “just happened to have” in the side pocket of his truck door. He went in my garage, pushed the button to program it and sure enough…it worked!
What are the odds?!?
It reminded me of a time when some Temple Tax Collectors came to Peter and asked them if Jesus had paid the temple tax. Long story short, Jesus gave Peter a lesson on His kingly role - basically telling Peter that since He was king, He really didn’t owe any tax, but instead of offending those who didn’t yet understand His true kingship, He sent Peter fishing.
Jesus told Peter to go to the lake and throw out his line. When he caught the first fish, he was to open its mouth and in it would be a coin which would be exactly the amount needed to pay the tax for both Jesus AND Peter.
There are several things I think Jesus was teaching through this miraculous sign: another statement reminding the disciples that He was far more than just an earthly rabbi, teacher or prophet. He was giving an instruction to His followers about the fact that we aren’t ultimately citizens of this world, but we, like Jesus, are citizens of heaven and yet while we’re here, we, too, are to submit to those in authority over us for it’s in that way that we represent Christ well.
Perhaps though, the very simple lesson is the most powerful. Nothing is impossible for God. As the Creator of all things, He can provide for His children anything, anyway He wants to…whether it’s a coin from the mouth of a fish - or a garage door opener from a neighbor. God not only knows our every need, He delights in providing for us.
Thanks, Don - - and you can’t ever say I haven’t given you a shout out J
until we sing together again in person….
May 18, 2020
Doing hard, well
Our oldest daughter is a public school teacher in New Jersey and she’s been teaching her students through zoom since mid-March. While Bethany loves being a teacher—it’s been really hard transitioning to online classes and keeping the students engaged. She and her husband, Steve also have three grade school children doing school online. They are all doing great but it’s been really hard balancing jobs, school and family time.
That’s been a common theme that I’ve been hearing from a lot of people—it’s just really hard right now. It’s hard learning new technology, having so many zoom meetings…I had 10 last week…it’s hard doing your job from home while helping the kids with their school work. I read an article last week saying addictions are exploding, alcohol consumption has skyrocketed, drug abuse has dramatically increased, pornography consumption has seen exponential growth in the last 10 weeks. A lot of people are self-medicating to cope with how hard life is right now.
How do you do hard? How do Jesus followers do hard?
Holly sent me an email this week of Isaiah 40: 27-31 and simply said “Perfect timing”.
Verse 27 begins “O Jacob (referring to the nation of Israel), how can you say the Lord doesn’t see your troubles…he never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even young people become weak and tired, and young men fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. The will soar high on
wings like eagles. The will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.”
The NIV says “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.”
But I actually like the King James Version best: “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength”
How do we do hard as Christ followers? We take a breath, we calm ourselves, we get quiet, we remember who God says we are; we remember that we have the Holy Spirit inside us, helping us.
We trust, we hope and we wait. And in the quietness we are reminded “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength”. And we pick up and continue on.
May 17, 2020
1. What are some burdens (spiritual, emotional, physical, material) you could use help with?
2. How do you know when it’s appropriate to ask for help and when it’s a burden you should bear on your own?
3. Do you struggle with allowing others to carry your burdens? Why?
4. If appropriate, consider sharing a time when you had no one else but God to go to. How did the Lord meet your need?
May 16, 2020
Hey there Immanuel Church. So, have you ever walked into a very ironic situation, and it almost feels like a bad joke? That was what I was thinking as I was reading Acts 17 this week. Paul walks into a place where people from Athens were known for their wisdom and religiosity, and yet seem to not even know the God they are worshipping. They also had many altars to various gods set up and Paul saw that one was called “unknown God”. He calls out their irony, and I don’t believe he does this to mock them but wants to introduce them to the one true God, so they can truly KNOW who God is.
It has got me thinking all sorts of things this week – like… Have WE become like the Athenians without knowing it?
Do we need a Paul to shake us up a bit and point out the irony in our lives?
Have we built a lot of altars around us that represent other gods (money, power, status) and claim to be full of knowledge and religion but the one true God is still unknown to us? In our society and culture have we said or presented ourselves as religious people and say we believe in God yet our actions seem to reflect that we spend more time worshipping these other “unknown gods” in our lives?
So, Paul appeals to the Athenians by speaking in a language that poets and stoics could understand, and pushes them further in their thinking. He says in Acts 17:24-28, “24 The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. 26 From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, 27 so that they would search for God and perhaps reach out for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. 28 For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’
So, today as we read Paul’s words in Acts, may it encourage us to look around and see with wisdom and discernment the altars we have created around us that don’t point to God. We read today that God wants us to search and reach out to Him, so let this be a time where we take these other altars down so that the one true God may be known to us. May we be comforted knowing that because God created us, so “in him, we live and move and have our being.” I implore you, let God be your breathe today. Let God be your reason for pushing through and staying strong in this crazy time. Move him from the unknown category to the known. He is not far from you.
May 15, 2020
Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.
It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.
Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
There are a lot of different things in life that motivate me. I remember when making my decision for college, baseball motivated me. I wanted to go somewhere that I would be able to pursue my baseball career (or lack thereof) so I chose Eastern University. Then I got to college and baseball continued to motivate me, but I quickly found more places for motivation, like girls. I doubt I was the only college guy who was motivated by the girls that surrounded him on campus, especially at Eastern which had a 2 to 1 girls to guys ratio. I learned throughout my college career that none of those were going to motivate me to my fullest potential. I could do some cool things (and really stupid things) with both of those as motivation, but I was never able to reach my full potential.
At the end of my college career my faith become more important to me, Christ became my motivation. Many athletes struggle with giving up the game they play, some spend a lifetime chasing a career that was never intended for them. I am blessed that I didn’t go through this to the same degree, for as soon as baseball left as my motivator, Christ came in and filled it quite effectively. When Christ became my motivation, ministry became my calling. It became clear that with my strong motivation in Christ, the only thing I would want to do with my life is share His gospel.
Christ is my ultimate motivation, but there are still other things that help motivate me. Some days it’s the people that surround me at Immanuel, they motivate me to be better. Some days it’s my family, knowing all they did to help me on the path that I am walking. To be honest, girls still do motivate me (for better or for worse). But this year I strongly feel that God has called me to intentional singleness for all of 2020, to help remove girls as motivation (that is a story too long for one devotional if you’re wondering).
As I read Philippians, Paul motivates me. In Chapter 1, verses 12-21 we can clearly see what motivates Paul. Paul shared the gospel in every single thing that he did. He was willing to be put in chains, willing to be martyred for the sake of sharing the gospel. He even believed these situations were for good! That’s right Paul says that his chains were actually a blessing, because it served to advance the gospel. If we’re talking about perspective, I’ll have what he’s having! Paul made it clear that Christ was his motivation, and sharing the gospel everywhere he went came out of that motivation.
So I finish with this question, what is your motivation? If you are doing less than what you believe you are capable of, the problem might be back where it all started. Sometimes we need a reminder why we started something to keep us going. Do you remember first handing over your life to Christ? I remember that decision at the end of college to truly give myself as a living sacrifice to Christ. I cannot stand here and say I have done it perfectly, but I can say when my motivation is Christ all things are possible. That sounds familiar…
May 14, 2020
Hello, Immanuel! How have you been adapting this new normal?
For me, I have both good days and not-so-good days. It's just unpredictable!
This morning, many dramas were going on between my kids. While I was working, I almost forgot my youngest Minha's preschool zoom meeting at 10:30 am. She had a hard time paying attention to a zoom meeting so that I have to be with her. And at the same time, I felt pitiful to see her teacher leading during the kids’ distraction.
My wife and I are always acting as mediators. When my kids' morning classes are almost done, I realized I was in the middle of work, and I remembered my beloved church members who need God's loving touch because of Covid-19 in my prayer.
Sometimes like this morning, I feel frustrated by asking, "Is it all I can do?" because I personally feel that there are not many things I can do. It looks like less productive while working at home. I feel guilty about getting started working late.
Then, My thoughts reached the Israelites came out of Egypt and traveled in the wilderness. You know, They also had days and years unpredictable. It seems like they experienced our modern-day quarantine ahead of time.
Numbers 20:3 describes how hard the life of the wilderness was and how the Israel people blamed Moses by saying.
"We wish we'd died when the rest of our brothers died before God. And why did you take us out of Egypt in the first place, dragging us into this miserable country? No grain, no figs, no grapevines,—and now not even any water!"
While the Israelites lamented their miserable situations, interestingly, people of Moab's viewpoint at the Israelites were entirely different. Their King Balak already heard of God's deliverance from Egypt. They were trembling with the greatness and fear of the Israelites!
Numbers 22:6 "Look! A people has come up out of Egypt, and they're all over the place! And they're pressing hard on me."
Both are looking at the same situation from a very different perspective.
I think We live a life like wandering in the wilderness. There are times when we don't see the authority that God has already given us and the God himself who is with us. So, we are not looking at the values and promises we already have, while our enemies are looking at them.
So today, I want to remind you again of what does God say we are. This reminder was what I needed, so I thought you might, too.
Would you repeat after me?
I am a child of God
I am a branch of the true vine and a conduit of Christ's life.
I am a friend of Jesus.
My old self was crucified with Christ, and I am no longer a slave to sin.
I have been accepted by Christ.
My body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who dwells in me.
God leads me in the triumph and knowledge of Christ.
I have been blessed with every spiritual blessing of God.
The peace of God guards my heart and mind.
Christ is my life, and I will be revealed with Him in glory
Lastly, God loves me and has chosen me.
Love you all, May God bless
May 13, 2020
Do you ever wonder what it was like for the Jewish man left on the side of the road to die in the story of the Good Samaritan?
Do you ever feel like you’ve been stepped on?
Do you ever feel like you’ve been walked all over?
Do you ever feel like you’ve been hurt, and left at the side of the road to die?
Let me start by saying, you’re not alone.
Most of us know the parable to the Good Samaritan, but for those who don’t, we’re going to read it together.
First though, in the book of Luke, chapter 10, we encounter Jesus who is being questioned by an “expert in religious law”. I mean, this guy KNEW HIS BIBLE!
But he had mixed motives in asking Jesus his questions. He wanted to justify his actions (and we can assume they weren’t good ones).
So he asked Jesus, basically, how can I get to heaven?
Jesus put it back on him, since he’s so knowledgable, to answer his own question.
The man recalled the old testament law which says, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
But he had a follow-up question for Jesus…
If I need to love my neighbor, who IS my neighbor?
Jesus told this story,
“A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.
31 “By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. 32 A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.
33 “Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. 34 Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. 35 The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’
36 “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.
37 The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”
Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”
The cool thing about this story is how Jesus mixes up the characters a bit. You see, the Samaritan (who were kind of enemies of the Israelite) is the hero of the story, while the Jewish man is left to die. And don’t forget, it was the man’s own people, the Jewish people, who walked by him without helping.
But Jesus is telling the story to a Jewish man,
AND in the end Jesus tells him to be like the Samaritan!
I know, I know… it’s confusing.
But it’s meant to make us think, and to perhaps, identify with multiple characters.
Today, if you identify with the beaten and broken Jewish man, remember this…
his salvation came from last place he would have ever thought.
Help is all around you.
You will not be left for dead.
Jesus uses those around you.
For those who are not feeling beaten and broken, we are called to be like the Samaritan, and love our neighbor as ourselves.
So if you’re hurting, help is here.
If you see someone hurting, be the help they need.
We are all the characters in the story.
Have a wonderful day.
May 12, 2020
The Happiest Person to Ever Walk the Earth…
Scripture Reading: Hebrews 2:17 (NIV)
“For this reason he had to be made like the, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.”
The Sunday after Easter, Pastor Mark began a new sermon series called How Happiness Happens. And that first week, I heard his sermon when we recorded it, and then again on Sunday morning during the 9am service…and he said something like, “You know, JESUS was the happiest person on earth…” and I realized that my first response to that was, “ehhhh…I don’t know. The HAPPIEST?”
At 10:30am, when I was on my THIRD hearing of this sermon, my girls came to the living room and I was surprised that one of them - at the exact same point in the message said aloud, “Uhhh….the HAPPIEST? I don’t know about that.”
Later in the week, when someone else mention that comment to me, I couldn’t help but think that all of the great content in that sermon, it was funny that that one particular comment would stand out.
The following week, and the following, (yes, three times each week) I’ve heard Pastor Mark say it again…and I’ve been surprised at how often people have just brought it up in conversation over the last few weeks. And considering that we’re under quarantine, I’m not exactly with a whole lot of people!
So as I’ve worked in my garden, or sat in the early quiet of the morning, I’ve found myself asking God, “What about that statement…Jesus was the happiest person who ever walked on the face of this earth…is so thought-provoking? What does that stir up in me?”
At first, I thought it was the word “happy” that threw me. “Happy” just seemed too trite - or too casual - or too earthly or temporary or circumstance-based to be used as an adjective to describe JESUS…to describe GOD in the flesh.
So I looked it up. Happy: feeling or showing pleasure or contentment; having a sense of confidence in or satisfaction with a person, arrangement or situation; willing to do something; having or marked by an atmosphere of good fellowship….
It’s then I heard the Holy Spirit whisper - wasn’t I…aren’t I… all that and more? I don’t think you’re troubled by the word, happy, but maybe stuck on the word…..person.
Unrelated to this sermon series, but certainly related in some ways that Holy Spirit is working within me - during these quarantine days, I’ve finally gotten around to watching what a friend recommended that I watch well over a year ago….the TV series, The Chosen. This series, which can be viewed on YouTube or through the App by the same name is the first-ever multi-season series based on the life of Jesus and the true stories of the gospels. I’ve loved every minute of the first season of this show! I think it’s because it portrays the human side of Jesus more realistically than any other show or movie I’ve ever seen.
I think I tend to forget or maybe just minimize the fact that when Jesus showed up on the planet, he was BOTH fully God and fully…human.
He got tired - and thirsty - and hungry.
He experienced emotions like joy and happiness, sadness and anger and He laughed with people and He cried.
He drew crowds like a pied piper, and yet regularly needed alone time…
He was tempted, misunderstood, celebrated, revered and yet questioned and accused by the people who should have known him best.
The humanity of Christ is essential to our faith, the character of Jesus and if we fail to acknowledge his humanity, we miss the true and full message of Jesus. His humanity was prophesied in the Old Testament. Being fully human allowed Him to experience the struggles and temptations we, too, face. And without His life of flesh, He couldn’t have shed His blood and die to cover our sins and offer us forgiveness…
I’m so grateful that Jesus took on a human body so that I could really know Him and be fully known. Though there’s so much more to discover, my heart is deeply stirred as I’m looking at the life and humanity of Jesus in fresh ways these days.
Read the gospels along with me in the days ahead with those lenses on and discover afresh who He is…
Until we sing together again in person….
May 11, 2020
Good morning, everyone.
I’m done. I’m done with social distancing? I’m done with wearing masks in public. I’m done with not being able to see our family. I’m done with not being able to go to our favorite restaurant. I’m done with not being able to worship together.
Are you done?
What do you do when you’re done but you still have to keep doing what you need to do, for your own benefit and the benefit of others?
Do you grumble your way through each day? Do you sink into despair? Or, is there a better way?
Romans 5:3-5 gives us the better way: “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”
In these verses Paul says “when you’re done, rejoice because that means God is doing something beautiful inside you.”
A few weeks ago, I talked about switching up my exercise routine from going to the gym to using our thrift store Nordic track at home. At first I could only be on the machine 15 minutes, but now I can be an hour. How did that happen? I just kept at it and built up my endurance.
It’s the same way spiritually. When you feel like giving up, when you’re done, that’s actually good news because it means God is stretching you; developing new spiritual muscles so you’ll have a stronger character. And when your character is stronger, you won’t fall to pieces when life gets really hard because you know that Christ is with you and he’s working out His life inside you.
Let God do his work of stretching your capacity to handle the trials and problems so he can make you into the kind of person he made you to be.
He does all this because he loves you. He…loves…you…
Remember, When you’re done, God’s just beginning.
May 10, 2020
1. Do you “fantasy punish” people? If so, what do you do?
2. What excused do you use to not forgive people?
3. Who do you need to “give a break” to?
4. How are you practicing healthy self-care?
5. Do you have the assurance if you were to die, you would go to heaven?
May 9, 2020
1 Peter 2:2-10
This week I’ve been camping in 1 Peter. It’s not a bad place to camp… It was written to a group of people called the exiles, Christians who were probably undergoing persecution, hardships, identity crises; they were tempted to integrate into political systems of the day. The book of 1 Peter is said to have been authored by the Apostle Peter. If anyone knows the struggle of loyalty, it is the Apostle Peter. Boy do I love this book of the Bible, partly because I love the narrative of Peter, and because it always reminds me who I am and what my purpose is. Let me tell you what I mean.
Fear gets the better of Peter when he denied Jesus three times before his death, and post resurrection, Jesus asks Peter 3 times if he loves him. Has this ever been you – caught up in doubt, being afraid of what those around you might think? Before I followed my call to become a minister, my previous life was plagued with fear. Peter is one who was invited to move past his fear and to walk out on the water with Jesus. Peter was also even given a new name. He used to be Simon the son of John, and Jesus tells him his new name is “Cephas”, Aramaic for rock; Peter the Greek word for rock.
So, in 1 Peter, Chapter 2, I don’t think it is a coincidence that we are invited to be “living stones”. Jesus told Peter he would be the rock foundation that the church will grow from, and that word “rock foundation”, means literally a sturdy giant rock formation that grows from the earth. That image is pretty powerful. We are invited in 1 Peter to let ourselves grow from being pebbles to this type of rock foundation, Peter urges us move from being newborn infants in the faith to spiritual houses.
In verse 9 we also read, “BUT you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
So, I urge you in this trying time, lean into the One who will take you for a walk on water. Lean into the one who gives new names. Let yourselves be built into spiritual houses in this time. You have answered the call to be one of God’s own people, and your purpose? Well, we just read it, To proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Receive mercy today, rest in the fact that you are God’s, and live as though you are God’s.
May 8, 2020
The speculation is true, I got a haircut. I know it was probably visible during service last week, it’s visible if you’re watching the video now. A lot of people have asked me about it, probably wondering if they could get one themselves. It was a family friend who was happy to do it for me, and I was looking at my hair thinking I need some change. She did a fantastic job and I no longer have to walk around feeling like I have a mop on my head.
You see sometimes in life we just need some change. For some people change is welcomed, it is a sign of something exciting to come. But for many change can be scary, it feels more like a walk into the unknown. I know for me that is exactly what this time feels like. This situation we’re all in feels like a continual walk into the unknown. But Hebrews 13:8 brings good news, it says “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” That’s right, our God never changes! The same God that showed great love to us by sending His son, the same God that had the power to split the sea, that same God lives among us!
When we think about life as a whole, we have to acknowledge that it has a nature of change. No matter how long you try to hang on to something familiar, there will come a day that it will change. That is just the nature of life. I’m a sports fan and one thing about sports is they are always changing. You can watch the same team every season but see completely different result (I’m definitely a Philly sports fan if you can’t tell.) Team are often good because they are consistent, when a team can put out a consistent performance they are more likely to succeed. Well that’s good news for us, because our God is really consistent according to Hebrews 13:8. So take comfort in the fact that our God remains the same. The way we see Him might change, the way He speaks to us might change, but He Himself will never change. I am so thankful for the unchanging nature of our God! Have a blessed weekend Immanuel!
May 7, 2020
As an immigrant, My family and I have been living in the country for ten years. We have been blessed to live in a nation birthed in prayer and in reverence for our God. I remember that I first joyfully surprised when I read "In God we trust" at a one-dollar bill.
And I had another surprising moment When I heard a beautiful and significant tradition in America! It's called The National day of Prayer, inviting people to pray for the nation. Since 1952, like Thanksgiving or Christmas, this day has become a national observance placed on all Hallmark calendars!
Every year May of first Thursday, Early morning to late night, east to west, at state capitols, on the steps of city halls, and in schools, businesses, churches, and homes, God's people from all backgrounds, young and old, // stop their activities and gathered for prayer.
Today is the First Thursday of May in 2020.
As a Christian community, I think we, Immanuel church, can join this vital year-round movement of prayer with humility, fasting, and thanksgiving.
Why don't we join the call for us to humbly come before God (2 Chronicles 7:14), seeking His guidance for our leaders and His grace upon us as a people?
Through prayer, we tap into His wisdom, strength, protection, and peace. He stands ready to respond to our needs when we ask for divine intervention.
So, let's be practical! The next question is….
How can we pray? Let’s pray for Government,Military, Media, Business, Education, Church
Overall, let us pray, "God rules over their country."
"Help us seek you, O God and turn from any wicked ways!"
"Forgive our sins and heal our land!"
"Return to show your mercy to America!"
"Make your temple be rebuilt in each individual's heart!"
"Bring a new awakening and revival!"
Let us cry out for America and around the world, and pray God's glory across the earth.
Lasty, I would you like to check more specific prayer points for America. Go to website:
Let’s pray for our Government, Military, Media, Business, Education, Church and family.
Would you join me in doing that? God bless.
May 6, 2020
I’ve been starting something new these past couple of weeks.
I’ve begun walking every morning.
Now, this has taken some time to get into the swing of things.
It goes against my nature.
My body tells me, STAY IN BED!
Instead, each day, I wake up before the rest of the family and quietly put on my clothes and head out the door.
It’s not a super long walk - Maybe 45 minutes to an hour.
It’s a REALLY nice time.
I take use it for silence, prayer, solitude, and even some bible “reading”.
I listen to audio books of the Bible.
The past couple of mornings I’ve been going through the book of Romans.
When I got to the beginning of chapter 12 God kind of stopped me in my tracks.
I mean, LITERALLY! I stopped in my tracks to note the verses I heard.
This is what it says:
And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. 2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
Paul is encouraging the Christians in Rome to get away from their norms.
Not much has changed in 2000 years.
We still get caught up in the things around us.
We still get distracted by what’s right in front of us.
But God has more for us than that.
God wants us to break free from the routines the world has to offer.
God wants us to GET OUT OF BED!
To create new habits.
If we are willing to give ourselves over to God completely, God will transform us into new creations.
And it’s then, and only then, that we can truly learn to know God’s will for our lives.
This week, pray about how you can move beyond your earthly habits, and begin to live into new, Holy Habits.
Have a wonderful day!
May 5, 2020
…and your new name will be… “Rocky”
Scripture Reading: Matthew 16:13-19 (The Message)
I’m not quite sure how it happened, but when my girls were pretty young, they nicknamed our dear friend, John Camiola….Rocky. That’s right - “Rocky” as in, “Yo, Adrian!” - that Rocky. They adored John and for years, he’s cared for them, loved on them - gave them their first real jobs - and prays for them so sweetly!
I’m honestly not exactly sure why they called him that, but in my mind it’s been fitting. I remember when John gave his life to Jesus and when he did he was ‘all in’ and yet it has not been without a struggle and without great determination that he’s persistently fought, through trials and triumphs, to become more like Jesus.
Last week, in our Online Connection Group which is studying along with Pastor Mark’s Sermon Series, How Happiness Happens, we watched Max Lucado’s video which went along with Session #2, Bear with One Another. If you haven’t seen it - you can check it out here:
In it, Max Lucado took us to this passage in Matthew 16 - where Jesus changes his disciple - Simon’s name to Peter. Simon. The fisherman. The laborer. The impetus, quick-tempered one. Who would have ever thought that one day THIS Simon would one day become one of the boldest, most challenging preachers and pioneer leaders of The Church?!?! Certainly not Peter, and probably no one who really knew him!
Jesus had asked the disciples the question, “Who do you say I am?” and Simon’s response was, ““You’re the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Beginning in verse 17, “Jesus came back, “God bless you, Simon, son of Jonah! You didn’t get that answer out of books or from teachers. My Father in heaven, God himself, let you in on this secret of who I really am. And now I’m going to tell you who you are, really are. You are Peter, a rock. This is the rock on which I will put together my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out!”
As Max Lucado tells it, I too, can almost see it now - that when Jesus said, “Simon, you are Peter - the ROCK,” the rest of the disciples had to be cracking up and ribbing each other: “Wait - OUR Simon?? Not THIS guy! Build the church on THIS guy?!?”
But what a powerful moment for Simon - Peter. I bet his whole life he’d fought - to be heard and taken seriously. I can’t help but think that he was a dreamer and yet his life’s situations and circumstances had harnessed that until Jesus declared him for who he was to become….Rocky.
I wonder what name Jesus has for you.
He’s promised you a hope and future…to do immeasurably more than we can ask or think of. As you allow Him to rule and reign in your heart - as you practice walking in His presence - He’s building something bigger and bolder inside of YOU.
Begin to ask Him…Lord, who do YOU say I am? If you stay in His presence long enough, you just might see the twinkle in His eye as he shares your new nickname…
Until then - we love you, Rocky!
..and until we sing together again in person….
May 4, 2020
How to handle a crisis God’s way
As a follower of Jesus, how do you turn a time of crisis into an opportunity to help yourself and others?
Acts 16 tells the story of a serious crisis the Apostle Paul and Silas faced. They cast an evil spirit out of a woman who was a fortune teller and the men who were using her to make money got angry and stirred up the city against them. Paul and Silas were badly beaten, thrown into prison and put in chains. That’s a crisis. What did Paul and Silas do?
Verse 25 begins: “About midnight they were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”
The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”
Notice how Paul and Silas turned their crisis into an opportunity for God:
· They spent time in Prayer and Praise: What were they praying for? No doubt they were praying “God get us out of this!” But they were also praying other prayers like “Lord, help us to be
Jesus to the people around us during this difficult time”. The bible says “the other prisoners were listening to them”. Some were thinking—“What do they have that I don’t have that makes them full of joy in this terrible time?” You know, other people are watching you during this challenging time we’re all going through: your family, your neighbors, your friends and your co-workers. You have the privilege of representing Jesus to them. How are you doing with that? Notice also, they were praising God. How could they do that in the middle of a stinking, rat-infested prison? Because wherever Jesus is, he turns into a beautiful sanctuary. You and I have a lot to praise God for during this time. Why don’t you take some times to list out the blessings of God in your life today?
· They realized their worst moment was their best moment. There was a violent earthquake. In those days, prisons were deep in the ground under the jailor’s house. I’m sure Paul and Silas were thinking—“Okay, time to meet Jesus, the house is coming down on us.” But it didn’t. Unbelievably, the earthquake broke open the prison doors and broke off the prisoner’s chains. Think about that. Their worst moment was the thing that set them free. Without minimizing the seriousness of this pandemic, this moment could be the thing God uses to give you a breakthrough. You’ve been praying for years to be closer to God. Guess what? All the distractions are gone. You have more time than ever to press into God and his Word. This pandemic could be the catalyst to heal your marriage or your finances or bring your child back to Christ. Your breakdown is your breakthrough.
They also used their crisis to bring people to Jesus. The earthquake made the jailer open to hearing more about God. Seven weeks, many people didn’t have time for God. But things are different now. Look around you. During this crisis, talk to your children about Jesus. Look around you. Are their co-workers and neighbors who are more to hearing about the Lord.
Don’t waste your crisis. Use it to help other people. Your breakdown is your breakthrough. Have a great Monday and stay strong in Jesus.
May 3, 2020
1. Which of the four reasons it’s hard to serve directly affects you? Why?
a. What if I’m taken advantage of?
b. What if nobody meets my needs?
c. I don’t always know when enough is enough
d. I’m only one person. I can’t possibly make a measurable difference so why try?
6 . What are 3 practical ways you can serve during this pandemic?
May 2, 2020
This Saturday's devotional comes from the Immanuel Young Adults. Recently they have been studying Psalm 23 in their weekly meetings and they were tasked with trying to write Psalm 23 in their own words.
Listen and try it yourself.
Immanuel Young Adults
May 1, 2020
Cast All Your Anxieties
1 Peter 5:7 “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”
How do you talk to God? It seems my conversations with God go different every time we talk, but there is always one thing I am sure of, my prayers are genuine. After all, what does God want from me? Me! He sent His son for me! As Romans 5:8 says it “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” He knows me, He knew I would be flawed but He still chose to love me and send his son for me. According to Psalm 139:13 “he knit me in my mother’s womb.” So God knows me intimately, and he continues to want to get to know me intimately. So my conversations with God are honest and genuine, I withhold nothing from him.
I also know when I am not doing this in my prayer life. I can feel sometimes in my prayer life that it is getting stagnant, or habitual. When I feel that happening I seek a change, so today I decided I needed a change of scenery. I have been stuck in my house for too long so I just decided to go on a drive. I purposely got lost and then found my way home again, but the whole time I was talking to God. We had a great conversation, God has an awesome sense of humor by the way. But today more than ever I needed that genuine dialogue with God. I needed to seek him out, and I knew it could not be the way I’ve been doing it lately, so I sought something new. For me today it was a new setting for prayer. Sometimes we need to change up the way we pray to get a reminder of what prayer is for.
I’m thankful for 1 Peter 5:7, because it says I can cast my anxiety on God, and I can do so knowing He is willing to carry the burden. My God is strong and caring, all-powerful and approachable. How is awesome is that!? We serve a God that knows all and He wants to know you! So today I challenge you, pray real prayers. Tell God what is really going on within your heart, even the things you are not comfortable with. Give Him all the requests you have. If DoorDash can take all our requests right now, so can God. God is not scared of your heart, He is not scared of your doubts, and He is not scared of your requests. He sent His son knowing that we would not always align with Him, but that is exactly why we pray. We pray so we can align our hearts with His. So pray real prayers, and watch as your heart shifts closer to the nature of the Father.
April 30, 2020
While reading through the book of Acts in my daily devotions, I realized something that those with the Holy Spirit have in common. Look to see what these verses have in common:
It's easy to miss that, during the time of the book of Acts, Christians were surviving severe persecution. James, John's brother, was killed. Peter was imprisoned. Nothing stopped them from praising the Lord. Turn your eyes upon Jesus and seek to be filled with the Holy Spirit. We will focus on His mighty works, rather than what is happening here on earth. And we will join them to praise His name.
April 29, 2020
I’ve had a song running through my mind this week, and I haven’t been able to let it go. It’s a song I’ve literally heard my whole life. It’s a simple and beautiful song, but one that I think is important to share this week.
We are in the midst of a crisis like we have never known before. There will be repercussions that will reverberate for years to come that we don’t even know about. People are scared, lonely, angry, sad, confused, depressed… a whole range of feelings. And I think what people really want the most is to know that they are loved and cared for.
This beautiful songs helps remind us of how much God loves us:
Jesus loves me this I know
For the bible tells me so
Little ones to Him belong
They are weak but He is strong
Yes Jesus loves me
Yes Jesus loves me
Yes Jesus loves me
The bible tells me so
This is such a beautiful and simple song, but one that we need to keep in our hearts more than ever right now.
Ephesians 2:4-5 puts it so well:
4 But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, 5 that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)
God loves us SO much that even though we choose death by our sins, God grants us new life in Christ. Jesus love us SO much, he died for us, so that we could live!
The bible is a beautiful book of story after story of God interacting with Creation; humankind interacting with God. The common thread throughout the whole thing is God’s faithful and enduring love for us!
That’s why we need to hear this song right now.
God loves you.
JESUS loves you.
You know this, because the Bible says so.
April 28, 2020
Scripture Reading: Lamentations 3:25-33 (NLT)
A lot of things happen after a season of waiting. We wait…
…for the weekend to come
…for cookies to finish baking in the oven
…to find “Mr or Mrs. Right” and then again during a season of “engagement” before the wedding
…nine months for a baby to be born or the wayward child to come home
…to finally buy that first house and then to pay it off and become debt free
…for test results to come back and for God to answer our prayers
…the perfect job…to retire
…for some quiet time or a season of rest and then we wait for the “quarantine” to end
The Bible has a lot to say about waiting - and there are so many examples of people who waited….
- Noah waited for the flood to recede
- Abraham waited for a son, then his grandson, Jacob, then waited for a wife
- the Israelites waited to be freed from their slavery in Egypt and then 40 years to enter the Promised Land
- Jonah waited in the whale
- the Jews waited centuries for the Messiah to come
- Mary waited for the promised child to be born who would save the world
- Jesus waited until just the right time to begin His ministry
- the disciples waited while Jesus was in the tomb…then waited for the gift of the Holy Spirit which Jesus had promised
- we wait today for the Son of God to return again
All these times of waiting - some were short - - a matter of just days. Other seasons were weeks long and yet still, others went on for years, decades and centuries and even yet still, some dreams and hopes are yet to be fulfilled.
25 The LORD is wonderfully good to those who wait on him and seek him. 26 So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the LORD. 27 And it is good for people to submit at an early age to the yoke of his discipline:
28 Let them sit alone in silence beneath the LORD’s demands. 29 Let them lie face down in the dust, for there may be hope at last. 30 Let them turn the other cheek to those who strike them and accept the insults of their enemies.
31 For the Lord does not abandon anyone forever. 32 Though he brings grief, he also shows compassion because of the greatness of his unfailing love. 33 For he does not enjoy hurting people or causing them sorrow.
Our perspective on what God is doing in the waiting could change everything about the value of that season. I’m convinced of this - more often than not, what God is doing IN us in the waiting is far more value than what we are waiting FOR. When we lay down our impatience, when we surrender to His timing, when we ask, “Lord, what are you trying to do IN me?” instead of “why are you doing this TO me?”, we begin to really experience the breath and the peace and the presence of God.
What are you waiting for today? Instead of being irritated, angry or impatient, surrender that to Him. He already knows it anyway. Spend time in His Word and just let God do the talking because He’s waiting too…for YOU to pursue Him and trust Him so that He can speak deeply to your heart.
Until we sing together again in person….it will be worth the wait…
April 27, 2020
For my daily video devotionals since Easter, I’ve been asking you the question “Because Jesus is alive, what’s changed? How are we supposed to live differently on this side of the empty tomb?
Last week I talked about how we handle grief is different.
Today I want to talk about how to handle fear. Are you afraid of this challenging season right now? If you are, that’s okay because there’s a lot to be afraid of. People are dying, the economy is tanking; we’re stressed out because we’re homebound. It’s a scary time right now in our country.
Sometimes you may get the idea that if you were a really good Christian you wouldn’t struggle with fear. That’s simply not true. I love what David said in Psalm 56:3 “…when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you.”
You see, it’s what you do with your fear that makes the difference.
John 20:19 says “That (Easter) Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders.”
The disciples were afraid because Jesus was dead for all they knew and all their hopes and dreams of a Messianic Kingdom were shattered. They imagined the Jewish leaders were searching all over Jerusalem to arrest them, too.
In other words, they were afraid of the unknown; the “What’s next”, “What if”, “How long before they come for us”, “Will life ever return to normal”, “When can we leave and see our families again?” “Are our families okay?”
Aren’t we asking the same questions?
· What’s next? Is there going to be a second or third wave of the coronavirus before a vaccine is discovered?
· What if? Will there be more quarantines? What if I lose my job? What if my unemployment runs out? What if my depression deepens—I already feel myself sinking.
· How long until this quarantine is over. It’s already been 7 weeks. I don’t think I can take much longer. I miss my family. I miss normal. I want to get a haircut.
· “Will life ever return to normal? Will we feel safe in public? Will I ever go to the mall again? What will going to church look like in 6 months?
That’s what fear does. It asks a lot of questions but doesn’t give any answers.
There’s a better way to handle fear. Allow your risen, Savior, Jesus to step into your life and speak peace. That’s what Jesus did that first Easter to the disciples and that’s what he wants to do to you.
How does Jesus do that today? Primarily through his word, the bible. Let Jesus speak peace to you today. Claim his promises that will help you move from fear to peace. Let me give you a couple promises you can claim this week:
Psalm 23:4 “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil because you are with me.”
Isaiah 41:13 “For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, DO NOT FEAR: I WILL HELP YOU.’”
Zephaniah 3:17 “With his love, he will calm all your fears.”
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27
May the peace of Christ be with you today and this week.
April 26, 2020
Questions for discussion:
1. Which of the 4 ways (go the extra mile, look at yourself first, be gentle, be humble) to bear with one another is hardest for you to do?
2. Share examples of how when you do each of these, and how it makes you happier.
3. Share some examples of when people “put up with you”.
April 25, 2020
This week while in scripture I’ve been reflecting on the pangs of child birth. I know, it seems like a weird thing to reflect upon. Maybe it was because I was talking to my friend about her recent birth story. I was thinking how it is part of how we, as humans are brought into this world – through pain. The pain of birthing something isn’t exclusive to childbirth. In society, in cultures, personally, when new things are birthed, it can be a stretching and painful process. I think we are experiencing a sense of that right now in the world.
Yet while I was in 1 Peter this week, I was reminded that there is a birth we are given in Christ, a 2nd birth, that also stretches us and requires sacrifice and obedience. It brings about a huge identity shift in us and comes with an everlasting promise and mission.
Rather than read 1 Peter 1:22-23 to you, I wonder, would you be willing to pause this video and read it where you are, with the translation you have?
What I’m going to do now is bring you into my process a bit when I’m in the Word. I like to break down the words a bit to get a fully understanding of the meaning. This is because in ancient languages, like Hebrew and Greek, one word can capture a whole world of meaning, full of multiple concepts.
O.K., here is my breakdown of 1 Peter 1:22-23: Your “obedience” (which literally means submitting to what you are being told) to the truth, which by the way truth here doesn’t mean like a moral category and reality, things we can see with our eyes right in front of us. So hearing and obeying this truth has purified our souls; it has fully cleansed us from things that defiled us (that made it impure, dirty, unclean). What is this truth the verse is talking about – well we read about it earlier in the chapter; it is living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. So, your obedience to this truth has cleansed you from the inside out.
And here is the important part - this was done SO THAT (a key phrase that tells us what the point/purpose is) we have “sincere” (not a phony ("put on"), free from hidden agendas/selfish motives, brotherly love for one another (love for fellow believers/friends), fervently loving each other (literally meaning fully-stretched, being extended out, to its necessary (full) potential, from our hearts (not the thing that pumps blood, but literally from our inner self, the affective center of our being). We love each other because we have been born again, literally “born from on high” (only used twice in the whole NT, that God has supernaturally given us a second birth, a second chance to live this life fully for others; born not of something that will perish or decay, but through the living, enduring (something that stays, abides, remains forever) Word of God, the who owns, sustains and creates all living things.
So when I read something like that in scripture, I challenged myself with these two questions…
What is Jesus speaking to me lately? What is the “truth” that is right in front of my eyes that Jesus wants me to see and be obedient to?
Am I loving purely? If not, what does God still need to purify in me so that I can do this?
The last thought I have today to give you is a beautiful reminder, a blessing that comes from the next two verses (24-25),
For “All flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
and the flower falls,
25 but the word of the Lord endures forever.”
That word is the good news that was announced to you.
So, may you feel the foreverness of God’s love for you today and may it sustain you in the very center of your being and give you the strength to love others fully.
April 24, 2020
“Every breath, it is a gift
Every moment is a treasure
All my past and my regrets
My present and my future
Every table is a feast
Every heartbeat is an altar
Every step a mystery
But I'm walking with the author”
I heard the song All Praise for the first time at Passion Conference at the beginning of this year. Ever since then it has been a song that constantly helps me change my perspective in life. EVERYTHING is an opportunity for praise for our God, that is right every single thing we do. I’m not always good at holding onto this perspective. Sometimes I get down on myself or affected by what is going on around me. But this song brings me back to the mindset that I need, that everything is an opportunity for praise.
1 Corinthians 10:31 says this “So whatever you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” This shows me that God cares about every single thing that we do within our day. He cares about our simple activities like eating and drinking, and if He cares this much about us, we should aim to reciprocate that love with our actions.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” We are reminded again this these verses that we are to live with intentionality in everything. We are to give thanks in all circumstances. For some of us that might be difficult, because some circumstances are not good. But that is why our circumstances do not determine our faith. I think of Paul while he was writing the Philippians and the perspective he was able to have. Out of the dire circumstances of being locked up in a prison, in Philippians 1:21 he was able to say “for to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” He knew that living meant he was able to share the gospel, and dying meant he was able to meet the savior he was sharing about. So in all situations Paul praised God and preached the gospel. I hope you can be reminded that in every moment of life God is seeking you, He cares about you, and we should aim for all of our life to be praise to Him.
April 23, 2020
Have you ever been so confident about certain things, but later, you realized it was utterly foolish idea? I have.
At Acts chapter 8, we meet one more person who did the same. His name is Saul, the persecutor. (After Saul met Jesus in Damascus, he had instead used his Roman name, Paul) As a Jew, Saul was so proud of his heritage. He believed that persecuting Christians was a holy service for God to show his zealous devotion.
Acts 8:1 says, (Saul was one of the witnesses,) and he agreed completely with the killing of Stephen.
Stephen preached the gospel to the Jews. Saul was fully assured that Stephen conveyed the wrong truth. As you know Saul was an expert in the Mosaic Law. Yet, he was utterly a spiritual blind. It was him not seeing the truth at all so that it was him interfering with kingdom work.
Afterward, how much Paul the Apostle would have been grieved with his false conviction?
Is it only his story? No matter how much we aware of it or not, we do make the same mistakes, maybe much often!
Here is my confession:
Every Tuesday morning, we have a regular pastoral staff meeting. Two years ago, we had a long discussion for almost two hours about how to get ready for the online giving system.
Back then, to be honest with you, I didn't expect the online giving system is this much essential. I convinced myself it's enough to collect offerings during services or send a check to the church office if needed. So, I didn’t like the discussion was getting long.
Who knew we are not able to meet at the church building to worship together? Now I realized that it was a critical meeting, so I appreciate the efforts of all staff, including Pastor Mark and Amy.
What I want to address here is that….
Our convictions could be not quite right. Therefore, we need a process to refine our assumptions through the gospel. Otherwise, the false convictions may cause us to stumble.
How about examining yourself if you are so sure about something, in your opinion. Do you often state with "I am so confident you should've done……," "I told you it must be A and B……," or "I am sure it will turn out this way……?"
We are living in a world where we can't see what's happening tomorrow. How about putting down our own convictions coming from uncertainty, stress, and fear? Instead, let us regain humility, kneel to God, and ask his guidance.
Remember! In many cases, we don't actually know what we think we know. It proves why we should put our trust in God, who knows everything and leads every single step of his trusting children.
Proverbs ch 3:5 “Turst in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding
Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take”
Pastor Jungmo Koo
April 22, 2020
I went for a walk today and it reminded me about the story of the Road to Emmaus in Luke 24. For those who don’t know, the story is about two people walking towards Emmaus just after Easter. So, Jesus had been crucified, died, was buried, and then the tomb was empty. But for many, there was a lot of confusion. So, for these two people, there were some heavy emotions. They were probably so confused, maybe scared; they just had their whole world turned upside down. They were following a man, whom they thought was the Messiah, the Chosen One; the one whom they were waiting for. But then he died. There is so much confusion. What had happened?
So many questions.
Well, along came this stranger who walked up beside them and talked to them about the things they were experiencing, and he gave them a new understanding of their situation. So these two people welcomed Jesus along on their journey with them. They didn’t want this stranger to go! So they walked together. Then they invited this person to come to their home. And finally they shared a meal together.
You see, there was this beautiful three-part progression that happened:
They walked with him.
They invited him in.
They dined together.
It’s a deepening of a relationship in a new way.
It reminds me of our own journey with Christ.
an invitation to come in,
And then a more intimate level of eating together.
So there is a progression of relationship in a new way.
It starts by hearing the Good News. Maybe from a friend, a neighbor, an online service, and then we decide to walk with Jesus (We walk together with Jesus). Then that moves into something deeper. We invite Jesus inside of our hearts. That, in turn makes a bit more attuned to who Jesus is (We invite Jesus in).
But then something special happens. When we finally give ourselves fully over to Jesus, we understand God in a whole new way (We dine with Jesus).
Remember! Those two people didn’t even know it was Jesus, until they broke bread together! Until they dined together.
Until they spent honest, intimate time with him.
When we share intimate time with Jesus, that’s when our eyes are open to who Jesus truly is, and to what following God is really all about.
So this week,
will you walk with Jesus?
will you invite him in?
will you break bread with him, and go deeper in your relationship like never before?
Have a great day!
April 21, 2020
I’ve always wished I was a better “journal-er”… I just love going back and reading things that I wrote in the past because it jogs my memory and reminds me of people or events that I’d forgotten about. I have a terrible memory! Just ask my parents…I mean sometimes my mom will start talking about something that happened when I was young - or maybe even in high school or college - and she’ll say, “You remember when we did - - this or that” or “Remember how we used to….”…and I’ve got nothing.
In fact, she said recently, “Wow, I feel like we sure worked hard to be sure doing all kinds of things together as a family so that you’d grow up with all kinds of great memories - - but if anyone ever asked you, you’d never know it!” In fact, sometimes I think that I’m not sure if what I ‘remember’ I actually DO remember, or if I just happened to have picture of that event and THAT’S what has actually jogged my memory! I’ve tried many times over the years to reassure her that though I can’t really ‘remember’ lots of details - - I can say that I have a great “overall impression of a wonderful childhood!!”
In mid-March, when we were first ordered to “social distance”, I read a tweet from one of my favorite Bible teachers and she said, “I don’t know how many of you journal but if you’re even remotely inclined toward the basics like jotting down a date with a few sentences alongside it, this could be an immensely meaningful practice thru this crisis. It’s therapeutic to process with words & it’s gold years later.” And I wholeheartedly agreed! I even pulled out a blank spiral notebook and started - - but a few days in - I, uh, forgot that I was gonna journal.
But some things jog my memory in an instant. Like a neon orange 3x5 card that I pulled out of an old Bible this morning from one of my dearest friends… I had written the date on the back - but that isn’t what brought to life the memory. Just the sight of the card jogged my memory and I was able to put myself back into that time when I was in a really hard and dark season in my life several years ago.
My friend, Holly, had written on that card the opening verses of Psalm 40:
1 I waited patiently for the LORD to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. 2 He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. 3 He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be astounded. They will put their trust in the LORD.
4 Oh, the joys of those who trust the LORD, who have no confidence in the proud or in those who worship idols. 5 O LORD my God, you have performed many wonders for us. Your plans for us are too numerous to list. You have no equal. If I tried to recite all your wonderful deeds, I would never come to the end of them[!]
Today, I was reminded of God’s gracious protection, provision, intervention, comfort and so much more - in the past. He has lifted me out of ‘the pit of despair’ and I DO have a new song to sing….hopefully you’ll sing this with me on Sunday, as well: You have no rival! You have no equal! Yours is the Name above all Names!
Maybe this is a good time for you to grab a 3x5 card and just jot down the date: April 21, 2020 - and then list a few words or phrases about your concerns, your ‘pit of despair’ and also about what you’ve seen God do over the last 6 weeks or so. Tuck it away somewhere where you’ll find it maybe 9 or 10 years from now and you, too, will be astounded to see what He’s done in and through and for you so far in 2020 and perhaps because of your testimony, many around you will put their trust in Him!
Remember, God has done and is doing tremendous things for His children and He won’t stop now!
Until we sing together again in person,
April 20, 2020
Welcome to Resurrection Day plus 1 week.
In my last devotional I posed the question for us to think about: Now that Jesus is alive, how does that change me; the way I think, see myself, others and of course, God. Revelation 21:5 says “Behold, I am making everything new”. What’s supposed to be new and different? Last week, I talked about two things that have changed because Jesus is alive; our connection with God. He’s now our loving father. And forgiveness. We live in forgiveness and we’re free to forgive others because of Jesus.
What else is new and different on this side of the resurrection? How we grieve is different.
In an email I received this week was this quote from an article by Scott Berinato entitled: “The Discomfort Your Feeling Is Grief.” He writes: Everyone will have different levels of fear and grief and it manifests in different ways. A coworker got very snippy with me the other day and I thought, that’s not like this person; that’s how they’re dealing with this. I’m seeing their fear and anxiety. So be patient. Think about who someone usually is and not who they seem to be in this moment.”
Is the discomfort you’re feeling grief?
I Thessalonians 4:13 says “We do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.” The Apostle Paul makes it clear that grief is a part of being human, but because Jesus is alive, our grief is always clothed in the reality of hope.
Hope that we’re not alone. Hope that God “causes everything to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to his purpose for them.” Hope that you will patiently endure and get to the other side.
Are you grieving what’s been lost the last few weeks? It’s okay to grieve, but grieve in hope. You’ll get through this. Life will return to normal. In the meantime, look for ways that you’re seeing God show up in your life.
Be filled with hope today!
April 19, 2020
· What does it look like to “accept one another” in this season of social distancing and isolation?
· How can you still show love in creative ways?
· What’s it look like to accept each other in your home…when you’re home…all the time?
· Who is different than you that you could reach out to?
April 18, 2020
I wanted to ask you today; what brings you joy and peace in this time of “fear”? Individuals and communities right now are sort of in a state of “fear”. For some, being afraid makes them more alert and ready for the next attack. For some being afraid makes them retreat and hide.
I was reading in John 20, and I noticed the disciples were retreating as part of their fear response after Jesus’ death. They were hiding, pulled away from all Jewish festivities out of fear for their lives.
And then Jesus meets them where they were, in their pain and fear. The risen savior greets them in peace. Their joy comes when they have seen his wounds and they now recognize who he is. And then Jesus says to them, (John 20:21-23) “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
A couple of things I’m super interested in today, in reading this passage – have you though like I have, that maybe in some ways before we couldn’t gather together in person, we were retreating into the building on Sundays, rather than actively going or being sent? I noticed how Jesus doesn’t breathe life into a building, but into the people.
The word used for breathe here (emphysao) is the same word used in the Greek Old Testament to describe God's action when he formed man from the dust of the ground and "breathed into his face the breath of life". So, first I urge you in this time of uncertainty and fear, stop holding your breath and let Jesus breathe new life into you.
The second thing I’m interested in is the first “commandment” given to them, after they receive the Spirit was (John 20:23) “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” Can we ponder that for a moment…? The first thing Jesus says is that they need to seek their hearts and basically distinguish who were in the gall of bitterness, and who were not.
So, two things today - how have you been breathed upon by the Holy Spirit? And the second part is that I pray a prayer of detachment for you – that this be a time where the Holy Spirit’s discerning breath you are able to see what still needs to die in order for there to be new life. And it seems clear that if we harbor things like bitterness, anger, resentment deep in our soul, the question becomes how can we bring the good news and Light of Jesus in the world, if that part of us is dying?
So, may you feel awakened to God’s mission today and comforted in this time of uncertainty. Be blessed.
April 17, 2020
Matthew 14:22-33 “Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
In this story Peter’s focus determines his capabilities. When Peter is focused on Jesus he is capable of walking on water! But as soon as his eyes start to wander and look at the surrounding storm, he starts to sink. He goes from being capable of doing the impossible through Jesus, to calling out to him in help.
I can definitely relate to that in the time we are in. There are times when my focus is solely on Jesus. Where my eyes do not wander but only look on our God who saved us. But then there are other times, where my eyes wander and keeping focus on Jesus. Sometimes I watch the news a little too much, sometimes I read one too many articles, and suddenly my focus has gone from the Savior to the storm. In those moments I feel weak, I feel like the weight of this time is heavier than it actually is. So during this time I aim to keep my focus on Jesus. I try to fix my eyes on Him and live my life with renewed capabilities knowing he directs my steps. I know that Jesus can calm the storm the surrounds me, or he can call me to walk on the water in the midst of the storm!
Hebrews 12:2 “fix our eyes on Jesus, faith’s pioneer and perfecter. He endured the cross, ignoring the shame, for the sake of the joy that was laid out in front of him, and sat down at the right side of God’s throne.” This verse reminds me of the who, the what, and the why of my life. The who is Jesus, the what is to fix my eyes, and the why is because he is faith’s pioneer and perfecter who endured the cross and ignored the shame for our joy. If you need a reminder this week of where our eyes should remain, I hope this story and this verse serves as confirmation. Jesus is worthy of our focus at all times, and when we do so, we are capable of amazing things!
April 16, 2020
My son Ian, now seven years old, has been afraid of riding bicycles. He might have been envious of seeing his older sister riding on a bike, but he refused to try bike riding.
Recently, I've been spending more time with my children. Last Monday, I promised that I would never NEVER let you go, and eventually, Ian trusted me and he was on the bike. It was not an easy job for me to hold Ian's bike and run so that Ian wouldn't fall. About 15 minutes after trying so hard, I secretly released the bike. Of course, I continued to run from his side.
At first, for 2 seconds, but then 5, and 10 seconds, finally, Ian left my side, riding a bicycle on his own! As a parent, I was so excited about watching him go forward! Go Ian, Go!
Both Ian and I were so happy! I see that full of excitement flooded on his face, and he didn't even care to fall again and again.
In a spiritual world, the same principle applies. Our Father, God wants us to grow further. Our growth brings great joy to ourselves but also brings indescribable joy to our God the Father watching it.
After Jesus' resurrection, he spent 40 days with his disciples on earth. Before Jesus ascended to heaven, his disciples asked at the Act, chapter 1, "Lord, has the time come FOR YOU(Jesus) to free Israel and restore our Kingdome? (v.6)"
They still expected Jesus was doing something for them.
Contrary to their expectations, Jesus answered, "You, Disciples will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon You. And You (Disciples) will be my witness, telling people about me everywhere-in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria and to the ends of the earth."
Likewise, Jesus told his disciples that you should be grown and mature, it is not me, it will be you to RESTORE the kingdom of God that was destroyed by sin through the Holy Spirit that God will send.
Remember when Jesus was taken up into the heaven, he left the disciples on the earth as I let Ian’s bike to go further.
This global COVID-19 pandemic is a crisis we've never experienced in the past. However, Let me carefully address you: a crisis is an opportunity to grow for you and me. I think it's time to stand firm independently. It's time to self-guide ourselves depending on the Holy Spirit.
Carve out a time and a space to read through God's Word and to pray for yourself & others. It's time to digest some solid food. It's time for spiritual growth.
Before being overwhelmed by what to do each day, instead, be attentive to listen to his voice.
This is Today's point
1. Put down your expectations
2. Receive the Holy Spirit (with open arms to Jesus)
3. Restore your personal time with the Lord so that you will grow in him to restore the broken World, as Jesus commanded.
Can you guess when I was so delighted most when I helped Ian to ride a bike? If you are parents, you will completely agree with this. Although he kept falling from a bike, he did not give up, and he got up again and again.. that was the irreplaceable moment to make me delightful. I think our heavenly Father is the same too!
Pastor Jungmo Koo
April 15, 2020
During this time of social distancing, we often find ourselves confined to our homes.
There are days we don't even go outside!
What I love is, that feeling when you've gone outside for the first time all day (or all week!).
It feels so... freeing, doesn't it?
It feels so... refreshing.
There is a new sense of hope, like you can breath again.
That's a little bit like what Easter is all about!
Holy Week was a week focusing on the events leading up to Jesus' death and resurrection. There was Jesus betrayal, arrest, death, and burial. It was a dark week of contemplation, especially during this time of being away from one another.
Then Jesus rose from the dead!
Jesus is ALIVE!!
This week says goodbye to the darkness of Holy Week, and hello to the excitement and hope of Easter Week!
It's like walking outside for the first time! So freeing and refreshing!
Jesus brings a new hope!
1 Peter 1:3 says, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ"
This week, we have the chance to emerge into a new hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Easter is all about newness.
How can you embrace this new hope, in new ways, today?
April 14, 2020
One of my favorite Scripture passages is Ephesians 3:12-20. It is a passage that Paul wrote while he was in prison. He was writing to people that he deeply loved and cared about. This morning, I woke up with this Scripture on my mind. I think it’s because in these days when I’ve been home more and just casually chatting with my family and neighbors - this passage is one that I keep going back to as I pray for myself, my family and others.
God is undoubtedly calling those who know Him, to seek Him these days and to intercede for those around us who both know and DON’T know Him. Paul reminds us that as God’s children, we can boldly and fearlessly come into God’s presence to just speak our minds.
So try this today - pray these words to the Father for yourself or someone you know who desperately needs to feel and understand the extravagantly lavish love of God…
“When I think of the wisdom and scope of [God’s] plan, I fall down on my knees and pray to the Father….that out of His glorious, unlimited resources…
... He will give [Don} the mighty inner strengthening of his Holy Spirit. And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in [Don’s} heart, living within [him] as he trusts in him. May [his] roots go deep down into the soil of God’s marvelous love; and may [he] be able to feel and understand, as all God’s children should, how long, how wide, how deep, and how high his love really is; and to experience this love for [himself], thought it is so great that [he’ll] never see the end of it or fully understand it! And so at the last, he will be filled up with God himself.
Now glory be to God, who by his mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of - INFINITELY BEYOND our highest prayers, desires, thoughts or hopes.”
Until we sing together in person again,
April 13, 2020
A New Normal
Hey Immanuel. Welcome to resurrection day plus one. Holly and I hope your Zoom Easter dinners were filled with making wonderful, new memories. We ate lunch together through Zoom with our daughters and their families and my sister and her husband. It was different but kind of fun, too. The next best thing to being there.
Zoom chats are just one of the ways we’re adjusting to our new normal. If you’re like me I’m still adjusting. There are some things I like and some things I don’t. I’m working from my basement and I never realized how loud our washing machine is. It’s driving me crazy. Holly and I are enjoying eating lunch and dinner together but truthfully we aren’t used to spending so much time together. We’ve had our share of tense moments over the last few weeks.
I can’t help but wonder about the new normal the disciples must have been dealing with after Jesus’ resurrection. Matthew 28:17 gives us some insight. Scripture says: “When they saw him, they worshiped him—but some of them doubted!” I take that to mean the disciples were having a hard time processing that it was really Jesus in the flesh and if it was him, what did that mean… for them, for Israel and for all of humanity.
That’s the central question isn’t it—“What does it mean that Jesus is alive?” “What is the new normal supposed to be for you and me?” How does the resurrection change the way I think, see myself and relate to others?” Revelation 21:5 says “Behold, I am making everything new”. What’s new and different?
Today and for the next few devotionals that I share, I want to talk about our new normal—what’s different or should be different because of Jesus’ being alive.
The first thing that’s changed is our relationship with God. John 20:17; the words of Jesus at the tomb when talking to Mary Magdalene. “Go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your father, to my God and your God’”. Did you catch that? My father and YOUR father; my God and YOUR God.
For some people God is a remote figure, an intellectual idea. But the bible says our sin separated us from God. Jesus restored our broken relationship with God and made Him touchable and real. He’s our father who isn’t mad at us, he loves us; who isn’t against us; he’s for us. Because of Jesus, we now enjoy the favor of God.
Our understanding of forgiveness has changed, too. On one occasion, Peter asked Jesus “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” I imagine Peter feeling generous when he said that. Peter was a ledger keeper. I’ll forgive you 7 times but the 8th time. Forget about it.
After his resurrection, Jesus turned forgiveness upside down. On one occasion, he told the disciples to meet him in the Galilee area. It was there, he and Peter took a stroll along the beach and Jesus asked Peter three times, one each for his denials, “Do you love me”? Jesus used that opportunity to forgive Peter and recommission him by saying “Feed my sheep”. Jesus didn’t throw Peter away because of his betrayal. And we shouldn’t either with the people in our lives that have hurt us. Our default setting is forgiveness because it was Jesus’ default setting.
The challenge this morning for you is to enjoy your new normal because of Jesus: God isn’t to be feared and kept a safe distance away; he’s your friend and he’s for you.
And you’ve been forgiven of everything wrong you’ve ever done. Live in that forgiveness. Because of that, forgive everyone who has disappointed and hurt you.
That’s your new normal!
April 12, 2020
Questions for discussion with your family around the Easter dinner table
1. What’s the biggest struggle you’re having because your schedule has been disrupted?
2. Which of the three reasons to hope was most meaningful to you? Why?
3. What are some ways you can please Christ and fulfill God’s good purposes for you this week?
April 11, 2020
Many of us have a hard time being in the in-between, where you are between two things. That place where you know something is coming, but it hasn’t started yet. I think, no matter how you are wired, here are reasons why the place of the “in-between” is so challenging; you are stuck anticipating, which takes painstaking effort to stay patient, and it can cause restlessness, confusion, and frustration.
I was reading Matthew 27:59-28:1, and I was reminded of how painful it was for Jesus’ followers to be in the in-between. This passage takes place just after Jesus died on the cross. Joseph has taken Jesus’ body, wrapped it in a clean cloth and laid it in a new tomb. After this I found it interesting that Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.
The women were just sitting there. The person they had so passionately followed and spent time with was now gone. It is finished – they saw him die on the Cross, his body was prepared and wrapped and laid in the tomb. They can’t experience him or dine with him again and yet they can’t start living in the promise of what is to come because it isn’t here yet.
On this day – Saturday, we are stuck in the in-between; we are between Good Friday and Easter. Spiritually, as Christ followers, we experience the tension of being the in-between, not just on this day. We are living in a broken world and yet within us is the promise and actuality of new life, of saving grace. The Kingdom was ushered in by Jesus, but it also has not yet fully come. The in-between.
In the world, right now, in this pandemic, we are also living in the in between. We are in the place where death seems so evident, all around us, everywhere we look. Yet we read that day we will be able to see each other again, we read that there will be a vaccine soon, that maybe even we will told there is a test that we can find out if we already had the sickness so we can enter into the world again. The in-between.
So, how does one live well in the in-between? How do we show up fully in this period of waiting? Especially in the in-between, we must have firm faith and be anchored in the Savior’s love. The women at the tomb who sat there had firm faith. I picture them saying; “We know Jesus is coming.” In the in-between will be tempted to waver, to fall apart, to question, to give up, to become skeptical, but Jesus calls us to have firm faith… to not be afraid, to be anchored in the one who said “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you (John 14:18). Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid (John 14:27). You see, Jesus is the good news, and in the in-between, we are not to forget that.
So, friends, as I reflect on the last verse we first read in Matthew 28:1, “After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb” Purposefully I want to end there, in that space of anticipation. As you are invited to the empty tomb on Easter, may it remind you to have firm faith as you wait in the here and now and to be anchored in His love. Because, even if you can’t see it now, there will be a time where you will be invited to enter the space of new life again and hope that the resurrection brings. You will be invited not to be afraid to see where Jesus lay. And when you meet Him, the Risen savior, you can give him your fears, your concerns, and your tears.
Be you be blessed in the in-between.
April 10, 2020
Perspective on Good Friday
Why is today Good Friday? I have often thought about that. After all we are celebrating the death of Jesus, what about that is good? I’m sure on this day when Jesus was being crucified it did not seem like a Good Friday. I can’t imagine the struggle of the family and friends of Jesus, as they saw him dying the death He did not deserve to die. For them, this surely was not a good Friday. But we do not call it Good Friday because of what happened then, it becomes Good Friday because of what Jesus did on Sunday.
There are times in our lives, when our perspective is skewed by the moment we are in. We do not see the full picture because we are only living in one segment of it. The people that surrounded Jesus on Good Friday had no idea it would one day be Good Friday, only God knew that. The plans He had, greatly outweighed what the people saw in their short-sighted segment of the big picture.
Maybe you feel the same today as the people who surrounded Jesus then. Maybe you look around today and you don’t see anything good. You are surrounded by negativity, death, sickness, fear, or so many other things that can bring you down. I pray that we can obtain perspective today. A perspective that says even though we may not see what God is doing, He is working! I believe it is often when we see God the least that He is actually working the most. Between today and Sunday there was no sign of Jesus until He walked out of that tomb. But what God was actually doing in those three days, impacts us for eternity.
So know that even in the worst moments of your life, God can see blessing and victory. The day that was surely the worst for Jesus and those who were closest to him, is now seen as Good Friday. Maybe what you are going through now seems bad, but will one day be viewed as good. Well I have good news! That’s exactly what our God does. He turns mourning into dancing, he turns seas into highways, he turns graves into gardens, and he turns death into life! The death of Jesus, means everlasting life for us.
Praise God for Good Friday!
April 9, 2020
In Matthew chapter 26, after the Passover meal, Jesus told his disciples, “Tonight all of you will desert me.”
Peter insisted, “No, even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you!” And all the other disciples vowed the same.
Jesus already knew that Judas Iscariot would betray Him and that the other disciples would also desert Him. However, it seemed impossible to them that they could ever abandon Jesus.
We could assume that Peter meant it. His firm decision and conviction was not a lie at all. Remember, Peter gave up everything in order to follow Jesus.
What would be your answer if Jesus was telling you, one of his 21st-century disciples, the same thing: “I will tell you the truth, today, all of you will desert me.”
Are you confident that you would never leave him alone? Would you willfully do your best not to desert him?
Today, instead of confidently exclaiming like Peter, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you!”, how about praying this prayer to our Lord, Jesus Christ?
“Lord, I am too weak to keep my heart toward you if I depend on my own will and effort. The enemy of my soul is ceaselessly attacking my heart and trying to convince me to switch You with other idols such as money and success, or security.
Lord, please help me. I admit my weaknesses, but at the same time, I praise your greatness. I leave my burdens on You! Please protect me and my family. Let us not abandon You. Only with your help is this possible, Amen!”
Pastor Jungmo Koo
April 8, 2020
The other day we had a visitor come to our home.
They happened to be passing by and thought it would be nice to stop by to say hi.
WHAT A TREAT!
But, I felt bad that we couldn’t invite them in for a coffee or tea.
You know, sit down and just enjoy each others company a bit.
Ah… the good ol’ days!
We now live in a time when we have to have our doors closed.
When we have to keep a barrier between US and THEM!
This is Holy Week and there’s a character in the Bible story that reminded me of a closed door.
So take a minute with me and think about Judas.
Judas was one of the 12 disciples.
He was a close friend of Jesus.
He was trusted enough by the group to handle all the funds.
This guy had a front row seat for everything amazing that Jesus did!
But I’m left with a question…
Why did Judas do what he did?
I’ve thought a lot about it and I think it comes down to one simple thing:
Judas shut Jesus out of his heart.
Judas shut the door of his heart to keep out the Good News being offered to him.
He made a choice, and he chose to close the door.
In a time in our lives when we need to keep the physical doors of our houses closed, it doesn’t mean we should close our hearts to Jesus or to other people.
What does it look like like to open your heart to others?
Well, I’ve seen our community come together like never before these past few weeks.
Calling and texting and emailing one another.
Small groups are finding ways to meet virtually online.
Everyone is doing everything they can to reach out to others.
This is a bit unusual.
It doesn’t always work like that, does it.
I feel like for so many years, many of us got into rhythms of closing the doors of our hearts to others, but now we’re beginning to open them in new ways.
So this season, let’s open the doors of our hearts to Jesus and others more and more, and see what happens.
I think God will do something special!
April 7, 2020
Scripture Reading: Genesis 50:20 (NCV)
"You meant to hurt me, but God turned your evil into good to save the lives of many people, which is being done."
Palm Sunday was the beginning of what the church has historically referred to as ‘Holy Week.’ Though it’s sometimes hard to follow the chronology of events in the Bible, this is one week where the ‘order of events’ is pretty easy to see. In fact, each year I typically like to spend my devotional time in the gospels reading through the various accounts of the events that transpired during this - the final week of Jesus’ human life here on earth. For the last several years, I also find myself watching the “The Passion of the Christ” on Good Friday which overwhelms me every time….
If you haven’t done this before, you may want to try reading through a different Gospel account each day for the rest of this week:
Matthew chapters 21-28
Mark chapters 11-16
Luke chapters 19-23
John chapters 13-20
Each Gospel writer emphasizes different events, people, emotional responses from people or from Jesus. I can’t help but take note of which events cause the crowds or disciples - or Jesus - to respond with deep and powerful emotions! The responses swing wildly from exuberant praise to anger, tears or fear or anguish to tender compassion, back to exhaustion, rage and despair to surprise and joy as the week unfolds. What a week….an emotional rollercoaster for sure!
These days, though - whether it’s as I’m thinking about the events that happened during the first Holy Week over 2,000 years ago, or what’s unfolding right before our eyes in 2020, there’s a passage of Scripture that just won’t leave my mind. In the Old Testament in Genesis 50:20, Joseph - the son of Jacob, the grandson of Isaac and great grandson of Abraham…said these words to his brothers who had literally tried to kill him as a young boy:
“Don’t be afraid. Can I do what only GOD can do? You meant to hurt me, but God turned your evil into good to save the lives of many people, which is being done.”
As we travel these days leading us into Easter - I’m sure you, too, are experiencing a rollercoaster of emotions. But just as in the Old Testament, when God turned the evil intentions of Joseph’s brothers into something that brought good to the people of Israel, and just like in the New Testament, as we watch during Holy Week - God at work bringing about good and our ultimate salvation from what looked so evil as people tried to kill Jesus - I’m convinced that God will bring good out of what seems so bad right now.
The deep emotion of Jesus wasn’t just expressed in the midst of the Holy Week accounts recorded in the gospels, the deep love of the Father is expressed toward US right here, right now. How Deep the Father’s Love for Us…
Until we sing together in person again…
April 6, 2020
Like most of us, I’m used to a routine. I get up the same time every day, have my devotions, go to the gym and then head off to church.
But COVID 19 has completely disrupted that routine. Take exercise. I go to Planet Fitness and work out on the same machine for an hour every day (at least I used to).
For the last 2 weeks, I’ve been exercising in my basement on a Nordic Track Ski machine I picked up at a thrift store for $25. The first time I used it, I had to get off after 15 minutes because I was out of breath. FIFTEEN MINUTES. What’s up with that? The next morning I was sore. Not just a little. A lot. But everyday I’ve been working at it, extending my time a little bit more. I’m getting the hang of it. And I’m not as sore as I used to be.
This sounds selfish, doesn’t it? We are in the middle of a national crisis and people are dying and I’m talking about my exercise routine being disrupted.
But it does raise a valid point. We’re all feeling disoriented which means we’re feeling some pain because we’re using new muscles: working from home, not being with extended family, wearing gloves to the grocery store, missing our favorite restaurants has forced us to stretch our patience, be creative with children and create new habits.
But most of all, we’re being slowed down. As I’ve been spending more time with the Lord, I’ve been aware of an underlying restlessness. I’m going through withdrawal symptoms from busyness and my routine and it doesn’t feel good. But I also sense something else. A gentle wooing from God to be more reflective and spend more time in his presence with no agenda. Just being with him. No books, podcasts, nothing.
Psalm 46 begins with “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea.”
When times are disorienting (e.g. earthquakes and mountains crumbling, pandemics), God is our refuge and strength. But HOW do we FEEL God as our refuge and strength? The answer is found near the end of the Psalm. “Be still and know that I am God.”
God has put a full stop on our normal activities. During this time be the church by caring for others. But it’s also a time to be still before the Lord—to hear his voice more clearly because the busyness is gone.
April 5, 2020
Jesus fulfills our greatest longings
Why should Palm Sunday matter to you?
Three life truths:
1. God is faithful to send help when you need it the most. “Go into that village over there”, he told them. “As you enter it, you will see a young donkey tied there that no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here.” Luke 19:30
5 stages of grief
What stage of grief are you on?
How can Jesus help you process your grief?
“The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?” Hebrews 13:6
2. God’s answers to our prayers are often bigger and better than our expectations. “But some of the Pharisees among the crowd said, ‘Teacher, rebuke your followers for saying things like that!’ He replied, ‘If they kept quiet, even the stones along the road would burst into cheers!” Luke 19:39-41
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” I Corinthian 2:9
3. God provides the solution to our biggest problem. “Then Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the people selling animals for sacrifices. He said to them, ‘The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be a house of prayer’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves.” Luke 19:45-46
“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23
Discussion questions with your family or small group
1. What is one need you have right now that the Lord could help you with?
2. How has God helped you in the past and how can that encourage you while you’re waiting for his help now?
3. Describe a time when you prayed for something and God answered it a completely different way? A bigger and better way?
4. Describe what it felt like when you knew your sins had been forgiven
April 4, 2020
Rest For Our Souls
In this forced time of pulling back, slowing down, stopping, it’s left me wondering, what is the difference between doing less and our souls truly being at rest?
Jesus said: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30).”
So it seems finding true rest comes from spending time with Jesus. Jesus says, “Come to me”. Apparently rest for our souls doesn’t come from reading more Coronavirus news articles. I’m speaking to myself right now, as I’ve tricked myself into thinking the more information I have, the more comforted I am by the illusion that I am in control. “Come to me”, Jesus said. Let me comfort you. Come away from watching Netflix (also guilty of) and spend time with me, so I can give you rest.
Secondly, true rest is to learn from Jesus by taking His yoke upon us. What is a yoke? The yoke is the thing that is put on two oxen, usually so the older oxen can train the younger oxen. It unites them, and allows the older oxen to guide the younger one. So, true rest comes by being synced up with Jesus, learning His ways, His rhythms, and letting Jesus guide us.
“For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:8).” To take a real Sabbath is to recognize that Jesus’ gentle and humble Spirit is what we need now and that it transforms us, not by being passive, but by being active – by walking with Jesus, by giving Him all of who we are, by leaning in, by being present, by surrendering, and making space to have the fullness of Christ in us.
During this pandemic, let’s make Christ Lord of our Sabbath. Only then will we find true rest for our souls.
April 3, 2020
Unashamed With a Heart Wide Open
I love worship. When I say that most of you will think I’m talking about music, which I do love. But above all I love worship. Worship to me is taking what the Lord has given me and sending it right back to Him with praise. We can worship through anything we do, as a matter of fact that is exactly what we’re called to do. Matthew 22:36 says “Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” We worship the things that we love. If we truly love things other people should know about.
I’ve never been a person who struggles with passion. I have passion for many things in my life and people know about it. If you were to ask someone who I am and what I enjoy, most people would be able to answer pretty easily. And that is because I am not afraid of the things I am passion about. I love enjoying the things I am passionate about, I love talking about them, I love posting about them on social media. My heart holds no secrets, it is often easily found on my sleeve. So is the same true for our love of Jesus?
I know we love to share our political opinions, sports opinions, music choices, thoughts on the weather, and all this other seemingly useless stuff. But do others know our heart for Jesus? Can others see the passion we have for the king of kings? I pray this week that we live out the lyrics found in Heart Wide Open by Mack Brock, that say “So I'm gonna worship, with my heart wide open, I don't wanna miss a thing, 'cause You take what was broken and make it new I'm gonna trust You with my heart, with my heart wide open.” With a heart wide open, meaning withholding nothing. I pray this week that we take the stance of Paul in Romans 1:16 which says “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.”
So this week worship with your heart wide open, and do it unashamed for others to see. As much as the world needs a vaccine for this physical sickness right now, it more desperately needs a vaccine for the spiritual sickness that so many are experiencing. We have it within our grasp to share, so let’s do it!
April 2, 2020
Yesterday, I told my oldest, "I love you, Saeah!" more than other typical days because it was a special day for her. It was her 10th birthday. (Double-digits, already?)
Yun and I usually try to use the Korean language at home to make sure my children don't forget the Korean heritage. However, interestingly, I observed myself spoken: "I love you!" ONLY in English instead of Korean. I've lived in Korea three-fourth of my life and one-fourth in America, then how come I feel much more comfortable to say "I love you!" in English? The reason is surprisingly simple: I've heard the words "I love you!" much often in America, especially at Immanuel Church.
I've been loved. It's been expressed to me in words often.
In the book of Judges chapter 6, there is a scene where God calls Gideon as a judge of Israel. When Gideon first met God, he asked the following question.
"If the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? And where are all the miracles our ancestors told us about? Didn't they say, 'The LORD brought us up out of Egypt'? But now the LORD has abandoned us and handed us over to the Midianites." (Judges 6:13)
Gideon, from his parents and grandfather's generation, has intellectually heard the wonderful things God has done for the Israelites but has not yet personally experienced God's love for the Israelites.
Rather than God giving a logical and intellectual answer to prove His power, God banished his doubts by giving opportunities to Gideon himself to experience God's love and power, written in Judges 6 and 7. Gideon was right there to witness that God greatly defeated 10,000 Midian enemies only with the three hundred men.
It's awesome to inherit Christian faith from our parents, but there is nothing better than our own experience of God in reality. Thus, the Apostle Paul prayed this for the church members of Ephesus.
May you EXPERIENCE the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be MADE COMPLETE with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. (Ephesians 3:19)
At this challenging time, we may stand at the same place where Gideon first questioned God. "Are you here, Lord? Are you all-powerful? Are you helping us?"
My prayer for you is…….
God, let us tangibly experience your power and love! Help us banish any doubts that we've been having! Save us, protect us, and meet our needs! Please lead us to stand strong as God's warrior as Gideon and his three hundred men! Amen!
Pastor Jungmo Koo
April 1, 2020
In this life we are bombarded with so many things. We live in a culture of distraction, where distraction itself is even monetized. Everyone and everything seems to be yelling, “LOOK AT ME!”
So, let’s ask ourselves a few questions:
To where do my eyes fall?
To what are my ears attuned?
For what does my heart yearn?
Throughout my day, is God where my life is pointing?
Or are we seeking wholeness from the broken things of this world?
Are we trusting in the things of this world to get us through the life God has called us to live?
17:5 Thus says the LORD: Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals and make mere flesh their strength, whose hearts turn away from the LORD.
17:6 They shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when relief comes. They shall live in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land.
17:7 Blessed are those who trust in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD.
17:8 They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit.
Today, this day, let us turn our eyes and ears and hearts to God, our water and our life. Let us put our trust in the Lord. It's from there that relief will come. It's through God's gracious love that we will find wholeness in this broken world. Let's give up looking to the world, and remember to look to the Creator who loves us, knows us, and cares so deeply for us; the Children of the King. Let us not diminish ourselves into trash to be discarded. Let us, instead, embrace the life we are called to; a life holding hands, and walking step by step with God.
March 31, 2020
Scripture Reading: Ezekiel 27:28-31 (TLB)
“‘The surrounding cities quake at the sound as your pilots scream with fright. All your sailors out at sea come to land and watch upon the mainland shore, weeping bitterly and casting dust upon their heads and wallowing in ashes. They shave their heads in grief, put on sackcloth, and weep for you with bitterness of heart and deep mourning.”
I didn’t sleep well last night. Normally, I can literally be falling asleep before my head hits the pillow. But not last night.
Maybe it’s because the season of Lent is a reflective one and before I’d ever even heard of Covid-19, I was honestly asking the Lord to slow me down and reveal to me things about myself and life in general that I’ve been too pre-occupied or too rushed to reflect on. And He’s been faithful to do that…
Maybe it’s because I can’t help but see ‘the silver lining’ in all things and so without intentional reflection, I move too quickly passed negative feelings, pain or grief and jump right to the lesson to be learned or the good that will eventually come despite the current sorrow. But I couldn’t jump that chasm last night…
Maybe it was because friends of mine had a loved one die yesterday as a result of this virus and resulting pain in my heart was so heavy…and death seemed so senseless…
The Scriptures remind us that in this world we WILL have sorrow and like the example in our Scripture Reading today - the godly can experience great grief - you know - the kind that comes with ugly, messy-faced crying. Yet we have a tendency to push back against negative feelings while God - in the midst is calling us to embrace them, learn some deep truths and become more fully human as we learn to experience a fuller, broader range of emotion that includes lament and sitting for a season in ashes…
Eugene Peterson in his book entitled, Leap Over A Wall: Earthly Spirituality for Everyday Christians reflects on pain in this way: