There Are Monsters Among Us

 By John K. Lee

Photo Credit: Bill Melendez

Photo Credit: Bill Melendez

About the same time each year, my shoulders become tense with subconscious anticipation.  The sun-worn skin on the back of my neck tingles.  I sense something coming.  When I leave the house it’s apparent that the buttery warmth of summer is giving way to a crisp, less forgiving, chill.  The days are shorter.  The nights are long.  I can almost smell it.  In fact, when I close my eyes and take it in, I get hints of…of…chocolate?

That’s when a tired voice snatches me out of my revelry to ask, “Do you want paper or plastic?”  Immediately, I’m brought back to reality.  I then realize that the aroma is nothing more than the unintentional potpurri of assorted, pre-packaged, candy packs on a seasonal display behind me.  As I quickly pay the checkout clerk, I’m subtly reminded that [please read the remainder of the sentence in a creepy pirate voice] Halloween be upon us!

All jokes aside, as followers of Christ, this day can be confusing.  And while there is no consensus on how believers choose to collectively observe and/or ignore this pseudo-holiday, I think that we can all agree that, in America, pop culture’s influence on how we view this strange appropriation of a pagan solstice celebration is still very strong.  After all, when I think of ‘All Hallow’s Eve’, my thoughts range from the nostalgic (á la It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown), to the sinister (i.e., 1980s era urban legends of devil worshipers sacrificing neighborhood cats).  So in the spirit of the season, instead of writing the expected 5 Tips for Harvest Partying Like It’s 1999 or Hell House Evangelism:  How To Scare the Bejesus Out and The Holy Spirit In, I want to ask you if you’ve ever really considered this question–what kind of monster are YOU?

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Is it OK for Me to Wear a T-Shirt and Shorts to Church?

“Come As you are, As you were, As I want you to be.
As a friend, As a friend, As an old enemy.
Take your time, Hurry up.
The choice is yours, Don’t be late, Take a rest…
Come Dowsed in mud, Soaked in bleach.
As I want you to be, As a trend, As a friend.
As an old memoria… ” – Kurt Cobain

Write a blog on a log, Sam I am

Earlier this week, I read a blog entry called “I Hate Church” and it described an experience a lot of people who don’t go to church go through whenever they first visit a church. Check out their info, they’re pretty awesome.

Does the church actually make it welcoming for outsiders? What if a man in a torn shirt and ripped jeans showed up to the church — would we make him feel welcome? Here’s a bit from the blog that is the inspiration for this blog entry:

“…My wife and I find ourselves deciding to visit some prominent churches in our city, as well as churches that we have preached at in the past. She would wear a mini-skirt, I would wear some baggy jeans with a hat put on backwards, with big diamond earrings in my ears, and we would pretend like we didn’t know much…

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A God Called Money

In 1994, Mother Teresa commented that it is “the greatest poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.” [1] Those words were meant for a specific audience, but they echo into a larger ideology. Throwing light onto how the powerful play while the powerless suffer.

Photo Credit: AP

Photo Credit: AP

Pope Francis recently channeled Mother Teresa’s sentiments in an impromptu speech given in Sardinia, where the unemployment rate has hit catastrophic heights. He talked about the globalized economy that put the “god called money” ahead of human beings and sacrificed the young and the old for the sake of profit.

In Pope Francis’ words: “To defend this economic culture, a throwaway culture has been installed. We throw away grandparents, and we throw away young people. We have to say no to this throwaway culture. We want a just system that helps everyone.”

Reportedly, the crowd responded with applause and tears. It’s a powerful message that people are longing to hear. A message that the global economic system does not have to crush them… crush us. That we can band together and put human values above fiscal ones. And that a humane approach is what God calls us to.

But how?

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The Pope is a Sinner (His Words, Not Mine)

Headshot - Johnny CabreraPastor Johnny is a Mexican-American guy, married to a Korean woman, with Korexican kids. Loves Jesus. Committed to youth and community engagement. Writes and plays music. Follows sports. Misses acting. Appreciates feedback. He’s also the Youth and Outreach Pastor at Trinity Church. Check out his blog at:catterflystillprocessing.wordpress.com

Catterfly Still Processing

pope1_0

I have never liked the Pope. It’s not that I dislike whatever individual happens to be in that position–not that I know him personally anyway–but it’s the position itself that has never sat well with me. People crowd around to have him kiss their babies. Whatever he says is gold to those who revere him. People even address him as “Holy Father.” I thought that title was only reserved for God Himself.  I guess I, like many others, are wary of clergy who are put on a pedestal that no mortal man could ever live up to.

Granted, I have strong Catholic roots. Both of my parents came from Catholic families, and they both went through catechism, First Holy Communion, and Confirmation. They can still recite the prayers; my mom still remembers them in Spanish. Until he had an encounter with God that changed him forever, my dad was strongly…

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Pastor Albert to Speak at Faith and Finance Conference

Pastor Albert Hung will be a discussion panelist and workshop leader at the upcoming ISAAC (Institute for the Study of Asian American Christianity) Symposium, held on October 5th at Evergreen Baptist Church, San Gabriel Valley. The Symposium is an annual conference aimed at equipping this generation of Asian American Christians to be healthier and more effective leaders in their homes, churches and communities.

Lifestyles of the Rich and Faithful Postcard (front)-page-001

This upcoming event is titled “Healing of Memories and Healing of Finances.” The morning session, focused on money matters, features members of the business and finance world, discussing how to lead healthy financial lives while also living out our faith. Pastor Albert, as the “lay person” of this group, will add his “wealth” of personal wisdom and insights from his Lifestyles of the Rich and Faithful  sermon series. Other workshop leaders are: Shana Won, Jeffery Wong and Sal Mendoza.

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Day of Atonement

Today is Yom Kippur. Also known as the “Sabbath of Sabbaths,” it is he holiest day of the year for the Jewish people. And marks the end of a period of repentance known as “the Days of Awe,” ten days spent seeking absolution from any and all peoples that one has wronged. Fasting and extensive prayer mark this holy day, as the observer works through all his debts, errors and shortcomings from the prior year and brings them to God.

The prayers of Yom Kippur begin with the Kol Nidre. Among the most beautiful and haunting observations in all of religion, the Kol Nidre is a binding contract with God, a mediation on the release of all that we have taken upon ourselves, all that we have fallen short.

All vows, and prohibitions, and oaths, and consecrations, and konams and konasi and any synonymous terms, that we may vow, or swear, or consecrate, or prohibit upon ourselves, from the previous Day of Atonement until this Day of Atonement and from this Day of Atonement until the Day of Atonement that will come for our benefit. Regarding all of them, we repudiate them. All of them are undone, abandoned, cancelled, null and void, not in force, and not in effect. Our vows are no longer vows, and our prohibitions are no longer prohibitions, and our oaths are no longer oaths.

You Knit Me Together…

By Christine Hung

 

Photo Credit: Carmen Medlin

Photo Credit: Carmen Medlin

Psalm 139:13-14

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

I have to be honest.  I don’t love being pregnant.  The pregnancy glow, thick shiny hair, long healthy nails – I could do without any of these perks.  Some women love it, but I would be the first in line to have my baby delivered by a stork in 9 months’ time. I suppose I need to trust in the mysterious ways of the Lord!

bellesinwonderlandOne of the few highlights of my pregnancy, however, is the weekly updates I receive from the internet detailing the going-ons of my unborn child’s growth.  I look forward to Friday mornings to read what new milestones have been reached during that particular week of pregnancy.  It’s truly fascinating.  For example, at 31 weeks, this little boy in my womb is now the size of a coconut, can now turn his head side to side, and presently growing his itty bitty fingernails and toenails.  How about that!

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How I Found My Perfect Church

Is this perfection?

By Samuel Lam

This past Sunday, Pastor Albert started his sermon about churches in general and how some churches aim to be perfect. He spoke that how churches try so hard to put up an image of themselves as a church that was flawless. The pastor has a perfect sermon, the worship team is flawless, the building is massive and packed, the congregation doesn’t go through struggles in life. Everything we see at the church was supposed to be perfect.

However, Albert warned us that such expectations are foolish because perfection like that cannot be achieved. In fact, it doesn’t exist because we live in a world of imperfections. People make mistakes, struggle, go through numerous things that take away what we call “perfection.”

And in a way, the message was a great reminder for me because it brought me back to my personal journey to find the perfect church. But it’s not perfection by our standards set by society. It’s perfection in God’s eyes.

Perfection can be achieved. In fact, perfection already exists in our church. But we don’t realize it.

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Christians Are the Scum of the Earth

By Albert Hung

We’re living in an age where Christianity is losing its influence in the Western world.  Many would argue it’s already too late for the church.  Our presence is no longer welcome.  Our voice is no longer relevant.  The church is seen as out of touch, behind the times, a cultural dinosaur that will one day fade into oblivion.  Truth be told, were that to happen, there are many who would not mourn its passing.

There is a lot of vitriol towards Christians these days, and for good reason.  A Barna Poll asked thousands of people across the country what they thought of Christians.  Their top responses?  Judgmental.  Hypocritical.  Homophobic.

We’ve earned this reputation, I’m afraid.

photo credit: Westword

photo credit: Westword

Earlier this week I came across a startling statement written by the Apostle Paul: “We have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world.” (1 Corinthians 4:13)

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Speaking of Prayers and Church Plants…

James Choung is InterVarsity’s Director of Evangelism and he’s a blogger. He recently posted about “A Stupid Prayer” that he prayed at the beginning of a new church plant. He prayed for “God to build something that wouldn’t be credited to the talents of the people in the room.” and for Him “to do something that could only be explained by his presence with us, that would be impossible to do without God.”

photo credit: James Choung

photo credit: James Choung

A simple and, in many ways, typical pastor’s prayer. But James wasn’t prepared for that prayer to be answered so fully and vividly in the year to come. God lead him to an avalanche of new responsibilities, both personal and in his ministry, where “everything feels impossible,” and he found himself “trying to manage it all, to keep them small and manageable.” And thinking, “some would say that’s wisdom. I can tell you that, for me, it’s laced with fear.”

That made me think about the prayer I pray with my sons. A prayer that asks for Bravery, and so in effect also asks for Fear. And I’m thinking of Pranny and her first year in campus ministry, planting a brand-new ministry on the Cal Poly campus. I recognize that, in God’s ways, fear-doubt-impossibility are often the most telling signs that we are on the right path.

It seems that since the dawn of time, the missions of His people have been marked by these dark imprints. Signs that it’s we that are small and He that is big.

And that’s how James concludes his thoughts, that “in the end, I now have more faith that the rest of the prayer will be answered — that God would build something that could only be explained because He was with us.”

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James Choung blogs at: http://www.jameschoung.net/blog/