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MUSINGS OF EMMANUEL PASTORS

Addressing the Pain of our Nation

Our society is hurting. We have found our streets crowded with an outcry against racism, abuse of power and injustice. Only what we see and hear is the painful cry of, “Enough is enough,” heralding an end to a history of racism and unjust killings of black people. The recent killing of George Floyd ignited protests for change of a systemic problem marked by the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Botham Jean, Renisha McBride, Stephon Clark, Jordan Davis, and Aiyana Jones, to remember a handful among many black lives that were ended. We’ve seen shimmers of hope, from peaceful protests where voices were heard to police officers laying down their batons and taking a knee with the people they protect. Our society is struggling to achieve peace, safety and equal valuing of all human life.

Emmanuel Church sees the fear, anger, and pain, and we grieve with our society. Emmanuel strives for what God strives for — the flourishing of our world. Being made in the image of God is the basis of all human dignity, value and beauty. We are meant to recognize and treat one another as image-bearers of God, regardless of race, class or gender. While we may be different from one another, we are equal complements to one another in God’s mosaic masterpiece of humanity. God does not favor a certain race (Ro. 2:11, Acts 10:34), but all were made equal and are redeemed equally in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:28). We are meant to be united as a mosaic in Christ (Eph. 2:14-15), as part of human flourishing.

But injustice threatens flourishing. Racism, indifference, and prejudicial devaluing of one’s life based on race, class, gender, place of origin, or culture counter the world God is creating. When the most fundamental aspect of us as image-bearers that we know deep down to be good, true and God-given is affronted, it is no wonder an outcry erupts. We hear and feel the pain of our society. Like a mosaic, when one color is hurt, the whole hurts.

We stand for change towards flourishing, spiritually and societally. We do not condone violence, theft and destruction, or criminal acts by those who take advantage of the situation. We should commit acts and carry voices that produce the good and uphold righteousness, defending the oppressed, advocating for the disenfranchised, and listening to those who cry out. We are to be a beacon of light for truth, goodness and preservation of life (Matt. 5:14-16). We are to sow peace in the soul and the streets for all (Matt. 5:9). Where our land hurts, we need to heal. Where there are wrongs, we need to shed light on it (Eph. 5:13). Where dignity is denied, we should defend it (Prov. 31:8-9). Where there is hurt and anger, we will be a place of understanding and healing (2 Cor. 1:3-4). Where there is evil, we will conquer with goodness (Ro. 12:21).

As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., said, “Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding,” and, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

We fight for a world God intended, a world that is flourishing for His image-bearers. Recalling God’s words on how to live, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8). Our nation has lost much. Emmanuel Church stands with our community to sow flourishing through justice, love, and walking humbly with our God.

 

– Brian S. Chan, Lead Pastor

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill
cannot be hidden.” Matthew 5:14

The Church of Jesus Christ should always be observable, never hidden.

The first church I attended after becoming a committed Christian in my early 20s was on a beach.

The Beach Fellowship met at 10 a.m. every Sunday at lifeguard station #12 at Will Rogers State Beach. Men and women of all ages in shorts and t-shirts would plop down in their beach chairs, open their Bibles and worship together for 90 minutes.

It was very observable, and we began to see regular beach goers move closer and closer to us each Sunday.

In the late 1970s, we were not your typical church and it showed. We were representing a new way of doing church that appealed to those who were not interest in doing church the old way. Simple but relevant worship. Intelligent Bible teaching. Authentic, loving fellowship – all were easily seen and heard by others. Our church grew each week as more beachgoers joined us.

I never forgot how powerful the impact was when church was easily observable to others and not hidden behind walls.

During the plagues of the Middle Ages, there was a surge of fearful, helpless people seeking God. Churches were limiting attendance to prevent the spread. Historian and theologian, N.T. Wright, recently shared that some churches would drill holes in their walls so non-church going folks could observe the service.

In a time of great need, there was a great need for God and the church found a way to be observable.

Because of the helplessness of the pandemic we are in, people over the world are seeking God with a new passion.

So, what is our peephole? How is the church becoming observable to countless new people?

Pastors all over the world have found that the internet is our new peephole.

The viewing of online services is skyrocketing during this pandemic. Many churches, including Emmanuel Church, are finding that online views of their worship services are 3-4 times larger than previous church attendance.

Either the faithful are watching the same service three or four times, or God is drawing many non-church going people to these services in their time of need.

It is clear that many who would be uncomfortable waking through a church door in “regular times” are viewing the Body of Christ through a digital peephole in these extraordinary times. Expect a worldwide revival at the end of this pandemic!

Join me in prayer that God is using this crisis to draw countless to Himself – some who have never known Jesus and some who have known their Savior but wandered away.

This is the time for the church to be observable – be a light unto the world – through love, hope, faith, worship, prayer and service.

Praise God that Emmanuel Church is doing its part.

 

– Pastor Bob Drummond

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,

for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3

Sometimes, in God’s “upside down Kingdom” feeling helpless and having need can be a blessing.

This lesson was dramatically demonstrated to me during the 1994 Los Angeles riots.  It was the Saturday right after the riots had ended. There was a palpable was a sense of desperation emerging among the many who lived in the neighborhood where my school was located.  The local grocery stores had been looted and there was a real panic among many who though they were not going to be able to get food for their families or diapers for their babies.  People were feeling helpless, without any sense of how their needs would be met.

But their first response surprised me. Instead of asking for help, they asked me if they could use the school auditorium to worship and pray.

I was invited to this impromptu worship service and I will never forget the absolute joy in worship I witnessed as those, considered “the least of these”, gathered to sing praises to God and to pray, in two languages. 

For these men, women, and children, there was no layer between their desperate needs and their need for God. Their first response was to go to God because He is all they had. Their trust was in God alone because they had nothing else to trust in.  They seemed blessed, amid despair.

I left that worship service in South Los Angeles to attend a family brunch at a country club in Glendale.  As I walked into the country club dining room, the contrast with where I had just been was dramatic. The room was filled people who were blessed with “the things of the world”, people who were secure, self-sufficient and calm.  There was no visible need evident or expressed, but their was also little joy.

So, I asked myself was, “Who were more blessed?” 

The answer was easy for me to see.  The first group was “poor in Spirit” and their need for God brought them close to Him.  God, alone, was their provider and only He received the praise and glory when their needs were met. 

We currently live in a time where the bastions of self-sufficiency and security are powerless to stop an invisible virus.  All people, in their own ways, are feeling helplessness and need, regardless if they are rich, poor, or in-between.

But I believe God is working amid all of this to bring many into the “kingdom of heaven.”

I believe, that in this time of great need and helplessness, God is calling people all over the world to himself.

I believe that many “sufficient people” will be reaching out to the God who was so distant and irrelevant in their lives just a few months ago, and that He will show himself faithful, trustworthy, and present.

 I believe out of the trauma of this crisis, we will see a new revival as so many become “poor in Spirit” and realize that they need God.

Will you pray with me about this and be ready to welcome many new believers into His Kingdom?

Always stay needy for the Lord, my friends.

 

– Pastor Bob Drummond

About Anger in COVID

As a writer, I have to sometimes process things by writing rather than speaking, and I am troubled by the Asian family who was attacked in Midland, Texas. Warnings of xenophobia and reports of discriminatory acts had been rising. It seemed it was a matter of time until a violent act is committed out of prejudice, out of fear, out of anger, out of hatred, and out of ignorance. The emotions we’re going through are vast – fear, worry, loneliness, despair, grief, disillusionment. And, there are the emotions of hatred, anger, and rage that stimulates a man to brutally attack a mother, 6-year-old and 2-year-old, an incident that I hope would not motivate others to act similarly. I hope others who feel angry would see this act as an ignorant, unrighteous act of violence upon the innocent.

It’s the hard times that make us. Who we become is forged in the crucible of difficulty. Our genuine qualities, or lack thereof, shows. What kind of people will we emerge to be in such times? I think about the emotion of anger that is like a sting in the chest and if left lodged in, its poison of destruction seeps through the heart. James 1:20 reads, “for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” Anger that turns into rage and bitterness does not cultivate righteous acts or thinking. It is a poison. It makes innocents into enemies, instead of seeing the enemy is the virus that threatens all humans, not just some. The virus is destructive enough. We don’t need to destroy each other. Many medical professionals diligently fighting the virus, saving lives and risking their own lives in the wake, are Asians. They are Chinese. This fight is humans against the virus, not humans against humans.

After learning of the incident to that family in Texas, I said to my wife, “You need to be careful if you go outside.” I felt worried for her and my 6-year-old son. I shunned the distaste of needing to express that to her – that my wife needed to be cautious going outside of our home. But the irrational fear, discriminatory perception and destructive anger is out there. I feel remorse over hearing from my kind-hearted Asian friends that they feel the need to protect themselves and their loved ones.

We have to resolve our anger. Ephesians 4:26 reads, “‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,” meaning don’t let that anger fester. Acknowledge it, process through it, and talk to somebody about it in a healthy conversation with the intent of being freed from the anger. Verse 27 goes on with, “and do not give the devil a foothold.” There can be a spiritual factor to anger. Left unchecked, the devil would love to incite your anger into rage and malice, turning it into something destructive. Praying about what we’re angry about is important. Talk to God. He’s listening. Pray for protection of your heart. “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice,” Ephesians 4:31 reads. Don’t tempt it. Don’t tease it. Deal with it.

But in dealing with anger, we might have to go back to the original sting in the chest. Anger may have begun as a wound. That wound may be a grief over losses – loss of a loved one, job, or an experience that was long-anticipated. The resolving of the anger has to dig further into healing of the wound. I think about the family that was attacked. I also think about the employee who bravely intervened and was injured as a result. I think about the attacker. Could he have been hurting?

 

– Pastor Brian S. Chan