Thank you, friends and family, for traveling from all over — Philly, Washington, D.C., the UK, N. Cal, San Diego and throughout Southern Cal — to come and share this special day with us.
First, let me just apologize to any Packers and Steelers fans out there because you have to be here instead of getting ready for the Superbowl. If the Eagles had made it, I would have had a real crisis of faith. But God knew I couldn’t handle the distraction so thankfully God is sovereign and He forcibly removed the Eagles from the playoffs.
I think God wants me to be a pastor so that he can put a p. in front of my name and remind me to pray. p.ray – come on, how much more obvious can God be? More ray is not good. But more p.ray is great. Certainly, I have begun praying much more in recent weeks and I am so encouraged that as a church we have experienced a string of answered prayers and a few of the brothers, we just came back from a pastoral conference about prayer. Bottom line, God wants us to pray and I for one am excited to see what God will do when His people pray.
I was asked to share my vision for LBC Pasadena and it is my deep conviction that although my vision for this church is shaped by God to be sure, this vision is also shaped in part by the people that God has placed around me. God is invisible. You can’t see him, you can’t touch him, he doesn’t give you a hug in the morning. Yet, God is knowable. When you look at the majesty of El Capitan in Yosemite or the beauty of a sunset, you know there must be a God. Because God’s fingerprints are all over nature and all creation shouts praise and testifies to His great name. And in the same way that God is knowable through His creation, I believe that God also makes himself known through the body of Christ, the church.
That is why today is not a day to remember God’s faithfulness in just my life or Jackie’s life. Instead, it is a day to celebrate God’s faithfulness as He worked among many of us in this room that are members of this local body of Christ in LBC Pasadena, our extended family in LBC West LA, the UK and beyond.
As I was praying about this for the past week, two things came to mind: 1) the Word of God and 2) people. Verse after verse and person after person flooded my mind. You may wonder, what’s the connection, why the Word of God and people?
At times, it is hard to read the Bible by yourself and get a clear picture of who God is. I grew up in the church and I thought that God must exist, but I didn’t have a personal knowledge of Him until 1993. That year, when I was a sophomore at UC Berkeley running away from God and the church, God pursued me through the faithful obedience of a group of campus ministers. And it was this corporate witness of a local church who visibly loved God as well as one another that prepared my heart for salvation. It is the church that helped me to see that God was not an abstract force in the universe, but He is a real Person that I can know and knowing Jesus actually makes a difference in your life. And so I surrendered my life to Jesus and made Him my personal Savior and Lord in Nov 1993.
Therefore, it is only natural that I start by thanking certain people through whom I have gotten various glimpses of this glorious Jesus that I have come to love.
Mom and Dad, thank you for loving me all these years. You taught me that God is both stern and He’s kind. You disciplined me because I needed it. I am lazy and undisciplined by nature. By your lives, I learned that being loved does not mean I am simply accepted and that it’s okay to remain as I am. Both of you worked so hard and invested so much into me because you wanted me to grow up into a man of character. To this day, Dad, you send me relevant newspaper clippings and online articles of interest to me which shows that you are always thinking of me. And this is the kind of God I have come to know. God cares about me in the big and important ways, but also in the little details of life. He loves me, He accepts me but that doesn’t mean He’s always pleased with me. God sometimes disciplines me, He works on my character, He convicts me of various sins that I may repent and turn to Him. What is man and who am I that God is mindful of me, down to every detail of my life?
I thank Abraham and Sarah who led this church for the past 3 years. Whether I am physically with them or we’re apart, they have proven that I am constantly on their hearts as evidenced by their prayers. Through them, I get a picture that this is how God must be towards me. In heaven, there is a great cloud of witnesses who is always rooting for me, cheering me on to finish the race marked out for me with perseverance. Jesus Himself, is my High Priest who lives to intercede for me. And God sends the Holy Spirit to dwell in me and to seal my inheritance. This means I am never alone and I praise God for the tangible reminders of this truth in my life.
Pastor Don, through your life, I have a living testimony that the best thing I can do for others is to deny myself, take up my cross and follow Jesus wherever He leads. What an amazing thought that God on High would leave all his heavenly treasure behind to descend into humanity, taking on human flesh, denying all of His rights to die on the cross. He did that for me. I don’t have to make things overly complicated. I am just God’s servant pointing others to their Savior.
West LA brothers and sisters, thank you for embracing our family when we returned from the mission field tired and discouraged, esp. James jdsn and Grace smn. Through them and many others, we were reminded that at times, God simply wants to feed us delicious food and care for us and allow us to rest. My years in WLA were a time of healing and recovering my faith in the church. I also want to thank you all for supporting us financially through seminary, and I pray that I may serve you in return by preaching the Word of God to you for many years to come.
Pastor Daniel and Sue smn, I thank you for giving Jackie and me concrete models to imitate. Through your example, I am encouraged that Jesus is my Good Shepherd, He leads me beside still waters and to green pastures. And He gently restores my soul. I was reminded by you many times that Jesus doesn’t care what I can do for him, how successful or unsuccessful I may be in ministry, but what matters to Jesus is my heart, whether my love for Jesus is growing day by day.
Lastly, I want to thank the brothers and sisters here in our church in Pasadena, the ones who drive long distances to be here each and every Sunday without complaining, the ones nearby who bring joy and encouragement, and everyone doing what they can to serve and build up this body of Christ — thank you for being part of this body of Christ. Truly, God is sovereign. After many years, we are still together, on this journey side by side and through your love and support and unity in the Spirit, I am reminded that we serve a God of power and spontaneity and hope. It has been truly amazing to witness His powerful hands at work in surprising ways, especially since New Year’s Eve. And I anticipate that God will continue to surprise us for many years to come.
In addition to God’s people, the most important thing that has shaped my vision for this church is God’s Word. There is so much I can say about how God has been speaking, but in the interest of time, I will just say that my prayer for this church is that each of us would go deeper in our love for Jesus. I’ve been a Christian for 18 years, but things don’t add up. I played violin since I was in the 4th grade and after 8 years, I kind of got the hang of it. I worked in the IT field for 15 years so I kind of know my way around computers. But 18 years of walking with Jesus doesn’t quite add up. I know Jesus. I know that He is good, He has faithfully walked with me all these years. I know that He forgives sin. I know that He gives good gifts and blessings and He answers prayers.
And I have seen glimpses of the glory of Jesus through God’s people — the tangible, concrete expressions of Divine love that I have received from brothers and sisters at this church. But I want more of Jesus. I know my love for Him doesn’t quite measure up. The math doesn’t add up. I should love Jesus FAR MORE than I do right now.
Elijah is one and a half years old and he loves Daddy. He sees me and it doesn’t matter who else is around or what he’s doing, he’ll drop everything to run to me. Because he knows me. He knows my face. So in the morning when I go into Elijah’s room, he is so happy to see me. He jumps up and down and throws his pacifier and blanket overboard. But this week I was away on a trip and I went into his room like I usually do in the morning after a few days of not seeing him. And when I walked in, Elijah paused, there was a moment of hesitation, do I know you? That quickly, he had forgotten who I was.
And Paul expresses in 1 Cor 13:12 that our experience as Christians is like a poor reflection as in a mirror. And I feel that this verse sums up my Christian experience up until this point. I don’t see as I ought. I see Jesus, I love him, but it’s a poor reflection of what it ought to be. I look upon Christ with eyes of faith and sometimes Jesus is a bit out of focus. But the verse continues that one day, we shall see face to face. And when that day comes, I don’t want to hesitate and wonder, Jesus, is that really you? No, I want to run to Him and fall down in worship. And say, Jesus, I have been waiting my whole life to see your face. Then, we shall see face to face.
And as I love Jesus more and more, I want to echo the sentiment of the hymn writer who wrote, “And, Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight.” When I am in God’s presence, I won’t need faith anymore because I will be able to gaze upon the beauty of Christ with my own physical eyes for all eternity.
I want to know Jesus more, I want to love Him more. Because Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church.
He holds my life together, He holds my marriage together, He holds my family together, He holds this church together, He holds all the nations of the world together. And if Jesus stops holding things together, everything falls apart. A church is not a social club. We are not held together by clever programs or exceptional human leadership. The church is a supernatural gathering of believers and without Jesus holding us together, this church will fall apart. May we all love Jesus more and more each day and may everything else — discipleship, evangelism, local and foreign missions, works of mercy in our communities — may these fall into their proper places as we trust that the One who is before all things will hold everything together.