A few days ago, I went to a local fast-food restaurant for lunch. It was a shop that cooked all different types of fried dishes, such as shrimp, fish, and chicken. All of the frying oil smells clung everywhere especially to me. I ordered one of my favorite dishes, which was fried shrimp. Then while waiting, I overheard a conversation between the owner and her teenage son. The mom gave him some allowance out of the cash drawer for a school field trip for the next day. But the son asked for some other bills because they strongly smelled of oils and chicken. “Mom, this is really smelly. Do you have some clean bills?” Then his mom replied, “Jack, it may look dirty and smell bad, but the value of the cash is still the same no matter what.”
We all came from various backgrounds and different lifestyles. Some of you might have easier lives while others may have tougher ones. You might carry a lot of emotional baggage from some unfavorable life experiences in the past. But you should remember that no matter what you have been through, the value of who you are as a child of God will never change. You are a precious child of God and beloved by His unchanging grace. God never degrades the value of who you are no matter what, and He will accomplish His purpose for your life.
Be confident in who you are and have a positive attitude about your identity. You are who you are, purchased by Jesus’ blood. So, you are precious and very valuable
1 Tim. 2:1 "First of all, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people."
I parked my car at a public parking lot in LA and then proceeded to take the shuttle bus to the airport. Looking down, I noticed in the shuttle bus that there was a key chain stuck between the seats with many keys dangling from it. It seemed that the previous passenger who came from the airport, got off the bus leaving the keys and keychain behind. I told the driver about the keys that I found and he said, "Oh No!" He immediately turned the bus back around to the parking lot where a young couple with two little children were standing. I could see the looks on their faces of anguish and worry. The keys did belong to them. They thought they had lost them and did not know what they would do without them. One of the keys was for their car. The husband held both of my hands thanking me several times saying, "You saved my life today." All the other passengers on the bus were laughing and cheering. He said, "I have never been so thankful to see my keys ever!"
On the way back to the airport, I pulled out my keys from my backpack and made sure they were all attached. Then I realized that each key is actually very important to me. One of them was my car keys, of course. Then while riding the bus, I decided to pray for each key, "Thank you for providing me the car and helping me to drive safely each day." The next one was the key to Susan's mother's house, so I prayed for her health. Then the next one was the key to my house in LA, and I prayed for my family who lives there. The last one was the key to my mailbox, and I prayed for all the people who deliver mail no matter how harsh the weather may be.
There is an old Korean saying, "the darkest spot is right under the lamp." It means the most important thing you're looking for is right next to you, and you often miss it.
Our keys are made to keep our valuable assets safely secured. It, however, could possibly be that we miss them or don't pay any attention to them because they are always there with us or we believe they are always there because the keys are always with us. Maybe, those keys should remind us of the people and places who we need to pray for today.
Let’s look at our keys today and see if we are missing the opportunity to pray for those that each key brings to mind. When looking at our keys, don't miss those opportunity to pray for those people we need to remember.
The True Forgiver
Psalm 139: 3-5 “You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.”
My brother and I had a long conversation on skype last week. Since we hadn’t talked after the beginning of this year, he and I took some time and had a nice chat. Thanks to the genius of modern technology!!! It was good to catch up with him. In fact, we haven’t had a chance to have a long and nice talk since I moved to this country. During our conversation, I realized that something was nagging in my brother for a long time. It was a such a burden in his heart. It was about my relationship with my family in Korea. He wanted to say something before but didn’t want to make a big deal out of it, so it festered in his heart for years. He felt he had all the responsibility and obligation to the family since he was there, and I was not. After listening to him, I felt offensive at first but then later I sincerely apologized for my ignorance and insensitivity to what he was going through. You know, my brother is a nice and humble guy. He accepted my apology, and all seems well now.
After the conversation, I felt that my one-time apology might not be enough, because forgiveness is not a quick process. To be truly forgiven by a person, we need to allow ourselves to feel the pain of what was lost in the person. We need to at least think about the similar sorrowful steps which developed within the person. Then our asking for forgiveness could be truthful and genuine.
But is it possible for us to feel the same level of pain that the other person went through?
Are we able to understand the years of agony which might have haunted the person in many different areas psychologically, physically or emotionally?
On the other hand, can we find a person who went through the same level of experiences we had, so he/she can truly understand what we have been through?
I would doubt that we would meet that person.
That’s why we need to come to the Lord.
Etymological sense of Lent in old West Germanic is “langitinaz,” which means “long days.” Or “lengthening of day.” Our Lord has known us for a long period of time. Our Savior is the only one who can truly see us through, deeply understand why we did what we did. Jesus does not momentarily visit us, but He has known us before we were even born. That’s why we need to meet Him daily and confess what we have been through. He is our true forgiver, comforter, and Savior. Our Lord, who truly knows you, says “You are forgiven.”
Who is in your frame?
Matthew 6:26 “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”
As I was driving along the beautiful scenery of the Utah desert, this picturesque postcard-looking area remained in my drive for a few hours. Of course, many tourists were seen taking photographs of this majestic nature. I also pulled over to one of the most popular places and saw a few professional photographers setting up their cameras and gear to try and capture this charming environment.
Then, luckily, I had a chance to talk to one of the photographers and asked, “What does it take to get that perfect shot?” I expected him to say something along the lines of, “A good digital camera,” or, “great lighting,” or, “high-definition zoom lens,” or even, “a great editing software.” But instead, his answer surprised me, “Frame.” “Capturing an image in the right frame from the right angle is especially important. It is the most basic of lessons, but also the most crucial for a professional photographer.”
What picture frame do you see in your life? Is this frame a true depiction of who you are and what you do? Or does this frame confine you and limit your level of faith and potential? If so, this type of limitation is measured by the world and those people are only seeking superficial benefits for improving one's own self worth.
Our Lord sees your innermost secret from your inner self and values your life with His gracious views of all the little things you do, all the thoughts you have, and all the actions you have performed. In the Lord’s frame, you are precious and a treasure because you are created in the image of God.
Prayer of Emptiness
Phi 2:7,8 “But emptied himself, taking the form of a slave…therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name.”
A few weeks ago I was on an airplane on my way to Illinois. It was my first trip to the state for my next pastoral position, so I tried to pray during those hours of flight. Then I noticed that a senior couple was sitting next to me and happened to have a chance to talk to them. The husband said that they took a trip once a year going around the world. They visited England a few weeks ago and spent some time there. Now they were on the way to New York for their next destination. With an envious tone, I asked him, “Wow, you must have learned lots of things and bought back many souvenirs from each trip. Then his answer was quite unexpected. He said that he didn’t travel to learn or get something. The purpose of his tour around the world was to empty his heart. In visiting new places in each country , he got rid of one negative thought, anxiety, or hatred. Then after finishing his trip, he returned to his home with a peaceful mind and inexplicable peace, which is the true emptiness of his heart.
Shouldn’t our prayers be like that? Empty our hearts? When praying or having quiet time with God, it is in our nature that we want to sense the Lord’s response to our prayer. We are longing to see some miraculous sign in our lives or eagerly expect Him to solve our life problems. And therefore, we become easily frustrated when it seems that God is just quiet. We feel as if our Lord will never answer our prayers.
Is our God really just quiet or does our Savior really never answers? Expecting good things from God is important. But emptying ourselves should be our first priority; empty our worries, obstinacies, stubbornness or self-reliance, so we can become humble and moldable. Then God will refill His peace, spirit and hope within us. Empty your heart, then our Lord will bring his inexplicable peace to you.
Mind the gap
Psalm 29:4 “The voice of the Lord is powerful; The voice of the Lord is full of majesty.”
A subway station employee noticed a lady frequently visiting the Embankment Station in England. She sat at the same station for a few hours. She would never get on a train but quietly sat for a while and then left. Then one day she came up to the employee and said that she didn't hear the same audible warning, "mind the gap", anymore. The employee explained that since the old warning had been used for many years, it had been replaced by a new digital voice. Then she paused for a while and started to tell him her story of why she visits the station.
Her name is Margaret McCollum, a 67 years old lady. She met her husband, Oswald Laurence, 44 years ago at the station. He was a theater actor with a beautiful voice, and the previous station warning, "mind the gap" phrase, was actually her husband's voice. Then a few years ago in 2007, her husband passed away. Since that time, she went to the station often and listened to her husband's loving voice coming out of the speaker. Then she asked if there would be any way that she could hear her husband's phrase again. She felt that he was next to her every time she listened to his voice. The employee told her story to the Northern Line Company. The trainway company decided to restore the voiceover warning to Embankment Station. She was also given a digital copy of her husband's recorded voice, so she can hear him at home.
The season of Lent is a time to listen to the Lord. We set aside our busy schedules and make some solitary moment to feel the presence of Christ around and within us.
Our Lord’s audible voice, however, is not available anymore but only the spiritually digitalized one that is printed on the Scripture. The voice would only be accessible to those who truly love him and desire to hear him. When sitting patiently and waiting for him amidst our hectic life activities, our Lord would come to us mysteriously. Then we know our Lord is with us.
When wind rises up..
Psalm 78: “He causes the east wind to blow in the heavens and by his power he directed the south wind.”
On the way to Kankakee, a snowstorm swept through the area where I was driving through in Colorado. Snow and high gusting winds smacked and shook trees and crops. In fact, before coming to that state, I had never experienced this type of weather. So I looked outside my car windshield and wondered how all of those trees could have withstood these rough weather conditions. How can a tall healthy stable tree last throughout those harsh wind and snow for a long time? I thought the terrible weather would at least damage the roots and branches so it would stop the tree from growing.
Next day, however, I realized some valuable things that go against my expectation. I was listening to a Radio program and learned that there are three elements that any tree needs in order to grow. The first two are water and light which is common knowledge. But the third one is quite unexpected. It is the wind. When the wind blows, it shakes up the roots of the trees which can benefit the tree by soaking up the nutrition and water from the soil. A tree which grows with wind is bigger and stronger than the ones that do without it.
After listening to the gardener on the radio, I came to get a clearer picture of why God allows an unfavorable event to happen in our journey of faith. It shakes our biblical knowledge and fits it into a place where it is needed the most. Heart breaking and unexpected moments purify all careless and needless thoughts and help us focus on the one thing that God wants us to hear. It seems that difficult times slow us down in our walk with God. But in time, we in fact get closer to God and grow stronger in our faith. Does the wind rustle in your life? It could be the moment that God might want to raise you up in your faith.