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Pastor's Corner Pastor Larry February 2004

Sunday, 01 February 2004 14:47

Pastor's Corner

February, 2004


I picked up the latest Decision magazine this morning and started to read some of the articles. There were plenty of good inspirational articles in every edition. I recommend you reading the Decision Magazine from time to time. You can subscribe a personal copy from: www.decisionmag.org

I want to share with you an interview with Ben Carson, who was one of the lead surgeons that attempted to separate the Iranian twins. The title is “The Power of a Changed Life.” Since there is a copyright issue and due to the length, I won’t be able to reproduce the entire article. Here is an excerpt written from my view.


Dr. Carson is an African-American who grew up in the middle of the tenements in Detroit and Boston , where people lying on the ground or dying were not uncommon. Two of his cousins were killed, and he didn’t think he would live beyond the age of 25. He accepted Christ at the age of eight when he listened to a preacher telling a story of some missionaries who were being chased. The missionaries got to a cliff and found a cleft under the cliff that they were able to hide in. Their pursuers came and were right over them and couldn’t find them. An analogy was made of how God was able to protect them from anything, even from seemingly overwhelming odds, because He cared so much. That was when he decided to follow the Lord. But growing up in his environment wasn’t easy. When he was 14, he tried to stab another youngster, but the knife blade struck his belt buckle and broke. That became the turning point of his life. He locked himself in the bathroom and began to think. He started to read the Book of Proverbs and prayed a lot. And from that day on, his life wasn’t the same since. God took his anger away, and he began to gather insight into who God is and into the incredible power one could have from Him.


Once again, I’m in awe with what God can do with a person. When all odds were against him, Dr. Carson got hold of the potential God has given him, and excelled to be a successful neurosurgeon. He believed that it was the attitude. He said, “People who always feel victimized look for reason for failure as opposed to mechanisms for success.” I think he is right. I also believe that God has given most people enough potential to be someone who can make a different. Have you developed the potential God has given you? I hope you will. What helps him the most is his devotion to God. He starts out every day with his own personal devotional time of praying, reading the Bible and contemplating. How can anyone go wrong if he puts God first every day, and try to keep God on his mind in everything he does.


Before I sign off, let me encourage you to spend your time with God every day. Give Him your plan for the day and ask Him to guide you along and bless what you are going to do.


Pastor Larry

Pastor's Corner

February, 2003


I am not a person who puts a lot on emphasis on certain day or festival. Just like the Apostle Paul described, I consider every day the same. I do appreicate that not everyone holds the same view as mine, so I've learned to be sensitive to those who feel differently. Therefore, I try my best to remember our anniversary date, my wife's and children's birthday, and so on. I still get their year of birth all mixed up, but then again, they all know that I'm trying!


As I was pondering what to write this month, my wife said, "Write about Valentine's Day." (I don't know whether it was a hint). But I said, "Valentine's Day never meant too much to me." Like many of you, I don't know the history of Valentine's Day. So then, I decided to look it up, and found an interesting story. According to church tradition, it originated by St. Valentine, a priest, near Rome around 270 AD. It was a time when the Roman Empire was under constant attacks by Northern Europe and Asian uprising military powers. Lack of quality adminstrators and dedicated soldiers, the Empire experienced plenty of defeats. When Claudius II became the emperor, he felt that married men were more emotional attached to their families, and therefore, would not make good soldiers. So to ensure a quality army, he banned marriage!


Valentine, a bishop a that time, seeing the trauma of young lovers, met them in secret places and joined them in the sacrament of matrimony. Claudius learned of the "friend of lovers," and eventually had him arrested. While he was in prison, he came in contact with his jailor, Asterius, who had a blind daughter. Through his faith, he miraculously restored her sight. But Valentine couldn't escape his fate. He was finally executed on February 24, 270 by the emperor. Just before his execution, he asked for a pen and paper from his jailer and signed a farewell message to her "From Your Valentine." This has been phrase that lived ever after. This incident evolved into a festival in which young men offering women whom they admired and wished to court, a handwritten greeting of affection on February 14.


What Valentine did was amiable. This story also triggered me to think that when a couple is truly in love, they would be willing to risk their lives to getting married. Sometimes, love does involve taking risks. I think the prime example is the love of God. He took the risk of being rejected when He came to live and die for you and me.


Before I sign off, I wish you a happy Valentine's Day, and most importantly, realize that God not only sent you a card. He sent you His Son. It's my prayer that you accept His love for you.


Pastor Larry

Pastor's Corner Pastor Larry February 2002

Thursday, 31 January 2002 16:00

Pastor's Corner

February, 2002


I picked up the book, “12 Christian Beliefs that can drive you Crazy,” by Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend and started to read it again. I skimmed through it before, but had forgotten most of what I read. Since both of them are clinical psychologists and professional counselors, they provided many real stories that could bring their point even closer to home. Their approach is also “down to earth,” which makes it very practical than theoretical.


One of the chapter is entitled If I make right choices, I will grow spiritually. Why would this statement drive us crazy? According to the authors, it’s not as simple as it sounds, because if you only change your behavior without changing the heart, though it may work some times, yet more often than not, you can’t sustain the behavior. Our mind, soul, and heart are often in conflict with one another. If we only tell our mind to make the right choice, without changing the heart to “desire” what is right, we would taste defeat. For this reason, the Bible always calls for change from the inside out, not just making the right choices. Sometimes, “bad” behavior is acted out because of a deeper heart problem. Unless we are willing to work through the real issue, making right choices cannot bring spiritual growth.


If making right choices cannot guarantee spiritual growth in us, how then can we grow? First, realize that making a conscious choice is good and necessary, but is insufficient. It’s just the first step for growth. Then, we must also learn to depend on God’s Spirit to discover what is choking our life. Are there any past sins that needed to be dealt with? Is there any bitterness that needed to let go? Those deeper issues must be taken care of before we can grow spiritually and become healthy and productive Christians. I wholeheartedly agree with the authors who wrote, “If we do not change on the inside, we do not change at all.” No magic act of the will transforms character. Finally, learn to cultivate the good and to weed out the bad. If we put the emphasize on just getting rid of the “bad” without replacing the “void” with something good, we would suffer greater loss at the end. Jesus, in Matthew 12:43-45, used a story to illustrate this.


Making right choices is a result of spiritual growth, not the other way around. The ability to make right choices is a fruit of the Spirit. So, where do we go from here? At the end of the chapter, the authors gave some suggestions. Here are a few suggestions: Confess our sins. Give up the notion that we can save ourselves. Submit our inability to God. Ask for help in searching our faults. Forgive. And others. All these assume our weakness and humility.


Before I sign off, I wish all of us could be spiritually and mentally healthy. This is what I’ve been sharing with you through the preaching on the Beatitudes. If you haven’t been to church, I would like to invite you to come to worship with us.

Pastor Larry

Pastor's Corner Pastor Larry February 2001

Wednesday, 31 January 2001 16:00

Pastor's Corner

February, 2001


Happy Lunar New Year! For all Chinese and Vietnamese around the world, this is a time to celebrate, or maybe more appropriate to say, anticipate the coming of new luck and new hope in the New Year. All is well with this thought, but in actuality, what this New Year brings us will depend largely on the decisions we make.


I’ve been preaching from Ecclesiastes since the beginning of the year. This is a reflection journal of an old man who had gone through what many would consider "smooth sailing" in life. At the end, he realized that Life was more than surviving passively or enjoying hedonistically. The thrust of this book is a combination of philosophical and theological approach to life. In order to find true meaning to life, one needs to realize that the activities he chooses have value. In order to find happiness in life, one needs to accept that Life and enjoyment of life is a gift of God. The backdrop is that life on earth is real, but short, and we should try to make the best of it to ensure Eternal Dwelling by putting our trust on the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus Christ and gain happiness by making positive and constructive decisions to benefit our soul and body. Of course, the goal is to engage in activities that will benefit others as well.


We make countless decisions throughout our life. Some are great decisions that will make us proud, while others are silly that will make us question the outcome. Some decisions we make will affect us for a long time, to an extend that they don’t only affect us, but also our children. As I was watching the inauguration of the 43rd President of the United States, I remembered thinking why I, a Chinese, ended up living in the United States. This was a decision I made over thirty years ago—to take a chance to live in this country that is full of opportunities. I am always curious about "what if" I didn’t take that chance. That’s a question I would never be able to find out. Solomon in Ecclesiastes reminded us "what is twisted cannot be straightened." In certain term, he told us not to ask "what if?" Instead, ask "what now?" It is much more positive to ask what we can do with the opportunity we have today. Our future depends on what we do now, not what we did before. Therefore, while we have a chance, capture the moment and make a better tomorrow.


Before I sign off, I would like to say that the Bible reminds us that "now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of Salvation" (II Cor. 6:2). If you have yet received Christ as your Savior, I urge you to capture the moment and do it today. There is no reason to wait.


Pastor Larry

Pastor's Corner Pastor Larry December 2009

Monday, 30 November 2009 16:00
Pastor's Corner by Pastor Larry


December 2009


By the time you read this newsletter, the fire in San Diegoshould have subsided. So far this fire has destroyed over a thousand homes and took six lives. By Wednesday, October 24, close to a million residents have to be evacuated from their homes. San Diego Qualcomm Stadium had to be opened to house the evacuees. UC San Diego had to shut down for a week due to polluted air. This brought back the horrifying memories of the destructive power of wild fire four years ago in the same county that leveled 4,847 homes and businesses and took fifteen people.


Whether I watched the news or read the newspaper, I saw the uncontrolled fire that consumed everything in sight. There was no stopping! Trees that took years to grow to those heights were burnt to ashes in a relatively short time. Houses that took a long time to build were leveled in minutes. All that was left was ashes.


There are stories within the story in every tragedy such as this. There are families who lost everything, but were still thankful for having their lives; while others seemed to have lost all hope. This led me to think about the things that I build. I believe all of us are building something every day. Whether it’d be something tangible like a beautiful house, successful career, assets for retirement, and so on, or something intangible, like a loving home, genuine friendship, personal character, spiritual vigor, and so on, we are builders. In this building process, we need to prioritize the list, lest we spend too much time building something that has no true and long lasting value. Imagine someone dispenses all his energies to make money to build his house, yet leaves no time to build a healthy and strong-bonded family. It would be a shame. Having strong families is essential to withstand tragedy. Maybe this is a good time for us to think about the things we build today. Do those things have true and lasting value?


Since this is Thanksgiving season, I’m also thankful that God has kept us safe. I found that I often take “Life” for granted. I should be thankful to be able to get up in the morning; and if I have health on that day, I should be even more grateful. When it comes to thanksgiving, I’ve learned to be thankful for the things I have, rather than hoping to have the things I don’t have. I believe true thanksgiving relates to contentment, as the Bible says,“But godliness with contentment is great gain.” I’m most grateful to God for giving me Eternal Life, so that I don’t worry about where I will go after my life ends in this world. I’m also grateful God has put a purpose for me in this life, so that I won’t be aimlessly dispensing my energies for no reasons.


Before I sign off, I wish all of you a Happy Thanksgiving season, and during this season, show your thankfulness by being gracious to someone.


Pastor Larry

Pastor's Corner Pastor Larry December 2007

Friday, 30 November 2007 16:00

Pastor's Corner by Pastor Larry Tong

December 2007

It is early December, and I’m sure many of us are busy trying to get Christmas shopping done before having to compete with the last-minute antsy crowd. There are more and more new merchandises that attract our attention. I have to say the new and improved gadgets are very tempting. Christmas, as hectic and watered-down meaning it has become, is still an inevitable season of joy and serenity that permeates each passing year. On Christmas day, it still brings back the quiet calmness from those old Christmas songs such as Silent Night, Holy Night; O Little Town of Bethlehem, and among others.

With the changing political climate all over the globe, our world keeps marching into an uncertain future, Christmas seems to be able to bring back the kind of hope that connects the unchangeable past with the ever-changing future. To many, Christmas is like a security blanket that everyone’s heart tries to hold on to inside.

What makes Christmas so special? Who was this child who born in a stable instead of a home? This child, like all new born infant was helpless. He lay there, needing his mother to tend to, yet shepherds from closed by and wise-men from afar went to pay homage to him. When He grew up, he became the center stage of all controversies. He had an outrageous claim that He and God was One! It was clear to the people he told this to that He implied He is God! He bowed down to no human government, compromised to no religious authorities, yet for a man who never set foot outside his own country, never held an office in government, never had a family, and never wrote a single book or had any memoir, influenced the world like no other man ever did. Many lives changed because of Him, not only from what He said and taught.

Though many years had gone by, and the stable had long disappeared, we need to really think about what’s so special about this birth that happened over two thousand years ago. He claimed to be God. Throughout history, Jesus wasn’t the only one who claimed deity, yet all disappeared and forgotten, except Jesus. One important question must be answered: “What if His claim is true?” If Jesus was one of the many who lied, we can ignore him as we’ve ignored others, but what if He is right? Maybe a better question is, “Why should we care?” What does Jesus, who claimed to be God and came from His abode in Heaven, mean to us?

Silent Night! Holy Night! All is Calm! All is Bright! Do you feel the same way? Before I sign off, I wish all of you a joyous Christmas season. If you haven’t come to believe in the Baby Jesus who was born in a stable as God and Savior, I urge you to do so, for He is the reason for the season. If you have, congratulations! Maybe you want to display His promise of hope in your own life. During this hectic month, maybe it serves us well to spend a moment to think, “What does Christmas mean to me?” Merry Christmas!

Pastor Larry

Pastor's Corner Pastor Larry December 2006

Thursday, 30 November 2006 16:00

Pastor's Corner by Larry Tong


December, 2006


By the time you read this, it’s early December. “Black Friday” and “Black Monday” are behind us, but Christmas decorations in retail stores are at their heights to persuade us to stop in to shop for gifts before Christmas. One thing I realized is that there are fewer and fewer “Nativity Scenes” in shopping centers. We seldom see a baby sleeps in a trough, with donkeys and sheep nearby, and the father and mother standing behind the baby to attend the baby’s needs. The music throughout the stores has also changed in recent years. Even the signs from some of the stores have changed from “Christmas Season” to “Holiday Season.” Why these changes? Yes, I remember now. It is because some people protested the use of religious songs and imageries in public places because they are too offensive. They claimed that though there is religion freedom in this country, it is a private matter, and should not publicly display one’s Faith.


This upset many Christians, and as a result, decided to boycott the retail stores that stopped playing Christmas music and changed the slogan from Christmas greetings to Holiday Greetings. As I was meditating on this, I found myself asking, “When God looks at this from heaven, what is His reaction? Is God in-shock to see people gradually moving away from Him?” These questions drew me back to think about the first Christmas. Why the Nativity? Since God is all-knowing, didn’t He realize that the Jews would reject Jesus as the promised Messiah? Why did He allow His only begotten, beloved Son to go through the excruciating emotional and physical pain? Is He a cruel God?

We may never be able to understand what went through God’s mind when He sent His Son Jesus Christ two thousand years ago. In spite of knowing the rejection ahead of time, God still sent His Son Jesus Christ to die and to redeem the world. We can’t possibly fathom God’s love. We can only say, “What marvelous grace!” Therefore, I don’t think God is in shock with people pushing aside any notion of Christmas. I believe it hurts God the same way it hurt Him when Jesus was hung on the cross. Yet, His love and grace continue to flow from the cross on Calvary. God is relentless to save those who are willing to accept Jesus as their Savior.


The world is in full speed racing into an uncertain future. The “buzz” word since the 9/11 incidence is “Security.” However, are we secured? Those who reject Christmas certainly have uncertainty awaits them, but for those who have embraced the first Christmas, the Nativity is like a security blanket that keeps us warmly tucked in God’s security.


Before I sign off, dear friends, this security blanket is big enough for you to keep warm. If you haven’t come to know Jesus as your Savior, get under the blanket.


Pastor Larry

Pastor's Corner Pastor Larry December 2005

Thursday, 01 December 2005 13:37

Pastor's Corner by Pastor Larry


December, 2005


Thanksgiving came and went. I hope that you had a great time getting together with family members who you haven’t seen for awhile or just hanging out with friends over a warm dinner. By the time you read this newsletter, “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” would have been in the past, but shopping no doubt will continue until Christmas Eve. While shopping helps economy, it must be done with sensibility.


Hurricanes Katrina and Rita caused many houses to be destroyed, but in these few months, we have also heard a lot of amazing stories about homes and friendships being built because of this tribulation. There was an article in the newspaper last Sunday, entitled “What Makes A Place A Home,” about a few cars leaving New Orleans to go to different places, but on the way, some of the cars began to either break down or run out of gas. One Jeep left with twelve people enroute to Detroit. The report says, “They crammed inside that Jeep. They used every lap. They tried to sleep. They invented games to keep the kids occupied. None of them had brought more than a change of clothing.” They drove up to a Best Western Inn in Detroit. To make a long story short, the manager opened up his hotel for them. Their story got out, and in the next few days, the “refugees” were overwhelmed with clothing, money, gift certificates, gas cards, trips to ballgames, and church outings. The tremendous hurricane wind knocked them down, but it was human kindness that built them up to a new hope. Yes, there is rainbow after a great storm!


The hurricanes were in the summer, and now is winter. It is Thanksgiving and Christmas season. Maybe it is also a good time to think about our homes. What makes a place a home? Is it the structure that houses the three or four bedrooms? Is it the familiar landscape we are accustomed to seeing? Is it the kitchen where we can cook our Thanksgiving dinner? Or is it having someone or something to be thankful for? Home isn’t the decorations that make it warm and beautiful—it is the warmth of the people living inside, who have an attitude of gratitude to be members of their families. A warm home isn’t just to move up the dial on the thermostat; it is having love and care that radiate not only within the household, but to our relatives and friends who may not be as privileged as us.


It is estimated that Americans are going to spend an estimated $18 billion, just on “on-line” shopping this Christmas season. With the pressure of shopping for gifts during Christmas season, let us think also about those who have not the luxury. Giving to church is a duty, and giving to the needy is love that pleases God.


Before I sign off, I would like to remind all of us that we should remember Christmas isn’t really about giving gifts to other, though it is a good gesture. It is about receiving the Gift of Salvation from God. The Bible says, “ . . . the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 6:23b) I wish all of you to having a safe, joyous and meaningful Christmas.


Pastor Larry

Pastor's Corner Pastor Larry December 2004

Wednesday, 01 December 2004 14:34

Pastor's Corner

December, 2004


Just as I was wondering what to share with you this month, I receive an email stating that Ravi Zacharias, an evangelistic philosopher recently gave a three-part lecture on “The Pursuit of Truth.” It isn’t shocking news for him to hold this type of symposium. What’s shocking is the location where these lectures were held—two universities in the Salt Lake City area and at the Mormon tabernacle. A side note that accompanied this email caught my attention. It states that many Mormon’s scientist have announced the Book of Mormon as being untrustworthy and phony.


On November 13, Ravi addressed students at the University of Utah , where he spoke on “The Basis for Truth, Defending the Notion of Absolute Truth.” He concluded his three-day lectureship with “The Loss of Truth: The Crumbling Moral Foundation” on November 15 at Weber State University . Sandwiched in between, on November 14, he spoke on “Who is Jesus? Defending Jesus Christ as the Way, the Truth, and the Life” to over seven thousand people who filled the Mormon Tabernacle with an overflow setting. The Salt Lake Tribune reported, “For the first time in 105 years, a preacher of another faith was at the pulpit of the Tabernacle on Temple Square on Sunday night, urging evangelical Christians and Mormons to turn to Jesus Christ.” The last time an evangelical spoke in the Tabernacle was Dwight L. Moody in 1899.


This following is an excerpt of the report: Ravi Zacharias gave a dazzling message focusing on the person and work of Christ. I think it was the most effective thing he could have done. In my view the rank-and-file Mormons would not have found anything controversial in it. However, those LDS (Later-Day Saints) who had a more finely-tuned sense of theology (very rare among Mormons, even in their leadership) would have recognized some pointed challenges on sin, salvation, the nature of God, and the state of the human heart. Almost everyone in the audience clapped even when Ravi mentioned the Trinity—except for the BYU professors who knew it was not in concert with LDS teaching and sat more stoically at that point.


Will this be the first step for the Mormons to turn to Jesus Christ, the one True God for Salvation? Though we don’t know how long it will take for the “body” to denounce its Faith, but I hope you will join me in prayer for its members to accept Jesus Christ is God and the only Savior for mankind.


Before I sign off, I wish all of you a Merry Christmas—a time not only to greet one another with gifts. The true meaning of Christmas is God who came to greet mankind and presented a precious gift of Eternal Life to those who put their trust in Him. The message of Christmas is Joy and Peace. Have you received Jesus Christ as your personal Savior yet? I pray that you will seriously consider accepting the precious gift of God. Peace to you.


Pastor Larry

Pastor's Corner Pastor Larry December 2003

Sunday, 30 November 2003 16:00

Pastor's Corner

December, 2003


A lady had a circle of friends for whom she really wanted to buy Christmas presents. Time slipped away and she was so busy at work that she just wasn’t able to get to the store to purchase gifts. As time was running out and only a few days before Christmas, she decided to forfeit the gift idea and just send everybody a Christmas card. She went to a stationary store and picked out a box of fifty cards. She was in such a hurry that she didn’t take the time to read it, except that she liked the design—gold trim with beautiful floral arrangement. That was perfect. So she signed all of them, “With all my love.” As New Year was coming, she finally had time to slow down. She picked up the two or three remaining Christmas cards and was shocked to read the message inside. It said, in a little rhyme, “This Christmas card is just to say, a little gift is on its way.”


Oh well, too late now! I hope you won’t get caught in a similar situation like hers. Christmas does seem to create stress for many. There is so much to do before the year ends: the projects at work, finishing up our New Year’s Resolutions we made in the beginning of the year, and of course, the gifts to be purchased and sent away. When economy isn’t favorable, it adds more stress. Many go through the commotion every year. Little wonder people are “numb” to the Christmas Season.


For over two thousand years now, Christians celebrate Christmas for a particular reason—the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. It was a celebration, not so much that God came visiting the world. Through the first Christmas, humankind got a chance to know God in a personal way and to accept His free gift of Salvation. But throughout these two thousand years, things have changed drastically. We are living in an increasingly “paganistic” world. Many people find themselves in the predicament similar to the woman in the story, who missed the message in the card. I’m afraid more and more people will miss the important message of Christmas.


But it doesn’t have to be. It is your choice to how you want to celebrate Christmas. I’m not against gifts exchange or anything like that. On the contrary, I think it is a good idea to practice generosity during the Christmas Season because God is generous to us by giving His own Son. But I do think we need to spend some time remembering God’s love and thanking Him for His willingness to identify with us.


Before I sign off, I wish all of you to have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! If you haven’t come to know Jesus Christ as your Personal Savior, I pray that you’ll come to church to learn about Him. If you’re a Christian, I pray that this Christmas will bring you closer to God.


Pastor Larry

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