Yesterday a person took the live of the most vulnerable in our society. An 18-year-old man killed 19 children and attempted to take the life of his own grandmother (who is currently in critical condition). Children and elderly are people we are called to protect and as a nation, as a society, we failed miserably.
Once again, we are left to pick up the broken pieces. We are left with feelings of vulnerability, shame, anger, and fear. This cannot keep happening. I cannot keep writing this article time and time again. Even with police officers on site, our young ones in the elementary school in Uvalde, Texas still felt the receiving end of death and carnage.
The devil lives among us. Anger, hate, disappointment, dissatisfaction, death, and chaos are the devil's attributes that are imbedded in our society, and it affects us all. Uvalde, Texas is a small town, from what I read, 20,000 people. I live in Altoona, PA with probably about the same amount of people. The devil does not care whether you live in a big city, a rural town, or a small community like ours.
This morning I had to take my two children into a place that now I have to question their safety. I take them into a possible place that they can be harmed or even killed. But more so it makes me think that as a parent I also could be possible that I am training the next possible killer.
As a parent, my children are my responsibility. I must be vigilant and aware of what they are going through and how they are feeling. I also have the responsibility to raise them to have a strong mental fortitude, a healthy self-esteem, and instill in them that as Christians our primary goal is to always protect life.
This is a call for all people with children, young or old. Be aware of what your children go through. You don’t have to be a restrictive jail warden, but you must continue to be caring and loving. See all the stress that goes around them and how it may affect them. Also be a person that can be a good example for them. Be the model of responsibility, strength, and courage. Some days will be easier than others, but if we can all wake up each morning and be positive, be diligent, be kind, then maybe, just maybe we can give less power to the evilness that struck our nation yesterday. Maybe we can take away the powers of hate, anger, and death if we choose to live well and live responsibly each and every morning.
Today we mourn with the community of Uvalde, Texas. We feel the pain and hurts of our fellow brothers and sisters that have to painful wake up this day. We pray for better tomorrows. Today we reflect on our lives and how we choose to live it. You have a choice each day and every moment to either be hateful or joyful, be retributive or forgiving, living or dying. May God be with us during this time of healing.
Today, Eunkyung and I celebrate our 9 year wedding anniversary. I know for most people in my congregation, that’s like nothing! It’s still baby years! But for Eunkyung and I it means everything!
I feel like we have accomplished so much in 9 years and that we still have the motivation and excitement to see what God has planned for us! Since we got married, we traveled to Palau, Malaysia, Vietnam, and all over the USA and South Korea. We still have plans in wanting to travel in Europe, so maybe God will plan that for us some time later. Together, we have two beautiful children and couldn’t be happier with what God has blessed us with. Eunkyung became a citizen, earned a BSN and got a job working as a registered nurse! So proud of her! Meanwhile since I have been with her, I was a youth pastor, then associate pastor, then senior pastor. I must say, we did pretty well! Not too shabby!
Eunkyung and I had our share of hurdles and growing pains, but through resilience, faith, and encouragement, we overcame with God’s help. I know that in our lives together ahead there will be more challenges, but I know that we will be ready for them!
I cannot wait to see what the future lies ahead! I can’t wait to see how she grows, how I grow, and how we grow together. I can’t wait to see what Norah and Ben will look like as they grow older, what will their character be like, and just see them growing up!
What is God’s plans for us in the future? Will we be ready? Will we continue to live joyfully, regardless of the bumps in the road? What does God see that we cannot see yet? The anticipation is killing me! But I am excited to share more and more years with Eunkyung! Many more years and countless of blessing to come!
Last week at church we looked at the passage in John 21:1-19. I encouraged the congregation to take a look in this passage this week because it is so rich in symbolism and meaning.
For example, the passage is all about re0instating Peter. Peter was the disciple that betrayed Jesus three times at the time of Christ’s crucifixion. Since Peter denied Jesus three times, Jesus asked Peter three times if Peter loved Him. At the third time, Peter felt heartbroken, like anyone would probably feel. Again, imagine if your wife or husband had to ask you three times if you love them. It would hurt! But as Jesus is confirming Peter’s place among the other disciples again, Jesus gives Peter a task, feed my sheep, take care of my sheep, and follow Me. The message last week in a nutshell was that all huma beings need is life are two things. That is to belong and have a purpose. Peter was given both by Jesus. And that’s it!
I just realize, I could have just said this in my sermon in Sunday and saved everyone like 15 minutes. Hmm…
But I asked the congregation to look at this passage because it is so rich in meaning and symbols. First thing I want to talk about is the state of Peter’s being after Jesus had been crucified. Peter is dang near lost! He is stressed and depressed and when I feel that way, I go fishing; hence that is what he did. He went fishing and the other disciples followed him, probably because the disciples know that he is stressed and depressed, and we should always keep watch for ur loved ones when they are really down in depression. Unfortunately, Peter and the disciples caught nothing. I am sure this isn’t helping Peter’s depression. You know that saying, “A bad day of fishing is better than a good day at work?” That’s a dang lie! Catching zero fish stinks and so frustrating! That rough and sometimes you come out feeling worse than before! Possible Peter may have felt that way. But Jesus is coming to the rescue! Jesus instructs them to throw the nets on the other side. And it works!
The metaphor is very rich here! First off, sometimes when you feel emotionally compromised and just full of stress, sometimes it is impossible to find any joy in anything you do. But sometimes all it takes is Jesus’ guidance to help along the way. So that is why, as Christians, we must be still and quiet and pay attention to His voice before prayer, during prayer, and after prayer. Be aware of the resources Christ is giving you to help in our particular situation. And sometimes what we need to do is throw our nets on the other side. Basically do something that is unfamiliar with, something strange and even uncomfortable.
Now continuing on to the narrative. Peter knows that it is Jesus when he hears His voice. Peter puts on his clothes and jumps into the water. Wait… what? Did you catch that? Don’t you want to take off your outer garment when you go swimming in water? And does that mean Peter was naked when he was fishing? If I saw a person on a boat fishing nearly naked, I would be concerned! But this is a metaphor about covering yourself up before the Lord. We can even make a connection with Peter’s covering himself to Adam and Eve covering themselves up before God in the story of the Garden of Eden. Adam, Eve, and Lord felt shame for their sin and their shamefulness is represented by covering themselves up. Interesting right? It is kinda like when we did something bad and then all we want to do is hide from people. The good news however, is by the saving grace of Jesus Christ, sin has no power over us, and shame and guilt are no longer that rule over us. Now it isn’t that we shouldn’t care if we do something bad, but more so about when we make mistakes, we own up to it because we know that we were already sinners, but that when bad things happen to us or when we cause bad things to happen, we are given power to overcome, repair, and rebuild.
Jesus invites the disciples to come over to have breakfast. That would be a good way to start your day! Breakfast with Jesus! Hey, that sounds a bit catchy! I wonder if we can change our end of the month breakfast fellowship to call it Breakfast with Jesus instead of Breakfast Club. I kinda like the change! Anyways always start your day with prayer and thinking about God’s plan for you! Think about morning prayer to be a part of your to do list. I believe that accomplishing one task will give you motivation to do the next task, and the next task. So, make your first task prayer, complete it so that you have the motivation to do more tasks.
And how interesting is that having breakfast with Jesus is none other than fish and bread! Remember the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 people? Remember what Jesus uses to feed those people? That is right! Fish and loaves! It is not by accident that we have this image again. Jesus fed the 5,000 with these elements and now Jesus is feeding His disciples using the same. Instead of the little boy’s meal being used to create the miracle, it is the disciples catch that makes this meal possible. So the miracle makers are us! We too can feed ourselves and others by our ability given by God.
So that is what I can start you all with. I encourage you all to read John 21:1-19 this week! It is so rich with meaning. And you can find your own meaning as well. Pray that God gives you enlightenment and understanding when you go into this passage.
Cindy Lego had some really cool insight about this passage that I never thought about. She told me that when she was reading this passage the song, “Jesus Loves Me” popped into her mind. And interestingly enough, as Peter responds to Jesus’s question of love three times, in the song we repeat that Jesus loves me three times! I think that is pretty cool to find this connection!
Anyways, I encourage you all to treat morning prayer like a task. Complete that first task of prayer so that it encourages you to do another task. I encourage to read John 21:1-19. And remember that you are given the ability to feed many people and be the miracle worker for God. You are given talent, ability and resources to bring hope to many people. May the love of Christ be with you and may God bless you today and the next day, and beyond!
What Does the Christian’s Life Offer?
Why be a Christian? I mean if it is to be a good person, well you can be a good person without being a Christian. I know plenty of good people who don’t go to church and who have never made a public confession to follow Christ. I know plenty of good people who are Buddhist, Muslims, Jews, and Atheists to name a few. However, I do think that being a Christian does make you a better person, but I think there is more to the Christian life than just being a good person.
Does suddenly being a Christian give you wealth and comfort? Unfortunately, no. I know it’s sad! But you can’t have faith if the only reason to have faith is for material wealth. Probably because, to God, that material wealth has no special position in His eyes. It is not the material, the car, the clothes, the money that defines the person. What God is going to care about is your character and how you live your life. Not what you buy or own. Essentially, wealth and material has nothing to do with being a Christian. You can be righteous in God’s eyes whether you are rich or poor. What essentially following Christ does for you is give you peace of mind regardless of your economic status. You may not gain material wealth or even comfort, but you will find happiness in Him.
And as far as living life in comfort, unfortunately following Christ is the opposite of comfort! The Christian life is all about being put into challenging situations. And it isn’t because God is maniacal and likes to watch His creation struggle. It is because He likes to watch His creation triumph over all life situations. God likes watching us problem solve. Basically God likes to see us trying. The Christian life is about doing not settling.
Does the Christian life offer a life after death? Of course! How is this possible? Because the power of God’s love. You see, God loves us so much that there is nothing that can separate our connection of the love with Him. Death is never the end of God’s love. God’s love is about how we are always with Him whether it is in this life or the next. God loves us so much that He cannot bear not being with us. So in this life, God is with you always! And when we pass away, God is still with us, and hence live eternally with Him. Through God’s love, anything is possible! If God cares and love, then God will make it work out, always does.
But being a Christian in order to have an afterlife should not be a reason to be a Christian. The Christian life has so much to offer. We don’t follow Jesus just because we fear nothingness or even hell when we die. We follow Christ basically because through Christ we can be a good person by having our morals and ethics to the test, and seek happiness regardless of social or economic status. Seek joy when life gets confusing or though. But there is also more!
The Christian life offers purpose! We are given a mission by God through the example and words of Christ. From the beginning to the end of the Bible it is all about how God created us to be co-creators and caretakers with Him. Think about it. In Genesis, God created Adam and gave him a task, that is to name all living beings that are created. Adam, is a co-creator! Also, Jesus is always giving His disciples things to do. Go to town by town, heal the sick, cure diseases, and exorcise the demon possessed. Jesus feeds the multitude telling the disciples to find some food in order for Jesus to work on dividing the food into portions that all people can be well fed. Jesus telling the disciples to find a colt and donkey to go to Jerusalem. Jesus tells the disciples to prepare a room for them to celebrate the Passover meal. Jesus telling His disciples that the power is given to you! Not to mention all the parables that give us life lessons and thoughtfulness. Even in Paul’s letters offer much needed guidance and wisdom to live a Christian life well. The Christian life offers a life to be a good person, happiness, life after death, and a purpose. But even if you find yourself in a position where you cannot fathom or feel these things, then just know this. The Christian life offers a God who loves you so much, and that God is willing to do anything for you, even come down as a human in Jesus, to be your friend, and even willing to die on the cross, to be resurrected, and to be with you more intimately in the form of the Holy Spirit.
And it’s good to feel loved by someone. So, know that no matter what, in every life situation, in every bad decision made, God loves you always.
Our church is looking beautiful! Church members have been coming over for the last three days help cleaning the inside and outside of the church. It really does look amazing. Once the weather gets warmer, we will start to plant some flowers and get some mulch put in.
Truly I am very happy that we have the ability to take care of God’s house. I think our members do such a great job in making sure that every building maintenance is up to safety standards. As much as we do to take care of the inside of the church, we needed to do the same for the outside.
For the last year or so, the outside of the church needed some well needed love, which we were unable to do it because of COVID protocols and other factors. So, it was time to get down, pull weeds, rake, trim hedges, clean up the flower patches, and everything in between. It looks marvelous and once those hedges start getting green, it is really going to brighten up the church!
At Ward Ave Presbyterian Church we want the inside and outside of the church reflect the people’s heart, and now it certainly does. It is a huge improvement. Also, I cannot thank enough the people who not only did the hard work outside the church but also the people who worked inside, cleaning up the office areas and closet. It is spectacular in the office. It is organized and pristine.
As much as we will always continue to take care of the needs of the people, we must remember to take care of the church building as well. Again, everything we do must be a reflection of our hearts that are in Christ Jesus.
Thank you all for helping out everyone! So if we haven’t seen you in a long time, come on by! Or if you never came to our church, please, come worship with us, we would love to meet you and have you in join us for worship! God bless you all! May Holy Week bring you joy and further guidance!
Last week at church we had a Bible study after worship. And one of the church members participating came up with great questions to a lot of real problems. Basically, we talked about what all great theologians struggle to answer and that is, “why does bad things happen to good people or to people who undeserve such catastrophes.
This should be a question that all Christians should struggle with because it challenges our notion of God and God’s relationship in the world. How we answer it really determines our concept of God. So, the basic problem in Christian theology and faith is as such:
God is all good/loving
God is all powerful
God is all knowing
So, the problem is that evil and sin exist in the world and why should this happen when we have a God who is all loving and good and all powerful? Shouldn’t that, by God’s nature, abolish sin and evil? Good question to ponder on a Wednesday!
If we say that God is unable to stop evil, such as the atrocity that killed children in the Ukraine by Russian rockets, or the person dying of cardiac arrest, who has served their church and community whole-heartedly. If God cannot prevent this from happening, then it would assume that God is not all powerful.
And if we say that God allows evil to exist then God is not all that loving at all! Or if we say that God is unaware when evil and sin affect the innocent then God is not al knowing. Which begs to wonder, if God is not all loving, all powerful, or all knowing, then is God really deserving of worship?
Now when I say innocent, I am assuming that all people are sinful. However, when a baby is abandoned in the hospital or in the street, that’s incredibly tragic. When children are bombed, that’s heartbreaking. When a person that has striven to make a world a better place but is diagnosed with cancer, that just seems unfair. What I am trying to say is bad things happen to good people all the time because the fact remains that evil and sin exist.
So how do we tackle this issue? As Christians what answers can we give to our fallen world? The problem for me is simply this. One is the gift of free will and our own unawareness of “the big picture.” I will do the best to explain. And even these two things I mentioned is not something that will make us comfortable at all.
God is all loving, I truly believe this because I felt it before. I felt it when I read, see, feel, or experience something that moves my heart, or even breaks it. I can sense that emotions swelling all around me. I know that God not just loves me but loves the entire world. I have experienced His forgiveness and grace countless of times. God is always going to love us. And when you truly love someone, you never imprison them for any reason. Even if imprisoning them for their own safety. God allows us to be free and allows us to live life how we see fit. For example, in the United States we have the right and freedom to own firearms. And yes, even though firearms can kill someone, we have the right and freedom to own them. By owning a firearm, we have the choice of being responsible and the choice to educated ourselves and others about gun safety. I am not saying that guns and good or bad, guns and guns. You see I realize each day I love my wife dearly. However, my love for her does not shield her from the possible pain that she may experience. For example, last year, she had to go to class during a bad winter storm. Now, to be safe, to keep her safe, I could have said, “No! You must stay home! You will get hurt!” But she needed to go, and all I can do is pray. She got into a head-on collision because of icy roads. I do believe that my prayers not just helped her survive, but all helped her come out of the accident basically untouched. Can’t say that for the car, but that’s fine.
Same thing for my children. I love them and would do anything for them. But I know that they must go to school, they have to experience the outside world. I can teach them the boundaries of the dangers of the world, but they will still get hurt at some point. When I tell my son not to touch the hot stove, he did it anyways and got burned. But instead of yelling and scolding him for not listening, I held him in my arms and tended his wound.
You see what love can do? Now I could take my children and my wife and lock them in a cage with nothing to harm them, no germs, no disease, no options of food, no options of play, no option to meet other people; just lock them in a cage or basement so that they cannot escape. They will be safe, I can provide always nutritional food and vitamins, clean water, proper clothes, totally sanitized, and provide learning tools that are only safe. Is that the right way to do things? Is that really love? Or is that fear? It sounds like living in fear more than love to me.
God is not a God of fear. God loves us and chooses to give us free will. As much as it might hurt us seeing us fall and suffer, at least we can count on Him to pick us back up even if we feel anger towards Him, He will always still love you. He understands you.
Also, we fail to see the “big picture.” Imagine our universe is like many small stars exploding. When a star explodes it is violent and impactful. When the explosion is set, we are left seeing this incredible sight of a nebula, that puts us in awe and wonder. Imagine when sin and evil impact or lives, is tragic, sometimes it is violent, but we never know the impact it takes on us. Sure, it may seem inevitable that our life is going to get worse, but that is the choice that we make. When we lose someone dear to us, it hurts us, we feel regret, we feel powerless, but the question to ask yourself is what you are going to do with your life to honor that person you just loved. I do not think the person you lost likes to see you struggling and living life in pain and being bitter. They too, like God, wants to see you thrive.
We often do not realize how fragile our world is and that everything that happens has a reason, regardless of it being good or bad. Even the smallest flap of a butterfly wing can change the course of history. It reminds me of the story of Job in the Bible. When Job, a good man suffers an incredible amount of tragedy. For the most part in the book, He stayed faithful, all the way until the end, when he confronts and gets angry with God. God responds to Job by telling Him you don’t know anything; you weren’t there when the universe was created. Basically, God is telling Job, that the universe is fragile, and you are not the center of it all. I know life stinks for you, but it doesn’t always have to be that. There is a lot of things going on “out there” and around you, and you have no idea how big of an impact would be made with a small change.
If God could just stop those missiles from landing on children in Ukraine, for the world to see, would the world be a better place? Would everyone just believe that God exist? I am not too sure that would happen. I think religious fanatics would use such a display to further their corruption of the religion. Try to create their own order and structure in the name of God.
The suffering will always remain, damage will happen in the world and in our lives. So, it is up to us. Remember Jesus told the disciples that all the power of heaven is given to you. Go town to town to exorcise demons, heal the sick, and feed the hungry. That message is given to us today. The powers of heaven are given to us to do the same. Instead of creating havoc and pain, use the gifts that God gave you to be compassionate to others, be the healing hands of a damaged world, and an example of peace to all you encounter. Jesus tells us if we have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can move mountains. Let today be the day that we move mountains.
Seriously, Spring is right around the corner. You can see glimpses of it peeking through the clouds. You have the spring rains, the longer days, the birds chirping in the morning, the chipmunks and squirrels running around. Also, not to mention yesterday I was staring at three rabbits as they stared back at me. The temperatures on average are starting to climb!
But it’s not just there yet. Even though some flowers are blooming, we can sense Spring is here, but we still have winter’s reminders of cold mornings. But the anticipation of Spring is really getting me on the edge of my seat.
It reminds me about how we should be excited about Easter. I was just on the phone with Orchid Huff, and we talked about the excitement of Easter. And this period of Lent is the anticipation of Easter to come! I love Easter, because it’s just a great symbol of the arrival of Spring.
On Easter day our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ rolled the tomb away from his grave. The darkness being pushed back, the warm soothing light emerges! Opening the tomb is the reawakening of new life that comes with accepting Christ in your life! It reminds us of our Baptism, the day that we become Christians and that day is all about living a new life. Spring season is as such as well! Winter has some of the coldest, longest nights of the calendar year. But Spring comes around, pushing the darkness back, allowing the warmth of the sun’s light emerge and create longer days of brightness. Spring is a renewal of life. Winter, the trees were barren of leaves and the grass brown and covered with ice and snow. Nothing was emerging from the cold ground. But Spring comes in, grass gets color, and the trees begin to bud and grow leaves. That ground that grew nothing during winter is now emerging with flowers poking through, awakening from the cold ground.
Spring is coming, it’s close and with Spring comes Easter! So, feel hope once again, feel renewed, feel the warm of the Son once again. Winters cold air and bitter winds will not imprison us anymore! Thanks be to God!
So happy for Eunkyung, who is now working in the Cardiothoracic Intensive Care Unit (CTICU) in UPMC Altoona! She is learning a lot and excited to work for a great unit in a great hospital. I know that God will continue to use her to help people in her field. She is a great example that determination and hard work will get you through anything. Regardless of the hurdles in life, she has done it. A mother of two children, immigrant to the USA, English as a second language, and many more hurdles, but she did it!
Not too long ago she received her first paycheck, and it was exciting. I told her to not worry too much about the loans on this paycheck, but celebrate it, she deserves it! She gave each one of us something special. That beanbag in the last blog I wrote about, came out of her paycheck, and she gave me a dashboard Jesus!
You may be wondering, what the heck is a dashboard Jesus? It is exactly the way it sounds. It is a little Jesus figurine that sticks to a dashboard of a vehicle, and Jesus just bops around as the car moves. I absolutely love it! I have a Jesus mobile!
Now I hope, as you guys are reading this, aren’t thinking now that I am some religious whack job, or that I am poking fun at Christianity. This dashboard Jesus gives me a ton of joy! It is fun, cheerful, and reminds me every time I get into the car, I really can’t get too frustrated driving around town. I must admit, I can get stressed driving, especially when someone is driving rude, or I think that the persons in other cars aren’t driving the way they are supposed to! But now I have Jesus with me in the car, and I feel happy. I can’t help but smile. And it reminds me that Eunkyung gave this to me, with her own independent financial self! All very cool to think about!
Having Jesus on my dashboard of the car also reminds me that being a pastor isn’t always about seriousness. It isn’t always about dealing with stress of preparing a worship and a sermon. Nor is it about meetings and planning or making sure that the people I visit will get the best and correct counselling. Being a pastor is also about joy and laughter. I should never forget that. God called me to be a pastor, not because of my gifts He has given me, but because God knows that it would give me great joy. Thank you to Jesus who is riding with me all over Central Pennsylvania!
So, I wanted to buy a bean bag for the kids. And I went on Amazon to search for a beanbag. Something little and fun that the kids would enjoy. We already have one, thanks to Joyce Gordon for giving it to us, but the problem is the kids fight over it…. A lot. So, the solution was that we would buy another beanbag chair, so they don’t have to fight.
So, Amazon was the perfect place to order such an item. A ton of beanbag chairs, and we picked one that we thought could work. We looked at the pictures and thought yeah… this would work. But I am afraid we misjudged and miscalculated the size of dang thing. Apparently, the dimensions of the beanbag chair that were posted in Amazon were the packaging size, and not the product size. But I should have known better, because the package weighed 45 pounds. Do you know any kind of beanbag chair that weighs 45 pounds? I should have thought about it more.
So, for the past few days this thing has been growing. Apparently, it was vacuumed sealed and said it would take 4-5 days to fully “fluff” out. This picture you see was taken on day 3. And if you are curious about size comparison… above the beanbag is a 70-inch TV. This thing takes up about 1/5 of our living room now!
Now, if you are reading this and wondered why I shouldn’t just return it. I ask you…how?? This thing is 45 pounds and is the size of a mini cooper. I have no idea how to get it out of the door, find a box to fit it in, and get it to the post office. Totally unreturnable!
So, what’s the solution? Well, have fun with the dang thing! This thing is about the size of our couch, all of us can be on this beanbag comfortably and we have all taken naps on it, played games on it, jumped on it. And to be honest, it’s now part of the home. Sure, its size is intimidating, but it’s great with the kids! They both can enjoy it, lounge in it, relax, and most importantly, not fight for it. Plenty of room for both! When Amazon gives you lemons, you make lemonade right? Tghis beanbag has two more days to fully reach its potential size. Can't wait to see how big its going to be on day 5.
Hey this is Rev. Brian Choi's random thought throughout my week. Most of this stuff, will probably be about family, church, fishing, music, movies, food, whatever I think of, hopefully it will have some sort of theological reflection (maybe).