January 16, 2022 | Brian Lowe
The rising amount of positive cases of COVID is concerning and causing another wave of anxiety and fear around the globe. Although it appears the symptoms of the omicron variant are mild compared to the previous variant strains amongst the vaccinated and non-vaccinated alike and not as lethal, we find ourselves once again taking steps of increased caution to prevent the transmission and infection of this microscopic menace.
From a Christian standpoint, I can’t help but wonder, “why can’t the good news of the gospel spread as fast as this virus?” As I do some soul searching, I realize my efforts to promote and proclaim the gospel are severely lacking. Why am I in such a rush to tell others how good a movie such as “Spiderman: No Way Home” was or how great my favorite sports team played, but am hesitant or reluctant to share the greatest love story of God’s grace through His Son, Christ Jesus? If I really am thankful for the new life I have in Christ, shouldn’t I make it my highest priority to tell others?
After more inner reflection, I see something else has infected me more deadly than the COVID-19 virus. That something is sin. Sin cripples our ability to promote the gospel because it promotes ourselves and our desires above God’s. Though there is no vaccine that guarantees 100% immunity from the COVID virus, there is a cure for sin paid for by the life-giving and cleansing blood of the Savior. The remedy is a process of confession, sincere repentance, sanctification through the blood of Christ, and a daily dosage of immersing ourselves in the Word to combat temptation as Jesus did in His 40 day wilderness experience.
Brothers and sisters, what is preventing you from obeying Christ’s command to go and make disciples of all nations? As our love and appreciation for God’s grace is reflective in our worship and service to Him, that same love and appreciation should motivate and prompt us to testify the incredible impact God has made in our lives. May the gospel continue to spread its infectious impact on this generation and on future generations until Christ’s return.
January 9, 2022 | Pr. Michael Furuyama
“Be holy for God is holy” - 1 Peter 1:16.
Are you living a holy life? Holy means to be totally different from everything else in a morally good, pure way. We learn from the Bible that God is holy because he is the source of life and everything and everyone is dependent on God. As God’s children, we are to be like our heavenly Father. But how do we do this, when we see that we still curse people when we get cut off in traffic, or still say a nasty remark when a family member or co-worker says something mean, or we still go back to our habitual sins to escape from life’s pressures.
2 Corinthians 5:21 states “For our sake [God] made [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Jesus came to take all of curses, nasty remarks, and habitual sins and to pay its penalty completely so that Jesus might gift us with his holy divine nature. We can’t make ourselves holy. Only God can make us holy. Will you acknowledge your mess and ask God to forgive you? Will you embrace that God wants to take your mess and redeem you? Will you give God your mess and see what God will begin to birth in your life as we start 2022?
January 2, 2022 | Jaime N.
Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. – Ephesians 5:1-2, 15-16
One night, after having a family dinner in Downtown Los Angeles, my daughter and I walked to the car to go home. Along the way, we passed by a man who seemed to be sleeping on the sidewalk. My daughter asked me what he was doing there. I told her that some people are homeless and they sleep on the sidewalk. She misunderstood what I said and asked if I said that he was “hopeless.” I explained to her that he was without a home and had no place to stay the night and that for tonight, the sidewalk was his home. She seemed to understand and was quietly pondering what I had told her.
It was a particularly cold night and we had an extra blanket in the car, one of my coziest blankets that I loved. I couldn’t help but to think of how many blankets I had at home to keep us warm, and here was this man, asleep on the cold sidewalk. I felt the tug of the Holy Spirit to give the blanket to him. For me, it was a “holy moment.” Perhaps I could be God’s instrument to give this man hope that he is not alone. Everything seemed to go quiet as I placed the blanket on the man. I thought to myself, “There, I took a step of faith and gave this man a blanket that I hope will remind him of our heavenly Father who looks after us day after day.” And just as I finished that thought, the man swapped me away, mumbled something and threw off the blanket.
I was humbled to say the least. My daughter was upset that I gave him the blanket. But I held fast to the words of Ephesians. It says to follow God’s example, walking in the way of love and making the most of every opportunity. This experience made me realize that I need to walk in His ways and be obedient to Him no matter what the response may be of the recipient of that loving act. People will reject me because of Him. But that shouldn’t stop me from living out my faith. I also learned that I should not assume that I know what the other person needs and that it is a relationship that needs to be built.
Are there times when you felt a tug on your heart to do something? What stops you from doing it? Remember that we are told that we just need to be obedient followers. The rest is up to God and to the recipient.
December 19, 2021 | Chris T.
Pastor Michael spoke about the birth of John the Baptist being foretold in his speaking series “Humiliation, the Birthplace of Grace” to start this Advent season. Luke 1:13 says “But the angel said to him: ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John.’” Zechariah was 92 years old and Elizabeth was 88 years old when they heard this news. Pastor Michael noted that these prayers that were answered by God, were prayed by Zechariah and Elizabeth decades before. God heard and remembered them and was faithful in His timing. Pastor Michael went on to say, that likewise, we at LA Holiness Church (and the OMS Holiness Conference for that matter), are still together today, still being blessed by those prayers of our founding Issei pioneers, “The Holiness Five,” that were lifted up a century ago on our behalf. God has been faithful to us and remembered those prayers.
This got me thinking about the enduring power of prayer in my own life. I started thinking of all those that prayed for me throughout the years. My: parents, Sunday School teachers, Mt Hermon cabin leaders, pastors, siblings, friends, just to name a few. God is still touching my life today, because He remembers those prayers prayed decades ago for me! And extrapolating that further, the prayers I have prayed for my children since they were small, were received by my God who does not forget and who will be faithful to them as they fulfill His will in their lives, even when I am gone. That’s another wonderful aspect to remember, the enduring power of our prayers.
“Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments” (Deut. 7:9).
December 12, 2021 | Pr. Michael Furuyama
Jesus is very familiar with humiliation. Christmas all happened because Jesus himself was born inside a barn with a lot of animals. Jesus himself would one day be humiliated in front of the whole nation of Israel and die on a cross. The question is why did Jesus come in humiliation? Did you know that humiliation is the birthplace of grace? Jesus meets us in our humiliation because he himself was humiliated. When we are humiliated, hopefully we learn that we cannot rely on ourselves to save the day. We need to look to another to help us. When we acknowledge our weakness and look to God, we experience God’s amazing grace, not because we deserve it, but because “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalms 34:18 NIV).
In the midst of humiliation that we find ourselves, God offers us his favor and salvation. Though you may be struggling alone, will you look for Jesus and realize the fulfillment of the prophecy, “‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’)” (Matthew 1:23 NIV). Christmas shouts that Jesus promises to be with you always, even in your most humiliating and challenging times. So you are not alone today or tomorrow because God is with you.
December 5, 2021 | Satoshi N.
“When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told to them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” - Luke 2:17-20 (NIV)
The focus of this passage is on Mary and the shepherds. Mary was being told of all the amazing things the shepherds were saying and recognizing God was present. She basked in the words and sat with God. Amidst the excitement and possibly “excited chaos”, she was with God and was encouraged that God had a plan for Jesus. The shepherds were praising and glorifying God because they could verify that what the angel had said came true. They know God has a plan and that they were able to witness it.
Christmas is just around the corner. Every year, it seems to be much the same. Consider buying gifts, preparing the family Christmas cards, plans for family meals, and doing all this while still having to still go to work, school, and take care of our families. In the midst of the busy-ness, let’s consider taking time to be present with Jesus. Take the time to soak in Jesus and allow Him to encourage you. Because Christmas is the celebration of Jesus’ birth, we should have joy and be desiring to praise God. May this Christmas time be more than just our responsibilities. Let’s sit and treasure Jesus in our hearts. Let’s also have a desire to praise God daily during this Christmas season and remember why we truly celebrate Christmas. Let’s praise our Savior, Jesus Christ to our fullest.