03 from our pastor
My dear sisters and brothers in Jesus Christ,
In his book, Christmas Is Not Your Birthday: Experience the Joy of Living and Giving Like Jesus, Mike Slaughter challenged me with the question, “Think about your family’s Christmas traditions. How many of them focus on your own comfort and pleasure? What new traditions can you plan that focus more on presence than presents?”
How do you let people experience Jesus’ presence as Christmas gifts for them? Christmas is one of the greatest opportunities to enjoy the privilege to be God’s answer to others’ prayers. Isn’t it exciting that you can be God’s answer to others’ prayers?
Slaughter says, “Christmas is the celebration of a miracle… A miracle is a unique event in the world that God does through people like you and me. That’s right – you are God’s miracle worker! You are God’s means to effect change in your world. God wants to birth a miracle through you.”
Yes, I am God’s miracle worker! I am thrilled by the opportunities to let God birth miracles through me. So I have decided to “give myself as a womb” for a Christmas miracle. My family and I will find a way to let God birth a Christmas miracle through us and will make it one of our family’s Christmas traditions. Would you join us in building this new family Christmas tradition?
I strongly believe that participating in God’s ministries at the Belfast United Methodist Church is a great way to start. God has already established various miracle-birthing opportunities in our community of faith. And God has fulfilled the spiritual and physical needs of the people through those ministries. One of them is Christmas Open Table Dinner. We will share foods and fellowship with our neighbors at the dinner on Christmas Day, December 25th at 1 pm. Let us fully enjoy the true meaning of Christmas as we let God birth miracles through us!
Jesus Christ is the reason for the season. And you are the reason for His birth! May God's steadfast love be with you and your family! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
With love in Christ,
Your Pastor Jinwoo
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
May God’s steadfast love continue to be with you!
What is your deal breaker when shopping? When buying shoes, I consider many things. I like unique designs. I appreciate those shoes made with reasonably good quality materials. Midsole and hill should offer good cushioning. Durability is also important. Price? Of course! That’s why I always buy shoes when they are both on clearance and available for extra discounts with coupons. And first and foremost, they have to be comfortable. Even if all other aspects of a pair of shoes meet my satisfaction, I don’t take them into my consideration at all if they are not comfortable. No turning back!
For me, Christian churches are pretty much like my shoe shopping principles in a sense. While I consider many things when shopping shoes, comfortableness is the most important deal breaker. Likewise, Christian churches have to have a deal breaking point which makes them Christian churches. I strongly believe a Christian church has to be a community of faith growing into Jesus Christ’s disciples who live out the life Jesus wants us to live so that we can experience for ourselves the truth which frees us. “If you stick with this, living out what I tell you, you are my disciples for sure. Then you will experience for yourselves the truth, and the truth will free you” (John 8:31b-32, New Living Translation). Individual Christian churches may have their own unique beauty. But, if they do not “stick with” living out what Jesus tells them, I don’t believe they are Christian churches. I admit that “living out what Jesus tells us” is a broad statement and it takes interpretations. Nonetheless, no matter how we take it, I believe as we live out what Jesus Christ tells us, we will experience for ourselves His power to free us from everything that is against God’s will.
This is the reason that we do Grape Vine Companion ministry. If you have already participated in it, thank you! If you have not, please join us in this wonderful ministry to bear witness to Jesus Christ. This is how. Choose one person to whom you would like to testify with your words and in your actions how good it is to have Jesus in your life. Choose one person who needs to know and experience Jesus’ steadfast love and great power. This person is your Grape Vine companion. And then, write down your name on the outside of a green card which you can find in the basket at the bulletin board with grape vine in the fellowship hall. And write down the initial of your companion inside the card. Then, put it on the bulletin board. You don’t have to let your companion know about this. You just start praying for her/him every day. When s/he needs somebody to talk to, you want to simply be with her/him and listen to her/him as Jesus would do in person. When s/he is in sorrow, you just hold her/his hands as Jesus would do. This is called bearing witness to Jesus Christ in action. Remember that witnessing to Jesus Christ begins with being and listening! And when you have opportunities, you tell your companion why it is so good to have Jesus in your life. You tell her/him how wonderful it is to accept and acknowledge Jesus Christ in your daily life. This is called witnessing with words. And then, as you see your companion gets growing into the faith in Jesus Christ, please share the good news with me, we will replace your green card with purple one. In this way, we will visually see the changes God makes in our companions’ lives. I strongly believe the Holy Spirit will let us experience those green grapes (our companions) will ripen and fall in love with Jesus Christ. Both our companions and we will slowly but gradually experience the power of Jesus Christ to free us! Don’t you want to jump in this wonderful ministry? The God who helped us to build our beautiful church building will empower us to build a wonderful community of Jesus’ disciples sharing God’s love with all. Amen!
In the culture in which I was born and raised, when giving someone shoes as a gift, people bless her/ him, saying, “May these shoes bring you to great places!” May your shoes bring you to wonderful places! May the Holy Spirit continue to “melt us, mold us, fill us, and use us” so that we may “bring” all the people closer to the kingdom of God where God’s will is being done, and all experience liberation! And I imagine, with my sisters and brothers, I will walk in there wearing my fancy and yet comfortable shoes.
“God loves you, so do I. And there is nothing you can do about it!”
From your brother Jinwoo
Dear my sisters and brothers in Christ,
First of all, I truly appreciate all your passionate prayers and encouraging words you have shared with me and one another while we have been in the journey of “being freed” during last four months.
It has been a tremendously challenging spiritual awakening experience since I shared the first one of the sermon series “Being Freed.”. While I had great expectation of what God would bring into our lives through them, at that time I had no idea where God would lead us. I just began the first sermon with the awareness of seriousness addiction problems and compassion for the suffered from them. I didn’t even know I would become one of the most blessed ones by these particular messages at that time.
To make a long story short, God has made many changes in me first. God showed me how much I had “enslaved” myself of church growth. Especially as I was finishing the sixth year of my appointment at the Belfast United Methodist Church, I was anxious for creating a break point for her continuous growth. However, God didn’t leave me alone with that anxiety. God didn’t let me be enslaved by “How much I could achieve.” God inspired and motivated me to seriously reflect on Jesus’ life. A-ha…
Jesus’ goal was “Jerusalem.” His life was a journey from Bethlehem to Jerusalem. But, Jesus didn’t let Himself be preoccupied by that big task – marching to Jerusalem. He didn’t rush Himself to achieve the goal. He lived and enjoyed the process. Jesus shared His life with the people He encountered in the process. His interest was not in “what and how much He could achieve” but in the process of His life itself. A-ha!
Since the first Good News of “Being Freed,” I have attended Narcotics Anonymous meetings and have met with some people from Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous. Why? To find some ways to help them? No. To make a bridge between them and the church? No. Then why? I don’t know. All I know is Jesus would build relationships with them. As a member of our society, I just want to build relationships with them as members of our society. Why? Because that’s what Jesus would do. A-ha!
God showed me how much I had been enslaved by the Christian obsession that I had to be a helper/giver. I came to know Jesus was not obsessed by “helping/giving ministries.” He just lived and enjoyed His relationships with the people which were based on His healthy relationship with God. Yes, I want to live that life and I will. Now I feel free. I am free.
My sisters and brothers in Christ, would you join me in this journey to follow Jesus? Could we join Him in celebrating the healthy relationships with God, others, and ourselves?
Love in Christ,
Your Pastor Jinwoo
Dear my sisters and brothers in Christ,
May God’s steadfast love continue to be with you!
About two weeks ago, my father called me from Korea. “Jinwoo…” He called my name and then he was silent. I immediately sensed something happened over there. “Jinwoo... Grandpa went back HOME this morning.” Oh… my mind became blank. I knew someday I would receive this kind of call from Korea. I just didn’t know when and what the feeling would be like. I got the call at last. In fact, I felt “blank.” Somebody may call this feeling numb. “Are you OK, Dad?” “… Yes, I am fine. Can you come?” As soon as he asked me, “Can you come?” I felt his pain. He was not fine. My grandfather and father were very close. Grandfather had been my father’s best mentor and friend, and the most special one to him as my father has been to me. I was still feeling “blank” for my loss yet, but I was clearly feeling my father’s pain for his loss. “Dad, I will be right over there. I will call you after booking airplane tickets.” “Thank you, son.” I turned on the computer to find airplane tickets. My hands were shaking. I hardly could type. Tears kept coming out of eyes. It was a time his heart became my heart and his pain became mine. At that moment, my son Josh quietly came to me. He put his arm around me. And then, he started sobbing. Later I asked him, “Why did you cry?” He answered, “I don’t know. I saw you crying, and tears just came out of my eyes.” “Son, you are right. No reason for crying is needed when you see your father crying. I cried because I felt my father’s crying heart too.” It was a strong bond of love.
I walked into the room where my grandfather’s body in a casket was stored. The funeral home director opened the lid of the casket for me. (Koreans leave caskets open neither for calling hours nor for funeral services.) My grandpa looked peaceful. God touched a lot of people’s lives through his life and ministry for 100 years. He was fairly healthy throughout his life. He went back HOME Sunday morning while he was sleeping. How blessed! I gave him my last kiss on this earth and told him, “See you later, Papa.” This time my father put his arm around me. He started sobbing, and I started sobbing too. With God’s presence, three of us were there like that for a while. It was a strong bond of love.
My father cried because he felt his father’s heart for him. I cried because I felt my father’s heart. And Josh cried because he felt my heart. We didn’t need a word to explain our feelings to each other. We just felt one another’s hearts. It was a strong bond of love.
On my way back home Belfast; I felt my DAD/MOM’s loving heart for me. I saw my DAD/MOM was at the center of all these experiences. I heard my DAD/MOM saying, “You are my son; today I have become your Father/Mother (Psalm 2:7). I feel your heart.” This time, I felt God put God’s arm around me. I felt God was crying with and for me. I felt my DAD/MOM’s heartbeat for me, and I was comforted. It was a strong bond of love.
Now I have a new New Year’s resolution. I will increase the intentional set-aside-time to tentatively listen to God, my DAD/MOM’s heartbeat every day. I am sure God will tell me what I will need to hear for each day through various ways. I strongly believe God will fill my heart with what God has in God’s heart. And I will do my best to live them out! I will continue to enjoy the strong bond of love.
May the Holy Spirit enable you to feel God's heart for you and empower you to live out God's will for you each day too! May you enjoy the strong bonds of love with God, others, and yourself!
Love in Christ,
Your brother Jinwoo
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil - he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, lies, false pride, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good - he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you - and inside every other person, too.” The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?” The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.” (http://www.virtuesforlife.com/two-wolves)
Which one do you feed? As a community of faith, which one do we feed?
Currently we have often talked about our spiritual growth. We did a congregational survey about spiritual vitality. We met Rev. Rick McKinley, the director of congregational development of the New England Annual Conference and talked with him about some possible ways for continuous growth. The Ad Council and I have continuously discussed about various ways for our continuous growth in both “quantity and quality” as a church and we will continue to do so.
Then, what has been the goal of all these events and discussions? The goal has been to find effective ways to develop healthy and close relationships with God and one another as God’s church. How about the process? Our ultimate goal is about healthy and close relationships with God and God’s people. Then, have we been doing all those activities in prayerful spirit? Have we been including God in all those discussions we have had? Have our attitudes in discussing about getting healthy relationships with God and each other healthy? In other words, have we been sarcastic toward God to find ways to get healthy and close relationship with God? Have we blamed one another when discussing how to get effectively connected to each other in Christ? Which wolf have you fed? Which one are you feeding?
How are your relationships with God, with others, and yourself? What would God say about them? Lent was a time of preparation for those to be baptized, a time of instruction, self-examination, preparation. And then, it developed later in the church history as a time for all Christians to annually “stop” and spend 40 days in self-examination, in penitence. It is a “yearly check-up” when you are asked to look into yourself and to examine how you are doing with your relationships with God, with others, and with yourself. Are your relationships with them healthy?
Then, you need a “ruler/system” to check your health in those relationships. The Bible teaches us what your life is like when you are healthy and when you are unhealthy. When you have healthy relationships, your life is filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. In Galatians 5:22-23a, the Bible says, "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." On the other hand, when you have unhealthy relationships with God, others, and yourself, you find in your life evidences of sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other things like these. In Galatians 5:19-21a, the Bible says, "When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these." Which passage tells you about your life of now?
Do you want to have healthier relationships? Then, I believe you should get diagnosis first to improve your health. In other words, you first want to examine how you treat God, others, and yourself now to make progress in those relationships. It takes courage to examine myself because I may have to face symptom(s) of illness. It takes brutal honesty before God and myself to get “accurate diagnosis.” It is hard. But, I will continue to do it because I strongly desire to have healthier relationships with God, others, and myself, which is Jesus’ greatest commandment, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. And you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (New American Standard Bible). Would you join me in examining ourselves brutally honestly during this Lenten season? May the Holy Spirit empower each and every one of you to experience Jesus Christ whose birth, life, death, and resurrection is all about you!
Love in Christ,
Your Pastor Jinwoo
Dear my sisters and brothers in Christ,
What will it be the best inheritance you will hand down to your children? After you die and you are no longer with your children here on this earth, where will your children be able to find your faith stories?
I have currently asked this question to myself and have seriously thought about it. While reflecting on this question, a song has kept coming into my mind – My Mother’s Bible written by M. B. Williams. Its words go like the following:
There’s a dear and precious Book,
Though it’s worn and faded now,
Which recalls those happy days of long ago,
When I stood at mother’s knee, With her hand upon my brow,
And I heard her voice in gentle tones and low.
Blessed Book, precious Book,
On thy dear old tear stained leaves I love to look;
Thou art sweeter day by day, as I walk the narrow way
That leads at last to that bright home above.
This old hymn has reminded me that I will have “outward signs” of my parents’ faith in God even after they will go back Home to behold God face to face. Their “worn and faded” Bibles will continue to guide me and God’s Words abided in them will continue to abide in me as I will meditate on Them day by day.
Now I am “making” a worn and faded Bible for my son. While reading many Bibles in various translations, I have just started reading one particular Bible for morning meditations. I write what God inspires me, my reflections on passages, and my faith stories on It. I feel thrilled as I imagine my son will enjoy this “Old Bible” as he will smell and feel me and cherish our memories while reading It. I feel grateful as I picture my son will continue to experience God’s steadfast love for him while meditating on It each day.
Would you join me in “making” a worn and faded Bible for your children? Would you join me in preparing the best inheritance you will ever be able to hand down to them? Now!
Today I am going to briefly share with you my story about God’s call to ministry. While I was talking with some “new” pastors the other day, I was reminded of my first call story.
When I was a child, one of my friends was an epileptic. We used to play together in a play ground near the church we attended. At times, he suddenly had a seizer and had fit with his mouth full of foam. And he rolled his body on dirt ground and sometimes in mud when raining. Whenever he did this, a gentleman showed up and ran to a hospital taking my friend on his back. The man reminded me of Jesus who always took care of the sick and the poor. He was my father and my father “happened to be” a pastor. I was 6 years old and I was too young to know what a pastor’s life would be like at that time. But what God showed me through my father was so powerful that I got inspired to dream of becoming a pastor. I believe it was the first time I acknowledged God’s call to a life-long commitment in ministry. Since then, the motto of my life has been sharing and caring and my life goal has been to proclaim God’s good news to God’s people both in the pulpit and in my daily life.
After all these years, my dream came true. And I am grateful to God for using me as an instrument for God’s ministries. I fully enjoy living the life of sharing and caring with you.
I don’t believe that God calls all of you to be “vocational” pastors. But God has called each of you to a ministry. What is God’s call for you? How are you responding to it?
We have various opportunities at Belfast United Methodist Church for you to live out the life of sharing and caring as Jesus Christ’s disciple. If you have already joined us in ministry, thank you and may God’s joy continue to be with you! Otherwise, would you join us in our engaging ministry to fulfill the physical and spiritual needs of our community? Please talk to me or Evelyn Littlefield, the Coordinator of Lay Ministry.
We don’t want to be an institutionalized religious organization, do you? Let us continue to celebrate being God’s Church as we keep proclaiming God’s good news with words and in action in our daily lives! Join us!
Love in Christ,
Your Pastor Jinwoo
Do you want to experience Jesus Christ, the Life-Giver, in your daily life? Do you want Him to come into your heart everyday? Then, have you checked if the door of your heart is open to Him?
“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If any of you hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with you. And you will eat with me” (Revelation 3:20, NIrV).
The following Sunday, his card was returned. Added to it was this cryptic message, “Genesis 3:10.”
“I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid” (Genesis 3:10, NIV).
Do you hear Jesus knocking on the door of your heart? The people of Laodicea in Revelation could not hear Jesus because their lives were full of nose. They were preoccupied by their worldly desires. Even the people of the church in Laodicea were spiritually lukewarm. They were indifferent to Jesus. They believed that they had “everything.” Therefore, Jesus told them to realize that they were spiritually wretched, pitiful, poor, blinded, and naked. They thought that they were complacent, but Jesus thought their spiritual states were wretched and pitiful. They believed that they were able to see, but Jesus thought they were spiritual blinds. They could not see their spiritual state and they could not see into themselves. They could not see Jesus Christ even though He was always present in them. Why? Because they were arrogant. They were indifferent to Jesus because they believed that they were self-sufficient.
What do we do to keep the doors of our hearts to Jesus open? What would Jesus tell us about our spiritual states? What kind of noise do we have in our hearts so that we cannot hear Jesus Christ knocking on the doors of our hearts? Arrogance? Guilty feelings? Worldly desires? What efforts do we make to listen to Jesus Christ in our daily life?
Let us stick to one another and walk together in our journey! Let us be accountable to each other and help one another to acknowledge Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, and live out the life He wants us to live! Let us encourage each other to participate in His ministries by our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service, and our witness!Would you still want to be in your “comfort zone” and stay “lukewarm?” Or would you get out of the boat and walk on water with Jesus Christ? I want to walk with Jesus Christ and with you together. Would you join me?
There was a woman who was diagnosed with a terminal illness and given three months to live. She asked her Pastor to come to her home to discuss her final wishes. She told him which songs she wanted sung at her funeral, and what scripture she wanted read, and which outfit she wanted to be buried in.
Then she said, "One more thing... I want to be buried with a fork in my hand."
The pastor stood looking at the woman, not knowing quite what to say.
The woman explained, "In all my years of attending church socials and potluck dinners, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably say to everyone, 'Keep your fork.' It was my favorite time of the dinner, because I knew something great was coming, like velvety chocolate cake or deep dish apple pie - something wonderful. So, I want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and wonder, ' What's with the fork?' Then, I want you to tell them, ' Keep your fork, because the best is yet to come.' "
Do you have hope for tomorrow? HOPE… today we use this word interchangeably with optimism in our culture. But, are they really same? I personally believe that for Christians they are different. While optimism makes us expect for better tomorrow, hope in God allows us to live today with grateful hearts day by day. In other words, as I acknowledge God fulfilling my needs each day, I don’t have to predict whether or not God will fulfill my needs in the future. God will indeed provide what I will need tomorrow, and I can enjoy today and live the day to the fullest. In his book, “Here and Now,” Henri Nouwen states, “While optimism makes us live as if someday soon things will go better for us, hope frees us from the need to predict the future and allows us to live in the present, with the deep trust that God will never leave us alone but will fulfill the deepest desires of our heart.”
The story mentioned above shows that the woman obviously has great hope for tomorrow. While reading it, I wondered where her hope came from. I believe that she must have experienced God who had continuously fulfilled her needs throughout her life. And new she has hope that the same God will continue to provide something great even after this life on earth. She fully enjoyed her main dish, so she would keep her fork for the dessert that the same chef made.
As I fully enjoy today God provides and live it to the fullest, I can be free from “the need to predict the future” because I do believe God is way smarter than me and has a much better plan for me than mine.
Would you just wait for dessert? Or would you enjoy your main dish and keep your folk to enjoy dessert as well? Would you just have optimism and expect “someday soon things will go better?” Or would you acknowledge and celebrate God fulfilling your needs today and have hope that the same God will fulfill your needs tomorrow as well?
May God bless each of you and empower all of you to keep HOPE in the Lord!
You may know that I like guitars. I like not only playing the guitar but also learning about various guitars. So I have studied about them and learned about their characteristics a lot over the years. For example, the guitars with Adirondack Spruce top and Rosewood back and sides are good for strummers while the guitars with Cider top and Rosewood back and sides suit for finger-style players. With this knowledge and information, I often help my friends to choose the “right” guitars for them. Because I know what guitars are good for them, I cannot but introduce those guitars to them. Because I have great interest in guitars and I care for my friends who need new guitars, I cannot help recommending them good ones to fulfill their needs.
Do you have this kind of experience? You know something good, so you cannot but introduce it to your loving ones. You know great restaurants, and you want to let your loving ones enjoy them as well. Have you experienced it?
How about Jesus? Do I do the same about Jesus? Am I eager to introduce Jesus Christ to my loving ones who need Him? When was the last time I invited my loving friends and family members to the service? When was the last time I talked to them about how wonderful Jesus was? Don’t I want to let my loving ones have the best experience in their life journey? Don’t I desire to introduce the best Friend to them about whom I really care?
It has been about 2 months since we began a new chapter of our church history with the vision, “Reach out to Young Family with Children.” Each group of our church has been active to do ministries with this vision. We have already started experiencing great changes. God has vitalized our youth group. Some parents of Sunday school children, who used to just drop off their children, come to the service. More children come to the church events than previous years. Doesn’t it sound great? Don’t you want to be a part of God’s this wonderful ministry? God wants you to be a mailwoman/man. God wants you to invite your loving ones to our inspirational worship experiences. God wants you to tell them about how wonderful Jesus is. God has invited you to be a member of God’s vision team. How would you respond to God’s invitation?
My son Joshua was very excited one Sunday morning about a month ago. He told me with trembling voice, “Dad! Dad! One of my best friends is here for the service today. He came with his Mom, Dad, and sister. Isn’t it awesome?” “Wow,” said I, “it’s great!” And then, I asked him, “Did you invite him?” Then, Joshua said, “We were talking about religions in a class. And I asked him if he had any religion. He told me that he and his family used to go to church but not nowadays. So I told him that I was going to Belfast United Methodist Church and how wonderful our church is. And I invited him. And he has showed up with his family today! Isn’t cool?”
Isn’t it cool? Don’t you want to have this exciting experience? Don’t you want to make God smile as you respond to God’s call to being God’s mailwoman/man? May the Holy Spirit continue to fill your hearts with passion for God and compassion for God’s people and enable you to say “Yes” to God’s invitation!
It is one of the most sacred moments when I share the Holy Communion with children. “Jesus is your best buddy. He loves you and cares about you no matter what! And I want you to remember that. Can you say Amen?” “: Amen!” It is exciting. I am not excited about the challenges that they will go through in their life journeys. But, I am thrilled that they will remember that Jesus Christ will never give up on them and He will hold them with His loving hands all the time. They may not remember my name down the road. But, I believe that they will remember, ‘When I was a child, a brother in Christ always told me that Jesus Christ would never leave me alone because He would always love me and care about me.’ Isn’t it wonderful?
God has given us a new vision for upcoming years: "Reach out to young parents with young children." What does it mean that we reach out to young parents with young children? It means that we decide to share with them the good news of Jesus Christ: ‘He loves them and cares about them no matter what.’ It means that we make a decision to live out the Greatest Commandment of Jesus Christ: ‘Love your God, your neighbor, and yourself!’
" 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself' " (Matthew 22:37-39).
As we live out the life of Jesus Christ’s Greatest Commandment, the people in our community may hear and see His healing and transforming power. And they may find hope in Jesus Christ. Especially those young parents, who fail to consistently show their love for their children because of their addiction problems, may experience Jesus’ love of healing and transforming. Moreover, as He changes them and makes something beautiful in their lives, their children may find hope for tomorrow.
Would you reach out to your neighbor and let them know that Jesus loves them and cares about them no matter what? Would you share with them the good news about Jesus Christ’s steadfast love with your words and actions? Would you make serious commitment to pray for our community, especially those “broken families” living hopeless lives today, who need to find hope in Jesus Christ, the Healer, for tomorrow? Would you be their family and walk with them with Jesus’ love? They may not remember your name down the road. But, they will remember, ‘When I had no hope in my life, a sister/brother in Christ showed me that Jesus Christ would never give up on me because He would always love me and care about me no matter what.’
One day, one of our sisters told me, “When I couldn’t feel any care from my own parents in my childhood, if someone had told me what you tell children during the Holy Communion, I would have not had to “wonder” out there. I would have come to a community of faith and found a family in Christ sooner.”
May God continue to fill your hearts with passion for God and compassion for God’s people and empower you to live them out in your daily life!
What does family mean to you? It means hope to me. When I go through challenges in my life, I think of my family and I get strength to go on. One night, I was driving on Rt. 3 to come back home. It was a dark and stormy night. To make matters worse, one of the headlights was suddenly gone. It was very challenging. However, I knew that I would be at home after that long drive on Rt. 3. In spite of those challenges like sleet, darkness, and a broken headlight, I was able to keep hope because I had a family waiting for me.
Then, how about those who do not have good relationships with their family members and those who do not have a family at all? How about those who cannot have hope when they feel lonely or when they are in desperate needs as they do not know where to be? Would you be a family for them?
When Jesus was dying on the cross in our places, He gave us a new meaning of family of faith in Christ.
Near the cross of Jesus stood His mother, His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw His mother there, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home (John 19:25-27, NIV).
“From that time on,” Jesus’ mother Mary and the disciple Jesus loved became one family. I strongly believe that Jesus wants us to remember that we have become one family by His blood. And He commends us to be a family for those who need to find hope in His family when they go through a dark and stormy night. Would you be a family for them?
This year we will go through many changes to live out this commend of Jesus. You may need to get out of your comfort zones. But, we have already learned that “we’ve got to get out of the boat if we want to walk on water.” Our church will focus on introducing parents with young children to Jesus Christ, especially “younger” parents with various challenges. I know our committees have been making efforts to research and develop various programs for this vision. You will hear more about this vision in details soon. Now I would like to ask you to pray for our vision – reaching out parents with young children with God’s good news. Let us continue to seek for God’s help and support one another for this vision, and may God continue to bless us to be a family for those who need one!
Who is your mother? Who is your brother? Who is your family?
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year !
"In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it" (John 1:4-5, New International Version).
I once believed that I was a prepared vessel for God’s ministry, which had no cracks. But I found a big crack. I felt shamed. I found another. I was scared. I was afraid that God would not use me any longer because I was defective. I found more cracks… one after another… I thought it was the end of the world. Those mistakes I made were too ugly to face. I believed that I was a mistake when I made mistakes. I was afraid that God would give up on me.
But, the Holy Spirit enabled me to see the Light was coming through those cracks. When I focused on them, I couldn’t see the Light coming through them. But when I acknowledge the Light through them, those cracks, brokenness, mistakes were not matters any longer. Jesus made something beautiful even when I was a still sinner.
God has healed me. God has made me a wounded-healer.
Jesus Christ came to look for not the righteous but the sinners. I want to praise the Lord. How about you? Merry Christmas!
I Still Love You
written by Jinwoo Chun
Jesus, I was so down; I was so scared; I was so broken.
All I could do was crying all day long
Jesus, there was no light; there was no hope; I was so alone.
But Lord, You found me and held my hands.
(You said) I still love you. I can’t give up on you.
I still love ’cause you matter to Me.
I heard you crying. I saw the tears in your heart.
I still love you ’cause you are Mine.
Jesus, I hear Your voice; I feel Your heart; I look into Your eyes.
And I can know how much I love You.
Jesus, now I am healed; now I am found; yes I am Yours.
Lord, You have saved me and had me in Your arms.
(You say) I still love you. I can’t give up on you.
I still love ’cause you matter to Me.
I’ll hold your hands. I’ll give you My strength.
I still love you ’cause you are Mine.
(Yes, Lord) I belong to You. I am Yours.
I shared a video clip with the congregation during the service a couple of weeks ago. It was about geese flying a v formation. “When a good flies in formation it creates shelter and uplift for the other birds. This means that the whole flock can fly 71% further than if they were flying alone. Each goose takes its turn at the head of the formation. This means that each bird can rest and they can help one another. The geese flying towards and back of the formation honk. This encourages those up at the front to keep going. When a goose drops out of formation due to sickness or tiredness, two other geese drop out of formation to help and protect it until it is fit again. Shared direction and a sense of community means we can do more and go further. Sharing the responsibilities means no one gets tired and worn out. We need to encourage one another to ensure we can complete the journey. We need to share the responsibility to care for those who are struggling” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AOBthOPuw2U&feature=related). This is the power of a team. This is the power of the Mission Shares ministry. About 40,000 United Methodist churches across the world do God’s ministry together through Mission Shares. We combine smaller gifts from individual churches into a larger amount through the Mission Shares ministry and experience the power of a team with God’s help. For example, we support mission in more than 125 countries, 1,812 missionaries, and 80,000 volunteers in mission fields, 102 UMC community centers and mission colleges. Isn’t it amazing?
The United Methodist Church reach out the both spiritually and physically needy with God’s good news and gifts wherever they are – in Maine, in the United States, all over the world through this Mission Shares ministry. We Belfast United Methodist Church have participated in this ministry in full during last 16 years. In spite of financial challenge, we pray and hope that we can do it again. Would you be a part of this wonderful ministry? Can we proactively make it happen again with our prayerful gifts? If you have any questions about it, please feel free to contact me.
Let us continue to do God’s ministry together! Let us continue to “honk” to encourage the needy in the name of Jesus Christ through our prayerful Mission Shares ministry together!
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me… Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me (Matthew 25: 35-36, 40).
May God’s steadfast love be with you all!
When you look at the cross, what comes into your mind first? Everyday when I come in my office, the first thing I do is to go to the sanctuary and look at “the old rugged cross” and meditate on its meaning. I see Jesus with open arms on the cross. I see Jesus Christ our Savior who embraced us with His wide open arms even at the moment of death. I hear Jesus crying, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” He was crying out on the cross for mercy for us. He was pleading for our forgiveness.
Have you felt you were lost? Have felt you had no hope? Have you felt nobody cared about you? Have you felt you had no idea where to go for comfort? Jesus tells us, “Come! Come to Me! I still love you. Don’t you see I love you ‘til death?”
“God demonstrates God’s own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
“This is how God showed God’s love among us: God sent God’s one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that God first loved us and sent God’s Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10)
Today I see the empty cross. I believe in the risen Christ. I feel God’s power, God’s love that casts away all my fears as I meditate on Jesus’ death on the cross in my place and His resurrection. So I have decided to stop wandering because the Spirit has reminded me where to be when my heart is troubled. And now I stand at the foot of the cross. I feel God, who empowers and helps me, so that I can move on.
What do you see, hear, and feel when you look at the cross? Would you join me in standing at the foot of the old rugged cross? “Hear the good news: Christ died for us while we were yet sinners; that proves God’s love toward us. In the name of Jesus Christ, we are forgiven.” Ayuh!
Easter... Jesus died on the Cross in your place, and God raised Him up from the dead. What does it mean to you?
Easter means HOPE to me. The history of Jesus' death and resurrection is the foundation of my hope. When I think of the empty tomb of the Gospels, I think of the empty cocoon. Resurrection can be compared to the transformation of silkworms into beautiful butterflies. Caterpillars are not able to think of themselves as flying. They do not even know how to run. How could ugly, crawling worms conceive of themselves as beautiful butterflies? They have only the experience of crawling. Every single thing they come to face as crawling is a challenge. They cannot be free from those challenges until they become able to fly.
We all experience the challenges that come from brokenness. We may not be able to see that we can be free from them. However, God has "delivered us from slavery to sin and death" through Jesus' death and resurrection. As the hymn testifies, "Because He lives, I can face tomorrow; because He lives, all fear is gone; because I know He holds the future, and life is worth the living just because He lives."
When I have to crawl with heavy burdens in my life, I still keep my hope in the Lord because I believe that God will transform me to a "butterfly" flying freely. In other words, when I have lows in my life journey, I put my faith in God who will raise me up. When I see my brokenness, I find hope in the Lord because I believe that God will set me free as God had done through Jesus' death and resurrection.
Do you feel that you have to be clean first to receive Jesus into your life? Do you expect that you could be perfectly ready first to accept God's free gift (grace)? If so, you may want to listen to one of Jesus' stories called "The Parable of the Sower" in Matthew 13:1-9, on which my Christmas Eve sermon will be based.
The story begins like this. "A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path... Some fell on rocky places... Other seed fell among thorns... Still other seed fell on good soil..." Have you noticed something interesting? You see that the farmer does not plow the field first and then plant the seed. Contrary to our modern farming practices, first-century farmers planted their seed before plowing the ground, not after. Thus they broadcasted their seed, scattering the seed freely over all kinds of soil. Isn't it interesting?
Guess what? That is the way God chooses in giving God's grace to us. In John 3:16, the Bible says, "For God so loved the world that God gave God's one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." In Ephesians 2:8-9, the Bible also says, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast." In other words, God just embraces and loves us first no matter what. It does not matter to God whether your heart is like the path, rocky places, thorns, or good soil. God broadcasts God's grace upon us. Isn't it wonderful?
"God loves you. So do I. There is nothing you can do about it."
When looking at a cross, it reminds me of the relationships that God provides me by God’s grace, which are the vertical relationship (between God and me) and the horizontal one (between others and me and me and myself).
In Mark 12:30-31, Jesus says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”
I find that Jesus’ Greatest Commandment is about love trinity – loving God, others, and myself. Passion for God and compassion for God’s people and myself! This is the basic and essential reason that I continuously to choose to be a Pastor. This is the message that I as a preacher am eager to help you to understand better and better as you listen to the Word of God more and more. This is the life that I as your spiritual leader am passionate to inspire you to experience together by God’s grace.
Through this love trinity, God may help us experience God’s healing power. God, our Creator took the initiative to reconcile with us through Jesus Christ, our Savior. And God sent the Holy Spirit, our Sustainer to enable and empower us to experience joy that comes from our knowledge that God unconditionally loves us not from our life conditions.
We have just begun our new journey together. As we are walking together as one family in Christ, I would like to listen to your life stories. I also would like to share my stories with you. That is the purpose of “Nights with Our Pastor.” I strongly believe that God will establish a great foundation of our mutual relationships with God and with each other through this event. And we will begin experiencing the power of love trinity right there. God will let us experience all that I have mentioned above as we walk together. I will be coming to you. I will be bringing my open heart! Would you be there with open hearts?