Graceland 2020-04-19

“But the land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of … is a land of the Lord your God cares for; the eyes of the Lord your God are continually on it… (Deuteronomy 11:11-12)

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Dear brothers and sisters:

COVID-19 has caused global panic and disaster, and our lives have been greatly affected by the virus. The theme of the church this year is “New Vision, New Mission.” Nobody expects that God would use such an environment to change our vision and lead us to do new things, including live streaming of Sunday Services online. We have our fellowship and small group meetings using various online platforms also. Although in this epidemic situation, we should not stop knowing God, seeking God, and experiencing God, because our God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. I hope all the testimonies will help us encounter God, and we can also help others encounter God! 

When I

Encountered God…

Encountering God

By Rev. Justin Sim,

Main Campus, English Congregation Pastor

That indelible Tuesday morning started like any other Tuesday morning. I got up to prepare for the 5:30 a.m. morning prayer at church, which consists of two hymns, a 10-minute sermon, a corporate prayer, and an individual prayer time. It was during the personal prayer time that I heard a voice, “You’ve done enough; I know, move on.” Before I could even digest the message, I felt an immediate sensation of 2,000 pounds of weight lifted from my body. I could not understand why I felt that way. Then, every hardship, gut-wrenching, and teardrop moments unfolded before my eyes with uncontrollable lament. After wrestling with my emotions, I gathered myself to ask, “God, is it You?” It was a rhetorical question because I knew it was His voice.

The next day, I heard the same voice, “Don’t worry about the church. I’ll take care of it. Go.” This time I came with some questions. Why now? When you appointed me as a senior pastor, the church had dwindled to only 40 adults. Now we are finally growing, consistently over 90 adults on Sunday worship, more than a dozen college students, 60 youth, and about 40 children. The church is stable, my family is content, and You recently blessed us with a second child. Why now?

After hearing the same voice for three days, I shared the message with my wife. Her response was, “Please pray again. Also, ask where we should go.” It was hard to tell if she was upset or sincere. A week later, I told her that I keep hearing the same message, but unclear on our next ministry. My wife hesitated for a moment, then said, “If it is God’s will, then we have to go.”

The message was painful for my family and the church. Two years of ministry as an English Pastor and eight years as a Senior Pastor ended in three months with many unanswered questions. My body left the church, but I left behind my heart and tears.

Three years later, God brought clarity to my departure through a previous church family that we ran into at a special event. They talked about a missionary family from Korea who ministered to special needs children and families in San Jose, Oakland, and San Francisco areas. I knew the missionary because he came to our church a couple of times to introduce the ministry. Unexpectedly, after five years, the missionary received the sad news that the financial support will end soon, and he and his family have six months to return to Korea. The missionary family with two children in high school wanted to stay in America. As they were praying, God guided the missionary’s hands to newspaper ad, ‘A church seeking a senior pastor with a minimum of five years of ministry experience.’ It was a church that he recognized. He applied, and the church responded promptly. The church called him only three months after my departure.

It was as if I had just solved an unsolvable mathematical problem. My wife and I looked at each other and smiled. We understood why God wanted us to leave that church so abruptly. God used us to bless the missionary family and the church with a new relationship. It affirmed our obedience with immense joy, albeit three years later.

As for me and my house? God provided our needs. He performed miracles so that my family and I could have the firsthand encounter with Chinese Christian culture. It was this uplifting experience that eventually led us to CBCSD. Praise the Lord! ◆

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The Turning Point of Life (When I Met Jesus)

By Jacket Huang, TVC

I have had many important experiences and treasured moments in my life, but many times, I carelessly let them fade away in my memory without reflecting or recording it. In the end, I always regretted it.

I was born into an impoverished family in the He Nan province. My parents were faithful Christians in the 60s. In the contemporary history of China, Christians were a group of people being persecuted by their fellow countrymen, their relatives, and even their own family. In the 80s, Christians were still a group of “aliens” not accepted by the rest of the society. They were ridiculed, abused, and disliked. However, they didn’t compromise on the path of seeking the truth.

My mom was a very good witness of her faith. Once it was dark, she would sneak out to meetings.  Since I also saw Christians as “aliens,” naturally I began ridiculing my mom.

One day, my mom talked to me about heaven and hell. I said back to her, “Mom, if people like you can go to heaven, then who would go to hell? I have only seen the living suffer, but who has seen the dead suffer? The sky is so high, who can move a ladder and let you on? You always talk to me about God, Jesus, but where is He? What does He look like? If you can show Him before my eyes, I will believe in Him.” Mom usually had nothing to say back to me, only telling me, “I can’t explain it right, because I know very little. If you come with me to church, you can go ask the pastor.” I said, “No! Never! A group of old ladies who have nothing to do in their lives, just sucked into this superstition.” My mom, on the other hand, always prayed for me fervently. I heard her prayer, “Lord! I put my second daughter into your hands, please change her heart.” I yelled at her, “You are not my mom! I was picked up on the street! You have four kids, why not hand them over to your God?”

Finally, one day, she dragged me to church. They knelt and prayed; I sat and laughed. I thought to myself, “You’re all adults, and still kneel there with tears, saying, oh Lord, Lord! Let me see if the Lord is truly here, listening.”

The title of the message that day was “Everyone has sins.” The pastor held a thick book, opened it, and read to us. He said, “The Bible says everyone sins.” Later I learned that the thick book was a hand-copied Bible. I listened to him attentively. When he talked about the consequences of sin in humans, it revealed the darkness inside me, and I was tearing up. Every sentence in the Bible was like a ray of light shining on me. After all, I was not only just a handful of dust, but a handful of very dirty dust. Lord, you are truly here! I am a sinful person! I knelt down in front of the cross made of two red slices of paper and saw many wrongful things I did in the past, like a movie, one after another revealing themselves. From the very beginning when I stole another person’s piece of white paper, I had sinned. In deep sorrow and regret, I repented and asked for forgiveness. I made up my mind, and said to the Lord, “I will follow and serve you for the rest of my life.”

I was relieved and received indescribable peace and joy.

Since then, I started to keep my promise to the Lord. At that time, I didn’t know what my mission was, nor did I have the Bible. All I had was a heart on fire. I couldn’t take that grace and lock it down with me alone; I needed to let others know. Just like Paul put it, Christ died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again. I will never forget the first time that I encountered Him. This was the turning point of my life. ◆

Pray Continually to Keep

Negative Emotions in Check

By Sunny Sun, Main Campus

We attended the International Day event at our kid’s school for the first time today. Not knowing what to expect, we thought we had plenty of time to get there. However, by the time we arrived, there was not a single parking spot left in the vicinity of the school. I had to drop off my wife and kid first and then drove around to find a place to park. When I finally found a spot at the CVS parking lot about half a mile away from the school, I noticed the rear door of the car in the next spot remained open with a mother and a child at the trunk sorting things out. I had to wait since the open door was blocking my parking spot. After what I felt like a very long time, the mother still had not closed the door. Feeling very irritated, I honked my car. The mother turned and gestured angrily as if trying to say something to me. Just then, another child hopped off the car from the open door. Oh, Lord! I was so mistaken! I thought she left the door open just to put stuff away into the trunk. I pulled in, parked and uttered a quick sorry through the window. When I was about to step away and walk towards the school, I saw the mother talking to the second child as if scolding him for not getting off the car quickly. Oh, Lord, I should be the one to scold, not the child! I held my steps and prayed in my heart for the Lord to forgive my transgression and help me to make amendments. I returned to the car and apologized to the mother very sincerely. I could tell that both of us felt much relieved after that. I raced to school afterward, praise the Lord, I was able to catch the parade in time. What a way to start a happy family day!

Negativity can trigger a chain reaction, if not kept in check, it will likely cause more grievances and balloon into even bigger mistakes down the road.

Trust in the Lord, depend on the Lord and pray continually! ◆

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God’s Amazing Guidance

By Yiwei Ye, 4S Campus

Our family immigrated to the US in August of 2019.  With my cousin’s help, we finally settled in. I knew Jesus when I was little.  My kindergarten teacher was an old pastor.  I went to her house to worship every Sunday.  She had a very amiable personality and would always stop to talk to people when running into them on the street.  Every time she saw me, she would give me a hug.  Every Christmas, she would send gifts to us, cookies or apples which were enough to make us jump up and down. These gifts brought the holidays to us. For the first time, I heard the song about how “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him would not perish but have eternal life.”  As I grew up, and left home for school, this song was still in my head. I think this was my first encounter with God.

I got to know sister Hannah after arriving here.  She said it was God who took us to the United States, that this must be God’s will, and that we needed to connect with Him. She unceasingly prayed for us and invited us to the Happiness Group in September. We said yes, and we were excitedly anticipating the first meeting. On the mid-autumn festival, my best friend from college committed suicide. We didn’t get a chance to see each other since 2017. I was so regretful! I started going to the Taiwanese church in our neighborhood for the next two weeks, wanting to get closer with God. Soon, the Happiness Group started. Brother Chuck led the song “Happiness” on our first meeting. The last verse was, “Happiness is dropping your burdens to God because He looks after you.” It comforted my heart. In the happiness group, we were truly happy. My whole family went for all 8 meetings. On the 4th week, I started feeling uneasy. Because we were leaving China, I wanted to ask for peace and prosperity in a new place, so I paid a famous master for our family’s three protective talismans. That night, I felt very unsettled. When I woke up in the morning, I felt I couldn’t breathe. So, I told Pastor Qin about this. He told me that it was a spiritual battle! That very night, he led me for the conviction prayer, and prayed for me! The next day, I threw away the protective talismans of my daughter’s and mine, but I couldn’t find my husband’s for some reason. I was still anxious. Soon, I found it, and I prayed the way that the pastor taught me, and I threw it away. I have been in peace ever since.

I had peace when I first arrived in the US.  However, with the change of environment and culture, my husband was facing a lot of stress. Before we had our baptism, we fought over nuances. We blamed each other in the ugliest way. Later my daughter told us that she was scared to death, and cried in her room alone, pleading to God that He would help stop the fight. After days of a cold war, on the day of baptism my heart was softened, and I reconciled with my husband. From now on, he is the head in our family, and I will be his helper.

Sister Hannah wrote on a card to us, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17) Our family is blessed. We were under God’s protection from the moment we landed in the United States.  We hope the Lord will use us as his instruments, and that we will continue experiencing His grace, reflecting on our sins, and serving at church until the day we see Him in heaven. ◆

When Touched

by the Holy Spirit…

Grace Fellowship Group A:

  • When I am touched by the Holy Spirit, I would realize how ungodly my words and behavior are and as a result be urged to make improvements in the right direction.

Grace Fellowship Group B:

  • Mendy Liou: When I am filled with the Holy Spirit, I would thrive with the nourishment from the fruits of the Spirit and would take my sister for a walk with much willingness and patience.
  • Sean Hsu: When I am filled with the Holy Spirit, I would leave all the darkness behind me and enter into a kingdom of light with an amazing face to face encounter with God.
  • Mei Chang: When I am filled with the Holy Spirit, I would feel the empowerment from the Gospel and see a season filled with joyful harvest.
  • Ron Lee: When I am filled with the Holy Spirit, I would meditate God’s words, see His company and follow his guidance.
  • Lily Chang: When I am filled with the Holy Spirit, my body, heart, and soul would enter into such a state of holistic well being that I would feel the joy from inside out.
  • Xinan Wu: When I am filled with the Holy Spirit, I would do what is right in the eye of the Lord, so that it may go well with us and our children after us. (Deuteronomy 12:25)

Grace Fellowship Group C:

  • When I submit to the lead of the Holy Spirit, I would read the Bible every day and travel more distance in my spiritual journey with God; at the same time, achieve a higher level of physical well-being as I willingly cooperate with my doctors. In addition, my heart would be so full and so content that I would stop worrying about the daily trifles and steer my attention to care for the people around me.

Grace Fellowship Group D:

  • Mary Liu: When I was about to lose my temper at one time, I came across Proverbs 19:13b: “A quarrelsome wife is like a constant dripping” and Proverbs 21:19: “Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and ill-tempered wife.” The verses struck me like lightning and helped me reign in my temper. ◆

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Empowered by God’s Words

By Sue Chen, Grace Fellowship Group E

In November of 2016, I contracted pneumonia during my cruise trip around central Europe. The medication prescribed by the doctor I saw in Germany was not effective enough that I was hospitalized right next day after I got back to the U.S. Since my legs and hands were all swollen, resembling the symptoms of heart failure, my doctor gave me high dosages of Ibuprofen and Prednisone (steroid). Days later, I developed a gastric ulcer. My stomach had massive bleeding. Out of the 8 days I was hospitalized, 4 of them were spent in ICU. My stomach had to be patched up in 7 places and I received 13 bags of blood via transfusion.

I was so hopeless to have experienced another massive bleeding that I thought the Lord was going to take me this time. A sister who lived in Seattle had her whole family pray for me that night and she was surprised to hear her 10-year-old son asking the Lord to give me His body so that I could be healed. She was awakened by the Holy Spirit at 2 in the morning to pray for me again. Even though she did not know the specifics of my illness, the Holy Spirit told her to let me know that “God’s grace and mercy have never left me.” The Holy Spirit also urged her to text Cecil. God used her to pass along His words so that my faith was strengthened when I was at the brink of giving up on Him. ‘“Though the mountains be shaken, and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.’ (Isaiah 54:10)

After several rounds of testing, I was diagnosed with muscle inflammation and dermatomyositis. My muscles started to disappear over time and I lost 40 pounds. My neck became so weak that I couldn’t even lift my head. A couple who are very knowledgeable about physical therapy came to visit me and taught me how to exercise and strengthen the muscles in the neck. About a month later, I was able to lift my head. What a couple of angels! After my neck got back to normal, I was also able to slowly transition from wheelchair to walker, from walker to cane, and eventually walked on my own for 30 minutes 6 times a week.

Whenever I have recurring muscle inflammation or dermatomyositis, I would remember what the Lord said to me: “God’s grace and mercy have never left me.”  With faith, I will get better. Looking back on the last three years, I have received countless blessings from God. I am so grateful to God and so thankful for the prayers from brothers and sisters. ◆

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The Holy Spirit is Our Counselor

By George Chu, Grace Fellowship Group E

Reflecting on my journey of faith, there was a time period about 20 years ago when I felt stalled in making much meaningful progress in my spiritual life and missional work. Therefore, I would often pray with a group of brothers and sisters and plead to God to fill us up with the Holy Spirit. Regardless of our motivations at the time, God did answer our prayers with His grace and mercy. We not only experienced the peace and joy brought by the Holy Spirit, but also were given the gift of tongues. My private praying session easily reached an hour-long each time.

According to Paul’s teaching, we need to rely on the Holy Spirit to give us power and wisdom to do God’s work; therefore, this is not something we are to be boastful of. Everything will pass and only God’s words are eternal. The Bible refers to the Holy Spirit as our counselor which in Greek is “parakletos.” Jesus provided guidance, protection, and teaching to his disciples while He was still on earth with them, and as mentioned in John 14-16, He promised his disciples, upon His departure that the Holy Spirit will be shown to them and live in them in lieu of His physical presence.  Jesus described the Holy Spirit as another comforter. When I traveled to various places to perform missional work and serve different congregations in recent years, I was often lifted by the Holy Spirit. During prayer or quiet time, He would alert me, teach me, guide me and encourage me to do the right thing in all circumstances. He even made me a witness to many miraculous signs and wonders. I understand from the bottom of my heart that the presence of and the teachings from the Holy Spirit serve many purposes, and one of which is to remind me of the comfort God’s presence and understanding can bring when I walk with Him in spite of the loneliness and sufferings brought by my missional work.

Thanks to the pastoral teams at CBCSD as well as many other churches, I was honored with many opportunities recently to speak to various congregations. I have been learning to let the Holy Spirit touch my heart first and give me the right words to say so that my lips could utter the blessings from God and thus touch the hearts of brothers and sisters. The Holy Spirit also made me realize that courage in the absence of the Holy Spirit may turn into imprudence; passion not reigned in by the Holy Spirit cannot take the place of hard word; Bible reading without discipline by the Holy Spirit is mere accumulation of knowledge and will not change a person’s behaviors nor transform his life; speaking without the wisdom from the Holy Spirit may aggravate the listener. The Holy Spirit does not come just to get us emotional or impulsive, nor to make us boastful. Instead, it is a precious beacon that shines over the darkness we are in. I pray that all brothers and sisters would seek to walk with the Holy Spirit and, especially when we have our “Happiness Group” sessions, to seek the presence of the Holy Spirit so that we are not distracted by the sheer number of participants or other superficial stats. ◆

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Happiness Testimony

Serving Happiness Group

By Sophie Hsu, Main Campus

The children’s group from the Happiness Group was a gathering filled with both energetic and emotional moments. There was a total of 34 children, among which 21 were from non-Christian families. We praise God for every meeting we had and thank God for using us to serve these lovely children. Hallelujah, we praise the Lord!

Emotional moment 1: on the 5th and 7th week of these gatherings, most of the kids raised their hands when called to follow Jesus. Praise God! I explained the Gospel to the kids in the form of Q & A, and out of 8 kids from non-Christian families, 5 raised their hands and made the conviction. (The rest of the kids were too young.) They followed my prayer, sentence by sentence, accepting Jesus in their hearts. 2 out of the 5 kids raised their hands on the 2nd gathering, and we confirmed again after 3 weeks. We ask God to look after their pure heart and faith in the Lord, through whom the parents’ hearts will be touched and moved. I hope their entire families will become Jesus’ followers, joining our CBC family.

Emotional moment 2: The little group of under 4 years old was successfully merged into the big group. I was elated! The little ones were crying hard and holding their parents, not to let them leave in the beginning. Then, slowly, they were willing to stay in the playroom to interact, play with toys, and listen to the worship songs and messages.  On the 6th week, they started walking out of the playroom and participated in making crafts with the big group. Thank God, every little one joined the big group from the beginning to the end on the 7th week!  They sang and danced with everyone else, listened to the message, and prayed together. The coworkers in the small group had shown so much love, patience, and effort during these weeks! We are so thankful that the kids had grown into the big group!

Emotional moment 3: The Happiness Group Children’s group not only share the Gospel with the kids from non-Christian families, but also let the kids with faith have an opportunity to think and ask questions.  This group gave them a chance to serve together, helping to prepare gifts and snacks. One two and half year old always reminded everyone to give gifts to the BESTs. The continuous meetings were very effective, and every kid grew. The kids from the BEST families merged with the big group, learned the Gospel, the hymns, and the prayers. Kids from church also got a chance to think deeply about their faith. They asked many good questions: why did God want to create the tree of knowledge of good and evil? Where did the people who had never heard the Gospel go when they died? Could animals go to heaven as well? Every question was so precious because it is part of the most important process when you internalize your faith.

Emotional moment 4: Our coworkers’ commitment filled the team with never ending energy. They all worked together cohesively.  One of the coworkers rescheduled the trip back to China; another one came to every meeting on the weekend, even though it was the scheduled off-shift.  One sister in the team, many times, was holding her own sleeping baby in her arms while reading to other kids and singing with them. Everyone had some difficulties in life — work stress, being under the weather, family issues, etc, but we all brought these burdens to God, prayed for each other, encouraged each other. In Christ, our burden was lessened, and our team was filled with strength and joy!

Emotional moment 5: Special thanks to many talented brothers and sisters, to their loving hearts and their time. They brought their kids with them to run various program and made the weekly meeting filled with music and art.  Kids enjoyed all these programs very much.  They came and found scrumptious food and interesting programs where they sang, danced, drew, and made crafts.

The moving moments were not only within these 8 weeks. From the very beginning, weeks before the 1st meeting, we prepared, we prayed, and we experienced God’s miraculous work. Through the meetings, we connected more deeply with the kids through love. We hope these kids will continue to come to church after these eight weeks, so that we could be their companions, and witness their growth in the love of Christ. ◆

Editorial Group Members:

Pastor Wanda Lam, Pastor Donald Liu, Becky Tsai, Emily Xu, XiaoQiong Dong, Lilly Liou, Yuwei Chiu, Joyce Yu, Lan Tang, Margaret Lee & Vivian Chiu.

 

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