Food for Thought

April 11, 2021

Pastor Michael Furuyama

 

I hope you had a wonderful Easter. It is a reminder for those who put their faith in Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior and that we are forgiven of all of our sins. We no longer live in the guilt and shame of our past regrets and fears. Instead by faith we embrace this new life of forgiveness and peace with God. On Easter, I decided that I would take our family on a nice bike ride at the beach. I prayed that God would keep us safe on our travels, that God would give us a nice memorable time together, and lastly a great free parking spot. We found a nice parking spot a few blocks away from the beach. We rode our bicycles along the shoreline that went by the Queen Mary. It was late when we got done. So, I rushed to pack all of our bicycles and then headed home to make dinner. As I was finishing cooking dinner, my wife asked me where her phone was. She said it was in the backpack. I quickly realized that I left the backpack at the beach. Panic filled the air and we asked “what do we do?” Hannah, my daughter said, “I know what to do.” I asked, “What’s that?” Hannah answered, “Let’s pray and ask God for help.” Wow, what we can learn from our children! So we prayed and asked God to help us find our backpack and for God’s protection upon the whole situation. Since Aya has an IPhone, we were able to use an app that told us where her phone was. We saw that it was still at the same location where we had parked. Since this was Easter, I was reminded that God can do the impossible even though we don’t have any control of this situation. Our fear screamed that someone walked by, saw the backpack lying on the ground and took it, since an hour had already passed. But God has forgiven us and will protect his family, even when we make mistakes, God’s grace is triumphant. We had to learn to silence the fearful thoughts in our hearts with God’s truth that “the blood of Jesus his Son has cleansed me from all sins” 1 John 1:9. I was repeating this verse over and over as we drove back to the beach. After driving seemingly for an hour (more like 15 minutes), we finally arrived at the place where we had parked before and our specific parking spot was empty. There, lying on the ground, was our backpack! Inside the backpack was my wife’s IPhone. Nothing was lost! Easter is a reminder for those who put their faith in Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior that we are forgiven of all of our sins. We no longer live in the guilt and shame of our past regrets and fears. Instead by faith we embrace this new life of forgiveness and peace with God.

 

3/28/2021

Lillian Shinoda

 

We will soon enter the last week of Lent. This Sunday is Palm Sunday marking the beginning of Passion Week or Holy Week, the final days of Jesus’ life on earth. While his entry into Jerusalem was celebrated by crowds of people with excitement and praise, a plot to bring him down would be revealed in a matter of a few days. He would be betrayed by one of his own disciples, arrested, wrongly accused, mocked, beaten, flogged, stripped, humiliated, and oh so much more. Then, he was hung on a cross. All this because of love. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). During these last days leading up to Easter Sunday, when we celebrate Jesus’ true victory over death through his resurrection, take some time in prayer and reflection on the sufferings of Jesus Christ and on his sacrifice for you. Read about him in Matthew 26-28 and Luke 22-24. Remember what it cost our heavenly Father so that we would be forgiven, reconciled to him, and made holy. Recount all that he has done for you and praise and worship him. “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his bloodshed on the cross” (Colossians 1:19-20).

 

 

3/21/2021

Lillian Shinoda
 
 
 One day, my niece and her husband brought over a six pack of young snapdragon plants. I don’t have a green thumb but I was excited for the challenge. After preparing the soil, I placed each single 6” stemmed plant in the ground about a foot apart from each other. Soon after they were planted it rained. I quickly made a makeshift greenhouse to protect them from the pounding rain and the howling wind that followed. Thankfully the plants survived. I checked on them everyday, watering when needed and removing weeds that emerged in between. Slowly they grew and new stems started to sprout as if reaching to the sky. I placed stakes in for support as the buds added weight to their tops. Months later, they have blossomed into a very full bed of pink, yellow, orange, red, and white flowers, covering the entire area and now standing as high as four feet. Everyday I take pleasure in God’s beautiful handiwork as its color and abundance provide a respite from the chaos of our current times. It really is good for the soul. But it isn’t just the end product that impresses. Numerous times the stems were knocked down and even broken by the gardener’s blower and by fallen leaves and debris. They were damaged by the elements of the weather as well. Regardless, they received the rays of the sun and the nutrients from the soil to become what they were created to be. We have all tried to make sense of the pandemic and all of life’s hardships. Those things, however, do not alter who we were created to be. God’s Word says, “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit” (Jer 17:7-8). The course of each of our lives is different but as children of the heavenly Father, we can trust in our Father and have confidence in him. He will pick us up when we’ve fallen; he will restore us when we’ve been broken; he will strengthen us through the Holy Spirit when we feel weak; he will come alongside us just as Jesus did on the road to Emmaus when his disciples were so confused. How do you need to trust him today? Know that you can trust in Him and experience his presence everyday, and you must not forget that your Father who has forgiven you through his Son Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, looks upon you as his perfect and beautiful creation that you were created to be. 
 
 
 
March 14, 2021
Pastor Michael Furuyama
 
 

How many of us need peace in the midst of all the things we go through in life? The storm of the pandemic continues to crash against us, suppressing our freedom to live a “normal” life. Isaiah 26:3-4 tells us that “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he  trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.” The Bible teaches us that if we want perfect peace that can’t be rattled even if we are in the middle of the hurricanes of life, then you need to keep your mind on Jesus. This makes me think of Peter when he walked on water. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus(Matthew 14:29). Peter did the impossible when his mind was fixed on Jesus. I think living in perfect peace today seems impossible, but when we fix our eyes on Jesus, all things are possible. But when [Peter]saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” (Matthew 14:30) When Peter lost his focus on Jesus, he began to sink. He lost his peace and confidence to do the impossible. When we lose our focus on Jesus, we also begin to sink and lose our peace. Do you feel you have been sinking in life? Will you fix your eyes on Jesus? Let’s fix our eyes on Jesus by fixing our minds on and meditating on the Word of God, for “the Word became flesh” (John 1:14). Then we will not only experience His perfect peace, but be able to share His perfect peace with others.

 

 

March 7, 2021

Shirley Yamagata
 
 

One life changing event happened to me when I was in the 6th grade. Yes, that was a LONG time ago. Anyway, I remember my teacher asking the class if anyone would like to help in a kindergarten class, and I eagerly volunteered because I thought it would be fun. The highlight of this experience was when I taught a boy named Gerald how to write his name. Watching the smile grow on his face as he successfully wrote each letter, warmed my heart and ultimately determined my future occupation, an elementary school teacher. Teaching and helping students, watching them succeed, and seeing their confidence grow was a joy that I experienced for 35 years. Now that I am newly retired, that desire to help others has not diminished but actually, has grown. During this pandemic, I heard that some of my colleagues were having a difficult time with the frustrations and stresses of teaching online. I could fully empathize with them because I had to teach and provide assignments/projects online for the last three months of last year. As I talked to some of the teachers at my school, I heard that one teacher went on stress leave, one retired early, and some just wanted to quit. Hearing this, I felt extremely guilty that I was not there with them, I was home not having to deal with the online teaching frustrations. My heart broke for them, and I prayed daily that they would have the strength and support to persevere. I also wanted to do something to cheer them up, so I decided to bake some lemon bars and visit them. As I delivered the lemon bars, I spent time listening and talking to some of the teachers that I had a close relationship with. One teacher in particular was extremely stressed, and I told him that if he needed help in any way, let me know because I was cleared by the district to volunteer. As we talked, he was worried about the high ability/achieving group of students who he felt were being neglected because the focus was more on the struggling students. He was wondering if I could work with this particular group of students, so I suggested that I could do some STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) Challenges with them on a weekly basis for an hour. He liked the idea and was very appreciative. I could see some of the stress diminish from his face and was replaced with a look of relief. I was extremely happy that I could help him in some way. In Matthew 25: 44-45 it says, “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’” We are all called to help those in need, whether their need is physical or emotional. You can help by calling, visiting (physically distanced), writing them a note or sending a card or gift. Any of these acts have the profound ability to lift their spirits and help them feel the love of God. Is God tugging at your heart to reach out to someone who is in need? Go ahead, follow your heart and show them the love of God. God gave himself for us because he loved us so much. Let’s spread that love.

 
 
 

February 28, 2021

Yoh Nago
 
 

One of my favorite book series is the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. Last month, I re-read the entire series (and watched Disney movies of the first 3 books in the series). In the last book of the series, The Last Battle, there is a scene that always gives me pause. A group of dwarfs are sitting huddled together. They believe they are sitting inside a dark, cold, dilapidated stable. The rest of the characters can see the sunlight, blue sky, and beautiful orchard nearby with trees full of delicious fruits. But the dwarfs see, smell, taste, feel none of it. They can only see, smell, taste and feel things that are usually found in a dark stable, and they are miserable. Earlier in the story, the dwarfs were deceived by the villain of the book, and after suffering through a terrible ordeal, they closed off their hearts to hope. The dwarfs resolve never to be taken in again, and trust only themselves. Because they are so afraid to be deceived, they end up creating a prison in their minds, unable to see the glorious reality around them. When we are deceived by someone, it is tempting to harden our hearts and resolve not to be taken in by anyone ever again. When we experience hard times, especially when they seem to go on for a long time, we can lose hope and fall into despair. But when we close off our hearts, we become blind to the blessings our God showers upon us. Shortly after I finished reading The Last Battle, I read Psalm 31 as part of the church daily Bible reading plan. Psalm 31:21 states, “Praise be to the Lord, for he showed me the wonders of his love when I was a city under siege.” We need to keep our eyes focused on God so that we can see the wonders of God’s great love for us. It has been almost a year since the first quarantine orders were issued. All of us have been affected by the coronavirus. And still the pandemic continues. There are other difficult things happening in our lives, too. Are you feeling like a city under siege? And in the midst of difficulties, how do you keep from becoming blind to God’s blessings and wonders? I encourage you to stay focused on God, through prayer, staying in His Word, and fellowship. “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people.” Ephesians 1:18

 
 
 

February 24, 2021

Holly Yamagata

I’ve been an avid watcher of “The Bachelor” for the past eleven years (I know, I know. It’s trash TV but it’s my guilty pleasure). As the season has progressed, I’ve been appalled by the amount of bullying that has happened between various contestants. It’s made me think a lot about the amount of judgement that is prevalent in society, and how our preconceived notions of another person can damage how we see them. The idea of judgement – and the seemingly increasing amount of it – has been weighing heavily on my heart for months. One of my biggest internal struggles is wrestling with the idea of judgement juxtaposed to the idea of grace. How do we extend grace while also not justifying inexcusable behavior? So, especially as Christians, how do we love our neighbor (Mark 12:31) while also standing up for injustice (Isaiah 1:17)? I don’t have all the answers to this question, and I encourage all of you to ponder on the answer this week. But I believe one part of the answer is compassion, is empathy. Something I’ve been telling the youth recently is that we should strive to extend compassion on people – especially people we don’t agree with. Compassion doesn’t mean you have to agree with them or justify their behavior, but it does mean seeing another person’s humanity. In the world we live in, it seems like people are constantly at war with one another. It’s easy to look at someone and see them only as the actions you disagree with. As I continue reflecting on the complicated relationship between compassion, judgement and morality, I think it’s important for us as Christians to listen more. I think it’s important for us to strive to understand people, even when we don’t agree. I think it’s important for us to see people as human beings – like beloved people that God created. And I truly feel like if we saw other people that way, a lot of the judgement within our society would cease to exist. So I challenge you today (and everyday): make it your goal to listen more and not see someone you disagree with as an enemy, because that mentality will get us nowhere. “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”     (Colossians 3:12)
 
 
 

February 14, 2021

Pastor Michael Furuyama

 
Are you prepared? When COVID-19 hit the US, most of us went on “prepare” mode. We had to get our hand sanitizers, masks, and don’t forget the toilet paper. Preparation is something we do when we are about to embark on anything worthwhile. We assess what we have and don’t have. We gather the proper materials so that we can do whatever we are preparing to do. Likewise, I believe God is asking us to prepare for some great things for the next 100 years. As you know Jesus’ assignment was to make disciples, who would do everything that he did. Jesus intentionally did not use his divine powers as the second person of the Triune God to do his miraculous signs and wonders. Instead, Jesus in his humanity, intentionally relied on the Holy Spirit, so that he would model to us that every victory, every proclamation, and every healing was done by relying on the Holy Spirit. Have you thought that the one thing you need is His Spirit? If we want more power, peace, hope and joy to accomplish God’s assignment, we need to repent and ask for His Spirit. Acts 2:38-39 states, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” The very power that filled Jesus can also fill you and empower you to accomplish great things that will change the world. Will you repent and ask him in?
 
 
 

February 7, 2021

Brian Zoriki

 
Serve, Servant, Service We hear it all the time. What is your calling, your God-given gift? Have you discovered it and are you using it to God’s glory? In earlier times I was always afraid of answering that question. My faith and trust in God were not adequate. Over the years that has changed. In steps both large and small God has shown me, not so much directly like hearing His voice but rather in answer to situations and circumstances when I would go to God in prayer. Pastor Art Tsuneishi was the one who taught me the power of speaking to God in prayer, that God would answer you and that He will not let you fail if you place your trust in Him. Over the many years I have tried to maintain that trust in God as I served in different ministries in and outside of LAHC, never forgetting to give God praise. Over time I’ve seen my faith grow stronger with every display of His faithfulness in my life. When I have failed (yes I have) it was because my faith was weak, my intentions were mine and I strayed from His Word. I also believe that everyone arrives at the answer at different times, through various vehicles, sometimes directly and sometimes not. Because of this I ask everyone to support & encourage each other as they seek theirs. Remember, in His timing, not mine or yours. So what is my gift, my calling? I believe God simply asks me to serve. To trust that He would not lead me to do something more than I am able but that because of Him I am able to do so much more! Why does the good servant obey his Master without question? Because he knows his Master would never harm him or give him a task where he would fail. To be in His service, this is what God is expecting of me, of you.
 
 
 

January 31, 2021

Carol Kiyotoki

 

Only two weeks after the insurrection of the Capitol Building, the same building was the backdrop for the inauguration ceremony of our 46th President. I was intent on soaking in every detail and spoken word with a renewed appreciation for this enduring national institution. One of the featured speakers, a young African-American poet named Amanda Gorman, read a poem which spoke of our imperfect nature and that we do not strive to form a union that is perfect. But we forge ahead, and we strive to form a union with purpose. In closing, Ms. Gorman spoke about the power we have to shape the future: “. . . The new dawn blooms as we free it / For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it / If only we’re brave enough to be it.” Ms. Gorman’s words caused me to think of my faith. I thought about how my fear of inadequacy and lack of courage often paralyzes my ability to shine God’s light when it is most needed. When I feel God’s nudge to do something out of my comfort zone, or share my faith with colleagues at work, with my neighbors, friends, and even my family, will I choose to ignore the opportunities for God to use me? Or will I be, in Ms. Gorman’s words, “brave enough to be it” — brave enough to respond to God’s voice and be His light? “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” — Matthew 5:14-16
 
 
 

January 24, 2021

Jaime Nakasuji

 
I have a terrible memory. I like to think that I was fairly good at remembering names and at least a few details about a person I just met, but as I am getting older, I am finding it more challenging to retain information. I have always struggled with memorizing Scripture and unfortunately, I feel like it is a losing battle. We are in a battle with COVID-19 and political unrest, and we are also in a spiritual battle. Our faith is being tested under incredibly challenging circumstances. Through last week’s passage, where Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, I was reminded of the importance of knowing God’s Word and being able to use it in battle. Satan tempted Jesus by using Scripture out of context. Jesus, although he was weary and hungry, was able to recall Scripture and slashed right through Satan’s deceptive words. Satan tried to appeal to potential weak spots, but Jesus was able to not only defend himself with the Word, but also deem Satan’s words powerless by speaking Truth. Perhaps having a terrible memory is not such a bad thing in this situation, because it forces me to continually be in the Word, letting it sink ever so deeper and take root in my heart. I can trust that the Spirit will help me use the Word at just the right time. I hope this encourages us all to be like the tree in Psalm 1:2 & 3 which says, “…but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.” Let us remember that we are in a spiritual battle with eternal consequences and that we must not give up spending time in the Word so that in the end we can join Christ in His victory!
 
 
 

January 17, 2021

Kathy Chuman

 

We thought 2021 would be different. 2020 was a tough year. Maybe you were like me, hoping that 2021 would be different. But with the pandemic still raging, crazy scenes of civil unrest on the news, and people experiencing health challenges, isolation and mourning, for many of us, 2021 is not off to the start we hoped. How are you doing at keeping your focus on Jesus in the midst of all these storms? One suggestion is to ask the Lord to give you a personal theme verse for the year – a verse that you can come back to again and again during the year as a promise, exhortation or encouragement, that can serve as your anchor amidst the storms. This verse can relate to something you are struggling with, need to be reminded of, or just something that is encouraging to you. If you’ve never done this before, or just not yet this year, I encourage you to consider giving it a try!  “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” John 6:68